Stockton Box Mill at West Point

02 Sep 2009

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Stockton Box Mill at West Point probably in the mid 1940’s

Robert Fischer who grew up in West Point, and whose father worked for Stockton Box, tells about the origins of the mill. Quoting, sometimes loosely, from Bob’s “Memoirs of a Sierra Sawmill”

In 1939, the Coffenberry brothers erected a sawmill on Negro Creek, a tributary of Bear Creek, which itself flowed into the Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River. Over the hill on Bear Creek, they provided company housing. The ridge in between was the site of the lumber drying yards and the company office. Maintenance shops were adjacent to the mill. In 1941 they sold this operation to Stockton Box Co. Editor’s note:  I was having trouble tying down the date of the sale to Stockton Box, but with the help of two elderly West Point residents I think that 1941 is the correct date. This also correlates with several references in the American Eagle which identified employees who had been at the Stockton Box Mill since 1941. We know that Harry Oatman came to West Point as mill superintendent in January, 1945.

Stockton Box was part of American Box Company which later changed its name to American Forest Products Corporation. This mill at West Point  burned in 1947 and was reconstructed. Logging was conducted in the watersheds of Bear Creek, Blue Creek, and Forest Creek. A diesel (later electic) powered engine ran the band saw. The log carriage was steam driven. Scrap that was not used to fire the boiler was incinerated in a conical burner. (Also called a teepee or wigwam burner) The mill’s first superintendent was Charles Gray a corporate player who wasn’t very well liked by most of the employees. He was succeeded by Lawrence Wilsey, a much respected man who managed to use the timber resources and the human resources very effectively.

This mill existed to provide lumber to box factories, or finishing mills, such as the one in Toyon, also owned by American Forest Products. The lumber from this mill was hauled by Autocar or Peterbilt trucks to the railhead at Toyon, or all the way to Stockton.

The logging camp for this mill was called Robinville. (See Jerry Meyers’s comment later on this page explaining where this name came from) The electrical lines ended at West Point, so the residences at Robinville used kerosene or Coleman gas lights, had only cold water unless it was heated on the wood stove, and used an outhouse. Robert’s father soon put in a propane stove for cooking, oil heaters for space heating, a water heater, and expanded the size of the cabin in which they lived.

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Robert Fischer identifies two of these fellows for us.
Of the three men pictured, the center one is Jasper Houston, the saw filer, a real Southern gentleman from Louisiana.
The picture on the right is Harry Oatman, the mill manager.
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This same page is in our “Outdoor Exhibits” section to illustrate how our new-to-us Jammer was used.

Log on carriage WP mill

Log on carriage with first slab cut made

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Diesel Power for WP millDiesel motor for powering the mill

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West Point Mill fire

Photo is self explanatory

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West Point Mill burned

Reconstruction of WP milljpgReconstruction of the burnt mill

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Jammer loading logs

Jammer loading truck

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Logging Arch in use

Logging arch in use. It could be the one on our grounds. (Probably not)

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Winch to spar pole WP mill

Guess that you could call this winch a diesel donkey,  and spar tree

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Harold Lloyd (Babe) Hague 1950 Age 19, Stockton Box Mill West Point, Ca

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Harold Lloyd “Babe” Hague with his Stockton Box truck. He was 19 when he got his job as a truck driver for Stockton Box. He worked there until Jan 1951 when he enlisted in the Air Force for the Korean War… In 1955 he returned to West Point and returned to work for the mill… In 1958 the family moved to Foresthill, Ca and continued working for Stockton Box, American Forest Products and Bendix Forest Products until he retired in 1986… Thanks to his son Michael for these two photos and the information.

Harold Lloyd Hague driving Logging Truck in Foresthill, California cira 1960'sBabe in the cab of his truck.

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Comments

  1. Robert Jay Fischer Says: September 9, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    By 1945 Harry Oatman, who came up from Toyon when that sawmill was closed, was manager and he was followed in 1950 by James Coonan who came down from Trinity Alps Lumber Co., another American Forest Products mill, in Hayfork. Under Oatman, Hubert Arnold was mill superintendant, Jerry Meyers was yard superintendant, Jack Cherney was woods boss, Clarence Austin truck shop foreman, and Hardy Porteous was the cat shop foreman. Some anecdotes about that period are found in my “Memoirs of a Sierra Sawmill” of which the museum has a copy.

  2. Robert Jay Fischer Says: September 23, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Of the three men pictured, the center on is Jasper Houston, the saw filer, a real Southern gentleman from Louisiana. The picture on the right is Harry Oatman, the mill manager.

  3. Robert Jay Fischer Says: October 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    John,
    Did you get the updated “Memoirs of a Sierra Sawmill” I sent you? Your site says Stockton Box built the mill in ’42 or ’43 but I always understood the mill was built in ’39 by the Coffenberry’s whoever they were. We once had an old postcard showing the mill which it called the Coffenberry mill. The Hagues said they worked there for the Coffenberrys and they stayed on with Stockton Box. (Babe Hague and I were in the same class of ’49 at Calaveras High.) I think Stockton Box may have taken over the mill in ’42 or ’43 but it was an existing mill – which as we know burned down in ’47. Enjoy your correspondence and appreciate your research into history of the Sierra mills. All best wishes to you and Ron and Pat Bradley.
    Bob Fischer

  4. Robert,

    I’m working today at the museum and your memoirs were here waiting for me. I went back to the American Eagles and found an article that said that Charley Meyers worked at the mill from its inception in 1940.

    Funny thing about this web site, every time you think you’ve gotten things straight, the more things pop up that need more information.

    Anyway, thanks so very much for the memoirs. I’ll get to read them in the next day or two.

    John

  5. Curtis Payton Says: March 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    ERAS Environmental is performing a Phase I environmental site assessment of the Property bound by Lindsay, Aurora, and Freemont Streets in Stockton and one of the structrues on the northeast side of the block has the “STOCKTON BOX” logo painted on the side barely legible under the “newer” logo “B. Dayton & Co.” a cabinet shop. We know from Sanborn fire insurance maps that the B Dayton occupant was there in 1950. Your web site sheds new light on the history of the property in the time frame between 1917 (when the site of the Stockton Box / B Dayton building was occupied only by a dwelling) and the 1940’s. Also of note: R. Powells Planing Mill is noted on the southeast corner of the block in the 1917 Sanborn map so evidently the lumber industry was quite active on this block of Stockton during the first half of the 20th century.

  6. I find that very interesting, Curtis. It’s hard to fathom in these times how important box lumber was before and during WW II. One of the main processes at the Toyon Box Factory (Really part of the same operation) was making KB board, box lumber with kraft paper glued to the wood. We older people saw literally thousands of these kinds of boxes when we were growing up. Can you tell if there was train track to that location? I assume there must have been.

    • Condor Earth Technologies has done quite a few Phase I ESAs all over San Joaquin and Calaveras Counties and wherever there was a box factory or millworks, they had spur rail lines connecting with the main railways. At the American Moulding and Millworks site (southwest corner of Alpine and West in Stockton) they backfilled an old cutoff stream channel with hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of ash from their teepee burners between the 1920s and 1940s.

  7. Jerry and Venita Meyers Says: June 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Jerry Meyers, son of the Jerry Meyers who came to work for the mill as yard Supt., says his father came in 1939. Jerry says that the mill was built by Louie Robin and Leo Coffenberry. That is how “Robinville” got its name. (Jerry, the son, was 7 yrs. old when he entered the 2nd grade at the West Point School in 1940.)

  8. Jerry Evans Says: July 21, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    I’m hoping someone familiar with this site can help me. I’m doing research for a memorial plaque dedicated to deceased Past Presidents of the Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference. One of the things I need is their date of passing. James Coonan was President of the Conference in 1957 and Harry Oatman was President in 1958. Looking at the Report & Directory for the years they were President it shows they worked for Trinity Alps Lumber. It also shows James Coonan lived in San Francisco and Harry Oatman in Hayfork. If anyone can help me with this research it would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Jerry Evans

  9. Robert Jay Fischer Says: August 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I did a little research at the library and found an answer for Jerry Evans.
    Harry Oatman died September 30, 1981 in Palo Cedro, California.
    James Coonan died August 12, 1993 in San Mateo, California.
    Bob Fischer

  10. Jerry Evans Says: August 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Bob,

    I really appreciate the assistance with this. I started this project in February and had 43 Past Presidents who were deceased and I needed to determine their year of passing. It got down to 10 tough ones, with Harry & James being in that group.

    Again, you were a huge help and thanks to the Sierra Logging Museum group for having this site available..

    Jerry Evans

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