Michael Joseph Scanlon, biography c. 1906
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, Second Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905-1906. pp. 177-180. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
Michael J. Scanlon

Despite the popular belief that the day of financial opportunity in the lumber business in the white pine states of the Northwest is a thing of the past, not all of the successes in this industry in the section mentioned have been scored by lumbermen who came upon the scene of action forty or more years ago. Many instances exist of men who have won marked success in this region within the last twenty years, and even within a much shorter period. It is true that there are fewer in this class than in that of four or five decades ago; and this would seem to indicate that it is not so much the opportunity that is necessary as it is the combination of brains and determination, which attributes often supply what may be lacking in opportunity. In the first rank of enterprising men who have achieved marked success in the white pine country within a recent period is Michael Joseph Scanlon, of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He is now but forty-four years old, and was not yet out of his teens when the United States census report made the statement that, at the rate of production at that time, the lumber industry of the Northwest had but seven years to live. Notwithstanding this prophecy, Mr. Scanlon today is at the head of interests ranking among the first two or three producers of white pine in the country, and owning a mill that manufactures about as much of this lumber in a year as any one mill was ever known to do in the past.

M.J. Scanlon was born at Lyndon, Wisconsin, August 24, 1861. Like the vast majority of men who have won distinction for themselves in the business world, his life from early boyhood was one of most earnest effort. Not even his public school education was obtained without strenuous endeavor on his part; but by alternate study and work he acquired an academic education as well. He attended the common schools at Lyndon and afterward the high school at Mauston, a neighboring town. For several years he taught school during the winter months and attended high school during the spring and fall until, entirely by means of his own hard work, he had prepared himself for the law department of the University of Wisconsin, at Madison, which he entered in 1881.

Not liking the study of law, he gave up the idea of completing his law course and decided to fit himself for a business career. With this plan in mind, in 1884 he went to Omaha, Nebraska, where an aunt resided. Making his home with her, he attended a business college and, after completing the course of study there, entered the employ of the Nebraska Lumber Company, as bookkeeper, in April, 1885. This date marked the beginning of Mr. Scanlon's career as a lumberman.

Various changes occurred in the company, during all of which Mr. Scanlon remained, advancing through the different departments of office work until he had charge of the sales and credits and occasionally, as the business required, visited the leading lumber markets of the North. After being with this company four years, in March, 1889, he went to Minneapolis to take charge of the sales and credits of the C.H. Ruddock Lumber Company, and in the following year was elected secretary of the company.

In the fall of 1890 the company decided to close up its Minneapolis business and to engage in the manufacture of cypress in Louisiana. In the following spring it bought 20,000 acres of cypress land thirty miles north of New Orleans and organized the Ruddock Cypress Lumber Company, Limited. Mr. Scanlon, having an interest in the company and being its secretary, went south and took charge of its sales and credits. He had previously, in November, 1890, married Mrs. Sarah W. Henkle, of Minneapolis. As the climate of Louisiana did not agree with his wife's health, he was obliged to dispose of his holdings in the Ruddock company and to return to the North, in March, 1892.

While with the C.H. Ruddock Lumber Company at Minneapolis Mr. Scanlon was associated with Henry E. Gipson, and when Mr. Scanlon returned to Minneapolis he and Mr. Gipson decided to cast their fortunes together. In March, 1892, they organized the firm of Scanlon, Gipson & Co., which did a jobbing business, buying stocks of lumber in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and selling to the trade.

The Scanlon-Gipson Lumber Company was organized in December, 1894, by Messrs. Scanlon, Gipson and D.F., L.R. and A.S. Brooks, of Minneapolis. The original capital was $50,000, which subsequently was increased to $150,000. The company handled about 17,000,000 feet of lumber during the first year of its existence and increased its business progressively from the start. In April, 1896, it purchased the business of H.F. Brown, of Minneapolis, a manufacturer of lumber. This gave the company a wholesale lumber yard in Minneapolis and a stock of logs. It continued to buy more logs and to increase its operations until, in 1898, a two-band sawmill was erected at Cass Lake, Minnesota. The company bought a large tract of timber in that vicinity and in the spring of 1899 the mill began sawing and has produced 40,000,000 feet of lumber annually ever since.

In 1899 Mr. Scanlon visited the Pacific Coast and acquired 600,000,000 feet of yellow pine timber in eastern Oregon, organizing the Brooks-Robertson Lumber Company, capitalized at $500,000. Mr. Scanlon is president of this concern. He is also vice president of the Minnesota & North Wisconsin Railroad, which was built in 1897 for for the purpose of taking the timber to the mill at Nickerson, Minnesota.

The Scanlon-Gipson Lumber Company continued to grow, and in January, 1901, its members incorporated the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company, with a capital of $500,000, which subsequently was increased to $1,750,000, and built an immense three-band and gang mill at Scanlon, three miles east of Cloquet, Minnesota. This mill has been running night and day since it began sawing in November, 1901, turning out 600,000 feet of lumber daily. The company bought the William O'Brien tract of timber on the St. Louis River and its tributaries, in northern Minnesota, containing 250,000,000 feet; also a tract from Cook & Turrish, of Duluth, containing 50,000,000 feet, besides smaller lots. In order to increase the supply of logs for the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company and to insure its operations for many years, the members of this company organized the Brooks Timber Company in July, 1901, with a capital of $250,000. Mr. Scanlon is president of this company. Another tract of 250,000,000 feet of timber in northern Minnesota was purchased from Cook & Turrish, and, in order to get this timber to the mill at Scanlon, a railroad sixty-five miles in length was built. This road, known as the Minnesota & North Wisconsin Railroad, is well constructed and splendidly equipped, and does a general freight business in addition to bringing out the timber for the mill.

These combined interests, of which Mr. Scanlon is the active head, have produced as much as 220,000,000 feet of lumber in a season, and have conducted operations in white pine on a scale substantially equal to those of any other interest in the white pine country, including those whose activities covered the period of highest development of this industry.

Following a trip through the South in the fall of 1904, Mr. Scanlon returned home and urged his associates to invest in yellow pine timber. On May 15, 1905, was bought the Chesbrough Bros. holdings in Louisiana, aggregating 40,000 acres. In the latter part of 1905 the property of the Banner Lumber Company, including the mills and timber adjoining the tract secured earlier in the year, was taken over, as well as the Kentwood & Eastern Railroad. It is estimated that Mr. Scanlon and his associates have 1,000,000,000 feet of timber which is yet to be developed.

Mr. Scanlon has a beautiful home on Lowry Hill, Minneapolis, where he resides with his wife and family.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.