FRESNO 1896 - Yearly since 1854, there have been sawmills in the mountains of Fresno County cutting the timber with which nature clothed the western slope of the Sierras. Still there are vast tracts of pine and fir which have yet scarcely heard the sound of the woodsman's ax.
It would be too much to say that during the forty years past, there have been no serious inroads made upon the lumber supply tributary to this part of the Valley. The greater portion of the more convenient forests have been entered and some of them have been exhausted. But vast quantities remain.
For years to come there will be a supply at hand for domestic use and for a large export trade. The houses and the fences of this part of the Valley have been made of material drawn from the mountains and there remains in the forests enough to duplicate again and again all these improvements.
There are two flumes in Fresno County and one in Madera which tap the timber regions of the Sierras. The Madera flume is the oldest of them, and for many years an average of many millions of feet of lumber have been sent doen from the mills, finding sales in all portins of the open Valley, and no small quantity being sent beyond the central portion of the State.
The Sanger flume was the next one built. In length it is 54 miles, tapping the pine and sequoia belt on the south side of the Kings River. At the head of the flume are mills which saw the logs into convenient planks and pieces of timber and these are shipped down the flume to Sanger, where they are manufactured into all kinds of commercial stuff, shingles, rustic, sash, doors, flooring, boxes, raisin trays, bridge timbers, fence posts, pickets and, in short, everything which the market calls for.
Of late the supplying of lead pencil material for European factories has been undertaken, and the experiment up to this time has proven successful. The Sequoia is a wood which is suited for this use, being soft, fine-grained and remarkable free from checks and flaws.
The supply of cedar is running short in those parts of the world from which it was formerly drawn, an since sequoia is found to be an excellent substitute, there seems to be nothing in the way of building up a trade in lead pencil material in which Fresno County will be made the base of supply for years to come.
The sequoia is the largest tree in the world, some of them in Fresno and adjoining counties being famous as giants of the forest. Up to the time of the Sanger flume there was little of this timber within reach of the commercial world and its merits were but little known.
The Pine Ridge flume has been but recently completed. It is of about the same length as the Sanger Flume, and taps a country of unsurpassed timber lying on Pine Ridge and the neighboring mountains, covering an area of more than 100 square miles. Estimates have placed this body of timber at considerable more than 1,000,000,000 feet. The flume now extends to the Stephenson Creek, where a reservoir of more than fifty acres furnishes a water supply not only to float the timber to market, but also for purposes of irrigation, for the flume is built for both.
It has a capacity of 300 cubic feet of water per second for the first twelve miles of its course,and then discharges the most of the water into the basin of Dry Creek, while the smaller flume carrying the lumber is continued to the plains and has its terminus at the town of Clovis, where a fine mill with all modern appliances has been built.
Editor's Note: In January 1896 the above story was carried in the Fresno Republican newspaper under the headline: "FRESNO TIMBER SUPPLY- RESOURCES ARE ONLY PARTLY DEVELOPED - Flumes Penertrating the Primeval Forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains". Archives of the Daily Republican are available on microfilm media, Third Floor at the Henry C. Madden Library, Fresno State University and in the California History Collection of the Fresno County Library, Main Branch in downtown Fresno.