The region of of Northern California where resides the McCloud River Railroad, is mountainous and volcanic in nature. For a hundred or more miles in any direction the view of Mt Shasta (a dormant volcano) dominates the skyline.. An area of combined volatile volcanic activity with lava and ash, deep snow falls, over a period of time to produce a a verdant top soil of rich loam perfect for the tall evergreens now seen there. Chief among them, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, Incense Cedar and Douglas Firs. The earliest known inhabitants of the area: the Susti’ka Indians gave the mountain it’s name. In the 1820’s and 1830’s white man entered the region as fur trappers and traders, notably among them for our purposes one named McCleod of the Hudson Bay Company.
In 1849 the gold rush brought any number of people to the area, but the Cascade range was much less abundant in it’s mineral resources than it’s sister range to the south the Sierra Nevada range. What it had in great supply was timber. Timber that would soon be called upon to help build the west.
In the 1870’s the northward construction of the Central Pacific Railroad stopped in Redding California and stayed at a stand still for 12 years as the Oregon railroad it was supposed to mate with got it’s act together. In the 1880’s the CPRR continued it’s press into the mountainous north of California and then through onto the Oregon where it met it’s counterpart in Ashland December 16th 1887. Near the western base of Mt Shasta is where our story takes off, in a a town named in honor of a long time resident Justin Hinckley Sisson. The first customer for all the riches of the forest were the railroads themselves, consuming a multiplicity of acre feet of forest products for ties, trestles and other structures. To meet these needs sawmill sprang up in various places, our story focuses on two. A Mill owned by Scott and Van Arsdale in Upton, CA (nearby Sisson) and a Mill owned by Friday George near the McCloud River on the south eastern side of Mt Shasta.