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A History of Cave Springs

By Louie Dewey.  Second Generation Owner, Cave Springs Resort.  Dunsmuir, CA.

Before all is said and done, one fact about CAVE SPRINGS stands out above all others. It was built on the backs of the women associated with it. This should come as no surprise since the lodging industry from the biggest hotel chain down to the smallest bed and breakfast house traditionally, and to this day, exclusively relies on women to provide its most important products - a bed with clean, crisp sheets and a sanitized bath- room! In thirty-seven years of close association with motels and hotels, I have never seen a male maid. This could change as the culture changes, but until then, the female's traditional role of homemaker continues to provide the training and mental conditioning which make a top-quality maid. When a good homemaker decides to go into a family-run motel business, she may not realize it, but she has just chosen a career as a professional maid. Cave Springs was no exception to this rule. This is not such a bad situation for a child of the depression and a war bride to boot - like my mom.

Being a professional maid with executive privileges right after World War II was a dubious honor. Most of the time was spent cleaning toilets and making beds and the fringe benefits were the abilities to watch four kids all day at the same time and be a desk clerk half the night. In fact, over 98% of the work was menial labor. When it came to the two percent of executive decision, Mom would consult with Dad, and they would make the decision together. Today, this sounds a little less than idyllic. However, at the time, it was a great way to make a living at what most other middle- class women were doing for free. Further- more, when my mom and dad, Bob and Lois Dewey, got into the motel business with their partners, Johnny and Joalice Richards, they were going to make a small fortune in a few years and then sellout. The average length of ownership of a motel is right around five years. That was four decades ago, and the second generation is now running the same motel. The only difference is that this generation of women is college educated and very much aware of the traditional division of labor. That means, as you have probably guessed, that this man cleans toilets and makes beds! But now I am way ahead of myself. Back when the history of this motel began, division of labor was a term used only by Henry Ford and the Marxists of the ghettos and coffee houses in central and Eastern Europe.  Automobiles were still a novelty and the steam engine was pressing into every frontier.

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Dunsmuir History and Facts

About Dunsmuir - Today

Population: 2,080  
Elevation: 2,289 feet  
Location: 300 miles north of San Francisco on Interstate 5  

Historic Dunsmuir

Established in late 1880's when a rail line was built through the Upper Sacramento River canyon.  Originally centered about a mile south of the current town and named Pusher because in this location extra engines were needed to push the train up the steep canyon.  Name was changed to Dunsmuir in 1886 when Canada's Alexander Dunsmuir fell in love with the town and promised the town a water fountain if they named the town after his family. The fountain is now at the city park.  

In early 1950's Dunsmuir was largest town in all of Siskiyou County, then the diesel trains started to be used and the rail workforce was cut by 50%. Dunsmuir's population dropped down from approximately 5,000 to about what it is today (2,080).  

The rail and healing waters attracted visitors to the local resorts, the Shasta Springs and Shasta Retreat at the turn of the century. Both resorts are gone.  
For a more complete, accurate look at the early history of Dunsmuir, click here to visit Larry Cook's web site. Read local historian Steve Cutting's account on the establishment and naming of our town.

Mysteries

Castle Crags Gold. After a stage robbery a great fortune in gold was hidden in the Crags and to this day it has not been found.  
In 1935 a "criminal" was in town. The sheriff went to catch him and was found dead. The criminal was caught and put in jail up in Yreka awaiting trial. A group of vigilantes from Dunsmuir went up to Yreka, broke the prisoner out of jail and lynched him right there. To this day no one knows the identity of those vigilantes - or at least they are not talking.  

Dunsmuir: A Survivor

"The town should have been called "Phoenix" because many times it has risen from the ashes of destruction, only to be better than ever." Reva Coon  

  • 1902 A crushing avalanche came through the town and left one big boulder still seen today.  
  • 1903 Most of the town burned to the ground  
  • 1921 Big Travelers Hotel Fire  
  • 1924 Big fire on Sacramento Street burnt two churches and everything else in its way.  
  • 1944 The Weed or "Upside Down" Hotel burned  
  • 1974 The Big Flood floated houses away  
  • 1991 The Cantara railroad spill dumped 19,000 gallons of a herbicide, Metam Sodium, into the river killing fish, plant, and animal life for 45 miles downstream.  The river has recovered fully, and is stronger than ever thanks to protections enacted following the spill.

Celebrities Came in on the rail to the Dunsmuir California Theater

President John F. Kennedy, when running for office, stopped and talked from the back of the train.  
Clark Gable was on a private train car of the Hearst Family and stopped to talk with the townspeople on the way to the Hearst McCloud estate. (Late 20's)  
Claudet Colbert came to town and presented herself at the California Theater.  
Herbert Hoover stayed at the Traveler's Hotel in what is now downtown Dunsmuir in 1933.

4727 Dunsmuir Avenue | Dunsmuir, CA 96025 | (530) 235-2721 | Toll Free (888) 235-2721 | Belinda and Louie Dewey, Hosts

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