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Friday, November 1, 2013

McAbee Mill Spur

The Dougherty Extension Railroad drew support from many regional mills, not only those of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company. One such example was the McAbee Mill, located up a spur just south of the Cunningham Mill along Two Bar Creek. Very little documentation exists today of this mill, making it difficult to determine its relationship with the Dougherty brothers or their railroad extension. The mill was located roughly 1.5 miles up Two Bar Creek, and the spur 1.5 miles north of Boulder Creek, placing it approximately 0.5 miles south of the Cunningham Mill. The spur line probably did not stretch all the way up to the mill. Rather it was connected via a wagon road.

McAbee Mill on Two Bar Creek north of Boulder Creek. (Courtesy UC Santa Cruz Special Collections)
The McAbee Brothers—O.L. and Willard O.—were prominent Boulder Creek citizens. They operated a hotel and livery stable in town and O.L. served as a member of the board of trustees for the town from 1902 to 1907. They operated at least two mills in the area, one near Big Basin and a second on Two Bar Creek. The latter of the two was likely already in operation by 1887 when the Dougherty Extension Railroad crossed Two Bar Creek.. When the spur itself was constructed is unknown. Rick Hamman notes that the McAbee Mill shipped both lumber and split stuff from its Two Bar Creek mill. The presence of a railroad tracks at the mill, as evidenced in the photograph above, were likely an internal-use tram line to ferry logs and milled lumber to waiting wagons that would haul it down the grade to the spur where it would await pickup by the "Dinky" or another engine as it passed by. There is little evidence to suggest that a rail line directly linked the Dougherty Extension with the mill 1.5 miles away, though it remains a possibility.

Notices in the Evening Sentinel newspaper note that at least one of the McAbee mills was still in operation as late as May 1906, when parts ordered in response to earthquake damage were received. Considering their other mill was near Big Basin, which was now a state park, it is likely that the mill mentioned here was the Two-Bar Mill. If so, then this mill continued operations along the Dougherty Extension for many years after the Doughertys themselves had ceased operations. Traffic still went down the line, though, as the California Timber Company was using the railroad until 1913 to haul down lumber from Pescadero Creek Canyon at Waterman Gap. However, mention of the McAbee Mill fades after 1906 and it likely closed shop before the Extension line itself closed in 1913.

The current status or precise location of the McAbee Mill site is currently unknown to this author.


  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Nancy F. McCarthy, Where Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons (Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994).


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Reference is Nancy McCarthy and the source of the image is courtesy UCSC Special Collections. It was used with permission in Where Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons.

  3. You are indeed correct. Not sure why I keep writing McCracken for McCarthy.