Early Lumberman of Central Oregon

William “Pop” Forsythe

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

William Leon Forsythe was born at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania on Sept. 26, 1881. When he was 11 years-old he left home and began working in sawmills until he was 17. When he was 17 he was placed in charge of a sawmill.

In 1910 he came to Oregon and lived near Ranier until 1911. He then came to Central Oregon where he entered the contract business. While living in Central Oregon he married Marilou Elizabeth Mickle on March 26, 1922. She was born on March 18, 1882w in Charleston, South Carolina. In the fall of 1922 they moved to Marshfield, Oregon where William established the Western White Cedar company. Later he moved back to Central Oregon sand lived in Redmond. He began working for the Dant & Russell mill.

The Davidson Brothers sawmill, which was the first mill in Prineville, had ceased operations during the great depression. In 1935 William teamed with Howard Crawford of Tum-a-Lum lumber company which operated retail lumber yards in the Northwest. They made plans to re-open the Davidson mill Equipment was repaired and logging began on Tum-a-Lum timber holdings near Grizzly mountain in April 1935. The revitalized mill was commonly known as the Forsythe Mill.

William managed the mill and it became the first large mill to ship lumber on the City of Prineville Railroad. It ushered in the lumber business in Prineville. The mill burned in 1936 but economic times were on the rise in the lumber industry and the mill was rebuilt under the guidance of William. In 1940 an adjoining moulding plant was built. William was locally known as one of the major lumbermen of Central Oregon.

William managed the mill until his death on Feb. 5, 1943. He died in Portland, Oregon and was interred in the Wilhelm Memorial Mausoleum in Portland. Marilou lived on for several years and she died in Eugene, Oregon on July 31, 1956. She was interred next to William.