We begin a series of profiling the beginnings of the various mountain communities along the historic Sonora Pass “trail”, also represented here at Mountain Home Gifts, with a short visit to Twain Harte, truly a mountain home cabin community if there ever was one.
Originally the Mi-Wuk Indians lived beside Twain Harte Lake. They built “oochums” made from tree limbs and bark. They also wove fine baskets from the willows that grew in the damp place.
In nearby in Columbia, Sonora, and Jamestown, the discovery of gold in 1849 brought non-native people to the foothills by the thousands. When the easy gold was exhausted, apple and pear orchards were planted; cattle ranches and later lumber mills began springing up around the Indian enclave at “The Rock.” Twain Harte Dam next to “the Rock” had funding problems but was finished and dedicated on July 4, 1929. As part of the celebration, the Indians had their last Pow-Wow there.
Twain Harte came into its own when a road was constructed over Sonora Pass in 1861 between the bustling commercial town of Sonora and the very rich mining town of Aurora. Two toll gates were put in to defray expenses, one at Twain Harte and one at Sugar Pine.
In 1862, when rancher Patrick Williams purchased the patch of land that includes the present-day town, he took entrepreneurial advantage of his ranch’s location by maintaining a rest stop for freight wagons bound for the mines on the eastern slope of the Sierra. His son, John, inherited the ranch and eventually sold it to Alonzo and Keturah Wood in 1923. Wood subdivided the area in 1924 (there have been six more subdivisions) and he named the area after two famous Mother Lode authors, Mark Twain and Bret Harte.
We will also be including the history and lore of the Yosemite region and Yosemite National Park in future posts