Story of Inyo 1

A Look Inside: The Story of Inyo

The Story of Inyo can be found in the California section of our American County Histories: The West. This book was compiled by Willie Arthur Chalfant (1868-1943) and dedicated to Pleasant Arthur Chalfant.

Story of Inyo Dedication

Story of Inyo Dedication

From the Foreword to the First Edition

California has furnished probably more themes for books than has any other American State. The easy-going romantic years of Mexican rule, the padres, the Argonauts, the golden era, the wonders of this Empire of the West, have had generous attention from both masters and amateurs in prose and poetry, fact and fiction. The flood of writing hardly diminishes, for magazine literature and still more books add to it month by month.

This book’s purpose is to preserve, particularly, the record of Inyo County earlier than 1870, when a printed record began. Gathering data for some such purpose began more than twenty years ago, while many of the pioneers still lived. It was the author’s good fortune to know personally every early-day Inyoite then in the county. All narratives were checked and rechecked with each other and with other sources of information.

One of the most valuable sources of information was an extensive manuscript collection in the private library of Henry G. Hanks, in San Francisco. Mr. Hanks was an assayer in San Carlos and Chrysopolis mining camps, Owens Valley, in 1863. In later years he became State Mineralogist of California. He was a man of education, and when age caused his retirement from active labors his library received his whole attention. His interest in Owens Valley continuing, he kept and arranged many letters, diaries and other writings relating to this county’s history.

Everyone who took any prominent part in the Indian war has passed on. The Hanks library was burned in the fire of 1906. As those sources of information are thus forever lost, there is some justification in believing that a service was done in getting what they had to impart; and also, that these chronicles, having that advantage, give the only fairly complete record of the county’s beginnings that can be compiled.

Story of Inyo - Settlement Map

Story of Inyo – Settlement Map

Table of Contents

  • Chapter I — SOME GEOLOGICAL FACTS — Most diversified topography on the continent • Alabama hills not the oldest American mountains • A million years the time unit • Wide range of scientific estimates • Volcanism and glaciation • A novelty in stream gorges 11
  • Chapter II — WHO WERE THE FIRST FAMILIES • No traces of ancient man • Varied animal life when Owens Valley was wooded • Rock markings found at many places throughout the county • Not understood by either whites or Indians 21
  • Chapter III — RELIGION AND MEDICINE — Beliefs as explained by a native • A world peopled with spirits • Banishing evil influences • Destiny controlled by dreams • Fanciful and practical treatments • A bona fide Indian speech • Ceremonies and customs 29
  • Chapter IV — PIUTES AND THEIR NEIGHBORS — Piutes little studied • Their aboriginal neighbors • Claim to have always possessed Owens Valley • Probably decreasing slightly in numbers • Government a loose confederacy of communities • Warfare 41
  • Chapter V — NATIVE LEGENDS — A people without a history • Localization of tales • Prevalence of the supernatural in primitive lore • Legends of the Creation • Accounting for Winnedumah • There were giants in those days 49
  • Chapter VI — HOME LIFE AND CUSTOMS — Vocabulary limited • Few manufactures • Basketwork • Irrigation without agriculture • Omnivorous menus • Villages • Social occasions • A people moving toward the light 69
  • Chapter VII — EARLY EXPLORATIONS — Padres did not reach Inyo • Jedediah Smith • Gold found at Mono Lake • Ogden, 1831 • Captain Joe Walker, 1833 • Chiles party, 1842 • Wagons abandoned at Owens Lake • Fremont expeditions • Naming of Owens River 93
  • Chapter VIII — DEATH VALLEY PARTY OF 1849 • A trial marked by graves • Start of the Jayhawkers • Additions to expedition • Break-up of caravan in Utah • Guide’s advice rejected • Into Death Valley • Forlorn hope sent out • The return • Final escape 101
  • Chapter IX — A DECADE OF EXPLORATION — Mormons sought southern road • Amargosa mine found • Schmidt’s survey 1855-1856 • Reservation proposed • Party crosses Kearsarge pass • “Wakopee” • Monoville a factor in valley history 119
  • Chapter X — COSO AND THE DESERT CAMPS — Discoveries that started an excitement • French and party locate Coso • Narrators liberal with facts • Telescope district • Argus range • Mining the public 129
  • Chapter XI — COMING OF THE STOCKMEN — Discoveries in Owens Valley • Derivation of the name Inyo • A thoroughfare to northern mines • Stockmen begin to drive in • First buildings • “No mas ketchum squaw!” • Bishop’s San Francis ranch • An election fraud 139
  • Chapter XII — BEGINNING OF INDIAN WAR — Cattlemen winter in valley • Severest season in Inyo annals • Settlers menaced at San Francis • Treaty signed • A scrap of paper • Marauding commenced • Indians killed at Putnam’s • Murder of white men • Alabama Hills fight 147
  • Chapter XIII — WHITES DEFEATED AT BISHOP CREEK — Indians seek outside help • Indian eloquence • Renegade red men gather in Owens Valley • Merchants supply their ammunition • Kellogg and Mayfield commands • Deaths of Scott, Morrison and Pleasant • Field abandoned 155
  • Chapter XIV — WHITES AGAIN BEATEN — Indian agent Wasson comes to make peace • Appeal for troops • A cautious Governor • Wasson enters valley at hour of battle • Evans’ troopers arrive from south • Soldiers and citizens retreat from Round Valley • Mayfield killed 161
  • Chapter XV — TEMPORARY PEACE — Indians in full possession • Military expedition • Camp Independence established • Peace arranged • San Carlos mines found • Bill to establish reservation creates controversy and is finally forgotten 167
  • Chapter XVI — FRESH OUTBREAKS — War medicine made • Lone travelers murdered • McDonald killed at Big Pine • Cabins broken open and pillaged • Weak military demonstrations • McGee party’s notable escape • Tyler captured by Indians to suffer unknown fate 175
  • Chapter XVII — CONTINUATION OF THE WAR — Settlers on defensive • More troops arrive • A successful mutiny • Fighting on Big Pine creek • Warriors followed by citizens to battleground on west shore of Owens Lake • Indian band almost exterminated 183
  • Chapter XVIII — RUTHLESS SLAUGHTERINGS — Soldiers massacre Indians on Kern river • Prisoners taken by troops • Destruction of Indian stores • Powwow with Chief George • Many Indians surrender • Taken across Sierra • Murders by whites • Merriam’s thrilling escape 189
  • Chapter XIX — PIONEER SETTLEMENTS — Mills and houses put up • San Carlos, Bend City, Owensville • Places the sites of which are unknown • A Fourth of July celebration in 1864 • A smelter that smelted itself • Sawmill built • Farming in Round Valley and elsewhere 201
  • Chapter XX — MORE INDIAN TROUBLES — Coso county authorized • Political convention • Piutes start new depredations • Affair at Cinderella mine • Mrs. McGuire and son killed at Haiwai • Vengeance of citizens • Intermittent hostilities and unrest 215 [Page [5]]
  • Chapter XXI — WHITES IN POSSESSION — Travel in valley considered safe • Land entries • Kearsarge mine discovered • A revolting crime • Hard times • Avalanche sweeps away part of Kearsarge camp • Some of the record of the mine 231
  • Chapter XXII — INYO COUNTY ESTABLISHED — Mormon efforts to secure territory east of Sierra • Inyo county created • Total vote ninety-one at first election • First officers • Huge school districts • First church organization • Boundary changes 239
  • Chapter XXIII — TWO AFFAIRS OF 1871 • Convicts escaping from Carson head toward Inyo • Their trail to Long Valley • Morrison killed at Convict lake • Slayers captured, tried and executed • Unexplained disappearance of guides Hahn and Egan, with Wheeler expedition 251
  • Chapter XXIV — EL TEMBLOR — The great earthquake of 1872 • Almost simultaneous disturbances in many lands • Some facts and incidents of the time • Prof. Whitney’s observations • Rebuilding • Money borrowed at expensive rates • Opportune legislation 259
  • Chapter XXV — YEARS OF RAMPANT CRIME — Inyo a refuge for bad men • Law existent but ineffective • Cerro Gordo’s stained record • Judge Reed, a man for the period • Vasquez, master road agent • Caught the wrong man • Deaths of Sheriffs Passmore and Moore 265
  • Chapter XXVI — CERRO GORDO — Inyo’s greatest producer of mineral wealth • Discovery • A booming camp • Transportation • Liberal mining claims • San Felipe-Union lawsuit • Throwing gold over waste dump • Camp stages a comeback 277
  • Chapter XXVII — PANAMINT — Rich ores start a new rush • Senators Jones and Stewart drop two millions in venture • Mine owners of doubtful records • Process of opening new saloon • News as presented by camp paper • Some other districts 285
  • Chapter XXVIII — OTHER MINING DISCOVERIES — Optimism of the prospector • Waucoba, Lucky Jim, Ubehebe, Beveridge, Poleta • Darwin lively • Greenwater, where millions were spent • Skidoo • Judge Lynch’s dictum • Tungsten, marble, soda, salt, borax 293
  • Chapter XXIX — LATER DEATH VALLEY HISTORY — Mexicans the pioneers in that region • Early American visitors • A refuge for the lawless • “Bellerin’ ” Teck • Discovery of borax • A desert home • “She burns green!” • Pacific Coast Borax Company 303
  • Chapter XXX — TRANSPORTATION — Railroad talk always with us • An early-day survey • High freights • Cerro Gordo Freighting Company • Steamers on Owens Lake • Advent of Carson & Colorado railroad • Other railroad notes • El Camino Sierra, of State highway system 309
  • Chapter XXXI — SUNDRY WAYMARKS OF HISTORY — Attempt to grab Owens Valley as swamp land • Later plan to make much of it stock range • No-fence issue • Mt. Whitney dispute • Slack requirements for teaching • Society of Pioneers • Returns thrown out • Local option in 1874 • Camp Independence abandoned 315
  • Chapter XXXII — FURTHER WAYMARKS — First fair • District causes a clash • Inyo Academy established • Succeeded by high school • Other school items • Creamery beginning • County seat agitations • The “145” • Tonopah brings new era • Bishop incorporated • Dry • Tax money • New Courthouse • Irrigation enterprises 325
  • Chapter XXXIII — INYO’S GOLD STARS.
  • Chapter XXXIV — BETRAYAL OF OWENS VALLEY — Retrogression replaces progress • Settlers plan water storage • Reclamation service welcomed • Service head’s interest on behalf of Los Angeles • Fruitless efforts to secure investigation 337
  • Chapter XXXV — IRRIGATION OR MUNICIPAL USE? — Wholesale locations • Bill for aqueduct • Smith compromise ignored • President, deceived, overrules Secretary • Irrigation and not municipal supply the largest use of water taken from Inyo • Valley’s ruin wholly unnecessary 353
  • Chapter XXXVI — PINCHOT TAKES A HAND — Hysterical conservation • Agricultural lands withdrawn as alleged forest to hamper settlement • “Yes” irrigation congresses • Square leagues of forest without a tree 363
  • Chapter XXXVII — THE COILS TIGHTEN — Los Angeles begins taking underground water • Aberdeen case • Taxation change • Agreement made but never kept • Aqueduct completed • City wants more grants • Fails in condemnation 371
  • Chapter XXXVIII — UNCEASING MENACE — Discussion of dams • Eaton-Mulholland feud • Injunction suits never pressed • Irrigation district • City tries cutting out canal • Causeless suit prevents bond sale • Local men allied with city • Wholesale buying 381
  • Chapter XXXIX — CITY LAWLESSNESS EMULATED — Aqueduct dynamited • Alabama spillway seized • State officer investigates • Press sympathy with Inyo • Arbitration vainly sought • Reparations act • Legislative committee condemns Los Angeles • City’s guards and detectives • Bank failure 391
  • Chapter XXXX — THE END OF THE TRAIL — City invited to make clean sweep of destroyed valley • Arbitration and appraisals • City eliminating population • Another legislative investigation • Where the wrecker is having his way…. 399
  • APPENDICES — Appendix A • Officers of Inyo County 413 — Appendix B • Altitude of Peaks 417 — Appendix C • Death Valley Notes 419

The full-text search capability of the American County Histories database permits the student/researcher to explore all the publications of a particular county by using a single query. In addition, those wishing to read or browse the text on a page by page basis may do so in the original format merely by scrolling down the screen and then continuing to the next chapter.

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