Friday, March 8, 2019

Stations: Harris

It should come as no surprise that the mile between Brookdale and Boulder Creek used to host a thriving lumber industry. Both the village of Brookdale and town of Boulder Creek began life as lumber settlements, and the stretch between the two locations was not immune from this industry. Midway between these two settlements, a succession of shingle mills operated on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River.

The earliest reference for a mill at this location is in late 1884, when Felton general store owner and local magnate James F. Cunningham relocated his lumber operations from Felton. Daily operations at the mill were overseen by the firm of Dabadie & Morgan, and the mill was capable of producing 60,000 shingles and shakes per day. The timing of the relocation suggests that Cunningham waited until the Felton & Pescadero Railroad was built before investing in operations this far north. The flume, which was dismantled around this time, was not able to transport anything smaller than cut lumber, so split stuff needed to be hauled to Felton by wagon. The fact that the mill sat on the relatively inaccessible east bank of the San Lorenzo River undoubtedly made this option unfeasible. As soon as the railroad line was completed, a location called "Cunningham's" appeared in agency books. The stop included a pair of spurs that together measured 668 feet long. Cunningham's mill and all of its contents, as well as a piece of rolling stock, burned on November 20, 1890. From this point forward, Cunningham focused all of his attentions thereafter on his much larger lumber mill north of Boulder Creek along the newly-constructed Dougherty Extension Railroad.

Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the Boulder Mill Company mill south of Boulder Creek, 1892.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
In early 1891, the Boulder Mill & Lumber Company took over operations and the railroad renamed the stop "Boulder Mill." Unlike Cunningham's operations, the Boulder Mill Company sought to actually cut lumber for shipment out of its new mill. A Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the property shows two railroad spurs passing through stacks of lumber, with one stopping on the edge of the river and the other at the entrance of the mill. The San Lorenzo River behind the mill was dammed so as to act as a mill pond. A bridge was erected over the mill pond to allow wagons and other vehicles to enter the property from Boulder Creek. beside the central track and along the road that passed through the property, a small freight office shack was built. When running at maximum efficiency, the mill could produce 20,000 board feet of lumber per day. The Boulder Mill Company became delinquent on some of its taxes in 1893 and, as a result, the mill was sold to a local lawyer, J. M. Green, on June 17, 1895.

Grover & Company Mill as depicted on a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1897.
[UC Santa Cruz Digitial Collections]
Within a few months, Grover & Company took control of the abandoned Boulder mill south of Boulder Creek. The company was well-established in Santa Cruz County by this time, although they had very little presence within the San Lorenzo Valley. The brothers J. Lyman, Stephen F., and Whitney had all been in the lumber industry since the 1860s and had their main base of operations north of Soquel in what would later be named Grover Gulch (now Glen Haven). Throughout the 1890s, they leased timberland in Scott's Valley, Santa Cruz, the North Coast, and in the Clear Creek area. The Grovers only operated their mill near Clear Creek for a few years and soon became involved in the development of the area into a resort alongside Judge John H. Logan. The mill itself changed very little in the time that it was under Grovers' management. Indeed, the railroad never bothered to change the name and it continued to be referenced as the Boulder Mill throughout this period. By 1900, the mill was abandoned and the buildings were demolished or moved to other locations. 

The abandoned Grover & Company property according to a Sanborn Fire Insurance map, 1901.
[UC Santa Cruz Digital Collections]
By 1901, only the basic layout of the old mill remained. The two railroad spurs, the office, and the mill pond were still left intact, but nothing else survived the demolition. Standard-gauging of the line in 1908 appears to have removed the spurs, but the office remained behind. In 1902, part of the Grover property was leased to G. Ellingwood Joy, who founded a retreat for the Sacramento Boys' Brotherhood here. Camp Joy, as it became known, was an outdoor camping area that catered to primary- and secondary-aged boys. It included all manner of sports and hosted a national park guide and culinary chef. Besides outdoor activities, the camp supported academic pursuits such as study and research. It was in 1910 that the location finally appeared on railroad timetables as an additional stop called "Joy Camp," clearly implying that some railroad traffic stopped there during the summer months.

Original mill owned by the Grovers in Glen Haven. No known photograph exists of the Boulder Creek mill.
[Santa Cruz Public Libraries]
Only a year later, Joy Camp was renamed "Harris," although both the reason for this change and the name itself remain a mystery. Newspapers at the time make no reference to it and even Donald Clark, the famed local etymologist, could not guess at the origin or reason. The best guess is that it was named after a former Southern Pacific railroad detective named Leonard Harris, who was killed in a shootout in Boulder Creek in 1894. Perhaps some of the more studious campers at Camp Joy did some research and rediscovered this felled hero and recommended the name change. In any case, Harris appeared on employee timetables as a flag-stop in 1910 and remained through the rest of the branch line's existence.

Regularly-scheduled passenger service along the Boulder Creek Branch ended at the end of 1930, but it is unclear when service to Camp Joy ended. It may have terminated earlier, or it could have continued even after passenger service ended via special excursion trains. All service ended in January 1934 and the tracks were pulled soon afterwards. The only part of the old railroad presence there to remain was the office shack, which continued to sit on the old mill property just to the south of Camp Joy.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
37.1143N, 122.1172W

The site of the mill is located on private property and trespassing is prohibited. The right-of-way to from the southeast off Irwin Way remains intact as a long driveway while a single concrete pier over the San Lorenzo River is still standing to the north of the site. According to the owner, the old mill office shack was incorporated into the current private residence, which dates to 1911. To the east, Camp Joy has been subdivided several times, but a portion remains as Camp Joy Gardens, which was established in 1971.

Citations & Credits:

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