Thursday, June 9, 2011


Inyo County, August 30, 1993

Note to the powers that be in California Office of Historic Preservation: Instead of ‘First Permanent White Habitation in Owens Valley’ how ‘bout ‘Owensville’, like it says on the plaque in the first place. The Slim Princess chapter of E Clampus Vitus took this matter into their own hands and placed a different plaque in 1977, the inscription is below, along with the original.

Allen Ebenezer Van Fleet (2nd from left, top row), the reason for the landmark and the person who built the first permanent structure here is seen in this 1907 Thanksgiving photo taken in the town of Laws. Interestingly, he shot in the chest with an arrow during the Indian War in 1863 and the arrowhead remained in him for the rest of his life. When the water was later diverted to Los Angeles, the Van Fleet family picked up stakes and moved to Mason Valley, Nevada. Today, there is an annual get-together held on the banks of the Walker River for the Van Fleets and the other families that relocated to Nevada called the ‘Owens Valley Picnic’.

Noehill photo

Before the ranchers and settlers came to the Owens Valley, there were the explorers, and first was mountain man Jedediah Smith in 1826. Later, Joseph Walker (Walker Lake, Walker River, Walker Pass) came along in 1834. Though this was mapped Mexican territory by then, they hadn’t bothered to check it out, nor had the Spanish in prior years. A decade later, in John Fremont’s exploration party were Kit Carson (Carson City), the artist Edward Kern (Kern County, Kernville), and Richard Owens (Owens River, Owens Lake, Owens Valley, Owensville). 

Yours truly (2nd from left - top row) as the Old Glory band heads heads up the 6 into Nevada in the spring of '77...the same time the E Clampus Vitus people were putting together the new plaque.

Official plaque inscription: NO. 230 FIRST PERMANENT WHITE HABITATION IN OWENS VALLEY - In August of 1861, A. Van Fleet and three other men drove their cattle into Owens Valley and prepared to stay. A cabin of sod and stone was built at the big bend of the Owens River at the northern end of the valley.
Location: At intersection of State Hwy 6 (P.M. 3.9) and Silver Canyon Rd, 4 mi NE of Bishop
Google: 37.39979,-118.35210

Current plaque inscription: OWENSVILLE – The first white man’s settlement in northern Owens Valley was built here in 1861 and two years later, prospectors named it ownsville. It Thrived for some time but in 1864 as minig in the White Mts. petered out, the miners moved on to better diggings leaving the town deserted.
Dedicated June 11, 1977 Slim Princess Chapter e Clampus Vitus

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