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On Main Street in Bishop, California, listen to the clatter of two lanes of traffic busy with horse trailers, RVs, biker gangs, and highway patrol racing after sports cars from the city. A clutch of teenagers saunters, Wrangler-ed and Stetson-ed, in town for the rodeo state finals. Tourists eat enchiladas and gaze through restaurant windows at the town going by.

One hundred years ago, the Inyo County Bank stood on this street, a two story building with white siding and rows of windows. Inside, antlers adorned the walls. A bare bulb hung from the ceiling. Wooden cabinets gleamed.

The bank belonged to brothers Mark and Wilfred Watterson, whose parents brought them to Bishop as boys from the San Joaquin Valley. By 1922 the brothers owned the only banks in Inyo County and had a reputation for leniency towards debtors. History books call them the “financial kings of the Eastern Sierra.”

On May 23rd, 1923, Mark and Wilfred Watterson lead a group of ranchers to an irrigation ditch in Big Pine. Los Angeles workers were busy filling the intake of the ditch, rerouting water away from irrigated fields and into the aqueduct. The Watterson band dumped city workers’ tools into the canal. “Los Angeles,” declared the headline of the Big Pine Citizen the following day: “It’s your move now.”

The Watterson brothers were the valley’s beloved, defenders of a pillaged place until the last. In portraits they are handsome, hair neatly parted. Wilfred took his neighbors on Sunday rides over dirt roads in the first automobile in the valley: a fifteen-horsepower White Steamer, a boat of a car with a hatch roof and tires that looked like they came off a wagon. It’s likely the brothers were among the men and women who blasted a crucial junction of the aqueduct one midnight in May of 1927, and they were leaders in the four-day occupation of the Alabama Gates in 1924, turning water back into barren Owens Lake.

On August 4 of 1927, a crowd gathered outside the locked doors of the Inyo County Bank. It was a Thursday, maybe hot and bright, maybe cool and steamy after a thunderstorm. The Wattersons had pinned a notice on the bank’s door.

“We find it necessary to close our banks in the Owens Valley. This result has been brought about by the past four years of destructive work carried on by the city of Los Angeles.”

Mark and Wilfred Watterson were arrested, not for their resistance to Los Angeles, but for embezzlement and fraud. By the early 1920s, many farmers who held out while Los Angeles pursued water rights in Owens Valley were forced by the slumping economy to mortgage their farms to the Wattersons’ bank. In the summer of 1927, an audit revealed that Mark and Wilfred had made generous loans with money they did not have.

The brothers allegedly invested their neighbors’ money in industries like mining and tourism, endeavors they believed could save the valley’s economy. But the industries did not succeed soon enough for Mark and Wilfred to return the investments. The life savings of their oldest friends and neighbors disappeared.

The brothers were tried and convicted by local people in the Independence courthouse. I don’t know what it felt like to sit in that court house, no doubt sticky with August heat. But I have read that the prosecutor cried, the judge and jury cried as they handed down the verdict. Mark and Wilfred went to prison for a decade. Soon after, the bank’s windows were broken, and tattered curtains blew into the street.

Good slides into evil and back again. The more I learn about this place, the less I understand, and the more I want to learn still. The picture of home gets at once bigger and harder to see. I haven’t come up with answers. I’ve only found stories that lead to more questions.

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19 hours ago

Don’t forget to visit the Bishop Mule Days Celebration official souvenir shop located on the fairgrounds for 50th anniversary commemorative t-shirts, belt buckles, coffee mugs and more! Open now through Sunday, May 26th. ... See MoreSee Less

Don’t forget to visit the Bishop Mule Days Celebration official souvenir shop located on the fairgrounds for 50th anniversary commemorative t-shirts, belt buckles, coffee mugs and more! Open now through Sunday, May 26th.

 

Comment on Facebook

Can we purchase items online when we can’t attend in person??

Teresa Nunez

Are you online?

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3 days ago

Mule Days is open to the public; no charge to enter the fairgrounds and there is a lot to see and do all weekend! Bring the kids and enjoy all the fun activities Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Junior Packer Corral. Happening this coming weekend, Friday May 24 - Sunday May 26th. ... See MoreSee Less

Mule Days is open to the public; no charge to enter the fairgrounds and there is a lot to see and do all weekend! Bring the kids and enjoy all the fun activities Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Junior Packer Corral. Happening this coming weekend, Friday May 24 - Sunday May 26th.

 

Comment on Facebook

Gary Dutter

Silly Question I guess... But What Month???

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4 days ago

Winter just doesn’t want to leave!The winter that wouldn’t end! ... See MoreSee Less

Winter just doesn’t want to leave!

 

Comment on Facebook

What's with the snow??

Still wintery here right now in May!!

Down here at the very beginning of the PCT we are very wet and cold and wondering how all those PCT hikers in just tennis shoes are doing right now. Some of them look so ill prepared when they finish the first 22 miles and stop here at our Malt Shop for a pizza and hot breakfast before starting up into the Laguna Mts.

Great place to stay

I guess it must be the Sierra answer to that surfing movie, "The Endless Summer." And even here in Berkeley, CA on this side we turned on our heater today. Well, we needed to dry out the interior of the house. Pretty pictures, though. Thanks.

We had snow in Mc Cloud last night.

No snow but rainy and chilly on the Central Coast . We feel the same....😁

I like cardinal village

Geeeezzz!!! R-2 conditions over Donner Pass today, which is my home territory.

Oh no!❄️☃️

Can't wait to go up in August.....back in the early 1970's, there would be patches of snow on the mountain across from Camp Sabrina around Memorial day!

Well WE are raining, cold with thunder and lightning here in the Sonoma County area.

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1 week ago

Fishing and conditions report from Lake Sabrina Boat Landing: Mother Nature definitely didn’t want us to forget her this week – lots of fun weather. Beautiful sunny days, then rain, slush, snowball snow, lightening, thunder, big flake snow and lots of it and then back to beautiful sunny days. And it looks like we’ve got the same instore for us this coming week. We woke to 14” to 16” of snow on Friday, it was a pretty quiet Friday. We stayed hunkered down by the woodstove that day. Pretty much by Sunday that snow was gone.

The Lake was icing off fairly well prior to last week’s storm. The manmade part of the Lake is totally ice-free, but may have some skim ice in the early morning. We’ve got open water behind the Island in the first natural Lake. There’s open water showing in the back natural Lake over by Little George Inlet, but is still iced-over where the Lake narrows down by Cookie’s Point. With the cooler temps, the run-off has shut down a bit and the Lake is not rising. We’re hoping that will change and we’ll have boats on the Lake by Memorial Weekend – just need 6’.

If you’re fishing, might want to try back behind what is normally the Island – can’t really tell you what’s working cuz haven’t had many fisherpeople out there yet.
... See MoreSee Less

Fishing and conditions report from Lake Sabrina Boat Landing: Mother Nature definitely didn’t want us to forget her this week – lots of fun weather. Beautiful sunny days, then rain, slush, snowball snow, lightening, thunder, big flake snow and lots of it and then back to beautiful sunny days. And it looks like we’ve got the same instore for us this coming week. We woke to 14” to 16” of snow on Friday, it was a pretty quiet Friday. We stayed hunkered down by the woodstove that day. Pretty much by Sunday that snow was gone.

The Lake was icing off fairly well prior to last week’s storm. The manmade part of the Lake is totally ice-free, but may have some skim ice in the early morning. We’ve got open water behind the Island in the first natural Lake. There’s open water showing in the back natural Lake over by Little George Inlet, but is still iced-over where the Lake narrows down by Cookie’s Point. With the cooler temps, the run-off has shut down a bit and the Lake is not rising. We’re hoping that will change and we’ll have boats on the Lake by Memorial Weekend – just need 6’.

If you’re fishing, might want to try back behind what is normally the Island – can’t really tell you what’s working cuz haven’t had many fisherpeople out there yet.

 

Comment on Facebook

Would really like to go up there and fish.

Jessica Caballero Yolanda Wren Joseph Caballero

We are coming up early June! Staying in Lone Pine but plan on driving up to visit. Hope we can see Sabrina

Luv it there caught my share

Filling up, can’t wait

JJ Garcia

Joe Powell

Scott L Barnes

Jo Nathan let’s goooo!

Roberto Villegas look familiar?

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