Yosemite Lumber Company, Merced Falls Photographs

About this Collection

The Yosemite Lumber Company, founded in 1911 by Bay Area investors F.M. Fenwick, James Tyson, and Charles Nelson, was created after Mr. Prather and Mr. Lehmer of the Yosemite Valley Railroad sought partners in freighting lumber along the new line between Mariposa and El Portal. The Yosemite Valley Railroad, completed in 1906, necessitated industrial and commercial use to generate profit and justify the existence of the line. In 1911, at the historic ford of Merced Falls, the most advanced lumber mill of its kind in the area began harvesting 10,000 acres of sugar pine trees in Yosemite Valley along the Merced River. Around the mill sprung a dynamic town—barracks, theaters, hotels, restaurants—bustling with a diverse array of workers and visitors. The YLC bought more land along the railroad route and expanded operations but various conservationist campaigns, legal troubles, a lagging lumber market after World War I, and destructive fires spelled the end of the Yosemite Lumber Company in 1927 and the closing of the mill. The mill was reopened in 1929 under the Sugar Pine Lumber Company until 1931, when the Great Depression strained its profitability, and again in 1935 as the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company. The YSPLC operated with the original sugar pine stands, though reduced due to the expansion of conservation of Yosemite National Park. Once the stands were depleted and the more efficient all-weather highway was built, the lumber mill closed for the last time in 1942 and all assets were sold. The closure also led to the abandonment of the Yosemite Valley Railroad line and the town of Merced Falls was quickly abandoned in its wake.

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