Arach Westfall and the roads of Bailey Flats

Nuggets from the Past

Kay GoodJanuary 26, 2012 

In the history book "As We Were Told, Vol I," is a September 1982 interview with Arch Westfall. The information Westfall gives takes the reader back to 1895, giving insight into the difficult life and times of that period.

Bailey Flat is situated on the Chowchilla River where three forks come together. It is west of Crooks Mountain, which is near Ahwahnee.

The way I heard it, this is how Bailey Flat was named:

A man named Gillum Baley came there in 1861. He had a dairy and sold milk to the miners, most of whom were Chinese, I believe. They worked the creek at that time. My parents came to Bailey Flat in 1895. There was a family named Greenwood already living there -- they had been there a few years although they hadn't homesteaded.

When my parents came, they bought the Greenwoods' rights and improvements, which consisted of a house, barn, fruit trees, a cow and calf, a mare and colt and a couple of donkeys. They paid $250 which was probably a lot of money then.

They had a rough go of it. There weren't any roads when they first came in ... they had to come in on pack animals. In fact, the Greenwoods got the lumber for the house by dragging it down Old Crooks Mountain, on what they called the "lizzard" (two poles dragged behind a horse).

After my father got in there, he built some roads for a wagon. In the years before going into the cattle business, my father peddled fruit and he hauled it to Grub Gulch on a wagon. The first year or two he had to take it on pack donkeys. In fact, I can remember taking a pack donkey with berries and peddling them up at Grub Gulch when I was 14 years old.

Things were a little rugged back than. The road, which is now Road 800, was built in 1913. In 1912 a bunch of homesteaders moved in and they and the other neighbors wanted a road. They donated half their time. The wages were $2.50 a day and the county paid the workers $1.25. They had to pay their board out of that. I worked on it a while. My father worked on the road and I think he got $4 a day with his team.

They built side roads, too ... built with a team and hand labor. That's the way they worked the roads. The first roads were merely trails and most of them followed the old cow trails. Cattle were pretty good surveyors -- they could follow a pretty good grade.

Arch Westfall died April 2, 1986, at the age of 89.

As We Were Told, Vols I & II, may be purchased at Oakhurst Giftworks, Dorsey's Hallmark, Coarsegold Historic Museum and Fresno Flats Museum.

As We Were Told, Vols I & II, may be purchased at Oakhurst Giftworks, Dorsey’s Hallmark, Coarsegold Historic Museum and Fresno Flats Museum.

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