Avery, Hathaway Pines and Sheep Ranch History
Seasonally inhabited by both the Miwok and Washoe tribes, the area still retains evidence of their presence. Bedrock mortars, or grinding rocks can be found in many places throughout the area. Many people recall Native American groups living or camping here as late as 1940.
The first European settlers known to have taken up permanent residence in what is now Avery were Joseph and Sarah Goodell. In the 1850s they built a four room house which was also used as a hotel; it was named Half-Way House because of it’s location half way between Murphys and Big Trees. Moran Road was the original “highway” through Avery; Highway 4 was constructed in the 1920s. When the Comstock Lode in Silver City, Nevada was discovered in 1858, the original Emigrant Road through Avery was used by logging and freighting teams who over-nighted at the HalfWay House.
Cattlemen and sheepmen also used this road to drive their herds to the summer ranges in the high country. Sheep Ranch was once surrounded by these sheep corrals, and in 1860 gold ore was discovered in the corrals where the sheep were kept at night. Soon Sheep Ranch was a bustling gold mining town. For more about other gold finds see the rock hounding section in the recreation guide.
Peter and Nancy Avery and their son George arrived in California from Maine in the late 1850s. They purchased the Half-Way House from the Goodells in 1869 and later acquired about 800 acres for growing hay and as pasture for horses and cattle.
The Half-Way House, renamed the Avery Hotel was now surrounded by a; store, bar, dance hall, three large barns, wagon shed, blacksmith shop, ice house and other smaller buildings. In 1946 a fire swept through the area claiming all the buildings except for the hotel which still stands.
Logging has been a prevalent industry in the Avery Hathaway Pines area since about 1885 when Nathan and John McKay arrived from Nova Scotia and found a homestead for sale on Love Creek. They started the Clipper Mill and their land proved to have one of the heaviest stands of sugar pine in the region, producing over fifteen million board feet of lumber. The McKays built a railroad to haul the logs, measuring up to eleven feet in girth, from the woods to the mill. The old traction engine, named Jenny, stayed in the woods near Love Creek for many years after the mill closed; eventually it was moved to the Museum in Angels Camp.
Clarence McKay sold the major part of his family’s holdings in the 1970s, stipulating that the minimum parcel size be ten acres in order to discourage subdivision development in the Love Creek area. Clarence always loved and appreciated the land on Love Creek and placed more than monetary value on it’s preservation. Adapted from the Avery-Hathaway Pines Community Plan – April 1999.