Whilst oxen were widely used as motive power in the woods before steam came along horses were also used as these pics attest. Click on a pic to see it full size.
Category Archives: Oxen
Oxen – logging motive power before steam came to the woods
Our website has a pretty good section on the use of oxen as the motive power for getting logs to the mill – see here. There is also a good set of pictures of oxen working in this blog – see here.
My motto is that you can’t have enough of a good thing so I am adding a few more pics. Click on any one to see enlarged gallery
Oxen and Horses at work in the woods
Before steam came into the woods men, horses and oxen were what got the logs to the mill. The loggers built “skid roads” over which the logs were dragged. The “skids” were made of logs laid across the path. This kept the path from becoming too muddy and made the logs slide more easily. Oxen were preferred to horses as they were easier to keep. The man in charge of the ox team was the “bull puncher” and he was typically the highest paid man on the logging crew. Pulling the huge logs downhill was extremely dangerous for man and beast.
There weren’t a whole lot of cameras “back then” so, understansably, photos are as rare as hen’s teeth. These pics are recent additions to our history of logging along the Mendocino Coast.
The bull puncher was considered to be the master of profane language in a variety of languages
Northwestern, now known as the town of Brooktrails near Willits
Brooktrails is the modern name for a place known as Northwestern at the beginning of the 20th century. Northwestern in its heyday was an important place. It was a designated stop on the Northwestern Pacific railroad, had a post office and the only hospital in northern Mendocino County. It was a sawmill town owned by a the man who owned the railroad, Arthur Foster of San Rafael.
Usually known as A.W., Arthur was a financier in the San Francisco Bay area. He had a brokerage house in the city and three large ranches in the north bay region. The railroad had been extended to Ukiah by 1889and the following March, its young owner, James Mervyn Donahue, died. On March 23rd, 1893 A.W. Foster, Sid Smith and Andrew Markham became owners of the railroad – then known as the San Francisco and North Pacific – by purchasing 42,000 shares of the Donahue interest placed on sale by order of Marin County Superior Court to settle the estate.
Foster became the president and ran the railroad. He bought out his partners and changed its name to the California Northwestern Railroad. Foster extended the tracks to Willits in 1901 and on to Sherwood shortly thereafter. Sherwood was the end of the railroad for many years. From Sherwood, passengers who wanted to go north by stagecoach and freight was moved by wagons.
Foster owned thousands of acres of timberland that previously had little value because it could not be moved to market. All the big mills in Mendocino County had been built along the coast, from where lumber could be shipped to market by sailing and steam schooners. Lumber trucks, logging trucks and bulldozers were totally unknown at this time.
Foster’s vision of opening up the area west of Willits was a dominant factor in the growth of Willits. He also had other interest in the area, ranch and farm lands and Willits Mercantile Company. His son, William A.S. Foster was the president of the newly formed Bank of Willits.
W.A.S. Foster was employed by his father to manage his interest in the Willits area. He built a large home on the site where Brooktrails Lodge is now located and maintained the residence until 1927. In the 1940’s it became first Brooktrails Lodge and served in that capacity until it was destroyed by fire in 1955.
The sawmill was built in 1901 and was located about 200 yards towards Willits from what is now the Lodge at the bottom of the hill. The mill was known as the Northwestern Redwood Company and by the nickname Diamond D Mill. The nickname was derived from the mill’s insignia, a large “D” enclosed in a diamond shape, which was stamped on tools and other equipment.
In the mid-twenties, the company having cut nearby timber for more than a quarter of a century, was faced with increased logging costs. It was necessary to go further and further past Sherwood to the headwaters of the Ten Mile River to obtain logs. The increased costs forced the closure of the mill in 1926 and it never re-opened. Duane and Lloyd Bittenbinder purchased the mill and dismantled it, selling the machinery to mills in northern California and Oregon. The land was sold and almost all of the houses and loggers cabins were removed.
In the 1930’s, it became a dude ranch known as the Diamond D. In the early 1940’s it was purchased by Eddie and Marie Anderson. The Anderson’s turned W.A.S. Foster’s home into the Lodge. The Andersons produced superb meals and the reputation of Brooktrails Lodge spread throughout northern California. The building burned in 1955 and the Anderson’s built the present Lodge on the same spot.
Club member Mike Aplet lives in Brooktrails. My thanks to him for providing the pictures and history you have just read.
Wages Creek, CA
When we set about building our knowledgebase of the history of the Mendocino Coast as it relates to our G-scale model layout, the Mendocino Coast Railroad and Navigation Company, we knew that we would never finish it ‘cos there was always “more good stuff” out there.
So it is with Wages Creek – our current page is pretty thin. Admittedly it was always a pretty small settlement, disappeared a long while back and today it is a sign on the side of the road and a rather nice campground. The good news is that we have uncovered a couple of photos to add to the very small gallery. They both show bull teams at work at Wages Creek:
The best good news is that Thad M. Van Bueren devotes a section of his book, “Belonging to Places – The Evolution of Coastal Communities and Landscapes between Ten Mile River and Cottoneva Creek” to the railroad at Wages Creek:
“The last railroad completed in the local area was between Wages Creek Valley and Westport. It was completed in July 1916 by Hickey and other investors (Oakland tribune, July12th, 1916). A ceremony was enacted at the time the last spike was driven, mimicking the celebration surrounding the completion of the transcontinental railroad years earlier. The railroad was designed to facilitate the shipping of materials produced by the Westport Tie Company. It is uncertain how long the this railroad operated, but Westport fell into decline in the 1920’s, and the pier closed at the onset of the Depression of 1929. Use of this railroad was likely abandoned by that time.”
In the book there is a picture of a Shay at work on the railroad. I have had doubts that the photo we have of a Shay in the Gallery of photos on the Wages Creek page was correct. The fact that both pics are of Shays seems to “prove” that the website picture is accurate.