Revisiting area sawmills

I wrote about sawmills in my last column and will do so again this week.

In 1903, the largest sawmill deal made up until that time was the purchase of the Stubbs and Jakway operation by the Montezuma Lumber Co. for $20,000. Included in the purchase were two mills, lumber in the yard, standing timber, wagons, teams and tools. This made Montezuma Lumber Co. the largest sawmill operation in Southwestern Colorado.

In 1900, Leroy Parker had a mill on Cherry Creek in Thompson Park. There were eight sawmills operating in and around Mancos in 1907. Hyde Fielding moved his mill from town to the Pinewood area some five miles northwest of town in 1908. In 1910, Roy Dean purchased the mill and operated it for several years on Chicken Creek.

The Exons, John and his son Aaron and brother, Sol, operated a family owned shingle mill at their mountain ranch home northeast of Mancos. They started their business in 1894 and it continued until the early 1920s.

There were many other smaller operators around Mancos through the years including Roy Weston, Archie Hayes, George Soulen, James Bell, Roy Waters and Lambert and Lawson Bowling. E. C. Cooper operated a large sawmill at Spruce Mill 15 miles north of town.

The Gibson Lumber Co. operated a large sawmilling company in both Mancos and Cortez in 1909 and continued for several years.

The Montezuma National Forest was established in 1908 with the headquarters in Mancos. Ress Pillips was the first forest supervisor. Rulers were made that regulated the wasteful cutting of timber and required better methods of cleanup operations. This was probably the beginning of concerns for our environment and our precious natural resources in the Mancos area.

There was a gradual decline in the timber and sawmilling industry as costs rose for both labor and machinery. Most of the better timber had been cut and the new Forest Service regulations required more time, effort and money to cut timber in only specified areas.

I remember the large sawmill operation east of town that was operated by Charlie Artz. I also remember Westley Potts sawmill out Webber. I worked there for some time.

Darrel Ellis is a longtime historian of the Mancos Valley. Email him at