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Sierra County








      Numbered among the veteran lumbermen of the Sacramento Valley is James M. Turner, who is a member of one of the pioneer families of this locality, and has done his full share in the development and advancement of this section of the state.  Born at Sattley, Sierra county, California, on the 4th of June, 1875, he is a son of Hartwell (commonly called Frank) and Agnes (Galloway) Turner.  His Grandfather Turner came to California with the first rush of gold seekers, and followed mining until his death, which occurred on the Yuba River in the ‘50s.  Hartwell Turner, who was one of the earliest sawmill men in Sierra county, was born at Whitefield, Maine, grew up in the lumber business, and was one of the pioneer sawmill owners of Sierra county.  He met with a fair measure of success, but also met with reverses, so that he advised his son to follow some other line of business than lumbering.  In Sierra County he was married to Miss Agnes Galloway, whose parents came to California from Pennsylvania in 1849.  She was born in San Francisco in 1850, and in the following spring the family moved to Sierra County, where she was the first white child.  Grandfather Galloway crossed the plains, with ox team and covered wagon in 1849, coming to California as a gold seeker.  But he later took up the practice of law in Sacramento, becoming one of California’s early and successful attorneys.  He died in Sierra county when James M. Turner was but a child.  To Hartwell and Agnes Turner were born four children, namely:  Harry A., who resides on the old Turner ranch at Sattley; James M., Thomas K., who is engaged in logging and contracting and resides at Sattley; and Daisy A., the wife of Thomas Miller, of Sierraville, this state.  The father died in Sattley in 1922.            James M. Turner’s early life was spent in Sattley, where he received his educational training.  On starting out for himself he engaged in teaming and logging, buying his first team of horses on credit.  By tireless and well directed effort he succeeded and eventually he had a ten-horse team and was doing a good business, logging and freighting from Truckee to Sierra City and Downieville.  He was working long hours day after day, but had the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting ahead, and during that period he put his surplus earnings into timber lands.  He and his two brothers built a sawmill in 1902 and operated it successfully for some years.  The three brothers built their first sawmill three miles north of Sattley.  It was a steam mill, with a capacity of thirty-five thousand feet of lumber a day.  They freighted their lumber to Loyalton by horse teams, and thence shipped it over the Boca & Loyalton Railroad.  This mill was operated under the name of the Sunset Lumber Company until they sold out in the fall of 1906.  In partnership with his brother Thomas K. and a cousin, F. H. Turner, James M. Turner bought and reconstructed the old mill at Sattley.  They leased the land on which the mill stood and bought a lot of standing timber, which they cut and sawed into lumber during the period from 1907 to 1912.  However, disaster overtook them, for they had previously secured some large contracts at Tonopah and Goldfield, Nevada, and when the gold boom collapsed they were left with a large quantity of lumber on hand that they could not sell.  In the meantime the railroad from San Pedro to Nevada was completed and lumber could then be shipped over that road cheaper than they could haul it by teams.

      On the failure of the mill, Mr. Turner turned his attention again to his old occupation, that of logging, teaming and contracting, which he followed alone until 1917.  He then formed a partnership with a Mr. Jorgensen, and bought the Reese mill, above Loyalton, which they moved to Portola and organized the Beckwith-Peak Lumber Company.  They operated this concern there until 1920, when they moved the mill to a location three miles south of Portola.  Mr. Jorgensen sold his interest in the business to Mr. Turner, who admitted F. P. Myers to a partnership and the business continued under the name of the Beckwith-Peak Lumber Company.  They ran the business until 1928, by which time the timber was all cut and they quit the sawmill business. Since then Mr. Turner has successfully devoted his attention to building and selling residences in Portola.  Owing to the fact that his buildings are well constructed and are attractive and modern in every way, he has no trouble in selling the houses, which are built on land owned by him.

      In 1903, at Placerville, California, Mr. Turner was united in marriage to Miss Ethel Perryman, who was born in Sierra City, California.  Her father, William Perryman, who was a native of Cornwall, England, came to California many years ago and here followed mining as an occupation.  Mr. and Mrs. Turner are the parents of a daughter, Ann, of whom they are justifiably proud.  She is a senior in the College of the Pacific, at Stockton, where she is majoring in art, specializing in drawing and painting, and giving abundant promise of a brilliant future in that field of work.

            Mr. Turner is a Republican in his political views and during all the years of his residence here he has shown interest in those things which have a bearing on the welfare and prosperity of his section of the valley.  He is a member of Sierra Valley Lodge, No. 184, F. & A. M.; and Nevada Consistory, A. A. S. R., and Karak Temple, A. A. O. M. M. S., both at Reno.  He belongs to and is a trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Portola, in which Mrs. Turner is an active and effective worker.  Regarded as one of the community’s capable, substantial and public-spirited citizens, he commands uniform respect because of his sterling and genial qualities.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 3 Pages 168-170. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.

 © 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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