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THE FEATHER FALLS VILLAGE WEB SITE

This was the Georgia-Pacific Office building in the 50's and 60's. When this photo was taken in 1987 it had been re-signed as the Feather Falls Town Hall.

I first remember setting foot in Feather Falls Village some evening in October 1969. I know it was owned by Georgia-Pacific Lumber Company and it was built to house its employees. It was a semi-sleepy little village even then. Mill worker Charlie Jensen remembers that the mill was disassembled and the operation moved to Oroville in late 1969. So I guess you can say that I came on the scene at the beginning of the village's decline. The best information I have is that the village existed from 1938 until 1995 - 57 years.

Feather Falls Village was located about 25 miles north of Oroville, California and just a few miles east of the turn off to the wonderful Feather Falls.

The Feather Falls Store.

It was a rather charming community of several hundred. The buildings were all painted red. The village included a Standard gas station, a community store, a community hall, a "Little Brown Church" and many small cottages where individual families resided.

Sylvia Swain (Oroville High School Class of 1970) advises that her father ran the gas station for many years and the family lived in Feather Falls in the late 50's and early 60's. Sylvia indicates that the building in the first photo on this web page was renamed as the Feather Falls Town Hall, but in the 1960's it was actually the Georgia-Pacific Lumber Company Offices. The actual Town Hall was located right next to the GP Office. She has also assisted in identifying some of the buildings in the Lost Images Section. My thanks go to her.

The Feather Falls Gas Station.

I stayed over a few nights in the village and remember the quiet mornings with squirrels and deer coming near our back door. I also remember the cool morning air and the smell of wood fires.

The last time I saw the village intact was on June 25, 1994. We had just finished a hike to the falls and needed a well-earned soft drink. I remember that the store manager told us that day that they would be closing up shortly.

On January 6, 2001 my friend Scott Roberts and I revisited the village. We had heard that there was not much left, and that sad bit of information was confirmed by our visit. Most of the buildings had only had wooden foundations and there was virtually nothing left of the village except for one concrete slab where the gas station had stood and the old concrete bunker that housed the Community Center safe.

I drove through the area again in March 2008. It is difficult for even those of us who were familiar with the village during the 60's and 70's to recognize where things were. There is not much left except for a very few buildings near Lumpkin Road and a wide spot in the road. But, just up Lumpkin Road, Feather Falls School does still stand.

On the morning of October 19, 2010 I again visited the site of the old village. This time I took photos of some of the same scenes shown below from 1978. I wanted to show what the area now looked like. I hope you will enjoy seeing the difference - even if it just goes to prove that there really is nothing left.

I know that all things change but there is a real sadness when an interesting community in a beautiful setting vanishes from the face of the earth.

In the past four+ years that this web site has existed, the most satisfying aspect of it has been the fact that I have reconnected many of those who grew up in Feather Falls with other residents who have not heard from them for decades. I hope to continue doing that.

Thanks for visiting this web site!

Larry R. Matthews

Madrone Circle. April 2013.

SECTIONS

1. Lost Images of Feather Falls Village

2. Feather Falls Village History


LOST IMAGES OF FEATHER FALLS VILLAGE

I am very grateful to Vickie Miller from Virginia Beach, Virginia who resided in Feather Falls Village for many years. She provided me with the GP Office (Town Hall) photo and the below photographs of the now vanished village. She is the granddaughter of Deputy Sheriff Rookie who provided law enforcement duties for Feather Falls Village for many years. I had a very memorable interaction with him in 1970 - a hilarious memory even now. No, I did not get arrested!

Most of the photos shown below were taken during the Saint Patricks Day Parade in March 1978. I have added new, current photos of the exact same areas that I took on October 19, 2010 - sort of a Then and Now view.

There are so many people in these photos and there is so much life. But now there is just nothing left.

Photos show the Georgia-Pacific Office, Town Hall/Library and Post office

That same area on October 19, 2010.

Photo shows the Feather Falls Store.

Photo shows the Restaurant

That same area on October 19, 2010

Photo Shows the old Service Station.

That same location on October 19, 2010.

Behind the trees is the old gas station concrete slab.

Looking east toward the area where the buildings stood is just a wide spot in the road.

The Feather Falls School in 1987.

The Feather Falls School as it appeared on October 19, 2010.

This photo was provided by Bob Swor from Chico, CA. It is of the Gold Flake Club and was taken in 1960. His father's 1958 Ford Station wagon is parked in front. The Gold Flake Club was owned or managed by his Uncle Gerald Swor at that time. It's located 4 miles West of the old Feather Falls Village site and houses the Feather Falls Post Office.

The Gold Flake Club as it appeared on October 19, 2010.

Here is my photo contribution to the web site. These 4 photos were taken in January 1982. Appearing in the photos are my mother, my son Alan and me. (Dig that '74 Vega!) It was a nice, bright day with a good layer of snow. Great Memories!

FEATHER FALLS VILLAGE HISTORY

Bonnie Baron from Paradise provided the above photos on January 5, 2013. They are of a steam whistle that was used at the Feather Falls Mill in the 1960's. The steam whistle is 4 feet tall. If anybody knows of any history, memories or any old photos of this whistle, please e-mail me and I will post the comments. Thanks to Bonnie and her husband for sharing this relic of Feather Falls history.

The old Feather Falls Mill. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Hughes.)

Here is some history about Feather Falls village. I have pictures of the Lumber Mill ...which i have found out .. was built in 1938. My grandpa, whose name is Jesse Davis or as most people know him "Rookie", said that the mill was built in '38 but didn't get going until '39. He worked with the mill for 30 years and 5 of that was when it moved to Oroville in 1969. He said that it was all owned by Feather River Pine Mill which was run by a man from West Virginia by the name of JH Land. He wasn't sure what year it was that Georgia Pacific took over though.

The village was torn down in '95. How sad. I listened to my grandpa talk about it for about an hour. He talked about becoming deputy sheriff in 1948 and it was supposed to be just for a short time. He kept the position for 28 yrs. He mentioned JH Land and all the others who worked with him and lived in that small village..I would love to have been able to see it when it was such a thriving town. My mom (Jessie"Davis"Gilkey) used to talk about growing up there and how all of the young people would line up their cars in town and hang out. Can you imagine that! What wonderful history. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

By Vickie Miller

Photo of Old Feather Falls School in 1910. (Photo courtesy of Bill Slack.)

I was just visiting your website and saw the photos. I barely remember Rookie Davis, but my step-father, Eugene Fields has talked about him a lot.

I don't really have any photos of the town, but I do have a lot more of the history.

The town was originally called Mooretown. It was founded in the 1850's by John S. Moore of North Carolina. It had a thriving start, primarily in gold mining at first but eventually branched out to lumber; there were some orchards in the area as well - there is still an old Walnut orchard just outside town.

The founder of the town was murdered in 1886 after a night drinking and gambling. I have transcribed some of the newspaper articles onto my website: www.historyoffeatherfalls.webs.com.

The town's name was changed to Feather Falls in the 1920's after the Hutchinson Lumber company. I have still not figured out exactly why they tore down the store, hotel and other buildings that made up Mooretown.

I have some pictures of the School from the early part of the century as well as a picture of the town on my website. I am going to be up at the school over the next few months working on their historical information which I will gladly share.

There was a strike at the mill in the 1950's, and some people think the death of the town started then. In either case the town really began to decline when LP moved its operation to Oroville after the construction of the Dam.

By Bill Slack, February 5, 2010

My name is Clyde Colley Jr. I just happened onto your Feather Falls site. I was excited to read the information you have pulled together. I lived in Feather Falls during the 50's and 60's. It was a thriving lumber camp of, I believe around 500 people, in those days. My father, Clyde Colley, worked in the mill as a sawyer until he retired around 1988. My mother, Pauline Colley, worked in the office in Feather Falls for many years.

My family moved to Feather Falls in 1955 when I was 10 years old. I lived there until 1966. I attended the Feather Falls elementary school through grade 8 and then rode the bus (and later drove) to high school in Oroville. I married Willene Carter from Forbstsown in 1964. We lived in one of the company houses on Madrone Circle for a couple of years, rent was $25/month. I started working in the mill in 1963 when I was 18.

The picture of the mill on your site brought back memories. I worked several different jobs in the mill including; walking the logs on the pond, I was a block setter (riding the carriage that carried the logs by the saw) we were cutting huge sugar pine and ponderosa pine logs in those days. I worked in the shipping department loading box cars (by hand).

In 1966 the Oroville Dam Project took the private railroad that ran from Feather Falls to the main line in Oroville. Finished lumber was then trucked to a site in Palermo and loaded into box cars there. Myself, R.E. Atkinson, J.L Bumgardner, Ira McFadden and Cecil Osburn were the first workers to be moved out of Feather Falls as part of the relocation to Oroville.

I knew Hoyt Short. I knew his mother and father and his brothers, Jim and Jerry. As I remember, Hoyt was an avid hunter. He had several dogs and I believe he ran coons and bear with his dogs. I was friends with his younger brothers Jim and Jerry. There were two Long families in Feather Falls . One of the Long families was related to the Shorts.

The Drennans I remember were Clyde Drennan and his wife. I was friends with there son Don. I believe Don had two sisters, Jeanne and another whose name I don't remember.

I remember the Hatfields but did not know them very well. My wife meets two or three times a year for lunch with a group of Women who all lived in Feather Falls during our time there. Claudia Hatfield is in that group.

Rookie Davis is probably the best source of information on Feather Falls of anyone alive. A lumber grader by day and Deputy Sheriff by night, Rookie knew everyone and everyone knew Rookie. I was the same grade as Rookie's daughter, Janice Davis, Vicky Miller's aunt. I also knew Jessie Davis, Vicky's mom.

I read the information provided by Sylvia Swain. She stated that her father ran the gas station. I wonder if Sylvia is related to Joe Wheeler. As I recall, Joe Wheeler owned the gas station during the late '50 and early '60. Joe Wheeler had two sons; Joe Wheeler Jr. who worked for Georgia Pacific and I believe worked his way up to General Manager of another Georgia Pacific operation in Northern California . Kenneth Wheeler was another son of Joe Wheeler. I think Joe Sr. and his wife retired to Clear Lake .

The general store in Feather Falls was operated by Johnny Slapneck in the '50s. I don't remember the year, but he sold the store to Lloyd and Thelma Matlick who ran it of several years. I was friends with Terry Matlick, their son. They moved to Ft Brag and bought a charter fishing boat.

The Post Master was Golden Land and later Al Mandecky (spelling is questionable). I wonder if Golden Land was related to JH Land who managed the company when it was owned by Feather River Pine Mills as mentioned by Rookie Davis. I'm sure Rookie would know as he lived next door to Golden Land .

Clyde Colley, 2011

Hi Larry, My name is Tony Ciaffoni. I was 12 years old in the summer of 1966 when my family moved from Woodleaf to Feather Falls. My dad, Tony Sr, was a saw filer, and took the job a Feather Falls when the GP mill at Woodleaf was to be shut down. We had lived in Woodleaf since 1961, but had never been to Feather Falls until we arrived there with the first trailer load of our possessions one storming summer night. Our neighbours in Woodleaf, Dan and Norma Jean Harp, and their two boys Danny and Billy, and sister Rene had lived in Feather Falls before arriving in Woodleaf a few years earlier, and had filled us with stories about what a big and wonderful place it was compared to Woodleaf. We used to climb a forested hillside above Woodleaf where we could hear the 4.30 mill whistle from Feather Falls across the canyon. Feather Falls seemed like a magical place, someplace across the canyon. The Harp's moved back to Feather Falls when we did.

Although we lived in Feather Falls only a relatively short time, from July 1965 to mid 1967, it was a rich period in my life, and also of my younger brother JIm. I remember it all vividly, and get a little teary-eyed when I think of how it has all gone now.

We lived the first year on Madrone Circle, second house in on the left at the turnoff furthest from the store and gas station. There were two houses on the main road between the Madrone Circle intersections. In one lived the Longs, Bill and Janet with their three kids, Jon, Mike and Joanie. Jon was my age, and Mike was my brothers, a year younger. Joanie was about 8 then. Bill was a purchasing agent for the mill. Their backyard abutted ours, so we instantly became best friends. Jon was a rabid baseball fan, and introduced me to the San Francisco Giants fan club.

The next house along was Burt Starkey and Delores Starkey with their sons Burt Jr, Rodney, and daughters Janice and Beatrice (I think). Rodney delivered the Oroville newspaper, and for most of the time we lived there, I helped him roll and load the canvas paper sack, and then climb on the back of his Honda 90 trail bike, where I sat on the rack on tossed the paper over the wooden fences as Rodney skillfully navigated the rutted, dusty maze of goat trails that passed for roads down in the lower part of the villlage.

After a year, we moved two houses further along Madrone Circle. Joe Wheeler lived across the street and the Drennan's lived two houses along from us. From memory, their house was on the inside of the loop at the furthest extent of Madrone Circle. The Whiteley's lived across from them on the outside of the loop.

I read with interest your write up on the town on the website. Many names cropped up I remember well. Jack Hatfield was my friend. We were Boy Scouts. Yes, Feather Falls had a Boy Scout troop. Our leader was Ski Burdick, who also served as the brakeman on the mill train locomotive. We met most Wednesday evenings in a small lean-to attached to the shed where the fire truck was kept. This was just to the east of the store, separated only by a narrow lane, and directly behind the gas station, no more that 50 feet. Mainly, we watched an old tube TV, stripped of its cabinet, while seating on an old car bench seat. In the back of the hall, we put on boxing gloves and jousted with each other. There was a scraggly madrone tree just outside the front door, and we climbed it often.

The principal of the school at that time was Joe Magee. He had several children, the most memorable for me was Veronica, or Vinnie. She was my first heart throb. I stole my first kiss from her while we huddled under the eve of the community hall just around back of the mill office. My teacher for the 5th and 6th grade was Nancy Williams. She was young and pretty and lived down Sucker Run Road. I also remember another teacher, Mrs Kolb, who taught 7th and 8th grade. 5th and 6th grades shared the same classroom, as did 7th and 8th.

Other names I remember are, Jesse Fields, Tim and Randy Brimm, Raymond and Dale Demo, the Waddell brothers (a tough bunch), Kenny Roland, Robert and Ronnie Smith (their father Gene was a sawyer), Rookie Davis (everybody knew him), George Burdick (Ski's son), the Whitely's - the twins Dennis and Donald and Sterling Wagner.

The Feather Falls school band was formed when I was in sixth grade. A band instructor from the school system arrived one day with a car load of used instruments - a trumpet, a trombone, a clarinet and and a set of drums. Several of us were offered an instrument and music lessons if we chose. I picked the trumpet. I and 3 others, I can't remember who they were, formed a group and our first song was 'Aura Lee'. We performed it for the PTA at the school some months later. I can still play the song today.

We were fascinated with the train. The mill kept two steam locomotives in case something happened to the big diesel. Two or three times a week the train took a string of boxcars laden with hand-stacked lumber down to Bidwell Bar, leaving around 7 am and returning at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We could hear the locomotive sound the horn as it crossed the road a mile or so down the hill at the bottom of a severe bend in the road. That gave us 10 minutes or so to jump on our bicycles and position ourselves at a place next to the tracks where we could see it round the bend as it climbed up to the mill. Ocassionally, a steam locomotive was used instead of the diesel, for whatever reason. That was a special occassion, causing us to dog this locomotive for the rest of the afternoon as it switched cars and usually eventually deposited a car at the end of the track up past Madrone Circle. Ski Burdick stood on a small platform at the front corner of the locomotive and would let us run along side and step up onto the platform to ride with him.

The closest 'watering hole' for the town was the 76 club, about a mile down the hill, just past the RR crossing on the right. I wonder if it's still there. On any lazy Sunday summer afternoon, you could find many of our parents down there 'having a few'. We'd ride our bikes down the hill and hang about until we found somebody with a pickup truck heading back up into town.

The bridge down at the river was a popular spot, just under the old steel bridge. There always seemed to be a big cedar log floating in the pool under the bridge. We spent quite a lot of time with log rolling contests.

In summer of '66, the mill put on a company picnic and a train ride down to Bidwell Bar. They outfitted the flat cars with hand rails and wooden benches, (straight off the stacks of lumber of course). Almost every family in town boarded the train with one of the steam engines at the front, and took us down there for BBQ, beer and swimming. My mom and dad took home video of this train ride. I saw the video many times, but haven't seen it for 30 or 40 years. I believe my brother or sister, who live in Grass Valley, have the films.

The last time I ventured to Feather Falls was probably 1979, when a friend and I hiked into the falls from above, by travelling through Feather Falls about 3 miles and then down a road to the left. There was a very little known trail then.

I've lived in New Zealand and Australia for the past 16 years, so haven't had opportunity to visit Feather Falls. But next time I come back to US, it is high on my list of nostalgic places to visit.

Thank you for your interest in a place so important to my brother and I, and for posting your website. I really enjoyed the reading.

Regards, Tony Ciaffoni, January 2, 2013

NOTICE!: If you have any historical information about the town or anything else you think might be interesting to add to this site, please let me know. Thanks for any submissions you make.

My thanks to Vickie Miller, Sylvia Swain, Katherine Hughes, Bob Swor, Bill Slack, Charlie Jensen, Clyde Colley, Tony Ciaffoni, Bonnie Baron and Joyce Holt for their contributions of information and photos to this web site.


If you have any comments about this web page you may contact:

Larry Matthews

at:

writerlarry@hotmail.com


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This web site was established on October 30, 2008.

This web site was last updated on July 6, 2013.