Copeland Lumber

Copeland Lumber, Multnomah, 1985.

Copeland Lumber, Multnomah, 1985.


Joseph W. Copeland was born at Sumner, Iowa, on August 31, 1886. His father, Joseph, taught him the lumber business in yards acquired or opened in Cresco, Perry, Toledo and Gardiner, Iowa.

Copeland graduated from high school at Cresco, Iowa, and then matriculated to the University of Minnesota, fully intending to become a lawyer, but that never happened – his father got the urge to go West.

The Copeland family moved to Hood River, Oregon, to enter the fruit growing business in 1908. It was at Hood River that young Joe, then 22, worked in the Hood River Bank and Trust Company. He also became an officer. Lee A. Copeland, Joe’s older brother, got the family back in the lumber business with purchase of retail yards at Meridian, Kuna, Star and McKermit, Idaho. (McKermit no longer exists)

After a few years in the fruit business, father Joe exercised a $10,000 mortgage he had on a lumberyard in the Lents district of Portland. Stock was purchased until 1912, and the elder Copeland was in the retail lumber business on the West Coast for the first time.

In 1920 Copeland Lumber Yards had only five outlets and 20 employees. Only two additional yards had been added by 1927. In the meantime, however, father Joseph, 72, died on March 7, 1924. And death struck the hierarchy of the Copeland organization again in 1926 when brother Lee Albert Copeland died at the age of 43.

Joseph William Copeland, then  40, became president and chief executive officer in 1926. He guided the growth and destiny of the company for 47 years, until stepping aside to become board chairman a few days before his 87th birthday in 1973.

In those 47 years, Joe Copeland increased his number of yards until they totaled 84 on February 15, 1974. Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of Copeland Lumber Yards, Inc., was the use of bright, Halloween orange on the buildings and a big black cat insignia. This all came about when the company, in its early expansion days, purchased the Fenton Lumber Company of Fenton, Idaho. The orange color and black cat were trademarks of the Fenton firm.

In 1973, when Joe Copeland was elevated to board chairman, he was succeeded by his only child, Mrs. William Alexander Whitsell

In 2000, Helen Joe decided to sell the company and retire.  At that time Copeland Lumber had 68 retail outlets in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Arizona; 1000 employees, and annual sales of $200 million.  There was no single buyer for all Copeland’s stores, so the company was broken apart and groups of stores sold to different companies.

The Copeland Lumber name lives on in Newport, Florence, and Waldport, Oregon.   In 1999 a group of its employees got together and purchased the Newport and Waldport yards from Copeland Lumber Yards Inc., and have since opened another store in Florence.


Copeland Lumber Logo

Copeland Lumber Logo


Copeland Lumber Ad, Sunday Oregonian, May 31, 1925.

Copeland Lumber Ad, Sunday Oregonian, May 31, 1925.


Next Week: The Story of the Copeland Black Logo

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5 Responses

  1. timlyman says:


    Greatly enjoyed your Copeland Lumber story.

    Story includes “and McKermit, Idaho. (McKermit no longer exists).”

    I lived for 26-plus years in Pullman, Wash., while working for Washington State University. Being there on the Washington-Idaho border gave me an Idaho affinity.

    Curious about where McKermit was located, I did Internet searches, including looking at lists of Idaho ghost towns. Could not find McKermit.

    Contacted a friend, a retired Idaho State Historian. He said, “You’ve stumped me… I assume it might have been … in the Meridian area, but I’ve never heard of it … I did a search in the Idaho place names book and nothing popped up.”

    So, we’re both curious. Where was McKermit, Idaho?

    Thank you,

    Tim Marsh

    McMinnville, Ore.

    • timlyman says:

      Tim –

      I’m stumped.

      I’ve looked through all my Idaho ghost town books, and online archives of old newspapers, and have found nothing.

      The only name remotely like McKermit is McDermitt, or Fort McDermitt, on the Oregon/Nevada border. I’m ruling that out because even 100 years ago, Fort McDermitt was the middle of nowhere, and could not possibly have supported a lumberyard – plus it’s 175 miles from the three Idaho yards, and the fact that McKermit is mentioned twice makes me think it’s not a typo.

      Anyone have any ideas?

  2. Pat says:

    Can anyone fill me in re the Multnomah Lbr Co which is listed at Eats 49th and Fraser St in the Vancouver, BC Canada telephone directory in the 1930s?
    Was the USA company looking to expand northward at that point? maybe had an agent living there? or possibly a lumber yard? or?

    • timlyman says:

      No Idea. Where did you find the phone directory? As far as I Know, there never was a lumber yard in Multnomah with “Multnomah” in the name.

  3. Martha Howard says:

    My dad worked for Copeland Lumber in Oregon, and California for 30 years. Great information. Thanks

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