By Jill K. Gardner, Associate Director
Center for Archaeological Research
California State University, Bakersfield

Introduction

By the end of 2003, millions of trees had been destroyed in the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) as a result of the bark beetle infestation and devastating fires that occurred there.  The dead, diseased, and dying trees threatened the existing Southern California Edison (SCE) transmission line system.  Thus, in cooperation with the SBNF, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), the California Public Utilities Commission, and SCE, it became necessary to remove dead and dying trees from those threatened distribution line routes.  So beginning in August 2003, SCE and the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) entered into an agreement to survey and monitor affected portions of the forest during tree-removal activities, as part of SCE's Hazard Tree Removal (HTR) Project.  The HTR Project encompassed more than 3,000 acres of land in the SBNF.

By the end of 2003, millions of trees had been destroyed in the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) as a result of the bark beetle infestation and devastating fires that occurred there.  The dead, diseased, and dying trees threatened the existing Southern California Edison (SCE) transmission line system.  Thus, in cooperation with the SBNF, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), the California Public Utilities Commission, and SCE, it became necessary to remove dead and dying trees from those threatened distribution line routes.  So beginning in August 2003, SCE and the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) entered into an agreement to survey and monitor affected portions of the forest during tree-removal activities, as part of SCE's Hazard Tree Removal (HTR) Project.  The HTR Project encompassed more than 3,000 acres of land in the SBNF.

Record Search Results

The records search conducted as part of both the SCE and CDF projects indicated that a number of cultural resource studies have been conducted within a one-mile radius of both project areas, including numerous prehistoric and historic sites.  Prehistoric sites include bedrock milling stations (with mortars and slicks), lithic scatters (including flaked and ground stone artifacts), dark midden soil, boulder shelters, fire-affected rock, and habitation sites.  

The historical sites include various trash deposits, recreational camps, sawmills,  historic roads and highways, structural foundations, mining activity areas, lodges and inns, wells, cement dams, a 1929 bridge, an 1890s Santa Ana Canal construction camp, a 1900s logging railroad, a water tank, the historic mining town of Belleville, and the man-made Jenks Lake.  Four are historic roads and highways, including segments of historic Rim of the World Drive.

Project Description

As part of the HTR Project, CAR tasks included various records searches, survey and monitoring of affected transmission line routes in the SBNF, the preparation of site records for new and updated heritage resources within the appropriate transmission line corridors, assessment of NRHP eligibility, recommendation of suitable mitigation and protection measures, and preparation of survey and monitoring reports.  The surveys for the HTR Project took place between 2003 and 2005, and monitoring is ongoing.  The CDF survey took place in 2005.

Due to heavy vegetation (sometimes extremely heavy and impenetrable), much of the project areas either could not be surveyed at all or survey was limited to spot checks.  This was exacerbated in some places by a very steep slope, defined as anything greater than 20%.  In most cases, efforts were made to walk around patches of dense vegetation; however, at times, even those attempts failed due to the presence of "walls" of 6-ft. tall manzanita bushes.  The field conditions were similarly problematic during the CDF survey, as the ground cover was heavily obscured in some places by chipped wood/mulch and pine needle duff.

Generally, survey of access-challenged areas was performed by walking ridgelines and drainages, using alternate access and maintenance paths.  Areas deemed most likely to yield archaeological resources, such as rock outcrops, areas close to water resources (drainages, meadows), and topographically attractive areas (such as flat saddles, ridge lines, and canyons) were also closely inspected.  Rock outcrops were examined for milling stations and evidence of human habitation, such as rockshelters.  Areas documented in ethnographic and historical literature, including road spurs, cabins, logging facilities, and mining exploration areas (e.g., Bellamy 2000; Haenszel 1957, 1972) were carefully scrutinized due to the proximity of existing resources and the high potential for encountering additional temporally associated sites.

As bedrock outcrops are common in the SBNF, in those areas that contained these outcrops, the duff partially covering the rock was removed in order to expose any potentially buried bedrock mortars.  A few areas surveyed immediately after the October 2003 "Old Fire," which burned over 90,000 acres (CalMAST 2004), were heavily blanketed in ash between an inch and two and a half inches thick.  In these instances, attention was paid primarily to standing structures and other features, as ground visibility was completely obscured by thick ash until a few weeks after the fire.

Part of the survey and monitoring phases undertaken by CAR in the SBNF involved protection of cultural resources during tree-cutting activities.  The photographs below show an example of how CAR personnel and some of the loggers cooperated in an effort to protect a rock wall associated with a cabin in the Stetson Creek Recreational Residence Tract.

Serrano Ethnography

In the San Bernardino Mountains, the major ethnographic group was the Serrano.  A general ethnography of the Serrano can be found in Bean and Smith (1978).  The Serrano were a hunting and gathering culture who utilized a wide variety of resources from the mountains, the desert, and the Mojave River.  Their available resources included various plants, such as honey mesquite, oak, pinyon, cactus fruits, yucca, roots, and tubers, along with various berries, grasses, and seeds.  Large animals such as deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep were hunted.  Chia (Salvia columbariae) was a particularly important resource, and was "periodically burned over to increase its yield" (Bean and Smith 1978:571).
 
The Serrano were organized into exogamous totemic moieties that recognized patrilineal descent from a common male ancestor.  The moieties were known as Coyote and Wildcat.   The territory of these clans included the San Bernardino Mountains and the Mojave Desert (Gifford 1918:178-180).  Serrano tools were made of wood, bone, shell, stone, clay, and plant fibers (Bean and Smith 1978:571).  Other aspects of Serrano technology included rabbit-skin blankets, stone pipes, bone awls, arrow shaft straighteners, bows and arrows, and fire drills.  In addition, rattles were made from deer hoofs, tortoise, or turtle shells, and bone or reed whistles were popular.  The Serrano also manufactured elaborate coiled basketry, as well as simple, undecorated ceramic vessels used for storage, transport, and other functions.  Structures included simple brush dwellings, dome-shaped huts, and rectangular armadas, as well as granaries and sweathouses (Bean and Smith 1978:571).

Historical Background

Subsequent to European entrance into this area in the eighteenth century, many changes have occurred that have had a significant impact not only on the native people who resided there, but also on the land use patterns of these mountains.  Logging was the first major activity to occur in the San Bernardino Mountains after the arrival of Europeans.  It is believed that lumber began to be removed there as early as 1819 at Mill Creek.  However, the lumber industry did not become well established until 1853 with the appearance of sawmills in the mountains.

The San Bernardinos have witnessed a variety of other uses, including water development, road building, grazing, and recreational activities.  While many of the forest roads had initially been built for lumber and mining activities, the Rim of the World Highway was constructed in 1915 to allow easier access for tourists.  As the forest gradually became more of a recreational preserve than a "product extraction area" (Carrico et al. 1982:4-110), numerous private residences began to spring up by the early twentieth century.

In 1893, President Harrison signed a congressional bill, which set aside 737,280 acres of land in the San Bernardinos and surrounding areas, establishing the San Bernardino National Forest Reserve.  The reserve ceased to exist in 1909 and became subsumed under the Angeles National Forest.  The San Bernardino National Forest was created in 1925 from portions of the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests.  Since that time, few large-scale land use changes have occurred there, with most activities being restricted to campground development, the construction of guard stations and lookout towers, and the protection and interpretation of historic and prehistoric heritage resources.

Summary of Cultural Resources

As a result of the field surveys conducted by CAR for the HTR Project, 10 new sites and one historical isolate were recorded (see below).  In addition, eight previously documented sites were updated, all but one of which are prehistoric sites containing ground stone, bedrock milling features, and/or lithic scatters.  The one updated historic site is a refuse deposit.  The new sites consist of a variety of site types.  For the CDF project, three sites were updated, all of which are historical resources.

Summary of Updated and Newly Recorded Sites in the SCE Project Area

Designation

Description

Updated Sites

CA-SBR-930

Prehistoric lithic scatter recorded by Reeder-White in 1970.  The site has been heavily impacted by vehicular access, and only one brown jasper flake fragment was observed.

CA-SBR-2308

Prehistoric lithic scatter recorded by Nickens and Robinson in 1973.  The general area of the site as reported in 1973 was traversed during this study, but no artifacts were observed.

CA-SBR-3802

Prehistoric lithic scatter.  Site could not be relocated.

CA-SBR-4291

(FS 05-12-51-88)

Prehistoric bedrock milling feature recorded by Reynolds in 1980.  During the current study, it was determined that the outcrop was probably not a BRM feature.

CA-SBR-4293

(FS 05-12-51-90)

Prehistoric bedrock milling feature recorded by Reynolds in 1980 as a single metate slick.  One mano fragment was observed near the slick during the current study.

CA-SBR-5580

(FS 05-12-51-109) 

Prehistoric lithic scatter.  The site has been damaged by OHV use, but a few artifacts are still visible on the surface.

CA-SBR-10265H

(FS 05-12-51-116)

Historic refuse deposit.  The site is in fair condition, with artifacts covered by pine needle duff.

CA-SBR-10266

(FS 05-12-51-1)

Prehistoric lithic scatter.  During the current study, the site location was found but no surface artifacts were observed.

 

New Sites a

BB-2

Prehistoric (?) rock art panel with anthropomorphic design; panel measures 30 cm. x 20 cm.

BB-3

Historic refuse deposit; two can dumps (mostly Types 8 and 10; 1915-1920), other domestic debris.

BB-5

Historic cement foundation, remains of an old road, retaining wall

BB-6

Historic refuse deposit; can dump (mostly Type 10; 1915-1930)

BB-8

Historic refuse deposit; can dump (mostly Type 13; 1917-1929)

BB-9b

Prehistoric bedrock slick; site may have been partially destroyed during road grading.

BB-10

Historic structural remains, probably a house

BB-11

Historic rock and mortar foundation/wall

Doble 1

Historic mining site consisting of a prospect and three rock cairns

Doble 2 Historic rock cairn with an apparent grave marker

 BB-4 is an isolate, so it is not included in this table.

Discussion

As with all projects of this size and scope, problems during field work were bound to occur. My crew chiefs, along with the loggers, sometimes had to come up with creative ways to handle particular situations, as noted above at Stetson Creek. The key during all phases of the project was communication. This could sometimes be problematic simply because of the nature of the project. For example, although there was an agreement that CAR personnel would always receive 48-hour notice that we needed to be out there during tree-removal activities, this was not always possible, so we had to be flexible in our attempts to accommodate the needs of SCE, CDF, and the loggers.

While the consequences of two natural catastrophes in the SBNF--the bark beetle infestation and the fires of 2003--were devastating to the residents of the area and to the forest itself, an opportunity was provided to document prehistoric and historic sites in vast and far-reaching areas of the forest. Through the cooperative efforts of personnel from the SBNF, CDF, SCE, and CAR, as well as the loggers, biologists, and many others, it is hoped that a better understanding has been gained of the prehistoric and historic land uses in the SBNF and how those uses changed over time. It has been an amazing project that may provide lessons for future endeavors of this kind.

Acknowledgements

For their assistance in the preparation of this web site, I thank Linda Baker (who created the page design) and Audry Williams. For the final preparation of this site and publishing it on-line, I am very grateful to Ania Budziak. I also thank my crew chiefs, Hubert Switalski and Audry Williams, for their unwavering field support, as well as the rotating field crews for all of their hard work. Thanks also go to Dan Foster, Supervisor of the CDF Archaeology Program in Sacramento, and Glenn Barley, CDF Forester in San Bernardino, for their support and guidance during the CDF portion of the project.  For the SCE portion of the project, much gratitude goes to Thomas Taylor, Paul Gibson, Dave Simmons, and Vidal Millan. Forest Service personnel also provided assistance, including Bill Sapp, Uyen Doan, Doug McKay, and Sharon McKay.  In addition, Norma Bailey and Sandy Buhlig of the Skyforest office of the Forest Service went above and beyond by providing gratis maps and assisting in other ways.

A special debt of gratitude goes out to all the fire crews battling the Old Fire in 2003, saving large portions of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, and other affected mountaintop areas.There was a CAR crew working in the area during part of that firestorm, so they had firsthand stories to tell about the event, including their harrowing escape. They had nothing but praise for the firefighters.

References

Bean, L. J., and C. R. Smith. 1978. Serrano. In Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8, California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 570-574.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Bellamy, S. 2000. My Mountain, My People, Vol. I:  Arrowhead! The Story of Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs, Green Valley and Neighboring Communities.
Skyforest, CA: Little Bear Historical Conservative (third printing).

CalMAST. 2004. California Mountain Area Safety Taskforce, USDA Forest Service.  http:// www.esri.com/jicfire/fireinfo/oldfire.html (accessed on June 16, 2004).

Carrico, R. L., A. Schilz, F. Norris, and R. Minnich. 1982. Cultural Resource Overview, San Bernardino National Forest, California, Vol. I.  Report on file at USDA Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, San Bernardino.

Gifford, E. W. 1918. Clans and Moieties in Southern California. Berkeley: University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 18(1).

Haenszel, A. M. 1957. Historic Sites in San Bernardino County: A Preliminary Report. San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly 5(2).

Haenszel, A. M. 1972. History in the Rock Camp Area.  In Rock Camp Site:  Archaeological Excavation of an Indian Campsite Near Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino Mountains, by R. D. Simpson, G. A. Smith, R. Reynolds, D. H. Bowers, and A. Haenszel, pp. 32-48. San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly 20(1).