Monday, March 17, 2014

Lorinda Takes Us Back to the 1930s, Lockwood Valley (Part I)

Lorinda and her husband John, Frazier Park, 1971 (and below). Click any image to enlarge it.
It wasn't that long ago that Rinnie (Lorinda) introduced herself to us with her tale of serving two summers as the Lookout at Thorn Point. Those of you who've been up to the old lookout have seen a little piece of Rinnie in the carved engravings she left on the wood cabinets in the lookout cabin. For the rest of you, visiting The Lady From Thorn Point will give you some of the back story on Thorn and her history with that part of the forest.

Rinnie grew up in Stanislaus, near Yosemite. Her grandparents Herb and Ruth worked mining claims in the Lockwood/Frazier Park region starting in the late 1920's, as did her father Ned. Ruth worked intermittently to bring a little bit of the feminine touch to that rough world, sometimes cleaning a miner's cabin or taking in laundry (there is one funny tale from her story that I'll share at a later date). Ned helped construct the Thorn Point tower where, somewhat by chance, Lorinda was able to "man" the lookout. Here, she has sent additional family photos which give us a glimpse back to a time which precedes even the idea of the the Los Padres as a region deserving of National Forest regulation and management, a time when one could quietly discover some "color", and just as quietly file a claim with the nearest Land Office (what would now fall under the purview of the California Division of Mines and Geology). 

Placer mining started in the Frazier Park area as early as the 1840's. This was a wild and wooly time, with the US Cavalry at Fort Tejon chasing marauding indians, and white cattle rustlers fattening stolen Spanish cattle in the rich meadows at Mutau Flat before pushing them east to Santa Maria. Mining in that day was an even rougher sport than it is today, conducted between personalities instead of corporations, as is the case in modern times. Placer mining requires controlling the water, and I imagine that more than a few unfriendly feuds erupted over that resource, especially as ranchers moved into the area. 

Real mining in Lockwood Valley began in the late 1800s when the Frazier brothers set up shop in Lockwood Valley. Of the early mining operations, the only one to produce any significant quantity of ore was the Frazier Mine, which was producing 300lbs of rock a day at it's peak (equalling about $100 of gold per ton). That ore was milled with an old style wheel turned by a mule (called an arrasta). Warren Frazier (who was the brother principally responsible for developing the mine) was a binge drunk and lost the mine to some investors from San Francisco on a bad deal. The mine was blasted shut in the late 1890's.

Ore mining operations moved into the area in the 1930's and though nobody ever hit a rich lode, the local press was breathless with excitement about the possibilities. There were a number of mines which sprang up overnight (Stauffer, Esperanza, Gold Dust, Bunker Hill, Harris, Sibert, Hess, Maule, Fairview, etc...). At the same time Cuddy Valley, Pine Mountain Lodge, and Frazier Park were being marketed in Bakersfield and Los Angeles as a mountain resort for hunting, fishing, camping, and recreation. This generation of mining operations continued through the 1930's. The resort and recreation investments never really took off either, and were never a financial threat to similar communities in Big Bear and Arrowhead. Very little remains of those mines as the US Forest Service removed much of the old equipment and mine works in the early 1970's (destroying history in the interest of public safety). All that remains is talings piles and various namesake roads.

Lorinda's grandfather Herb and his son (her father Ned) both worked the Gold Hill Mine. Let's all give her a big "Thanks!" for the pictures and a taste of local history.

Rinnie's grandmother, Ruth, Seymore Creek, Stauffer Mine, Frazier Park 1931.
Stauffer Mine works, 1932.
Ned Poole in the middle (Rinnie's father), and grandma Ruth. Ned helped build the Lookout at Thorn Point, where Lorinda eventually spent two seasons on fire watch. Taken at Penn State Mine, Frazier Mountain, 1938.
Stauffer Post Office, Frazier Park, 1925.
The Stauffer Mine, Frazier Park, 1932.

Ruth, Lockwood Valley, 1931.

Lockwood Valley's first Ranger Station, 1931. The region's first ranger was named Reyes. A peak was named for him, and his descendent, Bob Reyes, still runs cattle on the family ranch in Santa Barbara Canyon.
Imagine this. Lockwood Valley's first schoolhouse.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to you and Lorinda for sharing. There's some great LPNF scenes and history captured here.