|Some Local History by John Bishop Copyright ©1997|
|Our three small communities of Walker,
Coleville (Post Office established 1868), and Topaz (Post Office established
1885), are situated in the Antelope Valley of Northern Mono County, California.
Walker is the largest settlement, however, it is the only one without a Post Office. The
valley is at an elevation of 5,300+ feet above sea level, and is located on the eastern
slope of the Sierra Nevada and the western slope of the Sweetwater range. The prevailing
wind is from the West. The Sierra Nevada drive the Pacific rain clouds up to 10,000 feet,
where they drop their moisture, leaving us in a semi-arid rain shadow. We have sage brush
and small Pinion pine trees for ground cover. Higher up and along the rivers there are
Jeffrey Pine and Aspen.
The West Walker River is a designated Wild and Scenic River from it's beginning in the High Sierra, north to the town of Walker. Where U. S. Highway 395 follows the river's winding course it drops 1,500 feet in 14 miles of exciting roaring boulder strewn canyon. The river changes character at Walker, meandering through the north sloping Antelope Valley, irrigating local ranches and feeding Topaz Lake.
The Bartelson-Bidwell party, the first overland emigrants to California, came through Antelope Valley in October of 1841. There were 17 souls in this branch of the party, including the Kelsey family; a father, and an 18 year old mother carrying a 1 1/2 year old child. The party abandoned their wagons some where near the valley, made jerky from the oxen and packed their mules for the accent of the snow capped Sierra. Somewhere north of the present Sonora Pass the mules with supplies fell from the high granite cliffs, leaving the party without food. Winter was closing in making passage urgent. The Kelsey's became sick and were unable to travel. They were abandoned in the Sierra. Through some miracle they shot a deer,. nursed themselves back to health, and alone, made it safely to Sutter's Fort for the winter.1 2
|Captain John Charles Fremont,
with guides Tom Fitzpatric and Kit Carson, passed through Antelope Valley in
February of 1844. Captain Fremont was on his second expedition; from St. Louis,
Missouri to California, by way of Oregon. Due to thick sage brush and heavy snow he cached
his cannon in the mountains just south of Walker. 3 It was never recovered. Lost Cannon Peak and Lost Cannon Creek are
testimony to this event.
Only Paiute and Washoe Indians lived here until the gold rush of the 1850's. Prospectors came east over the Sierra in search of more gold. They found it.4 Ranchers and miners soon started to settle the valley. The course of the present U.S. Highway 395 was a major supply route to the gold mining city of Bodie. It goes through our valley today in just about the same path that Fremont and the wagon trains took. Coleville, earlier known as Centerville and nicknamed Doubletown for its high prices, was an important stage and freighter stop. 5
The famous cowboy author and artist Will James broke broncs on the historic Rickey winter ranch (Established 1860s). The ranch site is located in old Topaz at the north end of Antelope Valley. While gentling a stallion with the help of another cowboy--James was kicked in the jaw. It knocked him cold and loosened his teeth. He went to Los Angeles for dental work. Will James found Hollywood and it found him.6
Ranching is still an active enterprise in the valley. Our primary industry is tourism, with a number coming from Europe, the Pacific Rim and California. Many residents work for the County, State or Federal Government. Motels, Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Service Stations, Realtors, Gallery & Indian Trading Co's, Flower Shop, Sporting Goods, TV, and Pack Stations, provide services for tourists and locals.
We have a High School, Grade School, Community Center, Senior Citizens Center, Churches, Fire Station with Paramedics and a small County Park.
Copyright (c) 1997 Outwest Galley and John Bishop
1 - The Californians magazine