Precious Cargo

Since finding gold, Muriel’s great-grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, had used a portion of his proceeds to build a highly successful lumberyard in San Francisco, but now he had a vision of something much grander and much more difficult.  It was a vision of more than just business and fortune, although they certainly played a part.  The key to his dream waited where his journey had started several years earlier, 3,000 miles to the east. So in 1854, Samuel once again made the dangerous voyage to New York.

To make his vision a reality, Samuel needed more money and very specialized equipment, so upon arriving in New York he met with investors and manufacturers. Securing what he needed, he then went to visit a schoolteacher he had befriended years earlier and who shared his dream.  There he made his most important proposal – one of marriage.

Sarah Washington Irving must have also come from a family of adventurers as she quickly agreed to his proposal and, leaving all she knew behind, headed into the unknown with her new husband. Samuel carefully packed the large, heavy equipment he had purchased onto a ship and, with his new bride, set sail. Wanting to protect his precious cargo from the dangers of Cape Horn, Samuel chose a different route.  They sailed to the Isthmus of Panama, and traveled overland to the Pacific Ocean, where they boarded a ship that would take them to San Francisco.

Hauling all the heavy equipment across land must have provided quite a challenge.  Also, riding a mule through the sweltering jungle for a couple of weeks must have caused Sarah to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

About 70 years later their great-granddaughter, Muriel, and her new husband would also cross Panama heading the other way, using the recently constructed canal.  Their dreams lay to the east in France.

When Samuel and Sarah arrived in San Francisco, they went to work to make their fortune – not from gold, but paper.  Understanding the value of the giant redwood forest and foreseeing the need of the exploding population, they built the first paper mill west of the Mississippi.  This was not an easy task with seeming insurmountable obstacles.

The first challenge was to get the heavy equipment from the ocean to the creek he had chosen a year earlier.  He had to build a road from Bolinas, just north of San Francisco, and use giant ox teams to drag the heavy machinery over miles of heavily forested hills and valleys. If that wasn’t challenge enough, he had to build the paper mill and install all the equipment in the middle of nowhere.  Finally, the creek that would be used to power the paper mill didn’t have the necessary flow in the summer months, so Samuel built a dam. Overcoming all obstacles and doing what many said couldn’t be done, in November of 1856, Samuel Penfield Taylor opened his paper mill.

While Samuel was busy with all this, Sarah was busy working on the other part of their shared dream by giving birth to their first child the same year the paper mill opened, James Irving Taylor, Muriel’s grandfather.  They built a house near the paper mill and together built a proud legacy for their children and generations to come.