Story by Shirley West
Edited by Michael Clawson
There are several differing stories on how Graeagle gained its name. Some are pure romanticism, such as the story that Edward D. Baker, who came through the area in 1856 on horse back "stumping" for John C. Fremont, was called the Gray Eagle of Republicanism, and therefore the name, GRAY EAGLE. Or there's the equally fanciful tale of the Indian Chief, Grayeagle, once residing here and hence the name.
But romanticism aside, it seems that when the California Fruit Exchange took over, they no longer wanted the mill town to be known as "Davies' Mill", so they instigated a contest to name the town. A lady bookkeeper looking outside and seeing the sign "Gray Eagle Creek" merely took the "Y" out of gray and made it one word--"Graeagle". And for this brilliant but basic deduction, she gained $25.00 and the town gained a name it still enjoys today.
Logging was an integral part of Mohawk Valley for nearly a century. Logs were first hauled out of the woods by horses and oxen down to the Mohawk Lumber Company sawmill on Smith Creek where it entered the west end of Mohawk Valley.
J. C. Knickrem owned the logging and milling operation. A side note; Graeagle's first teacher, Louise McKenziey Knickrem, was married to the son of J. C. Knickrem, whose name was J. C. also. Their marriage was very brief, ending tragically with his death during the 1918 flu epidemic.
Following on the heels of horse and oxen were the railroads. Graeagle Lumber Company alone laid tracks from town out to Calpine Summit, out to Jamison Creek and down the canyon to the Penman Peak Lumber Company located on Highway 70.
After the railroads came the modern logging trucks. The first ones used had "hard tires" (meaning they had no inner tubes). These were extremely "hard-riding".
Graeagle Lumber Company started their logging operations by railroad in and around Graeagle, and then gradually fanning out with trucks toward Frazier Creek, Gold Lake, Sulphur Creek, and Jamison Creek, and out to Frenchman's Creek and up to Crystal Peak (located above the present Frenchman's Dam). They also hauled logs from Spring Garden on Highway 70, and finally in 1949 and 1950, logging in the Donner Lake area.
Approximately 300 men were employed in these logging operations. Over a period of thirty years, 18 million board feet of lumber was produced annually.
It has been over seventy years since Arthur Davies purchased land and timber rights from the Sierra Iron Company and built his lumber mill somewhere between Gray Eagle Creek and Frazier Creek.
Previously, Davies had a sawmill and "camp" town in Sardine Valley. Sardine Valley is located off Highway 89 near Dog Valley and Stampede Reservoir. You can still see remnants of the camp today, after nearly eighty years of disuse.