A lively and independent little town on the estuary of the Willapa River. It derives its prosperity from lumber manufacture, oyster culture, and shipping; and the ups and downs of the lumber industry are markedly reflected in Raymond.
In 1861, the schooner Willamette with its master and owner, Captain John Vail, was wrecked at the harbor entrance. Bearing no grudge for so costly an introduction to these shores, Vail homesteaded a claim on the present townsite. After his death his widow married John Adams, builder of the first sawmill in the Willapa Harbor. In 1895 the Northern Pacific Railway extended lines through the little settlement, but not until 1904 was a plat filed. The town was named for L. V. Raymond, the first postmaster.
The original business district straddled the odorous tide flats on “sea legs.” Its narrow wooden sidewalks and roughly planked streets swarmed with reveling loggers on Saturday nights. The town grew rapidly with the expanding lumber industry, and in 1912 an enlarged city was planned, and dredging and filling were started. Then came one of the periodic slumps; lumber and shingle exports fell away, and Raymond’s bubble burst. The depressed conditions resulted also in unemployment and economic distress. During this troubled time, members of the I.W.W. were driven from the city by a vigilante “pick-handle brigade.” By 1915, however, prosperity returned, and the expansion of the lumber market resulted in the enlargement of the lumber plants; at the same time a branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad was completed, making new markets accessible to the wood-products industry. Many new logging camps were opened up; and during the First World War ten wooden freighters were launched from a hastily built shipyard. Controversy between lumber operators and workers over hours, wages, and conditions threatened to curtail production at a time when lumber was acutely needed. After several companies of the United States Army’s Spruce Division had been stationed in Raymond, the crisis passed. Working conditions were considerably improved, and several sawmills began to operate. The town’s population soared to nearly 7,000.
During the 1920s, disastrous fires reduced the number of sawmills, and population again dwindled; but new impetus was given the town by the dredging of the Willapa River channel and reclamation of the tideflat area. Ocean-borne trade was thus made possible, and the town itself had space for expansion of business and residential districts. The Weyerhaeuser Timber Company made available great areas of virgin timber, on which the mills could feed. Today the majority of the loggers and sawmill workers are organized in the A. F. of L. and C. I. O.
In the early years, Raymond’s business section was built on stilts five or six feet above the tidelands and sloughs that crisscrossed the site, and elevated sidewalks and streets connected most of the buildings. By 1913 Raymond had a population of 6,000 and a reputation as a wild and wooly lumber mill town. City fathers resisted the unwanted reputation with promotions of Raymond as “The Empire City of Willapa Harbor” and “The City That Does Things.” Contemporary history acknowledges Raymond as the city where the grunge band Nirvana played their first gig.