When SDS Lumber Company began in the early months of 1946 the surrounding region was populated by fifty or more lumber mills. “There was a sawmill behind every stump” the old loggers used to say. Today, after over 25 years, SDS survives and thrives as one of the last remaining mills in the area.
The origins of SDS are rooted in family tradition. At the end of World War II, brothers Wally and Bruce M. Stevenson both returned from serving as naval Lieutenant Commanders to forge a partnership with Frank Daubenspeck, the long-time foreman of their father’s mill, Broughton Lumber Company, located in Willard, Washington. Frank was Broughton’s mill foreman for 23 years. His seasoned experience as a mill operator, his gift for working with others and his legendary energy made him an ideal partner for starting SDS. Bruce and Wally Stevenson were no strangers to the industry, either. Their father managed the logging and milling operations for Broughton Lumber Company; Bruce and Wally, along with their siblings grew up around the business, spending their summers at “lumber camp”. In January, 1946 the three men took ownership of Nordby Lumber and Box, a small bankrupt mill on the Columbia River in Bingen. The strength of this partnership was the foundation of the company’s future success. It was an alliance of mutual respect, compatibility and extremely hard work.
In January 1948 a raging fire burned the first steam-powered sawmill to the ground. Within two weeks a Smith Brothers portable electricity-powered speed mill was up and running. By 1949 SDS had its own shop for building mill components and full-time mechanics for repair and maintenance. This was the domain of partner Bruce M. Stevenson, who took charge of designing and building all SDS buildings and sawmill machinery.
Wally Stevenson’s special interests complimented those of his partners. His talents were in running the business, acquiring timberland, overseeing woods operations and selling lumber. SDS flourished for many years from the nearby abundance of second-growth timber, the diligence of a loyal and skilled workforce, and management decisions that put profits back into the business to improve and expand operations and acquire land. Company policy was to own land close to home where it was easy to manage. Today, most of SDS’ 90,000 acres are within a 35-mile radius of the mill, in both Oregon and Washington. These lands contribute immeasurably to the promise of continuing success for SDS.