Early Photograph of the Ventana Backcountry

Photo by John A. Little
From the collection of Jeannine Little Karnes
Courtesy of William Karnes
Photo showing Elizabeth King Livermore on horseback near Marble Peak, by John A. Little, 1915

The Ventana Wilderness circa 1915, as seen from near Marble Peak on the Coast Ridge.

Thanks are due Big Sur historian Jeff Norman, who made contact with the Karneses and subsequently shared this historically important image with the readers of the DCQ. By way of background information, Jeff writes:

I'm estimating that the photograph was taken about 1915, by John A. Little, probably using Elizabeth King Livermore's panoramic camera. Miss Livermore is on the horse, and one of the terriers is named Whiz.

Miss Livermore donated her property near Esalen to the State, and it is now known as John Little State Reserve. The Karneses noted that Little and Livermore were 'close friends.' In 1909 Little's wife, the former Antoinette (Nettie) McWay, separated from her husband and moved to Pacific Grove, where she put their kids through school. That may have given John Little the opportunity to become better friends with Beth Livermore. Nettie is said to be buried in the McWay family cemetery in McWay Canyon.

Miss Livermore came from a socially prominent Marin County family. Her nephews were Norman and Putnam Livermore, both big-shots in the California State Parks System, circa 1950-1980. In 1947, Beth Livermore married Matthew Schmidt, who had recently been paroled from San Quentin, as he had been convicted of complicity in the 1910 Anarchist bombing of the LA Times building. Matt drove the getaway car.

In 1954 Beth was killed at Big Creek, when she drove her car into the stream after visiting the Daytons. Matt held her head above the water (he was in the car with her) to no avail. The property she called Rancho Para Todos (Ranch For Everyone) then went to the State. Ironically, considering her name for the place, it's NOT open to the public. Beth was Harry Dick and Shanagolden Ross's landlady when they lived there (AKA Livermore Ledge). HDR called her a 'fascinating creature,' and from what I know about her, I'd have to agree.

One of the Little children, Deal, sold much of the family land to the Staudes, and all those houses between Anderson Canyon and Esalen were part of the Staude subdivision. Deal worked as a taxi dispatcher in Monterey, a fitting job I guess for the grandson of Milton Little, the former owner of ALL of New Monterey after 1850. Deal also had the hunting cabin at Marble Peak, which he left to his niece Jeannine Karnes, who in turn sold it to John Cluett.

It was a delight to meet Jeannine in December, when she was visiting from Minnesota. Her son, Bill Karnes, suggested to her that she bring the family album along, as he was in contact with a person from Big Sur who was interested in the history of the Little family. The album is a real goldmine, needless to say!