Uncle Andrew’s three boys were all little fellows, the youngest, John, was just a baby. Uncle Bill happened to be at the Caves. He must’ve left his family in San Francisco. I think it was in the early spring, maybe May. The stages had started running to the Tassajara Springs and there were some people staying there. Uncle Andrew was up early in the morning. He had built a fire in the wood stove and gone across the creek to the barn. There were horses to feed, cows to feed and milk and pigs and chickens to take care of. The creek runs quite a lot of water and makes quite a noise. He happened to look toward the house and saw flames coming out of the roof. Uncle Andrew ran to the house, but too late to do anything about the fire. Aunt Clara had heard the fire and grabbed the baby John and pulled Bruce out of his bed and ran outside with them. She lay the baby down on the ground and ran back to get Clarence and Bruce followed her into the smoke-filled house. She ran out with him but he would not stay outside.

Clarence was asleep in a little bed in a room by himself. Aunt Clara could not get back into the burning house, by this time the heat and smoke were too much for her. Uncle Bill heard the noise and when he knew it was a fire he jumped out of the window and ran around where Aunt Clara was trying to get into the house to get Clarence. Uncle Bill ran to the room where Clarence was asleep smashed the window with his fists and jumped in, grabbed the bedcovers in his arms and jumped out the window and ran from the burning house. He pulled the bedcovers apart but he did not have the little boy. He ran back and felt around the room until he came to the bed again and another arm full of covers and Clarence in them. He rolled them out on the ground just as the roof caved in and sparks and cinders shot out on all sides. He ran with the little boy to Aunt Clara and Uncle Bill and Andrew put out the small fire that started in all directions from the burning house. Aunt Clara was in her nightgown. The children were undressed and Uncle Bill had only some underwear on. Uncle Andrew was the only one dressed. They carried over logs and the wood and built a fire in a clear spot away from the smoldering embers of the house and covered the children with blankets that uncle Bill had grabbed off Clarence’s bed. There was some milk for all to drink but not much in the way of solid food.

If I remember correctly, Uncle Andrew started for the Springs for clothing and food but did not get far. He met a man on horseback coming to see if all was well. Somebody had seen the smoke. He turned back and before evening that first day there was a pack train with food and clothing, shoes and medicine etc. and one man by the name of Mr. Griffin with the offer of money to rebuild the house.


When Grandpa Church first went to the Caves there were lots of deer in that part of the country. There were quail, rabbits and mountain quail and pigeon in the late fall, and doves in the summer time. Grandpa was not a hunter, but Uncle Andrew and Uncle Bill were good hunters and excellent shots. Game was the only meat there was to be had. There was an irrigation ditch and a small field of alfalfa, a nice orchard and a nice garden where all sorts of vegetables grew. The vegetables had to be used up during the season mostly, but the fruit was dried or canned for winter use, what could not be used fresh. Grandpa always had a milk house and plenty of milk and cream and butter. There were a few chickens to keep the family supplied with eggs and chicken to eat now and then. There was always a sow and some pigs coming along to keep the salt pork barrel full. Living at that time was different than it is today.

Everything that went on the table was raised on the place except a few things like sugar, flour, coffee, tea, baking powder and a few other items like flavoring extracts, rice, tapioca and salt. And often they did not have some of those things.

The road to Tassajara Hot Springs was being built about that time, and when the hotel at the Springs opened up in the early summer, Grandpa sold all of his surplus better to the hotel there. The butter was packed 5 miles over a rough trail on pack animals and had to be covered with a lot of blankets to keep it from melting in the hot summer sun. Grandpa’s milk house was built near the creek and built of stone except for the roof which was logs and brush with leaves and dirt thrown on top of it. It had racks around all sides inside for the milk cans to stand on while the cream would raise. The cream was skimmed off every 24 hours. The skimmed milk fed to the pigs and the cream soured and was later turned into butter in a big barrel churn.

There was a ditch that ran from up the creek and led the water into the milk house and out the other side. There were no windows in the milk house and the only light came in through the door when opened. I remember when I was a little fellow same good sized trout swimming around on the floor of the milk house in the little stream that ran through.

Grandmother washed her churn and milk cans and emptied the water in the little stream and the fish came by the hundreds to feed on tiny pieces of curd that would float out in the top of the water to the big Creek. It was easy then to catch trout anywhere in the streams. Some of them were 10 or 12 inches long.

It was at the Caves that I once saw hundreds of trout at least 15 inches long in a deep dark hole a couple of miles down the creek from the house. I was quite small and would wander down there in the light time in the afternoon. Sometimes I would get interested in fishing and it would get late and I would run all the way home to get there before dark. Once I caught a big trout but he did not bite the hook. He was caught in the hook as I dragged it up out of the water.

There were all kinds of Indian things around when I first remember. All the gates were swung on rocks which had been used by the Indians to grind their acorns and seeds in. You could pick up arrowheads and spearheads any day. The rocks that were used to pound the acorns with were plentiful also. The paintings inside the caves were quite clear and the place where they had their fires was still charred and black on the rocks. We used to, when we passed through their on our camping trips when we were older, stop sometimes for a day and play Indian in the very place where there must have been many Indians about 50 or 60 years before. We made our camp near the creek but would run barefoot all over the rocks and explore every crevice of the place.

There were no Indians living in that part of the country when our grandparents came there. But across the creek from the house there were many little piles of stones and many people said that they were graves of Indians who had been buried there. Grandpa had accidentally plowed too close to them at different times and had uncovered bones and arrowheads and other things. He always carefully dug a hole back under the stones and put everything back where he thought it had come from and went on about his work. The irrigation ditch ran down through these little piles of rocks and sometimes would wash in under them and expose the bones to the sunshine. Grandpa always put them back.

Once there was a party of men who had heard about this Indian graveyard and had decided to do some digging for themselves. They started from Salinas with wagons and brought along picks and shovels and sacks to take home some of the bones. They had saddle horses and pack horses for the last part of the trip, for there was no road into the Caves Canyon. They came to the house where grandmother lived before they could reach the graves, and they told her where they were going and what they were going to do. She was alone at the house at the time and she told them they were not going to do any such thing. She said “you’ll do nothing of the kind. Those people are dead and I’ll not allow you to disturb them now”.

They all went back empty-handed.

When Grandpa Church moved into the Caves Canyon his two sons Andrew and Bill were big boys. I think uncle Bill said that he was 16 years old at the time. They helped drive the cattle and move the other farm things from San Mateo County and it took many long days to make the trip. Our mother was older and was attending San Jose State Teachers College about that time. Uncle Bill only stayed a few years but while he was there he was the hunter and kept them supplied with fresh meat. He told us that he had seen as many as 30 dear at a time on the grassy hillsides opposite the house in the evening. There was other game and fish to be had.

He learned a lot from Grandpa about falling trees and hewing the logs into timbers, and even using a whipsaw. He spent a lot of time in the long winter evenings making things of wood. He found a lot of beautiful hardwood growing in the canyon and it on the hills around. Uncle Bill was an expert with an ax and adz. He knew all the different colored wood that grew in the hills and often traveled miles to get a piece of a certain color or strength. Uncle Bill was also an expert rifle shot and hard to beat with the shotgun. But he drifted away and found work in San Francisco and stayed there until the year of the quake, 1906.

Uncle Andrew stayed with his parents and took care of the place. Sometimes he worked around on ranches for short time but spent most of his time at the Caves. Uncle Andrew was an expert horseman and would ride any horse no difference how wild or tough he was. He was an expert with the rope and knew cattle as well as any man in the business. He stayed at the Caves until he married aunt Clara (she was Clara Bruce). Later Grandpa and Grandma moved away to the Valley near Salinas and uncle Andrew stayed on until aunt Clara died. Clarence, Bruce and John were born by then. It was miles and miles to the nearest neighbor and a lonely place to live. Sometimes there would be months at a time in the winter that nobody could go out or in over the snow on the ridges.

Aunt Clara took sick one day in the early afternoon and by night uncle Andrew decided to ride out for help. He had to leave her alone while he was gone. It took hours for him to get to Jamesburg ,and there Mrs. James—who was an old old lady—said she would go and take care of her. She rode a horse from around midnight and till daylight in the morning to get there. She helped Aunt Clara through her trouble and was not able to get out of bed for a few days herself. She always said, “Well I was old and had lived my life. I could not let that young woman be there alone even if it killed me to go to her.”

We visited Uncle Andrew and Aunt Clara at the Caves. Most of the time we had errands there. We carried the mail to them or a message from someone. We often took a couple of pack animals with us and and picked fruit or grapes and Uncle Andrew loaded our pack animals with them. There was a fine family orchard there then. Two fine big cherry trees. Lots of apples of many varieties. Apricots and many varieties of peaches, several kinds of pears, and a quince tree. Uncle Andrew would send meat home with us if he had just killed a deer or maybe a pig.

One year he had sliced and sun dried various kinds of fruit and he sent some home with us. The pears were delicious tasting and before we reached Chews Ridge we had dug into the pack and eaten a lot of them. We were hungry and they were sweet. But when we came to the spring above the Bear Trap we were thirsty and drank and watered the pack animals. The dried pears swelled up inside our stomachs and made us awfully sick. For a couple of hours we thought we would never get home. The walking I think helped to make us get well. We learned later that walking a bloated horse is good medicine and we were surely bloated. We were still sick when we arrived home but mother made a cup of medicine for each of us and we were well by morning. Dried pears did not taste very good for a long time after that.

But there were all the other things to eat. One time while Grandmother still lived there, they milked quite a few cows and raised the calves by feeding them the skimmed milk in buckets. The calves would be out in the pasture around the alfalfa and Grandma, when she had the milk all skimmed and ready to feed them, would call “Boss boss boss” and drum on a milk pan to call the calves to feed. When the calves were ready to wean they were driven off to Pine Valley where there was good grass. In the fall before snow fell they were brought back into the canyon where they could be fed on hay if they needed it. Uncle Andrew and Bill Bruce and some other men had gone to Pine Valley and brought the yearlings down. They had opened the gate to the pasture below the house and were trying to put the yearlings through. The calves did not see the open gate and would race past the opening and up along the fence. They turned them back and again they raced past the open gate. Grandma hurried the dinner onto the table called all hands to come and wash up and eat. Then, when they had put their horses up and were busy eating their dinner and the yearlings had time to cool down, Grandma went out to the milk house and took an empty milk pan and went to the gate drumming on the pan and calling “Boss boss boss” and every one of the 30 odd calves followed her through. She closed the gate and when the men finished dinner their job had been done for them.


Dear Tommy
I thought that I would write to you what I know about The Caves. It has always been an interesting place to me and I thought you might like to hear. The first is things that I remember hearing the folks talk about and later we will get to things that I can remember.


My grandfather bought the place from a man by the name of Marks and that must be around the 1880s. I think Mr. Marks had taken up the homestead there and I believe he paid a Spanish fellow something for a claim there. They said that when they came there that there was a big cross mark on a tree near the trail where a man had been buried. He was one of a party of Spanish explorers. The cross was plain to be seen when we were youngsters and going in and out of there. The tree was still standing when we passed there the last time.

Mr. Marks and his family lived there for a number of years and were snowbound every winter for months at a time. They were about 15 miles from the nearest wagon road and at least 40 miles from the nearest town. Mr. Marks was not a very young man, and besides his wife I think there were two sons and two daughters. One time in the dead of winter Mr. Marks had such a toothache and it lasted so long that his folks thought that he had gone crazy. He took his rifle and very little food and said that he would walk to town. They tried to stop him but could not. He started for the coast over country where there were no trails and the snow was deep in the ridges. He left the house and started up the canyon. The family begged him to come back. They were sure that he would die on the way. The the further up the canyon they went, the deeper the snow. The mother and girls turned back but the boys kept going along with their father, begging him not to try to go. He would not turn back and they were sure that he could not find his way. They stayed with him until he reached the ridge that was the divide between the Caves Canyon and the Pine Valley Creek. Here the snow was so deep that they could hardly flounder through it. It was getting dark and the storm was coming up. There was some snow falling already. The boys were young and were hoping that their father would tire out and they could coax him to return with them to the house. He told them to go back and they were not in the habit of talking back to their father and had always obeyed him. This time it was differen—they could not let him wander off into the storm alone and die. They both started to talk and begged him to go home with them. He told him again to go and when they did not go he brought his rifle to his shoulder and cocked it.

“Go now before I shoot both of you” he said and they both waded back through the snow.

The storm broke before they were halfway home and if it had not been for their tracks made on the way up they would never have been able to get home. The mother was out with a lantern to meet them calling and calling in the night. When finally she met with the boys she was nearly crazy with worry about them all. She cried with joy to see the boys and sadness for her husband. The little girls were alone in the cabin waiting and waiting for them all to come home.

They finally came in, cold and wet and tired out, and were sure that Mr. Marks could not live through the night. The storm was one of the worst they had ever had since they lived at the Caves.

There was plenty of wood cut to keep the cabin warm and there was hay in the barn to feed the horses and cows. They had milk, for one of the cows had had a calf. And they had potatoes onions hubbard squash and beans. They had salt pork and bacon in the smokehouse. They stayed there because they couldn’t go any place until the snow thawed in the spring. And when it did, they would get out and try to have men go and find their husband and father.

But months later when the snow was partly gone on the ridges, Mr. Marks came home over Chews Ridge. He had found his way to the coast and people helped him to Monterey to have the tooth pulled but he dared not try to get back.

Mr. Marks had been driven nearly insane with the teeth aching for so long a time he told after he came home of how he had floundered through the snow all the first night and the next day. Then he had come to lower country where the snow was not so deep but the brush was so thick that he could hardly get through. The country was rough and no trails. He spent one night in a cave on the side of a deep canyon where he managed to get a fire going. That was the only shelter he had and the only warmth. He followed downstream where the water was too rough to try to swim and had to climb miles to get out of the canyons. But every step was toward the West and the coast. It took him five days and nights to reach the coast and his shoes were worn out. His clothes were in rags and he was starved and worn out. He staggered into the Post Ranch looking like a wild animal. They gave him milk and warm clothes and heard his story. They let him rest a few hours then started north up the coast with Mr. Marks on the saddle horse. There were no roads down the coast then, and no telephones.

He rode with the Post Ranch people for many miles to the next ranch and they gave him a new horse and rode with him until they reached another ranch. Mr. Post went back to his ranch.

The third ranch they reached at night but there was no stopping. Another horse and another guide and by morning they were in Monterey. Here Mr. Marks found somebody who would pull his aching tooth and then he rested a few days. He was soon well and anxious to be on his way to the Caves but people would not let him go alone. They arranged to take him horseback up the Carmel Valley until he reached the James place where the Jameses coaxed him to stay until the heavy snow was gone from the ridges. He was away from home nearly 2 months and all the time Mrs. Marks was sure that he was dead. She could not do a thing except stay there until the snow was gone from the ridges and then hope that somebody would come by. Mrs. Marks dared not start out alone with four children until the snow was gone and the weather good. Even then she was afraid to try to handle the horses. It would take at least three horses for them all to ride. Very few people ever passed by the Caves and no one ever came there in the winter.

Mr. and Mrs. Marks were glad to sell their place when Grandpa Church came in to look at it. 


When I was a little boy you must remember there was no automobiles no motorcycles and no airplanes. We had either to travel by horse drawn wagon, cart or surrey where there were roads, or horseback or on foot where there were no roads. It was home and so were some of my brothers and sisters back in the mountains where roads were few and very poor. Most of our travel was horseback if we had to go very far. If it was only a four or five mile trip, we walked. 

I cannot remember much of what happened before the age of six. I do remember when our grandfather moved us to the old homestead that mother and us kids later named Paradise Hill. The place was a couple of miles by trail off the road where we had to leave the wagon. Father had gone there months ahead to build the house and get things ready for us. There was Mother and six of us children. May, the oldest, Bob the next, myself the third, Ann, a little girl about five, Tom three years old and Sue the baby. We all walked in—us three oldest carried something. Mother carried the baby.

In the canyon where we left the wagon road there were some wildflowers. Ann was so excited that she ran from one to the other gathering them until she could hold no more in her hands. The farther up the mountain, the more flowers there was, so she gathered more and more until she had arms full and would lay them down and run ahead and pick some more. When we were part way up the long trail mother told us that on top of the first hill there was a tree with a big bump growing all around it near the ground and that was where we would all sit and rest awhile. She said for none of us to go beyond that tree and wait for her there. Ann was so busy picking flowers that she ran on ahead and was the first to reach the tree. When we came to the top of the knoll we could see the tree but could not see Ann. We hurried then to find what had happened to her and found her sound asleep with her hands full of wildflowers on the ground beside the big oak tree with the humps and bumps on its side near the ground. we named the tree Humpty Dumpty and it is still Humpty Dumpty to all of us whenever we talked of going up that trail.

We walked on and on and the farther we went the more tired we became. Up up and up until we reached the top, then the trail ran along the ridge, sometimes uphill and sometimes down for a long way. At last mother said, “See that barbed wire fence? That’s our place.” So at last we were walking on our own land, and in a short time we were at our own little house.

The little house stood on a steep hillside below a beautiful spring of cold water. Father had put the house there so that there would never be any need for carrying water. We all took a drink from a tin cup that hung over the spring and felt rested. Mother fixed a fire in the woodstove and got us a meal—from what I do not remember. We did not explore much around the place that first day for it was late and we were all worn out.

The next morning we were up early and interested in the tracks of the wild animals that had come during the night to drink at our spring. All day long the wild birds were coming to drink and they did not like us to be there. We saw birds and animals we had never seen before. We roamed around close by the house but did not get very far from home. We were a little afraid, and besides could see enough without going far. At night the noises of the owls and other night birds frightened us and in the daytime there was stranger noises that we did not know if they were made by a bird or a mountain lion. We learned later that a small bird sometimes made a noise like a kitten and one coyote could sound like a pack of wolves.

I remember our first day to school. The school house was 2 1/2 or 3 miles away in the opposite direction from the road where we left the wagon. We had to go down to the canyon below our house and up and over another hill. Our father took us the first day and we started early in the morning. Dad took burlap sacks along to wrap around the lower wire of a barbed wire fence that we had to get under so we would not tear our clothes. He also had an ax and blazed a tree here and there by marking it on both sides in the direction that the trail ran and especially where it turned. The blaze still shows on some of the trees. That was done so we would not get lost. 
I do not remember much about the school at first except that I was so tired when I arrived there I could not study, and coming home I thought I would never get up that last hill. We were warned to keep away from cattle that roamed over the hills and often that spring we detoured miles around in the brush expecting a bull to come charging after us. We were afraid for miles and miles when we heard those big range bulls roaring at each other from one mountain to another. (Stories continue, but not now…)


About 100 years ago (editor’s note: in the 1870s) my grandfather Thomas Church brought his family from Palmer Massachusetts to San Mateo county California. My mother Sarah Church was his daughter. She was then about six or seven years old. She had two brothers, Andrew and William, and two half brothers John and Frank McKay. Grandmother’s name was Susan and grandfather Church’s mother Agnes was with them. She died at Grabtown and was buried at Purissima Cemetery. Grandfather worked at several of the sawmills and shingle mills. I heard them talk of Borden’s, Purdey’s Harkens Mill, the Virginia Mill. They lived for a while at Grabtown and Mother has pointed out to me the location of the ox barn and various buildings. Also where the flume came down the hill in which water ran into a tank for the stock and to carry to the houses.

They later moved to the Summit Springs, a large building about 1/2 mile east of the Kings place which is still standing on Skyline and Kings Mountain Road. The children went to school from there to a school house about 1/2 mile north of the old Summit Springs Hotel. I think the school was built and donated by one of the saw mill owners—I cannot remember who he was. Grandfather Church had a crew of men cutting four foot wood which he hauled to Redwood City and shipped by water to San Francisco. He also made some split shakes and fence posts and pickets. He also raised a few head of cattle.

In the year 1884 Grandfather Church moved with his family to the Caves ranch near Tassajara Springs in Monterey County. His horses and cattle were driven all the way. I remember seeing two ox yoke under a big pine tree about 3 miles from the ranch. They were never used after he moved from San Mateo County and they were burned in a fire that went through some years later.

I came to San Mateo county in March 1909. I worked on the old Quinton ranch at San Gregorio. There were three saloons, two stores, two hotels, about eight or ten homes in town and one blacksmith shop. The school and Catholic Church have both been let go to ruin. There was only one automobile that I know of in the neighborhood. That was owned by Dr. Banks in Pescadero. It could only be used in summer because the roads were mud in winter. On Saturday or Sunday we might see two or three cars come and go. Later the stores both sold gasoline from a 50 gallons drum. They filled the gas tank with a watering can and strained the gas through a chamois skin. The price about 10 or 12 cents per gallon.

Every ranch had dairy cows and shipped cream. The larger ones made cheese. Most ranches raised oats for hay and grain for market. All produce was hauled to Tunitas by teams of horses. Lumber from Peterson’s mill and others down the coast was hauled by six and eight horse teams. Many of the big teams had bells which were attached to the hames of the leaders.

The Ocean Shore Railroad ran south from San Francisco to Tunitas Glen and north from Santa Cruz to Swanton. Red Stanley steamer cars ran between Tunitas and Swanton. They hauled the mail and Wells Fargo Express and also picked up cream and other small packages along the way. A horse stage ran from Redwood City to La Honda and from La Honda to San Gregorio and Tunitas. Another from Pescadero to Tunitas. Sam Stout drove one of the stages. At Tunitas there was a freight platform and a station building. A house for the agent and family to live in and several other small buildings.

The railroad grade was completed to within a short distance of San Gregorio beach. The bridge had rails across Tunitas Creek and empty cars were pushed over the bridge and out of the way. A big pump and gas engine was installed on the north side of San Gregorio lagoon and the pipeline to the base of the hill where the parking grounds are now. A start had been made to hydraulic a cut through the hill to the finished grade on the north side. Just south of San Gregorio beach there was a tunnel high up on the ledge that was at least 100 yards long where we were told they had prepared to blast the point of rock off into the ocean. This was about 1/4 mile south of San Gregorio lagoon.

Just north of Tunitas was still standing some of the timbers from the old chute built by Mr. Gordon who owned the Gordon Ranch (later the Davis and later Keystone ranch). The chute was to have been used to load freight on ships moored offshore. There was no train stop at Lobitos that I can remember. On the old stage road in Lobitos canyon there was a saloon. The John Bell ranch and home were close by, also the Frey ranch and home also a few others.

Purissima was quite a little town. Going from Lobitos to Purissima on the old road, the school was on the right side of the road it still stands there, and on the left is the old cemetery where my great grandmother is buried. There were a lot of markers of stone and more of wood. At the intersection of the old road and Highway One there was a row of buildings along the right side of the old road. One blacksmith shop and a sort of a store and bar and at least two homes. On the left among the grove of trees there had been a hotel but I only remember a few small buildings there. Where Highway One now runs, at the intersection there stood a saloon and four or five other buildings on the west side of the old road where it turned toward Half Moon Bay. There was a train stop also but it was near the ocean.

The old Johnston house near Half Moon Bay was being used partly for storage of grain and partly for living. My mother told a story about her brother John McKay. He was a boy of 15 when he worked on the Johnston ranch for a man by the name of Jones. The boy was being paid $2.50 a month with room and board. On Sunday he walked home to Grabtown to get clean clothes. One day his mother asked what kind of a room and bed he had, and he said that he had not seen them yet after a week on the job. He said that it was dark when he went to bed and dark when they called him to get up and Mr. Jones did not let him have a lamp or even a candle. The next Sunday his mother had made a dozen tallow candles and as he was going back to Mr. Jones’ ranch she gave them to him with a block of matches. He took a look at the gift and sat on the doorstep and cried, “Oh Mother, must I stay there to burn all of them?”