Bishop Visitor Logo

Bishop Visitor's Center

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.

Check out the Digital Bishop Visitor Guide!

Archived Stories

Tell us:

How do you enjoy OUR BACKYARD?

Error: Access Token is not valid or has expired. Feed will not update.
This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

There's an issue with the Instagram Access Token that you are using. Please obtain a new Access Token on the plugin's Settings page.
If you continue to have an issue with your Access Token then please see this FAQ for more information.

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Us on Facebook!

7 hours ago

Spring brings flowers, but also birds and festivals! The Owens Lake Bird Festival is always a wonderful event - we'll post more about it as we get closer but mark your calendars for April 26-28th.
Thanks, California High Sierra !It’s film festival time for both nature lovers & film buffs alike! Don’t miss out on the Owens Lake Bird Festival and the 5-day Mammoth Lakes Film Festival this #spring season. Click 👇 to learn more about these & other High Sierra spring festivals. #CAHighSierra https://californiahighsierra.com/trips/miracle-march-means-fantastic-spring-time-festivities/ Image appears courtesy: Visit Mammoth . . . Friends of the Inyo Mammoth Lakes, California Mammoth Lakes Film Festival
... See MoreSee Less

Spring brings flowers, but also birds and festivals! The Owens Lake Bird Festival is always a wonderful event - well post more about it as we get closer but mark your calendars for April 26-28th. 
Thanks, California High Sierra !

4 days ago

Just another beautiful Bishop late winter day! ... See MoreSee Less

 

Comment on Facebook

One of our favorite places!

Just spent the night at Brown Town and enjoyed the view.

This is just beautiful! If only we could be there in person for the sounds and smells. Thanks for sharing.

Wish there was a way for us to share our Bishop pictures in comments.

Miss Bishop

Now if you can just bottle up the air with the amazing smell of Bishop and send it to me 🙂

Chem trails

Beautiful indeed!!!

Thanks so much. So pretty. <3

Wayde Eddy

Very nice! What trail is this?

+ View more comments

6 days ago

Information from Jessica Strickland and Trout Unlimited

CDFW Inland Trout Regulation Changes - IMPORTANT PUBLIC COMMENT MEETING MARCH 20th BISHOP

Hello folks,
As many of you have heard, CDFW has been talking about simplifying their state trout regulations for the last couple of years. They’ve released their proposed changes, which are relatively significant. The chance to comment is in person at upcoming public meetings. This is very important if you have an opinion on their changes. Go to the following website to view the changes and for more information: CDFW website info page: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Inland/Trout-Plan/Regulation-Simplification

PUBLIC MEETING – EASTERN SIERRA - Wednesday, March 20, 2019 6-8 p.m. Talman Pavilion, Tricounty Fairgrounds, 1234 Fair St., Bishop
OTHER LOCATIONS:
Wednesday, March 27, 2019 6-8 p.m. Redding Library Community Room, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding
Wednesday, April 3, 2019 6-8 p.m. Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, 3040 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno
Saturday, April 6, 2019 Noon-2 p.m. Bass Pro Shops, 7777 Victoria Gardens Lane, Rancho Cucamonga
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 6-8 p.m. Colonial Heights Library Community Room, 4799 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 6-8 p.m. Truckee-Tahoe Airport Community Room, 10356 Truckee Airport Road, Truckee

IF YOU CANNOT MAKE THE MEETING CONTACT: Roger Bloom, CDFW Inland Fisheries Program, (916) 445-3777

The biggest change being – all waters under Section 7 general regulations for the Sierra district have been replaced with the following simplified regulation, “Open year-round, 5 trout bag, 10 trout possession limit, no gear restrictions.” The obvious change here being unless otherwise specified - fishing is now open year around. They’ve also shifted seasons around for waters with special restrictions in the following way:

Seasons
All Year
Closed to fishing all year
September 1 through November 30
Saturday preceding Memorial Day through September 30
Saturday preceding Memorial Day through the last day in February
October 1 through Friday preceding Memorial Day

They have also made some changes to special regulations – IE – Crowley, Upper Owens, Walker River, etc. I’ve went through and compared most the waters of the Eastern Sierra. Some notable changes: Crowley – they’ve extended the 5 fish no gear restriction season from July 31 to September 30. Upper Owens between Crowley and Benton Crossing Bridge– removed the monument and extended "no gear restriction" season to September 30, open all winter but with no take. Golden Trout Wilderness – removed gear restrictions. Rush Creek regulation added to protect fall spawn. This isn’t an exhaustive comparison, just some of the major Eastern Sierra waters.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Trout Unlimited staff will be in attendance at as many of these meetings as possible. Please pass this information along!

Jessica Strickland

California Inland Trout Program Director
830.5159917

Photo: Debra Varva
... See MoreSee Less

 

Comment on Facebook

Nathan Foth

When will these proposed changes take place?

+ View more comments

Load more
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!