On a grassy flat in an area of logged-off land, McCleary is cut by a creek that washes under the highway and across the town through a straight ditch, marked by numerous footbridges. Several ranches of mill-workers used to be around the town; an extension of the main street ran into the millyard of the industrial plant, a sash-and-door factory owned by the McCleary Mill Company, which was named for mill operator Henry McCleary in 1910. The lumber mill is now owned by the Simpson Door Company, still a manufacturer of doors, and for which the main street was renamed.
The business district was made up mostly of frame buildings with false fronts—all recalling lusty days and nights when the logger, in his boots and “tin pants,” was king of the bars and gambling rooms.
McCleary millworkers took part in the lumber strikes throughout the State in 1935, and in 1936, when 17 men were discharged, allegedly for labor organization activities, another strike was called. An anti-picketing injunction had been secured in a Mason County court to restrain picketing of a mill in Shelton owned by the McCleary operators; this injunction was applied to the McCleary mill in Grays Harbor County, which had reopened under armed guards. The plant was picketed, however, until several carloads of state police arrived and dispersed the strikers. Since the incident, there has been little union activity in the town.
The sash-and-door factory was at one time one of the largest in the country. The company’s lumber mill was shut down and the employees bought little acreages, improvising small impermanent homes, and, after clearing their land, attempted to supplement their factory wages by gardening, berry growing, poultry raising, and dairying.
The Simpson Logging Company acquired the lumber mill in 1941, and has been manufacturing doors in McCleary ever since. The mill is the main industry in town, although small farms are dotted along the old highway just outside of town.