Sierra Tel’s 272-page 2016 phone directory features world-famous Nelder Grove, home to 100 mature Giant Sequoia trees, located 13 miles north of Oakhurst off Sky Ranch Road (632).
The cover of the book features a Virginia Lazar photo of the majestic Bull Buck Tree in the grove. Five additional photos are by Steve Montalto, Victor Caldwell, and Dale Carlson on the cover. The inside back cover of the book contains the history of Nelder Grove and additional photos.
According to Sierra Tel Special Projects Manager Deborah Peters, Charlene Klinger, a longtime Sierra Tel employee, often spoke about the beauty of Nelder Grove, and about her parents John and Marge Hawksworth, who were campground hosts, and what a special place it is.
When it came time to select the theme for the 2016 directory cover, Nelder Grove was mentioned as a possible choice. Klinger arranged for Brenda Negley, her daughter and current campground host, to take Sierra Tel officials to see Nelder Grove and hear about its history.
“With its ties to one of our longtime employees, and the absolute beauty of it, it seemed like featuring Nelder Grove on the cover of the new directory was a fantastic choice,” Peters said.
“I’m thrilled that the new Sierra Tel phone book will expose Nelder Grove to many more Mountain Area residents who may not be aware of the grove,” Negley said. “I hope that, due to the book, more people will take advantage of visiting this wonderful grove in our own back yard. I am also very happy that the phone book will not only honor Nelder Grove, but my grandfather and grandmother, who so dearly loved the Grove.”
Nearly 24,000 copies of the phone book are currently being distributed through the mail. Additional copies of the book will be available at the Sierra Tel office at 49150 Crane Valley Road (426) in mid-Feburary.
For the past eight years, Negley has volunteered in the grove and is the current host. She has a deep love of Nelder Grove that was inspired by her grandparents, as well as by the time she has spent there.
Negley’s many hours of volunteerism at the grove was nationally recognized in 2012, being named the Sierra National Forest Regional and National Campground Host of the Year.
Negley is available to provide group tours when scheduled in advance.
“There is no cost to enter the grove, and no cost for special tours,” Negley said.
Negley is currently working on a book detailing the history of Nelder Grove, which she hopes to have published and available to the public by summer.
With the closing of Mariposa Grove through the summer of 2016 for renovation, Negley said there will be many more visitors to Nelder Grove and that additional volunteers are desperately needed to greet visitors, and pass out informational brochures.
“The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway Association has kindly provided funds for printing additional Nelder Grove brochures for 2016, but we need more volunteers,” Negley said.
The history of Nelder Grove
The majestic and serene grove of giant sequoias located approximately 13 miles north of Oakhurst was first settled at least 4,000 years ago by local Indian tribes. In 1858, Galen Clark, who believed he was the first Euro-American to discover the grove, named it Fresno Grove, since it was part of Fresno County at that time.
In 1875, John Nelder, a naturalist, acquired a 160 acre homestead there.
Just after completing his cabin at the base of the largest sequoia tree in the grove, he met John Muir. In Muir’s 1901 book, “Our National Parks,” Muir describes walking with Nelder in the grove - “His eyes brightened as he gazed on the trees that stand guard around his little home - squirrels and mountain quail came to his call to be fed, and he tenderly stroked the little snow-bent sapling sequoias, hoping they might grow straight to the sky and rule the grove.”
John Nelder lived in the grove for 14 years until he passed away in 1889. In the mid 1930s, Fresno Grove was renamed to Nelder Grove, in his honor.
From 1888-1892, the Madera Flume and Trading Company had a working mill within Nelder Grove. The mill was close to the current campground and harvested lumber primarily from the sugar pine, ponderosa pine, white fir, and cedar trees. Due to its brittleness, the sequoia itself was not good building material, but its high resistance to rot made its use as fence posts, shakes, shingles, and irrigation gates desirable.
Large sequoia logs that were cut about 120 years ago, after the closing of the mill, still exist today as solid pieces of wood. Currently, there are 100 mature standing giant sequoia trees in Nelder Grove.
From 1975-1995, the Hawksworths of Oakhurst were Nelder Grove’s first volunteer campground hosts. They dedicated their time to preserving and sharing the grove with others. After 20 years of caretaking the campground, the Forest Service asked John to choose a tree to be named after the couple. He picked Marge’s favorite tree, located less than three miles from the campground. That beautiful tree is now known as the “Hawksworth Tree.”