Stockton & Yosemite

Half Dome – Yosemite Musiing

     Today we have a special treat. A guest blog from Alice van Ommere.  She is a Stockton resident and is an authority on the history of this fine town. She teaches its past at the University of the Pacific.  Stockton’s  location on a deep water port in the Central Valley made it a link between the growing San Francisco suppliers and the gold country. Most Yosemite Park visitors would travel through Stockton enroute to the park in its early days. A Half Dome fan herself, she also is a renown collector of olde tyme postcards showing Stockton’s early days. She is the author of Stockton in Vintage Postcards and also has an extensive Yosemite postcard collection.  I have attached a few below for your viewing enjoyment. She’s on Facebook at  And now I turn the keyboard over to Alice. 

     The Big Oak Flat Road, now known as Highway 120, was one of the first roads into Yosemite Valley. The origin of this popular route began on the Stockton waterfront.  In 1849, prospectors came from all over the world to San Francisco and traveled along the San Joaquin River to Stockton, which became the supply center for the southern gold mines.  It was from there that pack trails would lead them to the Sierra foothills, the location of such mining camps as Chinese Camp, Big Oak Flat and Jamestown. In 1874, the Big Oak Flat Road extended into Yosemite Valley and provided passengers and freight with a direct wagon route from Stockton. Besides its strategic location, Stockton prospered as an agricultural, business and transportation center in the early 1900’s. This led to commercial development that included hotels, restaurants and theatres making it an important tourist destination for those traveling to Yosemite.    


     Stockton’s historical connection to Yosemite remains evident today.  There are the various naming conventions, including Yosemite Street that stretches along one of Stockton’s earliest residential areas and the Yosemite Club, one of California’s oldest clubs, founded in 1888.  In addition, the University of the Pacific Library is the home of the John Muir Center that holds the largest collection of papers, photographs and journals on Yosemite’s most important historical figure.  Another important attraction, the Haggin Museum, is located near the center of town.  The museum is rich with art and history and has several major works by Albert Bierstadt, best known for his painted landscapes of the unsettled west. The collection includes Looking Up the Yosemite Valley and In the Yosemite Valley both painted around 1870 before tourists arrived.    

Hotel Stockton, 1922


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.” – A wise old man 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch –


7 Responses to “Stockton & Yosemite”

  1. Norman S Says:

    In the 1870’s, major streets in Stockton referenced the Gold Rush, the foothills and the mountains including Miner, Sutter, Sonora and Sierra Nevada. There were establishments like the Yosemite Hotel and the Yosemite Clothing House. And one residential section adopted these street names; Glacier Point Drive, Inspiration Drive, Le Conte Ct. ,Tenaya Lane, Granite Court, Snow Creek and Mt. McClure.

    Stockton was also the home (in his later years) of an early-day park ranger— John W. Bingaman (1896 – 1987.) Mr. Bingaman’s years at Yosemite ran 1918 through 1956. Mr. Bingaman was appointed park ranger in 1921 and wrote three books, Guardians of the Yosemite (1961,) The Ahwahneechees: A Story of the Yosemite Indians, (1966), and Pathways: A Story of Trails and Men (1968).

    People can check out the Haggin Museum’s website, if they would like to see the Bierstadts as well as other paintings of the Sierra landscape like Thomas Hill’s, Waterfall, High Sierras. Then come and see it in person.

    From one who lives in Stockton, thank you Alice for reminding me of Stockton’s special heritage.

    Norman S.

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      Great community sharing here. Nice update Norm! Have you read those books? A ton on Yosemite have been written in 150 years. I have an 8 ft long bookself I built in my room jammed with them …. I am way behind in reading them …. waiting for a rainy day -or- old age!

      BTW I’ll be back at Bass Pro Manteca on April 9 2 pm for my Hike Half Dome talk. I’ll try to get on the Stockton REI evening program this spring. Gotta update my Website Schedule page today.

    • Sönke Says:

      Hi Norm,

      Thank you for the excellent info! One of the best comments here ever.

  2. Kathy Says:

    Good blog. I am only 1 hour 20 min from Stockton – need to check out this stuff.

    If anyone from the Valley wants to come up to the Motherlode – by way of 120 or 4… The Half Dome Master himself is giving 2 talks at St. Patrick’s Sonora on Jackson St. in Downtown Sonora. One talk is a motiviational based on his experience and enthusiasm for “Carpe Diem” at 10am the other is at 2pm the Classic Half Dome talk. Come up to Sonora, see Rick, there will be a good break between the two – about 2 1/2 hours- so enjoy downtown Sonora, have lunch, or bring lunch to the hall for some interesting conversation… the day will end by 3-3:30pm, plenty of time to enjoy more of the Motherlode and make it back to Stockton in plenty of time. Both talks are free, no need to RSVP. From the Bay Area??? Make it a weekend trip to the Motherlode and Sierra Foothills and stop in to see Rick – all local merchants and lodging can direct you to St. Patrick’s Church!

  3. Norman S Says:


    Mr. Bingaman’s books are available online by inserting the name of the book. They are filled with personal observations. For example, having worked at the Glacier Point Hotel in 1918 – he gives his version of how the firefall tradition started.

    Hope to see you when you’re in the Stockton / Manteca area. When you’re here, I have a picture to show you of Lady Franklin Rock. I took it years ago – without realizing it was LFR.


    • mrhalfdome Says:

      I take it you have read them. Neat. I have seen many pix FROM LFR and many OF LFR…but still have no clue exactly where it is and how to get to it from the Mist Trail … it’s pretty dangerous to go to the flow. I look forward to your explanation.

      I hope you can make my Sonora presentation on this Sat. You have not heard my motivational talk – Someday Never Comes.

  4. Norman S Says:


    My recollection is that I had to scramble on boulders, in the flow, to get to Lady Franklin Rock. After reading ‘Death in Yosemite’ I won’t do that again. It’s much safer to just go up Half Dome.

    I read this description of LFR’s location. If only the iron pipe is still there….

    An iron pipe stands upright in the middle of the trail six feet past the steps to Lady Franklin Rock. This was from a small interpretive sign, part of a series along the trail in the 1970s that pointed out the view at Lady Franklin Rock; these signs, for various features along the trail, were removed in the late 1980’s.


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