The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Winter Solstice 2000 || Volume III, Number 2

Times Past


The Tassajara stage near the summit of Black Butte Ridge. In the distance is a southeastern shoulder
of Chews Ridge. Date unknown. Photograph courtesy of the Mayo Hayes-O'Donnell Library.

THE FIRST PASSENGER WAGON TO REACH TASSAJARA

WILLIAM J. HILL'S ACCOUNT OF THE TRIP IN SEPTEMBER OF 1888

Introduced and Edited by David Rogers, © 2000
Although the Monterey County Board of Supervisors declared the trail to "Tesahara Springs" to be a "public highway" in June of 1870, it was not until the spring of 1886 that work on a one-lane wagon road over Chews and Black Butte Ridges was commenced. This was because the early proprietors of the hot springs lacked the financial means needed to build a road to the property. In the spring of 1885 the resort was purchased by Charles W. Quilty, who had access to the finances of the estate which his wife, Mary, had inherited from her father, James Hagan. Mr. Hagan had established several of the earliest utility companies in California, which included the Metropolitan Gas Company in San Francisco and the San Jose Light and Power Company; C. W. Quilty became the president of the later company after James Hagan's death in 1882.

Within weeks after Mr. Quilty purchased Tassajara in 1885 survey work had commenced on the proposed road. Quilty entered into a business partnership with John McPhail, and in his role as the "working partner," McPhail oversaw the construction of the road while his wife (Barbara) and children ran the resort. By early May of the following year 17 "white men" had commenced construction of the road (they were paid one dollar per day plus board), and although it was planned to increase the work force to 100 in order have the road completed by July of 1886, this was not to be.

Quilty and McPhail greatly underestimated the magnitude of the task, for much of the road had to be blasted through high-grade (very hard) metamorphic rock broken by numerous granitic veins and dikes. Mr. Quilty's finances became strained as the project drew on, and the road crew became tired of waiting for their pay. In September of 1887 McPhail walked out on the project and shortly thereafter Anthony (Tony) Dourond assumed the position of "surveyor and superintendent of construction" of the road. The road crew was replaced by Chinese laborers from San Jose, who probably worked for less than half the wages of their predecessors (along with providing their own board). By January of 1888, when the road had been built to "within three miles" (probably linear miles) of the hot springs, the Chinese laborers' base camp, located at the head of Miller Canyon, had already become known as China Camp. By the following June the road had been completed to "a point about two miles from the springs," and it was expected at that time that the remainder would be completed "within the next 30 days." After three and a half years and an expenditure of more than $1000 per mile (a figure that probably equals more than $100,000 today), a winding and steeply graded one-lane wagon road over Chew's and Black Butte Ridges was completed in September of 1888.

On board the first passenger wagon to reach Tassajara Hot Springs was William J. Hill, the owner and editor of the Salinas Index from 1876 to 1909. Mr. Hill was also the mayor of Salinas for six years, a state senator representing Monterey County for six years, and spent twelve of his later years as the Salinas Postmaster. This was not Mr. Hill's first or last trip to Tassajara, for he was a regular visitor at the resort, and on at least three of these outings he composed feature articles about the springs for his newspaper, one of which is featured below.

I find it interesting that in the following article Mr. Hill says very little about the physical characteristics of Tassajara Road and his experience as a passenger; perhaps he did not want to discourage others from making the journey. In contrast to this article, in 1904 Mr. Hill composed the following vivid description of the stage ride on the "Tony's Boulevard" section of the road:

It was 5 o'clock and the shadows were beginning to gather at the bottom of the deep canyons which surrounded us on every side. The limitless expanse of the broad Pacific could be seen in the west, while, between our viewpoint and it and in every other direction, unnumbered towering mountain peaks pierced the sky until lost in the misty distance at the farthest verge of vision. Travelers, who have been the world over, pronounce the mountains of this region the steepest and roughest and the scenery in many respects the grandest they ever beheld. Before starting down the steep grade to the springs, driver Williams examined every bolt in his coach and put extra leather on the brakes to make sure that all was secure for the perilous descent of four miles. Then away we go with the mules at a brisk pace, dashing down steep declines, whirling around sharp curves, causing the passengers to hold their breathe, brace against each other and grasp the iron railing of the seats to keep from being hurled out into the dizzy depths of the seemingly bottomless canyon below. Meanwhile the driver, with a foot on the break lever and whip ready to sting any faltering mule, quietly tells passengers not to be afraid, assuring them that there is no danger. Midway down the grade a stop had to be made in order to cool the almost red hot tires with water from a nearby spring. Finally, a turn at the bottom of the grade [Echo Point] brings us in view of the hotel and we are greeted with cheers from the crowd of assembled guests who are always glad to see new arrivals and to receive letters from home and newspapers with news of the outside world. We are now 3630 feet lower than the summit, the springs being 1650 feet above the level of the sea.
Mr. Hill's Tassajara outing of 1888 was announced by the following local news item, which appeared in the September 13, 1888 edition of the Index: "the editor of the Index took his departure for Tassajara last Saturday, to be absent two weeks."

Salinas Weekly Index, October 4, 1888:

TASSAJARA SPRINGS

Editorial Visit to the Famous
Locality-Description of the
Springs-Incidents of the Trip, Etc.

Afflicted with rheumatism and neuralgic aches and pains and feeling a need of a little rest from the never-ending work of a newspaper office, we concluded to take a fortnight's vacation and spend it at Tassajara Springs, which are situated in the Coast Range Mountains about fifty miles south of Salinas City. Having thus made up our mind we found ourselves seated by the side of J. W. Lewis, the Jamesburg mail carrier, on his buckboard, and whirling out of town in a southerly direction, as the town clock struck eight on the morning of Saturday, September 8th. Mr. Lewis drove a good span of horses and we sped merrily across the Salinas river, up the Toro and over the Carmel grade to the Laurelles rancho [now the site of Carmel Valley Village], where the horses were watered and a lunch partaken of. Proceeding on our journey we traveled up the Carmelo [Carmel River], across Chupines creek and up Tularcitos creek over the rancho occupied by Hon. C. S. Abbott, the Shipley tract and the Blomquist range (all of which are on the Tularcitos grant), arriving about 3 o'clock p.m. at the home of Mr. Lewis, 2 miles from Jamesburg and 35 miles from Salinas. Here we were kindly greeted by Mrs. Lewis, a bright, pleasant little woman, who had a nice dinner ready, and to which we did ample justice.

The following are some of the altitudes along the route from Salinas City to the Lewis place: Salinas City, 45 feet above the level of the sea; top of Carmel grade, 1235 feet; Laurelles ranch house, 370 feet; top of grade between Laurelles and Chupines creek, 1013 feet; Tularcitos ranch house, 848 feet; summit between Tularcitos and Gordon's, 1719 feet; J. W. Lewis' house, 1533 feet.

Upon arriving at the Lewis place we learned that a Democratic picnic was in progress at Jamesburg, to be followed by a dance at the residence of Postmaster James that night. We accepted an invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Lewis to accompany them to the dance and reached the festive scene about 8 o'clock in the evening. There we learned that Hon. Thos. Reunison, Democratic candidate for the Assembly, had made a speech at the picnic in the afternoon and taken his departure immediately afterwards, so that we did not have the pleasure of hearing him.

Although it was a Democratic affair yet quite as many Republicans as Democrats attended both picnic and dance, all alike enjoying the generous hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. James. Most of the settlers for ten to fifteen miles around were present- married men and their wives, young men and their sweethearts, young ladies and their beaux, and everybody else. The dance took place in Mrs. James' large parlor and it was one of the jolliest and most enjoyable parties we have attended for many a day. Old Tom Hunter from the Blomquist ranch furnished the music, making his violin fairly talk as he dashed off tune after tune to which merry feet kept time. At midnight a splendid supper, prepared by Mrs. James, was partaken of by all present with a zest superinduced by the agreeable exercise and general jollity of the occasion. Dancing continued till broad daylight, when the merry dancers bade the genial host and hostess good-bye and repaired to their respective houses in the mountains. Besides Postmaster James and his wife there were present Mr. and Mrs. I. T. Mason, Mr. and Mrs. Price, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Souza, Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Finch, Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Cahoon, Mr. and Mrs. John Drake, Mr. and Mrs. Wagner, Misses Annie Dozier, Lissie Raymond, Lottie Reed, Nettie Cahoon, Minnie Souza, Della Mason, Clara and Hazel Lewis, Mary and Emma Forman, Messrs. Pike Tash, Frank Carrier, S. Lent, Paul Bryant, Manuel Souza, V. Lent, S. Cahoon, John Souza, P. Thornton, Thos. Church, Wm. Bruce, Ed Hunter, J. Newlin, Henry Bruce, Will Hunter, Jas. Dozier, J. Cahoon, Deed Lewis, Levi Cahoon, Chas. Anderson, Chas. Lander.

At 7 o'clock on Sunday morning we again took a seat beside Mr. Lewis on his buckboard and started for the springs, fifteen miles distant. After going down the creek about two miles the road turns to the left up a wooded canyon. Here the heavy grade of the new road commences and continues all the way to the springs except across the flat by the Wheeler Cabin, now known as Bruce's [and now as Bruce Flats], where considerable barley hay was raised this year. From Bruce's the wagon road runs along the divide at the head of Miller Canyon, thence over the ridge beyond and down the left side of the canyon leading to the springs. It is a good mountain road, considering the roughness of the country over which it has been built. In many places the roadway had to be blasted out of the solid rock and for long distances the lower side of the grade is supported a perpendicular wall of loose stones constructed for that purpose. Anthony Dourond was the Surveyor and Superintendent of Construction, and the road cost the proprietor, Mr. Quilty, the sum of $15,000. Mr. Lewis landed us at the Springs about noon and we were the first passengers who went all the way thither in a wagon. Just before reaching the Springs we were signaled to halt, when half a dozen blasts were fired as a salute of welcome and to proclaim the completion of the road. We were at once taken charge of by Aunt Maggie Lawrey and her daughter, cousin Lola, of Pacific Grove, who had then been at the springs a month. They conducted us to their camp among the alder trees up the creek, where awaited a splendid dinner for which the morning ride over the mountains had given us an excellent appetite.

The Tassajara Springs, as above stated, are in the Santa Lucia or Coast Range Mountains, about fifty miles south of Salinas City. The springs are 1650 feet above the level of the sea, only about 100 feet higher than the Lewis place. The altitudes of other points between the two places are as follows: Bruce's (Wheeler Cabin), 3690 feet; China Camp, head of Miller Canyon, 4388 feet; Ridge beyond Miller Canyon [Black Butte Ridge], 4815 feet; head of canyon leading to Springs [Lime Point], 2872 feet. The springs are about a dozen in number and are situated in a deep wooded canyon, through which flows the main branch or middle fork of the Arroyo Seco.¹ They pour out of the rocky mountainside on the south bank of the creek and range from icy coldness to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the water was sent to the Smithsonian Institute for analysis and it was reported the richest spring then known in the United States, thirty-two ingredients being found therein, including sulphur, iron, magnesia, soda, potassium, etc. The water possesses wonderful curative properties, being especially good for rheumatism, neuralgia, kidney diseases, cutaneous affections, dyspepsia and other stomach troubles. The climate in summer is warm, dry, balmy and delightful, just the thing for invalids in connection with the water. At present there are only two bathing establishments- one supplied with a plunge bath and the other with a common wooden bathtub. The water is conducted to them in wooden troughs and the temperature regulated to suit.

The modus operandi is as follows: have the water as hot as you can stand it- say from 90 to 115- stay in it from fifteen minutes to half an hour, drinking as much of the hot water as you can swallow in the meantime, which ought not to be less than two quarts. You will then be pretty well heated up. Now come out of the water and roll yourself up in a couple of pairs of woolen blankets and sweat for half an hour or so. The perspiration will emerge through the pores of the skin and roll off in great drops, making the blankets almost as wet as though they had been dipped in water. Rub dry and dress yourself, after which some light exercise- say a few minutes walk- should be taken before setting down for any length of time. Repeat every day and drink plenty of the hot water. You will soon feel the beneficial effects. If the sweating process should weaken you too much, do not take it every day, but do not fail to drink plenty of the hot water. Visitors are charged $3 per week for bathing, camping ground and such wood as may be picked up for fuel. Plenty of driftwood can be had a short distance up the creek. Meals and beds can also be had at reasonable rates.

The springs are owned by C. W. Quilty, of San Jose, who, now that the road is completed, will turn his attention to the improvement of the property. Material is now being prepared for a large stone hotel, it being Mr. Quilty's intention to have the building ready for the accommodation of guests next season [the hotel was not completed until 1893]. It will be situated at the junction of the canyon, down which the road runs, and the creek. Half a dozen additional plunge baths will be constructed and as many smaller bathhouses. Cottages will be erected along the base of the hill on the north side of the stream opposite the springs and stables will be built on the flat a short distance above. Mr. Quilty also proposes to light up the hotel and grounds with electricity to be generated by waterpower. An abundance of excellent lime rock can be had along the road a short distance from the springs and a kiln is now being constructed to burn it for building purposes.

Mr. Quilty resides in San Jose and pays only occasional visits to the springs. His superintendent of work and general charge d'affairs is Anthony Dourond, who is evidently the right man in the right place, being wide awake, courteous and accommodating. He is an accomplished hunter and fisherman and, in season, keeps the camp supplied with venison and trout. It is no uncommon thing for him to go out and kill one or two deer before breakfast, and he brings in many a basketful of trout.²

Quite a number of visitors came away from the springs just before we went in [at that time it was near to the end of the guest season]. The following named were present while we were there: Mrs. Lawrey and Miss Lola Lawrey, of Pacific Grove; Wm. Bardin and H. Cosseboom, Blanco; Wm. Clarke, Salinas; Mr. Cain, San Jose; Mr. and Mrs. Chew and two sons, Millers Canyon; Miss Frese, Cashagua [Cachagua]. The resident population were "Tonie" the boss, Jim Allison the stone cutter, a woodchopper and an Italian cook. The days were devoted to bathing, eating, reading and taking strolls; the evenings to card playing and storytelling; the nights to sound, sweet sleep. Mrs. Lawrey told stories of pioneer days, she having come across the plains to California in 1846; Bardin related bear stories; while Chew and Hill regaled the crowd with Indian stories. The first literary entertainment ever given at Tassajara Hot Springs took place in the hotel dining room on Wednesday evening, Sept. 19th, on which occasion the editor of the Index gave a short lecture descriptive of Mount Vernon, the old home of Washington, as he saw it during a visit there five years ago; also a poetic medley entitled "Pearls at Random Strung."

A cunning old raccoon made himself familiarly troublesome to some of the campers. One night he uncovered a can containing two dozen eggs belonging to Mrs. Lawrey and sucked every one of them. Returning the next night he was greeted with a shot, which awoke neighboring campers who looked out of their tents and laughed at the strange sight of a woman in white with a candle and a man in white with a pistol gliding about like ghosts hunting for that coon. But they didn't find him. An ineffectual attempt was made to snare him, and when it came our turn to "stand guard," we watched for him with a shotgun, but the sly old coon took the hint and didn't come back any more.

The most terrific storm of thunder and lightning that we have ever experienced on the Pacific Coast took place in the Tassajara mountains on the night of Friday, Sept. 14th. It was a scene of indescribable grandeur and bewildering in its sublimity. It seemed as if vast armies were stationed on the surrounding peaks and engaged in a tremendous mortal conflict. The moon rode high in the heavens. Black, threatening storm clouds gathered and hung on the summits of the mountains while far above the struggling tempest the moon cast her rays through the tossing clouds and fringed them with a silver lining. The sky became rapidly overcast and soon inky darkness prevailed. The lightning's erratic flashes darted from peak to peak and at times made the deep, dark canyon at the Springs as light as day; while the thunder, at first resembling the rattling discharge of a vast line of musketry, suddenly deepened into the tremendous boom and roar of heavy artillery which reverberated through the canyons and gorges and echoed from peak to peak until lost in the distance. A momentary hush, then another blinding flash of light, with the rattle and bang and roar and crash of thunder repeated until the earth would tremble as though, in the titanic struggle, the frenzied combatants were hurling mighty rocks at each other down the mountain side. The never-to-be-forgotten scene was the very sublimity of moral and material grandeur- a panorama that God alone could have fashioned. At length the lightning and the thunder ceased and the rain, which seemed thus far to have been spellbound, fell in torrents. The next morning the sun came out bright and warm; the air fresh and the sky seemed of a deeper blue. All nature was refreshed and everything was lovely again.

Mr. Lewis landed us at home safe and sound on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 21st, and we are happy to state that we parted company with our aches and pains at the Springs.

GENERAL NOTES

There are plenty of deer in the neighborhood of Tassajara Springs, but no quail to speak of [it must have been an off year for quail].

Henry Cosseboom planted a flag on the rock-crowned summit of the high mountain [Flag Rock] immediately northeast of the springs Sept. 17th. It was a hard climb and he says he would not do it again for $200. Mrs. J. H. McDougall put up a flag on the same spot in 1879.

A magnificent view of the ocean can be had from the ridge beyond Miller's canyon [Black Butte Ridge].

Persons subject to being affected by poison oak should be very careful, as it is one of the annoyances at the springs and abounds along the road all the way in.

Wm. Clark held a pistol to Jim Lewis' ear as a gentle reminder to be careful in driving down the steep grade to the springs. Clark had a dream which caused him to return home a week sooner than he intended.

They call the hot water "granite wine." When seasoned with pepper and salt and a little butter, it tastes very much like chicken soup.

A species of small fly or gnat is troublesome at the springs in the daytime, but ceases to annoy at nightfall. Numerous "yellow jackets" are also on hand at mealtime. There are neither mosquitoes nor anything else to bother at night.

There is a band of wild goats on the mountains in the vicinity of the springs- the progeny of some that Wm. Hart took out there in 1879 [Mr. Hart was the owner of Tassajara from 1876 to 1885].

They have a little garden along the creek near the bathhouses. It is about 30 x 100 feet and produces large quantities of melons, corn, onions, carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, etc. Hot water is used for irrigation, and melons of the second crop have been ripe for a month past.

The Tularcitos and Cashagua [Cachagua] region is destined to be a fine fruit country. Peaches, apples and pears grow splendidly at Finch's and Cahoon's above Jamesburg, at Frese's on the Cashagua and at Chew's in Miller Canyon.

Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Lewis have a cozy home adjoining the Blomquist place about fifteen miles this side of Tassajara [at the intersection of the present Tassajara and Cachagua Roads]. Apple, peach and other fruit trees set out last spring are thriving nicely and grape cuttings show a healthy growth without irrigation. Mrs. Lewis raises chickens, turkeys and geese. She is an excellent shot, and the hawk or coyote that comes within range of her gun is out of luck.

Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Lewis (parents of J. W.) have a nice cottage, a young vineyard, etc., about two miles down the creek, near where the road starts up the mountain towards the springs [this property is now the site of the Jamesburg stand and Tassajara reservation office].

One of the springs is strongly impregnated with arsenic, and lady visitors wash their faces in the water to improve their complexions.

Jim Lewis has dispensed with his old buckboard and put a new spring passenger wagon on the route from Salinas to Tassajara.

Large numbers of mescal plants [Yucca whipplei], a species of cactus [not], grow on the mountain slopes around the springs. It sends up a stalk 12 to 15 feet high, with stout branches growing around it filled with beautiful creamy white flowers richly fragrant.

A large number of settlers have located in the mountains during the past few years and many of them now have comfortable homes.

Mr. Quilty has swung numerous hammocks to the trees on the campground for the benefit of visitors to the springs.

Footnotes

1. What is now known as Tassajara Creek was known as the Arroyo Seco or a branch or fork thereof until the early 1900s. The earliest known references to the stream by its current name date to 1904, and references to the stream as Arroyo Seco continued until about 1910. The original Tassajara Creek was the stream that is now known as James Creek, which flows northward through Jamesburg before entering Cachagua Creek.

2. Anthony Dourond's association with Tassajara is commemorated by two local place names. One is Tony's Boulevard, the section of Tassajara Road between the Black Butte summit and the hot springs, of which Tony was the "surveyor and superintendent of construction." The other is Tony's Trail, which Mr. Dourond built during the winter of 1898-1899.

References are available on request.


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