In 1854, a group men working for the Smith Mining Company claimed five sections of land in Sierra Valley for agriculture and cattle grazing. Their settlement took the name Smith's Neck, but due to the failure to procure cattle did not succeed. In addition, Indians raided burned Smith's Neck to the ground, so the venture was abandoned altogether. Between 1857 and 1860, other settlers began to arrive in the vicinity. These including Dr. Adam G. Doome, who oversaw the creation of the new town of Loyalton, so named for the community's loyalty to the Union during the Civil War; the entire population responded to war subscriptions. A school, churches, and businesses were established, though a fire in August 1879 destroyed much of the town. It was quickly rebuilt, and in 1886 the Lewis' lumber mill was constructed on Smithneck Creek, which ushered in a new era of development for Loyalton.

By the turn of the century, the Lewis Mill was shipping lumber via steam wagon to Truckee and Verdi. Eager to expedite and expand their business, the Lewis brothers and partner John Roberts organized the Boca & Loyalton Railroad Company on September 25, 1900. Work began almost immediately, and the railroad reached Loyalton the next summer. The City of Loyalton was incorporated on August 21 of that year, and enacted an ordinance to prevent the sale of liquor within city limits. To further impose this ordinance, the city limits were expanded to a whopping fifty-two square miles, making Loyalton one of - if not the - largest cities area-wise west of the Mississippi River (this ordinance would later be repealed in the 1930s). With the new railroad connection, additional lumber mills were erected in Loyalton, and the rails continued to push north to Portola. Numerous branch lines were also built to tap into new timberlands. By 1907, Loyalton was home to four sawmills and three box factories.

By 1908, much of the available timber had been used, and the arrival of the Western Pacific Railroad both brought activity to the region and threatened the B&L's business. The line north of Loyalton was improved by the WP, and the B&L was subsequently absorbed on December 1, 1916. The tracks to Boca were removed the following year as they were no longer deemed necessary. Loyalton continued to thrive as a lumber town until 2001, when the last sawmill finally closed and the tracks were removed. Today the little city still has a population of around 700, and a number of historic homes and barns can be found in the Sierra Valley built of lumber from a Loyalton mill.

Western Pacific Railroad
← Hawley • Loyalton • Roberts [B&L] →