EARLY SAWMILLS

A list and description of early sawmills from RGNF Report on Timber written in 1949 follows:
The first mill of record was set up on La Garita Creek. Mr. Stowe operated this mill in 1870 and the bulk of his product went for the construction of the early buildings in Del Norte. In 1872 James Phillips and John Shaw set up a mill on the north side of the river opposite Del Norte. This mill was brought in from Middle Park by Alden Bassett. Logs for this mill were cut in the vicinity of South Fork and driven down the Rio Grand. About 30,000 feet were cut when the boom gave way and the mill was moved to South Fork.
Rueben Dunning operated a small, water-power mill on Willow Creek in 1873 at the mouth of Sierra Creek.
John Shaw and Alden Bassett were the first to operate a sawmill in the South Fork country. This was in 1874 and the mill was located about the present site of the Tom Breen home. Timber was removed from the territory immediately adjacent.
In 1875 Summitville was a booming camp and demanded lumber for all forms of construction. Alden Bassett left Del Norte on August 7 with a mill of 5,000 feet board measure per day capacity and with 12 yoke of oxen and got his mill as far as Big Hollow, one mile from Summitville on August 17, 1875. He went in via Adams road and the grief reencountered would fill a book. The crossing of the big bog just west of Bonito Mountain was made on a bed of willows several feet deep. A 16-foot pole could be sunk in this bog before anything solid was reached. Aside from sawing out the Lumber for Summitville, a great many shingles were hauled to Del Norte by return freighters. This mill operated under the name of Chadwick, Bassett and Shaw, and from information received personally from Mr. Bassett, it is interesting to note that on this operation they used nothing under a 12-inch top.
The first sawmill operating in Pinos Creek was by Mr. Simms in about 1877. It was located about a mile below the forks. This year also marked the first sawmill operations in Elk Park by John Shaw. Millard Powell started to saw in the fall of 1881 at a mill located in lower Goose Creek. Operation of a small, water power, shingle mill on Pinos Creek just west of what is known as the Half-way House was started in 1888. Tie operations started in Alder Creek in 1889 when Ernest Shaw cut ties from the west side of the creek below the Ranger Station.

In 1890, John Bengard cut ties and pilings from Alder Bench and East Alder creek.
In the late 1890’s, Galbreath removed ties and pilings from the west side of West Alder Creek above the rim rock and built the road now used as both driveway and trail.
The old set in “Sawmill Gulch” northeast of La Garita Park was owned by Ben McLaughlin and operated in 1895. Only dead material was cut from the big burns on Geronimo Creek and the lumber was hauled to Del Norte via Baughman Creek.
In the late 1880’s Frank and Don Soward operated the first sawmill above Creede. It was located at the mouth of Workman Creek and timber was cut from lower portions of this watershed.
The year 1891 witnessed the first sawmill in the Creede Mining District. A. S. Crawford brought the mill from Leadville and set it up in windy Gulch near Bachelor. It was moved to West Willow Creek in 1892 and operated in that vicinity until 1898.
In 1876 Henry M. Dyer bought a sawmill from some outfit which had been operating in lower Raton Creek. Dyer moved the mill to the vicinity of the mouth of Dyer’s Creek the same year and started the production of lumber. After sawing out enough for his own use, his products went into many of the older ranch buildings above Del Norte. Charles Burton cut ties from the most accessible areas along the South Fork of the Rio Grande in 1880 and drove them to the Rio Grande and thence down to Del Norte.
It was also during the 1880’s that many thousands of ties were cut from areas along the Rio Grande between Del Norte and Wagon Wheel Gap for use in railroad construction to the east of Alamosa. The 1880’s also witnessed many tie operations along the Rio Grande when the railroad was extended to Creede.




https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/riogrande/learning/history-culture/?cid=stelprdb5172156