Today’s featured photograph is train load of logs arriving at the Fruit Growers Supply Company mill in Susanville. It was taken in 1921, the same year the plant opened. Notice how very little had been developed nearby. Two buildings with a Tudor style like facade were the office and dining hall. Today it is now the site of Riverside Park.
Antelope Mountain on the west side of Eagle Lake. On July 28, 1924 a fire broke out from a steam donkey engine of the Fruit Growers Supply Company near Camp D. In the aftermath Fruit Growers constructed fire lines. The Lassen National Forest sent a bill to Fruit Growers for $156,000. In a negotiated settlement Fruit Growers agreed to replant 2,000 acres of forest service land and to contribute $1,500 annually for a ten year period for reforestation.
It came to forefront in 1924 when a fire broke out on the west slope of the mountain that destroyed 7,000 acres to timberland. The fire had a legacy when a lookout was built on top, along with the first reforestation program in Lassen County.
Lassen Lumber & Box was the first large scale lumber company established in Susanville in 1918. Forty-five years later, it was history. The economic depression of the 1930s took a toll on the company, and never truly recovered. In 1951, it began the liquidation process and its neighbor, Fruit Growers Supply Company, purchased it and when the last logs were milled, it shut down. Fruit Growers purchased it for the water rights, as they thought about converting their nearby sawmill into a paper/pulp plant. After all, in 1955 Fruit Grower’s co-operative members would switch entirely from wood to cardboard, except for picking boxes.
This added fuel to the debate that the area’s economy needed to diversify, for one day the sawmill industry would become a thing of the past. This opened the subject for debate about attracting a state prison to the area.
In the fall of 1919, Susanville was filled with excitement when the Fruit Growers Supply Company accepted the residents offer of $40,000 to locate their lumber mill in that community. It was not all that long ago, when they had lost the opportunity of the Red River Lumber Company to locate there. To understand how big a windfall to have Fruit Growers is that the company would initially employ 1,500 people, more than the population of Susanville.
When the Fruit Growers Supply Company gave serious thought in locating a second mill in Lassen County they were initially perplexed as to where to locate it. The timber they examined was to the west of Eagle Lake. They wanted a mill in the center of the timber to reduce the freight costs. Continue reading Pine Creek Millsite?→
When Fruit Growers established their Lassen Operation they purchased two billion board feet of timber to the west of Eagle Lake. In 1921, Fruit Growers established its second logging camp, designated as Camp B. Many of their camps were portable in nature, in that once an area was logged, the cabins and other buildings could be conveniently be put on railroad cars and moved to the next location.
Camp B was unique as it was a mixture of both portable and permanent buildings. It was one of their largest camps that could house over 300 men. While the camp closed by 1926, its concrete foundations for the commissary, along with other remnants can still be seen today. Fruit Growers had a reputation of taking good care of their employees. This was evident at Camp B whereby motion pictures were shown. In addition, the logging camps even had their own baseball teams. This is rather amazing since these men who worked ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week still had the energy left to play ball.
Camp Harvey was a railroad logging camp during the 1940s of the Red River Lumber Company and later Fruit Growers Supply Company and located approximately 20 miles east of Poison Lake.
The cookhouses in logging camps always operated at a loss. However, a cookhouse could make or a break a camp—poor food resulted in an exodus of loggers. In 1948, Fruit Growers raised the price of a meal to one dollar at Camps Harvey and Stanford, and the complaints were loud and clear. Fruit Growers instead of losing 36 cents per meal, they only lost 8 cents.
In 1949, Fruit Growers leased the cookhouses and commissaries at those two camps to H.S. Anderson Company for one dollar. Fruit Growers thought maybe an outside company could handle the operations for more efficiently. They would never find an answer.
By the end of May the cookhouse crews represented by Local 769 of the Bartenders and Culinary Workers Union walked off the job in a wage and hour dispute. Logging came to standstill. The two camps with a population of nearly 500 became ghost towns, with Robert Simons and Harry Beal remaining as caretakers. After the weeks went on and no end to the strike Fruit Growers closed down the camps permanently. In addition, they abandoned that railroad logging line.
The old English proverb necessity is the mother invention was widely adopted locally. For years Fruit Growers searched for an effective way to reduce grass around its millsite for fire protection. In 1937, someone came up with the brilliant idea to bring in a band sheep to graze the mill property. Problem solved and they called the new addition to their workforce “Lassen Lawnmowers.”