In 1884 a coroner’s jury determined that Sheldon Purdy Pharis had taen his own life at his Kings Mountain home–but some friends and neighbors remained skeptical, suspecting that the 55-year-old “Shingle King” actually might have been murdered.
At the time of his death, Purdy Pharis was a well-respected mill owner who had resided in the San Mateo County redwoods for more than three decades. He was a lifelong bachelor,a solitary fellow who loved the outdoors.
Purdy Pharis was 25 when he made the trek from his native New York to California in 1853, via the Isthmus of Panama. There was the mandatory short stint in the gold fields but Purdy never mined a nugget–the majestic redwoods south of San Francisco would shape his future.
A different kind of “gold rush” was taking place in the “City by the Bay”. There was an insatiable appetite for lumber to build houses, stores, hospitals and more.
The lumber was in a beautiful but remote forest of redwood trees on the Peninsula, next door to San Francisco. (Redwood, a treasured wood, is soft, resistant to rot and insects, and easy to work with).
A few lumber mills already had appeared, but getting the lumber out of the deep, narrow canyons was a monumental challenge–and the man who solved that problem could make a fortune.
…To be continued…