By Judith Marvin
Dorrington, a historic stopping place on the Big Tree-Carson Valley Road, was originally known as Cold Spring Ranch (NW ¼ of Section 12, T5N, R15E). 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. Gardner built a hotel, across the highway from the present hotel, and when it was destroyed by a fire, built the present hotel in the early 1880s. Stock corrals were erected, a general store opened, a school built, and the stopping place became a toll station on the Big Trees-Carson Valley Turnpike from the 1890s until 1910. Known as Gardner’s Station when a post office was established in 1902, the Post Office Department objected to the name because there were so many others of the same, so the maiden name of John Gardner’s widow, Rebekah Dorrington Gardner, was chosen instead (Wood and Bishop 1968:40-41).
Camp Connell was established in 1928 by Jack and Noreen Connell (SW ¼ of Section 1, T6N, R15E), 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, general merchandise store, 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 post office was moved there from Dorrington in 1934 and remained until 1978, when it was returned to Dorrington. The stopping place was sold to the Anderson family in 1947, who subdivided lots in Dorrington and built the A-frame units across Highway 4 from the old hotel (Las Calaveras 1996:35-37).
Hinkleman Meadow, located east of Dorrington, was once the site of a small store, hotel, and stock corrals. The upland cattle ranch was occupied by Bill Hinkleman from the turn of the century until shortly after World War I. It is now the location of the Dorrington Forest Service Station (Johnson 1999:13, Las Calaveras 1988:21-22). The meadow was encircled by another road in the 1870s, identified as an “old road,” which coursed northeasterly from Gardner’s (southeast of the present road) and connected with the Big Tree and Carson Valley Turnpike just east of Hinkleman’s (Wheeler 1877).
The Mohawk Sawmill of the Union Water Company was located on Mill Creek, where it crossed the Big Tree Road (SW ¼ of Section 32, T6N, R16E). Constructed in 1855, the steam sawmill provided lumber for the flumes of the company which brought water for mining purposes to Murphys and Angels Camp. The mill was noted as “a fine one, capable of producing 1000 feet of lumber per hour” (State Surveyor General Annual Report, 1855).
Mill Creek Station, a 320-acre ranch, was located on Mill Creek near the former Mohawk Sawmill. During the 1860s it was owned by A. J. Pool and W. W. England. One-quarter of a mile above A. J. Pool & Co.’s ranch, Theodore Trimmer operated a 160-acre ranch (Calaveras County Assessment Rolls, 1861-1867).
The Pool and England ranch was apparently later sold to A. J. Sewell, who in 1873 was assessed for a 160-acre ranch on both sides of the Big Tree and Carson Valley Road (SW ¼ of Section 32, T6N, R16E), with a house located west of Mill Creek (Calaveras County Assessment Rolls 1873, General Land Office 1876). East of Sewell’s ranch was the ranch of George A. Wood, patented in 1892, and located on the north side of the road (Calaveras County Patent Maps, USGS 1901).
Cottage Springs (NE ¼ of Section 28, T6N, R16E, and southwest of the present community of Cottage Springs) was owned by A. Henry Stevens/Stephens as early as 1865 (Calaveras County Assessment Rolls 1865). The ranch was conveyed by Sheriff Ben Thorn to John Gardner in 1870 when Stevens failed to pay back taxes (Calaveras County Deed Book S:224). It was patented by his wife Rebekah Gardner in 1888 (Calaveras County Patent Book V:445).
Black Springs (NW ¼ of Section 15, T6N, R16E) was noted in Taylor’s Guide Hotel Directory in 1857 as being located nine miles from the Big Tree Grove and 90 miles from Stockton (San Andreas Independent, October 1857). The ranch was patented in 1862 by William Carmichael and Jacob Pettit, and encompassed 160 acres on the “Big Tree Road leading to Carson Valley” (Calaveras County Land Claim Book C:590). In 1865 J. H. Lowman was assessed for the ranch, the record noting that he had “household furniture, one wagon, one American cow, one Spanish horse, and two mules” on the property (Calaveras County Assessment Rolls 1865).
At Mud Springs (NW ¼ of Section 14, T6N. R16E) was the ranch of Josiah McClelland, located “on both sides of the road leading from Murphys to Carson Valley in the Utah Territory known as the Big Tree Road” (Calaveras County Land Claim Book C:306). Interestingly, McClelland and his partner Stevens noted the travel on the road from the 15th of August to the 16th of September in 1862: 134 horse teams, 70 ox teams, and 650 pack animals (Stockton Independent, September 24, 1862).
Gann’s (S ½ of NE ¼ and N ½ of SE ¼ of Section 1, T6N, R16E) was established 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 was located on the Big Tree and Carson Valley Road, which soon became known as Gann’s Station. The 160 acre ranch was homestead by Charles A. Gann in 1902 and patented in 1910 (Calaveras County Patent Maps; Las Calaveras 1988:13). A modern residence and restaurant was built there in the late 1960s to cater to travelers to the Bear Valley Ski Area.
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