Flume House

From Wooljersey

Boulder Creek

One of the early post offices in the county was Boulder Creek, situated at the point where Boulder Creek from the northwest and Bear Creek from the east flow into the San Lorenzo River, a lumber center for many years. An older settlement, called Lorenzo in the 1870's, is now within its limits.

The timber from the site of the town had been cut out by James F. Cunningham, a man who had come West after considerable military service in the East and had taken up government land on the San Lorenzo River and who, after the early 1870's, was identified with the lumber interests in the county. J. W. Peery was another mill proprietor. He had the Silver Lumber Mills and in connection with them operated a tannery. Peery's Toll Road ran up the San Lorenzo River and across to Saratoga. The Bear Creek Toll Road also ran across the mountains to Lexington. Completed in 1875, it never even paid the wages of a tollkeeper, and was finally sold to the county in 1891.

The lumber produced in the vicinity of Boulder Creek was sent over the V-fiume built by the San Lorenzo Flume and Transportation Company. This V-flume originally extended from a point about five miles north of Boulder Creek to a point in the lower end of Felton. The "Flume House" stood at its upper end; and, although the structure has been removed, the spot is marked by the very large eucalyptus trees that were planted about it as saplings. From Felton the lumber was shipped to the wharf at Santa Cruz over a narrow-gauge railroad. The "dump" at the end of the flume was at about the point where the Felton Bowl now stands in the lower end of the town and extended some goo or 400 feet.

A branch of the San Lorenzo, coming in near the Flume House, is called Feeder Creek because it was used as a feeder to the flume to augment the San Lorenzo water supply. The fiume was never an entire success-some said because there was not enough fall in the valley and others because the fall was too great for the volume of water. In 1884 that part of the flume south of Boulder Creek was replaced by a branch of the South Pacific Coast Railroad.

Around Boulder Creek during timber cutting, over 50 saw and shingle mills operated within a radius of seven miles. Because of the size of this operation, the Southern Pacific changed the rail. road line to standard gauge in 1907. But in 1934, when the timber was exhausted and the mills were closed, the last train was run and the rails between Boulder Creek and Felton were removed. Boulder Creek is now a quiet town surrounded by secluded summer homes.

Three country newspapers have been published at Boulder Creek. The first one was aptly named The Boulder Creek Hatchet; the second was The Mountain Echo; and the last, becoming defunct in 1924, was The Valley Echo.

Hoover, M. B., Rensch, H. E., Abeloe, W. N., Rensch, E. G. (1966). Historic Spots in California. United States: Stanford University Press.

Old Santa Cruz...

By Ernest Otto

By far the biggest industry which touched the county from one end to the other, and gave more employment than any other, was lumbering, which started with the Isaac Graham mill in 1843 along Zayante creek near Felton.

Judge William Blackburn also started a mill in 1848 in Blackburn gulch and nearly every forested gulch and canyon has been milled at some time in the past. Unless he is a Californian who knows, the stranger gazes on second growth redwood trees unaware of the diameter and height of the original trees that were there at the time of coming of the missionary fathers in 1791.

Close to the mission then, along the hillside, along what is Evergreen street and where is located the Evergreen cemetery and the extension on the hillside of Mission Santa Cruz was a redwood forest, so the Fathers for the rafters and wood needed in the construction, did not go far. Their own lumber was all hewed by hand.

Not only did mills use the redwood but also much split stuff was produced and used locally and shipped from this port.


Santa Cruz had the harbor near by to its forest, which was very necessary, and the redwoods and shipping facilities made it the biggest shipping point for lumber in the early days, long before the advent of the railroads, in the middle seventies. Horse, mule and ox drawn wagons and trailers came down the canyons and gulches. At times there would be as many as ten schooners in the bay at one time and at one time there were three wharves. Schooners would be waiting alongside to be loaded with Santa Cruz lumber to go far and wide.

Something necessary for a saw mill is a creek, for a mill pond; and practically every canyon then as now had flowing down through it, a stream of water, waiting to be damned for a mill pond.

Lumber in all shapes and sizes came through the city accompanied by the ringing of the rows of bells above the necks of the mules or horses. There was the tall front seat many feet high and by a single rein the expert driver could guide the animals.


Picturesque were the ox teams, with their wooden yokes and the bull puncher at the side, walking, using the sharp steel prod on the animals. The oxen were used in the lumber camps for numbers of purposes.

When lumbering was in its height before and even after the coming of the railroad for some time, one mule or ox team after another came slowly down Pacific avenue with the tall and heavy loads to the wharf for shipping on to the planing mills for the production of the finished product. Frequently one of them would get stuck in the mud to be dug out.


The first planing mills in town were two, one on Pacific avenue opposite Cathcart street with George Gragg in charge. The other was on Second street, Beach Hill, where Younger Way is located, close to the main shipping point, the wharf off from Main street. Later the Grover Mill and Lumber company put in another planing mill at Lower Pacific avenue where Cacace and the Cowells are now located.

The Loma Prieta Lumber company and the Hihn Lumber company were the last of the early lumber companies to have planing mills in town between Washington and Center streets, below Laurel street.

The hum and buzz of the saws was music and in the morning, at closing time, at noon, starting time for the afternoon and closing time in the afternoon, the whistles sounded, as they did also on special occasions, to welcome the New Year's or to mark victories.


The lumber industry meant the bringing of scores to town for week-ends, especially before Boulder Creek became a center and a shipping point. Not only was Santa Cruz livened but also Soquel and Aptos. All lumber mills closed down for the greater part of the winter season. Numbers would remain in town all winter. Special hotels and lodging houses catered in the workingman as they were known. Every mill had many employees in those days as much of the modern machinery which always means fewer employes, had not come into use. The woodsmen crew was greater than now. The fallers of trees were experts.


There were skid roads running from the mill site to the virgin forest and over these roads were hauled the logs to the mill pond. The road was like the rocky road to Dublin, made of small logs. "Greasing the skids" was about the dirtiest job around a saw mill. It was a job for the boy who had just left school and only a small proportion ever entered the high school. They applied the tallow to the log road bed and it was not an easy job.

In the mill pond were seen expert log riders who were adept at balancing themselves on the logs before the logs were hauled into the mill by chain to the sawyer. There was the sawyer, an expert, who kept the circular and saws used in the woods sharp and ever ready for the work. The lumber when cut would be hauled outside and piled in the lumber yard, ready for loading to the ox or mule teams in the earlier days.


In the very early days at what was known for years as the flume house beyond Boulder Creek, started the V-shape flume. The lumber or split stuff was placed into the flume and it started its course down the swiftly flowing water to the end, a distance of around 10 miles or more to Felton where starting in the late seventies it would be loaded on the narrow gauge flat cars to be hauled by rail to Santa Cruz for shipping, hauled by the engines "Santa Cruz" and "Felton."

The flume crossed high gulches and to this small boy as he looks back it seems as if it was in midair and it would fairly frighten him when he would see the flume tender walking the plank at the side of the flume with his sledge hammer at his side. Other places the flume would be below ground.

At Felton one could see the falling water and lumber shooting from the flume to again be piled for shipping.

The woodsmen, the mill men, the flume tenders, the teamsters, the men on the railroad, the crews on the boats and the loaders, meant a prosperous county made by the hard and persevering laboring man.


Not only were there mills but throughout the county, especially where land was being cleared for cultivation and farms, were there those who were falling trees for split stuff.

Some of the tree camps were of some size. The writer remembers one on the mountain side not far from Boulder Creek with a street of small cabins for those who were getting out ties both for broad and narrow gauge roads and Santa Cruz ties went throughout the entire west when railroad construction was at its height. The split stuff also included pickets as the redwood picket was sought everywhere. Then there were the stakes of all shapes and sizes. Many were grape stakes, piles and telegraph and light poles, as it was not yet the day of electricity or telephones.

Another industry in connection with the redwood was that of making shakes, used much in those days instead of shingles.


When it came to getting out fire wood, it was usually four-foot wood not only redwood, but fine, live oak, tan oak, madrone, redwood limbs, and lilac limbs and manzanita roots and what was more beautiful than the manzanita roots throwing forth the sparks when in the fireplace! Here wood only was burned for heating, cooking and other purposes and this meant much to the farmer who at one end of his farm had a stand of timber.

The results of farms in a timber section is especially to be noticed in the vicinity of Bonny Doon on Ben Lomond mountain with large redwood stumps still remaining in the hay fields and orchards.

There were tan bark camps where the tan bark was peeled from the tan oak, much needed by eight tanneries of the county. The writer will tell what he remembers of mills next week,

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 89, Number 127, 28 May 1944