The history of the Lynden family of companies is also the history of Lynden patriarch Henry “Hank” Jansen and his desire to expand a small delivery company called Lynden Transfer into something bigger.
Just how big the company would grow would surprise most people – even Hank Jansen.
Jansen moved to Lynden, WA with his family in 1927. He started working at local dairy farms as a teenager and admittedly hated it. Cows and manure were not for him. The first chance he got, he jumped into the cab of a truck and assumed the position of delivery boy for his father’s nursery. “I would’ve driven a truck for nothing at that point,” he said.
In 1938 he bought his own rig and started hauling coal for customers around Whatcom County, WA. Ten years later, he went in with two partners and purchased a small two-truck company called Lynden Transfer. The route was Lynden, WA to Seattle for dairy deliveries and picking up general freight in Seattle to haul back to Lynden.
“It was a pretty good little business,” Jansen says, “but I wanted to expand.” He saw expanding service north – all the way to Alaska – as the best chance for real growth. His colleagues were skeptical and told him so. In the early 1950s, some saw the Alaska-Canada (Alcan) Highway as an impossible obstacle for truck delivery. “I had a pile of letters from friends in the trucking business who said if you get on that run no one will survive that highway.”
But Jansen pressed on, scouting the route in 1953 and lining up customers for the first load. The next year, the first Lynden Transfer Kenworth left Seattle with a load of fresh meat destined for Carrs Market in Fairbanks. Drivers Oscar Roosma and Glen Kok teamed up for the grueling trip and delivered the side of beef in perfect condition. The butcher at the market handled the beef like a newborn baby, then carefully put it in the bed of his pickup and drove it to Anchorage daring people to gaze upon “What just came up across the highway.”
As Jansen recalls, that first trip was the important one; after that it was just a matter of adding trucks. For Alaska residents that initial truck delivery ushered in a whole new world of fresh produce, milk and meat. And it made Lynden a household name in Alaska.
Faster than barge and cheaper than air, Lynden Transfer began to carve out a niche in Alaska. Jansen and his drivers knew that delivering great service was all they had to sell. And deliver they did. They were a hearty and courageous group who often found themselves battling the harsh Alaska environment with frozen equipment and frozen fingers. Many years later, those early drivers are fondly known as Lynden Legends and Everyday Heroes within the company. “Some of those old-timers would’ve packed that stuff in the last 20 miles on their backs if they had to,” Jansen said. “That’s what it’s all about: good employees.” Attracting and retaining good employees is a hallmark of the Lynden companies, but so is strong leadership. As the head of the company, Jansen demonstrated what would become the Lynden core values of putting the customer first, working hard to offer a quality product and having some fun on the job.
From pioneering the first scheduled truck delivery to Alaska, Lynden’s business continued to grow with transportation and logistics work for the Alaska Pipeline and later, to include projects all over the world. Throughout it all, the company strategy was pretty basic. In Jansen’s words: If there is a need for something, fill the gap; take the impossible and make it possible.
Today, Lynden Transfer has grown from a two-stop, two-truck operation to Lynden Inc., a multi-modal transportation organization providing air freight, trucking, ocean freight and logistics services to clients worldwide. The Lynden family of companies still operates under Jansen’s original philosophy: Put the customer first, work hard, deliver quality, be the best and have fun doing it.
Ed Austin starts hauling freight in Lynden, Washington with a team of horses and an iron-wheeled wagon. He names the company Lynden Transfer.
Ed Austin sells his horses and purchases his first truck to haul cargo from Lynden to Seattle.
Ed Austin buys his first semi rig and hires Henry Jansen as a driver for Lynden Transfer.
Henry Jansen and two partners purchase Lynden Transfer.
Lynden Transfer purchases L.A. George and Company, a Snohomish, Washington milk hauler and renames the company Milky Way.
Lynden Transfer starts Alcan Highway service from Seattle to Alaska.
Lynden responds to a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in Alaska with emergency deliveries of supplies and food.
Lynden starts service to Southeast Alaska, using the ferry service to haul mail from Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Lynden Transfer becomes Lynden Transport, Inc. to reflect the company’s expanded activities.
Construction of the Alaska Pipeline begins. Lynden Transport provides daily service between Valdez, Anchorage, Fairbanks and various construction camps.
Alaska Marine Trucking division is established to take advantage of TOTE ship service between the Puget Sound and Alaska.
Lynden Airfreight Forwarder starts service to Alaska making Lynden the only company to serve Alaska by all three transportation modes: land, sea and air. Canadian Lynden Transport is established in Edmonton, Alberta.
Alaska West Express is established to haul bulk commodities.
Knik Construction begins operations in Western Alaska.
Southeast Alaska Barge Lines is established and renamed Alaska Marine Lines in 1982.
Lynden Airfreight Forwarder becomes known as Lynden Air Freight, Inc.
The company formally reorganizes and Lynden Incorporated becomes the parent company with Lynden Transport, Alaska West Express, Knik Construction, Lynden Air Freight, Alaska Marine Lines, and LTI, Inc. as individual operating companies.
Lynden establishes Bering Marine Corporation in Anchorage.
Lynden companies respond to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound.
Lynden restores its first Alaska truck, “No. 27,” for historic runs up the Alaska Highway to celebrate the route’s 50th anniversary.
Lynden Air Cargo is established in Anchorage.
NANA/Lynden Logistics is established in Anchorage to provide transportation and logistical services for the Red Dog Mine in Kotzebue, Alaska. Alaska Hovercraft begins service to Bethel, Alaska.
Rail barge service begins for the Alaska Railroad.
Lynden Air Freight becomes Lynden International to better reflect its global capabilities. Lynden celebrates the 50th anniversary of Alcan Highway service.
Lynden patents the rail barge rack system for carrying containers above rail cars.
Lynden International acquires the Anchorage division of seafood logistics company Movers, Inc.
Lynden acquires Northland Services, adding barge service to Western Alaska and Hawaii.
Lynden celebrates the 60th anniversary of Alcan Highway service.