Around 1845, Louis Vignes needed lumber for sheds and wine kegs for his Los Angeles Vineyard. He established a small sawmill in Mill Creek Canyon, the first in the San Bernardino Mountains.
When the Mormons began their settlement of San Bernardino in 1851, one of their vital needs was for lumber. In April of 1852, all of the men from the fort helped clear a road to the virgin forest at the top of the mountains.
Because of Indian attacks, a small steam engine and boiler had been abandoned at the Armagosa Gold Mine at Salt Springs. In 1852, Charles Crismon and his son hauled this machinery from far out on the desert to Twin Creek Canyon, and set up the first steam sawmill in the area. Many others soon followed, and by 1854 six mills were producing lumber and shingles.
The largest logging operation in these mountains was that of the Brookings Lumber and Box Company at Fredalba, near Running Springs. Beginning in 1892, this company had logged 8000 acres. By 1915 when they moved to Oregon. The company built a road from the mill to their box plant at Highland, below City Creek. The sawmill and logging operation employed about 100 men, and over a period of years, about 30 miles of narrow gauge railroad ran from Heaps Peak on the west to near Green Valley Lake in the east. Motive power consisted of 3 two-truck Shays and about 20 logging cars.
Because Big Bear Valley was so far away from civilization, and hauling costs were prohibitive, this valley was saved from the intensive timber cutting of the Arrowhead-Running Springs forests. Sawmills were in use by 1861 for mining purposes in Holcomb Valley, and in later years several small mills ran in Bear Valley. In 1924 Coy and Lex Brown set up a mill in Poligue Canyon, and Viggo Pederson began producing lumber from his mill at Fawnskin. Closed for years, this old sawmill still exists, and is the last reminder of a once thriving industry in these mountains.