The Caves: Mr. Marks


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.