Echoes From The Past: The final days of Coburn’s Station |

Echoes From The Past: The final days of Coburn’s Station

(Continued from the April 26 Sierra Sun)When Joseph Gray and his family settled into their two-story log home, family life flourished. His wife, Ann, cooked large meals of beef, lamb or venison for her husband and their three daughters, Annie, Georgiana and Nellie.There were also other hungry people to feed, including the cowboys who cared for the cattle that Gray kept in his large corral behind the house. Joseph loved dogs and there were 15 to 20 canines trained to chase the badgers or coyotes which prowled nightly around the house hoping to dine on one of Mrs. Gray’s plump chickens.Next to the cabin Joseph constructed a fine stable which also served as a blacksmith shop. By 1866 his station was ably equipped to feed and supply most of the advance railroad crews along with travelers arriving on daily aboard the six-horse Concords of the California Stage Company and the growing number of people setting up shop at nearby Coburn’s Station.Twenty- and 30-horse freight wagons rolled by Gray’s Station nightly and the teamsters knew that this was a place where they could rest and enjoy all the comforts and hospitality of a friendly roadside inn, purchase supplies and obtain directions, or savor a piece of Mrs. Gray’s homemade apple pie.Meanwhile, at Donner Lake’s west end, J.D. Pollard’s Hotel had gained its own reputation as an upscale mountain resort. A glimpse of life at the mountain hostelry was captured in “The Journals of Alfred Doten, 1849-1903 Volume Two,” published by the University of Nevada Press in 1973.On August 21, 1865, Doten recalls, “We left camp to take the stage as far as Donner Lake, terrifically dirty and dusty. We arrived at the lake a little past 6 PM, heartily welcomed by Pollard. It is the principal station on the road with shops for repairing coaches, shooing horses”After enjoying a round of cocktails with the stagecoach drivers, Eli Church and William Gearhart, Doten reflected on the quality of Mr. Pollard’s hospitality.”The table is well supplied with fish from the lake, and game from the hills, grouse, hare, eggs, milk. After supper we sat in the parlor awhile, chatting with Miss Kelsey and Miss Pollard. We sang them a song or two and passed an agreeable evening, and went to bed at 12AM. Dan & I slept together on a big comfortable double bed. We rose at about 9 AM, had a good wash, cleaned up and put on a clean shirt.”Doten further observed, “The hotel is beautifully situated on (a) level place at head of the lake, surrounded and shaded with tall pines, tamaracks. The house is two stories high, large and roomy, with big 2 story L-addition in back for a cook room, dining rooms, etc. below with sleeping rooms above. Everything about the house is fixed in comfortably elegant style. Quite a pleasure resort for visitors from Washoe and California.”Pollard’s hotel burned to the ground on April 23, 1867 and was rebuilt but later succumbed to another fire. Its few residents moved down the road to Coburn’s Station. The hotel was never again rebuilt because by then Pollard believed that once the railroad came through there would no longer be customers arriving aboard the turnpike stages.By December 1867, the first excursion train neared the summit. Despite severe winter storms, a 40-ton locomotive named “San Mateo” was hauled in pieces on sleighs by George Schaffer and reassembled near the site of today’s downtown depot. The engine was used to transport lumber from Schaffer’s Mill west to the summit where crews were laying track from both directions.On April 12, 1868, the Nevada City Daily Transcript announced: “The name ‘Coburn’s Station’ has been discarded by the people of that town and it is now called ‘Truckee.’ We learn from a correspondent that the post office has been discontinued at Donner Lake and a new one has been established at Truckee.”By the time the first train chugged through on June 9, 1868, the new town encompassed the entire area near today’s C.B. White House along both sides of the tracks. It included 50 buildings (mostly saloons), a hotel and twenty stores. It was inevitable that, on the morning of July 30, 1868, a fire would break out opposite Campbell’s tavern, destroying most of the buildings located south of the track.Many old-timers insist that some of the homes in today’s Brickelltown were originally part of Coburn’s Station or built from lumber salvaged from partially burned buildings. There is archeological evidence that Truckee’s first Chinatown existed on the hillside behind these homes.From the rubble of Coburn’s Station rose the new and bigger town of Truckee, boasting nearly 300 buildings, including 25 saloons, 10 dry goods stores, 11 restaurants, a Central Pacific roundhouse, two theaters, two churches and a school house.”Echoes From The Past” appears every other week in the Sierra Sun. Guy Coates is vice president and research historian for the Truckee-Donner Historical Society. He can be reached through the Society at 582-0893 or by E-mail at

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