Sugar Pine Timber

     It was the immense resource, in the lower Sierras, of pine and other timber, that “made” Madera.  While milling had begun in the Sixties in the San Joaquin River basin,  most of the lumber used in the valley was brought from the north by rail in the Seventies.

     William H. Thurman, who later became the first sheriff of Madera County, and who had been a mill man prior to coming into the San Joaquin Valley and settling at Merced, became interested in the commercial possibilities of the large tracts of sugar pine known to lie on the ridges north of the San Joaquin. As a result of his efforts, a corporation was formed, the California Lumber company, in 1874.  P. D. Wiggington, attorney of Merced and onetime Congressman became the president and Mark Howell the secretary of the company.  Others listed as stockholders were J. J. Dickenson, A. G. Ellis, Dr. J. B. Cocanoeur, John Montgomery, Henry Miller, Charles M. Blain, Russ Ward, district attorney of Merced, and the James brothers.  The enterprise was distinguished by the fact that the lumber was to be brought down too the railroad by means of a flume, fifty-five miles in length—this being the first structure of the kind in the valley.  Later it was imitated by flumes reaching Sanger and Clovis in the district south of the San Joaquin.  The first mill was known as the California lumber mill; a later one was called the Soquel mill because some the stockholders were interested in Soquel, in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

     Proposals to have the flume terminate at Borden, the already established village on the Central Pacific, were frustrated by what were considered too high charges for land and by alleged land level difficulties in running the flume.  Consequently, the mill managers accepted an offer from Isaac Friedlander of forty acres for yard and mill and an undivided half interest in a plat for a new town.  Thus both the original land owner and the mill stockholders were to profit in the promotion of the new town.  The promoters were conscious of the romantic value of Spanish California names and called their new location “Madera” from the Spanish word for

Contributed by: Carol Lackey