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 Twain Harte Lake's popular "Rock". ("The Rock" as residents call a sweeping expanse of granite near the Twain Harte Lake Dam, is the area's oldest landmark).
There the Indians built houses or "umachas" from limbs of trees and bark and wove fine baskets from the willows that grew in the damp places.
But in nearby Columbia, Sonora and Jamestown, the discovery of gold in 1849 was drawing people to the foothills by the thousands. When the easy gold was exhausted, then came the lumbermen and the ranchers bent on tapping the area's other riches its forests 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 town of 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, was hired to operate the Twain Harte Toll Gate of the Sonora-Mono Toll Rd. He continued in that job until the 1890's when the county took over maintenance of the road.
In 1862, Patrick Williams acquired 540 acres of land, including the meadow where the Twain Harte Golf Course is now located. Williams planted apple and pear orchards, ran a few head of cattle and maintained a watering place for the freight wagons bound for the east slop mines. Williams water trough was located where Twain Harte Lodge is today.
Williams' son, John D. Williams, inherited the ranch at his father's death, but in 1923 sold out to Keturah C. Wood.
Wood subdivided the area in 1924 and named it Twain Harte Lodge after two 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 DeFerrari, county historian. Earlier, the U.S. Forest Service had in 1916 and 1917 subdivided the area around Strawberry Lake (now Pinecrest) and sold lots and leases to permittees, he said.
Twain Harte Lodge Realty was organized in 1925 to sell stock in the development. In 1926, Albert L. Nevins and Dr. E. Turner bought into the Twain Harte Development Co. Wood retained only a 40 acre piece 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 summer of 1927 but ran short of funds. Edward M. Marquis agreed to to put up the money needed to complete the dam.
But when the company failed to pay off the note in 1934, Marquis foreclosed and took over the company, changing the name to Twain Harte Realty.
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 site of the Twain Harte Market.
The first school in the area had been located before the turn of the century at the nearby Centrecamp millsite, one of many millsites operated by the Tuolumne County Water Co., 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 ranch house.
Nearly all community activities centered around the subdivision clubhouse located near where the Twain Harte Fire Station stands today. The clubhouse doubled as meeting hall, social hall and church for all denominations.
Marquis added a lodge, then a bar, then a modest hotel.
The wooden arch, today the town's trademark, was built in 1933.
Ray Eproson, who bought the Twain Harte Grocery in 1930, allowed the development company to construct a golf course in the Twain Harte Meadow exacting as his share a rent of $1 a year. The golf course became popular with well-known personalities of the day, including Mario Giannini, Late president of the Bank of America.
In 1943, Nevins and Eproson bought out the Marquis holdings, which included the subdivision, a hotel, service station and some outbuildings. In 1947, they sold the hotel to John & Rose Rocca who operated the establishment until it burned to the ground in 1953. The present lodge was built in 1958.
State 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.
Twain Harte has grown rapidly since the close of World War II. Once the summer retreat of a few hundred, the community is today 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 a sixth.
Today, according to the latest census, Twain Harte is one of the fastest growing areas in Tuolumne County.
Residents are attracted today by the same qualities that drew the Mi-Wuk Indians there over 100 years ago.
Twain Harte Lake is formed by a dam that is anchored between two granite domes – one of them, well known to all Twain Harte families, is called the Rock.
On August 3, 2014 at 9:30 am, a natural rock stress release event (exfoliation) occurred on the Rock. Subsequent events occurred on August 6th, August 20th, and September 4th. These events resulted in a crack/leak in the Dam and the immediate draining of the Lake.
Natural rock stress release events are caused by years of weathering of an unprotected rock surface and fluctuation in temperatures. The resulting rock fractures, known as exfoliation joints, form onion like patterns where it appears that layers of the rock are peeling away - just like an onion.
The stress release events in 2014 resulted in a peeling of our rock surface along the face of the rock and in the area of the stairs, where the dam connects to the rock. This caused damage to the left dam abutment resulting in several cracks and a small leak.
Immediately following the initial event on August 3rd, as directed by the California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD), the lake was drained. The Board of Directors immediately initiated steps to understand the problem, develop a solution, and return the lake to its former beauty.
Our partners in resolving the problem were:
Repairing the Rock and Dam constituted the largest project undertaken by the Twain Harte Lake Association since the building of the dam in 1928. The project cost nearly $900,000 and was funded by a combination of Association reserve funds and a Special Assessment paid by all members of the Lake Association.
Evidence of the 2014 exfoliation events can be seen on the rock today. The sitting ledge that runs across the top of the dome was created when the onion layers of exfoliated rock were removed. Additionally, you can see evidence of 60 Rock Bolts on the slab that holds the sewer pipe. These bolts were installed by Twain Harte Community Services District to insure that future rock movement would not impact the stability of the sewer line.
Will exfoliation continue? The answer is yes, the Rock will continue to experience natural stress release events in the months and years ahead. A small event occurred in June 2016 resulting in closing of the Rock for a week. During that time, the Rock was inspected, debris was removed, and the Rock and dam again declared safe.
The dam is now monitored by the DSOD twice yearly and regular movements on the Rock are monitored by friends at the US Geological Survey.
Exfoliation Event on July 22, 2016
The Rock was closed for the second time during summer. The area of the exfoliation was cordoned off. The Rock re-opened on August 6, 2016 with safety protocols in place for those wishing to enjoy the Rock.