TOWN of BUCODA
Bucoda was established by Aaron Webster in 1854 and was incorporated in 1910. Webster used water from the Skookumchuck River to operate a sawmill there. The area originally bore the name of its infamous prison, Seatco, but was renamed by the state Legislature in 1890 for the first three syllables of the principals in the town's mining business: James M. Buckley, Samuel Coulter, and John B. David.
Seatco Prison -- named for the Indian word for ghost or devil -- was at what is now 720 S.W. Factory St., though all that remains in the grass and brush-covered area are spikes and nails used in its construction.
Seatco was the first prison in Washington for two reasons. The territory had no place other than county jails to hold felons, and the Legislature was unwilling to spend public funds on a penitentiary. Since the federal government wouldn't pony up for a prison, the Legislature solved the problem by entering an agreement with William Billings, Thurston County sheriff, in 1877.
Billings built the prison at his own expense, the state paid 70 cents per day for the prisoners' keep, and Billings was allowed to sell or use their labor as he pleased.
In 1886, the Legislature created a territorial penitentiary at Walla Walla, sealing the fate of Seatco, which had gained a considerable reputation for harsh treatment of prisoners.
George France was among the last to leave on May 10, 1887, noting no sorrow at leaving Washington's "hell on earth."
Travel down the road, and you can visit the Mutual Mill site. It's also on the southeastern edge of Bucoda, adjacent to the Seatco Prison site. This is the mill Webster built in 1857. The mill changed hands several times and was used for prisoner labor for a while. It was purchased in 1902 by a consortium of Martin Foard, Frank R. Stokes, W.W. Whipple and F.D. Butzer, who founded the Mutual Lumber Company.
The company produced 120,000 board-feet of lumber per day, but the mill burned down in 1912. Mutual Lumber moved its operation to Tenino until 1919, when it rebuilt the operation in Bucoda. By 1922, the town was dubbed "the little town with the million-dollar payroll," due to Mutual production, which built a hotel and housing for its workers.
The last log was sawed in Bucoda in 1944.
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Town of Bucoda
110 North Main Street
PO Box 10
Bucoda WA 98530