The entrepreneur who settled this area to mill redwood to fuel San Francisco's growth.How Fisk Mill Cove got its nameSaturday, January 25th, 2014 | By ARTHUR DAWSONTOWNS COLUMNIST
Fisk Mill Cove, just up the coast from Salt Point, is named for settlers John and Andrew Fisk. John came out to California from Vermont during the Gold Rush. By the late 1850s he was running a steam-powered sawmill in Napa Valley and living with his wife Sarah (another Vermonter) and their children.
In 1860, John moved his entire operation, including the sawmill, to a remote spot on the northwest coast of Sonoma County. Perhaps he had run out of trees to cut in Napa.
Fisk leased some timberland and rebuilt his mill on top of a bare headland next to a deep, protected cove. A small settlement sprang up nearby, eventually growing to boast a company store, post office, hotel and a huge barn to accommodate the 80 oxen needed for hauling logs.
Fisk Mill Cove was known as a “dog hole” port. Once a week or more, a coastal schooner tied up close to shore and took on cargo that was lowered down a chute by rope.
In one busy year, Fisk’s Mill shipped out 1,000 cords of tanbark (for tanning leather), 500 cords of oak firewood, 60,000 fence posts and enough lumber to build hundreds of homes. Most of it went to San Francisco, which was easier to get to than Santa Rosa in those days.
Ties for the expanding railroad system were another important product. As thecounty’s first atlas described it, trains crossing the Sierras “rolled over . . . the forests of Sonoma.” Their wood ended up as far away as Peru, under tracks that ran from Lima to the crest of the Andes.
In 1867, the Fisk brothers turned over the mill operation to Frederick Helmke and moved north to Fisherman’s Bay (Stewart’s Point). Andrew, now a partner with his brother, had started a post office there a few years before. The Fisks soon built a store, hotel and saloon.
The Fisks’ store (now the Stewarts Point Store) remains open for business after nearly 150 years. On the bluff above Fisk Mill Cove you can still find mooring rings secured to the rock, as well as a capstan around which ropes were wound to control the cargo as it descended to the ships below.
Those ships are long gone, but the Fisks’ name is still anchored there.
Contact Glen Ellen-based historical ecologist Arthur Dawson at [email protected]