As the copper empire began to grow, so too did its demand for lumber. By the 1870s the booming mines and and burgeoning towns across the peninsula were requiring large amounts of lumber to grow, with the Calumet and Hecla mines alone utilizing nearly 3 million feet board feet of the resource each year. While some mines ended up building their own sawmills to supply these needs, a slew of independent mills took root in the region to meet the demand as well. One of the earliest of these was the Sturgeon River Lumber Company, which in 1872 had acquired rights to large swaths of land along the Sturgeon River valley from which to harvest their timber. A year later the company would erect its first sawmill along the shore of Portage Lake just west of Hancock, utilizing logs floated down the Sturgeon and delivered up the Portage.
As the empire grew demand increased substantially and the Sturgeon River company expanded its river operations to increase supply. Towards that end it formed a subsidiary company known as the Sturgeon River Boom Company, which in 1875 built an elaborate system at the river’s mouth to capture and divert logs to adjacent Pike Bay for storage. The system involved a series of booms blocking the river’s outlet, and a 1300 foot man-made canal cut though the delta to divert logs from the river mouth to the bay. Five years later the company expanded yet again, this time purchasing a large swath of land along its Pike Bay storage pond to erect a newer and larger mill complex. Along with the mill the company also erected a small townsite first known as Pike Bay and later as Robinson, named after one of the company’s founders. With the arrival of an official Post Office the town had to change its name once again – as there already existed a Robinson downstate. In the end the community would be named after the first owner of the land on which it was built – a French farmer by the name of John Chassell.