Big BearFor over one thousand years the popular southern California resort know as Big Bear was once called Yuhaviat, or "Pine Place."
Big Bear ceased to be known as Yuhaviat back in 1845 when Benjamin Davis Wilson rode into Yuhaviat Valley with a posse of 20 men.
They were chasing Indians who had been raiding their ranches in Riverside. As they entered the valley, they found it swarming with bear.
Wilson divided his men into two-man teams. Each team went out, roped a bear and brought it back to camp. They had eleven bear at the camp all
at the same time. This prompted Wilson to come up with the name Big Bear Lake. However, it should be noted that Big Bear Lake is a man-made
lake that didn't exist in 1845. The lake Wilson named Big Bear was actually the natural lake at the east end of the valley, now known as Baldwin Lake.
Wilson is not only remembered for giving Big Bear its name, but he went on to become an important figure in Southern California history.
Among his accomplishments, he is remembered as the first mayor of Los Angeles. He was also a two term California state senator, and he built
the first railroad between Los Angeles and San Diego. Wilson died on March 11, 1878, but before he died, he donated land and buildings for the
construction of a college. This new college eventually became the University of Southern California.
Big Bear Lake is a man-made lake and was created in 1885, when a man by the name of Frank Elwood Brown constructed a thin rock dam across
the narrow gorge at the west end of Big Bear Valley. Brown was a Redlands farmer who had migrated to Southern California after graduating from Yale in 1876. He and his partner, Edward Judson, found the climate and red soil conditions at the east end of the San Bernardino valley ideal for citrus farming. In 1881, they purchased 4,000 acres and incorporated the City of Redlands.
Brown needed a reliable source of water to supply his citrus farms in Redlands. He spent much of the next two years on horseback, searching
throughout the San Bernardino Mountains for the ideal location for a reservoir. Once he reached the narrow gorge at the east end of the valley, he knew his search was over. Two years later at a cost of $75,000, Brown had created the largest man-made lake in the world.
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