Caspar Lumber Company and the Fruit Growers Supply Company

We know from a movie the club has that most of the Caspar Lumber Company’s milled products were shipped to Pittsburg (a town on the southern shore of the Suisun Bay in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area.) There the Caspar Lumber Company had a controlling interest in a box making factory. Boxes ranged from crates to cigar  boxes and everything in between. There was a great need for crates to ship, among other things, fruit from the Central Valley all over the USA. What we/I do not know is whether one of the “partners” was the Fruit Growers Supply Company.

Knowledge of the Fruit Growers Supply Company has eluded me to date. However this post in Martin Hansen “Steam in the Woods” blog provides an excellent background on the Company:

FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay

FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay

When a large group of Southern California fruit growers banded together in 1907 to form a cooperative association to guaranty they would have a steady supply of wood to make box shook for their packaging, they formed the Fruit Growers Supply Company. This organization marketed their products under the Sunkist Brand name, familiar to most of us.

One of their main missions was to accumulate enough timber land to provide a steady and economical supply of box shook. They acquired many large timber holdings until ultimately they became the largest private owner of timber land in California. One of their timber holdings was in Northern California near the Oregon border where they formed the town of Hilt. It was at Hilt that they operated a mill and logging railroad system to supply the wood for the company.

In the late 1930’s famed logging photographer Clark Kinsey traveled to Hilt to photograph the operation for the company. Here we see FGS #5, a big Lima 3-truck Shay as she unloads her log loads at the mill pond in Hilt. This ritual would be repeated day in and day out for many decades until the logging railroad was finally abandoned in the early 1950’s.

The mill finally closed and the company town of Hilt was leveled in the mid 1970’s so that there nearly no sign the mill or town was ever there. Fortunately for us, Shay #5 lived on as she went to a new logging line out of Cochran, Oregon for a number of years before being sold in the 1940’s to Pickering Lumber Corp. where she became their #7. Today she is on display at the Sierra Ry roundhouse in Jamestown, CA.”

Sanborn Map of Caspar

Let’s hear from Wiki first:

” The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The maps were originally created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Since they contain detailed information about properties and individual buildings in approximately 12,000 U.S. cities and towns, Sanborn maps are invaluable for documenting changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades. Sanborn held a monopoly over fire insurance maps for the majority of the 20th century, but the business declined as US insurance companies stopped using maps for underwriting in the 1960s. The last Sanborn fire maps were published on microfilm in 1977, but old Sanborn maps remain useful for historical research into urban geography. 

The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would be covered by multiple volumes of maps. Between editions of published volumes, map updates were sent out as correction slips. Sanborn employees, called “pasters” or “correctors”, would visit subscribers’ offices to paste the slips on top of the old maps.The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.

The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding; the location of windows and doors; street names; street and sidewalk widths; property boundaries; fire walls; natural features (rivers, canals, etc.); railroad corridors; building use (sometimes even particular room uses); house and block number; as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials; the strength of the local fire department; indications of sprinkler systems; locations of fire hydrants; location of water and gas mains; and even the names of most public buildings, churches and businesses.Unique information includes the location of the homes of prominent individuals, brothels, and more ephemeral buildings including outhouses and stables.”

There were two Sanborn Maps of Caspar. This one was published in January 1891 [cut and paste to see it]:

This one was published in November 1898:

There was another Sanborn Map of Caspar published in November 1909 but, alas, it is not in the Library of Congress yet.

Using the +/- up/down and side to side keys you can zoom in on the totally amazing detail encapsulated in the map.

This Topo map shows Caspar today [click on map to enlarge].

Topo Map of Caspar

Topo Map of Caspar

Anyone who can correct my info PLEASE contact me.


Coloured Postcards of Caspar circa 1900

There are a LOT of photos in the main website and my three blogs. I get them from everywhere. In the fairly recent past there has been a whole bunch of coloured postcards.

“During the 19th century colorants was often added to printed images by hand for it was the most cost efficient way to produce a color image. This tradition was naturally applied to all types of postcards, and it became common practice around 1902. The general tendency of collotypes to print lightly while still capturing great detail made them the perfect receptor of hand coloring and they formed the base for most of this work. With more paper surface left exposed and a less oily ink to fight the water based colorant it could more easily show off subtle hues or attain brilliant saturation. Some publishers would even adjust the transparencies used to create collotype plates so that their cards to be colored would print lighter than the versions to be printed solely in black & white. Most postcards were colored with a simple RGB pallet but there are many variations to this. As labor costs rose the hand coloring of postcards faded out after the 1930’s.” 

So now you know when and how. Here’s the three coloured postcards I recently acquired of Caspar.

Loading at Caspar

Loading at Caspar

Caspar Harbour

Caspar Harbour

Caspar Main Street

Caspar Main Street

Blasting a log into pieces at Hare Creek

Hare Creek is just south of Fort Bragg. Based on my exploration there is nothing “historical” there now. In 1880 Hare Creek environs were being logged by the Caspar Lumber Company. The ONLY reason I know this is this photo which turned up in the inbox:

Blasting a log into pieces

Blasting a log into pieces

Click on the photo to see it more clearly.



Inaugural Run of Loco, “Daisy” owned by the Caspar Lumber Company

Inaugural Run of Loco Daisy

Inaugural Run of Loco Daisy

It’s 1885, the No. 2 locomotive “Daisy” has just completed her trial run on the Caspar & Hare Creek Railroad. The locomotive was tasked with transporting logs to the sawmill in Caspar. The new locomotive was built by Baldwin in Philadelphia; parts were boxed and shipped around Cape Horn; they arrived from San Francisco on the schooner “Abbie.”

She’s still “alive” and you can find her in the Deli restaurent in Fort Bragg, Ca.

Hand tinted postcards of Caspar, Mendocino

Hand tinted postcards began as a conventional black and white photograph and were painted by hand prior to production. In the early days the colouring took place in the photographers studio. As demand expanded factories were established employing large numbers of women to hand tint photographic images prior to postcard printing. The paints were oil based and transparent and their chemistry was such that many of the colourists were to suffer illness as a result of licking their brushes to form a point.

Our website contains a number of hand tinted postcards but none of Caspar until I found these two:

Very early photo of Caspar

Very early photo of Caspar

The log splash at Caspar

The log splash at Caspar

Interesting what?


Caspar Lumber Company Inclines at Whisky Springs on Route 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits

Our website has this to say about the Caspar Lumber Company inclines:

The first two inclines (shown in yellow) on the map above belonging to the Caspar Lumber Company were just up one side of a hill and down the other side of the hill. The logs were pulled to the top of the hill and then lowered down the other side. The picture below shows the Caspar Lumber Company incline in operation.

The Caspar incline at work

What the website page does not say is when and exactly where it was built. That “mystery” was recently solved in the “blast from the past” section from the local rag::

It is reported that the Caspar Lumber Co. is to work up all of its timber in the Little North Fork of Big River into ties. It will be necessary to build a tramway (incline) from the head (end) of the railroad on the South Fork of the Noyo (River) over the divide at Whisky Springs to get the ties out.”

And the date – January 24th, 1917.

And where is Whisky Springs? Here’s a map I bagged from Google:

Another small piece of the jigsaw that is the history of logging along the Mendocino Coast.

Caspar Lumber Company’s Little Red Schoolhouse at Camp 20 on the road from Fort Bragg to Willits

I first visited Caspar Lumber Company’s Little Red Schoolhouse at Camp 20 soon after we moved to Fort Bragg in 2000. The kids were curious as to what an “olde worlde” schoolroom looked like. So we packed lunch and off we tooled.

The schoolhouse is on the south side of the road beyond the Camp 20 meadow toward Willits and is the bright red redwood building.Cross over the footbridge to the east of Camp 20 and look to your right – the old camp schoolhouse stands waiting to be preserved. In its early days it was known as “Woods School”. It first opened in 1915 at Camp 1, moved to Camp 19 and then to its present location. To move the school it was cut into three pieces and mounted on skids. Each third was loaded onto a flat car. Upon arrival it was “stitched back together.

This is the picture that I took in 2001:

2001 photo

As you can see it was not in great condition but still repairable. That, sadly, is no longer true as these photos, taken last summer attest:

What a bloody shame that NO-ONE cares.