Mancos Valley sawmills tell a whole lot of the story
I've had a particular interest in sawmills in and around Mancos ever since I was a teenager. My father was able to purchase 160 acres for $1 per acre, and I remember quite a pile of sawdust about the middle of the acreage. The place was called the Spencer Place because the Spencers were the ones who had operated a sawmill there for a number of years. There were a lot of pine tree stumps on the place back then.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1878 out of pine logs. The floor and finishing was brought in from Major Cooper's sawmill in Parrot City. The seats were rough-hewn logs that had been smoothed on the top for seating. Some of the early buildings in the valley were built from lumber that came from Parrot City.
Oen Edgar Noland hauled logs for a sawmill operated by Frank Morgan over in Thompson Park.
The year 1893 was bad for sawmills, and many were closed because of a conflict over timber rights. The railroad had come to Mancos in 1891, and it began hauling tons of lumber out of the surrounding area. The trouble over timber rights was bad enough that 200 men lost their jobs. These were men who owned horses and many men were required as cutters, trimmers, edgers and skidders.
The year 1894 was not good for William James Blatchford. His Forest Park sawmill was destroyed by fire that year. He decided to not rebuild, and he moved to town. He constructed the two-story building that Harry Ausburn bought and was known as the Ausburn Hotel and then as the Mancos Hotel. Blatchford served as county commissioner for two terms, and he had three children all of who died in early childhood. He suffered from neuritis for three years before passing away in December 1911.
Hyrum "Hyde" Fielding operated a sawmill across the street from the Millwood Junction where Zuma is located. It was just to the north of the railroad tracks.
In 1893 Fred Hamlin and Pete Heibler brought a planing lathe and shingle mill in from Montrose, and they set it up ten miles northwest of Mancos. A railroad siding was built to the mill at Millwood, and the siding became known as Graden Switch. Over a hundred men were employed at the Hamlin-Heibler mill. In 1896 a boiler, engine and other necessities were added to make it a 30-horsepower sawmill. It thus became the largest sawmill in the area.
Hamlin and Heibler dissolved their partnership in the early 1900s, and Hamlin's operation became know as the Montezuma Lumber Company. At one time Hamlin filled an order for 50,000 boxes for the Kuner Company in Denver.
I'll write more about sawmills next week.
Darrel Ellis is a longtime historian of the Mancos Valley. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.