Was The Shingle King Murdered? Part IV

The Shingle King lived off Starr Hill Road on the rim of the Corte Madera Canyon. To the west the rustic house featured spectacular far-off views of the Pacific Ocean–and to the northeast, glimpses of San Francisco.

Purdy Pharis’ friends, Hiram Haskins and Emanuel Stevens, lived nearby. Little is known about Stevens but HIram Haskins had been a stage driver in Arizona. He was not particularly well liked by his neighbors on the mountain. They regarded him a gruff and unrily “hermit” but Purdy Pharis liked him.

Purdy’s shingle business grew and he prospered, according to retired County Sheriff John G. Edmonds, author of “Union Cemetery, Redwood City,” the site where the “Shingle King” lies buried. He eventually produced 3 million shingles, writes Edmonds and was a respected employer with a national reputation.

Purdy Pharis was highly regarded–but the Borden & Hatch lumber mill gained even greater fame, becoming a household name–especially after the Spring Valley Water Company awarded the mill a lucrative contract in the 1870s.

Spring Valley’s contract required Borden & Hatch to deliver a 9-mile flume created from the strongest and most durable wood. The device had to be of first quality, as it carried the water from the upper levels of Montara Mountain. The mill owners did their job well. They cut the very best trees in the Purisima, and the flume endured for two decades.

But after the contract–when the prosperity and the heady feeling it produced had passed–things got very quiet in the Purisima. The lumber was depleted and the hard times hit, fueled by a general economic depression.

Then, natural disaster struck in 1880.

…To Be Continued…