First Mendocino Mill

First Mendocino Lumber Mill looking southwest from a position on the bluff, Fall 1863. The view shows the ship-loading apparatus as well as the large building that once housed the original mill, sometimes referred to as Meiggs Mill. (Carleton E. Watkins (photographer), Gift of Dave Belew, Dave Belew Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

The first Mendocino sawmill was purchased on the east coast by Edwards C. Williams at the direction of Henry Meiggs, and shipped around the Horn of South America to California. The mill arrived in Mendocino Bay on the brig Ontario, landing July 19, 1852.

Construction of the first mill building began in the Fall of 1852 at the Point on the Mendocino Headlands. This mill sawed its first lumber in early March of 1853. At first, logs were hauled up the steep bank from the little cove in front of Portuguese Beach. This plan was abandoned due to the steepness of the bank and the difficulty of getting logs to the cove. Instead, a one-mile railroad was constructed, and logs were drawn up the incline by oxen from the flat on the river bank to the mill.

After a second mill was constructed on the river flat, the first mill was only operated when there was extraordinary demand for lumber and was permanently shut down in 1858. This mill building was dismantled in late 1863, and the Point was used to store and load lumber, ship and receive freight, and get passengers on and off ships.

Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino – Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. You’ll pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting places, and buildings that make up the the Mendocino Historic District.