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W. D. Washburn & Co.


In any enumeration of those to whom the industrial interests of Anoka stand most largely indebted first place must be given to Hon. William D. Washburn of Minneapolis, and his business associate, Major William D. Hale of the same city. Under the firm name of W.D. Washburn & Co. they began the erection of a large and thoroughly equipped saw mill at Anoka in 1872. This mill had an annual capacity of sixteen million feet of lumber, and, with its complement of planning mills, dry kilns, etc., furnished employment to about 125 men. For seventeen years logs form the headwaters of Rum river and its tributaries were floated down to this mill, and the product manufactured there from was shipped far and wide throughout the Northwest. About 1875 the company was organized as a corporation under the name of the Washburn Mill Company, with substantially the same ownership, and in 1880 the Lincoln Flour Mill was constructed, with a capacity of 600-700 barrels of flour per day. In the great fire of August 16, 1884 the Lincoln mill was destroyed, but owing to the elaborate precautions of F.L. Pinney, its superintendent, the sawmill and lumber yards were saved. A new Lincoln mill quickly rose from the ashes of the old mill, equipped with the latest improved machinery, which still continues to furnish employment to many residents of Anoka. The new mill has a capacity of 1600 barrels of flour per day.

HON. WILLIAM DREW WASHBURN is a native of Maine, and the youngest of eleven children, two of whom became governors of states and members of congress, and two others became United States ministers to foreign countries. Mr. Washburn graduated from Bowdoin College in 1854, and after taking a law course came to St. Anthony in 1857. Soon after his arrival he became agent for the Minneapolis Mill Company, which owned the waterpower on the west side of the falls. The energy and business acumen with which he guide the company’s business through the financial depression following the panic of 1857 won the confidence of men of means and no doubt in large measure laid the foundation for the immense enterprises, involving millions of dollars of capital, in which he afterward engaged. The projection and building of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad and in later years of the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie and Atlantic, better known as the "Soo" Railway, were in large measure his work. Anoka county citizens have numerous reasons for remembering the aid given by him to worthy enterprises in their midst, and his kindly advice has been frequently sought by her business men in cases of emergency. In addition to his milling interests, Mr. Washburn was the founder of the Anoka National Bank, and also built an opera house at Anoka, which was destroyed in the fire of 1884. With all the pressure of private business, Mr. Washburn has found time to devote to public affairs. He was twice elected to a seat in the Minnesota legislature, and in 1878 became a member of congress from the district embracing Anoka County, serving three terms in the national House of Representatives. In 1889 he was elected United States Senator from Minnesota, in which capacity he serve six years. As a director of the Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills Company Senator Washburn still retains an interest in the Lincoln mill.


source: History of Anoka County by Albert M. Goodrich – published 1905