Founded in 1903, we have a rich history in timberland management and forest products. The Potlatch Lumber Company was founded along the banks of the Palouse River in North Central Idaho. The rugged and colorful lumberjacks and lumber mill workers from our early founding years transitioned into modern-day forestry professionals and wood products experts. Both were and continue to be admirers of the trees and of the forests where they grow. Explore highlights from our past 119 years.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser and a group of investors founded Clearwater Timber Company, purchasing prime white pine forestland from railroad interests in North Central Idaho.
Potlatch Lumber company was incorporated by Weyerhaeuser and other investors. “Potlatch” was borrowed from the Chinook word for a Native American celebration of goodwill and gift giving. Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s son, Charles, was named as the first president.
Potlatch’s first sawmill was built on the Potlatch River at what would become Potlatch, ID. The largest white pine mill in the world, the Potlatch mill was a technological marvel for its day.
Edward Rutledge, a long-time partner of Frederick Weyerhaeuser, and other investors founded Rutledge Lumber Company and in 1915 constructed a sawmill in Coeur d’Alene, ID.
Clearwater Timber Company investors constructed the Clearwater Mill in Lewiston, ID. It quickly stole the title as the world’s largest white pine mill from the Potlatch, ID mill.
Financial challenges during The Great Depression led to the merger of the three companies: Potlatch Lumber Company, Rutledge Lumber Company, and Clearwater Timber Company. Their combined mills and forestland holdings were consolidated into Potlatch Forests, Inc. (PFI).
Potlatch Forest's First President
John Phillip Weyerhaeuser, Jr., the grandson of Frederick Weyerhaeuser, became the first president of Potlatch Forests, Inc. (PFI).
Under Phil Weyerhaeuser, PFI expanded its focus in forest protection and reforestation. This resulted in one of the industry’s first long-term forest management plans, which became a first step toward sustainable forestry.
PFI also emphasized full utilization of wood resources through the development of new products. In the early 1930’s, Potlatch researcher, Robert Bowling, invented a commercial use for sawdust: Pres-to-logs.
Like most companies during the era, PFI joined the war effort by directing its traditional products toward military end uses. With men at war, women took production jobs in the mills.
The post-war years brought a boom in housing construction as returning vets began forming families. PFI’s first plywood plant, constructed in 1949 at Lewiston, ID helped fill the need for building materials.
In 1950, the Company started up its first pulp and paperboard mill. The mill turned sawmill wastes to bleached pulp that was made into paperboard for packaging materials.
PFI grew and expanded production in Idaho and other states, and into new businesses such as packaging and real estate. In 1953, PFI acquired a paper mill in Pomona, CA.
During the mid-to-late 1950’s, PFI merged with Southern Lumber Company and Bradley Lumber Company in Arkansas and expanded pulp and paperboard production at Lewiston, ID.
Reforesting, Finding, Protecting the Unique
The Company continued to improve reforestation in Idaho, Minnesota and Arkansas, working with other landowners and government to protect land from wildfire, insects and disease. The Company also began identifying unique forest areas, particularly in Idaho, for additional protective management.
During the 1960’s, PFI expanded its operations and holdings through 24 acquisitions, maintaining offices or facilities in 25 cities, 12 states and three foreign countries.
In 1963, PFI joined with Swanee Paper to produce “private label” tissue products from pulp in Lewiston, ID. The fledgling business would become increasingly important to the Company in later years.
PFI merged with Minnesota-based Northwest Paper Company in 1964, adding Northwest’s printing papers business and forestlands to Potlatch’s portfolio.
Through the mid-1960’s, the Company became a supplier of paperboard for packaging in Japan, establishing links for what would become a growing international business.
A City by the Bay
By 1965, the Company’s international connections prompted the Company to move its corporate headquarters from Lewiston to San Francisco. San Francisco was, at the time, a key financial center and more centrally located for international travel. (Potlatch relocated its headquarters to Spokane, WA in 1997).
The Company also continued to grow in Idaho, purchasing a plywood plant in St. Maries and building a new plywood mill at Pierce in the mid-1960’s.
In 1973, Potlatch Forest, Inc. (PFI), became Potlatch Corporation, reflecting the Company’s diversification and expansion.
Continuing its tradition of complete wood utilization, Potlatch built a particleboard plant at Post Falls, ID in 1975, to use dry sawdust, chips and shavings from the region’s many sawmills and plywood plants.
The Company also extended full utilization in Arkansas with the construction of a pulp and paperboard facility in 1977 to use local species and sawmill waste.
In the forest, the Company refined its reforestation program with the establishment of a seedling nursery in Lewiston. Seedlings grown at Lewiston and planted in the forest, in combination with natural seeding from surrounding forest, enhanced reforestation progress in Idaho.
New Hope for Idaho's State Tree
The Company also began a seed orchard to develop tree seeds with superior growth and resistance to the white pine blister rust, a terrible tree disease accidentally transported from abroad, that nearly destroyed Idaho’s state tree.
Based on earlier work with composite panels in Idaho, Potlatch used Minnesota’s abundant aspen in a new panel product called oriented strand board (OSB), made from cross-oriented layers of wood strands. Recognizing the panel’s potential, Potlatch built mills in Bemidji and Cook in the early 1980’s. Trademarked OXBoard, the new panel proved a substitute for plywood.
In the early 1980’s, boom-and-bust housing cycles brought on by high interest rates resulted in serious challenges for the forest products industry. The original Potlatch and Rutledge mills, now outdated, were closed and other Potlatch-owned mills in Idaho were sold or closed. The Rutledge site later became the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Golf Course.
As the industry began to recover in the mid-1980’s, Potlatch began modernizing its production facilities throughout the Company. At Lewiston, a new tissue machine was installed to meet demands for “private-label” products. Pulp production was increased and the largest waste-wood-fired power boiler was constructed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Facing on-going economic and industry changes, Potlatch Corporation continued to modernize its operations by upgrading its pulp, paper and paperboard facilities in Idaho, Arkansas and Minnesota to produce better quality products with fewer pollutants.
The Lead in Water Quality Research
On the environmental front, Potlatch Corporation accelerated its “stewardship ethic” with implementation of automated water quality monitoring in the Mica Creek watershed in Idaho, and by continuing to incorporate sophisticated computerized mapping and database technology in managing and studying the forest environment.
The Company’s private label tissue business at Lewiston upgraded its first machine and added another new tissue machine, designed to produce premium quality products in response to consumer research. As a result, the company’s private label market share for bathroom and facial tissue and napkins and towels showed dramatic improvement through the decade.
Potlatch Corporation’s Resource Management Division (RMD) is responsible for managing the company’s 17,000-acre hybrid poplar plantation in northeastern Oregon, near the town of Boardman. This unique plantation was developed in 1992 to supplement the company’s fiber needs.
To meet the needs of its expanding private label customers, Potlatch added converting facilities at Las Vegas in 1993. By the late 1990’s, the Company’s private label customers were expanding eastward, requiring the addition of a converting plant in the Midwest.
To meet changing markets, Potlatch rebuilt its plywood operations to produce industrial-grade plywood for specialty applications that were less vulnerable to commodity competition.
Upgrades at Potlatch’s Cypress Bend paperboard plant improved the surface quality and printability of its products. Cypress Bend paperboard is now competitive with the nation’s best producers for the converted market for high-end packaging, particularly for drugs and cosmetics. Quality and productivity initiatives at the Lewiston paperboard plant show progress.
The Next Century
The new century brought new challenges including changing markets, increasing competition from abroad for wood and paper products. The U.S. dollar’s strength made imports attractive and U.S. exports harder to market.
Focus on the Future
Raw materials and transportation issues let to closure of Potlatch’s plywood mill in Pierce, ID. The company’s overall workforce was restructured to improve efficiency and remain competitive while investments were made in a new oriented strand board line that doubled production at Cook, MN.
Following its long tradition of sound and scientific forest stewardship, the Company embraced the concept of independent, third-party certification of its management practices.
In 2001, practices at its hybrid poplar plantation in Oregon were certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). By 2002, management practices on all company forestland in Idaho, Minnesota and Arkansas were certified by independent auditors under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) 2002-2004 standards and the International Organization for Standardization’s 14001 requirements. Potlatch completed SFI certification of most of its manufacturing facilities.
Potlatch invested in its lumber operations in Idaho and Arkansas and by 2003 increased overall softwood lumber production by 16 percent. The Company also exited the hardwood lumber business permanently with the 2002 sale of one mill in Arkansas.
Foreign imports of coated printing papers continued to challenge the company’s MN printing papers business. In 2002, Potlatch sold its coated printing paper business, using the proceeds to reduce debt and invest in potentially more profitable business lines
The private label tissue business, with a strong market share in the West continued to grow eastward and improve its product line. In 2002, the Company announced a new tissue manufacturing and converting facility at Las Vegas designed to produce premium quality towels comparable to the best available and added a Midwest converting operation at Chicago
Potlatch resource managers explored new revenue opportunities through conservation easements in Idaho and Minnesota, and through recreational and hunting land leases in Minnesota. In 2002, the company joined with the Trust for Public Lands in a precedent-setting conservation easement project on Potlatch’s Idaho timberlands.Conservation easements permanently protect land from development and protect fish and wildlife habitat.
By the close of 2003, the new tissue machine at Las Vegas was completed. The machine started up in early January 2004, making an ultra-towel that consumers consider equal to the major brands.
Potlatch converts from a “C” corporation to a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) on January 1, 2006 to better position the Company for forestland acquisitions and to offer greater overall value to its shareholders.
Potlatch acquires 180,000 acres of timberland in Central Idaho.
All pulp-based businesses are spun off into a new independent company named Clearwater Paper Co. The Clearwater lumber mill is included in the spin-off.
Potlatch acquires approximately 200,000 acres of timberland in Alabama and Mississippi.
Potlatch divests Central Idaho timberlands.
Potlatch merges with Arkansas-based Deltic Timber in an all-stock transaction, creating a leading domestic timberland owner and top-tier wood products manufacturer. The combination brings together two leading timberland owners and wood products manufacturers, while also combining two highly complementary and successful real estate businesses. The combined company changes its name to PotlatchDeltic Corporation.
Charles Haywood Murphy Sr. arrives in El Dorado Arkansas in 1904. From 1907 through the 1920’s Murphy acquires several timberland tracts. In 1950, Charles H. Murphy and Company incorporates as Murphy Corporation in Louisiana and Murphy goes public in 1956. A key transaction occurs in 1957, when 46,000 acres in Alabama is traded with Weyerhaeuser for 65,000 acres in central Arkansas. The Ola sawmill is constructed and starts operation in 1971 and the Waldo mill is built in 1974. In 1996, Murphy spins off the timber and real estate portion of the company, Deltic Farm & Timber, into a publicly traded company - Deltic Timber Corporation. Construction of the Chenal Country Club and its golf courses begins in 1987, and Chenal Valley’s residential development and the associated infrastructure. Marketing of home sites starts in 1989 and the club opens in 1990. In 1995 Deltic enters a 50% joint venture to construct an MDF plant (Del-Tin Fiber) which starts up in 1998. The agriculture segment assets are sold in 2000-2001 with proceeds used to acquire additional timberlands. In 2013, Deltic purchases the remaining 50% interest in Del-Tin Fiber (MDF).
PotlatchDeltic sells the El Dorado Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) business to Roseburg Forest Products for a purchase price of approximately $92 million, consisting of $63 million in cash and assumption of $29 million of revenue bond obligations. The MDF mill had been part of the assets acquired in the merger with Deltic Timber (Del-Tin Fiber).