William E. Boeing’s roots run deep locally

  • Sat Sep 10th, 2016 8:42am
  • Life

William E. Boeing got his start in Grays Harbor with land that included a strip of Ocean Shores. Tom Quigg provides a historic account of the legendary Northwest aerospace pioneer.

On July 15, 2016, the Boeing Company celebrated its 100th year. A great success story. But Boeing’s business ventures actually began right here.

In 1903, at the age of 22, William E. “Bill” Boeing left Yale University during his third year. He had inherited a partial interest in land out west from his father, and with his mother’s blessing he headed west, drawn by the lure of the timber business. The land was a several hundred acres of timberland in Grays Harbor County, plus a strip of oceanfront land located in what now makes up more than one-third of Ocean Shores. It was reported in several accounts that Bill Boeing enjoyed hunting, and the ocean front land was used primarily for that purpose.

An account of his arrival in Hoquiam, including a photo of Bill Boeing entering Grays Harbor in 1903, can be seen in the historylink.org website by searching William Edward Boeing. Several accounts say that upon his arrival in Hoquiam he moved in with a friend by the name of J. H. Hewitt. It’s not certain just where. Records of the time list Hewitt as secretary of Northwest Lumber Co. Northwest Lumber developed what is now most of the west end of Hoquiam, and the best guess is that they lived in a house owned by the company. Over the years, I’ve been told it was somewhere in the blocks behind the post office. That will be another story, when it’s pinned down.

Boeing’s first fortune came from timber trading. He was a skillful businessman from the beginning, and was soon accumulating several sections of land north of Hoquiam. He seemed to take title to the land in his personal name. He would then harvest it under Boeing &McCrimmon Company, and later as his solely owned Greenwood Logging Company.

He seemed to enjoy life on the Harbor. In the 1914 Yale University, Decennial Record of the Class of 1904, William Edward Boeing wrote “… I came to the coast to learn the lumbering and timber business. The first five years I put in on Grays Harbor, in the State of Washington. At first I did not enthuse very much about this country, but now I am fond of it, and would not consider leaving it.”

The July 23, 1907, edition of the Aberdeen Herald had a story headlined “W. E. Boeing’s New Pleasure Boat Launched in Hoquiam.” It was christened the “Widgeon” (probably from his love of duck hunting), and “After the launching a dance and banquet was given by Boeing at the New York Hotel.” Another story on Aug. 7, 1912, tells of his yacht the Taconite “anchored in the stream off the 8th Street dock” in Hoquiam, preparing for an extended trip to Alaska.

My grandfather Jerry McGillicuddy Jr. was a Grays Harbor county commissioner during 1916-1917. At the end of his term, he decided not to run for re-election and applied for a job with Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle. Shortly after moving to Seattle, Bill Boeing asked him to return to the Harbor to be the superintendent for Greenwood Logging. He became responsible for all the operations until the company was dissolved in 1939. My mother would often say what wonderful people Mr. Boeing and his wife Bertha were. They would come to the Harbor on a regular basis, and always invite the McGillcuddys, and their two daughters to dinner at whatever nice hotel they were staying. Mrs. Boeing would always bring a gift for my mom and her sister.

Boeing’s timber business really flourished during the boom times of the 1920’s. The Kroll Map Company county atlas dated October 1928 showed Boeing owning well over 20 sections (square miles) of timberland in the upper East Hoquiam River and West Wishkah River valleys. From the Kroll map it appears the Greenwood Logging Company railroad camp was located in Section 26 of Township 20 North, Range 9 West, which is northwest of the community of Wishkah. Kinsey photos taken in 1930 show the camp looking more like a resort than a logging camp. All the buildings were painted white, and arranged in an orderly fashion. It was that attention to detail that may have made Boeing Aircraft Company successful in an industry that is all about attention to detail. Approximately 25 Kinsey Brothers photos of Greenwood Logging Company operations can be seen online at the University of Washington Libraries, Digital Collection.

Wishkah Valley historians, Dick and Karen Bogar, told me that originally Greenwood Logging used a splash dam to float the logs downriver to the Wishkah Boom Company. Eventually, the company concluded the upper West Wishkah did not have adequate flow to move logs efficiently and, in 1922, the Greenwood Logging railroad was extended to a log dump on the lower East Hoquiam River. Evidence of the log dump still exists at the present boat launch, located near milepost 5 on the East Hoquiam Road. The Greenwood Road north of Hoquiam follows a portion of the Greenwood Logging railroad grade.

During World War II, there were three Boeing Aircraft Company manufacturing plants on the Harbor. The Goldberg warehouse at the foot of South H Street in Aberdeen, manufactured “chin (gun) turrets” for B-17 bombers. Two plants on 7th Street in Hoquiam made tail sections for B-29 bombers. One was in a large garage where the current transit station is located, and the other in the building across the street from the Hoquiam Library, at 427 7th St. Coincidentally, after Greenwood Logging was dissolved, Jerry McGillicuddy Jr. was sent back to Seattle and became the Assistant to the Superintendent of Branch Plants. Maybe that’s why the Harbor got three branch plants.

So the real beginnings of Boeing Company are right here on the Harbor. Many of us feel Boeing Field should have been in Hoquiam. Maybe someday, Boeing will “see the forest, for the trees,” and return home to the Harbor.

Tom Quigg lives in Aberdeen and has been in the real estate business for many years. His website, cultureofsuccess.com, features stories of people who have roots on Grays Harbor and have gone on to make major contributions in their fields.