A Brief History of Twain Harte
Population (year 2000): 2,586;
Elevation: 3640 ft.;
Land Area: 3.6 sq. mi.
Tall pines and an idyllic mountain lake have drawn people to Twain Harte from
the earliest days. Before golf courses, summer homes and dinner houses were
Twain Harte’s landmarks, the Mi-Wuk Indians called home a lakeside camp near a
sweeping expanse of bald granite rock, now commonly called “The Rock”.
It is the area’s oldest landmark, now partially submerged, but still visible at
the west end of Twain Harte Lake. There the Indians built teepees and “oochums” from limbs of trees and bark,
and wove fine baskets from the willows that grew in the damp places.
In nearby Columbia, Sonora and Jamestown, the discovery of gold in the summer
of 1848 was drawing white men to the foothills by the thousands. When the easy gold
was exhausted, many became lumbermen and ranchers bent on tapping the area’s other
riches—its forest and grazing lands. Apple and pear orchards, cattle ranches,
and later, lumber mills, began springing up around the Indian enclave at “ The Rock”.
In 1861, the U.S. Congress authorized construction of a road to run from the foot
of Twain Harte Grade over Sonora Pass, connecting the growing commercial center of Sonora
with the boom mining towns of Bodie and Aurora. A contractor named J. B. Carter was paid
$400,000 to build the road, but when the sum proved inadequate, another company with private
finances completed the construction. Two toll gates were put in to defray expenses--one
at Twain Harte and one at Sugar Pine. Alfred Fuller, an Ohioan, who came to the area during the 1850’s, took a Mi-Wuk wife and
lived near “The Rock” on what was then the Calder Ranch. He was hired to operate the
Twain Harte Toll Gate of the Sonora-Mono Toll Road. He continued in that job until the
1890’s, when the government took over maintenance of the road.
In 1862, Patrick Williams acquired 640 acres of land, including the meadow where the
Twain Harte Golf Course is now located. Williams planted apples and pear orchards, ran
a few head of cattle, and maintained a watering place for the freight wagons bound for
the east slope mines. Williams’ water trough was located where the Twain Harte Inn
(formerly the Twain Harte Lodge) stood until it too burned in 2002. William’s son, John D. Williams, inherited the ranch after his father’s death, but in
1919 sold out to Alonzo and Keturah Wood. Wood subdivided the area in 1924, and Katurah
named it Twain Harte, after their two favorite (and famous) Mother Lode authors—Mark Twain
and Bret Harte. Twain Harte is believed to be the first private recreational subdivision in the
Sierra Nevada according to Carlo DeFarri, county historian.
Twain Harte Lodge Realty was organized in 1925 to sell stock in the development.
In 1926, Albert L. Nevins and Dr. R.E. Turner bought into the Twain Harte Development Company.
Wood retained only a 40 acre parcel that came to be known as Lilac Terrace.
Nevins and Turner energetically pulled together plans for the subdivision. They started
Twain Harte Dam during the summerof 1927, but ran short of funds. Edward M. Marquis agreed
to put up the money needed to complete the dam. It was finished and dedicated on July 4, 1929.
As part of the celebration, the Indians had their last Pow-Wow on “The Rock”. By that time, Twain Harte was a thriving summer colony. Cabin sites, available for a modest
$100 and up, sold steadily. Turner and Nevins constructed imposing homes on the hill near the
present day Twain Harte Grocery.
The first school in the area had been located, before the turn of the century, at the
nearby Center Camp mill site, one of many mill sites operated by the Tuolumne County Water
Company while it was constructing the open ditch water system operated by the county today.
The first Twain Harte School opened in 1928 in a schoolhouse moved in from the nearby mining
town of Confidence to a site near the Williams roadhouse. Nearly all community activities centered around the subdivision clubhouse built in 1930, and
located near where the Twain Harte Fire Station stands today. The clubhouse doubled as a
meeting hall, social hall, and church for all denominations. Marquis added a lodge, then
a bar, then a modest motel. The wooden arch, today the town’s trademark was first built
in 1933, and has been re-built many times, losing the hyphen somewhere along the way. The
current arch was built in the 1970’s, and modified in 1995 and again in 2003 by the
Rotary Club, active in Twain Harte since 1951, and which has been responsible for many
of the improvement projects in the village and surroundings.
Ray Eproson, who bought the Twain Harte Grocery in 1930, allowed the development company
to construct a golf course on the Twain Harte Meadow, exacting as his share,
a rent of $1.00 per year. The golf course became popular with well known personalities
of the day, including Mario Giannini, late president of the Bank of America.
Eproson also was the first Postmaster and Fire Chief for Twain Harte. The Eprosons built
a large house along Twain Harte Drive in 1947. It has been converted to a restaurant and
has become another familiar landmark. Eproson Park was also created to pay tribute to their
endless civic contributions. In 1943, Nevins and Eproson bought out the Marquis holdings, which included a subdivision,
a hotel, a service station and some outbuildings. In 1947, they sold the hotel to John Rocca,
who operated the establishment until it burned to the ground in 1953.
The California Department of Forestry firefighters camped at Twain Harte with one engine
for many summers before building a permanent fire station at the edge of the meadow in 1944.
The village of Twain Harte has grown rapidly since the close of World War II. Once a summer retreat for a
few hundred, the community is today the permanent home for several thousand. Since the original
subdivision, there have been many others. Nevins, Turner, Marquis and Eproson completed five
subdivisions. Baunhauser, Broadhurst, Gunther and Morrow added more. Today, according to the 2000 census, Twain Harte is one of the fastest growing areas in
Tuolumne County, and the 55 and older age group category is growing faster than any other
Twain Harte residents today are still attracted by the same qualities that drew the Mi-Wuk Indians over
100 years ago. The area’s beauty, it's abundant recreational opportunities and
the healthfull climate make
it an excellent place to live, raise a family, or to