For many years, Loyalton was associated with the lumber industry. One of the larger lumbering operations of the Sierra Valley area was the Lewis Sawmill on Smithneck Creek about eleven miles from Loyalton, according to James J. Sinnott’s book Sierra Valley Jewel of the Sierra. It was owned and operated by the Lewis Bros., Dick, Horace, Hiram and Spurgen and “from its beginning in the late 1880s, continued to operate into the early 1900s.”
According to the 1940 Plumas-Sierra Historical Society, “Around 1901 Loyalton had a population of three thousand. There were five sawmills at that time, the Roberts Lumber Co., Horton Brothers, Fay Brothers, Reno Mill Co., White Pine Lumber Mill and four box factories. Al Schroeder had a small box factory at the north end of town. His father in the early days drove stages from Virginia City to Marysville. The Boca and Loyalton Railroad which connected with the central Pacific at Boca, came into Loyalton in 1901 and a golden spike was driven with fitting ceremonies at about the spot where the box factory sat.”
Sinnott tells of the “1917 sawmill and plant of the Roberts Brothers, which had operated in Loyalton from the early 1900s and was purchased by the Clover Valley Lumber Company, a company which for many years, in its name, was almost synonomous with Loyalton, so important it was to the economic welfare of the city. In 1949 the company operated about forty miles of railroad from Loyalton into Clover Valley with most of the lumber through its many years of operation coming from that valley in Plumas County. The sawmill with its planing mill and box factory regularly employed about three hundred and fifty men, and in addition operated logging camps with about two hundred men being employed during the summer timber-harvesting season. The monthly payroll at that time was over $40,000.
“Clover Valley Lumber Co. operated continuously until December of 1955, being the economic mainstay of Loyalton, at which time it sold to Feather River Lumber Company.
“The plant operated as Feather River Lumber Company from 1956 until the mid 1960s at which time DiGiorgio Corporation purchased it and continued to operate under the name of Feather River Lumber Company until 1972 when the company name was changed to D.G. (DiGiorgio) Shelter Products - Feather River Division.”
Sierra Pacific Industries purchased the Loyalton mill from DiGiorgio in 1975. According to the March 2, 2001 Sierra Booster, “SPI announced February 21, 2001 that what was originally intended to be a temporary curtailment at its Loyalton sawmill operations, is now a permanent closure due to new U.S. Forest Service plans for the entire Sierra range. Also contributing to this decision to close the mill effective February 28th is the continuing depressed lumber market being driven in large part by the influx of foreign lumber into the United States.”
The Loyalton mill sold to ARP Loyalton Co Gen LLC in 2018 and again to Sierra Valley Enterprises in May of 2020.
(Ed’s note: I worked for DiGiorgio’s Feather River Division during part of its heyday from July 8, 1968 to May 15, 1974 as head of the invoicing department and my section was responsible for invoicing in excess of $42,000,000.00 in 1973.)
* * * * *
MORE FASCINATING LOYALTON HISTORY and artifacts are found at its Milton Gottardi Museum on School Street with displays on agriculture, logging, homes and schools, ice harvesting. and the “world-famous” O-scale train layout depicting Loyalton’s logging and ranching history.
Curator Gary Nelson has a long family history in Loyalton and a lot to share. It’s open Memorial Day - Labor Day Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays,12 noon to 4 PM or by appointment. Call 530-993-6750
* * * * *
* * * * *