Friday, November 22, 2013

McGaffigan's Switch

Map showing the site of McGaffigan Switch. (Google Maps)
When traveling north along California State Route 9, the last area of settlement one will pass before entering Castle Rock State Park is San Lorenzo Park. This small subdivision located nearly eight miles north of Boulder Creek once hosted the site of McGaffigan's Switch on the west bank of the adjacent San Lorenzo River.

The McGaffigan Switch was, in fact, a Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company logging camp. It was named after the home of Patrick J. McGaffigan, the superintendent of Boulder Creek operations for the SCVM&L Co. mills. His expansive and beautiful home was located somewhere around the present-day McGaffigan Mill Road, probably on Scenic Way, though it has long since been demolished. A nearby creek was also named after him and retains that name today. Patrick McGaffigan was not simply an employee of the company, but also a relative. Around 1895, his sister, Angeline, married Bernard Dougherty, a relative of the Dougherty brothers who owned the mill.

When the brothers first set up shop at Riverside Grove in 1887, they quickly cleared the immediate area of trees and began harvesting northward along the river. By at latest 1890, they had already set up a semi-permanent camp at San Lorenzo Park where a spur was built to park flatbed cars used for hauling logs to the primary mill at Riverside Grove. A small mill was also established at the site, though most logs continued south to the primary mill. This camp remained the main gathering point for local logging operations until 1897 when the Dougherty Extension Railroad was extended to the headwaters of the San Lorenzo River, and the logging camp moved with it. Patrick McGaffigan never saw the move up to the headwaters as he resigned from his post in 1896.

No extant photographs of the mill have been discovered by this historian. The railroad tracks were removed no later than 1917, though it is likely that the tracks were removed as early as 1915 when the California Timber Company ceased use of the line. Today some scant remains of the mill site itself remain along McGaffigan Mill Road. The condition of the right-of-way in the area is unknown, though is said to still be partially intact. Google Maps shows what appears to be the right-of-way passing through 110 McGaffigan Mill Road and then continuing parallel to the road through the subsequent homes before disappearing under tree cover. A failed subdivision on the site of the mill, likely planned in the late 1920s according to dates, managed to attract only a scant dozen or so residents to the area.

  • Donald Thomas Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008)
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railroads (Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Nancy F. McCarthy, When Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons (Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994).
  • Lisa Robinson, Images of America: The San Lorenzo Valley (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012).

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