Nothing better tells the story of Big Bear than Holcomb Valley and it’s rich history. Get it? Rich history? Read on and I promise you’ll get it.
William F. Holcomb
Like any good story, it all starts with a bear hunt. Back in 1859, the area of Holcomb Valley was known as Starvation Flats. Flash forward. It’s February 1860. Bill Holcomb visits Big Bear in the dead of winter. At the time, the valley is completely covered in snow. Bill decides to set up camp in Starvation Flats and join up with the other miners who were already there.
Keep in mind, the winter in 1860 was harsh. At Starvation Flats food is often in short supply. So, Bill Holcomb and another miner, Jim Ware, go hunt for food. It’s worth noting that they were looking for a grizzly to kill and eat, not gold. As they hunt, they discover a new valley. It’s there that the miners find and kill two bears. From here, the stories and the details vary. Essentially, they return to camp. Some people say they returned with the meat and later returned to prospect. Others will say they wounded the bears but couldn’t find the kill. So, they retreat to camp. Bill and another gentleman by the name of Ben Choteau venture out the next day to retrieve the kill. And it’s THEN that they discover a giant quartz rock peppered with gold. Thrilled with their discovery, they immediately return to Bear Valley to report their find.
May 5th rolls around. They return to what is now Holcomb’s Valley. Bill and others set up camp in the main gulch area situated between the upper and lower parts of the valley. Much to their surprise, they immediately start pulling out a great deal of gold. It’s from this point on, things are about to change in Big Bear forever.
And THAT is rich story behind Holcomb Valley history.