David Davis, historian, who has contributed much to our web site, mostly from the work he did for the United States Forest Service, gives us another very nice piece of history. In this section that is completely new to the web site, he describes what was involved in running the Raggio Mill, what life was like for the lumbermen, and in general gives us a feel of how hard the men worked.
One authority on early steam-powered mills writes that a mill of this size employed between eight and twelve men. Besides the fireman (who ran the donkey engine inside the mill), there was “a sawyer; a deck man and log turner to adjust the log on the carriage; a tail sawyer, who also served as an edgerman; one slab-saw man; one tail edgerman who took the boards and edger strips away from the edger saws; two lumber pilers, one of whom grades the lumber for piling… and a gerneral utility man.”
The Raggio Mill and logging operations paid their workers well. But hours were long, with mill hands working ten hours per day while men in the woods worked nine. Those in the forest worked less hours to allow for walking to and from the job site. Highest wages went to the fallers in the forest and to the sawyer in the mill, because the final product depended so much on their skills. Sundays were usually the only day off.
At noon everyone within the environs of the mill stopped work and the entire operation shut down for lunch, served in the dining room of the cookhouse. Meals were substantial and heavy by modern standards, with few salads. A second substantial meal was served in the evening, after work. many of the meals cooked were Italian or at least included pasta. The cook was also responsible for stocking the chuck wagon that traveled into the forest to serve loggers on site. Meals in the woods were essentailly the same as those in the cookhouse.
The Raggio brothers owned most of the land in all directions around their two mills and logged it systematically over a period of 14 years. Historic logging roads run in every direction throughtout the area. A complete report on the Cowell Creek Mill is on file at the Calaveras Ranger District in Hathaway Pines, CA. and also in the archives of the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum.
(Excerpted from writings by historian David Davis, Calaveras Ranger District, Stanislaus National Forest)