Tag: big bear valley historical society

Fox Farming in Big Bear

Big Bear Valley, CA, November 8, 2014 – In the long history of the Big Bear Valley starting with the gold rush days of the 1860s, fox farming was certainly one of the more unique enterprises. Raising foxes for their beautiful furs dates from the 1890s when a consistent strain of valuable silver foxes was developed from the common red fox. Demand for fur was high at that time and profits were quite large, so many in the northern areas of the country became fox ranchers. This included the very successful R. T. Moore of Maine. He heard about the climate in Big Bear and realized it was ideal for raising foxes. Cool summer nights and cold winters are perfect conditions for the industry and the high altitude and dry air eliminated many internal and external pests. In the 1920s, Moore purchased 84 acres east of Pine Knot, which he named the Borestone Ranch, and quickly built extensive pens and kennels. Today, the site of the original ranch is bordered by Fox Farm Rd., Teakwood Dr., Crater Lake Rd., and the rocky hills to the north. The pen-raised silver foxes required diligent care and feeding. A fine pelt could command as much as $1,100 in those days, but it was the sale of breeding stock that was the primary objective of fox farming in the early years because it...

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Logging in the Mountains

San Bernardino Mountains, CA, July 26, 2014 – Although Big Bear and the surrounding San Bernardino mountain communities are best known for recreation, outdoor locations for Hollywood productions, and the gold rush of the late 1800s, it was logging that was the big industry in the early 1900s. Logging in the San Bernardino Mountains was once done on a very large scale. The largest operation was conducted by the Brookings Lumber Company. They logged 8,000 acres between Fredalba and Hunsaker Flats, which is  present day Running Springs, and extended northward to Heap’s Ranch and Lightningdale which is near Green Valley Lake. They operated continuously between 1899 and 1912 and even built a railroad to bring logs to the mill at Fredalba. Since the railroad operated in the high country and didn’t connect to other rail lines in the lowlands, the locomotives had to be disassembled and hauled by horse drawn wagons up the mountain. About 60% of the finished lumber was hauled by wagon down the steep grades to the Molino box factory in Highland, which made packing crates for the citrus grown in the area. The remaining 40% went to the company’s retail lumber yard in San Bernardino. In 1912, the company dismantled the Fredalba sawmill and moved it to...

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Resort Life… in Turn of the Century Big Bear

Big Bear, CA, May 31, 2014 – As soon as Big Bear Lake was created by building the original ‘Rock Dam’ in 1885, tourists started visiting  Bear Valley. In 1888, Gus Knight Jr. and John Metcalf purchased 80 acres on the south shore of the lake to build the valley’s first resort, The Bear Valley Hotel. Despite the fact that it took two days by stage and burro train to reach the valley, the hotel was always crowded. Unfortunately, on Christmas eve in 1900 the hotel burned to the ground but Knight rebuilt and was open soon after. In 1911, the ‘Pine Knot Resort Company’ was formed by a group of wealthy businessmen from Redlands. They bought the Knight/Metcalf resort and built the Pine Knot Lodge. Located along Pine Knot Blvd.  just south of where the Village is now, the lodge had a large dining room, dance floor, and 75 cabins by 1913. It was torn down in the late 1930s. The Big Bear Tavern was a stylish resort built in 1917 and still exists today as the Presbyterian Conference Grounds. If you had the money, the place to stay in the 20s was Stillwell’s. On a point just east of the village, it was the most luxurious and expensive accommodations in the valley. Stillwell’s was rebuilt after fire destroyed the pavilion in 1928. Seventeen years later, the ‘rebuilt’...

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The Road to Big Bear

Big Bear, CA, April 26, 2014 – The first road into the San Bernardino Mountains, which was really just a trail, was built by the Mormons in 1852 and ascended Waterman Canyon. Big Bear Lake was created in 1885 and the only way up, other than a pack trail up Santa Ana Canyon, was a long arduous trip up Cushenbury Grade. To get to the Grade, visitors first had to travel over Cajon Pass to the desert before climbing the steep grade to Bear Valley. In May of 1888, the Bear Valley Toll Road Company was formed. They cut a road into Santa Ana Canyon and over the mountains  into the Valley, and used a combination of stage coach and mule train for the two day trip to Big Bear. In 1891, Gus Knight and John Metcalf formed the Bear Valley Wagon Road Company and by the following year had completed a road through what is now Running Springs. Stagecoaches began making scheduled runs into the valley three times a week. With this new road, travel time to Big Bear was cut to a day and a half. It was 1908 when the first automobile made the 101 mile trip up. Since gas stations were non-existent, a 20 horsepower steam powered vehicle was chosen to make the trek, and did so with much difficulty. In 1915, Rim of the...

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There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

  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...

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