It was the fall of 1853, and the stunning madrone trees’ berries were turning red when Purdy Pharis first set foot on Kings Mountain.
According to legend, he lost his way hiking in the trail-less forest. After wandering about all night, Purdy stumbled into a camp at sunrise and met a friendly fellow who was busily making shingles with a saw and axe. He was producing them from the redwood scraps left behind by the loggers–leftovers the lumbermen considered worthless.
The encounter led Purdy to conclude that a single person could handle the shingle business–in stark contrast to the lumber mill owners who had to hire different crews for each step, from the loggint to the finished lumber. Most enticing about shingle-making ws that not only could one person produce them, one person could carry them out of the isolated canyon riding a pack horse. By contrast, lumber mill owners had their hands full maneuvering the huge logs from the forest to market.
The book, “Sawmills in the Redwoods”, published by the San Mateo County History Museum in 1967, tells the story of the men who occupied the Peninsula’s redwood forest in those early years. Author Dr. Frank M. Stanger demonstrated how one man easily could manage the shingle business. In the book, he described how Purdy Pharis could have helped himself to a tree, chopped it down, sawed it into a shingle or shake-length blocks, and finally split the blocks into finished shingles or shakes.
After meeting that man in the logging camp, according to local lore, Purdy Pharis went into the shingle business for himself. He started on a small scale but when outside demand increased, Purdy expanded by establishing a shingle mill, with bunk and cookhouse in the beautiful and isolated, deep and narrow Purissima Canyon.
…To be continued…