Johnsondale The Ghost Town

After the mill was auctioned and all the people had left, Sierra Forest Products of Terra Bella kept a couple of people in Johnsondale as caretakers. Hack Davis was the head Caretaker who continued to live there with his wife, Ramona. Don Stubblefield was the assistant Caretaker who remained living in the town with his wife, Dottie. Living in Johnsondale since the mill closed had its rather strange moments as the Stubblefields told a reporter. A Los Angeles Times article in 1979 labeled Johnsondale a “ghost town” and brought some visitors to the area. “I went out back one day and saw a man eyeing my freezer,” said Dottie. “I said ‘what do you think you’re doing?’ and he said ‘trying to figure a way to get this freezer into my pickup truck.’ ” Convinced by the Times article that Johnsondale was a ghost town, the man told her he could take anything he wanted. Some serious persuasion was needed to convince the man that the city was inhabited by more than ghosts! Some US Forest Service employees and their families continued to live there also. The Caretakers’ primary responsibilities were to prevent vandalism and to show the town to prospective buyers and answer questions.

REDE, a partnership of owners of Sierra Forest Products, was the group trying to sell Johnsondale. An entry in the Guest Journal dated 1981 says, “It is impossible to have a dream come true if you don’t have a dream. Johnsondale is the realization of my dream. Ken Clark, new Owner Johnsondale.” Mr. Clark wanted to restore the town to an old western theme with horse and buggy, etc. Unfortunately, his financial backing didn’t come through. Alanoville Foundation, an association involved with helping those recovering from alcohol, drug, and other substance abuse, began negotiations with REDE in the summer of 1983. On April 5, 1984, a lease/option agreement was signed between Alanoville Foundation and REDE for six months at $20,000 per month and one million dollars at each six-month interval until the entire purchase price was satisfied. They planned to restore the existing portion of Johnsondale with the dining room, houses, and commissary open to the public. Residents, whenever possible, would be recovering alcoholics or drug addicts and would rent available homes and stores as in any other town. A unique, private section in the city (Alanoville) was to be developed as a resort town on a membership and time-share principle to raise money. This adventure lasted less than a year.

David Schott Associates, a Santa Barbara Realty firm, represented REDE at that time. The initial asking price for Johnsondale was listed at $3,500,000 with $1,500,000 down. The sales brochure said that there were 71 single-family residences: 6 one bedroom; 42 two bedrooms; 16 three bedrooms; 3 four bedrooms; and one apartment with 4 two bedroom residences. (Cabin 205, A,B,C & D) All homes were heated with a wood stove or electric portable. Interior walls and ceilings were of knotty cedar. There was a 3,000 sq. foot grocery store; a 3,100 sq. foot community hall; a 2,900 sq. ft. dining hall and kitchen with bar; and a 400 sq. ft. Post Office. There were also equipment sheds, an old mill office, and trailer courts. The price was later reduced to $2,500,000.

NEXT 
HISTORY HOME