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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


JAMES ERWIN For centuries there has lain between the fertile lands of the San Bernardino Valley, and the blazing sands of the Mojave Desert, the wonderful valley to which the name of Big Bear is now given, but until 1861 it was only known to the wild creatures of nature. In that year a prospector by the name of Holcomb discovered traces of gold in Its sands, and there followed one of the typical gold rushes of the period, traces of which are still to be seen. When the gold was exhausted the valley was used for stock raising purposes, and this industry still flourishes.

As the years passed, here and there was found one who appreciated the wonderful natural advantages of the valley, but up to 1915 there were but two permanent camps within its confines. In the meanwhile the great European war had practically closed the playgrounds of the old world to tourists, and the slogan, "See America First" produced some remarkable results. Enterprising persons who recognized the possibilities of the valley began to pour in and establish permanent camps, erect modem hotels, build roads, and place upon the waters of Big Bear Lake fast-moving motor boats and other craft. Soon the automobile of the trans-continental traveler began to roll into the valley ; the casual visitor was multiplied many times and today the valley accommodates upward of 8,000 people in the season from June to August, inclusive. This remarkable development has attracted to this region some of the ablest men and women of the country, and one who is making a remarkable success of his undertaking is James Erwin, proprietor of the widely known Erwin's Camp on Big Bear Lake, one of the most complete and popular resorts in the valley.

James Erwin is a native son of California, having been born at San Francisco, January 10, 1891. After attending the public schools of his native city, and several private ones in the East, he completed his education in the University of Pennsylvania, and then began traveling all over Europe, his business interests in various lines taking him to far distant countries, where he dealt largely in securities.

His extensive operations being interrupted by the progress of the war, as were those of so many people during that time of stress, he turned his attention to American undertakings, and becoming interested in Big Bear Valley in the spring of 1919, he assumed the management of Erwin 's Camp at the close of that year. This valuable property is now owned by him and his wife, and consists of thirty acres of land where they have a most complete mountain camp, with an American plan hotel, store, housekeeping cabins, with an individual water and lighting system. Every kind of amusement is provided for as there is a commodious dance hall, saddle horses, sixty row and motor boats ranging from those forty feet in length to canoes. A private reserve is maintained for duck hunters, including 220 acres of land on Baldwin Lake.

In 1916 Mr. Erwin was united in marriage with Miss Constance Alden, a talented young lady, a member of one of America's prominent families, and the seventh generation in direct descent from John Alden. She was born at Boston, Massachusetts, was educated in the leading schools of the East, and finishing schools in Europe, and speaks Spanish fluently. Mr. and Mrs. Erwin have two children, namely, Henry B., and Constance A. Mr. Erwin is an ideal host, a most excellent business man, and since he became the owner of his camp has thrown himself enthusiastically into the work of further developing the valley, and improving its condition.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011