The historic Cedarbrook Inn on the Original Stage Road to Yosemite is the subject of the Friday Lecture Series on July 6 at Fresno Flats.
Local author and historian Brenda Negley will give a presentation based on Zelda Garey Dubel’s book, “To Yosemite by Stage: Raymond to Wawona and Remembering Cedarbrook Inn.” Negley’s presentation will feature 200 historical images and the stories behind them.
While removal of trees burned in last year’s Railroad fire may cause delays this summer for those entering, Yosemite National Park and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias via Highway 41, those delays are trivial when compared with travel to Wawona and the “Big Trees’ from the late 1800s and into the 1900s as described in Dubel’s book.
The book, published in 2011, chronicles those early travel challenges describing the trails, roads and railways that first made Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove accessible to the public.
William B. Secrest Jr. writes in a forward to the book:
“Most writers have focused on the history of Yosemite per se and have all but neglected its southwestern gateway – a succession of stage stops, sprawling ranches and numerous landmarks of interest. As befits her long experience as a genealogist, Zelda has examined the trail to Yosemite in precise detail. Biographies of town founders, instructions to stage travelers for avoiding discomfort, the rise and fall of post offices and the general stores which housed them – it’s all in this account, reported in the kind of depth that would satisfy the most demanding Ph.D. examination committee. Surprises abound in the text. We learn, for example, that one resident of the Yosemite gateway region once played for the Chicago Cubs, and that the local “Miami” place name was taken not from any of the eastern American sites with the identical designation, but from local Indian usage. … Much aside from all this is the purely personal part of the book, where Zelda writes of managing the Cedarbrook Inn – once, an integral part of the Yosemite gateway – in years past.
Author Dubel traces the Original Stage Road to Yosemite to 1886. “Tourists took a train from Los Angeles or San Francisco and went to Raymond in Madera County. There they boarded horse-drawn stages to go and see the ‘Big Trees’ near Wawona. Raymond was then a bustling town with many hotels and a livery stable.”
Once passengers arrived via train, “Stages left Raymond at 6 a.m. and arrived at the town of Ahwahnee at noon for an elegant lunch. Then they arrived at Wawona at 6 p.m. for dinner and a good night’s sleep. This trip of 44 miles required 12 hours on a narrow, bumpy and dusty road. It was all uphill so they changed horses every eight miles. Yosemite Stage & Turnpike Co. had hundreds of horses and many stages and wagons,” Dubel says.
“My former husband, Wilson Garey, and I bought Cedarbrook directly from the Shaws [the original owners] and we owned it from 1956 to 1964. We called it a guest ranch and we preserved all the old things like iron beds. We rented rooms, apartments and cabins, mostly to tourists visiting Yosemite in summer and fall. In those days there were not many motels [and] no hotels and Oakhurst was a very small community,” Dubel explains. “We served three meals a day because Cedarbrook was so remote there were not many restaurants available.”
Cedarbrook Inn today
Cedarbrook Inn still exists today on the dirt road between Nipinnawasee and Highway 41, Dubel notes. The road comes out near the Westfall picnic area, just south of Fish Camp. Cedarbrook Inn is privately owned and not open to the public. It is on 160 acres of private land surrounded by forest service land. “At 4,200 feet elevation, it is pleasantly cool in summer.”
Pines, cedars, a year-round stream and an apple orchard established by former owners are found on the property that currently is listed for sale for $2.4 million. The real estate listing notes that the lodge (known as the inn by previous owners) features some 3,300 square feet of space with knotty pine-paneled walls and ceilings, hardwood floors, a stone fireplace and a wood-burning stove.
Cedarbrook Inn history
The inn was constructed by A. C. Shaw, the owner of Shaw Brothers Store in Raymond, in 1915 as the automobile became the preferred mode of transportation. Shaw also established the telephone company in Raymond in 1908 so Cedarbrook had a telephone before it was commonplace for many.
When Highway 41 was built, it bypassed the dirt road that ran past Cedarbrook Inn and Miami Lodge, located on Miami Creek between Cedarbrook Inn and the Westfall Ranger Station, forcing both stage stops out of business. The Miami Lodge property later became the Oakland Area Girl Scout camp named Timberloft.
Jack Gyer, real estate agent and original publisher of the Sierra Star, first showed the property to the Gareys in the spring of 1956. Following their purchase of the property, the Gareys invested all of their money in renovations for the property to bring it up to code.
To pay the bills, they both applied for the position of postmaster at the Ahwahnee post office and they worked there for two years. However, the exams they took for the positions were never graded and following a presidential election in 1961, the postmaster position was given to someone else.
“We moved to Fresno to work,” Dubel says. “It was a blessing in disguise that we were not working at the Ahwahnee post office because two months later, on July 11, 1961, the Harlow Fire swept through Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee, destroying both post offices.”
The Nipinnawasee post office had closed in 1958 and service was transferred to Ahwahnee.
In 1982, Cedarbrook Inn was given historic status by Mariposa County.
Friday Lecture Series
There is no charge for the program. Refreshments will be served when the doors open at 6 p.m.
Author Dubel will be available to answer audience questions.
“To Yosemite by Stage: Raymond to Wawona and Remembering Cedarbrook Inn” may be purchased at www.lulu.com.
Dubel also is a genealogist. Her book includes biographies on the people about whom she writes. That content is indented so the reader might skip over those portions of the book if they are not interested in those details.