California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
MRS. SARAH STOCKER — It is often said that whenever the occasion arises for the services of a great man in this country, he is raised up to do his appointed work, and if this is tme of the sterner sex, it is is certainly just as much a fact with reference to the women of this land, and especially of those of the West. The record of the accomplishments of some of these brave pioneers reads like a romance, but is founded on hard facts, all of which have keen proven. Mrs. Sarah Stocker is one of the women of Big Bear Valley who deserves all of the credit which can be accorded her for she came into the valley in 1899 and made one of the very earliest camps in this region. Her initial purchase of one acre of land for $300 is now worth more than $18,000; in fact, she recently refused that figure for it. Her life has been full of hard work and constant activity, and she has the satisfaction of knowing that she has accomplished what seemed an impossibility, and did it in the face of the most severe opposition from her family.
Mrs. Stocker was born at McLeansboro, Hamilton County, Illinois, February 22, 1867, a daughter of Reece and Mary Gullic, natives of Mullinsville, Kentucky. On November 3, 1884, Mrs. Stocker left Illinois for Redlands, California, which continued to be her home until she came into Big Bear Valley in 1899. In 1883 she was married to James Monroe Stocker.
For some years after her marriage Mrs. Stocker devoted herself to her husband and rapidly increasing family, but she saw that if she and her husband were to carry out their plans for the education of their children, they must venture much in hope of large rewards. She was a woman of untiring strength, an excellent cook, and one who was able to look ahead and see how to meet probable obstacles in an efficient and successful manner. In spite of the opposition of her husband, who felt that he could not permit her undertaking so serious a charge, she came to Big Bear Valley, packing in with burros, and on her acre of ground, bought with her long-cherished savings, she opened her camp. At that time there were no stores or postoffice, and for two summers there were no hotels. Her two sons, twelve and fourteen years old, assisted her in packing in supplies over the old Seven Oaks trail. Her first improvement consisted of a cabin home for her family and numerous tents, which she rented, and she named her camp Swastika Lodge. Since that primitive beginning Mrs. Stocker has improved her camp, building modem and picturesque cabins, and has now one of the permanent camps of the far-famed valley. For the first five years Mr. Stocker did not see this property, he having to remain at Redlands and carry on his own business, while she struggled with the problems in Big Bear Valley during the summer months, although during the winters she and the children returned to Redlands so that they could have the advantages of its excellent public schools. Her camp is supplied with pure mountain spring water and was filed on many years ago by Augustus Knight, Sr.
During the years she has operated here Mrs. Stocker has witnessed many wonderful changes which have developed the wilderness into one of the most remarkable mountain resorts in the whole world. When she first settled in her primitive cabin, Bear Valley could only be reached by a difficult mountain trail, but she can now sit on her front porch and not only see the countless automobiles flash by, but also witness the landing of passengers from airplanes. She was one of those who saw John Fisher drive the first automobile into camp. This remarkable lady has by her foresight, energy and fine business ability provided generously for the needs of her family, her natural pluck triumphing over difficulties which might have well discouraged the hardiest man, let alone a woman, and one who was the mother of seven children. Many of the men who came into the valley about the same time as she were baffled by the problems, and returned to the outside world, but she never was discouraged, and worked with a firm faith in the future of the valley, and has lived to see that faith wonderfully justified. Without any doubt she is entitled to a leading position among the really fine American pioneer women.
The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Stocker were as follows: William S., who was born in Illinois in 1883, died in the Imperial Valley, June 15, 1921. He was a man of sterling character, and his untimely demise was deplored by his wide circle of friends and business acquaintances. John, the second child, was born in 1887 and was on the firing line in France during the World war, in which he participated as a member of the First Division, and he was in the major engagements of the offensive campaigns of Chateau Thierry and the Argonne. During the eighteen months he was in France he was wounded several times before he received his last wound, was gassed, and among the missing for a month, having been injured from drinking water poisoned by the enemy. Found unconscious, he was taken to the hospital and reported dead by wire from France, but fortunately recovered, was honorably discharged at San Francisco and returned to Redlands, where he is now prospering in the bee business. Ila, the third child, was born at Redlands in 1890, and she married Edward Reynolds of Michigan, where she and her husband now reside. Beverly was born in Redlands in 1893 and married Henry L. Crane and they live in Big Bear Valley. James was born in 1896, and he, too, is a veteran of the World war, having enlisted in the famous Ninety-first Division as a member of the Signal Corps. He spent sixteen months overseas and was in the heaviest of the fighting. His division was the one which was under constant fire for nineteen days and nights, and his duties as a first-class member of the Signal Corps made his risks extra hazardous. Following his return to this country after the signing of the armistice, he was mustered out at Camp Kearny and honorably discharged. He is now the owner and operator of the transfer business in Big Bear Valley and is very successful. Rosalie, the sixth child, was born at Redlands in 1898 and is a typical mountain girl, as she was only one year old when her mother first came to Big Bear Valley. She is expert at hunting and fishing and is most at home in the open. With the exception of Gus Knight, she was recognized to be the best rifle shot in the valley and hunted deer, climbing mountains after them, including the difficult Sugar Loaf peak. She married Cecil Brandenberg of Portland, Oregon, and they reside in Big Bear Valley, he being State Fish Commissioner for this region. Thomas, the youngest of the family, was born August 11, 1910. He is the only boy ever born in Big Bear Valley. He attends school there and has lived there all his life, living with his sister Rosalie during the winter months and with his mother during the summer season. He is a crack duck shot even at his age and is also an expert snowshoer, being able to outdistance most anyone many years his senior. He has often walked six miles to and from school without a sign of being fatigued and is truly a hardy mountaineer.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011