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Friday, December 13, 2013

Harmon Mill Spur

1889 County Map showing the Harmon tracts.
(UC Santa Cruz Digital Map Collection)
Logging along the Turkey Foot in Boulder Creek began in the 1860s. Two of the earliest sawyers, twin brothers Austin S. and Oscar R. Harmon, had moved to the region in 1867 where they worked for the Peery and Ellsworth mills south of Boulder. In 1875, they founded a small logging and milling operation under the name Alameda Lumber Company just north of the headwaters of Bear Creek. South of the mill they built a toll road to the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a route that would become known as Bear Creek Road. This mill and its nearby toll road helped form the center of the developing community of Boulder. The Harmon lands included two tracts north of town and additional tracts in the mountains. In the late 1870s through 1886, the San Lorenzo Valley Flume & Transportation Company flume passed through their lands following roughly the same track as the future railroad grade.

When the South Pacific Coast Railroad entered the scene in 1885, the station and freight yard were built just down river from the mill, and when the Santa Clara Mill & Lumber Company continued a branch line up further beyond Boulder Creek, it passed through the Harmon brothers' land as the flume had before it. While little evidence survives suggesting a freight spur existed near the Harmon mill during the brothers' lives, one certainly existed there in 1901. The photographs of the mill that exist do not show a railroad track going directly into the mill, as other local mills generally had. The Harmon brothers died within a few years of each other, in 1887 and 1889. Further tragedy struck just a year after the latter's death when the Alameda Lumber Mill burned to the ground along with much of the unprocessed logs that were to be milled. Their surviving family sold the brothers' holdings to the SCVM&L Co. soon afterwards.

It wasn't until the summer of 1901 that the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Co. decided to clearcut the remaining Harmon property for shipment to San José. If a spur hadn't already existed to the mill, it certainly did by now. The company spent the better part of the summer harvesting the standing old-growth trees and shipping them up the line to the Dougherty Mill at Riverside Grove, where the logs were lumbered and then shipped back down the line and over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the distribution center in San José. After 1901, the Harmon properties were sold to aspiring property developers and became

The area where the mill once operated was subdivided probably in 1904, perhaps as a part of the Brackenbrae subdivision built along CA Route 236 based on the naming of one of the related roads. While no roads connect the two areas, they abut each other and planned roads visible on suggest failed linkages between the two subdivisions. Regardless, a small population developed along Riverdale Boulevard and Hillside Avenue, as well as linked streets. Hillside Avenue most likely ends near the site of the Harmon mill. It is unknown to this author if any evidence of the railroad, a spur, or the mill survive in this area.

  • Donald Thomas Clark, Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary (Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008).
  • Rick Hamman, California Central Coast Railways (Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002).
  • Nancy F. McCarthy, When Grizzlies Roamed the Canyons (Palo Alto, CA: Garden Court Press, 1994).

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