(note: the article contains three photos- the old home, the
cemetery, and Walter McLean)
GREELEY HILL, The
past weighs heavy on Walter McLean, 70, whose ranch almost a century
ago was the last major overnight stop for travelers going by stage
coach to yosemite.
His forebears, three generations of them, lie buried in his back yard
in graves marked by weather-beaten stones and covered with wild flowers.
All about him are momentooes of bygone days. The fences, the trees, his
old home, the old Coulterville toll road which runs through his front
yard and the appearance of his land itself almost duplicate fading
pictures and memories bequeathed to him by his ancestors.
And there are the written words themselves from those before him, who
set down their lives in diaries he has but to open and read, beginning
with the diary of his grandfather Hosea Dudley of Boston, who sailed
around the Horn in 1849.
There are anachronisms to jolt the visitor from the feeling he steps a
century back into time after opening the front gate. Inside one
old building is a motorcar of the type with the engine in the
rear. At the right of the front yard is a rusting Model A.
McLean himself bears signs of his past. He dresses much like his
grandfather and father must have. He has silver gray hair and the
gait of a man accustomed to walking about a farm.
And when the mountain air chills he sits close to a cast iron stove
said to have come from one of the Coulterville hotels just before a
disastrous fire of the late 1890's burned that town , eight miles away,
to the ground.
McLean lives on land grandfather Hosea Dudley claimed by squatter's
rights and later gained title to under the homestead law. His
grandfather and grandmother lie buried in this community's oldest
cemetery, 50 yards behind his house, started about 1860 when a nephew
died of blood poisoning.
Dudley arrived in San Francisco in the fall of 1849 and for a time he
lived in Jacksonville. In 1854 he met a widow, courted and
married here. He had his eye on land and, so his diary says, he
left Jacksonville Nov. 30, 1856 and set out for Greeley Hill.
Here, he found what he wanted: Plenty of land, trees and game. He
built a home and on Christmas day of that year he and his wife moved in
During the ensuing years, they had four children, one son and three
daughters, the youngest named lice, who was Walter McLean's mother.
One entry in the grandfather's diary for late in 1856 shows he agreed
to pay $6,000 for an interest in a lumber mill, including wagons,
timber, horses, a ranch and equipment. On Feb. 10, 1857 he
started in the new mill, located near his house.
But that mill was not to give Dudley his big chance fortune. This
came later, in 1873, when the stage companies offered trips to
Yosemite, only 40 miles away from the Dudley ranch on the Coulterville
The stage companies wanted to make the journey from Merced to Yosemite
as comfortable as possible for an ever increasing number of tourists.
And so overnight lodgings were established at convenient intervals
along the way.
Dudley's ranch was picked because it was just an easy day's ride
away from Yosemite. Dudley kept reams of fresh horses, beds and
country meals ready for the influx of business, which kept him and his
EASY DAY's RIDE
The Dudleys and their relations pitched in night and day in the
Walter McLean recalls, from stories handed down to him, that, "They
used to stay up all night because they had to give their beds to stage
The most they had on a night was 32 persons, not much by modern
motel-hotel standards but an overabundance for a ranch far away from
the center of populations.
That boom came to a halt in About 1878-79 when the town of
Coulterville, its gold mines pouring wealth, developed in to a
sprawling business center.
Stage lines then left their passengers overnight in Coulterville hotels
which offered soft beds, gambling, whiskey and food prepared by Chinese
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