MILEPOSTS #994

By Bill Pumford, Image from Russ Keller Collection

TITLE: WILLIAM (UNCLE BILLY) STEPHEN – BARD OF STRAWBERRY FLAT, PART II: This week’s image is a photo of William Stephen from the early 1900’s and this column is a continuation of the story from last week. In 1906 William Stephen became a deputy sheriff in San Bernardino County. His tasks were wide-ranging and included such things as investigating a burglary at Arthur Gregory’s cabin, enforcing forest regulations for the forest rangers, tracking down illegal fishing for the game warden, and, as the United States headed into World War I, swearing in the new military enrollment clerk. William was also a one-time mayor of Strawberry Flat. He continued his participation in wedding anniversary, birthday and holiday celebrations not only on the mountain but in Highland, San Bernardino, and Redlands. He contributed so much time and energy to the Pioneer Society that they made him an honorary member. As he became older William became known as Uncle Billy and started staying the entire year in the mountains. To show their immense respect for Uncle Billy, in 1917 the folks in Strawberry Flat took up a small collection to build him a cabin to be able to stay during the winters. John Dexter built the cabin and other people donated a stove and furnishings for the interior. Uncle Billy’s health was never great and in 1918 became worse, with long stays in San Bernardino County Hospital where he was visited by numerous friends to offer him cheer. His trips to the mountains became more infrequent and when he was not in the hospital he stayed at the Southern Hotel in San Bernardino. In 1920 Uncle Billy suffered a stroke, died in July of 1921, and is buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

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