In 1858, four years after the Hammack party arrived in Lake County, the first sawmill was built on the west side of Mt. Hannah. Later, sawmills circled the mountain for harvesting high-quality Fir and Sugar Pine. Wildcat Road became a place for the homes of the loggers, for the sawmill workers, and for the log haulers.

In those early days in Lake County, attorneys were as scarce as hen’s teeth. Any property owner with a brain in his head was forced to learn something about the law. The legal papers they wrote were wonderful examples of muddiness and obfuscation.

One example left me breathless with envy. This bright gentleman wished to contract work for his property. The truth of the contract wording he used (if any doubt the authenticity of this report) you may verify by inspecting Book 42, page 429 of the Legal Record in the Lakeport Courthouse. It is a work of art.

Warning: Those Record Books weigh as much as a sack of cement. They are heavy.

After giving a general description of the property, his contract reads; ‘The said second party agrees to work for the said first party at a daily wage of $1.75 and shall receive a $2.00 per cord for cutting wood and 4 cents each for making cedar posts. Stump-age in each instance to be furnished by said party of the first part, and shall pay agreed purchase for the above described land entirely in labor at above specified rate of remuneration.’

How the contract worked out is not known. It was legally terminated 5 October 1909. I am proud of our forebears. Those early settlers and loggers knew how to write a great contract. If the example above does not beat any lawyer’s contract wording for style, imagination, creativity, and ambiguity, I don’t know what does.

Althea Brazzi, another good citizen of Lake County, remembers something of sawmills:

“In 1870 Lake County had 42 mills. Most were on Elk Mountain north of Upper Lake. Just before and just after World War II, E.A. “Bud” Howard owned the largest of the mills. Bud probably produced more saw timber of any sawmill inside of the Mendocino Forest boundary. On Elk Mountain, the Howard Mill had the largest set of houses for his timber hands and sawmill operators. The single men lived in bunkhouses while the married men and their families live in ‘housekeeping’ cabins.”

“There was a kitchen for the workers that served three meals a day. Winona Jackson was the main cook. Her husband was the Mill manager. Winona had one helper for all that cooking, May Fouch. George, May’s husband, ran the planer and Bill Register was the saw filer.”

“Fifteen to twenty men worked for the Howard Mill and the record for one day’s production was the astronomical figure of fifty thousand board feet of planed lumber. Bud Howard’s son would come to the mill from the Bay Area on weekends to check up on how things were going. He would take a saw in hand and work right along with the men.”

“The food Mrs. Jackson prepared was one of the main reasons for the large crew and for their efficiency. Mrs. Jackson and May, her helper, prepared hot biscuits, ham, and eggs each morning before work. Five pies were made daily for lunch and, in the evenings, cakes and fruit were served. Winona made sure the timber workers got the same quality of supper meals in the evening as the mill workers had at noon.”

“The camp was complete with water basins and mirrors that were under a tree for the men to clean up after a meal. Except for the rattlesnakes, the mill was a good place to work.”

Gone now are the logging trucks that made great ribbons of dust as they made their way down the mountain. With most of the timber gone, and the rest burned from fire, there isn’t much timber left to be harvested anymore.

Next Episode: You are about to know where the Trolls live… and discover the secret of Rupia Balls.

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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