Only HALF THE MAN He Used to Be

My initial intention was to be gone from blogging for just the length of my vacation, but the time wore on. As I mentioned in my last post, several days ago, I needed time to recover from the final day of vacation that all went horribly wrong. Complete exhaustion took over. Then I've been emotionally wrapping my brain around the fact that one of my best friends may have cancer. This woman has already had a horrendous year, so to think this might be happening is beyond my current grasp of reality.

The past few days have been spent setting up my new computer. Everything is now up and running and beautiful. I shall now begin to get back to what I like to call "normal."

I mentioned the other day that I only bought two photos on vacation. Nothing else struck my fancy. Both were bought at a small antique store in an old school house in Graeagle, California.

Graeagle, in Plumas County, north of Truckee on Hwy 89, once was a timber town, but now is a sweet little town of historic and new buildings. The historic buildings are mostly painted red with white trim. The photos below are mine, the text is from Wikipedia:
Originally brought to life by the pioneers of the timber industry, the town of Graeagle was the site of the Graeagle Lumber Company and its “Box Factory” owned by the California Fruit Exchange. Thousands were employed to build boxes for shipping fruit and vegetables in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Modernization closed the mill in 1956 and the town was acquired by the West family in 1958.

The entire area is dotted with old towns with mining and timber pasts:
As with all of California, the Graeagle area was initially inhabited by Native Americans. The Maidu in particular lived in this area and made encampments throughout the locale. The famous African American mountain man James Beckwourth discovered a nearby way across the Sierra’s in the 1840s that paved the way for immigrants to filter into this portion of the Sierras. The California Gold Rush of 1848-49 also lured lots of miners into the surrounding hills searching for gold. Then, farming families followed and they too migrated into the Mohawk Valley, the Sierra Valley and other areas of California. Ranches were established as the meadows were ideal for raising beef and dairy cattle, providing hay for feed. The plentitude of fertile soils in the area provided for the growing of wheat, potatoes, and other vegetables. These not only sustained the farmers and ranchers, but also supplied the nearby mines.

Besides the famous mines along the downstream Feather River and the mines on the Yuba in Sierra County, gold was discovered above Graeagle in 1851 by a small group of miners who discovered a rich ledge of exposed gold bearing quartz high on Eureka Peak. This spurred a great influx of people into the area above Graeagle, in the present day community of Johnsville and Plumas Eureka State Park. Thirty six mines formed the Eureka Company, 76 the Washington Company and about 40 miners claimed the Rough and Ready. With mining comes development and in 1853 the tent city of Jamison City sprang up. It quickly evolved with 12 buildings, 6 of which were saloons. About 1872, the town of Johnsville came into existence, it being more of a business and family oriented community. Johnsville, adjacent to Plumas Eureka State Park, is still a small mountain community with one restaurant, The Iron Door and many historic looking buildings. A British company, calling themselves Sierra Buttes Mining Company entered the picture and consolidated all of the mines on Eureka Peak. Bringing in new technology of the day this mine improved profits and continued through mining cycles until the turn of the 20th century. Another mining venture, the Jamison Mine started in 1897 and continued to prosper until 1917. Little by little, these mines diminished with boom and bust times when by 1943 mining essentially halted. By then $25 million was extracted and 65 miles of tunnels were carved out of the hills of Eureka Peak.

Graeagle began as a mill town, being part of a 12,000 acre timber tract acquisition by Arthur Davies from the Sierra Iron Company back in 1916. This vast parcel stretched from Blairsden to Calpine in present day Sierra County. Davies also owned a sawmill operation in Sardine Valley (located off of Hwy. 89 near Dog Valley and Stampede Reservoir) as well as a sawmill in Delleker, just outside of present day Portola.

Arthur Davies built a new sawmill in June of 1916 behind the current Graeagle grocery store (The Graeagle Store). Initially the new plant was cutting about 50,000 board feet of mostly pine lumber per day, but in 1917 a fire destroyed the mill. It was quickly rebuilt and about 13-14 million feet of timber was cut that year.

The new mill needed housing for its employees at this new endeavor, so Davies had his company houses in the Sardine Valley transported via the Boca-Loyalton Railroad to Graeagle. The homes were sawn in half so that they would fit on the B&L flatcars, then moved by rail to Beckwourth, where they were transferred to NCO trains and carried to Clio. From this point, a combination of horses, wagons and vehicles moved the assorted buildings to Graeagle. To this day, one can still see visible signs of the joining on the red houses that adorn the main street. Other dwellings also came from the Clairville and Delleker areas by placing giant logs under each to act as a skid and then they were methodically moved by either horse teams or Mack trucks to Graeagle. (SOURCE: Graeagle Merchants)
Visit the communities official site here with more of their history here.

As for the handsome fella in this photo, alas, I have no information about him so we can speculate all we want.

My story is that he came West following a lady to San Francisco. His romance did not pan out, but not wishing to return to the family farm in Iowa, he instead headed into the Sierra's where he found few riches in gold, but made a home for himself in a small mountain community. How this photo ended up in the old schoolhouse in Graeagle we'll probably never know.

This is my first post for Sepia Saturday in quite awhile.


  1. I love your photos of Graeagle and you certainly have a lot of history to go with them. I like your story to go with the photo of the man.

  2. Greagle's red houses are wonderful! And what a nice find, your photogaph of the young man. Don't you wish we could learn the stories of people in old, unidentified photographs?

    I'm sorry about your friend. I hope it turns out NOT to be cancer but some other easily curable disease.

  3. Can't you just imagine Graeagle covered with snow looking like Santa's village? It was quite warm the day I visited so snow was far from my mind, but now I look at the photos and I can almost hear the jingle bells.

  4. Gold Country girl, here! Beautiful shots. I love the old mining towns in the Sierras, people are always surprised that it's California when I show them pictures.

  5. Paula, I'm with you. The Sierras are where I feel most at home. I loved Truckee the way it was back in the 1960s and '70s. Today it's just overgrown and underwhelming. But there are still towns that don't have a Ritz-Carlton nearby that have charm.

  6. Some nice info here, and if that's not enough for anyone, they can always speculate about the gent in the old photo.

  7. I like the story you made up for the guy. It is always a wonder what ever happened in their future. Good post.