August 29, 2019
By Ken Brafman, Image from the Keller William Archive.
The first white man ever to set foot in Little Bear Valley was a fur trader, who was a partner of Jedediah Smith, in 1826. At that time, about 40 Paiute Indians, a warlike tribe, used the mountains for their hunting grounds. At the same time, a more peaceful tribe of Indians, the Serranos, lived in an area now known as Rock Camp, on the north side of the mountain. They did not bother the settlers until one of the white men made advances to an Indian maiden, which caused a skirmish killing both Indians and white men. This week’s image is of the Mormon Road up the mountain which was completed in 1852. By the 1860′s the main attraction at Little Bear Valley was logging, lumber and cattle, and there were several sawmills in and around the valley. The trees were tall and straight and cut lumber could be hauled down to San Bernardino on a road constructed through the west end of the range. In the early 1890′s Little Bear Valley was chosen as a location for a reservoir. The dam would supply water to the lowlands in the San Bernardino Valley. Work on the reservoir started in 1893. By 1912 work was 80% complete. Activity continued for several more years with plans for building some 60 miles of tunnels to carry water to lowland communities. A court order stopped those plans and the tunnels were never finished although they are still in existence. The dam was completed in 1923, and soon the first Lake Arrowhead Village was built in the Norman style. Included were a pavilion, outdoor movie theatre, restaurant and beach. Three hotels were built: the Arlington Lodge, Village Inn and North Shore Tavern as well as a nine-hole golf course. Land was subdivided and homes and secluded estates sprang up occupied by Hollywood movie stars and businessmen. Many films were produced on the Lake Arrowhead shore.