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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.


Cave Springs started out as Brown's Auto Camp, which was built by Clint and Ida May Brown. They were both early immigrants to Dunsmuir. In fact, Clint came to Dunsmuir when it was called Pusher and there was only one house in the town. His parents, Manley and Lucetta Brown, were frontier entrepreneurs who were born and raised in New York. Manley was 26 and Lucetta was 23 when they married, and shortly thereafter left to seek their fortunes across the Great Plains in California. This was around 1866, and Manley embarked for the Sandwich Islands for a time. It is not known if Lucetta went with him, but in the years after he returned, they settled in French Gulch and became miners, moved to Lewiston and operated a butcher business, and traveled up the Pit River to where it crossed the Oregon Trail to run the ferry there. Clint was born at that ferry crossing in 1875.

The family grew to five and left the Pit River to follow the railhead up from Redding to Pusher. They operated a store and saloon at the railhead, moving three times before arriving in town in 1885. One can only imagine how strong and resilient Lucetta must have been - raising three kids in conditions which can only be compared to camping today. Constantly migrating from home to home and living with a man whose reputation preceded him. In fact, before Manley arrived in Pusher, he seemed to be prone to carousing; and some said this was why he had not made his fortune already. Apparently, Clint and his brother had to fetch their dad from the bawdy houses of Redding more than once. Somewhere between Pit River and Pusher, Manley lost that reputation. It may have been a natural change in his life cycle or the fact that his family needed a place to grow up. It is highly likely that Lucetta told him that this was it, "No more moving!"

They settled for good in Pusher and soon after the town changed its name to Dunsmuir. Manley had a reputation in town of caring more for his family than anything else. He was upright and honorable and maintained a quiet disposition. His three children graduated from Dunsmuir Gram- mar School. They better have, because he built the school A:>r the town at his own expense. He and a partner, Frank Marincovich, also built the town's first hotel, The Dunsmuir. Before he died in 190 I, he acquired or built several other houses and buildings. That he loved his family a great deal cannot be in doubt. In the dedication page to the Brown family is a picture of him with his family. His daughter, Ella, has her baby girl on her lap and her son stands behind her. Both children are illegitimate and living in grandpa and grandma's house. After Clint graduated from grammar school, he worked for the McCloud River Lumber Company. His standard policy was to quit work for deer season and head into the woods. He loved to fish, and especially if he could talk a pretty little girl named Ida May Beaton into going with him. Even after they were married, hunting and fishing remained his passions and often provided a supplement to their income. He became locally well-known for his abilities, and many stories were told of him and by him. He loved to bet that he could catch his limit of fifty fish in an hour or two. Now days, that seems like a ridiculous feat. But at the turn of the century, it was not impossible. First-hand reports claim that the fish were, in general, much smaller then, but much more plentiful. One of Clint's "secret" techniques was to open one of the little cans of salmon eggs (salmon eggs were packed in small tin cans then instead of the glass jars used today). He would then scatter the eggs across a riffle in the river and sit on a rock and smoke his pipe. The length of time it took to smoke one pipe full of tobacco was just exactly how long it took the fish to work up to what Clint referred to as a "frenzy." He could then hook two or three fish with every cast. There can be little doubt about the effectiveness of that "secret" technique. It is called chumming and is very illegal now!

One time, when Clint was working at the store in Shasta Retreat, a fisherman came up to him, disgusted because the fish just weren't biting. Fishing was lousy. Clint tried to tell the gentleman that the fishing had never been better. When the man refused to be convinced, Clint offered to prove it -- for a small wager. He came back an hour later with his limit and the disgruntled fisherman paid off the bet and packed up his bags and left. Marrying Ida May seems to be the turning point in Clint's life. He certainly did not give up his sportsman's life, but he did curtail it by following his father's footsteps into business; or maybe they followed Ida May's father's footsteps. Her father and mother, John and Lina Beaton, had also operated a hotel. I n fact, her parents had many of the same experiences that Clint's parents did. John Beaton was born and raised in Quebec, Canada. He just barely escaped from that country when he was forced to leave for what he claimed were "political reasons." He traveled down the east coast by boat, crossed the Isthmus of Panama by pack animal, sailed up the west coast, and stopped in California at a little town in Placer County, called Iowa Hill. If you think he became another gold miner, you are absolutely correct! He formed a partnership in a mine with his uncle and at age 23 courted and married Lina Frischgeselle.  She was 16.  

Lina was as strong a woman as Lucetta was. Being a miner's wife was no easy matter. Like Manley, John had a drinking problem. It is safe to say that a move toward domestication was just as much a reason as any other for John to sellout his interest in the mine and purchase the Iowa Hill Hotel. There, they raised six kids until a fire burned them out in the late 1890's. John and Lina packed up the kids and moved to Sacramento, where John got a job with the Southern Pacific.

The S. P. relocated them in Dunsmuir at the turn of the century. Ida May worked in the public library and, in addition to being a real cutie, was the new girl in town. Clint never had a chance. It took them two years to make it official, and they were married in 1903. Clint secured a loan from the Bank of Dunsmuir and lit off for San Francisco to business college.  After two years, he returned to Dunsmuir and bought land from the Shasta Retreat Company. They built a store and several summer cottages for the fishermen, and they won the post office contract. This was pre-highway America and most of the travel was done by train. It could be a three- or four-day drive to Redding by wagon or horseless carriage. In the winter, the trip was just not possible. Only essential traffic moved by rail, and that was susceptible to killer snowstorms. All of the summer resorts along the tracks just boarded up the windows and closed down till the spring thaw, usually some time in April. So Clint and Ida May spent their winters in Sacramento, where Clint worked in a grocery store. When the Shasta Retreat Company failed, Clint took over the balance of the property as receiver. They had two children, Ken and Aileen, and bought their first car, a Cross-Country Rambler. Clint did not learn how to drive it till the end of summer when they headed out for the winter. In the meantime, he let Charlie (Pete) Masson drive it all summer. Charlie ran the Upper Soda Springs Resort and used the car to take guests on tours of the area. At that time, the road was the old California-Oregon trail and express route. It ran right by Upper Soda Springs, which was in the flat land under the existing highway bridge, went uphill along what is now Old Stage Road, continued north over the hill and alongside what is now the tennis courts, and entered Cave Springs. It passed through Cave Springs down the existing road and out the present entrance. It is still possible to see some of the old road; but most of it has disappeared.

The Browns had a reputation for knock-down, drag-out arguments, but in 1914 they had a real doosier. It went on for days and weeks. Clint wanted to buy Castle Crags Resort. It had been the Crocker family mansion and was now being operated unsuccessfully as a resort. Clint thought he could make it a profitable business. Ida May didn't agree, but she didn't exactly win the argument either. Late that year, they leased the store and cabins to a newly revived Shasta Retreat Company and lived on the proceeds for a year. In 1916, they took over the management of Castle Crags Resort. Ida May had at least convinced Clint not to buy the place outright. This proved to be a small stroke of genius or some very good luck.

At that time, almost all resorts or hotels were along the railroad tracks or in towns. The rest were destination places like dude ranches. There were many little resorts in the Sacramento River canyon, and the train would stop at all of them. It would also stop at scenic spots like Mossbrae Falls, and there were water stops and fuel stops and stops in every little town for mail pick-up. It was common for fishermen to ride the train from Shasta Retreat up the river to Cantara Loop. It cost them a dime and they could fish all the way home. Everyone rode the train. And then came the AUTOMOBILE.

Clint was convinced that people were going to start traveling more by car and that they would need a place to stay where they could drive to easily and have plenty of room to park. Automobile travelers were camping for lack of a place to stay, and campgrounds that catered to them were springing up all around the county. Tent sites or tent platforms and single-walled cabins offered water, wood, and cots or beds. You had to bring your own linen and leave a deposit, which was returned if you left your place clean. Charlie Masson's place at Upper Soda Springs reflected these changes as it was bypassed when the highway bridge was completed in 1916. In need of some money, he offered to sell Clint the half of a quarter of a quarter of a section of land where the old express route leveled out above the swampy meadow and joined the highway.  It was actually Elda Masson's property. Clint was in need of a change because his duties at Castle Crags had become too difficult for him to handle. While on the way out of the doctor's office, he slipped and fell down some stairs, breaking his arm near the shoulder. It was very painful and complications from the injury bothered him for the rest of his life. Another big fight dominated the Browns' domestic scene for awhile, and Ida May lost again. They bought the property for around $2500 in 1922. It was already being used as an occasional campground by travelers. The only building on it was an old Indian shack that was located near what is now cabin #8.

The Indians called the place Cave Springs because there was a soda water springs near the large mouth of a very short cave by the river. Clint's sister and her husband operated the property as a camp- ground with showers and toilets until the Browns could move there three years later. In 1925, the first six cabins and some tent platforms were built along the river. A store and a home were built next to the highway where the pool is now.

The next year, the tent platforms were converted to double cabins and some small cabins without bath- rooms were added at the top of the hill along the old road. The community bath- room, showers, and laundry were right next to the vista point and across the road was an old donkey boiler that had to be stoked with wood every morning to have any hot water. The construction was pretty simple. The water main passed right in front of their property. Wood was readily available for heating and cooking, although they did put an oil-burning heater in the house. There were even some wood stoves in the camping area. All but the row of cabins that were built along the side of the highway where the Chevron service station is now, were of California Box-type construction. They have no studs and, therefore, no room for insulation. The outside boards are nailed to the floor plate and ceiling plate, and the ceiling joists keep the walls from falling outward. The walls were only one board thick with occasional glimpses of light through the cracks until the late thirties, when the inside plywood paneling was added. The foundations were even simpler - several large rocks and an occasional, conveniently-located tree stump. The roofs were cedar shake shingles. They have all been well-maintained and most of the original structures, including some of the original roofs are still in use today.

Natural soda water was much more popular than it is today. People drank it because they thought it cured a myriad number of ills. They drank it because it was unique or because they liked it or because they didn't like it. Clint felt that the steep path to the spring at the river was too far for people to have to go for a drink of water. He installed a pump at the river in 1926 to pump soda water at about a gallon a minute up the cliff to the front of his place. He tried several pumps before finding one that would do the job and be reliable. Since then, every kind of pump imaginable has been tried to replace that antique Montgomery Ward reciprocating pump. None of them have been up to the task and the original pump many times restored is still doing the job every summer.

In 1929, the Browns granted some land to the state to expand the highway in front of their place. They now had thirty units and a campground. It was called Brown's Auto Camp, later changed to Brown's Auto Park, and still later changed to Brown's Modern Motor Lodge. Clint's hunting and fishing were curtailed because of his injured arm, but he still managed to bring home some trout. Ida May established a reputation around town as being always friendly. Brown's Auto Park struggled through the depression by becoming a campground again. Travelers could get a hot shower and wood for their fires for $.50 a night. This was much less than the prevailing price of $1.00 for a single cabin or $1.50 for a double cabin. In the thirties, natural gas came to Dunsmuir and the existing gas heaters and gas stoves were installed.

In 1936, Clint, the robust outdoorsman, his body racked with a constant pain from his arm and shoulder, rigged a shotgun in the fork of the tree where I built my first tree house, and blew his brains out. Ida May's sister, Maude Lina, came up from Sacramento to help run the lodge. They let a hired couple manage the place for awhile after Clint's death, but had to fire them because of loafing. They then ran the place by themselves, hiring only maids and night clerks. They would do all of the book- keeping and purchasing and daytime office work. Ida May's cheerful disposition was put to good use here. Weary travelers are often not in the best mood when they arrive at a motel. It is as important to be pleasant and accommodating as it is to provide them with a comfortable room.

Most of the business in the 1930s was overnight stays, but there were a growing number of regulars who stayed a week or more. Those are the people who became Ida May's and Maude's friends and who looked forward to their annual visit with the sisters as much as they anticipated their stay in the cool of the mountains. The cool of the mountains was the main reason for vacations and trips into this country. Fishing, scenery, soda water, good friends, mountain walks, etc., were each important to the magic of the area, but in an era without air conditioning, escaping the constant heat of the Sacramento Valley was the biggest attraction Dunsmuir had.

In 1942, 1943, and 1944, everyone decided to stay in the heat and fight the war. Gas rationing and the war effort caused the resort to stay closed. The sisters never returned to open the resort again. Ida May died of a stroke in 1944. The Ida Brown estate sold the place to August and Irma Turner. They were farmers from Tulelake who needed a tax write-off, but neither of them were in good health. In one summer they tried to run the business; the most notable accomplishment was the installation of an oil-burning water heater which is still lying around here somewhere along with what is left 01 the original donkey boiler. Gas rationing was still in effect and the effort of running the motel proved too much for them. They sold out the next year.

Two young couples, fresh from fighting the war in Europe and on the home-front, saw an advertisement for the sale of Brown's Modern Motor Lodge. They left from their homes in Walnut Creek that night and got as far as Redding before they just had to rest. It was the end of the month, and like most young people, they were low on cash till the first, so they spent the night in the car and finished the trip the next morning. They spent two days in cabins #10 and # II, returned home to sell their houses, formed a partnership, and bought Brown's Modern Motor Lodge for $42,000. That was in April, 1946. The couples were my mom and dad, and "Aunt" Joalice and "Uncle" Johnny.

They had several years of small business background between them. Dad's mother had operated several restaurants, and he had owned a service station before the war when he was only 20. Mom's father ran a bakery in San Francisco, homesteaded in Oregon, and returned to the Bay area to open his last bakery in Walnut Creek. On one of his early trips to Oregon, he had even stayed in Brown's Auto Park. Joalice's father was a Columbia River fisherman, who drowned when she was seven. Her mother became a minister in the Unity Church and they moved to Walnut Creek, where Joalice and Mom became close friends in high school. Johnny's father was a naval officer and Johnny held several jobs after high school before he started work for the Bell phone company. Like most people who have never operated a motel before, they did not realize how much work it would be.

They actually arrived here in June and set right to work. There were repairs to make, and there were cabins for the girls to clean. But when that was done, there was lots of time to fish and swim and explore the country. It did not take long to figure out that all of the work wasn't getting done. Every year there was less fishing and more working. There was also less money than anticipated and more people to feed, as first Joalice and then Lois got pregnant. The two families decided to take turns between running the motel and working an outside job. Whoever ran the motel lived in the house and the other family lived in a cabin or in a rented house, wherever the work was. I remember one wonderful winter when my brother and I went to the beach every day because Dad was using the G.I. Bill to go to carpenter's school in Newport Beach. The baby boom was on and both families were trying to have kids together. They came pretty close.

The girls both got pregnant again within two years of their first ones, and now there were four little ones running around. Old-time customers still talk of how these young girls worked so hard cleaning cabins and pushing the wooden, bicycle-wheeled maid's cart around while they took care of their cute children. One of them was me, of course. Mom was only 24 years old then, and yes, the cart is still in use. Dad and Johnny were no longer gone fishing. In 1950, they began changing the shape of Brown's Modern Motor Lodge to what it is today. They tore down the old showers and built the existing "modern" shower and laundry building. That was the same year that Lisa and Clark Green came to town to run the little restaurant across the driveway from our office. No one can tell me when the place was built, and few remember that the sign in front actually said, "Koffie Kup."

Everyone knew it as Ma Green's. Ma Green was a legend in her own time. When people thought of Ma Green's, they may not have remembered Cave Springs, but it was impossible to think of Cave Springs without thinking of Ma Green's. It had six counter stools, two four-person booths, the soda water fountain in front, and two outside benches. They were very important because every summer night they were full of people waiting to get in. Hungry patrons would watch the bench till it emptied slightly and then they would fill it up. Her homemade pies, sour-dough pancakes, hamburgers, chicken-fried steak, and hospitality were famous from Canada to Mexico. She loved to get out in the mountains and her walls were covered with arrowheads she had collected. Some of them came from right here. When Mr. Green died, Ma Green lost the thrill of living. She tried to carryon by herself and running the restaurant was not a problem. She just did not enjoy living without her husband. She willed herself sick and then refused to eat until she died in 1965. She was one very fine lady, and in a sense, her legacy lives on. We still have pancakes every Saturday morning made from her sour-dough starter.

In 1952, the name was changed to Cave Springs after' a loose translation of the Indian name for this location. In 1954, eleven trailer spaces replaced the old kitchenless "fisherman" cabins up on the hill, and the property next to Ma Green's was sold to build Mac's Market, now called Wiley's Market. The, freeway was being built and it felt like everything was under construction. Half the town was in a state of transition as the state bought up and tore down houses to build the highway. The cabins along the road were falling apart, and people no longer wanted to stay right on the highway. When those cabins were built, all freight moved by rail. By 1950, trucks were taking over what had been the railroad's exclusive domain, and trucks are not pleasant to sleep next to. The demand for trailer ~paces was high because many of the freeway construction workers lived in trailers.

The cabins were moved up the hill to be used as storage sheds and large trailer spaces were built next to the ball park to accommodate the latest development, the ten-foot-wide trailer. The name Mobile Home was not in use yet. Standard Oil built the existing service station and, in 1955, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Joalice decided to quit trying to do two jobs. Johnny was working for the phone company again, and was offered a big promotion; but they had to move to Redding, so they sold out to my folks. The rest of the Eisenhower years were spent catching up with all of the changes and getting kids through elementary school. Every year, reservations for the summer grew and I would look forward to seeing old friends again. In spite of being sandwiched between the railroad and the highway, people love to be in Clint Brown's old cabins. Granted, they were right on the river, but a large part of why people keep coming back is because the cabins are well maintained and, above all, clean. Clean was not an easy state to attain in the steam era.

The romantic notion of giant noisy locomotives belching smoke under a full head of steam as they labored up the canyon has a few drawbacks in reality. When the new owners went to cut a Christmas tree from their very own property, they discovered it was black with soot! It took days to wash all the walls, ceilings, floors, chairs, furniture, windows, etc., every spring. This was one task that was shared. The men really got in and helped out the women. In fact, in fairness to my father, who is an extremely fair person, I must admit that he helped my mother clean every Sunday, before and after church, which we never missed; and, also, whenever everyone checked out all at once. However, the daily work was left to the women, and the throbbing O'Malley engines puffing by kept the ladies busy straightening out the mirrors and pictures on the walls.

It took ten years for the final phase of construction to begin. First, the R V spaces behind Mac's Market had to be leveled and hooked up to utilities. Then the culmination of a once in a lifetime dream was completed. Mom and Dad built themselves a new house! They also had to build ten new rooms to justify the expense, but there is no doubt in my mind that the real motivation for the expansion was to have a brand new custom home. The pool was considered essential by my father because of the changing expectations of the traveling public. Summer vacations mean swimming. Nothing could be simpler.

With one exception, Cave Springs was now complete. It was 1967. One outstanding feature of this place took several years to develop and is in a constant state of change. For the most part, God is the person in charge, but he had some wonderful help. Leo and Ethel Mellon decided to adopt the garden and landscape Bob and Lois's motel. This was strictly a labor of joy and love, and what a beautiful labor it turned out to be! Landscape architects with masters' degrees in horticulture and design marvel at the way the garden is planned. It blooms spring, summer, and fall, and has a different look for every season. What Leo and Ethel gave to our family cannot be quantified. It can only be sincerely appreciated.

Cave Springs feels complete now, and Mom and Dad are retired to pasture with the thousands of other retirees who ply the north forty of this continent in their recreational vehicles. Belinda and I are in charge now and striving just to keep up the high standards my parents set. We may even make some changes, but more than likely the changes will be forced on us by the changing nature of the business. Already, we have had to add cable TV, a movie channel, and remote controls to what started out as an industry standard black and white television. Mountain- motels in the near future will be expected to have a Jacuzzi and business motels will have computers in the rooms. Whoever thought disposable shower caps, razors, individual shampoos and shaving creams, deodorants, phones, and VCR's would be common features in a motel room? This is a far cry from bringing your own linen and cleaning your own room.

Just as Dunsmuir has gone through many changes in its short hundred-year life, so too has the motel industry. We are now in the midst of what amounts to a revolution in the business. Forgive the lapse into business jargon, but in the last couple of years the change in the motel industry is tantamount to the change in the railroad that occurred with the introduction of the diesel engine. The industry is centralizing and stratifying. In 1970 the economy sector alone contained some 10 chains, 250 properties, i.e., motels, and less than 20,000 rooms. Today, it encompasses over 60 chains, 2,400 properties and 240,000 rooms. This year, 12 major hotel companies changed hands, one giant folded, and several have the wolves at the door. The end result is enhanced competition and a new professionalism.

Economies of scale and the best young talent in the business combine with a large equity base and increased cash flow to offer better appointed rooms for less money, expanding development, and elaborate marketing programs. Pictures of sailboats sell Holiday Inn and a standard cheap price sells Motel 6. Small family-owned and operated motels will continue to exist, but most, if not all new construction, is already monopolized by corporations. In a sense, the changes that have occurred in Dunsmuir in the last thirty years are happening to the motels of Dunsmuir now. The well being of the motels in town is dependent on traffic passing by and has been independent of the town. Ironically, for the first time in our history, the futures of both will be inter- dependent on each other. Railroading and logging are declining industries in our town. Relative real estate value has dropped to the point where it is increasingly feasible to survive on an income that is seasonal. Seasonal income is nothing new to the area. We have all been doing it for years now. The principal difference will be the source of the seasonal income - tourists. Tourism is not new, it is just more important than ever before, and for the first time there is widespread acceptance of this fact. Dunsmuir has a big advantage over many newer tourist areas.

After a hundred years, most of it is still here. In a land where most people live in suburbs and new shopping centers replace old buildings, Dunsmuir hasn't changed. Tourists travel for three reasons: scenery, history, and man-made attractions. We may not have Disneyland, but we sure do have scenery and history! A little maintenance and restoration is in order and already begun. There is already a demand for and a college class to train tour guides. Cottage industry is developing local products to trade to tourists. Most importantly, Dunsmuir is working with the other towns and communities in the area to promote tourism in the entire region. The history of Cave Springs is just one story of many that could have been written about the people and buildings in our town. It is a nice thumbnail sketch of some of the early pioneers here. I feel fortunate to be able to write it because the research would never have been done otherwise. We would most certainly forget about Clint Brown, Ma Green, and even Lois Dewey if they weren't immortalized in a book. Most of all, I feel blessed because a short history of Cave Springs was fun to do!

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