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Diamond Match Company

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Birth of a City

Stirling City is a small community of history and heritage located on the upper Paradise Ridge. The last major populated place on the Skyway with a population around 400. It was a late starter beginning in 1901, although some say it may have been 1903, by Columbus Barber owner of Diamond Match in Barberton, Ohio. He had come west seeking wood for his matches. It was said the wood was to soft for matches, but construction of the sawmill began in 1904 supervised by Fred Haskins. The mill was completed with its first full season in 1905.

The name Stirling City was chosen by Fred Clough from a brand of steam boiler used at the mill built in Barberton by the Stirling Boiler Company. Fred Clough along with many Diamond officials, as stockholders, ventured into various businesses which included the Stirling City Mercantile Company and the Stirling City Bank. In 1911 the bank was robbed of $9,000 with the robbers making their escape down the ridge via a railroad handcar.

Stirling City was a dry community. Well almost! There was one bar called the Red Devil on the corner of Quartz and Manzsanita. This lot did not have the liquor prohibition clause in its deed. It was a booming business as there were no others for miles around as Diamond owned the land and did not allow such business on their property. Next to the Red Devil Saloon was a house of prostitution called The White Angel, but it is not known if any Diamond officials were in partnership with its female owner.

As a thriving community it included a hospital named Mount Saint Agnes Hospital run by the Catholic Order, Sisters of Charity.

By the middle of the 1950's most of the millworkers and their families had left the area. The aging sawmill no longer was meeting the company's needs and its closing came January 31, 1958. It was sold to Pollak Steel Supply for dismantling but they didn't get much to salvage as on April 10 the mill caught fire burning the entire mill area and some of the adjacent timberland. This was the second major fire, the first being in April 1931 which destroyed many homes and businesses although the mill and lumber piles were saved.

The streets are uniquely named after minerals and trees and are in the order of their hardness. The 7 mineral streets are Diamond, Quartz, Granite, Lava, Slate, Mica, and Gypsum. The streets named after trees are Manzanita, Oak, Pine, and Spruce.

Stirling City Today!

The Superintendent's Home    Fire Company 12

Although the sawmill no longer exists - it was torn down, many of the homes and other buildings built still stand today, some being restored to their original status, like the Superintendent's House located at 17104 Skyway (the Cuming residence). From the high front porch one can view the area where the mill once stood. Pipes from the mill were run to the house for steam heat. Various mill superintendent's and families occupied the house. There are a few new buildings including the Post Office, Elementary school, and CDF Station. No businesses such as a gas station or grocery store currently exist.

The Community Hall    Old Restaurant

The local Community Hall is the center of many meetings and social activities. It previously served as a movie theater. Located at 17044 Skyway. Open for years the Stirling City Inn is now closed. New owners of the building are expected to reopen the restaurant.

Hotel Stirling City Hotel
This rustic 100 year old building is the Stirling City Hotel located at 16975 Skyway. It's owned by Charlotte Hilgeman who operates the hotel as a bed & breakfast, restaurant, and country store (supplying drinks & ice cream). Each of the rooms are individually decorated with family heirlooms and other collected antiques, such as the bar in the dining area. For information on reservations and dining, call (530) 873-0858. Be sure to ask about the Stirling City Hotel Recipe Books. Click here to view one of the many recipes, several of which are available individually as heavy laminated sheets 8 x 11 inches and 4 x 6 inches (sizes approximate). Other items available are Stirling City hats and t-shirts, and old pictures of Stirling City set on refrigerator magnets.

The Brown Church, so named because it was brown in color, is used now as a church meeting hall. It is located at 17125 Manzanita. The church was built in February 1905 and was under the Presbyterian Church for most of its history. The ministers salery in 1926 was $1,170.85.

At 17059 Manzanita is the Stirling City Assembly of God Church.

The Post Office located at 16939 Skyway is the first building seen entering Stirling City. ZIP Code is 95978 for all of Stirling City (including the Inskip area). Post office box delivery only.

School Horace Brakebill School
At the North end of town is Horace Brakebill elementary school at 7881 Gypsum. Having served the children of the area for many years, the school is now currently closed.

Cemetery Stirling City Cemetery
Located at the very end of Mica Street, approximately 1-1/2 miles off Skyway, is the Stirling City Cemetery. It is a clean, well-kept cemetery. Interesting gravestones - with photographs.

Stirling City Historical Society
Help support the goals of the Stirling City Historical Society to preserve the rich history of the area, promote awareness of the local history, and support the community by becoming a member. Membership is only $10.00 per person per year. Write to the Stirling City Historical Society, P. O. Box 6, Stirling City, CA 95978.

The future home of the Stirling City Historical Society Museum/Library is located at 16999 Skyway, and is expected to be open in early 2003 with dedication ceremonies in August 2003.

Clotilde Merlo Park

As you turn the bend on the Skyway into Stirling City, the newly painted sign depicting the history of the town appears directly in front of you. It's here you turn right on the P Line, then left at the split on the R Line to the entrance of Clotilde Merlo Park.

During the town's mill days this area was known as Dago Town and is today perhaps one of the most beautiful spots on the Ridge. The park was dedicated August 29, 1987 by Harry A. Merlo in memory of his mother, Clotilde Merlo. Harry Angelo Merlo, founding president of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, was born in Stirling City in 1925.

Coltilde was a war widow who came from Italy in 1920 with her small son, Pete. She met and married Joseph Merlo, also widowed with two small children, Caroline and Amiel. They had 3 sons, John, Harry and Frank. She was the foremost teacher in her children's lives as well as running a boarding house for Joseph's co-workers from the nearby sawmill. After WWII, she moved to Berkeley with her three youngest sons where she worked to help them through the University. She died in 1962.

Harry's mother always appreciated the beauty of the land and being close to nature. At the park entrance is a statue "Return from the Garden," an artistic interpretation in bronze of Clotilde Merlo with her small son Harry.

The park's 20 acres contain a variety of trees, Ponderosa, Sugar Pine, Incense Cedar, White and Doug Fir, Black Oak, Quaking Aspen and Manzanita, where nature abounds in deer, squirrels, and birds. There are three large ponds where the flowing water is pumped back and recycled, individual and group picnic areas, nature trails, meadows, horseshoe pits, a bocce court, restrooms, outdoor wedding chapel, and homesite markers.

Clotilde Merlo Park is a must see when visiting or passing through (ah, where are you going?) Stirling City. The park is open May through October from 10 am to 7 pm Thursday thru Sunday. Absolutely no smoking, no dogs. Reservations required for groups or use of the Outdoor Wedding Chapel. Call (530) 873-1658 or write:

  • Clotilde Merlo Park
  • P. O. Box 132
  • Stirling City, CA 95978

For larger pictures of ones appearing here and many others, see the Ridge Photo Album. To view over 100 historic pictures of Stirling City and the people who lived there, see the Special Collection of the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.

More about Stirling City available on its Web site here.

If you arrived here from the Skyway Experience,
please return there to continue.

About Stirling City last revised: January 2003

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