A big mill operated by the Bratlie Brothers provided a major impetus for the Ridgefield economy for more than a quarter of a century. One of the brothers, John Louis Bratlie, also entered the banking business at Ridgefield and Battle Ground.
John Bratlie, a native of Minneapolis, Minn., left Skagit County for Alaska, where he built a mill. He returned to Skagit County in the early 1900s, and was in the mill business there. In 1913, seeking more lucrative fields, Bratlie went into partnership with Walter McClelland in a shingle mill in Ridgefield. His brother Hans, who had operated a newspaper in Concrete, joined as John Bratlie’s partner about 1916 at the mill at Ridgefield.
The plant, valued at $200,000, burned in the early 1920s but was rebuilt.
Nearly a hundred persons worked there at the time.
A 1927 magazine article reported that the Bratlies operated the largest exclusive cedar lumber manufacturing facility in the Columbia River area. The electrically operated plant provided bungalow siding and shingles.
John Bratlie specialized in the mill machinery, and his brother had charge of outside activities, including sales.
When the Ridgefield State Bank closed in the 1930s, John Bratlie bought the business. His daughter, Marjorie Ingels of Beaverton, Ore., said her father purchased the bank “just to keep it open — he needed a place to bank.” Later he also purchased banks at Battle Ground and in Oregon. Mrs. Ingels was a director of all the banks, and worked at the Ridgefield bank.
Hans Bratlie died about 1942.
A fire in July 1943 destroyed six dry kilns and the planing mill plus stockpiles at the Bratlie plant. John Bratlie, who was not in good health at the time and spending winters in California, decided not to rebuild. He also sold his interest in the banks.
Bratlie died in 1951.
The widow of Hans Bratlie, Mary Belle Bratlie, known as Matie, still lives in Olympia. She is 104!