There were several small mills around Howard Creek but no real town. In the last few years of its operation a small railroad was built with a four-wheel truck to haul lumber to the wharf at Union Landing. The wood from the Howard Creek mills mainly went to the Bay area.
The Howard Creek Ranch Inn (see picture right and below) is definitely a relic of olden days. It was originally part of the Howard Creek Ranch which is named after Alfred Howard who came to California when he was 12 years old. Alfred and his father rode to the ranch land on horseback in 1867. He later bought out his father and acquired many hundreds of acres through land grants after the Civil War. Alfred originally named the creek Stoney Creek but everyone else called it Howard Creek. and the name stuck.
The Howard’s were some of the earliest settlers to the Westport area. The Howard Creek Ranch Farmhouse is probably the earliest structure still standing in the area.The farmhouse was built of virgin redwood and consisted of two houses back to back with a third identical structure on the East side (probably holding wagons, tack and other horse related gear). This mimicked a style frequently seen in Maine. Many of the earliest settlers of the Mendocino Coast were from the Maine coast. The farmhouse was finished in 1871 and many other additional large buildings were rapidly built with massive redwood beams.
It appears that the mill at Howard Creek was owned from 1903 to 1906 by Howard Creek Lumber Co., from 1906 to 1913 it was leased to Star Lumber Co., Duffy Brothers operated it from 1914 to Nov 1915. Sexton Lumber Co. operated the mill from November 1915 to sometime in 1920 when it closed. Ira Thompson (see Thompsons below) started it again (date unknown) and it burned in 1924.
According to the Howard Creek Inn website “The redwoods were milled on site and moved with the help of a steam fueled train on a narrow gauged train track, …..” However, if you look in the picture right and extrapolate from the size of the men to the size of the track the track looks suspiciously regular gauge. The boiler of the loco is offset implying that it was a Shay.
The Howard’s sold to the Thompson’s in 1909 and according to the Howard Creek Inn website the Thompsons “continued redwood milling with a bunkhouse in the canyon, which also contained a mill and various outbuildings and a narrow gauged train track that ran from the mill to the landing on the bluff with a spur through the old, enormous locomotive barn where the engine could run in for repairs.”
This picture of the “Carriage House” from the same website looks as if it could have once been the “locomotive barn”.