Kaiser Mead

Kaiser Aluminum Mead Works

USA / Washington / Country Homes /
production, aluminum, epa, npl, smelter
EPA Superfund Site

Though often referred to as a smelter, this was actually a reduction plant. The process of converting alumina (aluminum oxide) into aluminum is known as reduction. It's an electrolytic process requiring large amounts of electrical current to separate the oxygen atom from the aluminum allowing it to combine with the carbon of the anode to form carbon dioxide. This plant had 8 potlines that ran in the neighborhood of 70,000 amps at 650 to 700 volts DC each.

Built in 1941 by the Defense Plant Corp. and operated by Alcoa. After WWII this plant was declared surplus and bought at a discount by Henry Kaiser in 1946 when Alcoa was prohibited from bidding to prevent a monopoly because Alcoa was already embroiled in an anti-trust action.

This reduction plant ran "pre-bake" rather than Soderberg pot-cells and was completely self-contained with multiple wells and a sewage treatment plant. The original electrical buss-work in the potrooms was silver. This was during the war years when copper was needed more elsewhere. The plant back then was heavily guarded by armed guards. Rumor was that when the silver was removed and replaced with copper, there was less than a pound difference in the amount taken out as compared to how much went in.

The Mead plant ran more or less for 54 years until the energy market shenanigans brought about by Enron. It was way more profitable to shutdown and sell on the market the large allotment of power from the BPA. Kaiser made somewhere around $500 million for this, but the BPA wasn't happy and when it came time to negotiate the next power contract, the BPA demanded market value for the power necessary to run the plant. Since there's no way to make money at reducing aluminum at market rate for power, Kaiser shut the plant permanently. It has since been bought by a salvager who's been selling off, salvaging and scrapping everything worth any money.


This is the inersection of hwy 206 and Madison road


The Old Beaver Creek School

The Peone Store and Gas Station


I decided to start with something I knew a little about. It’s near my house. It’s the Beaver Creek school house and Richfield Gas Station and store. This area is about six miles east of Hwy 2 / Newport Hwy on Hwy 206 or what’s called the Mount Spokane State Park Drive. This is the road that runs by the new Mt. Spokane (Mead ) High school. About six miles out, where Madison road intersects with Hwy 206 is the Beaver Creek School and Peone Store. At this intersection on the North West corner is the old Beaver Creek School house and diagonally across the highway is the Peone store and gas station. After talking with the owner of the old school I learned the school was originaly built west of it's current location about 2 miles on the south side of the road in 1893. In 1911 the school was moved to it's present location. 
 I was able to talk to a couple of brothers who were born about three miles north of there on Madison Road where Madison dead ends into Randal Rd. They had the land that is on the east side of Madison south of Randal; Fred Beck moved his family to this location in 1915. I think they had a full section of land. Clarence was born around 1922 and Norman was born around 1925. Their Mom and Dad both died around 1928 and 1929 so they ended up living in town with their older brother.
Norman remembers the store being a Richfield gas station and around the age of four walking down to the store to buy kerosene, meat and other supplies. There was a school up near the intersection of Madison and Randal so they only remember the school near their house. Clarence has memories of people backing cars up what is now Randal road because” back in them days no one drove around with a full tank of gas and the Model Ts had the gas tank under the seat. In order to not run out of gas going up hill everyone just backed up the hills”. The road was much steeper than it is now.
The present owner of the Beaver Creek School told me that at one time the government was looking into building a large dam west of the school. They had planed on pumping water from lake Pend Oreille over the Mount Spokane area and flooding the area east and north of the dam. This would have flooded the gas station and store. The water was going to be used as a water reservoir for the Spokane area. They found the large aquafer under Spokane so the dam project was canceled. Another problem with the dam idea was the ground in the area was not suitable for building a dam on.
In a March 26th 1924 article in the Spokesman-Review they are telling people in Spokane what a beautiful day trip it is to visit the Peone area. It talks about the prairie being settled in the “80s”!! (I know their not talking about 1980s) and 40 years later they are talking about the NEW crushed rock highway going seven miles out from Mead to the end where Madison road and Mt. Carleton road began.  Mt. Carleton went by the John Feuhr sawmill (now Warren Riddles place, and yes Mead class of 1962 I think) on the south side of what we now call Hwy 206.
The store was owned by R. Nowby. Clarence Beck remembers a guy getting killed there while trying to fill up a high pressure tire (80psi). That wasn’t the last death in the area unfortunately. Back in around 2006 a garbage truck heading toward Mt. Spokane just east of the old store ran off the road and the driver became pinched between the truck and the bank of the creek killing him. Back in 1924 the world must have ended at the school and store because there was a row of 39 mail boxes across the road from the store which meant the end of the rural route. I read an interview from around 1920 describing the Peone Store:
 Mr. Canwell: The store was typical of grocery stores at that time and particularly in a remote area like that. They had flour and salt and cornmeal and such things. Then they had barrels of crackers and other commodities sitting out in the open. You’d go fish out what you wanted to buy and take it up and they’d weigh it. Then there was a counter in back of that shelving. There was tobacco back there and canned milk–that was a staple in those days.
When we didn’t have a cow, we bought condensed milk. There was quite a market for that there. It was not expensive. In front of the store across the road was a rack of mailboxes. Everybody in the hills had a mailbox there; no mail delivery beyond that point. The mail came out from Hillyard or Mead by horse-and-buggy or wagon. I remember the first automobile that came up there came to the store to deliver mail. I was in my first year of school there. They let the school out for the kids to go out and see the car. It was one of those early-day Fords with a brass radiator and straps down to the fenders from the top. That impressed me greatly because that was the first one as far as anybody knows to penetrate that far into the backwoods area. But at the store itself, you could buy kerosene in cans and you could either bring your gallon can and have it filled or you could buy case lots of it. They did sell two five-gallon square cans that fitted into a wooden case and you could buy them in that quantity. But most people would come with their gallon can and have it filled because that’s what they used for their lamps; they had no other real use for it. I’m trying to think what else was at the store. The woman would sell you stamps. And there was a telephone.
The telephone connected with Mead, Hillyard, and Spokane and it was a party-line affair. I remember the woman who ran the store; if there was an emergency call she’d crank this phone up for you and place the call. She would then call the people all along the line and say,
“Get off the line, Mrs. So-and-so. It’s an emergency call.” All of these listeners would automatically tune in whenever there was a call, but she’d have to get them all off so you could be heard. The telephone line ended at the Peone Store. In those days there were no telephones
beyond that point.
Mr. Frederick: And her name?
Mr. Canwell: The name was Roberts, I believe, a Mrs. Roberts, it was a man and wife operation, but she was usually the attendant. Other things they had there, they had tobacco and snuff. Quite a lot of the lumberjacks used this Copenhagen snuff–deadly stuff. And there was canned tobacco. I always suspected at first that that’s where my father got my name because he smoked Prince
Albert. I found out later that it was a family name.
Mr. Frederick: Then did he roll cigarettes or smoke a
Mr. Canwell: He smoked a pipe. I don’t ever remember his rolling cigarettes. And one of his luxuries was a can of tobacco once in awhile. I don’t remember what else might have been available at the store.
Mr. Frederick: Cloth?
Mr. Canwell: Cloth? There was oilcloth. Maybe you’re familiar with that.
Mr. Canwell: They had rows or a rack of tablecloths. It seemed to me there was a choice of two different colors, you could get a red one or a blue one–blue check or red. check. That was one of the things we had that covered the kitchen table.
You can read the entire interview at: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/oralhistory/canwell.pdf
(Gas Station) Originally the house sat down over the hill a bit and closer to the Deadman’s Creek and the store was next to the road. At some point the family house was moved up to the store building and was turned into a combination store / home.
During the 40s the Peone store was ran by the Wier family. Around 15 years ago I tracked down their daughter who lived in Spokane. She told me about her father selling moonshine out of the store and hiding the booze down in the well. She talked about the hill to the north west of there and the orchard that used to be on the hill.
In the early 50s the Reese family moved into the store and ran it until around 1953 or 1954. After that the store part of the house was used for parties and other holiday gatherings as well as dances.
The Reese family moved away around 1962 or 1963.
I believe the Reese family bought the property (10 acres) for $150.00.
Around 1962 the old Beaver Creek School was no longer a school and was now the Honey Moon house for Gordon & Roberta Smith. And guess what! Yep Roberta graduated from Mead in 1960. Gordon’s Grandparents had lived across the road, to the south of the School. And well guess whose great grandparents they were? Yes your right:
Christina Smith (Baker) class of 1980.
They had a farm and raised chickens and had a small dairy and other farm goods. Gordon’s grandpa paid for his house by selling eggs. Their cream or milk ended up down in Hillyard on Market at the Market Lockers.
Gordon told me the road from the school/store to the mountain did not always take the route it does now. At one time the road headed north toward the mountain just after the Madison/206 intersection. There was a gazebo off the side of the road that dances were held at. Gordon said that Deadman’s Creek was moved around the time the road was altered to where it is now. By the way in the earlier days before any names were well know for the area there was a dead guy found in or near the creek so the creek had its name. Dead Man Creek!!
The area was not very populated and just west of the school on the same side of the road was a 2 story house with very large fir trees around it. A little further to the west and on the south side of the road was where the Jack family had a large chicken ranch. And Guess what! Yep that is part of the Larry Jack family. Larry Graduated from Mead in 1979.
Gordon and Roberta have been kept busy over the years repairing fences and buildings from where people came speeding south on Madison road, not seeing the stop sign and skidding through the intersection plowing into their place.
Highway 206 was opened later on. In the early days you would take Peone road from Mead and wind your way around until where Peone intersects with now days Highway 206 then the road headed east out to the store and school. Later on they made it a straight shot through to where Hwy 206 intersects with the Newport Hwy today.
That’s all I have to say about that!!!
I am sure there is a lot wrong with the story and details left out but I thought you all might enjoy hearing a little history of an area in the Mead district.