By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
When Del Norte's industries began to blossom, the first major employers were timber companies.
Of those companies, whose heyday spanned from until the mid-1930s, the major player was Hobbs, Wall & Co. It dominated the lumber industry until 1939, according to online information.
Cut trees were, of course, taken to sawmills to be turned into lumber that the companies sold. The connection between forest and mill was railroad lines, but the mills relied on freighters to get their product to major markets.
From Crescent City the company steamers Del Norte, Mandalay and Westport headed for the ports of San Francisco and San Pedro, which they could return from within a seven to 10-day run.
On their return trip they would bring in freight and merchandise for the public, as well as passengers.
In 1908 Hobbs, Wall & Co. shipped 19,193,800 feet of lumber from Crescent City Wharf.
Although it was the major company, Hobbs, Wall & Co. had competition from a company first known as Crescent City Mill & Transportation Co.
After J. Wenger gained controlling interest in that company's Lake Earl Mill, the Crescent City Mill & Transportation company became known as J. Wenger & Co., which operated the intercoastal steamers Albion and Scotia.
The first commercial sawmill on the Klamath was a venture undertaken by the Klamath Commercial Co., which R.D. Hume incorporated. It planned to ship cedar, laurel and oak to Crescent City on small schooners for shipment via steamer to San Francisco.
Success did not come to Hume, however, and he sold the sawmill to Edward and Henry Schnaubelt in 1890.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Bull & Dunn began logging Klamath Butte, floating logs down the Klamath to its mouth, then making them up into large rafts called swifters for towing to Eureka and eventual export to Japan. The swifters could hold several million feet of timber.
Bull & Dunn worked with G.G. Davis, who had developed the swifter concept, which involved holding the logs together with cables laced through them Davis held 32 patents on the process.
It was proven very effective when one of the swifters came loose en route from Alaska, where Davis had previously worked, during a storm and floated across the Pacific to Japan.
Davis ran into problems crossing the bar at the mouth of the Klamath during low water. Generally, he could get the logs across during flood tide when the water was higher.
The same problem plagued a gasoline schooner, Martha, which its Captain Olsen ran aground three times trying to cross the bar despite warnings.
While Martha was grounded, the Klamath backed up, prompting several motorists to use a new road that led down Richardson Creek to Douglas Bridge.
Against flaggers' cautions, they crossed the new bridge, which had not been opened yet for traffic.
Once Martha was freed from being grounded, the water rushed out.
A second freighter, Golden West, also ran aground after crossing the bar using a channel Davis had opened up when he helped free the Martha.
Golden West lashed onto a raft of cedar logs, then grounded on the south beach while trying to head out to the Pacific. The raft she was pulling circled around the vessel, hit the south beach and fell to pieces.
The freed logs then rammed into the Golden West, later to be mostly salvaged.
During the freight-shipping period, several ships went down off the Del Norte Coast.
The first was the Paragon in 1850, followed by the Tarquin in 1851 and the burning of America in 1855.
The most well-known wreck is Brother Jonathan, which hit an uncharted reef and took 215 people to their graves in 1865.
In 1941, the oil tanker Emidio was hit by torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine. She drifted into Crescent City Harbor and sank. Five of Emidio's crew were killed by machine gun fire from the submarine.