Tag Archives: Red River Lumber Company

Westwood’s Opera House

Westwood’s Opera House. Courtesy of David Zoller

If there was ever a great misnomer for a building it was one of Red River Lumber Company’s first public buildings in Westwood was dubbed the Opera House. It should be noted that when Westwood was being built in 1912-14, it was remote. There were no highways, and in the winter the only access by train. It was designed this way on purpose to keep undesirable elements, including unions out of the community. However, Red River would need to provide entertainment venues for its employees, if they wanted to recruit and retain. Continue reading Westwood’s Opera House

Westwood’s New Dealer

WW New Deal538
The front page. You can click to enlarge the image.

During the late 1930s, Red River Lumber Company was plagued with labor problems. There were be two major strikes, one in 1938 that caused the “purge” and a second the following year.

On January 23, 1939, the local union  published a two-page newsletter called the Westwood New Dealer. In it they cited the January issue of the West Coast Lumbermen. This publication contained an article Best News of the New Year which stated that orders for western pine was up 47% from last year. This is turn meant there would be a substantial increase in logging and manufacturing, which the CIO interpreted as meaning that the lumber industry in general and more particularly Red River would see increased profits. They sent a letter to the local AFL with the following resolution, “That a joint committee of Local 53 and Local 2386 be formed to negotiate wage scale to be effected as soon as possible.

Red River was not amused when they saw the first issue of the Westwood New Dealer. Clinton Walker thought not only it was imperative that they obtain copies of future editions, but equally important to designate someone to answer the “miserable statements” contained in it. Clinton noted that it was true that there had been an increase in orders, but the price for lumber had not increased.

Thus, the stage now set, and the second strike would shut down the mill for over two months. One can learn more about this and other labor issues in Red River: The Turbulent Thirties.


Our Lady of the Snows

Our Lady of the Snows

When Westwood was established, its Catholic community was a part of the Sacred Heart Parish—it had only been created in 1912 and covered the territory of Lassen and Modoc counties. The first pastor was Father P.J. O’Reilly. There seems to be some confusion as to when the first Mass was celebrated in Westwood. On December 12, 1913, it was reported in the Lassen Weekly Mail: “Father P.J. O’Reilly made the trip to Westwood to attend to spiritual wants of the Catholic Church in the new lumber town.” However, under the heading of Remarks in the Parish Death Register, Father O’Reilly wrote, “Mass was celebrated in Westwood for the first time by Rev. P.J. O’Reilly on 19 April 1914 in the school house situated near the present fire department. Mass is now said in the school situated on the hill facing Delwood Street.” Father also wrote, “The first Catholic funeral that was held in Westwood was on July 24, 1914. The internment was made in the new cemetery, portion of which viz the North East section is devoted to the use of the Catholics who die in and around Westwood for Catholics only. This cemetery is 3 1/2 miles from Westwood.” That internment was for Jose Alvarez, a 22 year-old millworker who died from typhoid fever. Continue reading Our Lady of the Snows

Westwood in the movies

Westwood Theater. Courtesy of David Zoller
Westwood Theater. Courtesy of David Zoller

The Red River Lumber Company was unusual in that it did not routinely have commercial films made of its operations, as their competitors did. It was deemed a good business practice to show prospective retail buyers, as well as investors, of one’s operation. In the 1930s, Red River officials debated the issue, particularly as it might be beneficial if forced to sell Westwood. On the other hand Red River’s neighbor the Fruit Growers Supply Company routinely had films made. For them it was important for the citrus growers to see what was involved with their investment.

In the summer of 1928 Caterpillar tractors sent a camera man to Westwood to film Red River Lumber Company’s entire operation–from the falling of trees to finished board. Caterpillar was interested in Red River’s operations. Red River’s skilled machinists were constantly making improvements to Caterpillar tractors. Among old time Red River employees there was the folklore that Red River had more patents on Caterpillar tractors than Caterpillar.  Whatever the case may be, in November 1928 the film made its debut at the Westwood Theater.

It would be interesting to know if the film exist in Caterpillar archives. After all, Fruit Growers had a 1925 film of their Lassen Operation in their archives.

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Pat O’Dea – The Kangaroo Kicker

Pat O'Dea, Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin
Pat O’Dea, Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin

In 1919, Charles J. Mitchell arrived in Westwood like so many before and after him seeking employment. The Red River Lumber Company had high turnover in its workforce and always had openings. Little did Red River know their new hire was a famous football player. Then again, Mitchell used an alias. After all this was in an era, where few people carried any type of identification, and Social Security numbers were non-existent. Continue reading Pat O’Dea – The Kangaroo Kicker

Introducing Paul Bunyan

The cover of the pamphlet.

During Red River Lumber Company’s expansion to California, they had number of hurdles to overcome. Since they would be using a different species of pine, than what they had previously used in Minnesota, they had to monumental task to educate their customers. Part of the duty fell to Archie Walker in Minneapolis, and he contacted his cousin, W.B. “Bill” Laughead, who was doing some free-lance advertising work to assist him. At this time, Paul Bunyan was a little known folklore, associated with loggers.  The two came up with the idea of Paul Bunyan, and prior to this no one had rendered a drawing of the mythical logger. Continue reading Introducing Paul Bunyan

Indian Valley Railroad

Indian Valley Railroad. Courtesy of the Plumas County Museum
Indian Valley Railroad. Courtesy of the Plumas County Museum

One of the biggest issues T.B. Walker had against the Red River Lumber Company’s location at Westwood, was it lacked a railroad link directly to California.  For a time there was a glimmer hope with the Indian Valley Railroad.

On June 30, 1916, the Indian Valley Railroad (IVR) was incorporated to build a line from Paxton on the Western Pacific Railroad to the Engel Copper Mine near Taylorsville–a distance of 21 miles. Sixteen months later the rail line was completed. It should be noted, that it was originally proposed as a narrow gauge line, but Willis Walker of the Red River Lumber Company objected. After all, Walker was keen enough to see the possibilities for a link to Westwood, and with that would force the Southern Pacific Railroad to be more competitive in their rates.

Early on the IVR had its sights on Westwood. In 1918 a survey to extend the line to Westwood was conducted, There was speculation that the IVR would extend its line to Westwood, and in 1918 the IVR did survey a line to that place. With Red River’s main branch railroad logging extending along the east shore of Lake Almanor to Canyon Dam, there was not much territory separating the two lines. In 1927 a request was sent to the Interstate Commerce Commission to put in this proposed line to be known as the Northern California Railroad. It was rejected. However, in the works was the Western Pacific and Great Northern Railroads to connect their respective lines with a new railroad from Keddie, Plumas County to Klamath Falls, Oregon. This was approved in 1930, and Red River Lumber Company would finally have a second railroad connection it had always sought.

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Eagle Lake’s Water Carnival

The water carnival at the Sunkist Lodge, 1921. Courtesy of Ed Standard
The water carnival at the Sunkist Lodge, 1921. Courtesy of Ed Standard

For two years, 1921 and 1922, the big three lumber companies, Fruit Growers Supply Company, Lassen Lumber & Box Company, and the Red River Lumber Company held a competitive swimming meet between their respective employees. Continue reading Eagle Lake’s Water Carnival