We are sharing information from “A Summer in the Sierras” by Georgia Waltz (daughter of Mark Waterbury) and Eva Burns Lyons (printed 1962).
The book contains photographs taken by Mark Waterbury and were printed from original old glass negatives. Mark’s avocation was photography and he planned to open a business while spending the summer at Shaver.
In preparation for the “foot” trip, Jennie and Mark shipped part of their supplies by stage. A picture of the stage had the following notation: “The stage left Fresno by 4 o’clock in the morning, stopped for breakfast in Clovis and for lunch at Letcher, arriving at Tollhouse for the night. Early the following morning it climbed Tollhouse grade and arrived in Shaver that afternoon.” It was noted that stage passengers (on steep grades) had to walk and help “push” the coach.
The couple began their journey in the evening to escape the heat of the day. A cousin, Doxie Johnson joined them. We quote: “The girls in shirt-waists and long khaki “divided skirts,” old time versions of the present day culotte. And one shudders to think that although in those days a woman wore boots, she, to use Jennie’s words, “wouldn’t be caught dead without her corset!”
They camped at Academy, Manzanita School, and Tollhouse. They began the steep and rugged climb up the old Tollhouse grade and passed Widow Waite’s and Cressman’s. They made camp between Ockenden and Muzick Meadow.
“Mark made camp very carefully, using the large granite rock as a wall, and placing our bedrolls between it and the campfire. Just beyond the fire he tethered the donkey. Suddenly a piercing scream brought us all upright, and the poor burro nearly landed in the center of the fire.”
The next morning, they learned a panther (nine feet from tip to tip) had been killed near their camp. Mark found tracks where the cat had walked around and around them, waiting for a chance to attack.
When arriving at Shaver: “Entering town, the sawmill was on the left side of the street (dirt road), and the town was on the right. The town consisted of a store, blacksmith shop, a saloon, a place for stages, a barn for the horses, and a small cluster of permanent houses.”
Describing a picture: “Dome and falls at Big Creek. When the Waterburys picnicked here in 1911, they walked behind the falls on a shelf of rock and looked out through the tumbling water. They walked here because the power company road was not open to the public. This is Kerck half-dome but may not have been called that at the time.”
The authors revisit the journey of Jennie and Mark in 1962 and describe changes that had occurred: They observed two hours of easy driving (two lane paving highway out of Fresno (population 212,000 in 1962, 25,000 in 1911). There was a small store at Academy with gasoline pumps out in front instead of a hitching rail.
Old palm trees marked the former location of Letcher (2 miles from Academy and named after Fresno County Supervisor and area farmer F.F. Letcher). A post office opened on July 8, 1886 and a store and school district on May 7, 1887. The post office eventually closed on January 15, 1915.
“The Tollhouse grade still winds, loops and hairpins to gain altitude, but the road has been changed to eliminate what used to be the steepest grades, and it is a two lane highway all the way up. In seven miles, we climb from an altitude of 1950 feet to 4500 feet at Cressman’s.”
At Cressman’s, they noted a sign that read Pine Ridge. The town was located approximately eight miles from Auberry and the lumber industry surrounded this town. Shaver Lake was named after Charles B. Shaver. Shaver and Lewis P. Swift founded Fresno Flume and Irrigation that arrived in Clovis in 1893. We remained a mill town until 1925.
At Eckert’s Lodge (located Shaver Heights) they discovered a few pictures by Mark Waterbury displayed in the restaurant.
Clovis is “The Gateway to the Sierra” and the 1911 journey of the Waterbury’s documented in “A Summer in the Sierras” is a part of our rich heritage.