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Confusion and controversies are connected with the history of these mills; they were both (supposedly) on the same waterfront location and were two completely different mills, but incorporation and existence dates overlap. One partner (and head) of the incorporation was Julius LaVergne. Insurance was taken out on the first mill (called Red Cedar Co.), however the name “Tacoma Lumber & Shingle Co.” was incorporated by the firm at the same time.

A few months after this incorporation a fire destroyed the Red Cedar Mill. It is believed LaVergne acquired the old Reed & Andrews Mill building (for Red Cedar Co.) since it had sat abandoned for some years. Red Cedar Co. had been insured but not for an amount adequate to cover the building of a new mill. A new (superior) mill was built on the same site immediately after, named Tacoma Lumber & Shingle Co. The firm had to invest more money to accomplish this, but when done it was considered one of the finest mills around.

Within a few months, however, this mill also burned down. Blame was put on a night watchman who did not attempt to put out the fire when it was still small. Instead, he ran a half-mile to Puget Sound Mill to use an alarm system. He broke the glass on the box but did not turn the key to activate the alarm. Instead, residents living on the hill above the mill saw the blaze and called the fire department. LaVergne’s big new touring car was lost in the fire and part of the new wooden roadway was burned. Julius LaVergne and his firm had now lost two mills in two years; the latest fire had also damaged city property.

It was rumored the first mill was purposely burned so a new, better mill could be built with insurance money; this was unfounded but old-timers kept this rumor alive over the years. Another rumor spread that someone burned the new mill to get back at the owners because of the Red Cedar Co. fire. Anyone angered over a lost job (because of the first fire) would have cause to start such a rumor. No charges were brought against anyone for either fire, but the “suspicious” events and rumors created a complicated insurance situation. In 1914, after things were settled, James Buchanan took receivership of the mill’s remains and then turned the bill of sale over to a lumber company away from the Tacoma area. 

No other mill was ever built on the Reed & Andrews/LaVergne site. 

Nerheim, J. N.. The History of Lumber Mills in Old Town. Tacoma, WA. Self-published, 2004.