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Johnson Family Reopens Riddle Sawmill


Lumberman Don R. Johnson and his wife, JoAnne Johnson, settled in Riddle, Ore., in 1951, where they built a sawmill that still stands. Soon they built a plant that produced glue-laminated beams up to five feet deep and 96 feet long.

Further expansion in Oregon included the Umpqua Lumber Co., Prairie Wood Products in Prairie City and Grant Western Lumber Co. in John Day. The Johnsons also operated cattle ranches for 40 years in Eastern Oregon. 

Since the death of Johnson in 2010, his wife and their children and grandchildren have continued to run the D.R. Lumber Company.

The sawmill shut down in the winter of 2013 during what the family called a “depression” in the wood products industry.  Most of the sawmill workers moved over to the lamination plant. The sawmill reopened in 2014, employing a workforce that fluctuates between two to three dozen employees.

Married for 63 years, the Johnsons reared their own children, parented six foster children and hosted five international exchange students.  Johnson enjoyed piling the kids into the car for trips to the Oregon Coast or to the wildlife-viewing park in Winston, Ore.


Sources: George, Christina. “D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. will reopen Riddle Sawmill Oct. 6 after year-long closure.” The News-Review. 24 Sept. 2014 (Roseburg Ore.). Web. 2 Oct. 2014; Obituary: “Don R. Johnson.” The News-Review. 30 Nov. 2010 (Roseburg Ore.). Web 2 Oct. 2014.

Dr. James S. Long was an As It Was contributor until his passing in January of 2016. He met editor Kernan Turner when Kernan spoke to the Roseburg writers’ club about contributing to JPR's As Is Was series. His contributions to As It Was ranged from a story about the recovery of whitetail deer at the old Dunning Ranch to the story of Nick Botner’s private orchard near Yoncalla created to preserve over 3,000 heritage apple varieties.