[This is part Five of a story about Purdy Pharis, who became famous as the Coastside’s “Shingle King”–and whose cause of death is debated to this day. In Part IV, we ended with the successful Purdy Pharis surviving hard luck including an economic depression. For more details, read Parts I – IV)
…Then, natural disaster struck in 1890.
Farmers paid little heed to warnings and continued to burn straw piles and brush. Then one day, carelessness ignited a blaze. Whipping winds spread the fire–and soon it was out of control, heading in the direction of the Purisima. To fight the conflagration, the saw mill owners banded together, summoning all available woodchoppers and other crew members.
But the rush of hot flames moved too quickly, threatening both Purdy Pharis’ shingle mill and Borden & Hatch’s lumber mill.
When the fire was finally out, the mill owners stood among the embers of financial ruin. All that remained were charred redwood logs. Purdy Pharis’ mill sustained serious damage and the fire gutted the Borden & Hatch Mill–but both mills would be restored.
Four years later in 1884, friends of Purdy Pharis reported that the “Shingle King” was acting out of character. He began to believe that people talked about him behind his back and were against him. Some blamed his solitary existence, pointing out that Purdy spent too much time alone on his 6,500 acre ranch.
Neighbor Hiram Haskins became so concerned, according to “Sawmills in the Redwoods,” that he summoned Dr. Tripp, the dentist who could be found at the historic Woodside Store, Tripp talked to Purdy and urged him to see a physician in Redwood City–but the independently-minded Purdy Pharis would have none of it.
…To Be Continued…