Thursday, December 13, 2012

Laytonville sawmills of the '50s

We have had a small discussion about a sawmill located north-west of the new Laytonville high school. Ross Sherburn identified it as the Sulphur Creek Lumber Company. I remember the mill operating before the '55 flood, but I believe that the '55 flood either took it out or damaged it heavily. According to Ross' mill history book, the mill closed in '56. Maybe they rebuilt and struggled to survive after the flood but failed. The times were tough for sawmills back then, especially mills that had problems, and there is no problem like a flood. Most of the sawmills were built near creeks or water because they needed water for their log ponds. A lot of sawmills were lost in the floods because of that fact.

 Trying to find the name of this mill caused me to wonder about other mills that were scattered about the valley. There were three other mills around the lake. There was the Jack Crawford mill, the Sherburn-Ford mill owned by Ross' dad, Shine Sherburn, and Frank ford. There was the Lakeside Lumber Company, that was built right on the lake. They even used the natural lake as a log pond. I'm not sure how they handled all the flooding. I think that they were high enough that the mills weren't bothered that much, but I really don't know.

 On out the Branscomb road, four or five miles, was the Ben Mast Lumber Company. The mill got it's water from huge artesian springs on the property. The Mast mill was larger than most mills around the valley. They cut a lot of redwood lumber. He was able to make his fortune by building the only plainer mill in the valley. Not only did he plain his own lumber, most of the mills in the valley would send their lumber through his mill to have it surfaced. The Mast plainer mill also produced redwood siding lumber. It was a very modern  mill by 1950's standards. Ben Mast owned everything in his lumber operation from the saws that cut the timber to the logging equipment, the trucks that took the logs to the mill, the mill, the plainer, to the trucks that hauled most of the lumber to San Francisco.

South of Laytonville, on Davidson Lane(?), was the PH&E lumber company. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember the trucks that they used. The trucks were GMCs with Detroit Diesel engines in them. They sounded different than any other trucks that I had heard. I remember the lope of the idling engines. They would rev up, then fall back against the engine speed governor. Then they would rev up again. They would idle like someone was goosing the throttle every few seconds. They said that you didn't dare let them run out of fuel, because it you did, the speed governor would lock wide open and the engine would blow-up. Wow, pretty dramatic!

At the north end of the valley, about three miles south of Black Oak Ranch was the Ben L. Branscomb Lumber company. The mill was owned by my uncle Ben. I remember a lot about that mill. The mill was powered by Caterpiller engines. The head-rig engine was the largest V-8 engine that I ever saw. Ben had a log pond. He fed the pond off the log deck with a Skagit triple drum cable loader. The head rig was two large over and under circular saws with insert saw bits. He had an adjustable gang saw edger, a trim saw and a burner for the trimmings. He had his lumber surfaced at the Mast mill.

I can't remember the name of the mill across the street, east of Ben's mill, I believe that there was two of them. I know that they had a pond, because my cousin Roy and I used to catch bull frogs out of the pond after the mills closed.

The mill that I would particularly like the name of was a mill at the very south end of Long Valley on the west side of the highway. It was in a small canyon right beside the 101 highway. I used to know the name of it, but it slipped my mind. I didn't worry about it too much because I thought that someday it would jog back into my head.... But alas and alack... it didn't.

Maybe Ross knows, he has that book. It was before Robin's time, so she probably didn't know about it. It was about a half mile past Red Buck. I had a friend who's father, Cotton Stein, was the bookkeeper there. My friend's name was Royce Stein.

Anybody know of other mills?

20 comments:

Ross Sherburn said...

Just south of rest area,in that curve in the road???

Ross Sherburn said...

Ernie,I get Longvale and Long Valley mixed up??? Also I don't know where Red Buck is?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ross
I'm sorry, I have too many irons in the fire again.

The mill that you are maybe talking about in Longvale, at the forks of Long Valley Creek and Outlet Creek was owned by Dr. Keaster.

The small mill that I'm talking about was at the south end of Laytonville (Long) Valley. Straight west, across the valley from Farley Peak. West of the big Shamrock Ranch hay field. Just west of highway 101.

Anonymous said...

Great article Ernie!! I think the mill you're talking about was named "Stone Canyon". My grandparents owned Redbuck and they always called it that?? I remember it was right in the turn by the north entrance to the Shamrock Ranch.....Farley Peak to the east.....hope this helps!! :-)

Bruce Gravier

Ross Sherburn said...

I know the entrance to Shamrock Ranch,that helps!!! I have to work today,but I'll try to look the Mill up in my "book",when time permits.

Long story,but i'm kinda related to George Gravier,who had the store in Covelo!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Bruce,
you're absolutely right! Thank-you. Why is it after somebody remembers it for you, it all comes back. Great name for a mill. They had a little shanty town built around it, just like ALL mills back in the day.

I hope that you had a cool summer and you are having a warm Christmas.

Ross
What does your book say about Stone Canyon?



T

Bruce Gravier said...

Back at ya Ernie!!! We did have a very "cool" summer and thank you for that!!! LOL!!! Merry Christmas to you and yours buddy.

Ross.....we all see to be related arounb here!!! Merry Christmas to all my "shirt tail cousins" too!! LOL

Bruce

Anonymous said...

Hey fellas, what was the name of the mill that was in Jackson Valley downriver towards the Wilderness Lodge?

Ernie Branscomb said...

The mills that I can name in Jackson Valley are; Andy Haun, Harwood and Shorty Watson. I know the mill that you are talking about, but I don't know the name.

Any family that goes back a ways in Laytonville has a family connection somewhere, either by mairrige or blood.

I have a friend that says the family tree in Laytonville is a pole, no branches.

Ross Sherburn said...

I count fifty mills in the Branscomb area. Four of these mills have the Branscomb name attached to them..................

Ernie Branscomb said...

Most of the mills were probably named after the town. Branscomb Enterprises was always owned by the Harwoods.

Ross Sherburn said...

Here ya go......

Branscomb Bros: 1939-1945

Branscomb Enterprises 1950s-1960s

Branscomb Lumber Co. 1946-1948

Ben Branscomb Lumber Co. 1948-1956

Anonymous said...

Hi Ern. Long time no look, lol. The mill you're thinking about it Stone Canyon. Just before the large turn at the old Talkington/Comer property.

Cousin

Anonymous said...

Ooops...I should have looked at all the comments before posting.

Cousin

Anonymous said...

A slight correction Ern, the PHE Mill was off Steel Ln. Laytonville. Our good friend Warren Brownell, his uncle, named(Erikson) was one of the owners. Erikson and his family were killed in a plane that crashed on a holiday trip. I can't remember the other owners names but the PHE stood for their last initials.

Cousin

Tom D said...

I remember going out to the Harwood Mill in 1968 with CDF to put out a sawdust fire. Probably wasted half the river on that! Also burned down the bulldozed remains of some Indian houses[that's "Indian" not "Native American" because that's what we called them and I don't change my vocabulary very easily]--I'll never forget the little kids watching us torch their house...but a new dwelling had been built for them. Seven miles North of Laytonville is a road off to the West--it's got one of those keypad gates on it, but didn't a long time ago--it goes in a few miles to an area that used to have a Camp Fire Girl's Camp. There used to be an old mill on the river. It was already old and nonoperational in the late '50's/early '60's. By the way, Ernie, do you remember Mr. Hargus the cattle rancher? He ran cows all over that era...last time I was in there was in 1969 but, like a lot of places, I'd probably not wander back there unescorted. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Tom..Judith Bailey owns a huge property up the hill from the Hargus Ranch, called Evergreen, which I believe was part of the Hunt Ranch. It's through the gates and you wind up the hill a few miles. To go in there, you would need to call Bailey's Incorporated or go online and find their phone number so you can speak with Judith.

Penny Branscomb Comer

Tom D said...

Thanks, Penny. I'll contact Judith. There were also some folks named Redemayer who owned a place not too far off the highway. I remember they had a big garden with a tall deer fence around it.It was that same turnoff that now has a keypad gate. The road led back towards 10 Mile Creek, I think it was. This was back in the late '50's and early '60's; Mr. Hargus was a real cowboy, looked like he'd been born in the saddle. I was a little kid. I guess some doctors bought a bunch of that property for a retreat.

Tom D said...

The road I'm thinking of leaves 101, South of Rattlesnake Summit and Hargus Road, following Ten Mile Creek to the West. Judith suggested I speak with Lance Whitely about access and ownership; she'd not been back in there since the late '60's, either. There was also a place called "Brush Mountain Lodge" but it was pretty rundown when I saw it.

Tom D said...

Well, I found out that the area with the old Camp Seabow has gone through a lot of changes, some of them pretty dark. Sounds like it's been cleaned up. Nothing stays the same over the years...but I'm glad my experiences pre-dated the nastiness.
Thanks to the folks who've lived in the area and contributed to it for a long time.