Thursday, June 17, 2021

Companies: Alpine Lumber Company

The Alpine Lumber Company was the last in a series of lumber ventures in the Santa Cruz Mountains run by Andrew Dallas Duffey. Duffey was born in Canada on December 16, 1842 and arrived in Santa Cruz County in the mid-1870s. Newspaper records from throughout his life show how quickly he became a leader in the Santa Cruz County lumber industry. He first entered the scene on May 19, 1879, when he joined in partnership with Hubbard W. McKoy of Vermont, a former Felton hotelier and merchant who had run a mill alongside Thomas B. Hubbard for the previous three years. Later evidence suggests that Duffey served as mill manager, a role he took several more times over the ensuing decades.

The Harmon mill on Bear Creek, ca 1890, later purchased by the Alpine Lumber Company and used by the Enterprise Lumber Company. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]
In April 1880, Duffey became a partner in the short-lived Santa Cruz Lumber Association. The collective was primarily a union of the Grover family, which ran a mill in Soquel, and James W. Peery, who ran a mill in the south side of modern-day Boulder Creek. McKoy & Duffey were clearly minor players in the collective, with the only advantage of their small mill in Felton being its proximity to the South Pacific Coast Railroad line. In any case, the association only lasted a year, dissolving in April 1881. 

Duffey decided on April 8, 1882 to end his partnership with McKoy. The next few years of his life are difficult to follow. It seems likely that he worked as the mill manager for the Olive & Foster mill on Granger Gulch near Felton in 1884. This mill was moved to the headwaters of Laguna Creek in Bonny Doon on land purchased from James P. Pierce in 1885, and then shifted a half mile downstream in 1886. Duffey was certainly the manager that year, which was the last year that Olive & Foster operated.

The precise relationship Duffey had with Jared W. Comstock of Connecticut beginning in 1887 is unclear. At that time, Comstock & Company operated a mill on Hester Creek outside Soquel and Duffey worked for Comstock as a contractor. In October 1888, the two men appeared as equals when they negotiated a deal with Edward P. Reed to open a sawmill in the vicinity of Boulder Creek on the San Lorenzo River. This was Duffey’s first experience in the Boulder Creek milling scene, but it wouldn’t be his last. By the summer of 1889, the mill employed forty men and was cutting 15,000 board feet of lumber per day. However, tragedy struck in October when Comstock died following a sixteen-day illness of typhoid. Duffey set out once more to find a business partner.

In 1890, Duffey joined Frank W. Simmons of Maine in running a lumber mill on Two Bar Creek 3.5 miles north of Boulder Creek and 2 miles up the creek near the present Cougar Rock Road. A reporter for the Surf stated that “the mill is placed directly over the creek bed and though an attempt has been made to cover the stream with slabs in which the saw dust is dumped, yet an immense quantity of saw dust is poured into the water, coloring it as black as ink and poisoning the fish.” This mill had a capacity of 18,000 board feet of lumber per day and was also noted as being on Reed’s property, so it may have previously been the Comstock mill.

Although the Surf reporter noted that the Two Bar Creek mill would run for another year, the Sentinel stated on October 10, 1890 that it would close down and be relocated to a tract owned by Pierce on Love Creek. This new mill two miles to the north of Ben Lomond, which opened in May 1891, was actually not on Love Creek, however. It was located between Fritch Creek and the settlement of Clear Creek (Brookdale), probably near the end of Roberts Road or in the undeveloped Hillary Heights subdivision. It had an increased capacity of 20,000 board feet of lumber per day and the plan was to keep the mill running for three seasons. A boiler explosion on May 18 may have slowed operations, but Duffey and Simmons were able to replace it within days. Nonetheless, the partners shut down the mill permanently after the 1892 season and dismantled the structures and machinery. Duffey stored them in an empty lot in Ben Lomond until he found a new tract to harvest.

That new tract Duffey acquired was back on Laguna Creek (Bonny Doon) on land purchased from Pierce. Indeed, this remote tract on the backside of Ben Lomond Mountain was likely the same property sold by McKoy to Pierce back in January 1882. For this new venture, Duffey partnered with Roscoe Green Longley, a recent immigrant from Maine born in 1836. Longley proved to be Duffey’s longest lasting partner and they remained in business together for seven years. Their mill in Bonny Doon employed sixty men during the three years that it ran along Laguna Creek, and the partners employed the Ryder Brothers to transport the lumber to market.

The Laguna Creek mill closed in December 1894, but Duffey & Longley continued shipping lumber over the winter, only dismantling the mill around June 1895. By July 15, the mill had been moved to a new site 2 miles up Lompico Creek at the confluence of Mill Creek. A reporter for the Evening Sentinel visited the mill in September 1896 and was welcomed by Edwin Roscoe Longley, a son of Roscoe Longley. The reporter revealed that Duffey & Longley employed fifty-six men at the mill and that the mill had a capacity of 25,000 board feet of lumber per day. The mill shipped twelve wagon-loads of lumber per day out from the South Pacific Coast Railway station at Eccles. The Lompico mill only operated for a year and a half, with the machinery and structures dismantled in November 1896 and stored in Felton. 
Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the basic layout of the Duffey & Longley mill on Boulder Creek, 1897. [Library of Congress]
Duffey next venture in 1897 brought him back to Boulder Creek, where he and Longley erected the mill on the Logan tract near the confluence of Boulder and Jamison Creeks, 3 miles west of town. Like the previous mills, the new mill employed around sixty men and had a capacity of 30,000 board feet per day. Cruisers estimated that there was 12,000,000 feet of marketable timber on the tract, enough timber to last four years. Most of the lumber was shipped to the Santa Clara Valley, thereby bypassing the trade war occurring between various lumber companies in Santa Cruz. An average of two to three flatcars of lumber were shipped out of Boulder Creek daily during the milling season. 
Jamison Creek, July 1, 1887. [Bancroft Library – colorized using DeOldify]
The mill on Jamison Creek was the longest operating of Duffey’s mills in Santa Cruz County, running from 1897 through 1900. It also was his most successful. Perhaps due to a surplus of lumber, the partners opened a lumberyard in Ben Lomond in September 1898. Strangely, they sold it only two months later to Benjamin Lloyd. In April 1899, the Evening Sentinel announced that a 4-mile-long railroad was going to be built from the mill into the redwoods along Jamison Creek, although no other source mentions this and the total length of the creek is only about 2 miles. It is more likely that this railroad was the proposed route to Big Basin, along which the mill may have been a planned stop. 

A steam donkey on a sled on the fringe of Big Basin, 1901. Photograph by Andrew P. Hill. [Sempervirens Club – colorized using DeOldify]
Duffey and Longley dissolved their partnership on February 8, 1900, before the start of the milling season. The partners had planned to relocate to Mendocino County at the end of the year, but those plans were temporarily shelved. Duffey finished out the year cutting the remaining timber from the Jamison Creek property, as originally planned, although he rebranded his firm the Alpine Lumber Company. His next target, for the 1901 season, was the redwood grove at Big Basin. 
Newspaper advertisement for the Enterprise Lumber & Development Company mill on Pacific Avenue and Laurel Street, July 18, 1899.
Longley sold his half interest in Duffey & Longley to a new firm named the Enterprise Lumber & Development Company, which was little more than a front for the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company. Enterprise had been founded on June 24, 1899 by Henry L. Middleton, James Dougherty, and three other investors as a holding company for various properties in the vicinity of Big Basin, including Middleton’s own timber tracts and property owned by the Bloom family. The company operated independently for a short time, albeit under the management of Middleton, and ran a lumber yard on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz in July and August 1899. Ultimately, the company made an arrangement with the Loma Prieta Lumber Company whereby the latter would run both yards. 
The Harmon mill on Bear Creek in its last year operating for the company, 1898. [UCSC Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]
At the end of the 1900 milling season, Alpine and Enterprise continued to work together for a short time. Enterprise established a mill at the headwaters of Scott Creek in the Little Basin, which it harvested for a year, most likely using Duffey’s old mill, which was nearby. At the end of the year, the mill was moved about a mile down Scott Creek to a property purchased from Grover & Company. Duffey was not involved with this operation. In December 1900, Enterprise purchased the former Harmon family estate on Bear Creek east of the town of Boulder Creek. Duffey joined the venture as mill manager, for which reason the place was called the Alpine mill by newspapers. The company hoped to move the mill to a site at the lower end of the property with plans to later relocate the Scott Creek mill to the upper part of the property. In the meantime, Duffy’s old mill continued to operate on Scott Creek under the management of Pryor & Lemieux. 
One of Henry Middleton's mills near Big Basin, 1901. Photograph by Andrew P. Hill [Sempervirens Club – colorized using DeOldify]
The partnership between Duffey and Enterprise ended in August 1902, when the Bear Creek tract was logged out. By this point, Enterprise had effectively consolidated into the Big Basin Lumber Company and Duffey wanted to focus more on his mill in Mendocino County. All of the properties of Enterprise were soon folded into the Big Basin firm, which itself became a part of the California Timber Company in April 1903. At the same time, Duffey’s old mill was moved to the top of Waterman Creek, a branch of Pescadero Creek, where it became the first lumber mill to operate for the new lumber company. After its second season, a new mill was constructed on Waterman Creek and the Duffey mill was moved to Newell Creek, where it operated from May to October 1905, when the complex burned down. 

Colorized postcard of the Alpine Lumber Company mill at Duffey near Fort Bragg, 1915. [California State Library]
In February 1902, Duffey’s Alpine Lumber Company purchased stumpage rights to a massive tract of land east of Fort Bragg from the Union Lumber Company. At the time, the Union Lumber Company's California Western Railway & Navigation Company (the Skunk Train) went about ten miles along the Noyo River into the untouched redwood forest. Duffey had the lumber company extend the railroad another eight miles to the bottom of what would become Alpine or Duffey Gulch, where the town of Alpine would quickly develop. Over the years, Alpine hosted a school, post office, hotels, and saloons. A branch line of the railroad was also extended up Alpine Gulch to the logging village of Duffey, where the Alpine Lumber Company’s primary mill was located from 1904 to 1912. The town of Alpine burned down in 1919 and was never rebuilt. Duffey died the same year on June 24 in Fort Bragg, where he was buried.

The Alpine Hotel in Duffey, 1904. [Sonoma County Library – colorized using DeOldify]
Edwin Longley, meanwhile, continued to work for the Enterprise Lumber Company and, after it was taken over, the Big Basin Lumber Company. Shortly after the creation of the California Timber Company, he was assigned manager of the Newell Creek mill until July 1905. After resigning due to poor health, Edwin and his father, Roscoe, tried to turn their home in Boulder Creek into a summer resort named Glendower, but the quickly gave up the idea and offered it to the Oddfellows instead in 1906. Edwin Longley returned to the lumber industry in 1906 when he purchased an interest in the McAbee Timber Company. The McAbee company was renamed the Southern Lumber Company in July 1906, soon after which Longley became general manager, a role that he held for the rest of his life. Andrew Longley died on November 22, 1915 at his home in Boulder Creek. His son, Edwin, lived another decade, dying on April 14, 1926 when he accidentally drove off the road near Brookdale and crashed into the San Lorenzo River. Both men were buried in Guerneville, California.

Citations & Credits:

  • Powell, Ronald G. The Reign of the Lumber Barons: Part Two of the History of Rancho Soquel Augmentation. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, 2021.
  • Stevens, Stanley D., ed. Great Register of the County of Santa Cruz, California, for 1890. Santa Cruz, CA: SC Public Libraries Local History, 2019.
  • Wallen, Robert. A Riders Guide to The Skunk Line: Willits to Ft. Bragg. Robert Wallen Publications, 1986.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.
  • Various articles from the Weekly SentinelSentinelEvening SentinelEvening NewsSurfMountain EchoMendocino Coast Beacon, and Bakersfield Morning Echo, 1876–1926.
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