Thornburg Mill at Wallace

The Thornburgs, Tony, the father, and Pete and Patey, his sons, operated a portable lumber mill in Oklahoma. In 1946, they brought their mill out to California and  landed at Granny Payton’s place, approximately 3 miles outside of  Pine Grove. In 1955, Pete, who was a minister, bought out his father and brother (who then had a long career as a school teacher in Railroad Flat) and established a non-portable mill at Wallace, where he and his two sons operated the mill, using logs brought in by outside loggers, including Doc Linebaugh who was mainly associated with Blagen Mill in White Pines. Chief Walker, whose picture is in the Blagen Mill section was badly injured at Wallace while unloading a load of logs there.

In the early 1960’s, Pete automated the mill and in 1970 sold it to Snyder Lumber Company. David, Pete’s son, ran the mill for Snyder, and Mike ran the logging operation.

Pete created MDK (the first letter of Pete’s 3 children, Mike, David, and Kathy) and began logging and hauling the logs. Kathy, at 24 years old and female was the dispatcher for the operation and had to deal with the drivers who didn’t think they should be taking orders from a woman, a young cute one at that. Among other interesting adventures, MDK logged for a while out of the Grand Canyon.

Kathy finished her education, taught for a number of years, was Principal at Valley Springs for a while, and at the time of this writing (August 2012)  is Calaveras County  Superintendent of  Schools.

In 1977, Pete and Mike went to Mansfield, Arkansas where they built a mill nearly identical to the automated mill that they had built in Wallace, but Pete died in 1980, by which time Mike was already home in the Wallace area. David had stayed in Wallace to run the Snyder mill.
The mill site now contains a stone sales yard, and no evidence remains of the mill.


  1. jeremie thornburg Says: October 16, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    I have just read your article about the Thornburg Mill at Wallace. I am the grandson of Hubert Thornburg. Hubert was a nephew of Tony and worked for him in the sawmill locations in Oklahoma. Hubert also worked for Tony and Pete in California. He ran forklifts around the log yard and hauled lumber and logs. He also helped Pete install the sawmill at Mansfield, Ar. There is currently a sawmill in the same location. The operation is Travis Lumber Co.

  2. Ryan Thornburg Says: August 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I am David Thornburg’s youngest son, I would like to see the story go on to mention that it was Snyder that decided to sell out the mill. My mother and father went on to own and operate their own trucking company (D&E trucking). Later Dave partnered with his cousin James White aka Ducky and began “Custom Logging” together with his brother Mike and their children they logged throughout the sierra’s. Eventually David seperated from Custom Logging and began “Thornburg Logging” with the help from his family. Dave and Evelyn Thornburg continued “D&E Trucking” and “Thornburg Logging” until David’s untimely death due to a tradgic accident while working on his beautifully polished blue logging truck in 2003. To this day the original school house church in Wallace is dedicated to my grandpa Pete Thornburg and Grandma Ruth Thornburg as ” The Thornburg Educational Building” in honor of their hard work, dedication, and contributions that helped build Wallace Ca. as we know it.

    • Hi Ryan,

      I’m John Hofstetter, your mom’s former boss (not that she needed a boss) your aunt’s boss (she didn’t need one either) and the herder for you Thornburgs at Valley Springs School. Now, I do the website for the Logging Museum. It’s interesting that you wrote at this time, because I was about to call someone ( I hadn’t figured out quite who) about your Dad’s death. The reason for that is that we have at the museum a memorial wall with the names of men killed or dying while logging or lumbering. I was pretty sure that your Dad’s name belonged on that wall and now I’ll make sure it gets there.

      Without bringing up too many bad memories, tell me a little about how he died working on the truck, and I’ll put it in our book that tells about the men whose names are on our wall. I’ll also make sure to include the information you’ve just related to us about his various lumbering enterprises. Say a special hello to your mom, whom as she probably knows is one of my favorite people.

      Your grandpa and my grandpa had some similarities. My grandfather built and preached at the Stone Corral Church and was a God fearing man as was yours.

      So very good to hear from you.

      snlm John

  3. Don Curtis Says: November 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Hi John: Don Curtis here. I’m a first cousin to Mike, Dave and Kathy. I moved to Wallace in 1970 at 14. My dad, Melvin Curtis, helped modernize the mill and hauled lumber to Turlock. My brother, Joe , tailed edger and worked green chain. I cleaned up and hauled chips that summer.

    At the end of shift, driving water truck, I had a smoke – which resulted in a stray ash burning up the truck that night. Uncle Pete called me to the office ( I thought it was all over). All he said was “Donnie, only way to get away w/ doing something wrong is don’t do it”.

    The Thornburgs were and are great relations, mentors and friends. I appreciate the effort on your part in keeping these memories alive.

  4. Roland L. Mays Says: August 6, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Hi, just found your website. Thanks for preserving such great history. My dad and grandpa began logging in Amador county in 1946. Most of our logging activity was within 10-15 miles of Pioneer. We met the Thornburg family soon after they set up their mill and started logging. According to what I was told and remember, they were still using mules to skid logs. But they were not used to the larger timber in the west and came to some timber the mules could’nt skid. We had a model 60 Cat at that time and they hired us to skid the log to their mill. Their whole family turned out to watch that old Cat skid the log. A few years later I remember riding with my dad in our 41 Sterling hauling a load of logs to the Wallace mill. I don’t remember any of family, except for Pete, Pate, and their dad Tony. The reason being that they were the ones I saw when my dad and grandpa talked business. Its good to hear about their family.

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