Pendleton Woolen Mill commemorates centennial in Washougal

A celebration 100 years in the making

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Charlie Bishop welcomed everyone to a “100-year birthday party” Friday at Pendleton Woolen Mill, and the celebration included a cake.

Bishop, vice president of mill operations at Pendleton, recognized more than 125 attendees as current and retired employees, customers, city of Washougal officials and other community members.

“This celebration is not about buildings, but people,” he said.

The centennial ceremony was held near the original mill building at Two Pendleton Way and a white oak tree that is estimated to be more than 250 years old.

“The tree pre-dates Lewis and Clark and Lt. William Broughton,” Bishop said.

John “Buzz” Nelson, an elder in the Ogalla Sioux tribe, said a Lakota prayer. After the blessing, Bishop presented him with a Pendleton blanket.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard wore a Pendleton vest, tie and pants to the ceremony.

He said Pendleton is synonymous with Washougal.

“I tell others I am from Washougal — home of Pendleton Woolen Mills,” Guard said.

The company’s history includes the making of blankets for the American military during World War I and II.

Guard credited Pendleton for donating land for Steamboat Landing Park and an easement to connect Steamboat Landing to Capt. William Clark Park. An easement for the pedestrian tunnel was also granted.

Guard proclaimed Aug. 3 to be “Pendleton Woolen Mill Day.” He read certificates of congratulations to Bishop and his family signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as U.S Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Gov. Chris Gregoire. Bishop’s brother, John, and father, Broughton “Brot,” as well as other family members, attended the ceremony.

After saying the recognitions are to be shared, Bishop presented Guard with a ceremonial robe.

Of the 119 Pendleton employees, 49 of them have worked at the Washougal mill for at least 25 years. Another seven individuals have been there for more than 40 years.

Six of the longtime employees — Fred Parrish, Eldon Stuhr, Dave Murphy, Mark Thompson, Dale Backes and Mayva Quackenbush — had the honor of ringing the mill’s historic bell. Another 40-year employee, Nancy Swearingen, was not in attendance.

Bishop said the bell — cast in 1865 at the Revere Foundry, in Boston — used to be rung at 6:45 a.m., at the Pendleton mill to remind employees they had 15 minutes to get to work, and at 12:15 p.m., to alert workers they had 15 minutes until lunch break was over.

Before and after the ceremony, attendees could read information about the company’s history and see examples of Pendleton clothing.