Editors Note: Richard Hess, retired Forester who worked in Amador and Calaveras Counties sent the museum a packet of historical photos, maps, newspaper articles, etc. What follows is the story of the beginning of the Blagen Mill and the end of the Blagen Mill as told by Stockton Record reporters.
November 28th, 1939 Reporter not named
Blagen Lumber Company Lays Out New Town: Long Life Ahead
White Pines Representing an investment of approximately $350,000 is the new Blagen Lumber Company at White Pines-a new community two miles from Arnold on the Ebbetts Pass Highway.
During the latter part of 1938 the company, then known as the Davies Johnson Lumber Company, logged out all remaining available timber at its plant near Calpine and started looking for a new tract of timber to which its plant could be moved and rebuilt.
RUGGLES TRACT CHOSEN
After investigating several likely timber tracts in California as well as southern Oregon, it was decided the Ruggles Tract in Calaveras County held the greatest possibilities, according to Howard Blagen, sales manager. “This decision was researched,”he said, “both from a general business standpoint as well as life of the lumbering operation due to the vast quantity of footage involved.”
After negotiating with the owners in Michigan, a cutting contract was drawn up, and late in the fall of 1938, dismantling of the Calpine mill proceeded. First surveys were started at White Pines in October 1938, and the trucking of mill machinery to the new site was begun in December.
This continued throughout the winter, while plans for construction to start the following spring were drawn up. Ground first was broken by actual construction in April, 1939, from which time on the building of the new plant proceeded throughout summer and early fall.
Although not actually completed, the mill was sready to start operating by mid-October and the fist log was sawed on October 16. Since that time the mill has been operating steadily with remaining construction work going ahead.
WILL ENLARGE MILL
Additional construction remaining to be completed this winter consists of a new horizontal resaw which will increase the present mill capacity of about 8500 board feet an hour to between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, and also two dry kilns. Both the resaw and the dry kilns should in operation by early December, Blagen states.
“The purpose of the dry kilns is to dry or season lumber by artificial methods in a comparatively very short time, as against air drying in an open yard by natural air circulation,” he explained.
At present, the mill is operating two seven-hour shifts-an aggregate total of 84 hours a week, or a production of about 3,000,000 feet monthly.
“With the coming spring,”Blagen states,”production operations will be increased to possibly three seven-hour shifts daily and an annual cut of 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 feet of lumber is expected. To one unfamiliar with lumber terms, this means a yearly output of between 2000 and 2500 carloads of lumber.”
TOYON, SHIPPING POINT
The railroad shipping point of the new plant is at Toyon, on the Southern Pacific, between Valley Springs and San Andreas.”Later on, Blagen states, a planing mill together with other remanufacturing machinery, will be installed at this point, and a large portion of the lumber inventory will be carried there.
At present about 200 men are employed in the operation from the loggers in the woods to the lumber handlers at the shipping point.
Blagen revealed that later on this figure may increase to 400 or 500, depending on rate of production and the extent of remanufacturing entered into.
MAY CUT 50 YEARS
The extent of timber involved covers approximately 25,000 acres, and, with the possibilty now existing of obtaining additional adjacent timber later, operation of the plant is expected by Blagen to range from 40 to 50 years.
All logging is done on a contract basis by S.C. Linebaugh, who has logged for the company for 15 years. His operations are carried on with tractors and trucks, the timber being hauled at the present time approximately eight miles to the mill. From 60 to a 100 men are employed by Linebaugh, depending on the extent of the company’s sawing operations.
“Housing facilities for the crew are as yet limited”, says Blagen, ‘but a considerable portion of he employees have purchased lots in the subdivided town of White Pines, adjoining the plant and are building modern homes under FHA regulations. ”
President of the company is Frank Blagen, while a second son, Frank Blagen Jr. , also interested in the company, is timekeeper at the plant.
The History of the Mill Closing and the Building of White Pines Lake
Nov. 1, 1970 Column in Stockton Record called the Back Road, by Elizabeth Chapman McKnight
It took the better part of a full workng day a few weeks ago to get a good look at the activities of the biggest landowner and home builder in Calaveras County – American Forest Products (AFP) and its companion company, American Forest Properties Inc.
Just as other big lumbering interests have done, American Forest Products has branched into home building, subdividing, and recreation facility developments.
In Calaveras, AFP is Mr. Big – the biggest homebuilder and subdivision developer in the county.
It wasn’t until I started to delve into the big company’s activities that I learned it had its beginnings right here at home in Stockton.
It was way back in 1918 that two young men, Bert Webster and Horace Tartar, joined forces to manufacture and distribute wooden containers for the farm needs of San Joaquin Valley.
They began operations with eight helpers in an abandoned railroad roundhouse not far from the present site of one of its principal operating divisions on Marshall Street, also site of its Stockton Box Co.
Soon after they started. the partners were joined by Walter S. Johnson, now a well known San Francisco philanthropist, who for more than 50 years was the driving force behind building American Forest Products into one of the nation’s major manufacturers and distributors of forest derived products.
Just Friday, AFP, which started as American Box Corp., completed a merger with the huge Bendix Corporation. American Forest Products and American Forest Properties are continuing to operate as Bendix owned subsidiaries.
In 1964, when AFP acquired the sawmill and plywood plant in Martell, Amador County (along with some 65,000 acres of tree farm lands), it modernized and enlarged the Martell facilities, phasing out its White Pines mill in Calaveras County.
It was closure of the White Pines mill that led to AFP’s most ambitious subdivision plan in Calaveras County’s Ebbetts Pass area.
The master plan for the White Pines 5,600 acre project includes transforming the mill pond to a recreational lake which will be the focus of the subdivision development.
A dam which will expand the mill pond to lake stature, is just about complete, and water will start filling the lake this winter.
To be known as White Pines Lake, the reservoir has been constructed for the recreational use of he community of the Big Trees Forest area of Ebbetts Pass.
American Forest Products has blanketed its three subdivisions, Meadowmont, Big Trees Village, and White Pines Resort area, under the name Big Trees Forest.
All are in the area of Big Trees State Park, so APF was smart in latching onto the Big Trees Park proximity.
The lake area, designed by Tiburon architect Charles Warren Callister, calls for a landscaped park area, docks for canoes and sailboats, and a sandy beach. The reservoir will be backed up over the lowlands of the old sawmill site to within 200 feet of the mill pond which will remain intact.
The White Pines Resort area, newest and biggest of AFP subdivisions, includes moe than 5,000 acres between White Pines and Dorrington-Camp Connell.
White Pines itself is a small community, originally built up around the saw mll, just a mile or so behind Arnolds. (sic) It has no direct frontage on Highway 4. This subdivision is just reaching the stage of marketing and lot sales.
AFP’s Big Trees Village adjoins both Calaveras Big Trees and Stanislaus National Forest, and a special effort has been made in planning and engineering to set aside broad areas as a permanent scenic forest reserve throughout the entire development.
Islands of trees are used to divide roadways in some areas, to keep the appearance of forest land.
Since this subdivision opened three years ago, a number of homes have been constructed.
AFP Inc. operates a bit differently from some big subdivision developers who are interested only in subdividing and selling the land. AFP also builds homes, and after they are built, will act as rental agent for the owner.
The firm’s first venture into real estate in Calaveras was under the name Calaveras Development Corp., which purchased Meadowmont and its golf course and restaurant complex.
Original Meadowmont developer was Bob Romaggi. Then came Jarnigan, Bullard, Stone and Frey, a combine which sought additional adjoining land. AFP, which owned the land, refused to sell.
So AFP joined in a joint venture, and eventually bought out the Jarnigan et al interests. In 1968, Calaveras Development Corp. became the present American Forest Products Inc. with headquarters in the old office building of the White Pines lumber mill.