With the coming of spring, my thoughts turn to outdoor activities, and one of my favorite things to do is a leisurely ride south on Highway 395 from the state line to Bridgeport and beyond. I love to go while the snow still sets the rugged Sierra, stark white against a clear blue sky. There is so much to see along the way and one landmark that fascinates me the most is Meadowcliff, between Coleville and Walker.
Curious about the history surrounding the spectacular fault block granite mass jutting so abruptly from the Antelope Valley floor and the meadows lining the Walker River as it meanders through the valley, I went in search of information.
In the 1890s the meadow was homesteaded by Alexander Goens who, along with a partner in the venture, named the area Meadowcliff Ranch. In 1894, Alexander married his nephew's widow, Catherine Hendrick Goens, and brought her to the ranch.
Catherine, or Kate as she preferred, was born on a farm in Kansas in 1867. She married a young man from a nearby farm, William Goens, and from that union they had two children, a boy, William Jr. and a girl, Olive. In the early 1890s, both the father and the son died, leaving Kate alone to raise her daughter.
William's uncle Alexander was born in Illinois in 1844. He served in the Civil War, and when the war ended, came to the Antelope Valley to homestead. Upon hearing of his nephew's death, he proposed to Kate and, even though he was 23 years her senior, he traveled all the way to Kansas where they were married before returning to Meadowcliff along with Olive. The couple had another daughter, Susie, who was born on the ranch in 1895. Both of the girls attended school in Coleville.
There were two cabins on the ranch property which Alexander pulled together to form a house. The original house is still in use today but has been moved down the road toward Walker.
In September of 1902, Alexander died and was buried in the Coleville Cemetery. With his passing, his will, witnessed by George Chichester, stated that he left a cow, horse, heifer calf and 25 stands of bees among other things to his wife.
Kate continued to live on the ranch and married Michael Carney in March 1903. The Carneys sold part of the ranch and some water rights to Virgil S. Connell but continued to live in the house. What remained of the ranch produced enough berries, produce and other items for their daily needs. Olive married John Donaldson in 1910. Donaldson was a blacksmith by trade, working in the mining towns of Aurora, Bodie and Masonic. Susie married William Shirley in 1912. Originally from Ohio, the couple met while he was working in the Antelope Valley for the owners of a mine up Mill Creek Canyon.
Kate was once again a widow with Carney's death in 1929 so she sold the ranch and moved to Yerington to live with her daughter Olive. In the early '30s she moved to Springdale, Ark., where she lived until her death in 1933.
Through the years, Meadowcliff has had several owners but it wasn't until 1958 when Don Jones purchased 75 acres which included the meadow and the cliff. He built the first 10 rooms of what is now Meadowcliff Lodge renting the rooms for a modest $6 a night. He and his wife Dorothy tried to make a success of the resort but after four years they had to give up their dream.
After several more owners, Meadowcliff was purchased by present owners Tim and Mary Fesko in 1997. The Feskos have added many amenities to Meadowcliff including 10 additional rooms, a gift shop, an espresso bar as well as taking over the restaurant which was originally built in 1965. Meadowcliff is a beautiful setting for what is now known as a peaceful getaway nestled snugly against the massive cliffs and surrounded by open meadows within walking distance of world renowned fishing in the Walker River.
So as spring gets closer I will continue my explorations of the wonderful history along Highway 395. Until next week just keep on keepin' on.
-- Jonni Hill can be reached at JHILL47@aol.com.