Standing next to the towering majestic redwoods of the North Coast is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Before the commercial logging boom of the 19th century, the coast was covered with redwoods from Big Sur to the Oregon border. But as people flocked to California during the Gold Rush, many of the trees were felled for use in construction.

Mendocino saw a boom around 1850. C.R. Johnson along with the Union Lumber Co. built a large mill on the site of the Army’s abandoned Fort Bragg. Harry Meiggs, a San Francisco entrepreneur whose Meigg’s Wharf became today’s North Beach in San Francisco, also built a mill at the site of the present-day town of Mendocino.

In Sonoma County, the boom began in 1836. The first commercial sawmill, Rancho El Molino, was built by Capt. John Cooper on the Russian River. Capt. Steven Smith’s steam-powered mill followed in 1842 in the town of Bodega.

Wade Sturgeon’s steam-powered mill was originally built in the 1880s on what is now the Korbel property near the Russian River. It changed hands a few times, first to the Sugarmans of Santa Rosa, and then to the Meekers, for whom Camp Meeker was named. In 1913, Sturgeon bought it and moved the business to Coleman Valley. In 1924 it was relocated again to its current location in Occidental. Today you can still visit Sturgeon’s for milling demonstrations; it’s one of the last standing reminders of a bygone era.