During the early years after the Gold Rush, the Arnold community was composed of two large ranches. The largest, consisting of almost 2,000 acres, was the Moran cattle ranch, where Blue Lake Springs is now located. The Dunbar Ranch, which encompassed the present community, was deeded to lumberman Willis Dunbar in the 1880s. In 1914 the Dunbar Ranch was sold to H.L. Hunt, who with his son Elmer, planted an apple orchard of 1,000 trees, the present location of the Meadowmont Golf Course. Much of the area was owned by the Manuel Estate Company, which operated lumber mills on the Pass and lumber yards in Murphys and Angels Camp.
In 1927, Bob and Bernice Arnold, for whom the town is named, arrived and began restoring an old roadhouse and restaurant to serve people travelling over Ebbetts Pass and visitors flocking to see the giant Sequoias in what later became Calaveras Big Trees State Park. In 1934 they built three cabins, and started constructing the Ebbetts Pass Inn, which opened in 1939. In later years they sold lots for commerical and summer residential use. One of the first commercial enterprises was Dave Copello’s general merchandise store, and other tourism related enterprises soon followed.
Now a quiet mountain hamlet, the community of Arnold continues to cater to visitors drawn to the area’s myriad year-round outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, bicycling, fishing and winter sports on the nearby Stanislaus National Forest and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The community serves as the western terminus and gateway to the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway.
As you enter White Pines, a little hamlet adjacent to the town of Arnold off of Blagen Road, you may see a small sign proclaiming, “White Pines is not Arnold.” Although the two communities share a zip code, White Pines has a proud history all its own and a fiercely independent identity. The town was founded in 1938, when Frank Blagen relocated his lumber mill and timber harvesting operations from Calpine, CA (near Truckee). White Pines (thus named by Frank Blagen’s mother, Helen) became the new “company town,” with its own Post Office, school and workers’ housing.
The mill closed in l962 and was dismantled in 1966. American Forest Products, Inc., (AFP) which had purchased a controlling interest in the Blagen Lumber Company in 1940, planned to create a large residential subdivision along San Antonio Creek between White Pines and Camp Connell. They dammed San Antonio Creek to create the 26-acre White Pines Lake to attract homebuyers. AFP, however, abandoned the project when the county required construction of a sewer system and treatment plant. In 1977, the Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) bought the lake and a band of surrounding land. CCWD now operates the lake as a domestic water source for its utility customers, and leases portions of the lakeshore to various community organizations, including the White Pines Park committee, the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, and White Pines Lake and Park are now a popular and heavily used recreational resource for residents and visitors to the greater Arnold/White Pines area.
CALAVERAS BIG TREES
Although credit for the effective discovery of the Big Trees was given to Augustus T. Dowd in 1852, several emigrants over the route had recorded them in diaries dating from the mid-1840s. Dowd, a trapper for the Union Water Company who was building a series of ditches and flumes to bring water to the mines in Murphys and Angels Camp, was the first to promote the discovery, which created tremendous excitement throughout California. The first structure in the grove was a rough log cabin, followed in July of 1853 when William and Joseph Lapham filed land claims to two 160-acre parcels in the North Grove. The first “Mammoth Tree Hotel” was completed shortly thereafter.
In 1860, James L. Sperry and John Perry, owners of a hotel in Murphys, became sole owners of the property. The following summer they constructed the new Mammoth Grove Hotel, which could accommodate 60 lodgers. Later owned by the Whiteside family the hotel was the center of social life in the Grove until it burned in 1943.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, located four miles northeast of Arnold on State Highway 4, became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the Calaveras North Grove of giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Over the years, other parcels, including the much larger South Grove of giant sequoias, have been added to the park, bringing the total area to about 6,400 acres. These magnificent trees, the largest in the world, grow as high as 325 feet and 33 feet in diameter and are believed to live as long as 2,000 years. The North Grove contains about 100 mature giant sequoias; the South Grove, about 1,000.
The North Grove includes the 'Discovery Tree' first noted by bear-hunter Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. It was felled in 1853, leaving a giant stump as its only remainder. The tree measured 24 feet in diameter at its base and was determined by ring count to be 1,244 years old when felled. A gentle, 1.5 mile nature trail winds through the North Grove, allowing visitors to get a taste of these magnificant giants in their natural habitat. More ambitious hikers can attempt the five-mile self-guided interpretive trail through the South Grove, where they will encounter the largest tree in the Park, the “Agassiz” tree (250 feet tall and over 25 feet in diameter at six feet above the ground), named after zoologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873).
DORRINGTON/COLD SPRINGS RANCH
Dorrington was a historic stopping place on the Big Tree-Carson Valley Road and a toll station from the 1890s until 1910. Noted for its ice cold spring, it was originally called Cold Spring Ranch. The first recorded mention of the ranch was in November of 1853, when Clark and Benjamin Stockwell sold 160 acres to G. H. Woodruff. The property then passed through several hands until sold to John Gardner and William A. Gibson in January 1868. Known as Gardner’s Station when a post office was established in 1902, the Post Office Department objected because there were so many others of the same name, so the maiden name of John Gardner’s widow, Rebekah Dorrington Gardner, was chosen for the hamlet instead.
Gardner built the existing Dorrington Hotel in the late 1880s after his original hotel across the road was destroyed by fire. The hotel served as a depot for stockmen and as a summer resort for guests visiting the giant Sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. By the turn of the 19th century, the establishment had grown to a considerable size, with a general store, post office, and other commercial buildings.
The area known today as Camp Connell was first used by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Its location on San Antonio Creek was along a trading route between bands of Miwok, Piute, and Washoe, and was a popular summer encampment. By the mid-1850s, the old Indian trail had been improved to accommodate increasing numbers of miners and adventurers heading west to the Calaveras goldfields, as well as visitors flocking to the area to view the recently discovered giant Sequoia in the future Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Camp Connell was established in 1928 by Jack and Noreen Connell, who had purchased the Dorrington Hotel property in the mid-1920s. With auto traffic increasing and the old hotel in need of repair, the couple decided to build the Camp Connell Store, complete with gasoline station (still operating today as one of the oldest Chevron stations in California), general merchandise store, rental cabins, and a campground. Camp Connell quickly became a stopping place for travelers along the Ebbetts Pass Highway, as well as a gathering place for local residents and cattlemen. The Connell's continued to expand the store and added a café to serve the increasing number of visitors. By 1934 the Post Office was moved to the store from Dorrington and became "Camp Connell Station." The store served as a community center where local residents and vacationers alike would come to share news and leave messages, much as it is today. Occasionally, Circuit Court was convened in the building.
The campground was closed in 1949 and the property was subdivided into lots selling for $600 each. The cabins remained a part of Camp Connell until the 1960s, when the highway was realigned to accommodate the ski resort and village at Bear Valley, as well as the development of Big Trees Village subdivision. Portions of the old highway remain on the store property, as the two access points.
Cottage Springs, Black Springs, Mud Springs, Big Springs, Poison Springs
Several ranches were located along the route of the emigrant trail in early years, established at the site of natural springs, as water was necessary for survival of people and livestock. As were most early-day ranches, they became stopping places on the road for emigrants traveling west and cattle and sheep men taking their livestock east to the high country for the summer months.
Cottage Springs,, southwest of the present community of Cottage Springs, was owned by A. Henry Stevens/Stephens as early as 1865. The ranch was conveyed by Sheriff Ben Thorn to John Gardner in 1870 when Stevens failed to pay back taxes. It was patented by his wife Rebekah Gardner in 1888, and a tollgate for the Big Tree and Carson Valley Turnpike was located here when the Big Tree and Carson Valley Turnpike was completed in the early 1860s.
Black Springs was the site of a ranch patented in 1862 by William Carmichael and Jacob Pettit. Owned later by J.H. Lowman, an “old log house” was depicted on an 1876 map of the area.
Mud Springs was the ranch of Josiah McClelland, marked today by two picturesque cedar trees on the north side of the road. During the month from mid-August to mid-September in 1862, McClelland and his partner recorded travel on the road as 134 horse teams, 70 ox teams, and 650 pack animals.
Big Springs, located at the junction of the Mokelumne Hill and Big Tree Road, was also an early stopping place. From here, emigrants and travelers to Mokelumne Hill, West Point, and other localities turned northward.
Poison Springs, also known as Williams’ Springs for the road house of a man by that name, served the freight traffic and stages traveling to and from Silver Mountain City.
Gann’s Meadow was settled in the 1870s by George, Jackson, and William Gann, who arrived in California from Missouri in 1853. First engaged in the cattle business in San Joaquin County, they eventually acquired a ranch in Calaveras County north of Salt Spring Valley on the old road to Spring Valley (near present Valley Springs). Their summer cow camp, located on the Big Tree and Carson Valley Road, soon became known as Gann’s Station. The 160-acre ranch was homestead by Charles A. Gann in 1902 and patented in 1910. Known by the Forest Service as the 38-Mile Tract, a summer home tract consisted of six lots along the western side of the Ebbetts Pass Road, and became known as the “Gann’s Trespass,” where homes were built on land sold by Charlie Gann in good faith, but actually on Forest Service lands. Once the cattle were removed from the area, the meadow filled in with native conifers. A modern residence and restaurant were built there in the late 1960s to cater to travelers to the Bear Valley Ski Area, but has been vacant for many years.
Big Meadows encompassed the valley in which Blue Creek and the main fork of Big Meadows Creek originate. Originally known as Register Flat, the Emigrant road came down off the ride from the east and crossed the meadow. What was probably the oldest cabin to have been built along the Calaveras route between Dorrington and Bloods was located at Big Meadows. The cabin had a dirt floor, no windows, but three gunports and a front door. By 1878 the location was known as Big Meadows Ranch, used in the 1890s and early 1900s as the Guishetti Dairy Ranch. The first road cut through from the Emigrant road to intersect the Big-Tree Carson Valley Turnpike, joined the Turnpike just west of Liberty Vista.
A summer home tract was surveyed in 1922, but a resort never developed. The area now supports the tract, a campground, and hiking trails. The meadow filled in with native conifers after the cattle were removed from grazing.
Known originally as Onion Valley, the area was an early summer stock range known for its profusion of wild onions. In the 1860s and early 1870s, C. Brown operated a sawmill in the area, residing in a cabin on the west side of the road and creek. Over the ensuing years a number of people used the area for summer livestock pasturage, including “Turkey” Johnson, Dave Filipini, and Will and Charlie Gann. In the early 1920s, W.H. Hutchins erected the first store in a lease agreement, changing the name to Camp Tamarack. Located on the east side of the creek, Hutchins’ store also housed a dance hall for summer campers and visitors. In the early 1930s, the Gann’s subdivided the section west of the creek into a summer home subdivision. The Hutchins building was destroyed by fire and, in 1934, William B. and Ruby M. Bracey purchased the land from the Gann’s and built a store and two rental cabins. After passing through a succession of owners, the present lodge was built by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Mosbaugh of Arnold, when they acquired the property in 1954 (Wood 1968:43).