Northern California Mill Town Takes Name from Pioneer John Hilt

Oct 16, 2013

As It Was - Episode 2257

 Few cars rushing by on Interstate 5 stop at Hilt, Calif.  Located near the California-Oregon border, its early history has mostly faded into memory along with the original town. Hilt was named for John Hilt, who crossed the plains in 1851, then walked from Hangtown, Calif., now known as Placerville, to Yreka and on up to Cottonwood, later renamed Henley, known today as Hornbrook.  A carpenter, Hilt bought W.H. Smith’s sawmill in 1877 and built a 10,000-foot capacity circular mill.  When Hilt sold out to some Oregonians a few years later, they named the mill and nearby town site after him.  The Hilt Sugar Pine Co. expanded to a 35,000-foot capacity circular mill, which attracted workers to the town, as did the construction of the Southern Pacific railroad. The population dwindled with completion of the railroad in 1887.   The Hilt Sugar Pine Co. sold out to the Northern California Lumber Co. in 1906, which borrowed $100,000 from the Fruit Growers’ Supply Company to build a railroad, new band mill, box factory and machine shop. When the company fell into debt, Fruit Growers’ Supply took over the property and Hilt thrived for a little longer.  Source: Hilt, Wilmer. "Origin and Story of Hilt." Siskiyou Pioneer Vol. 1, No. 5 1951: 15-19. Print.