This history was made possible by the help of CCWD’s Larry Diamond who looked up much of the information for me. We thank him for his time and willingness.
In 1938, Frank Blagen Sr. bought harvesting rights to the timber on about 21,000 acres of land from Calaveras Land and Timber. But, he also ended up owning outright, Dunbar Meadows, which included the property along San Antonio Creek where he built the Blagen Sawmill, and also the land upon which the Logging Museum now sits, and also where White Pines Lake later was built.
This drawing is of the Dunbar Ranch, later to become Dunbar Meadow, in about 1885. If you look closely, you will see that the ranch was 880 acres, 1 3/8’s sections. It is interesting to speculate how this number came about as a result of homesteading. Elsewhere, I tell you that Willis and his brother homesteaded this area in 1883, or at least the homestead was recorded in that year. This drawing is from “Calaveras County Illustrated” published in 1885 and later republished by the Calaveras County Historical Society.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Blagen acquired the land from his family’s company, Davies-Johnson Lumber Company, in August, 1939. Previously, in 1938, Davies-Johnson had purchased the land from Calaveras Land and Timber. (My thanks to Teresa Rush of First American Title Company for researching this for us.)
You can read in Frank Blagen Jr.’s autobiography that Frank Sr.’s sister had put up the money to buy Davies-Johnson in an effort to lever her son, Jack, into a positon of greater power in the family company, and perhaps, Frank Sr.’s acquiring the land from Davies-Johnson was the beginning of a move on his part to move out from under that thumb. If that was the case, it was not to be.
Mr. Blagen lost the mill due to financial difficulties soon after it opened and American Box Company, soon to change its name to American Forest Products, acquired ownership of the Dunbar Meadows property.
When the mill was closed in 1962, the land more or less just sat until 1965 when American Forest Products (AFP) came up with a plan to subdivide along San Antonio Creek all the way from White Pines to Camp Connell. AFP evicted all the residents from their property down in Dunbar Meadows, but ended up selling lots in White Pines to at least some of the evicted.
American Forest Products dammed San Antonio Creek, creating the 26 acre White Pines Lake, as a lure to would-be buyers of lots in the subdivision. The subdivision plans ran into a snag when AFP was told that they would have to put in a sewer system and treatment plant before they could sell lots. Consequently, AFP abandoned plans for the development. In 1977, AFP sold the 95.4 acres containing the lake and a band of property around the lake to the Calaveras County Water District for $210,000. In the mid 1980’s CCWD built a sewer system serving the community of White Pines and a narrow strip of land in Arnold right along Highway 4.
CCWD owns and administers the land around the lake, leasing pieces of their property to White Pines Park and to the Friends of the Logging Museum for nominal amounts.