The Broomfields Go Fishing

Written by Ken Fisher
Originally published in the ECHO 7/1990

Last month I introduced the Davenport Bromfield family, who were not only the first of the Mountain’s summer cabin vacationers, but also the largest subdividers of lots–all sold to the cabin crew. The San Mateo We Knew was written by Davenport’s son, Gordon and has 55 prime pages on Kings Mountain. It was privately published in 1957 on a limited basis. There aren’t many original copies around. But if any of you want it, give me a call and I’ll make a xerox of mine for you. Here then, excerpted, is another taste–the story of the day in the 18905 when they first fished Purisima Creek. While you can’t fish there–against MROSD’s rules–you can take the same spectacular hike.

“Upon learning that a pretty stream ran through Purisima Canyon below us to the West, where the lumber mill was active, I longed for the day my father would keep his promise and lead me to it. That time soon arrived •… I hardly shut my eyes the night following preparation for this first trout-fishing expedition. My father, elder sister and I were out of bed about five o’clock of a lovely clear morning and with rods and lunch were soon on our way. The route for perhaps half a mile was down the gulch below the house, where we wound our way through brush, slipping and sliding along, until suddenly we came upon a narrow one-way road. Until about that year this had been a lumberwagon route from the mill to a point on the main summit road we all knew as “The Shingle Landing,” about a mile north of Kings Mountain House (Today’s southern MROSD parking lot–your starting point down Purisima Creek Road). From there on down the walking was good, and another two miles brought us to the gurgling, bubbling brook.

“Here we stopped to refresh ourselves and adjust our tackle. We were well up in the stream’s headwaters at this point, where it was a bit brushy, but as the old wagon trail paralleled it downstream, it was only a short distance until we came on more open parts. There was enough running water to harbor fair sized trout and many rocks and logs in and along the stream’s edges to create the pools and falls that they enjoy. Although logging for the mill that was farther downstream was going on above us on the steep slopes, and the greased log skid-track over which the oxen teams traveled closely paralleled the brook, we soon discovered that numerous wary little fish lay in its waters. We shortly began catching the slippery fellows up to ten inches long, which size proved to be the maximum.

“For a few hours we worked our way through willows, from rock to rock, finally coming to a large clearing where the noisy mill was operating full blast. Here we stopped to converse with some of the mill hands and to look over the machinery. The fast-moving belts and spinning saws naturally intrigued us. My sister and I had never witnessed a saw-mill in operation before, and I know our mouths and eyes were wide open as we watched the long logs rolled into the pond, then pulled by hook and cable up to the circular saw that cut one-inch boards length-wise in quick order. How those saws sang, while the din of the machinery ensemble was most deafening. With the noise and flying sawdust in such a place, it is hard for one not used to it to hear himself think. Whether on this occasion we met Charley Borden, the owner, and his aged father, I fail to recall, but on one fishing excursion to Purisima we did, lunching with the mill hands at a long dining-room table adjoining the bunkhouse. A couple of China boys served and comprised the culinary department.

The Borden and Hatch sawmill in Purisima Canyon as the Bromfields would have seen it–looking east–now solid forest. The log pond was behind the buildings–the creek ran to the left of the buildings. The road is today’s Purisima Creek Road. The stump in the lower right is still there today .

“For a while we continued dropping our royal coachman, black-gnat or gray-hackle flies in the pools and riffles, finally coming to the junction of Purisima Creek and the Whittemore Gulch, where the road from the mill to the coast forked at the rickety bridge…the valley began to broaden out, with clear farming land in evidence and the alders and larger sycamore trees making their appearance. Here we decided to lunch, so spread ourselves down beside ferns, large-leaf thimbleberry bushes and tufts of grass, some of which kept lapping or bouncing in the · water as it rushed by. While eating our sandwiches, an occasional water eusel, a little bird that always intrigued me, would skip from rock to rock, most inquisitive at our intrusion of its domain and nodding its head from side to side as it cocked sharp eyes here and there.

“…Toward mid-afternoon, we were obliged to keep track of the time, for shadows begin falling earlier in deep canyons and we had a long trek to retracing our steps. By the time we were ordered by my father to about-face, we were maybe a mile below the mill. The fishing had proven excellent throughout the day and, when we finally reached our starting point on the stream, where wet socks and shoes were replaced with dry ones, the sun had long disappeared over the mountain above us. Deep shadows were falling as we commenced the only arduous part of the day ‘ s outing, that long climb up the canyon road.

“…Darkness was upon this tired trio when we finally reached home, but who cared, for believe it or not, we had caught one hundred and thirty-two, five to ten inch fish. Who would have thought it possible, even in that day. The immediate years following our few fishing hikes to Purisima saw it become a popular brook with Peninsula and even San Francisco anglers.”

Old Rufus Hatch, mill co-owner in the 1890s.