The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Occidental Oriented - February 2017 - MacKenzie Nekton


Occidental Oriented - February 2017 - MacKenzie Nekton

I’m writing this column in my bed, after having slept a restorative twelve hours, after having returned from Cuba. I spent the last ten days on a school trip in Cuba, touring tobacco plantations, caves, alternative schools programs, the local nightlife, national forests, and so much more. My ten days in Cuba were amazing – I met some truly amazing people, and had to ask them all to speak slower because Cubans speak really fast Spanish and sometimes don’t pronounce some of the letters in a word or phrase. For example, in Cuban Spanish, “¿cómo estas?” becomes “¿como eta?” and “La Habana” becomes “Labana.” Needless to say, it took me quite a while to become accustomed to this style of Spanish. It is almost a different language entirely. 

That’s not the point, though. The point is that, at two in the morning, as my parents drove a very exhausted me home from SFO, we drove past a place between my two favorite potholes that I think is worth talking about: Sturgeon’s Mill

Old MillSturgeon’s Mill is that place where sometimes there are lots of cars on Green Hill Road, as you’re headed out of Occidental. Actually, it’s a lot more than just that, but for a long time, that’s all I knew about Sturgeon’s Mill. Sturgeon’s Mill Restoration Project is a nonprofit organization formed to restore and preserve the historic steam powered lumber millSturgeon’s Millto it’s original condition. This means that they operate and run a lumber mill built in 1914 that runs on live steam, offer private school tours and publicly open tours, and are in the process of reuniting the original properties of Wade Sturgeon and restoring his “Woodland Gardens.” Sturgeon’s Mill functions as a Working Museum, and is staffed entirely by volunteers. The project is run by Tom Schaeffer (President), Bob Sturgeon (Vice President), Essie Doty (Secretary/Treasurer), and board members Harvey Henningsen, Jay Meyer, Mark Sell, Bonnie Sallee, and Wes Brubacher.

New MillSturgeon’s Mill is considered one of the last great mills of its kindit has been a lumber mill since 1914, but it was originally built in the 1880s on the Korbel property near the Russian River to be used for other purposes. Throughout the years, it was passed from Korbel to Michael Sugarman, and later to Mr. Meeker, for whom Camp Meeker is named. In 1913, the mill was purchased from Meeker by Wade Sturgeon, who promptly dismantled it and had it moved to Sturgeon’s Coleman Valley site. There, in 1914, Sturgeon began his lumber business. In 1924, the mill was moved again to its current site on Green Hill Road. Wade’s son Ralph Sturgeon and his friend James Henningsen bought the mill in 1934, ran the mill. Nearly twenty five years ago, a group of seven peopletwo history enthusiast and five former mill employeesbegan the process of restoring the mill to its glory with only $700. Since then, the original seven have grown to sixty volunteers who have brought the falling apart building into a new era, doing everything from tracking down a new steam engine to clearing paths, from leading tours to rebuilding the walls of the mill, to finding water sources and doing the always difficult task of asking for donations. 

You can visit their website for more information about them, including the dates that they are open to the public for tours, and lots of other fun information.