Jones Mill at Brice Station
Editor’s note: I’m excerpting parts of Mary Matzek’s article in the Calaveras Enterprise in 1986. She tells the history of Brice Station and Durant Brice. The story is humorous and interesting, but I’m only going to tell the part that involves the lumber mill that was located there. I also am not going to tell what I know about my father going up to Brice’s for beverages during prohibition.
In 1939, Fred and Laurene Jones built a tavern at Brice Station a few miles above Murphys. The Jones bought the property from Brice, who interestingly enough had bought it from the Manuels, owners of the Manuel Mill.
Fred was from Franks, Missouri in the Ozarks and his dream was to own a tavern like the one in the Ozarks called Stoney Dell. The tavern at Brice Station was the fulfillment of that dream. He had purchased and operated a number of bars, one in Stockton, and one in Tuolumne City, but these didn’t match his dream.
The P.G.&E. was developing hydroelectric facilities in the area, and there were rumors of a large lumber mill coming into the Arnold area (Blagen Mill) so the prospects were good for having a lot of thirsty patrons. The tavern became a hang-out for the lumbermen and also the miners from the Sheep Ranch Mine in Sheep Ranch that operated until the outvreak of WWII. The loggers and the miners fought so much that Fred partitioned the bar into two sections, one for miners and the other for lumbermen.
Fred started a lumber mill in back of the tavern and because there was such a demand for lumber for shipping, the mill did well from the start. The government was taking all the lumber from the big mills and farmers in the valley started getting their lumber from Fred. He bought some property from Rosettis in Wallace and set up a yard there for his milled lumber. Then in 1941, the tavern burnt down and Fred who had found the tavern a lot of work to run, decided that he would not rebuild, but just operate the mill instead.
A lot of the old lumbermen, mostly gone now, remembered Brice Station well, but it is doubtful that it is because of the lumber mill that was once there.
Editor’s note: As I wrote this in October, 2010, George Jones, the son of Laurene and Fred Jones had just died at the age of 88. His only sibling , a sister had died some time before him. He had become a good friend of one of our directors and was a fan of our museum.