|The The California and Oregon Lumber Company
(C&O Lumber Co.)
|The C & O Lumber Company was formed as a partnership between three Wisconsin lumbermen, Eugene Shaw, John S. Owens and Nathaniel Foster, founders and owners of the Del Norte Company; and Robert Brookings, founder and owner of the Brookings Timber and Box Company.|
Formed in 1902, the Del Norte Company purchased 32,000 acres of timber, 19,814 on the south of the Smith River and 12,186 acres on the north side of the river in Del Norte County. They were not from redwood country and the trees were 8 to 15 feet in diameter. The three Wisconsin lumbermen were "over-awed" by the size. They thought they had died and gone to heaven.
A single acre of these mighty redwoods might yield as much as a forty in Wisconsin Pine.
The three men immediately searched for investors and came up with James H. and Frank D. Stout, T.B. Wilson, William Bigelow, Hoel Camp, William Carlson, Charles Fister and John Paul. It was a holding company and was capitalized at $1,500,000. Their holdings equaled 5,250,000,000 board feet. Had they sold then, they would have had earnings of $9,000,000.
In 1906, the Hobbs Wall Company of Crescent City offered to buy the 19,814 acres south of the Smith River at $2.00 per 1,000 board feet or $8,000,000. Del Norte did not sell.
From then on, it was all down hill for the company. A financial panic hit America in 1907. The company was offered $1.60 per thousand in 1907 and they rejected the offer. Buyers were also discouraged because there was a big lack of transportation for timber out of Crescent City.
In 1908, a Colonel T. Waln-Morgan Draper showed up in Crescent City with a proposal to build a railroad to Grants Pass. Unfortunately, "Windy" Draper didn't inspire any confidence and Del Norte would not invest in the scheme.
In 1910, a Mr. H.S. Wooley offered to build a canal and an inland harbor and a city named Wooley Port on Lake Earl. Del Norte approved spending $100,000 on the project, but then it was discovered that Lake Earl was 8 feet above the ocean at low tide and the canal would have drained the lake.
Rumors then had it that Robert S. Brookings had begun building a mill at the mouth of the Chetco River cove. The Del Norte stock holders decided to wait and see how Brookings handled the transportation problem.
Years of holding were now causing Del Norte's investors to start bailing out. And the Brookings mill was now two years behind schedule.
This caused Robert Brookings to sound out John Owen about a merger between the two companies, The Del Norte Company and the Brookings Timber and Box Company. And so it was that the California and Oregon (C & O) Lumber Company was formed.
The Company was capitalized at $5,000,000. The Del Norte company received stock valued at $3,540,000 based upon its redwood. Brookings received $925,000 based upon its Douglas fir. The Brookings Company was also in debt $850,000 so the Del Norte company raised $2,800,000 and paid off the debt and purchased more C & O stock to furnish working capital.
Del Norte then discovered that Brookings could only cut 10,000 board feet per day. They called it the "POP GUN Mill", declaring that the sooner it gets into the hands of the sheriff, the better.
They also discovered that the shore was shallow and rocky and the boats had to be loaded off shore with stevedores. As a result, Owens built a 1,200-foot dock for loading smaller boats. The larger boats had to be loaded by cable off the end of the dock. By 1918, the new company was in debt by $650,000 in short-term notes and outside creditors.
After remodeling, the mill would produce 100,000 board feet per day and was considered the most efficient mill on the West Coast.
In 1919, the company started to fall apart. Foster, one of the original founders, sold his interest to Walter Ribenack in Arkansas. Ribenack was manager of the Stout Mills in Thorton, Arkansas.
The company was then merged into a new C & O Company capitalized at $6,000,000. They also formed a holding company named Del Norte Syndicate. The merger was approved and the company decided to build a railroad into the redwoods and change over from Doug fir to redwood. A total of 28,887 shares were issued in the California Northern Railway Company to the stock holders. The railroad cost $605,000. The C & O Company rented it back at 12 percent its cost annually.
The lumber was shipped to the Oakland yard and 1920 and 21 looked great but, in 1921, the yard began to fill up with unsold lumber. The mill was shut down until the backlog was reduced.
It was decided to enlarge the mill during the down time but that decision caused protest. Some owners did not approve spending the money to enlarge the mill. As a result, James Owen stepped aside and Robert Brookings proposed making Ribenack Chairman of the Board. Ribenack then replaced all of Owens' men with the men he brought in from Arkansas. Owens resigned.
Ribenack then recapitalized the company from $6,000,000 to $7,720,000 and sold $300,000 worth of bonds to the stock holders.
The new mill started selling redwood in 1922. Unfortunately, the market for redwood was no better than fir. The stockholders began to abandon. In 1925, the mill shut down.
From there it got worse.
Even though the mill closed, the company still owned 32,000 acres of redwoods in Del Norte County but, before they could sell, John D. Rockefeller gave $2,000,000 to the Save-the-Redwoods League. The league was not there to buy, they were there to stop the logging. In fact, Frank Stout purchased a 29-acre tract including 7,000,000 board feet of timber and the famous 340-foot-high Stout Tree which he dedicated as a park on behalf of his dead son. He did that to appease the league.
The company also owned the remaining timber of the Brookings Timber and Box Company. In 1934, Bill Ward arranged for the sale of some of the timber to a Japanese firm known as Matsui and Company. The timber was sold in lots of 10,000,000 feet to James Thompson from Marshfield and loaded on ships in the Harbor for Japan. The Thompson Timber Products Company purchased timber in 1934, 1935 and 1936. The company also recovered some of its investment by selling the Brookings Land and Townsite Company to Bill Ward.
At final closure, the Del Norte Company had a loss of $3,000,000, the California and Oregon Lumber Company, the Brookings Commercial Company and the Brookings Land and Townsite collectively showed losses of $5,500,000.
................................. So ended an era.
|Home||1907-1929||1930-1950||C&O Lumber||Mr Brookings||Contact Us||Links|
|Eldon Gossett - Brookings Land and Townsite Real Estate Company|
703 Chetco Ave. ~ PO Box 4610 ~ Brookings OR 97415
Ph: 1-800-342-9405 or 541-469-7755 ~ Fax:541-469-7858
|© 2001-2004 Eldon Gossett and Brookings Land and Townsite Real Estate Co. - All Rights Reserved|