Pickering Lumber, Standard Lumber Co.(also Calaveras Big Trees)
06 Oct 2010
The Tuolumne County Historical Society gives us this excellent history of Pickering in Tuolumne County.
To quote a small section of that history,
“Tuolumne County’s second major lumber operation was the Standard Lumber Company, headquartered initially in Sonora and later at the company town of Standard. It was incorporated in 1901 by D. H. Steinmitz, and was joined by T. S. Bullock after the West Side Lumber Company was sold to a Michigan corporation. The new company was formed by the acquisition of S. S. Bradford’s mountain sawmill, timber land, planing mill, and sash-door factory in Sonora. In addition, N. L. Knedsen’s mill and lumberyard in south Sonora were taken under lease as part of the holdings of the Standard Lumber Company”
Some of the original Bradford mill buildings in Sonora can still be seen on Washington Street where JS West uses them for part of its operations.
(click to enlarge)
These next two links will take you to reports for the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation
They contain a history and description of the buildings that were at Standard, done for the purpose of determining if the site was suitable for inclusion in the National Registry of Historic Places, or designation as an historic site. These were given to us by Judith Marvin, one of the authors of the reports.
Quoting again from the TCHS site,
“Initially, Pickering Lumber Company acquired the Standard Lumber Company and its Sugar Pine Railroad in 1921. In 1925, Pickering also acquired the West Side Lumber Company and its railroad. However, after the depression of the 1930s, Pickering Lumber Company closed down all operations. In 1934, West Side Lumber and its railroad were returned to its former owners. By 1937, Pickering reopened its remaining operations after receiving a Federal economic recovery aid loan. After improved roads were built for automobiles and the trucking industry, logging trucks were selected over railroads by West Side Lumber Company. In 1961 the West Side Lumber Railroad was closed down and four years later Pickering Lumber Railroad (old Sugar Pine Railroad) also closed.”
“Fiberboard Paper Products purchased Pickering Lumber Company in 1965. Following their bankruptcy, it was bought by Louisiana Pacific and finally purchased in 1995 by its current owners, Sierra Pacific Industries. The Sierra Railroad hauled freight and processed timber products and contracted to haul logs from out-of-state to be processed at Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) located next to the old company town of Standard”
What was the Pickering Mill at Standard is now owned and operated by Sierra Pacific Industries, the lumbering giant. The mill was closed in 2009, but reopened with modernized equipment in 2011.
Please visit the Tuolumne County Historical Society’s web site at http://www.tchistory.org/
Gerald French, author of the definitive book, When Steam was King has given the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum a collection of his slides of the Pickering Lumbering operation in 1958. We will soon have a display of his photos in the museum.
Pickering and the South Grove of the Big Trees
Brian Wise owner of the Yahoo Group of plcorp, a group of people especially interested in the history of the Pickering Lumber Company, gives us this history of how the Calaveras Big Trees, South Grove, was saved from the lumberman’s axe.
“Actually, the push to save the Big Trees goes way back to 1900 and earlier. After their “discovery” in 1852, various persons were quick to exploit the trees. At least one mammoth sequoia was cut down, and another had its bark stripped for display overseas. The South Grove property was sold at public auction (by the State of CA) for $15,000 to a Mr. Sperry, who later sold it (1900) to a lumberman named Whiteside. It was that sale that aroused public awareness of the Big Trees and inspired the creation of the Calaveras Grove Association. The CGA assisted in the movement to create a system of state parks, which occured in 1928. In 1931 the North Grove finally became a state park, but the South Grove property had already been sold to Pickering in 1927. When the Great Depression hit, private donations became scarce, state park funds all but vanished, and the CGA disbanded so there was no push to acquire the South Grove and add it to the park system.
Pickering didn’t reach their South Grove property until about 1949, establishing Beaver Creek Camp in 1950. Pickering didn’t take advantage of the South Grove property then, though, as conservationists and the Forest Service held them at bay. A new CGA was formed in 1954 which held a massive fund raising campaign, and thanks to a huge donation from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the California State Parks Commission negotiated the purchase of the South Grove property from Pickering. The Forest Service, however, allowed Pickering to cut timber on approximately 30 acres within the South Grove to help smooth over their relationship.”