Monday, August 11, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #4

The small mill operation that existed before the California Door Company acquired it and its timber holdings in 1900 was typical of the many small, independent mills operating in the Sierra Nevada at the time. They came into existence to furnish lumber locally to the flourishing gold mining industry and communities of the 1850s and the nearby cattle and dairy ranchers.

Logging methods were primitive from the 1850s to 1890s and ox teams were relied on to skid the logs short distances to the saw mills. These rudimentary methods were dictated by the very nature of the Sierra Nevada.

In comparison, the abundant rivers and waterways in British Columbia and Washington provided ready transportation of logs, and so large, high production sawmills evolved. Logging there progressed up and along these waterways and logs were skidded directly to the rivers by ox teams or directed to flumes and chutes which carried them to the rivers and down to the mills.

The Sierra Nevada’s river drainage systems are steep and rough with low water volumes in the summertime and early attempts to drive logs down them resulted in failure. The lack of river transportation, therefore, limited early sawmilling operations to small local mill until rail transportation evolved in the 1890s.

As the nearby timber stands were depleted the logging operations were extended farther from the mill. The slow moving but durable oxen were used almost exclusively in these operations until they were generally replaced by the more easily handled horse and mules in the 1890s.

As the skid roads became overused and extended further from the mill they were reinforced with crossed logs on which skidded logs were pulled. The ends of the logs were rounded off or "snubbed" and cross bridging greased to ease their progress.

Heavy four wheeled log wagons were brought into use and logs were loaded on to them with a cross haul jerk line method. Main wagon roads thus developed out from the mill following the easier contours and terrain of the countryside and started development of a transportation system.

Probably all of the logging to the original mill at Dogtown was done with oxen either skidding the logs or pulling the heavy wagons.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

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