A Brief Chronological History of the Tahoma Area
1844 - John Fremont sighted Lake Tahoe while leading the U.S. Army's first official exploratory expedition across the Sierra Nevada and into California. His journals brought Tahoe to the attention of the western world.
185? - Rubicon Springs probably discovered by early day trappers, explorers, and survey parties traveling the Georgetown-Lake Bigler Indian trail.
1853 - Joseph Calhoun "cock-eyed" Johnson and an anonymus Placerville Herald correspondant broke trail from Hangtown up the Rubicon Gorges south to Lost Corner dropping down to Meeks Canyon to the creek then bay. They were met by a band of 70 friendly Digger Indians (probably Washoe). The bay was filled with speckled trout. The indians told them tales of how Lake Tahoe was formed. They added these to their own upon returning to Placerville.
1860 - General William Phipps staked out a 160 acre homestead on Sugar Pine Point. He was one of the first known permanent residents of Lake Tahoe.
There was a logging camp at Sugar Pine Point for awhile which explains the lack of sugar pines in the area. Fortunately Phipps protected his 160 acre homestead from the saw.
1861 - John McKinney and John Wren, both Georgetown pioneers, established a hay ranch on the summit of Burton's Pass (adjoining the El Dorado - Placer County lines.)
1862 - Mc Kinney moved to the lake at Burton Creek's outlet.
Burton and Company cut 75 tons of wild hay from meadowland flanking Burton's Creek and shipped to South Tahoe.
Stephen and Joseph Meek (Meeks and Co.) cut 25 tons of wild hay from surrounding flatlands of Meeks Bay.
1863 - McKinney established Hunter's Retreat (log cabin, tents, sapling pier & 3 fishing boats.)
1867 - Upson Bay (McKinney's) received 8ft of snow in 12 hours
Agustus Colwell bought 900 acres lakeshore property, from McKinney's property line at Burton's Creek 1 1/4 miles east to Sugar Pine Point. He built a steam powered sawmill near the future site of Moana Villa.
John and George Hunsucker (miners from Kelsey, E D County, felled pine trees and built their cabin south of Rubicon Springs (taking credit for their discovery), bordering on Rubicon River. Their cabin was at the foot of Rubicon's frowning granite gorge.
1869 - McKinney's comprised 160 acres (13 lakefront), catering to Nevada's mining nabobs for hunting and fishing.
1875 - McKinney built the boathouse on the wharf used as a clubhouse and bar.
1877 - Colwell closed his sawmill and began selling property, holding only the land adjoining McKinney's.
The Hunsuckers had added outlying shacks and a pine corral for their stock at Rubicon Springs. Word was that the hunting was excellent (thousands of mule-tail deer were slaughtered and the hides packed down to Lower Hell Hole)
1878 - George Thomas and James Andrew Murphy, winter residents of Coloma and native Californians, settled at Meeks Bay. They enter the cattle business, herding their milk cows from Coloma to Meeks bay in the summer. They saved to buy the land from the Central Pacific (who had acquired it through an extensive railroad grant.) A few days before the sale was to take place, Duane L. Bliss bought the land, representing Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. Bliss promised the Murphy brothers that they could buy the land for the original price after it had been logged.
1880 - The Hunsuckers began bottling spring water and selling it at Georgetown and McKinney's. They had a hard time supplying the demand. Health seekers from Nevada were now beginning to come to Rubicon Springs.
1884 - the Murphys bought the Meeks Bay land for $250 in gold eagles.
1886 - Mrs. Sierra Phillips Clark, "Vade", (daughter of Joseph W. D. Phillips who owned Phillips Station on Johnson Pass road) bought the Rubicon Springs from the Hunsuckers and added Potter's Springs 1 mile away - beginning the RESORT. She got El Dorado County to make the trail from McKinney's over Burton's Pass to Rubicon into a one-way road
1888 - Phipps sold his property to W. W. "Billy" Lapham who opened a resort and called it "Bellevue" (French for Beautiful View). Rooms cost $2.50 per night.
1889 - Vade built a 2 1/2 story hotel at the Springs, with curtained glass windows, 16 small rooms and a parlor with horsehair furniture and a foot-pedal organ. She used white linens and polished silverware to serve 3 meals per days (sometimes 100 people). On busy weekends, visitors slept in tent, cabins, or under the stars. She also put a 4 horse six passager couch to McKinney's. It took 2 1/2 hrs to cover the 9 miles.
1892 - The Murphy bothers (from Meeks Bay) along with their sister Frances' husband, Luke Morgan, from Georgetown, leased McKinney's Resort from the Westhoff family. The indians also relocated to McKinney's living off the tourists. For 25 cents they were given community meals (left overs from the tourists meals.)
1893 - A fire destroyed the Bellevue.
1894 - Colwell's oldest son, Ralphy Lewis C. built the Moana Villa in a dense grove of yellow pine his father had left uncut. (2 1/2 story lodge, cottages, tents, clubhouse over the water, 500 ft pier for steamer landing - a bathing house next to the white fence dividing his property from McKinney's)
1897 - Isaias W. Hellman, a San Francisco financier, purchased the property where the Bellevue had stood.
1901- Hellman built a large mansion for a summer retreat.
Vade Clark (now Bryson) sold Rubicon Springs to Daniel Abbott who replaced the friendly signs with "Enter at yor own peril"
1904 - Vade leased the Springs from Abbott for 4 years.
1908 - May Ralph Colwell of Moana bought the Springs. Vade left for good.
October flash floods caused the Rubicon River to rise 8 feet overnight with mud and water rushing through the Rubicon Springs barn and nearly ripping the hotel and outbuildings off their foundations. One of the resorts best horses "Mike" drowned and floated down the river. (someone guessing he'd end up at Hell Hole, 9 miles down the gorge)
1909 - Colwell bought the Rubicon Springs Resort, combining Moana with a health resort. He was assisted by 3 sons to run the 2 resorts.
1910 - Frank Pomin leased the Moana for 3 years so the Colwell brothers could focus on the springs.
1913 - Pomin built a lodge on a knoll to the east of Tahoma.( a large rustic-finished resort hotel with cottages)
1916 - Joseph Bishop, a San Francisco chimney sweep,and Colwell's brother-in-law, bought a parcel between the Moana and Pomin's. He built a hotel and cottages and called the resort Tahoma meaning "Home Away from Home"
1920 - Mr. Hellman died and his daughter, Florence Ehrman, inherited his estate.
Tahoma Resort was leased to Mr. and Mrs. John J. Planett for 2 seasons. From 1922-26 Tahoma see sawed between the Planetts and Bishop.
- Rubicon Springs began losing its appeal as a resort.
1925 - Tahoe Cedars track was developed by H. L. Henry, who intended to start a motion picture colony here. It included extensive 2nd growth forest south across the Tahoma Resort bounding the property of Richard Kirman and I. W. Hellman. The subdivision included nearly 1,000 lots: streets were laid out, powers lines run, and a water system installed. Some of the original property owners were: Lon Chaney, Lina Basquette, Ernest Belcher, the ballet master, and writer Francis Rawling Illes.
1926 - Frank Swind from LA bought the Tahoma and hired Marcel Maes to run it. It now had a dance hall, dining room, rocked-in swimming pool built out to the lake and a renovated 2 story hotel plus cottages and tents. (during the 30's, it passed through the hands of several owners.
1927 - May 8th the winter residents of the West Shore joined hand to hand to shovel from Tahoma to Tahoe City (including Frank Pomin, Albert and George Colwell......)
Tahoe Cedars property was sold to disciples from around the world, of Aimee Semple McPherson in the Four Square Gospel (Angelus Temple). Sixty lots were designated to be campgrounds for the followers who could not afford to buy land.
Dispute between Aimee and her mother caused plans for the Four Square Gospel settlement to dissolve.
H. L. Henry repossessed the property and began selling to the public.
1930 - Colwell sold Rubicon Springs to the Sierra Power Company.
Early 30's David Chambers bought Moana Villa from the Colwell's, adding it to their resort.
1960 - The nordic ski events of the Olympics were held over a period of seven days in Tahoma.
1960's - a summer camp for troubled boys was built with recycled wood from a Tahoe City building that had been taken down (between 6th & 7th and Fir & Alder)
1965 - the State of California purchased the Ehrman property from Esther Lazard (Mrs. Ehrman's daughter. Some furnishings were auctioned off by Butterfield & Butterfield that summer.
To be continued....
Notes compiled by Jill Beede
Drawings by Betty Beede
Historical postcard of McKinney's 1903(Jill Beede)
All photos by Jill Beede, except:
Photo of Ehrman Mansion by Pat Davi
Photo of Meeks Bay courtesy of Carol Van Etten.