B.G. Holmes

B.G. Holmes a century ago began promoting Big Bear Lake and the community around it in such a way that it was transformed into one of the most celebrated resort communities in San Bernardino County.
Holmes is credited with being the first real estate profession to handle private vacation home rentals in Big Bear Lake. His influence was immense and today the majority of the homes that have been built in Big Bear are owned by vacation homeowners.
B.G. Holmes was born January 26, 1872, the only son of John and Amelia (Gay) Holmes, natives of Connecticut, where the former was born in 1837 and the latter in 1838. They were married in 1870. They came to Redlands in 1889, where John Holmes engaged in fruit growing. He first purchased a peach orchard of ten acres, but later planted it to oranges. His reason for coming to California had been his failing health. The California climate was so agreeable to him that in 1922, at eighty-four years of age, he was still caring for his orange grove in West Redlands. Amelia was also living and enjoying good health at that time.
After completing grammar and high school courses, B. G. Holmes entered the Redlands National Bank, and was doing very nicely when, like his father before him, his health failed, and two years later he found himself obliged to change his occupation for something which would take him out of doors. In 1894 he came to Bluff Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains to camp and recuperate, and then the next summer he, with the aid of two friends, backpacked over the trail to Big Bear Valley. When he gained his first view of this region it struck him as less than attractive, and he would later relate that only the realization of his need of some place where he could be in the open kept him from turning back, that and the innate determination to persevere in any undertaking. At some point previously, the force of the water around the old dam had killed many of the trees that bounded it, and this fringe of dead wood gave to the scene a particularly desolate appearance. In time, the dead trees would be removed, transforming the landscape. There were at that time few traces of human occupancy other than the ruins of the old mining camps.
In 1898 Holmes married at Philadelphia, Miss Blanche M. Walton, of that city, and over the years they became the parents of four children: Alden Walton, who was born at Redlands in 1899, graduated from the Redlands High School and subsequently graduated from Stanford University. Through his mother, Alden was a direct descendant of John Alden of Mayflower stock. The second child, Charles Chester, was born at Redlands in 1902, graduated from Redlands High School and also graduated from Stanford University. Two other children, J. Walton, born at Redlands in 1907, and Lillian, who was born in Los Angeles County in 1909, graduated from Redlands High School.
Having familiarized himself with orange and lemon groves through his father’s endeavors, B.G. Holmes continued to maintain his interest in the citrus industry, and his operations expanded to cover many lines, agricultural and otherwise. He built the Mission Garage in Redlands, and sold the business in 1913 to Bartlett Brothers of Detroit, retaining ownership of the building until 1920, when he traded it for an orange grove on Redlands Heights. In the fall of 1916 he purchased the Doctor Blaire group of log cabins in big Bear Valley, then thirty years old.
There was a main road frontage of 307 feet bordering that property, and he paid $5,000 for the entirety of the land, which was soon almost priceless because of the improvements he placed upon it. The following spring he bought from Judge Rex Goodcell 146 feet of road frontage, along which he built his own personal residence. Combining those properties, he arranged the cabins into a most picturesque and for the time modern camp, which he named Indian Lodge. Two years later he bought two-thirds of an acre from the Pine Knob Company, and in 1921 leased for twenty-two years four and one-half acres adjoining it. On all of this property he erected many cabins, and had them all equipped and furnished. The camp was centrally located, and soon proved popular with those sojourning into the mountains.
The camp had a capacity of about sixty people. When he came to Big Bear, there were no buildings between his camp and the I. S. store. Within five years of making his purchase, he sold a portion of the Goodcell property at sixty dollars per front foot, which added to his profits.
Mr. Holmes belonged to Redlands Lodge of the Benevolent Protectors of the Elks, but aside from that he had no connections outside his business and family ties in Redlands. Rather, Bear Valley monopolized his energy, interest and time in the main. He and the Bartlett Brothers organized the Bear Valley Chamber of Commerce, of which he was, in 1922, serving his second term as vice-president. This was a lively and spirited organization, which played an important part in the developments in Bear Valley. When Holmes acquired possession of the Indian Lodge property, it was in a dilapidated condition. The cabins were in need of repair, and they contained virtually no improvements. Setting to work with his characteristic energy, Holmes transformed the it into one of the most desirable camps in the entire valley.
John Brown and James Boyd in their book “History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties” gave a contemporaneous account of Holmes’ accomplishments.
“He has not acquired his present prosperous and prominent position by any easy road,” Brown and Boyd wrote. “From the start he has been confronted with obstacles. Some men never learn what failure means no matter what obstacles spring up in their path, being able to overcome them and come out a winner. B. G. Holmes, of Big Bear Valley, is one of these men, and his success in spite of all kinds of hard luck and former poor health ought to stimulate others to follow his inspiring example. In his citrus growing he has been frozen out and ruined by hot waves, but has persevered through them all. Best of everything his health has so improved that it is difficult for the stranger to believe that he was ever in anything but a rugged condition. It is such men as Mr. Holmes who make a region. They come into a wilderness and persist until they develop it, and to them, and not to the recent comers, belongs the real credit. From Indian Lodge can be seen a constant stream of automobiles passing over the public highway, and it is difficult to believe that the first automobiles came into the valley in 1909. Now they are as common as the ducks about the lakes, but prior to 1909 they were unknown in this part of the county. As Mr. Holmes wearily plodded over the mountain trail he not only had no conception of this method of transportation, but he would have regarded anyone as hopelessly insane who would have predicted that passengers would be landed in the valley from aeroplanes, and yet this happens so often as to now occasion no special comment. In fact Big Bear Valley has been redeemed from the wilderness and is fast taking on metropolitan features, although as long as the great mountains and wonderful lakes remain it will continue to be a health-giving resort, whose beauties beggar description. The same clean, wind-swept air blows over its spaces and fills the lungs of its people as that which refreshed the pioneer back in 1895, when he gazed with saddened eyes at the desolate scene at the old dam, and now, as then, carries with it a promise of health and encouragement.”
Holmes would later write a history of Big Bear, becoming the district’s first published historian.

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