Sugar Pine -- From Mountain Top to Mill to Discriminating Buyers
"Thar's gold in them thar hills!" exclaimed burly "Forty-niners" as they gazed fascinated at the stately heights of the Sierra Nevada, in California, where the feverish quest for the yellow nuggets and dust centered in those hectic days.
The country was rough and rugged. Methods of mining were crude - few tools and hasty improvizations (improvisations). Methods of living were crude, too. Hardships were plentiful. But what of it? "Thar's gold in them thar hills!" Gold! The precious metal for which men were willing to give up ambitions, love, life - their very souls.
The way of life, it seems. Those things of most value entail the greatest effort to obtain, to have and to hold, as if nature had purposely guarded the against man's desire. Or perhaps it is that because of their scarcity and inaccessibility, man's will to possess is increased, and a greater value is placed on those things hardest to obtain.
For as it is with gold, so is it with another treasure that is to be found in nature's well fortified storehouse on the westward slopes of the high Sierra. The beautiful and stately sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) "King of the Pines," it was termed by the great naturalist, John Muir - thrives to best advantage in this same region. It, too, is prized by man; and, like gold it taxes man's patience and ingenuity to bring it out to the market place. For although sugar pine here grows in greatest profusion and perfection, these lofty mountains are still as rugged and difficult as ever they were in the romantic gold-rush days so vividly portrayed by Bret Harte and Mark Twain. It is one thing to find the tree; it is quite another to take it to market.
But sugar pine is worth the effort. It is highly prized by the pattern maker, the cabinet maker, the wood carver, the home builder, and by anyone else who demands and appreciated beauty and soft fine texture together with the durability of a true five-needle white pine. Besides, sugar pine grows to great size, and its product is obtainable in remarkably wide and thick dimensions. So what if it is like gold, hard to get? It is decidedly worth getting.
Hardly surprising, therefore, that when white pine men from Michigan started buying timberland in the West a half-century ago they were thrilled by the opportunities which these great sugar pines presented, and selected their holdings for the sugar pine in the stand.
In the vanguard of westward procession were two Michigan men, T. Steward White and Thomas Friant, who as partners in various eastern operation had attained great prominence in the lumber manufacturing industry of the United States; Mr. Friant spent a year in the heart of the sugar pine country, riding horseback through the magnificent forests of the region. He knew white pine, what it takes to make perfect lumber. Also he knew logging, and in looking over the lay of the land he could visualize what great efforts must be expended to bring these magnificent trees to the lower levels where ordinary freight trains could serve the mill. He knew what timber to select for his future lumbering operations.
Among the first to come, these two men naturally had an excellent choice, and the White & Friant timber in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties is unsurpassed in volume and quality of its sugar pine. To this later were added the holdings of the Yosemite Lumber Co., adjoining and intermingled with the White & Friant timber, and in July 1935, from the consolidation of the Yosemite Lumber Co., and the White & Friant Lumber Co. the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. was formed, taking its name from California's great scenic wonder, the famed Yosemite Valley. (Yosemite is an American Indian name meaning "valley of the grizzly bear.") In this valley, but to the east, further up into the mighty Sierra, is the beautiful Yosemite National Park.
The Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. owns outright enough timber to operate the plant for twenty years, based on a production of 50,000,000 feet a year. The predominant species, is, of coarse, California sugar pine. Ranking next in importance is Ponderosa pine, with a small percentage of white fir, Douglas fir, and incense cedar.
Logs are brought fifty miles to the mill, ten miles over the company's logging railroad and the balance of the way over the tracks of the Yosemite Valley Railroad. The accompanying view of the company's own part of this railroad haul - an incline railway over which the loads of logs are lowered - affords a striking illustration of the ruggedness of the country and the ingenuity necessary to bring sugar pine logs out of the high Sierra, as mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs
The sawmill (steam driven, with an electric planning mill) is located at Merced Falls, twenty-five miles northeast of Merced along the Yosemite Valley Railroad. Equipped with one 10-foot band rig, one 9-foot band rig and a vertical resaw, it is capable of cutting 20,000 feet of lumber an hour, an in one year produced 80,000,000 feet. Present plans, however, do not anticipate crowding production to such a limit, although plenty of logs are being fed into the saws. The new company started operations late in the season - Sept. 23 - so the 1935 cut was relatively small, but even at that it amounted to 13,000,000 feet.
A battery of eighteen modern blower dry kilns gives adequate facilities for maintaining good service to customers; these kilns have proven themselves particularly well adapted to drying sugar pine. In addition, the company has an especially well located air-drying yard which is serviced with twenty-eight miles of light rail track. Because of the favorable contour of the ground, the motive power for lumber trucks running throughout this yard and back to the mill is gravity. Two cleverly-devised hoists take the truck from the sawmill up to high points of the yard, from which they can be switched to any portion of the yard and back to mill under power of gravitation.
Operating this well-equipped manufacturing plant is in the center of the greatest sugar pine belt in the world, from timber equal to the best known in the region, is an executive personnel composed of experts in sugar pine production.
John R. Ball, formerly of Milwaukee, Wis., and Grad Rapids, Mich., and for the past fifteen years president of the White & Friant organization, is president of the Yosemite company, and associated with him as executives and department heads are experts from such well known former operating companies as the Madera Sugar Pine Co. Madera, Calif.; the Sugar Pine Lumber Co. of Pinedale, Cailf., and the former Yosemite Lumber Co. Frank E. Lee is the vise president, and Tom Ware is secretary-treasurer.
Sales are in charge of Harold J. Ford, formerly of the Sugar Pine Lumber Co. at Pinedale. The plant superintendent is Herbert W. Matthews, who operated the plant under the former owner, and was also with the Sugar Pine Lumber Co. of Pinedale.
If one department is of any more importance than another in a sugar pine operation it is the logger. The logging superintendent for the Yosemite Sugar Pine Co. is E. E. Honeycutt, who formerly was with the Madera Sugar Pine Co. and the Yosemite Lumber Co.
Because of the lateness of the start, the Yosemite Sugar Pine Co. came into the winter of 1935-36 with a relatively small stock. But with the opening of the 1936 cutting season the company promises to be one of the largest producers of the finest sugar pine in the county.
Largeness, however, is not one of the main objects of this company. The principal object is quality of product. Quality begins in the tree, and in this the company has a good start. From then on it is up to men and machinery, and in these likewise the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Co. offers a proven strength. The best indication of the company's policy is the slogan it has adapted:
"Yosemite Sugar Pine - A Premium Pine."
Excerpt from: AMERICAN LUMBERMAN|
(probably Winter of 1935.)