Charles Russell Johnson, or C.R. as he was known, was the “father” of Fort Bragg. C.R. arrived on the Mendocino Coast when he was 23 and purchased an interest in a small mill north of Fort Bragg. The capacity of the mill was very limited and C.R. decided to build a much larger mill in Fort Bragg.
With financial assistance from his father, and other eastern backers, he purchased nearly two miles of ocean front property in Fort Bragg and large redwood timber tracts around Fort Bragg to provide the raw material for the mill. C.R.’s new mill when it went into operation in November 1885 was a ground breaker – it was the first mill in the Redwood Empire (see picture) to use a band saw head rig.
From this beginning grew the giant Union Lumber Co. whose railroad morphed into the California Western Railroad (aka the “Skunk”).
When C.R. retired in 1939 he was succeeded by his son Otis R. Johnson. In February of 1940 C.R. died aged 81. The Union Lumber Company remained in the control of the Johnson family until it was merged with the Boise Cascade Corporation in January 1969.
CR Johnson, “Father” of Fort Bragg
C.R. braved ridicule in introducing band saws. Initially the wheels were wooden. If the men at the right are 5 foot
or more this is at least a six foot log the band-saw is cutting.
Memories of the Mendocino Coast by David Warren Ryder
This book, written in 1948, tells the story of C.R. and his family as well as the birth and growth of the Union Lumber Company and the CWR (California Western Railway). It was commissioned by C.R.’s son Otis.
Click here or on the thumbnail on left to open this as an e-book. You can also download the complete book in pdf format here, though it’s 33Mb. A slightly lower quality and smaller file size (22Mb) can be downloaded here.