JUNE 2019 - WITTER SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA


My home and farm is located on Bachelor Valley Road in Witter Springs, California. It may ring a bell with some since I write a column called Witter Springs Chronicles which is published locally and nationally. About 1910, someone built the hundred-room, two-story resort hotel in the hills above the north end of the valley. During the thirties, Al Capone made the Witter Springs Resort his summer hangout. The story goes that when Al came for a little R & R, a couple of his ‘boys’ stood guard with Tommy guns on the road that led to the hotel. Their job was to keep out the riff-raff and let pass only Capone's invited guests. Many of the silent picture stars of Hollywood also came to the springs for fun; Pickford, Fairbanks, Chaplin, Gilbert, and Fatty Arbuckle. Later, when sound came in, some of the leading men and ladies of talking pictures came to get away from the city life and enjoy the redemptive health benefits of the Witter Springs water. The fun ended in 1935 when the hotel burned to the ground. The Jones Saw Mill and the Witter Springs bottling plant stood near the resort. Some folks with enterprise bottled and sold the spring water that came from the mountains. The bottles bore the name Witter Water. One of the many mid-century earthquakes disrupted the springs and the water flowed no more, diverted to some other aquifer below ground. The bottling plant fell to ruin and has all but vanished. I was able to get up there and look around when I was researching my book, Lake County History. When I looked for the ruins or just the foundation of the building, I couldn’t find more than some scorched rock of the foundation. My farm is in the valley below the Witter Springs. Occasionally, after a heavy winter rain, my hint of a creek runs with water; a solitary trout who's lost its might pass by. Farther up that same shallow creek that flows in winter through the oak trees behind my barn, I have occasionally found a cloudy old bottle. The bottles bear the name, WITTER WATER stamped into the glass. - When we came to Lake County fifty some years ago, we had a Post Office in the valley. The barn next door to the Post Office housed the Volunteer Fire Truck. Now the barn and the Post Office are home to a local family and the Post Office and Fire truck have moved into Upper Lake. Upper Lake is a town two miles from Witter Springs, had gone to seed after the depression. Upper Lake was once the County Seat before a public vote moved their offices ten miles east to Lakeport. A hundred years ago Pony Express riders used to stop at Upper Lake. They rode across hills and canyons on a route that stretched five hundred miles linking Sacramento, San Francisco and Eureka, California. Sometimes they delivered the mail faster than the U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail today. Capone and his gangsters are gone as well. The beautiful people, the ones that enjoyed the the high life in Witter Springs Resort, are all long gone. All that remains of the springs and hotel is the charred stone foundation and a few twisted knives and forks. Once in a while, in any given year, you might find a cloudy empty glass bottle of Witter Water floating in the creek after a heavy spring rain. Sic transit Mundi.

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