Boca's Railroad RootsFrom 1866-68, the Central Pacific Railroad was laying tracks over the Sierra Nevada working to complete its portion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad. The railroad's Construction Camp 17, here, at the junction of the Little Truckee and Truckee Rivers, soon became known as Boca ("mouth" in Spanish).
In 1868, a lumber mill was established at Boca to help supply wood for the railroad. A dam was constructed across the Little Truckee River, creating a pond for logs. During the winter the pond froze over and in 1869 the company began harvesting ice. As the Boca Mill and Ice Company expanded, the town grew quickly.
A Town Mostly of MenBoca once boasted a population of about 200, mostly men under 40. Frontiersmen from Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Nevada, Ireland, Germany, China and Italy were among the Bocaites. The mixture of men from different countries, cultures and occupations did not always blend well. Boca had a reputation for violence.
Few men brought their families to Boca, but by 1873 there were enough children to justify building a school. The pole in front of you was part of the school's flag pole.
By 1876, the town also had a post office, telegraph office, train depot, hotel, sawmill, shingle mill, Chinese Laundry, general store, dairy, butcher shop, brothel, blacksmith shop, homes, saloons, ice houses, and even a beer brewery.
Where the Jobs WereBoca's booming ice and lumber industries employed most of the town's residents and transients. The lumber industry at Boca employed as many as 150 men in the summer while the Boca ice industry employed up to 50 men in the winter. Other enterprises in town, such as the store and saloons, depended on the success of the Boca Mill and Ice Company. Many of these operations were owned by the company.
Lumber:In 1866, the Truckee River Basin was richly forested. Wood demands from the railroad and the Comstock mines quickly changed the local landscape. The railroad needed wood for ties, telegraph poles, snow sheds and fuel. Maintenance alone could require as much as 20 million feet of lumber annually. The mines needed wood for the construction of buildings and mine shafts, requiring as much as 24 to 72 million feet of lumber per year! Operations at Boca helped supply this great demand.
Ice:On the other side of the railroad tracks in front of you are foundations of one of Boca's large ice houses. Boca made ice shipments throughout the west. The expanding California produce industry, along with the development of insulated railroad cars, greatly stimulated the ice industry. During the 1870's, the Sierra ice industry found its greatest market in the Comstock mines of Nevada. Ice was needed in great quantities to cool miners as they searched for silver deep within the earth. Sometimes, underground temperatures in excess of 140?F were encountered!
Boca Beer Wins in Paris, France!Even though Boca was well known for its lumber and ice operations, Boca's biggest claim to fame was Boca Beer! Before you, above the flat between the river and the freeway, once stood the massive Boca Brewery. Covering an acre of ground, the Boca Brewery was established in 1876 and developed a famous lager beer that even won awards at the 1883 Paris World Fair. Lager beer required ice for the fermentation process. Conditions at Boca fit the bill.
The Boca Brewery employed up to 35 men, mostly German, and had an annual production of 20,000 to 30,000 barrels with shipments throughout the west. The brewery was destroyed by fire in 1893, and to the sadness of many, was never rebuilt.
The Children's CemeteryThis cemetery remains a testimony to life's harshness in this Sierra frontier town. All of the remaining headstones, except for one, mark the graves of children. Ailments considered common and unthreatening today were often fatal in the past. Bronchial pneumonia, intestinal problems and childhood diseases, such as typhoid, took the lives of some of these children.
Please respect this special resting place.
Limited archival records have provided information about some of the children's parents.
Little John Margaroli: His father, John Margaroli, was born in Italy and was a section foreman for the railroad. Little John's mother, Edna Margaroli, was born in Illinois.
Patrick and Jeremiah O'Shea: Their parents, Jerry and Margaret O'Shea, were both born in Ireland. Jerry was a section boss for the railroad.
Mynford Weeks: His father, R.C. Weeks, was born in Missouri and was a stenographer for the ice company. Mynford's mother, Scharlett Weeks, was born in Nevada.
Boca's DemiseDue to extreme overharvesting, the era of "unlimited" timber was coming to an end. The Boca sawmill closed in 1908 due to lack of timber.
Ice production became the town's main industry. Unfortunately for Boca, the future of natural ice was not promising either. The Sierra ice industry lost its biggest market in the 1880's when the Comstock mining era ended.
In the 1900's, modern refrigeration and ice production signaled the end to natural ice harvesting. Unable to compete with the artificial ice industry, the Union Ice Company (which acquired the ice company at Boca) ceased operations and began dismantling the town of Boca in 1927.