John Brown.

History of San Bernardino and Riverside counties / with selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period of growth and achievement.. (Volume 1) online

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guns we went down the valley about two miles and there in the midst of
the open valley we saw two monster grizzlies. I immediately prepared
to slip up on them. The doctor objected as it was too dangerous, but
I had been waiting too long for such an opportunity which I could
not let pass, so leaving him, I crawled out into the open valley to within
thirty-five or forty yards of them, took deliberate aim and brought one
down. The other hearing his dying groans and seeing him struggling,
at once fell upon him fighting him as if to drive him away ; being quick
at reloading my muzzle loading rifle, I was ready just as he raised his
head to look at me. fired, laying him out along side of his companion.
Going up to those monsters I must confess that I felt a little proud of
this achievement, for it meant a change of diet for all in camp. I now
motioned to the doctor to come up. which he did cautiously and expressed
wonder and astonishment at their enormous size. On returning to camp
there was great rejoicing, but the doctor reprimanded nie in the presence
of all, saying I was too venturesome and that I would be killed surely
by the bear some day and would never accompany me again on so
hazardous an undertaking. Next day those bear were brought to camp,
a smoke house built, and they were soon converted into bear bacon
free to all. I will say now that this smoke house was never clear of
bear bacon while I remained in Bear Valley.

"Soon after this I took my gun and strolled out northward to view
the country, and ascending to the summit of the ridge that divides the
waters of the Santa Ana River from the waters of the Mohave River,
and looking down from this eminence in a northerly direction, a dis-
tance of about two miles, there I discovered a most beautiful little valley.
I gazed with wonder and delight at the beauty and grandeur of the
scenery spread out to my view. But it was late in the day and after a
few moments more of observation and inspiration I retraced my steps
to camp highly pleased with what I believed to be an important dis-
covery. At camp that night I related to my companions what I had dis-
covered, whereupon one of the party. Jim Ware, offered to go with me
and see the new valley, the Holcomb's Valley, as they began to call it.
A short time after this, in company with this same Jim Ware. I led the
way over to this newly discovered valley and found four bear out in
the center of it. At once I began to creep up on them, and when in
good range, I shot one, while the rest rushed up past and within twenty
steps of me and began fighting each other ; this excited me as I thought
Ware was right among them. In great haste I had reloaded my muzzle
loading rifle, which I threw to my shoulder, my eye caught sight of ^^'are
up a tree. I fired, killing one at the root of the tree \\'are was up in.
the other two bears got away. I was vexed at the actions of my com-
panion, but he looked so meek and so frightened that I could not
upbraid him. After disemboweling our two bear, we had no time to
spare to look over the valley, as it was late in the day and we had
five miles to travel to camp. When we returned and told the miners


about our trip, the valley, etc., there was a general jollification that night
and allusions were frequently made to that valley of Holcomb's.

"Next day several of the party took donkeys and went with nie
around up the Van Dusen Canyon to pack in the bear. It took us all
day to get back to camp. There was more talk of Holcomb's Valley.

"I now proposed to prospect this new valley. One of the party, my
old friend, Ben Choteau, desired to go with me, so in a few days we
took our guns, blankets, a little grub, pick, shovel and pan on our backs
and struck out to prospect that new valley of Holcomb's as our com-
panions continued to call it. We arrived there about sun down and
found a monster grizzly out in the valley, which I shot but did not bring
down and as he ran close by us. Ben's gun missed fire, we followed him a
short distance, but darkness ended our pursuit. Next morning early
we took the track and followed to where he had crossed a quartz ledge
which we stopped to examine and found gold in it. We now abandoned
the hunt and taking some dirt in a handkerchief to prospect, we returned
to where we had left our outfit and digging out a hole in the main
gulch, found water and washed our handkerchief of dirt, and behold,
we had found a good prospect. We panned dirt from other gulches and
found fair prospects. We were not greatly elated at our success in this
new valley of Holcomb's and did not look any further for that wounded
bear, which was afterwards found dead, close by, but spoiled. We
now returned to camp with great joy. Evidently we had struck new
diggins in that new valley of Holcomb's, as the boys now called it.
That night there was a bonfire and great rejoicing in camp over the
new discovery of gold in Holcomb Valley, and we resolved to return
next day to stake out and locate our claims, so we did return next day.
May 5th, 1860, just ten years to a day from the time I left home for

"Soon this discovery of gold spread like wild fire and the rush
began. At Bear Valley log cabins began to appear like mas:ic, a store
opened by Sam Kelley. a blacksmith shop erected by John M. Stewart,
whose daughter, Nancy Stewart, became my wife, November 8th, 1860.
I was now ready to move over to the new valley from Bear Valley and
open up the mines there, so I gave all of my interest in the Bear Valley
mines to my old partner. Jack Martin, with whom I had crossed the
plains to California on foot in 1850, and departed for the new gold
diggins in Holcomb Valley, now generally so called, ^^'^e got moved
over and camped on the main gulcli, between what is now called Upper
and Lower Holcomb Valley, arriving there about May 10th, 1860,
unpacked, and got dinner, eight of us in all. We had left all of our
bear meat in Bear Valley, and now, if you will pardon me, I will relate
just one more incident with bear.

"Joe Caldwell, a big, good natured fellow, and a kind of leader in
our company, said to me while eating dinner, 'Bill ! Take your gun and
go and see if you can't get us some fresh bear meat.' 'Well,' said I, 'sup-
pose you go and try your luck.' I knew he wouldn't go for a bear had
previously knocked him down and ran over him. He only laughed and
told me to go on. So after dinner I took my old trusty rifle, walked
briskly down to Lower Holcomb, about four hundred yards, and there
in the open valley were four bears busily engaged in digging for mice or
gophers. I had but little difficulty in approaching them. \\'ith steady
aim I brought down one when the others gathered around him in great
rage, fighting among themselves. Three more shots as quickly as I
could reload and shoot, and all was over. The four bears lay dead within
a few feet of each other. Returning to camp within half an hour from


the time I left it, I met Joe Caldwell, who called out, 'Well, Bill! what
did you kill?' He had heard the four shots. 'O, nothing,' I repHed,
'but four bears.' 'Is that all,' he exclaimed. 'I can do better than that
with a club.'

"The next day we started in to using rockers to wash out our gold
with. We were quite successful right from the start. W'e had not
worked long till some of our gold dust from Holcomb Valley began
to be scattered about in the different avenues of trade, and another
rush was now on. excitement became great, and prospectors gathered
from all directions, some on horseback, some with pack mules and burros
and many on foot with their outfits on their backs. By the 1st of July
Holcomb Valley was swarming with prospectors. Every day strangers
would call on us, and watch us taking out the gold and ask us many
questions which we answered truthfully. \\'e were making from $5.00
to $10.00 a day to the man. Many buildings were now going up of some
kind, some temporary concerns, mere brush sheds and some pretty sub-
stantial structures. '\\'e continued our mining operations, conveying our
pay dirt to our rockers with horses and cart and in sacks on the backs
of burros.

"Some new developments were made in Upper Holcomb. both of
water and mines, and a new town sprung up in a very short time, as is
often the case in the mines and here we held our first 4th of Julv celebra-
tion in 1860 ; Mrs. Van Dusen furnished the flag for the occasion and
for her patriotic favors we named the place 'Belleville,' in honor of her
little daughter, 'Belle.'

"About all the lumber used in building was cut with a whip saw,
and sold as high as $10.00 a hundred. Split clapboards were also used
in building as well as to cover the houses.

"Provisions and all kinds of goods were brought in on pack animals
so freight was high, so the miners decided to have a waeon road built
to lower prices, started a subscription and raised $1,500, for which
Mr. Van Dusen built us a wagon road leading from Holcomb \'alley
westerly along the mountain range passing close by the Green Lead
Mine, on by Cox's Ranch, thence by Rock House, westerly down the
mountain side by Rock Springs, westerly over a desert to the Mohave
River, on southwesterly near where Hesperia is now, thence through
the cedars to the head or summit of Cajon Pass, where the road was
already made by that brave old pioneer of pioneers, John Brown. Sr..
leading to San Bernardino, and all Southern California. This pioneer
Holcomb Valley wagon road was scarcely comi>leted when teams began
to haul freight of all kinds, goods, wares, merchandise, machinery, lum-
ber, etc.. practically doing awav with the use of pack animal trains.
Other roads were built. The first wagon road was constructed from
Holcomb Valley to Bear Valley by way of \'an Dusen Canyon but was
a long wav around. A shorter road was built afterwards from Lower
Holcomb south through Holcomb's Pass to Bear \'alley. These roads
were all constructed by the pioneers of Bear and Holcomb valleys,
and caused the population to increase rapidly. In the state election held
Tuesdav. September 4th. 1861, nine hundred and fifty-nine (959) votes
were cast in San Bernardino County, over three hundred (300> of these
votes were cast in Holcomb \*alley. known as Belleville Township.

"Mining has been carried on every year in Holcomb \'alley since its
discovery, and the miners have added large sums to the world's supply
of gold.

"As already stated, I married Miss Nancy Stewart. November 8th.
1860, and have been blessed with the following children : Charles


Holcomb, William W. Holcomb, father of Grant Holcomb, one of the
promising young attorneys of the San Bernardino bar ; Frank L. Holcomb,
Minnie Holcomb Swarthout, George V. Holcomb and Mamie Holcomb
Robertson. During my residence in San Bernardino I served the people
of the county as county clerk and county assessor, and have been an
active member of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers.

"And now pioneers, and friends, if the perusal of these pages shall
be found of any historic interest to you or should give you any desired
information or afford you any pleasure or satisfaction, then is my highest
object consummated.

"In conclusion, now let us look back over the history of this county
and see what great changes for the better have been wrought within
the last forty years, what effect the providential discovery of the Bear
Valley and Holcomb Valley mines has had on our county, on our citizens,
individually and collectively, who can tell? In thus looking back, it
seems to me that this county lias been especially favored by Divine
Providence and for the many blessings, both temporal and divine, bestowed
on us, we ought to be grateful to our Heavenly Father who alone can
grant us such great and bountiful blessings.

"William F. Holcomb."

Sheldon Stoddard — Monument Builder, Mail Carrier,
Trail Blazer

Sheldon Stoddard, of San Bernardino, was born near Toronto, Can-
ada, February 8, 1830, the son of Nathaniel and Jane MacManigal Stod-
dard. His father was a carpenter by trade and a native of Massachusetts ;
the mother was born in Glasgow, Scotland. The father died at Toronto
and the mother came to the United States about 1838 with her four
sons and after a year in Ohio located at Warsaw. Illinois. She crossed
the plains to Salt Lake and then to San Bernardino with the colonists of
1851, returning to Utah about 1875. Of the sons. Arvin and Albert
came to California in 1849. Rufus died in Utah in 1904. Sheldon Stod-
dard started for California in 1848, coming by way of Council Bluffs
and the North Platte route to Salt Lake. Here a party of about thirty
men, under the guidance of Captain Flake, started for the placer diggings
in 1849. Among the members of this party were Charles C. Rich,
George Q. Cannon, William Lay, and Sheldon Stoddard. They rode pack
animals and followed a trail as far as Mountain Meadows, intending to
take a northern route via Walker's Lake to the placer diggings. They
traveled westward for eighteen days without guides, compass or maps.
They found no water, and were saved from perishing by a providential
shower that seemed to come from heaven to restore and save them from
a terrible death, famishing for the want of water, a miraculous escape
for which blessing they all returned gratitude to their Heavenlv Father.

The water they caught by spreading their rubber blankets and drank
it with a spoon. Being thus refreshed they turned eastward and struck
the head of the Muddy River which they followed down until they found
a trail and soon afterward came up to Captain Hunt in camp with seven
wagons that had remained with him when the rest of his party had
taken the route that led them into Death Valley, where so many perished
for the want of water. They came on southerly up the Mohave River,
through the Cajon Pass, and reached Chino Ranch, where they remained
for a month recruiting their stock and were hospitably treated by
Col. Isaac Williams. They went on to the Mariposa mines, where the
company disbanded, and Mr. Stoddard established a trading post in the


Carson Valley to supply incoming immigrants. Flour and bacon sold
for one dollar a pound, and other articles in proportion. Finally he and
his party bought about sixty horses and twenty head of mules and returned
with these to Salt Lake.

In March, 1851, Mr. Stoddard married Miss Jane, the second daughter
of Captain Hunt, and in April they started for California with the San
Bernardino colonists under Captain Hunt, Amasa Lyman. Charles C.
Rich. At Bitter Springs Lyman, Rich, Hopkins, Rollins and Captain
Hunt started on ahead of the company on horseback, Stoddard accom-
panying them with a mule team, arriving and camping at Sycamore
Grove, the remaining wagons reaching this location soon afterwards,
where all remained until September, 1851, when all moved down to the
valley as the leaders had completed the purchase of the San Bernardino
Rancho from the Lugo family. Mr. Stoddard at once built the first
log cabin out of willow logs on what was known as the Mary Carter
place, on First Street, west of I Street. This cabin was later taken
down and moved down and erected on the west line of the fort that
was being constructed as a protection from hostile Indians. In May.
1852, he brought John Brown and family from San Pedro and located
them as his neighbor on the west side of this fort. Mr. Brown purchasing
the cabin from Marshall Hunt for fifty dollars. In 1853 Mr. Stoddard
built a small adobe house on the northwest comer of D and Fourth
streets, where the postoffice is now located. For many years he was
engaged in freighting and carrying the United States mail between San
Bernardino and Salt Lake City, crossing the desert twenty-four times,
in 1865 he made the trip to Nevada and Montana, a distance of 1,300 miles,
requiring six months for the journey, with his mule team. In 1882 he
entered the employ of the California Southern Railway, and the Santa Fe
Railroad Company, under their chief engineer, Fred T. Ferris, taking
charge of their teaming and quarry work, retiring in 1899 from active
work to enjoy a well-earned rest. His beloved wife died in San Ber-
nardino, December 26, 1899, since which time he continued to live at
the old home. Tenth and D streets with his daughter, Hattie Stoddard
Merritt, who cared for him as only a loving daughter knows how until
his death, which occurred in 1903. He was elected president of the
Pioneer Society to which he was strongly attached as it kept him in
touch with many of his old friends. He was active in building log
cabins and monuments with the pioneers and loved to go camping and
fishing with them. Among these companions in later years were Sydney
P. Waite, John Brown, Jr., Bill Holcomb, George Miller, George M.
Cooley, Taney, Woodward, Richard Weir, Silas Cox, Jap Corbett,
G. W. Suttenfield, Charley Clusker, and others.

His children were Mary Aurelia, who married Nelson Sleppy, now
deceased; Eva, who married Albert Rousseau, now deceased; Bell, now
deceased, and Hattie, wife of S. P. Merritt, now (1922) living.

C.\PT. David Seely, One of the Founders of
San Bernardino County

David Seely was one of the historical characters of San Bernardino
County. He was born October 12, 1819. in the Township of Whitby,
Ontario, Canada, one mile from Port Whitby. Up to his eighteenth year
he was reared on a farm miaking occasional trips with his father who
was the owner of three sailing vessels. At the breaking out of the
Patriot war in Canada in 1837, his father being known as a sympathizer
with the Patriot or Reform party, the Canadian authorities fearing that


he might convey McKenzie, the Partiot leader, across the lake to the
United States, dismantled one of his vessels. This action caused him
to remove to the Far West. He settled in Iowa, then a territory, near
Bur^ngton. From there he removed to Nashville. About this time he
built two 100-ton lighters to be used in transferring the freight from
steamers and conveying it over the Des Moines Rapids, he being the
pilot for three years.

In July, 1846, he started for California and wintered at Council
Bluffs, at a place called Seely's Grove. In the following spring he
started for Salt Lake City, which he reached in September of the same
year. Here he remained until November, 1849, when he left with Pom-
eroy's train by the southern route for California for the purpose of
mining, being affected with the memorable gold fever of that exciting
year. On the way the company picked up nine men who formed a part
of the ill-fated Death \'alley party, who were barefoot and starving.
Mr. Seeley reached San Bernardino in the month of February, 1850,

Capt. David Seely

where he remained two months, going then to Los Angeles, where he
sold out his effects and took passage on a brig bound for "Frisco,"
going direct to Coloma, where he arrived April 6th and engaged in
mining for gold in company with his brother and brother-in-law and
was reasonably successful.

On August 14. 1850, he started for his home at Salt Lake with others
by the way of Humbolt. After wintering in Salt Lake, he was a cap-
tain of fifty wagons bound for California. Other wagon trains in charge
of Amasa Lyman, Charles C. Rich and Andrew Lytle, 100 wagons all
told, under the direction of Capt. Jefferson Hunt as the guide, he having
been over the road. Mr. Seely arrived at Sycamore Grove, now known
as Glen Helen Ranch, in the mouth of Cajon Pass, June 11, 1851. The
other portions of the train arrived a few days later and remained
encamped here and on the bank of the creek, about three miles over the
ridge south, where Capt. Andrew Lytle camped, and the stream took
his name it bears to this day — Lytle Creek. On the way through the
deserts the wagon train had to be divided up into small numbers on
account of the scarcity of water.


Messrs. Lyman and Rich having purchased the San Bernardino Rancho
from the Luga family, the colonists moved from Sycamore Grove down
into the Valley of San Bernardino in September, 1851, where these pio-
neers went to farming, raising wheat to apply on the payment iof the
ranch. The Piute Indians threatened hostility so a fort was built for
protection. Needing building material for houses and fences, these pio-
neers all joined in building a wagon road up to the top of the mountains,
following up West Twin Creek, down which the lumber for the first
houses in San Bernardino was brought down, having a pine tree drag-
ging by the little end behind the load of timber to serve as a brake to
keep the wagon from running on to the oxen, this being before the inven-
tion of brakes. In company with his brother, Mr. Seely built a saw
mill with a water wheel as the motive power ; and furnished lumber for
the new settlement. The place where his mill was built became known
as Seely Flat. Pioneer Silas C. Cox states that his father, Uncle Jack
Cox, had a saw mill on this same stream.

Captain Hunt built a steam .saw mill on the flat about three miles east
of Seely Flat, having, with the assistance of (jeorge Crisman, procured
the machinery out near Salt Springs on the way to Utah and began sup-
plying lumber and posts and clap boards for the new town. This flat took
the name of James Flat, because Mr. John M. James was the sawyer
in the mill, when the name should have been Hunt's Flat, as the mill
belonged to Captain Hunt.

On April 26, 1853, the Legislature of California passed the act cre-
ating the County of San Bernardino from Los Angeles County and in
said act David Seely, John Brown, Isaac Williams and H. G. Sher-
wood were appointed a board of commissioners to designate election pre-
cincts, appoint inspectors of election, receive returns and to issue cer-
tificates of election. This first election was held under this act and
certificates of election were issued to these, the first officers of San Ber-
nardino County: Capt. Jefferson Hunt, Legislature; D. N. Thomas,
county judge; Ellis .\mes, county attorney; Richard R. Hopkins, county
clerk; Robert Clift, sheriff; David Seely, treasurer; William Stout,
county assessor; H. G. Sherwood, surveyor; John Brown and Andrew
Lytle. justices of the peace.

At the next election Mr. Seely was again chosen to take care of the
treasury of the county, showing the confidence already acc|uired by him
among the first settlers. Since then he has been elected county super-
visor several times and was alwavs a strong advocate of progress. In
the construction of the old court house and the pavilion and the organ-
ization of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers, the free
public road to our mountains and other public improvements he always
took a leading part.

In 1891 he took a trip to Illinois and Iowa to view the scenes of
his childhood and for the benefit of his health. On May 24, 1892. he
passed on to his heavenly home, surrounded by his family, at the old
homestead. Sixth and C streets, San Bernardino, one of the pioneers
and founders of San Bernardino County, loved and respected by all.
leaving his widow, Mrs. Mary Seely (since deceased), and four
daughters, Mrs. Mary x\brillia Satterwhite, Mrs. Emma E. Baker (since
deceased), Mrs. Caroline Barton, wife of John H. Barton, and Mrs.
Maria Isabella Corbett (since deceased), and two sons, David Randolph
Seely and Walter Edwin Seely (since deceased).

George Miller, Indian fighter, bear slayer, one of the brave pio-
neers entitled to great credit for risking his life in clearing the forests
and mountains from hostile Indians and grizzly bear so that the county


could be settled and enjoyed in safety. Teddy Roosevelt had in mind
just such men when he stated to the people of San Bernardino on his
memorable trip through California that to the rifle and axe in the
hands of the trusty pioneers we owe this western civilization. George
Miller not only used his rifle but also wielded the axe in chopping down
pines for lumber to build cities, cedar to make posts so to fence land
for the cultivation of the soil. As a hunter, not only of small game
such as rabbits, quail, ducks and geese, but the larger variety — deer,
mountain sheejj and grizzly bear — he is regarded among the most suc-
cessful. When the large game became scarce in the San Bernardino
Mountains he went to the northern portion of the state and returned with

Online LibraryJohn BrownHistory of San Bernardino and Riverside counties / with selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period of growth and achievement.. (Volume 1) → online text (page 40 of 82)