By Mabel Plaskett
The drive up the Nacimiento River is one of the most interesting, as well as beautiful. You reach the Nacimiento 12 miles west of Jolon, at the old McKern Place. IN the early 1890’s Lawson McKern homesteaded 160 acres and built a cabin on the bank of the river. He lived here until he was killed by a runaway team dragging a sharp toothed harrow over him.
Later Reil Dani acquired the ranch and reared a large family here, selling out to Ed Sans. Eventually it was sold to Hearst and is now part of Hunter Liggett Military Reservation.
A few miles on is the old Toler place, a homestead taken up by Mrs. Pauline Toler, who came from Tulare County in about 1890 with her son, Harry, who built an adobe bungalow type home with a double fire place and with his wife, Emma and son Jim lived here for many years.
Harry Toler was an expert teamster and hired out with his two horses and four mules on various hauling jobs all over the country. He hauled the machinery for the Los Burros mine from Willow Creek beach landing. He later worked for Sans Bros. hauling lumber from the mill. The Tolers sold out to Reil Dani and moved to Ventura about 1908. The old swimming hole at the bend of the river is still known as “The Toler Hole.”
Nigger Fork is about three miles from the Toler Place where the stream runs into Nacimiento. The fork leads off to the left over a hill where a lovely meadow spreads out where giant live oaks, mossy stones and early wild flowers abound.
The story goes that a negro family lived here long ago and one of their children wandered off and after weeks of searching, his body was found—most of it devoured by wolves.
Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Henderson lived here for a time. Mrs. Henderson, with son Billy Tubbic, came from Michigan and was a great worker and a persevering woman. She worked like a man, building roads, repairing fences and doing chores as so many pioneer women did while their men fold worked out to help earn a living.
Years later the Hendersons lived on a homestead in the hills near the Jim Barbree place and William Curcell and sons of Oasis accompanied E. J. on a trip to the coast. W. J. Harlan put up and fed their horses and as the campers left they asked what they owed. Mr. Harlan said quickly, “I wouldn’t think of charging a neighbor,” which brings to mind a line from Emil White’s “What is Big Sur and Where”: “Whether they live within five miles or 50 they consider one another as neighbors.”
We drive on at the side of the river lined with sycamores, alders, willows and laurels, beautifully green in spring and golden in autumn, past the Forest Service Camp. At the bridge we leave the old road and the river and climb the grade to the summit, by passing another old settlement known as the Sharpe Place. Here, in early days a man named Sharpe built a substantial house and set out an orchard only to find the winters too cold for fruit to develop so he abandoned the place and left for parts unknown.
Later Mrs. Schonberg hauled the lumber of the house to build Los Ojitos School house on the old Bolton place south of Jolon.
Near the Sharpe place are “The Corrals” where before the road to the coast was completed the coast people left spring wagons or buggies, riding horseback this far and unsaddling their horses, trained to ride or drive and hitch them to the vehicle for the trip to King City.
A short way above the Sharpe place is the source of the Nacimiento, which means birth, and just over the ridge to the east the San Antonio River springs into being. The sister rivers meander along different routes until they enter the Mother Salinas river close together south of Bradley.
At the summit a road leads off on the left to Plaskett Ridge and the coast. This is not a smooth road and not recommended for good cars. Another jeep road drops abruptly down a steep slope to Mill Creek. (This is the site of San’s Saw Mill, operating from 1898 to 1910.) Still another road leads to Cone Peak to our right and the main road winds along the ridges above Mill Creek to the coast.
From the summit one can see the ocean, blue and dazzling on a clear day or banked with white clouds of fog. In early days a family named Adkins lived on the summit. The Moro family lived near by Chalk Peak and Vicente Kaniete lived near the road just under the hill. Of all these families no trace of human habitation remains except the Moro orchard. It seems incredible driving along this quiet road with no sound except the murmur of the river around us, to think that families lived here so long ago, with all the bustling activity that goes with life.
Now Hunter Ligget Military Reservation ends at the Toler Place and the U. S. Forest owns the rest of this wonderland clear to the coast which is altogether right and proper as this insures the preservation of this recreational area for the people’s use.
The road from the McKern Place to the summit was built by U. S. Forest Service. Howard Mansfield (Stubby), who is still with the U. S. Forest Service, surveyed the road in 1930. In 1933 WPA men under Julius Schiekele worked on the road. Blaine Mansfield worked on the coast side of the grade throughout its construction. This road was literally blasted from the rugged mountain in places. It was completed in 1934 and has given pleasure to thousands of nature lovers since.
Mabel Sans Plaskett was born in Coralitas near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountain area of California. Her father Edward Robert Sans ran a saw mill near Pacific Valley, along the Nacimiento – Ferguson road to the coast at Highway One. It was there she met Edward Abbott Plaskett, her husband. Mabel wrote about the coast and the pioneers of the 19th and 20th Centuries.