Big Bear, CA, March 15, 2014 – In 1848, gold was discovered in northern California which brought thousands of people to the state from all over the world. One of these people was Bill Holcomb who tried his luck up north, but quickly decided to head to southern California.
He heard rumors of gold in Big Bear Valley, but wasn’t sure how to get there. He and his partner, Jack Martin, finally got directions and made their way to the valley in 1859. There they met up with other miners who were working the area known as Starvation Flats, very close to where the Stater Bros. Shopping Center is today. Not having any luck, they decided to hunt bears instead. Holcomb ended up shooting and wounding a bear which he followed into a beautiful little valley to the north which people started calling Holcomb Valley.
He returned to the valley in search of more bear and while he was there decided to do a little gold panning. Much to his surprise, he found gold. Soon word got out and hundreds of people came to Holcomb Valley to make their fortune. Jed Van Dusen was asked to build a wagon road from Holcomb Valley to the Cajon Pass to make it easier to bring lumber and machinery to the valley. Consequently, the town that sprang up was named Belleville after the Van Dusen’s daughter Belle.
The gold rush in Holcomb Valley lasted about ten years and then shifted to the east end of the valley when gold was discovered there. Elias ‘Lucky’ Baldwin built a large stamp mill on the edge of a cliff on Gold Mountain, using heavy machinery to crush tons of rock in order to get to the gold. This lasted about twenty years until it cost more to get the gold than it was actually worth. Even though the gold rush never lived up to expectations, it brought people to Big Bear and helped create the beautiful community we have today.