Reed and Steidl Sawmill was one of earliest mills in Bend
The site of Bend was not yet developed into a community in 1902. One enterprise that was necessary for growth of the developing village was the establishment of a sawmill to provide lumber for constricting homes and buildings.
John and Julia Steidl and family moved to the vicinity of present Bend in 1902 from Bemidji, Minnesota. John's intent was to operate a sawmill along the banks of the Deschutes River. He had a mill dismantled in Bemidji and transported overland to the rail line terminating at Shaniko. En route to Bend, the four-horse team hauling the mill components had a runaway and spilled machinery on the slopes of Grizzly Mountain. Fortunately, the machinery was salvageable and reloaded for transport to Bend.
The Steidls rented a house along the banks of the Deschutes River near the south end of the present Drake Park. John selected a location down river for the sawmill, and it was built on booms at the river's edge.
The mill was operated entirely by water power and had a circular headrig ran by a turbine wheel. Steidl partnered with Lauvern Reed in operating the mill. Reed later sold his part of the operation to Steidl, and it became known as Steidl Mill.
Timber for the mill came from the slopes of Awbrey Butte, and trees were skidded down the slope to the mill. Steidl operated the mill until 1904 when he sold it to Henry Linster. The mill continued to operate until it burned down in 1910.
The mill had produced enough lumber for several buildings and homestead cabins in the surrounding vicinity.
Steidl was among the first early settlers to recognize the potential of the Bend area as a lumber and farming region. He was also instrumental in the development of irrigation in the area. He became a member of the Deschutes Irrigation and Power Co., which purchased the holdings of Alexander Drake, the founder of Bend, in 1904.
A pond was built on property owned by John Sisemore at the Farewell Bend Ranch. This pond would later serve as a mill pond for the Shevlin-Hixon company when it moved to Bend in 1915. Interestingly, Shevlin-Hixon was based in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.