Thursday, June 29, 2017

John Kenneth (Bud) McInnis - February 5, 1913-June 27, 2003

John Kenneth (Bud) McInnis - February 5, 1913-June 27, 2003

When you happen to visit the Maritime Gallery at the Harbor History Museum, if you enter from the ground floor level, the first thing you encounter is an Atlas Diesel engine.  The engine itself has an interesting background having first been used to power the “Norman B” owned by Marion Stancic from 1936 until around 1953.
Atlas Imperial 65 Diesel Engine - Maritime Gallery, Harbor History Museum - Donated by Bud McInnis
Bud bought it from Marian Stancic and adapted it for use in his small one man sawmill on his property in  Rosedale, about 5600 block of Ray Nash Boulevard.  Then when Bud retired and closed his sawmill in 1989/90, he loaned it to Bates Technical College, Tacoma for use in some of the mechanical classes.  Several classes worked on the engine learning their trade, and they built a frame to support the engine, as well as adding a new gas tank.  Shortly before his death, he donated it to the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society, better known as the Harbor History Museum.  

But what else do we know about Bud, and his life in the greater Gig Harbor community?  I have to be honest, until I was asked about him, I knew very little except that his name was familiar.  Fortunately however Bud left behind an oral history or interview with the museum that took place December 7, 2001.  That, coupled with information I discovered on, will help us discover more about Bud and his family.

Bud’s grandfather, John Myles McInnis was born January 4, 1825 in Totescore, Isle of Skye, Inverness, Scotland at a time of great outward migration to the North America.  The McInnis joined their neighbors, the Ross family sometime between 1828 and 1932 and traveled to Prince Edward Island, Canada. John Myles married Isabella (Bell) Ross in 1852.  They had 16 children; Bud’s father Daniel (Donald) Morrison McInnis was the sixth child, born February 19, 1861. 

Probably around the 1880s, Daniel started working his way west on bridges and construction jobs as the railroads, opening up the country, were also being constructed.   By 1890, he had arrived in Tacoma, met and married Sarah Jane (Kittie) Lister.  Their first child was born the following year; their seventh and last child, Bud, was born in 1913 on McNeil Island.   

Daniel worked in sawmills both as a mechanic but also as a planerman for Theodore F. Peterson Millwork Co.  Their equipment was for specialty moldings, stairways, windows, doors and the like.  The stairway in the old County Courthouse is an example of Daniel’s work.

When gold was discovered in Skagway around 1896, Daniel joined 9 or 10 others men with sleds, a portable sawmill and all the related equipment necessary to saw lumber.  According to some information provided by Bud, Daniel and the men went in over Dyea Pass and set up shop at Lake Bennett where they turned out lumber for the prospectors to build boat to travel the Yukon River.  It is possible that T. F. Peterman was behind the operations, but that is not known for sure.  When Daniel return around 1898 he was again working at Peterman in Tacoma.

1910 saw the family move to Meridian on McNeil Island where they bought forty acres for a farm.  Daniel continued to work for Peterman but he, Daniel,  developed problems with his lungs - the doctors called it ‘cedar poisoning’ and he was forced to quit working in the mills. At their farm on McNeil they raised poultry, over 1000 white leghorn chickens. It was after Bud’s dad got seriously ill, that he asked Bud to stay with he and his mother to care for them for the rest of their lives.  And he did, not even marrying until after both parents died.  While living on McNeil, Bud worked at a sawmill There; there was also a box factory “up above” for several years, and enjoyed the work.

In 1936 the Federal Bureau of Prisons bought the entire island and evicted all the non-prison workers.    This is explained more throughly in the previous blog on McNeil Island, and also on Anderson Island.  So the family bought the McGavick farm property, about 100 acres, in Rosedale.
Map of Rosedale-McInnis Property outlined in pink   
Once they were established in Rosedale they decided to raise milk cows starting with Jerseys and Guernsey cows.  No more poultry: the poultry business was grown too large and too commercial; Washington Egg and Poultry Co-Operative was expanding throughout the entire state and let little or no room for the small farmer.  Their decision to have the dairy was quite successful and definitely paid off..  Kitsap Dairy in Bremerton bought all their whole milk for over 20 years until Bud decided to stop working with the cows.

Bud’s three sisters, Ethel (1893-196); Grace (1897-1975) and Mildred (1907-2000), all went to Ellensburg for higher education eventually becoming teachers.  His brother, Albert (1891-1950) enlisted to serve in WWI, serving on a minesweeper.  After the war ended and he was discharged, he made his home in Philadelphia.  Bud doesn’t mention the what either Walter (1900-1963) or Milton (1909-1977) did.

Bud kept his promise to his Dad and stayed on the farm.  However he still wanted to be in the sawmill business; but mills were expensive.  The only other sawmill in the area was the Austin sawmill where the current Beach Basket is located.  It was also much larger than Bud was considering.  He was only thinking of a small one so they could mill the lumber needed for various outbuildings at the farm.   Also it would allow him to help a few of his neighbors and friends, as you can see from this barn built by the Peterson from lumber Bud had milled.  The Peterson’s property was just across Ray Nash Road from Bud’s property.  
Peterson barn built with lumber milled by Bud McInnis (HHM SmugMug)

Bud’s parents, Daniel died in 1943, Sarah died the following year in 1944.  They are buried at Rosedale Cemetery, Gig Harbor.  Suddenly Bud’s life changed.  He had met Alvilde Cristina Harmon, his future wife at a dance held at Victor Dance Hall.  You have to remember dancing was extremely popular in the 1920-40s and the young people would travel all over the peninsula to attend the various dances.  If you went to Victor from Rosedale by today’s roads you would find they are only 17 miles apart.

Bud and Alvilde were married in December 1945.  Bud continued with the dairy business but still dreamed of the sawmill.  He set up the mill in 1948 but it took about ten years as he gradually dropped out of the dairy business and full time into sawmilling.  The majority of his mill work remained local, although there was a small following in Seattle, Tacoma building industries.  In the beginning he had a small two-cylinder Fairbanks Morris diesel.  

A close friend of his, Howard Cox had a machine shop where The Weathered Cottage on Harborview is today.  So he asked Howard to find him a larger engine.  One day, Bud stopped in and they were talking when Howard said “There’s a small 65 down in one of the boats.  Would you be interested?”  Excitedly I went down to see it.  I said “I thought you said small.  That monster is six feet high, ten feet long.”  But he purchased it, and that is the small one described at the beginning of this paper.  Bud used that Atlas well over 30 years that he milled in earnest. 
Norman B, Corregidor, Pacific Raider at Babich Dock (HHM SmugMug)

Bud gives all the credit to his Dad for his skill in tempering, knowing the difference between blades - wood versus steel cutting tools, splicing belts, and repairing.  He used Douglas Fir almost exclusively.

He operated the mill five days a week, his last ten years doing custom sawing only.  He used Saturdays for fencing and other chores.  Sunday was a day of rest.  He lost Alvilde in 1980, and never remarried.   Bud described his life in these words:  “I enjoyed my life very much as I have” and his marriage “We were together 34 1/2 years — a very pleasant marriage”.  

  • Harbor History Museum - Oral History and SmugMug
  • Rosedale by Bob Crandall

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