A sawmill saved the town of Ola, Idaho from disaster – see pictures of the men who saved the town

The Great Depression hit Idaho hard. From 1929 to 1932, the income of the average Idahoan dropped nearly fifty percent. Photographer Dorothea Lange visited Gem County’s Squaw Creek Valley, Ola, Idaho in October and November 1939 and took many pictures of the residents. These photographs reveal Idaho’s social history during the Depression and early war years.

As Lange visited with the residents of Ola, she reported that, “in 1935 after years of overgrazing, lessened rainfall, and low farm prices, most of these families were on relief.”

Small town needed a profit center

The residents of this small town needed a profit center to survive when farming declined; they were too isolated to take jobs elsewhere. The cooperatives from the New Deal programs set up by the Federal Government assisted the town. Their valley was bordered on the east by a forest that could develop an unlimited supply of Yellow Pine and Douglas Fir.”

In the fall of 1935, 36 men made application to the Farm Security Administration for a loan of $1500; this to be used for the purchase of equipment to help establish a small sawmill. Lange visited the town in October 1939 and one of the nine men working at the sawmill stated, “Now take this year ‐‐ with the drought. If we hadn’t a had the sawmill to drop back on to I don’t know what we’d a done.”

Five Idaho farmers, members of Ola self-help sawmill co-opFive Idaho farmers, members of Ola self-help sawmill co-op2,

Charlie Carlock, aged thirty-six, the spokesman for the group who form the co-operative. He is a descendant of the early Squaw Creek Valley settlersCharlie Carlock, aged thirty-six, the spokesman for the group who form the co-operative. He is a descendant of the early Squaw Creek Valley settlers

Roy Carlock, member of Ola self-help sawmill co-opRoy Carlock, member of Ola self-help sawmill co-op.

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-opOne of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.5

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.4

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.3

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.2

One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.One of the thirty-six members. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.

One of the thirty-six members of the Ola self-help sawmill co-opOne of the thirty-six members of the Ola self-help sawmill co-op

Ola self-help sawmill under construction, IdahoSawmill under construction

Sawmill under construction2

Ola twice borrowed money from the FSA – the first time to construct the plant the second to bank some working capital. The sawmill saved the town of Ola.

 The sawmill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, IdahoThe sawmill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho

 Close-up of the sawmill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, IdahoClose-up of the sawmill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho

Men working in mill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho. Man in rear center in black hat is FSA (Farm Security Administration) county supervisor.

Men working in mill. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho. Man in rear center in black hat is FSA (Farm Security Administration) county supervisor.

Five Idaho farmers, members of Ola self-help sawmill co-op, in the woods standing against a load of logs ready to go down to their mill about three miles awayFive Idaho farmers, members of Ola self-help sawmill co-op, in the woods standing against a load of logs ready to go down to their mill about three miles away

Member of the co-op in the woods. Ola self help cooperative sawmill. Gem County, IdahoMember of the co-op in the woods. Ola self help cooperative sawmill. Gem County, Idaho

Member of the Ola self-help sawmill co-op working in the woods, rolling log to truck with peavey, a hooked and spiked stick used as a leverMember of the Ola self-help sawmill co-op working in the woods, rolling log to truck with peavey, a hooked and spiked stick used as a lever

Members of Ola self-help sawmill co-op snaking a fir log down to the truckMembers of Ola self-help sawmill co-op snaking a fir log down to the truck

Bringing in load of logs late in the afternoon from the woods to the mill over road three miles long which members built with pick and shovel

Bringing in load of logs late in the afternoon from the woods to the mill over road three miles long which members built with pick and shovel.

The Sawmill in OperationSawmill in operation in Ola

The sawmill carriage and log turner were made by these farmers.sawmill turner and carriage

 A member runs the engine which moves logs into the sawmillA member runs the engine which moves logs into the sawmill2

Ola self-help cooperative. A member places a hook on a logOla self-help cooperative. A member places a hook on a log

Member of Ola self help sawmill co-op lives in what was once the “Jacknife Saloon.” This type building is characteristic of early Idaho. The stagecoach used to stop here to change horses and for the refreshment of travelers. This was discontinued in 1914. Gem County, IdahoMember of Ola self help sawmill co-op lives in what was once the Jacknife Saloon. This type building is characteristic of early Idaho. The stagecoach used to stop here

Farmer saloon and stagecoach tavern which is the temporary home of a member of the Ola self help sawmill co-opFarmer saloon and stagecoach tavern which is the temporary home of a member of the Ola self help sawmill co-op

 Upper end of Squaw Creek Valley near the mill, showing part of the timber resources. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.Upper end of Squaw Creek Valley near the mill, showing part of the timber resources. Ola self-help sawmill co-op.

Road going up Squaw Creek Valley, leaving Ola. Fence was built in 1890. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, IdahoRoad going up Squaw Creek Valley, leaving Ola. Fence was built in 1890. Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho

 A new house for descendant of old Idaho family, now a member of Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho. Lumber was supplied by the mill. His board lumber charges were about sixty-six dollars, windows and doors an additional thirty-five dollars. Note lumber pile in yardA new house for descendant of old Idaho family, now a member of Ola self-help sawmill co-op. Gem County, Idaho. Lumber was supplied by the mill.

Looking down on Ola self-help co-op mill showing the upper end of Squaw Creek Valley, the creek lined with trees, the new dry shed near the mill, homes of co-op members and cultivated surrounding fieldsLooking down on Ola self-help co-op mill showing the upper end of Squaw Creek Valley, the creek lined with trees, the new dry shed near the mill, homes of

  Home of Claude Kanady, president of the Ola self-help sawmill co-op. First part of this house was built a year ago. He added to it with lumber from the sawmill. Gem County, IdahoHome of Claude Kanady, president of the Ola self-help sawmill co-op. First part of this house was built a year ago. Now he is adding to it lumber from the sawmill. Gem County, Idaho

FreeHearts: 2nd edition A Novel of Colonial America Col. John Washington (ancestor of President George Washington), Randall Revell, Tom Cottingham, Edmund Beauchamp ward off Indian attacks and conquer the wilds of Maryland’s Eastern shore in 17th century colonial America in this historical novel, inspired by true events.

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FreeHearts: 2nd edition A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love Series Book 3): Book 3 in Tapestry of Love Series (Kindle Edition)


By (author):  Donna R Causey

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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