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History of the Living History Community

Modern Settlement: The Resort Era

An important legacy of Mineral King has been its affiliation with the interests of tourism. Starting with a national resort boom in the 1890s and continuing to current National Park Service emphasis on public recreational pursuits, the Mineral King Valley has catered to pleasure-seeking visitors.

Mineral King stage at the store
Mineral King stage at the store.

It was the military that first felt the effects of public recreational tourism. The summer after Sequoia National Park was created in 1890, Captain Joseph H. Dorst was sent to Mineral King with a cavalry troop of 58 men to regulate the park and back country. The captain found the Mineral King Valley too confining for his troops. But he found constant visitors even more crowding.

". . . Every joker in the country who owns a little land or a few head of cattle wants to stop at camp 'to see the boys' or talk with us 'on business' and make it a regular loafing place," Dorst complained to his wife in a letter of June 10, 1891. "There has been somebody feeding off us every day and last night four men stopped with me and had supper and breakfast. One reason I was anxious to get here was to be of aid to such people, but on coming home yesterday afternoon I found two buckboards unhitched in front of my tent as if I kept a hotel."

Even without hotels, the resort atmosphere grew. The August 17, 1894 edition of Visalia's Daily Delta carried a long article describing the activities in Mineral King.

"The second week of August . . . finds this cool and inviting mountain resort largely populated, and the hegira from the valley has not ceased . . . Every day one sees wagons, buggies and buckboards coming into camp. No census of the camp has yet been taken, but there are at least 300 people here."

Recreational leisure was a sign of modern times in the 1890s. Tourism burgeoned with the spread of railroads, and resorts blossomed nationwide. In the Southern Sierra, Yosemite and Sequoia, Sweet's Mill, even Judge Atwell's campground at the old sawmill below Silver City was growing popular. Mineral King was not to be left out.

In 1890, Arthur Crowley purchased the large mining era Smith House Hotel and filed for a five acre mill site at its location. By 1895, he and his family had renovated the hotel for paying guests.

"We have got the upstairs partitioned off," Arthur wrote to his wife Emma on June 7. "Have got ten bedsteads up there, hope we can have them occupied all summer. We have got the Ford House nearly finished, and I tell you it is going to look nobby. We will go to work on the barn as soon as we finish the Ford House…"

There was no trouble filling the bunk beds that summer and in all the summers to follow. By 1905, the Crowley resort had on its five acres a two-story hotel, a store, butcher shop, stable, canvas covered dance hall, and more than half a dozen rental "cottages". A post office was in operation, piped water installed, and a telephone line extended into the valley.

When the San Francisco earthquake demolished the resort on April 18 of 1906, former business had been so good that Arthur rebuilt his enterprise from salvaged lumber of the destroyed community in order to re-open that summer. Although less pretentious and somewhat thrown together, this was basically the resort that lasted until 1969 when avalanches once again destroyed it.

Its rustic appearance did nothing to discourage tourists. From the very beginning in the 1890s, there were visitors from all over the country. By the 1920s, after World War I, they began arriving from other countries. The resort advertised in wider circles, the road was improved to accommodate automobiles, and Crowley upgraded the facilities to include a waiting room, dining room, bath house, tent cabins and finally an electric "lighting machine".

Throughout the years, the tourist and residential activities varied little. Pack trains continued to carry hunting, fishing and camping parties into the back country. Fishing, picnicking, and hikes to the high glacial cirques were favorite day activities. In the evenings there were bon-fires and cabin parties to which tourists often were invited. There were story telling sessions in the rustic store, communal games of kick-the-can, and Saturday night dances, first on the concrete slab of the old canvas covered dance hall constructed in 1929, then in later years down at Silver City. There was bear watching, radio programs and an occasional movie at the dining room. There was time to simply rest and relax in the quiet, unhurried mountain atmosphere.

And there were friendships. Through years of different ownerships and managements, the Mineral King Resort continued to thrive on its close relationship between visitors and residents. Anyone who came to Mineral King was considered special, and life-long friendships were forged.

That relationship continues today, long after the resort's demise over thirty years ago. It is a tradition nurtured by a mutual love of the valley and the community's desire to share and care for its historic character. It is the essence of what maintains Mineral King's unique cultural heritage.

History of the Living Historic Community
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