The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Fall Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 3

A History of The Caves Ranch

by David Rogers © 1999

Stylized images of hands on the walls of The Caves rockshelter.
Photo by L. S. Sleven; courtesy of the Monterey County Public Library.

Weathered out of less consolidated pockets within massive sandstone outcrops in the Church Creek area are a number of rock shelters, some of the larger of which were inhabited by Esselen Indians. One of these sites, The Caves rock shelter (Mnt 44), which has been occupied for at least 3,400 years, is of particular interest due to the nearly 250 images of hands that cover its walls. Most of the images are stylized paintings, although a few were made by placing a hand in paint and then pressing it against the wall (Breschini 1973; Howard 1974). As the images were made from a white paint, they contrast with the walls, which have been darkened by the soot produced by thousands of years of campfires.

Although it is unknown if the pictographs had any significance to the Esselen beyond the joy of creating them, the images have inspired people to speculate about their possible meaning. According to Carol Card (1949), "old Bill Church" claimed to be able to read the "sign-language," and made "some fearful and wonderful translations of it for the enlightenment of city-slickers and gape-mouthed tourists who chanced to stray into his territory." Archaeologist Gary Breschini has speculated that the images may have been inspired by a massive hand-shaped sandstone outcrop located in the general vicinity (re. pc), the "fingers" of which are delineated by long groves that have been weathered into the formation. The poet Robinson Jeffers visited the site at some point prior to 1929, and the images inspired him to compose the following verse:


Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara
The vault of rock is painted with hands,
A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men's palms, no more,
No other picture. There's no one to say
Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended
Religion or magic, or made their tracings
In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful
Signs-manual are now like a sealed message
Saying "Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws. All hail
You people with the cleverer hands, our supplanters
In the beautiful country; enjoy her a season, her beauty, and come down
And be supplanted; for you also are human."

A hand-shaped sandstone outcrop in the Church Creek area.

Although the Esselen were probably similar to neighboring tribes in their appearance and material culture, their language, as repeatedly noted by missionaries, soldiers, and explorers who had contact with Mission San Carlos at Carmel, was radically distinct. In the journal of the French scientific expedition lead by La Perouse, which visited Monterey in 1786, we find the follow passages:

The country of the Ecclemachs [Esselen] extends above 20 leagues to the [south]eastward of Monterey. Their language is totally different from all those of their neighbors, and has even more resemblance to the languages of Europe than to those of the Americas. This grammatical phenomenon, the most curious in this respect ever observed on the continent, will, perhaps, be interesting to those of the learned, who seek, in the analogy of languages, the history and genealogy of transplanted nations.2
By the time the Esselen language gained the attention of linguistic scholars it was no longer in use. Fortunately about 350 words and phrases and a few complete sentences have been preserved in literature. Henshaw (1890) concluded that Esselen represented a monotypic linguistic family, but Dixon and Kroeber (1913 & 1919) assigned the language to the Hokan family. While it is likely that much of Dixon & Kroeber's Hokan-Penutian model will stand the test of time, the subject matter is both complex and poorly understood, and is thus subject to revision. In addressing the status of what is known about the languages of California, Shipley (1978) stated that:
In order to make a realistic assessment of what can be known about interrelationships among the languages of California, the complications and difficulties described above must be kept clearly in view. All sorts of things are very possible: that Esselen, for example, is not Hokan but Penutian, or that it is neither Hokan or Penutian but the single remnant of a language family that has long since vanished.
In April of 1972 The Caves rockshelter was excavated by the Monterey County Archaeological Society under the direction of Gary Breschini. Recovered artifacts included shell beads, abalone shell pendants, bone awls, antler flakers, projectile points, scrapers, a small stone mortar, and the bones of 32 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish (Breschini 1973). The fish bones are of particular interest, for half of the 16 identifiable specimens represented marine species, such as surfperch (possibly Pile Perch, Damalichthys vacca), rockfish (possibly Black Rockfish, Sebastes melanops), Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), and a Rock Prickleback (Xiphister mucosus). These bones indicate that the occupants of the site went on fishing expeditions to the coast and/or traded with coastal villages. All bone artifacts of fresh water fish represented Rainbow Trout/Steelhead Salmon (Salmo gairdnerii), which is common in the perennial streams of the Santa Lucia Mountains (Follett 1973).

It is unknown what Esselen tribelet the residents of the Church Creek area belonged to, for the region is located near the presumed boundaries of three Esselen geo-political districts: Imunahan, which occupied much of the central Arroyo Seco watershed, Excelen, which occupied most of the upper Carmel River watershed, and Ekheahan, which occupied most of the upper watersheds of the Arroyo Seco and Big Sur Rivers and a section of the Big Sur Coast between Post's and Big Creek (Milliken 1990, Breschini & Haversat 1993). Perhaps the Church Creek Esselen were those from "Agua Caliente" (Tassajara Hot Springs), who Isabella Meadows (an informant to J. P. Harrington), reported to have made abalone collecting trips to Aulon (Lover's) Point (Hester 1978).

Archaeological evidence indicates that members of the Esselen tribe continued to live in the vicinity of The Caves many years after the Spanish conquest in 1770, and some unconverted individuals may have found refuge in this remote region as late as the early American period (i. e., the late 1840s or early 1850s). The grave of a child was unearthed during the excavation of the Isabella Meadows Cave in 1952, and based on dateable artifacts associated with the burial (glass trading beads, a leather belt fragment and a wool blanket fragment), it was estimated that the grave dated to about 1825 (Meighan 1955). Evidence suggesting even later occupation of the area comes from the skeletons of two individuals; one was found in a cave in the Church Creek area and the other was accidentally unearthed at Tassajara Hot Springs in April of 1994. Both were determined to have died about 150 years ago (Nason cited in Breschini & Haversat 1993, DeSmidt 1995). Another report suggesting that some Esselen remained in remote areas of the Santa Lucia Mountains until a relatively late date comes from Coulter (1921), who stated that an old Spanish rancher had told him that when he was a boy he had seen corpses of Indians hanging in trees in Indian Valley. Genocide against Indians was a common practice in California during the early American period.

Aside from the rockshelters, what made the Church Creek Canyon a favorable environment for the support of a population of hunters and gathers is a combination of factors resulting from its location along the Church Creek Fault. Preserved along the down-thrown side of the fault is a series of sedimentary strata that rest unconformably on metamorphic and granitic basement rock. The strata were deposited about 56 to 35 million years before the present, when the landmass formed the floor of an inland sea or a continental shelf. The lower three layers, the Junipero sandstone, Lucia mudstone and The Rocks sandstone units, are part of the Relize Canyon formation, while the upper layer represents the Church Creek formation. The rockshelters are located within The Rocks sandstone unit, which was deposited as a sea fan at the mouth of a submarine canyon during the middle Eocene, i. e., about 45 million years before present (Link & Nilsen 1979; Dickinson 1965).3 The exposure of the Church Creek formation is of critical importance, for it is characterized by relatively gently sloping hills and flats that are covered with thick soils that promote the dominance of savannas and open grasslands (in comparison, the thin soils of the surrounding country promote the growth of woodlands and chaparral). Open and grassy environments like these are prime habitats for wildlife, expecially deer, and the White Oak (Quercus lobata) dominated savannas produce an abundance of acorns, which was the staple food of California Indians. The openness of the country also makes cross-county travel easy, and Church Creek provides a perennial source of water, as well as fish. Such features of the Church Creek area are also favorable for livestock raising, and this would be the main use of the land during the next phase of its history.

Historical Period

In May of 1861 William Brewer described the northern Santa Lucia Mountains, as seen to the westward from a vantage point on Chew's Ridge, as "a wilderness of mountains, rugged, covered with chaparral, forbidding, and desolate. They are nearly inaccessible, and a large region in there has never been explored by white men" (Brewer 1930). This was soon to change.

In 1863 there was a brief "silver rush" in the Tassajara region, when 135 men established 18 mining claims ("supposed to contain gold and silver") in the "Agua Caliente Mining District." These claims, which were recorded between the first and twenty-first of May of that year, were divided into three series, those "about 40 miles from Monterey," those "about 35 miles from Monterey," and those "about 30 miles from Monterey." The first claim of the first series (those about 40 miles from Monterey), to the "Vulcan Ledge," included "the stream of water called 'Agua Caliente'" (i. e., Tassajara Hot Springs). The first of the second series of claims was to "The Caves Ledge," which was located on the "side of the mountain opposite to the great caves." As for the third series of claims (those about 30 miles from Monterey), no clearly identifiable landmark was mentioned, but they were probably in the Chew's Ridge, Miller's Canyon or Pine Valley areas.4 Unfortunately no newspapers were being published in Monterey County at that time, and thus the only additional information I have about these claims comes from the following passages in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

A new and very rich silver mine has been discovered in the Coast Range south of this city (from "Great Race at Monterey," 5.16.1863). The silver mining excitement still rages here. Don Santiago Bum made another raid a few days ago and captured the "lead" at last. It is the finest silver you ever saw-so fine that I "can't see it" (from "Letter from Monterey," 5.30.1863).
Like the preceding information, the earliest known references to The Caves are intertwined with those concerning Tassajara Hot Springs. The feature article of the June 24, 1869 edition of the Monterey Gazette, "A Trip to the Hot Springs" by "A Wanderer," provided a description of, and the route to, the springs what would later become known as Tassajara. The following excerpt addresses The Caves:
Pausing but a moment, to catch a glimpse of the surrounding scenery, we again go down, and at the foot of the hill find the wild oats waist high. This is Cave Valley, so called from a beautiful cave within it. The hurry we were in did not permit our visiting it, but we were told that it was a muy curiosa.
In September of that year (1869), W. V. (Vic) McGarvey, the Monterey County Assessor, submitted a report to the Surveyor General of California on the economy of the county at that time. As McGarvey was, as I discovered in my research, a regular visitor and avid supporter of the budding hot springs resort at Tassajara, it is not surprising that he included a fairly long report about the springs and the remarkable "healing qualities" of the water. McGarvey's report also included the following passages about The Caves:
About forty-five miles southeast of Monterey, in the mountains between the heights of Galiagua [Cachagua] and San Antonio, there exists a large cave, covered in the inside with Indian hieroglyphics. This cave has, according to the tradition, been occupied by Father Junipero Serra, the founder of first missions in Upper California, when, with his escort, he went on expeditions to the rancherias in quest of proselytes. A crucifix cut in the walls of the cave is said to be the work of Father Junipero himself (McGarvey in Bost, 1869).

The Church Creek Canyon as seen from the Pine Ridge Trail.

The Early Settlers at The Caves

It seems that there may be some confusion in regards to information about the early claimees to The Caves and Tassajara Hot Springs. According to Card (1949) and Vera (1963), the first settler at The Caves was a Doc Chambers, who took up residence in about 1870, where he was soon joined by Absolom (Rocky) Beasley; Beasley was the legendary hunter of the Santa Lucia Range who claimed to have killed 139 grizzly bears in his lifetime. The census of June, 1870 listed Mr. Beasley as residing at the same "place of abode" as John E. Rust and Dr. James R. Hadsell, who held the preemptive claim to Tassajara Hot Springs at that time.5a According to an ad that ran in the Monterey Republican in 1870, "J. E. Rust & Co." opened the springs to the public on May fifth of that year, thus 48 days before the census entry. As both Card and Vera stated that John Rust's first name was Frank,5b it suggests the possibility that, for the lack of a name, Dr. Hadsell could have been recreated as Chambers. I was not able to locate any information about a Doc or Dr. Chambers in Monterey County censuses, great registers or newspapers, although information about Dr. Hadsell was found in all of these sources. If Doc Chambers was actually Dr. Hadsell, it is possible that he could have resided at The Caves for a time during in the early 1870's, for he and Mr. Rust appear to have abandoned their claim to the hot springs by at least the spring of 1872, and I was not able to find any information about him until May of 1874, by which time he had established a medical practice and pharmacy in Monterey.6

Mr. Beasley's residence at The Caves was verified by Eleanor Chew (Chew 1929), who had first hand knowledge about the history of the Jamesburg and Tassajara regions. Eleanor was the daughter of John and Cynthia James, and grew up on her parents' Jamesburg ranch. She later served as the postmistress of the Jamesburg Post Office from 1894 to 1919 (Clark 1991), and was the author of the Jamesburg news columns from 1895 to 1919, from which much of the information provided in this article was derived. According to Card, Rocky Beasley was quite illiterate, and Eleanor's mother wrote letters for him. Additional information suggesting that Beasley resided at The Caves comes from his preemptive claim to 160 acres of land "near the Agua Sanite Spring," which was recorded in February of 1872. As the closest Spanish word I could find in dictionaries to "sanite" was sanitario (ria), sanitary or promotive of health, "Agua Sanite" may have been Beasley's name for Tassajara Hot Springs.

According to Card, Beasley used The Caves as a basecamp, and was "off in the mountains most of the time with his saddle and pack horses, 'Apache' and 'Lightning Striker.'" Card's statement is backed up by reports I came across in Monterey County newspapers of the 1870s. In April of 1875 Beasley had "an encounter with a huge grizzly bear in the San Antonio Mountains," and in May of that year he was at Tassajara Hot Springs. In 1876 he had another encounter with a bear near Jolon, and in 1878 he was camping along the Arroyo Seco, where he treated his guest, Jack Swan, to "paradise grapes" he had brought from Paraiso Hot Springs.7

A sketch of Rocky Beasley from "Over the Santa Lucia," by Mary White, in The Overland Monthly 20 (119), November 1892.

Rocky Beasley was born in Illinois in 1833 or in Missouri in 1835, depending on the source, and left home at the age of twelve after shooting a man who "was clubbing him with a big stick" (his mother told him to shoot). He lived with Indians in the Rocky Mountains for a number of years before settling in Monterey County, where he made a meager living from the sale of the hides and meat of his kills.8

Card states that Beasley stayed on at The Caves after the departure of Chambers and sold the claim in the early 1880s, while Vera states exactly the opposite. In any case, both authors state that the claim was sold to a Ben Marks, who, in order to meet expenses resulting from a broken leg, sold it to Thomas Church for $700 in 1884. From this point onward information about The Caves ranch is verifiable.

The Church Family and their Homestead (1884 to 1907)

Thomas William Church was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in September of 1836. His father died when he was about ten years old, and soon afterwards he emigrated to North America with his mother, first to Canada and then to the state of New York. He made his living as a farmer during the summer and in the lumber industry during the winter, and his skill with an ax gained him "local prominence as a skilled chopper. and in that respect he had no superior in the neighborhood" (Guinn 1910). Mr. Church later moved to Massachusetts, where, in November of 1864, he married Susan Leyden. Susan was born in Ireland in August of 1837, and emigrated to the United States in 1860. While in Ireland she had two sons from a previous marriage, John and Frank McKay, and while she and Thomas Church resided in Massachusetts they had three more children: Susan (Sarah), Andrew and William. In 1875 the Church family moved to California, first to San Mateo County (Half Moon Bay), where Mr. Church worked in the lumber industry, and then to Monterey County in 1883, where Mr. Church became a stockraiser.9

In September of 1888 Thomas Church filed a preemptive claim to 120 acres on and to the south of The Mesa, and in December of the same year he filed a claim to 160 acres of land that included The Caves. Mr. Church purchased a patent to The Mesa property in June of 1891, and in July of 1897 he was awarded a homestead patent to The Caves property.10 The original boundaries of both properties were displaced half of a mile to the north of the land Mr. Church had intended to claim. Mr. Church almost certainly based the locations of his claims on their relationship to Tassajara Hot Springs, which, on the mostly fictitious original plat of the region, was depicted as being in the northeastern quarter of section 32 T19S R4E (the springs were actually located in the southeastern quarter of that section). The original plat, which was published in 1884, was prepared by John D. Hall; according to McDonald (1985), Hall was eventually convicted of making fraudulent surveys, and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

As the Church homestead was accessible only by rugged mountain trails, all supplies had to be packed in, and thus the structures were, for the most part, built with materials at hand. Thomas Church's noted woodworking skills were here put to use, for The Caves ranch was described as:

Very romantic: strongly built with rafters of oak and sided with hewed timbers felled from the mountain pines near by. The roof is made of shakes, also fashioned by the ax of the skilled chopper. The barns, pig sty, hen house, fences and all enclosures are constructed of the same hand made lumber and are very substantial and neat looking. Surrounding the house are a fine orchard, vineyard, kitchen garden, etc., making the spot not only a source of supply of luxuries for the family, but picturesque and beautiful. An ice cold stream runs through the premises and from it delicious water is brought in pipes to different parts of the place (Hill 1900).
The Church family's primary source of income was derived from the sale of livestock, and many reports of their driving bands of cattle and hogs to market were published in the Jamesburg news columns, which were regular features in both of the Salinas newspapers of that time (Chew v/d). They also sold livestock to Tassajara Hot Springs, and according to McDonald (1985), they supplied the resort with milk, butter and eggs.

As for the children of Thomas and Susan Church, John McKay worked as a miner in Arizona during his early manhood, and in about 1889 he married Mary Horn of San Mateo County. In 1891 he purchased a patent to 160 acres in Pine Valley, but soon afterwards he moved to San Bernardino County, where he was employed as a foreman of a mine. During this period (in September of 1893) Mr. McKay purchased the Chew Homestead in Miller Canyon, and in 1896 the McKay family returned to Monterey County and took up residence on their new property. In 1898 Mr. McKay leased his Miller Canyon properties and moved to Santa Clara County, where he worked in the New Almaden mines. By 1903 the McKays had moved to western San Mateo County, where Mr. McKay made a living as a farmer. He later moved to San Jose, where he operated a gas station.11

Perhaps as early as 1893 Frank (Francis) McKay was a resident-employee at Tassajara Hot Springs, a position he held until at least May of 1897. By 1902 he had moved to San Francisco, by 1904 his home was in Shasta County, and by 1914 he was residing in Willows, Glenn County (Chew v/d).

In 1887 Susan (Sarah) Church married Henry Arnold, an early settler in the Jamesburg area. Mr. Arnold had acquired stonemasonry skills while serving in the German army, which he utilized in the construction of the Tassajara Hot Springs Hotel (1888-1893). After the completion of the hotel Henry and Susan Arnold stayed on to manage the resort, a position they held until 1896 (McDonald 1985; Chew v/d; Scrapbook 52-56). The Arnold homestead is now part of the Hastings Natural History Reservation.12

By 1896 William Church had moved to San Francisco, and by 1897 he had married and was working at the Mare Island naval shipyard in Vallejo. By 1906 he had returned to The Caves ranch, where he and his family resided until 1909. In May of that year they moved to a ranch in the Jamesburg area (Chew v/d).

Ownership of The Caves Ranch is Conveyed to Andrew Church (1897-1907)

In August of 1897 Thomas and Susan Church sold their properties (for "ten dollars") to their son Andrew,13 and in October of 1898 they moved to Agenda, a former settlement in the Salinas Valley. In September of 1897 Andrew Church married Clara Bruce, one of the six children of Mr. and Mrs. Curtis H. Bruce, who by 1888 had established a homestead at what is now known as Bruce Flats (the meadow at where Tassajara Road enters the National Forest). Andrew and Clara were to have three sons: Clarence, Thomas (Bruce) and John (Chew v/d).

During Andrew Church's ownership of The Caves ranch he supplemented his income by hauling hay and other supplies to Tassajara Hot Springs in his wagon, and on one of his many trips he hauled in bowling alley lanes. As the sections where 20 ft. long and the road was much narrower and more winding than it is today, it took him two and half days to reach the springs (Chew v/d, Scrapbook p. 87).

Andrew Church also found additional income from an unusual source: the sale of ladybugs. As many who are familiar with the Santa Lucia Mountains can attest to, coming across massive swarms of these insects on rocks and tree trunks is not uncommon at certain times of the year. Andrew would scoop up the bugs by the thousands and ship them to farmers, who used them to combat aphids. Most of the shipments were sent to farmers in the Monterey Bay area and other parts of the state, but some were shipped as far away as England. Mr. Church sold the insects for 50 cents per quart, and the quarts were estimated to contain 10,000 ladybugs each. At one time Mr. Church sent 117 quarts to market (Chew v/d).14

In June of 1902 The Caves ranch house was destroyed by fire. The following report about the particulars of the event is from Eleanor Chew's "Jamesburg Gleanings" column in the June 19th edition of the Salinas Weekly Index:

The home of Andrew Church at the Caves was totally destroyed by fire last Thursday morning about four o'clock. Mr. Church arose early, built a fire in the kitchen stove and without awakening the other inmate of the house, went to the dairy to skim milk; in a few minutes he observed smoke and rushed to the house calling to his family to get up; the flames spread so rapidly that they could not dress themselves but were obliged to run out in their night clothes to save themselves. It was impossible to save anything from the burning building and their entire supply of provisions, clothing and household goods was destroyed. There was no insurance. Mrs. Church, who has a young babe only two weeks old, was compelled to ride on horseback to the home of her brother Frank Bruce. The fire is supposed to have caught from the stove-pipe.
In the same edition of the Index there was another account of the fire, which differed in some of the particulars of the event. According to this report (which was in error its statement that the ranch was located in Miller Canyon):
Church had retired early and was awakened about midnight by the smell of smoke. He arose and discovered that the whole upper portion of the residence was aflame and that the fire was spreading rapidly. He called his wife and children, who rushed forth, clad only in their night garments, just in time to prevent being cremated. The fire fortunately spread no further. It is supposed the cause of the conflagration was a defective flue. The loss will be about $1200, on which there was no insurance.
In any case, the Church family lived in a tent while the house was being rebuilt (Chew v/d). In the following year (1903) the Church homestead was again threatened with destruction, this time by a forest fire. According to Sterling (1904), the fire started in July in the vicinity of Chew's Ridge and burned for three months, consuming an area about a township (6 miles) wide that extended about 15 to 16 miles to the coast, where it widened out. There may have been more than one fire, for on July 21st Eleanor Chew reported that "a fire has been raging on the Carmel for some time past and the air is filled with smoke…," while on September 22nd she reported that "the mountain fire which has given the people of this vicinity so much trouble for the past month has again broke out... The coast fire has also come over the divide and crossed the Carmel river and threatens Andrew Church's place with destruction."

In 1904 the family of Andrew Church experienced another tragedy. In December of 1903 Clara Church became seriously ill, and was eventually taken to a hospital in Salinas, where she died in February of 1904. Shortly afterwards Andrew's parents returned to The Caves ranch to assist him in running the ranch while raising three young boys (Chew v/d).15

In the spring of 1905 Andrew Church drove his milk cows out to a property in the Salinas Valley, located in the vicinity of the highway 68 bridge over the Salinas River, where he established a dairy farm; in the fall of that year he was joined there by his parents and children. The dairy was a joint venture with William Jeffery, who managed Tassajara Hot Springs from 1901 to 1904. At some date between the summer of 1906 and the summer of 1907 Andrew Church married Annie Lane of Redwood City, with whom he would have a fourth son, Sidney (Chew v/d).16

The Griffin Period (1907-1914)

In September of 1907 Andrew Church, with his parents as co-signers, sold the Church Creek properties to Louis B. Griffin.17 Mr. Griffin was born in Iowa about 1859, and in about 1882 he married Clara E. Griffin (maiden name unknown), who was born in Iowa in about 1862. While in Iowa the Griffin's had two children, Alice and John. By April of 1902 the Griffin family had settled in Monterey County, where Mr. Griffin purchased two lots in Pacific Grove. They later moved to a ranch in Coral de Tierra.18

Throughout Griffin's ownership of the Church Creek properties he and his family remained in residence in Corral de Tierra, although they made frequent visits to The Caves, primarily for recreational outings from late spring to early autumn. Mr. Griffin continued the practice of raising livestock on the ranch, which was operated from 1906 to 1909 by William Church, and from 1909 to 1911 by a Mr. Goodsell (Chew v/d). During this period Alice Griffin became especially interested in the prehistorical aspects of the region, and was later recommended as an informant to anthropologists.19

In the spring of 1914 Louis Griffin defaulted on three loans, and his creditors won judgments against him in the summer of that year.20 The judgments specified that if Griffin was unable to pay the amounts ordered by the court, the sums would be secured through the sale of his properties. In October of 1914 the sheriff of Monterey County seized Griffin's properties, and a "sheriff's sale" was held outside the Monterey County courthouse on November 23, 1914. Although Griffin's Corral de Tierra properties were auctioned off for almost $5300, the highest bid for The Caves and other properties in the Tassajara region was the 90 dollars offered by Fred Nason.21

The Nason Period (1914-1920)

Fred Watson Nason (1882-1953) was a member of a family with very deep roots in Monterey County, which extend back to pre-Spanish times. His father, Frederick Porter Nason, was a member of a New Hampshire family with roots dating back to the Revolutionary War. He left home at the age of 14 to become a whaler, and after ten years at sea he left ship at San Francisco in 1879, and purchased a ranch in Corral de Tierra in 1880. In 1881 F. P. Nason married Adaline Watson, the daughter of Thomas Watson and Louisa Moreno of Corral de Tierra. Thomas Watson was the sheriff of Monterey County for three consecutive terms from 1866 onward, and Louisa Moreno was a descendant of early Spanish settlers. Thomas Watson's father, James Watson, was an English seaman who settled in Monterey County in 1823, and in 1857 he acquired Rancho San Benito south of King City. About 1830 James Watson married Mariana Escamilla, a descendant of early Spanish settlers (Barrows & Ingersoll 1893; Guinn 1903 & 1910; McGrew 1989).22

In 1914 Fred Watson Nason married Henrietta (Etta) Piazzoni, one of the eight children of Luigi Piazzoni and Tomasa Dolores Manjares, whose ranch was located in the Chupines Creek area of Rancho Los Tularcitos. Tomasa was an Esselen descendant of the Mission San Carlos Indian community, and Luigi (aka Louis) was a Swiss-Italian who arrived in California during the 1850s.23

Fred and Henrietta Nason had three children: Louise, Helen and Fred Watson Nason Jr., the current patriarch of the family. A few years after Henrietta's death in the winter of 1927-1928, Fred Nason married Lillian Mae Holt, with whom he had three more daughters. In October of 1918 the Nason family moved from Corral de Tierra to the Cachagua region, where they had purchased the Dolly ranch. This would be one of many properties that Mr. Nason would acquire the upper Carmel Valley area.24

During the Nason family's ownership of The Caves ranch they used it for both stock raising and recreational purposes (Chew v/d). As the ranch was accessible only by trail, the Nasons parked their wagons at the trail-head on Tassajara Road, unhitched the teams, and rode in on horseback (McGrew 1989).

The Lambert Period (1920-1937)

In March of 1920 Fred Nason sold the Church Creek properties to William Lambert of Jamesburg.25 William B. Lambert (1879-1937) was the son of William H. Lambert (1843-1930) and the nephew of Captain Thomas G. Lambert (1826-1906). The Lambert brothers were whalers from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, whose ship, according to William Gordon Lambert (1989), would occasionally land along the Big Sur coast in order to acquire fresh water and game, and also to cut Santa Lucia fir (Abies bracteata), which they used to replace broken masts. In 186526 the Lambert brothers sold their ship to its crew and settled at Monterey, where they established a lumber business. In the 1870s William H. Lambert married Emma (Sarah) Bodfish, the daughter of the Pacific Grove lighthouse keeper, and in the later half of that decade the couple settled along the Big Sur River in what is now Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Later the Lambert family moved to Point Lobos, where they operated a dairy for a few years before moving to Corral de Tierra (Lambert 1989).

About 1903 William B. Lambert married Rose Gordon, whose parents owned a ranch adjacent to that of the Lambert's in Corral de Tierra, and the couple had several children, including William Gordon Lambert (1911-1991). William B. Lambert and Rose Gordon were divorced in about 1915, and in 1920 Mr. Lambert married Pauline Henningsen, a member of the Cachagua area family for who Hennicksons Ridge is named. In the mid 1910s Mr. Lambert moved to the Jamesburg area, where he would acquire many properties, including the James ranch (now the Lambert ranch), which he purchased from Constantine and Eleanor James Chew in April of 1919.27

The Caves ranch house in 1920. It is presumed that this is the structure built by Andrew Church after the original house burnt down in 1902. The photograph was taken L. S. Slevin 73 days after Fred Nason sold the property to William Lambert. Photo courtesy of the Monterey County Public Library.
During William B. Lambert's ownership of The Caves ranch he was the permitee to the Monterey Ranger District's grazing range six, which included the Church Creek, Pine Valley and Bear Basin areas.28 A photograph on the text side of the 1924 Forest Service map shows Lambert's cattle grazing along side of deer in Pine Valley.

Mr. Lambert also found another, and apparently more lucrative, source of income from The Caves ranch. According to his son, William G. Lambert:

We chased a dollar any way we could-be it raising cattle or moonshining whiskey. During the prohibition [1919-1933] we sold moonshine whiskey to the finest people in Salinas- judges, padres, church going people. We got $20 a gallon for it, because it was so pure. The ranch flourished then. It was a sad day when they repealed prohibition (Lambert 1989).
Armed with a search warrant, traffic officers "frisked 'The Caves'" in March of 1925, where they found a "still, several barrels of mash and a small quantity of liquor." They also found liquor at Lambert's home in Jamesburg. Lambert pleaded guilty and was fined $200.29 W. B. Lambert also served as a guide to hunters and fishermen and housed guests at The Caves ranch, but it is unknown if he made money from these activities.30

The Return of the Church Family (1937-)

In April of 1937, 16 days before his death, William B. Lambert sold The Caves and The Mesa properties to Bruce and Irene Church for 6,800 dollars.31 (Thomas) Bruce Church, one of the four sons of Andrew Church, was born at The Caves ranch on April 1, 1900. After the Church family moved to the Salinas Valley in 1905, Bruce Church was educated in the Salinas public school system, and after graduating from high school he attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in business economics. During this period he married Irene Hughes, a descendant of a pioneer Salinas Valley family, with whom he would have three daughters. After graduating in 1923, Mr. Church found employment as a district representative for a shipper of Salinas Valley produce.32

In 1926 Bruce Church entered into a partnership with Whitney Knowlton, and equipped with $3,000 of Knowlton's money and Church's knowledge of business, they purchased a field of iceberg lettuce that was ready to harvest. The venture proved to be very successful, for the initial investment was repaid within two weeks, and the partners ended up having close to $100,000 to split between them. Bruce Church later established Bruce Church Inc. (BCI) and several other highly successful businesses related to the growing and shipping of Salinas Valley produce and produce from other areas in the western United States, and in the process became a nationally known leader in the produce industry.33

Due his financial successes, Bruce Church went on to become a financier and philanthropist. He provided the working capital for the establishment of a number of businesses (for a 50% interest), and made a number of interest free start-up loans (he made no effort to recover his losses if they were not repaid). He also donated the land for the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (of which he was the first board president), built a Girl Scout hall in the Alisal district of Salinas, and financed the development of Camp Cawatre, the now abandoned Girl Scout camp that was located at the site of the former Santa Lucia Guard Station (on Santa Lucia Creek near the Arroyo Seco River).34

During Bruce Church's ownership of The Caves ranch the property was improved and made more accessible in order to serve as a summer home for the Church family. Improvements included a new (but modest) ranch house, a small swimming pool and a road to the property. This steep and winding dirt road, which drops more than 2000 ft. in less than 1.5 linear miles, was built in conjunction with the road to the former Jeffery ranch in Miller Canyon.35 Bruce Church died in November of 1958, and Irene Church died in June of 1983.36 The Caves ranch is now owned by their heirs, and is maintained by resident caretakers.

References Cited

Barrows, Henry D., and Luther A. Ingersoll. 1893. Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago.

Bost, John W. 1869. Report of the Surveyor-General of California, from November 1, 1867, to November 1, 1869. State of California, Sacramento.

Breschini, Gary. 1973. Excavations at the Church Creek Rockshelter, Mnt-44. Monterey County Archaeological Society Quarterly 2 (4).
___________, and Trudy Haversat. 1993. An Overview of the Esselen Indians of Central Monterey County, California. Coyote Press, Salinas CA.

Brewer, William H. 1930. Up and Down California in 1860-1864. The Journal of William H. Brewer. Edited by Francis Farquhar. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. Reissued by the University of California Press.

Card, Carol. 1949. "A Spa is Born" in What's Doing 3 (12), June 1949.

Chew, Eleanor. v/d (various dates). Jamesburg news columns in the Salinas Journal and Salinas Index, 1895 to 1919.
___________. 1929. "Tassajara has Interesting History" in the Monterey County Post, June 28, 1929. This article was based on the recollections of Mrs. Chew.

Clark, Donald T. 1991. Monterey County Place Names. Kestrel Press, Carmel Valley.

Coulter, John W. 1921. The Geography of the Santa Lucia Mountains, with Special Consideration of the Isolated Coast Region. M. S. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

DeSmidt, Gene. 1995. "Story of Indian Bones" in Wind Bell 29 (1), a publication of San Francisco Zen Center.

Dickinson, William R. 1965. Tertiary Stratigraphy of the Church Creek Area, Monterey Co., CA. Short Contributions to California Geology, Special Report #86. California Division of Mines and Geology, San Francisco.

Dixon, Roland, and A. L. Kroeber. 1913. New Linguistic Families in California. American Anthropologist, new series 15: 647-655.
_________________________. 1919. Linguistic Families of California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 16 (3): 47-118.

Follett, William. 1973. Fish Remains of the Church Creek Rockshelter, Mnt 44, Monterey County, California. Monterey County Archaeological Society Quarterly 2 (4).

Guinn, James Miller. 1903. History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago.
_______________. 1910. History and Biographical Record of Monterey and San Benito Counties, and History of the State of California. Historical Record Co., Los Angeles.

Henshaw, H. W. 1890. A New Linguistic Family in California. The American Anthropologist vol. 3: 45-50.

Hester, Thomas R. 1978. Esselen, in the Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8: 496-499. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Hill, William C. 1900. "At Tassajara, Moonlight Tramp of Jolly Campers to 'The Caves'" in the Salinas Weekly Index, June 28, 1900.

Howard, Donald. 1974. Radiocarbon Dates from Monterey County. Monterey County Archaeological Society Quarterly 3 (3).

Lambert, William G. 1989. "Lambert Family: Hardy and Independent Pioneers" in the Carmel Valley Sun, July 26, 1989.

Link, Martin H., and Tor H. Nilsen. 1979. Sedimentology of The Rocks Sandstone and Eocene Paleogeography of the Northern Santa Lucia Basin, CA., in Tertiary and Quaternary Geology of the Salinas Valley and Santa Lucia Range, Monterey Co., CA., S. A. Graham, ed. Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Pacific Section. Los Angeles.

McDonald, Marilyn. 1985. The History of Tassajara Hot Springs. Unpublished.

McGrew, Dan. 1989. "Nason Family Roots Grow Deep and Wide, High on Chews Ridge," "The Nason Family Ranches and Lives" and "The Remarkable Heritage Factor" in the Carmel Valley Sun, July 26, 1989.

Meighan, Clement W. 1955. Excavation of Isabella Meadows Cave, Monterey County, California. Reports of the University of California Archaeological Survey 29.

Milliken, Randall. 1990. Ethnogeography and Ethohistory of the Big Sur District, California State Park System, During the 1770-1810 Time Period. Coyote Press, Salinas, CA.

Sterling, E. A. 1904. Fire Notes on the Coast Ranges of Monterey County: Timber and Fires. This report was on file at the former Forestry Library, U. C. Berkeley.

Scrapbook. 1997. A Tassajara Scrapbook, Literature Pertaining to Tassajara Hot Springs, Santa Lucia Mountains, Monterey Co., CA, from 1861 to 1949. Complied by David Rogers.

Shipley, William F. 1978. Native Languages of California, in the Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8: 81-90. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Vera, Dorothy. 1963. "Tassajara Springs- Once Sold for $700, It Grew to be a World Famous Health Spa" in the Salinas Californian, June 22, 1963.

Verardo, Jennie, and Denzil Verardo. 1989. The Salinas Valley, an Illustrated History. The text includes a section titled "Partner's in Progress" by John Waters. Windsor Publications Inc., Chatsworth, CA.


1. From Dear Judas and Other Poems, Horace Liverright, New York, 1929.

2. La Perouse, Jean Francois de. 1798. A Voyage Around the World, in the Years 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788. English translation. M. L. A. Milot Mureau, London.

3. The Church Creek formation is comprised of an amalgamation of mudstone, silt stone, sandstone and pebble and cobble conglomerate beds, with massive lenses of sandstone to the north and south of Tassajara Road.

4. Preemptive Claims B: 33-50 & 52-55.

5a. Preemptive Claims B: 369; Deed Book I: 45-46; Scrapbook 11-22. 5b. Card and Vera's source for Mr. Rust's last name was almost certainly Chew (1929); according to this report, "a man named Rust was the first settler at the springs. He built a small cabin but having no means for developing the beautiful place he soon left."

6. Scrapbook p. 22; advertisements in the Monterey Weekly Herald and Monterey Californian; "Business Firms of Monterey" in the Monterey Weekly Heard, 8.11.1874; "Improvements" in the Monterey Weekly Herald, 5.8.1875; "Dr. Hadsell Dead" in the Monterey Weekly Cypress, 6.6.1891.

7. "Encounter with a Bear" in the Salinas City Index, 4.1.1875; "Arrivals at the Tassajara Hot Springs" in the Monterey Weekly Herald, 5.8.1875; "Fight with a Bear" in the Salinas City Index, 12.21.1876; "Letter from 'Pioneer'" in the Salinas City Index, 11.21.1878.

8. "Rocky Beasley" in the Salinas Daily Index, 7.20.1908; "Noted Hunter Hits Long Trail" in the Salinas Weekly Index, 3.31.1910; "Rocky Beasley-Super Hunter" in the Salinas Californian, 6.22.1963; Card 1949, Vera 1963; "Rocky Place" in Clark 1991; "Over the Santa Lucia" by Mary White in The Overland Monthly, 11.1892; "Rich Mine Discovered at Slates Hot Springs" in the Monterey Weekly Cypress, 4.30.1892; news item in the Salinas Weekly Index, 11.18.1886. After leaving The Caves Rocky made "final proof" on a homestead in the upper Paloma Creek area southeast of Jamesburg in 1886, but his claim was denied. By 1892 he was living on a mining claim on the south slope of Plaskett Ridge, and in 1909 he was awarded a homestead patent to 160 acres along the north fork of Los Burros Creek (Patent Book J: 606). He died in 1910 at the nearby ranch of E. J. Dutton (aka Dutton Cabin).

9. Census of 1880; census of 1900; great register of 1890; census of 1910; Guinn 1910; "Mrs. Susan Church Passes from Earth" in the Salinas Daily Index, 3.28.1919; death certificate of Susan Church; "Andrew Church, Ill for Only a few Weeks, is Summoned" in the Salinas Index-Journal, 5.20.1929; "John McKay, 78, Former Miner and Farmer, Succumbs" in the San Jose Mercury Herald, 11.22.1936; death certificate of John McKay; Card 1949; other references.

10. Patent Books D: 114 and J: 477; Land Status Book of the Monterey Ranger District: T19S R3E line 4, and T19S R4E line 8.

11. Chew v/d; "John McKay, Former Miner and Farmer, Succumbs" in the San Jose Mercury Herald, 11.22.1936; "Andrew Church, Ill Only Few Weeks, is Summoned," Salinas Index Journal 5.20.1929, Patent Book D: 466; Deed Book 40: 128; death certificate of John McKay; local news item in the Salinas Weekly Journal, 10.17.1896; other sources.

12. "Scientists at Hastings Reserve Study Local Plants, Animals" by Mark Stromberg and James Griffin, in the Carmel Valley Sun, 7.26.1889.

13. Deed Book 65: 435.

14. Also "Ladybugs from Jamesburg" in the Salinas Weekly Index, 3.2.1905.

15. Also "Laid to Rest" in the Salinas Weekly Journal, 2.27.1904 and "A Sudden Death" in the Salinas Weekly Index, 2.25.1904.

16. Also "Andrew Church, Ill Only Few Weeks, is Summoned" in the Salinas Index Journal 5.20.1929; "Mrs. Susan Church Passes from Earth" in the Salinas Daily Index, 3.28.1919, other sources. The Church family later moved to Salinas. By 1914 Andrew Church was a manager of the extensive David Jacks properties, in 1917 he became ranch superintendent for the Spreckles sugar company, and in 1922 he ran for county treasurer. Andrew Church died in 1929, Susan Church died in 1919, and Thomas Church died between 1919 and 1929.

17. Deed Book 97: 331.

18. Census of 1910; Deed Book 69: 393; other sources.

19. A letter from the Monterey County Librarian to Dr. E. W. Gifford, curator of the U. C. Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco. The letter, which is dated 10.7.1926, is in the "Indians" file at the Monterey County Library administration office in Salinas.

20. Judgment Book H: 208-210; lawsuit numbers 5901, 5902 and 5904; "Attachment Levied Against L. B. Griffin" in the Salinas Daily Index, 5.12.1914. In February of 1914 Mr. Griffin secured a $1,132 three-month loan from W. D. Lowe, a $2,160 loan from the Bank of Pacific Grove, and a $600 two-month loan from the Bank of Monterey (Mr. Griffin already owed the Bank of Monterey $200 from a prior loan).

21. Deed Book 140: 41-42; Deed Book 150: 59-61. In December of 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Griffin moved from Corral de Tierra to Monterey, and by 1920 they were operating a poultry farm with their son Jay in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County ("Men on the Move in Corral de Tierra" in the Salinas Daily Index, 12.7.1915; census of 1920).

22. According to McGrew, Thomas Watson's role in the saga of outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez was complicated by the fact that he was Vasquez's godfather.

23. Deed Book 108: 370-373; McGrew 1889; "Reclaiming the Past" by Vince Bielski in San Francisco Focus magazine, January 1996.

24. "News Siftings of Jamesburg" in the Salinas Daily Index, 10.23 & 10.30 1918; McGrew 1989.

25. Deed Book 170: 301-302.

26. "Death of Capt. T. G. Lambert" in the Salinas Weekly Index, 8.23.1906.

27. Lambert 1989; Guinn 1903; Deed Book 161: 444; death certificate of William B. Lambert, other sources.

28. Monterey Ranger District grazing range map of 1926.

29. "Still and Liquor are Found in 'The Caves'" in the Salinas Daily Index, 3.24.1925.

30. Salinas Californian Special Rodeo Edition of July 1955; "News Siftings from Jamesburg" in the Salinas Daily Index, 5.5, 5.26 & 6.14 1920.

31. Official Records 522: 132; death certificate of William B. Lambert.

32. "The Big Man Who Wasn't There" in the Carmel Pacific Spectator Journal, 6.1956; "Bruce Church Dies in LA" in the Salinas Californian 11.4.1958.

33. "The Big Man Who Wasn't There" in the Carmel Pacific Spectator Journal, 6.1956; "Bruce Church Dies in LA" in the Salinas Californian 11.4.1958; Waters in Verardo & Verardo 1989. Bruce Church was the chairman of the board of Bruce Church Inc. (BCI), and president of Growers Container Corp. In partnership with K. R. Nutting, E. E. Harden and T. R. Merrill, Church helped to establish Growers Ice and Development Co. and Growers Vacuum Cooling Co., and in partnership with Bud Antle he established C & A Enterprises. Mr. Church also had interests in Growers Frozen Foods, the Salinas Ice Co. and the Salinas Cooling Co. Due to its prominent position in the agribusiness of California, BCI was one of the major targets of the United Farm Workers Union. About 1975 Fresh International was formed as a holding company for all of Bruce Church's interests, and it liquidated its involvement in many areas in order to focus on the fresh produce industry (Waters in Verardo & Verardo 1989). In recent years the company has pioneered in the packaged salad business under the brand name Fresh Express.

34. "The Big Man Who Wasn't There" in the Carmel Pacific Spectator Journal, 6.1956; "Bruce Church Dies in LA" in the Salinas Californian 11.4.1958.

35. "Bruce Church Dies in LA" in the Salinas Californian 11.4.1958; "Those Were the Days" by Jim Jeffery, PB Publishing, Palo Alto. The earliest depiction of a road to The Caves is on the California Division of Forestry's map of Northern Monterey County and San Benito County, which was published in 1951. This map shows the road running parallel to, but a short distance south, of the former trail.

36. Salinas Californian 11.8.1958 and 6.8.1983. Mr. Church suffered a heart attack while attending a growers convention in Los Angeles.

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