Lumber boom in post-war years
Courtesy of the Calaveras County Historical Society
The lumber industry during the 1930’s was at a low ebb in Calaveras County. Other than demand for mine timbers, there was little activity in the lumber market during the depression years. But as the nation’s economy slowly improved and with the outbreak of World War II in Europe, lumber sales began to expand.
The end of World War II saw the lumber industry booming in Calaveras County as never before. By 1946, there were 46 sawmills in operation in the county. They ranged in size from small, two- and three-man portable outfits to huge plants such as the Blagen and Stockton Box mills, and the Associated Lumber and Box Company mills which were all later absorbed by the American Forest Products Company.
“It seemed there was a sawmill behind every pine tree,” said Gaylen Core, of San Andreas, who in those days in addition to being involved in sawmill operation, brokered and hauled lumber produced by some of the smaller sawmills. They ranged from the primitive to the fully automated “push button mill” constructed in San Andreas by the late Marius “Maury” Rasmussen, who later was to become the developer of Mt. Reba Ski Complex above Bear Valley.
The Associated Lumber and Box Company mill at Sandy Gulch, near Wilseyville, at the height of its operation, employed up to 300 men and women and turned out 35 million board feet of lumber per year.
In addition to the Associated Lumber and Box Company at Wilseyville, the two Stockton Box mills at West Point and the Blagen Mill at White Pines, there were sizable mills at San Andreas, Toyon, and Wallace.
Joe Josephson operated a mill in Mountain Ranch at the northwest intersection of Mountain Ranch and Whiskey Slide roads; there were two mills on Hawver Road: Paul Morris had a sawmill in Sheep Ranch, (Editor’s note: Morris was spelled this way in the Historical Society document, stayed the same in the Calaveras Enterprise reprint, and I brought it into this website the same way. The mill was owned and operated by Paul Morse and his son, also Paul Morse. It was on Armstrong Road a couple of miles out of Sheep Ranch close to the boundary of the Robinson Ranch from where the timber was coming. It provided timber for the Sheep Ranch Mine until the war broke out, prospered during the war, and was closed down in the mid 1950;s because of the cost of workers compensation insurance. The younger Mr. Morse went to work at the Cement Plant in San Andreas)
J.W. Griffin operated a mill on Summit Level Road.
The Matson Mill also was located on Summit Level Road and the Hamilton Mill was on Swiss Ranch Road. There was another mill on Prussian Hill Road, and the Powell and Burleson mill was operating on Moran Road, just east of Avery.
The Mitchell Mill was moved from Swiss Ranch to its new location on the Licking Fork of the Mokelumne River. There is interesting and entertaining information about this mill at: http://www.goldcountrytimes.com/kenny88_main.htm Your editor has been refused permission to excerpt from this book by the widow of the author, which of course, is her prerogative. Very interesting description of the mill and how primitive their equipment was.
At that time, the local lumber producers estimated that 80 percent of their lumber was utilized in the California market with the remainder being shipped to the East.