During the time of operation of the Blagen Mill in White Pines and the mill in Wilseyville, American Forest Products also had a large operation at Toyon. The site served as the main drying area for lumber from the Blagen Mill and Wilseyville. In addition to the drying function, Toyon was the hub where lumber from the other mills was put on railroad cars and shipped out economically. Then there was the mill function at Toyon. This mill was strictly a re-manufacturing operation.
Toyon is at the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 26, where 26 goes to Mokelumne Hill and 12 goes on to join Highway 49 just West of San Andreas. Going west toward Valley Springs many of the large buildings that were the Toyon Mill still remain on the left or southern side of the highway. There was also a small mill on the right, or northern side of same location.
The Toyon mill dealt with lumber that had been previously cut at other mills.
These 4 Autocar logging trucks leaving White Pines for Toyon with cants of lumber that will be further processed at Toyon. Autocars were serious trucks so American Forest Products had made a real investment in this part of the operation. On the Blagen Mill site we have a photo that is much the same as this one, except it had to be substantially older since the mill at that time only had one stack seen from this location.
There were three different processes taking place, two in one building and one in another. There was a planing mill that produced finished lumber from the rough cut lumber that came into the mill. In the same building as the planing mill was a molding mill where lumber was cut into moldings of different sizes and shapes. In another building there was a veneer operation. At one time, a large lathe in the veneer plant sliced thin layers of Philippine Mahogany off of logs to be used for such things as door facings. There was a large section of drying sheds, where the lumber from the other mills was kiln dried before being planed, milled, or veneered. Toyon was chosen because it had access to railroad transportation, and access to highways going pretty much every direction. The products of all three remanufacturing operations, in addition to the lumber being dried there, were loaded into railroad cars and sent to their destinations. (Frank Blagen describes the thinking behind the Toyon site selection in the Frank Blagen Story)
American Forest Products tried a number of things to make the mill more profitable, but got only mixed results. They put in a very expensive machine to make what was called KV board, kraft paper bonded to veneer (KV), that could be used for boxes and the like. They had two of these KV machines a small one that worked, and one that may have cost up to 2 million dollars, that never worked, and supposedly ended up getting scrapped in Japan. The machine never worked properly and attempts to make it work were finally abandoned. The opinion of several interviewees is that if the engineers had deemed to let the mill wrights work on the machine, it could have worked, but this apparently was never tried.
The Toyon facility may have lasted a couple of years longer than Blagen and Wilseyville which closed in 1962. This is unclear as this is being written. Recollection of a former worker there is that it closed in ’64 or ’65.
Robert Fisher who worked at the Wilseyville mill tells us this about the saw mill part of the Toyon operation which closed after WWII.
“The mill closed after WWII probably because the other AFP mills were closer to the timber. I’m not really sure. The veneer plant and Blagen yards at Toyon remained open. I remember my dad going down there at one time in 1946 to help dismantle the mill. I know a friend of the Oatman’s, Rollo Hornbeck, worked at the veneer plant, also another friend Mac McLaughlin. They, Harry Oatman ,Charley Gray, and others, were all old Merced Falls employees. When I worked at the planing mill at Wilseyville, I know shipnents were sometimes sent by truck to Toyon for transfer to rail cars. I’m not sure if some of the old Toyon mill machinery was later incorporated in the second West Point mill (after the fire) or not. Timewise it seems feasible.”
Across the highway from the Toyon facility was the Churchill mill that independently made short pieces of lumber from log ends and scraps from other mills. This facility failed financially and closed before the Toyon mill.
Toyon Photos given to us by Richard Hess, retired forester from Amador County
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Bill O’Donnell on the right, Superintendent of the Toyon Operation
On the left John MacWillie who was an accounting person, maybe the CAO?
Close up view of Bill O’Donnell who built a fine home in San Andreas using wood products that he supposedly picked out by hand. The home was on Neils0n Road, looking down at the Grammar School.
Lawrence Wilsey, General Manager of the Calaveras Mills. There is much more at other locations on this web site telling the viewer more about Mr. Wilsey.
Lawrence Wilsey in his office with the big-wigs of American Forest Products displayed on the office wall. Tarter, Webster, Johnson, Charles Gray ?
Lawrence Wilsey on left, Bob Woods next, other two unknown to us
The employees of the Toyon Mill
The editor thinks that other than management, he only recognizes Tommy Duke on the very upper right. On the bottom left are Bill O’Donnell and John MacWillie.
Inside the Box Factory part of the Toyon operation.
This might be a machine to put the Kraft paper onto the thin pieces of wood.