History of Heybrook Ridge

From Native Hunters, Loggers, Lumber Mills to County Park

A History of Heybrook Ridge – by Louise Lindgren, July 19, 2013

Heybrook Ridge has seen the footprints of humans for thousands of years, first from the hunters among the Skykomish People who would have followed their prey deep into the woods and from the women of that tribe, picking plants and berries in the clearings. They could not have imagined that their forest would ever be felled, but the next humans who made their mark on the land did just that.

In 1903 heavy boots of loggers sank deep into the duff as the men of Sylvester Smith’s logging teams began felling trees so huge that often one log alone would fill an entire railroad car. Smith began a lumber mill at the base of the north side of the ridge in that year, directly across the Skykomish River from the ten year old town of Index.

By 1908 Smith had sold out to a partnership which expanded his operation, becoming the Index-Galena Lumber Co. In 1911 the mill was producing about 60,000 board feet of lumber per day, and a shingle mill was added in 1912. A Climax geared locomotive chugged ever deeper into virgin forest, heading east for miles along the river to bring out logs that were skidded down steep slopes to rail cars which took them to the mills. Lumber and shingles were then loaded onto cars of the transcontinental Great Northern Railway to be distributed throughout the country and by sailing ships to foreign ports.

On the south side of the ridge in 1910 Louis C. Heybrook and his wife had their smaller Heybrook Lumber Co., which also fed its products to Great Northern rail cars that passed directly by the mill on their way west to Everett and Seattle and east to Chicago. By 1916 Heybrook was listed in R. L. Polk’s Everett and Snohomish County Directory as a village of 250 people (compared to Index at 600 pop.), but with only Mrs. L. C. Heybrook listed as owner of the mill.

A prominent Swedish businessman, John Soderberg, who was responsible for the first waterworks for the town of Index as well as its granite quarry to the west, also owned a large share of Heybrook Ridge (32 acres) on its northwestern flank, abutting both Index-Galena ownership on the north and Heybrook’s on the south. An oddly shaped five acre piece was cut from his westernmost section and listed on a 1910 map as Ellis Granite. Archaeological exploration in this area may reveal whether any stone was quarried at this place.

World War I increased the market for lumber products, and the Index-Galena mill prospered, producing at its peak in the early 1920s a hundred thousand board feet of lumber per day.  Two company logging trains traveled 16 miles up-river to transport logs to the mills. However, by the end of that decade the decline in business had begun.

By 1927 George Bingham had purchased Mrs. Heybrook’s property. Unfortunately no records have been found so far detailing the demise of that mill. The Index-Galena Co. land was under trusteeship and headed for several more years of ownership changes. The logged off Soderberg property was transferred to his Western Granite Co. except for the odd “granite quarry” piece that had changed to a new owner, A. E. Crawford.

A map of 1934 shows Snohomish County as owner of most of the former Index-Galena land, and by 1940 that had been transferred to the State Forest Board. The Great Depression had taken its toll. The mills were closed, but a young mixed-species forest had begun to replace the stumps left from those early years of clear-cutting.

The 1975 map shows that much of the northwest side of the ridge was owned by Buse Timber, and that family-owned company waited for many years for its trees to grow to harvestable maturity. Once that growth was achieved in 2007 the story of the citizen effort to save the land from harvest began. The First People of the area, the Skykomish tribe, might well have helped in that effort had they survived as a viable and distinct cultural group. Those who make this century’s footprints on the trails of Heybrook Ridge Park may well honor the memory of those who were stewards of the land for millennia.