By Bill Pumford, Image from Stan Bellamy Collection
TITLE: WILLIAM (UNCLE BILLY) STEPHEN: BARD OF STRAWBERRY FLAT, PART I:
This week’s image is a postcard photo of William Stephen from 1914. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s William Stephen was a prominent and well-travelled character in the San Bernardino Mountains. During this period very few people lived full-time in the mountains since the infrastructure did not support permanent residency. The roads were poor, and the winters were rough. People generally flocked to the mountains in May and lived in Mormon Springs and in camps like Lincoln, Rogers, and Pioneer and returned to places like San Bernardino in the fall. William Stephen spent a lot of time visiting the various camps where he told stories, helped with celebrations, and played his concertina (seen in the photo above). He wrote poems, sang songs, did recitations and provided the San Bernardino newspaper with dispatches from Strawberry Flat (later Twin Peaks) and Pinecrest where he described the comings and goings of local notables such as the Dexters, Wixoms, John Brown Jr., and the Andresons. Below is a sample of Stephen’s poetry written in 1913:
If every name deserving fame,
Were placed on survey plat,
This spot, I claim, would bear the name
Of Upper Huston Flat.
Devoid of fear, this pioneer,
Slain by a grizzly’s strokes,
His little mill, stood o’er the rill,
That heads near Daley’s oaks.
William Stephen was born in 1845 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He attended University of Edinburgh, came to the United States in 1885 and arrived in the San Bernardino Mountains in the early 1890’s. Story to be continued next week.