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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


FRANK L. TALMADGE The name of Talmadge is a well-known one in Southern California, and especially in Big Bear Valley, where three of its bearers, Frank L., John W. and William S. Talmadge have taken a very prominent part in the development of this region. These brothers, reared in the mountains, with but limited opportunities, are splendid specimens of American manhood, upright, honorable, broad-minded and dependable, eminently successful from every standpoint. They have been largely instrumental in securing the opening up and up-building of Big Bear Valley, in which they have resided for so many years for they were here when the Indians were driven out; witnessed the last fight made by the Red Men in the valley, which resulted in the death of a number of the savages, and the wounding of two of the Talmadge mill crew. William S. Talmadge distinctly remembers the wounded men being brought into camp. In those early days bear, deer, duck and other game was very plentiful. While the Talmadges have been interested along many lines, their operations have been heaviest in lumbering and stock raising.

The father of these brothers, also named Frank L. Talmadge, was born in the State of New York in 1830, and died at Victorville, California, in 1918, at the age of eighty-eight years. In 1855 he was married at Los Angeles, California, to Nettie Jane Lane, who was born in Illinois in 1829, and died at Victorville in 1910. Five children were born of this marriage, namely: Etta, who was born at El Monte, California, in 1857, married J. H. Benson ; Edna, who was born at El Monte, California, in 1859, married C. J. Daley; William S., who was born at El Monte in 1862; John W., who was born at Little Bear in 1864; and Frank L., Jr., who was born in 1868.

When a boy the elder Frank L. Talmadge was taken to Illinois by his parents, and there he resided until 1853. In the spring of that year he left Chicago, and traveled by ox team overland by way of Salt Lake to San Bernardino, arriving there in December of that same year. He was first employed by David Seeley, and worked for two weeks in a saw mill in" Seeley Flats, now Los Angeles playground, when the winter storms drove them out, and he had to look elsewhere for employment. He obtained work at his trade as a mason at Ix)s Angeles, and continued to work as a mason and bricklayer in that city until 1862. During all of this time he longed for the mountains, and in 1862 returned to them and lived there the remainder of his long and useful life. For a time thereafter he worked in a saw mill owned by a Mr. James, and then moved to Little Bear Valley, where he constructed a saw mill, the first and only one in the district operated by water power. It was located on the present site of the dam.

In 1865 Mr. James moved his saw mill to the present site of Blue Jay Camp, and Mr. Talmadge joined him, and in 1866 bought him out, and formed a partnership with Messrs. Caley, Richardson and Armstrong. They operated this mill for eight years, and then moved to the present site of the Pacific Electric Camp. After three years another change was made to Little Bear Valley, and the plant was maintained there until it was burned in 1891. Mr. Talmadge was a pioneer in the lumber industry, and found a market for his product at Riverside, Redlands and San Bernardino. He supplied the lumber used in the construction of the old courthouse at San Bernardino, and for many other buildings of the early days. Ox teams furnished the motive power, and Mr. Talmadge freighted his lumber with them, prior to 1870 hauling as far as Los Angeles. He and his partners owned many head of oxen, and had two fast ox teams, of six yoke each. These were for fast freight, and used continuously from 1853 to 1870.

The wife of Mr. Talmadge was a widow when he married her, she and her first husband, Nathan Strong, having come to Los Angeles by the southern route, in ox teams. Mr. Strong died soon after their arrival at Los Angeles.

Frank L. Talmadge, Jr., received but a common school education and lived in the mountains both summer and winter, and worked in his father's timber and mill. In 1892 he began butchering beef stock, and then, during 1893-4 he worked for Mr. Fleming. In 1892 George Rathbum and William S. Talmadge bought 320 acres of land in Bear Valley, and in 1906 the latter bought Mr. Rathburn's interest. They were engaged in the stock business, feeding in the valley in the summer, and around Warren's Wells in the winter. In 1911 William S. Talmadge and John Clark bought 640 acres from John Metcalf, and in 1913 he and his brother, Frank L. Talmadge, bought Mr. Clark's interest. The three brothers then bought 1,120 acres adjoining land, and as they already owned a portion of the Lucky Baldwin land, had a large property. In 1920 they sold the Metcalf land to Bartlett Brothers, making a handsome profit. They have continued in the stock business, have prospered, and still own a large herd of cattle. They are all Masons, belonging to Phoenix Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of San Bernardino; Frank L. and William S. Talmadge are members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and Native Sons of California, and the Big Bear Valley Chamber of Commerce.

John W. Talmadge married Martha Whitby, and they became the parents of three children, namely : Bert W., Dorris and Bemice. Bert W. Talmadge is a veteran of the World's war, having served in the One Hundred and Fifty-eighth Regiment, Fortieth Division. He was trained at Camp Kearney, sent overseas, and participated in some of the heaviest of the fighting in France. After the signing of the Armistice he was released, returned home, and is now operating a saw mill in Bear Valley.

William S. Talmadge was married to Minnie Rathbum in 1888. She was born in San Bernardino, and died in 1915. They had two sons, namely: Otis, who was born December 4, 1888; and William R., who was born April 12, 1901. Both were drowned by the overtuming of a canoe in Big Bear Lake. October 8, 1912.

These brothers have been connected with many operations in the valley. William S. Talmadge's freight teams transported the power plant into Lytle Creek. Other instances might be given of the various enterprises which they have either owned or backed, but it is scarcely necessary for they are known far and near as men of public spirit, enterprise and business acumen. Practically all of their lives have been spent in this region and their interests are centered here, and none of tne people of the valley are better pleased over its remarkable development than they,


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