Duncans Mills Moniker

images of 1890's Duncans MillsDuncans Mills gets its moniker from the Duncan brothers, Samuel and Alexander. Some say they were the first sawmill operators on the Sonoma Coast. They originally founded a mill just east of Freestone before relocating near the mouth of the Russian River near today’s Bridgehaven. Many a log, which floated downstream to the site, would wash out to sea in bad weather. Another disadvantage to this location was the lumber would have to be hauled by horse-drawn tram to Duncan Point (just south of Wright’s Beach) where waves, currents and weather often did not cooperate with the loading of timber onto waiting ships headed for the San Francisco market. Two events in 1877 changed the town’s destiny forever. A fire burned much of the mill, and the North Pacific Coast Railroad was approaching inland. (more…)

Duncans Mills, the Early Days

images of Duncans MillsDuncans Mills, the early days, tells a tale of greed, international tension and fate. Once upon a time it was part of Alta California, which was under the Mexican governorship of Pio Pico. He was often ridiculed for his physical deformities resulting from acromegaly, a disease caused by the unregulated release of hormones causing abnormal growth of hands, feet and face. One newspaper critic called him the “ugliest man in the territory”.  It is easy to understand why Pico developed a tough skin. He scorned his enemies and protected his allies. When the Russians abandoned Fort Ross in 1841 and sold the surrounding land to John Sutter, Governor Pico exposed his combative side and went into action. He issued the sale “null & void” and instead gave the land to a close friend, Manuel Torres, as part of the Rancho Muniz Land Grant.  (more…)

Railroad Misadventures along the Russian River of Old

Image of railroad at Monte RioThere were plenty of railroad misadventures along the banks of the Russian River of old.  The first wreck of the Fulton and Guerneville Line (an offshoot of the SF & NP R.R.) was in 1898.  While a locomotive was switching over to the turntable in Guerneville, it gave a nudge to a string of flats.  The brakes bled and the cars started off on the slight downgrade to Guernewood Park.  At the same moment, the Bully Boy was coming from Mission Gulch (present day Old Cazadero Rd.) with six loads of logs.  On the curve (where Old Caz Rd & Hwy. 116 meet), a head-on crash sent Bully Boy airborne. (more…)

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