(Bill) Chalfant began his newspaper career at age 8 when he started
the Juvenile Weekly printed on a small press given him by his
father. Only death - at age 75 brought his editing career to
Young Chalfant grew up in a printshop, first at Virginia City's
famed Territorial Enterprise where his father worked and then
in his beloved Inyo County where he and his father founded the
Inyo Register in 1885.
Chalfant took over the editor's chair in 1887 and soon had a
lifetime battle on his hands: to keep Los Angeles from turning
the Owens Valley into a desert by draining its water
Chalfant and his paper fought valiantly - both the marauders
from Los Angeles headed by Chief Engineer William Mulholland
of the Los Angeles-Owens River Aqueduct and "traitors"
within the area who gave in to the city's pressure and sold out
to Mulholland's agents.
Stories, editorials, cartoons - all filled the columns of the
Register as the fight continued, but a different kind of story,
reports not about the present and future but about the past -
began to appear in 1904.
Chalfant had become concerned about preservation of Inyo County's
history before the 1870s when written records began to be kept,
and he became the self appointed chronicler of the county's robust
pioneer years, interviewing those who had been part of its turbulent
history and searching newspaper files, official government reports,
survey field notes, state legislative journals, county government
records, personal archives and books for confirmation and amplification
of those accounts.
Chalfant's research was the basis of stories and columns in his
paper until the week of his death. They began appearing in book
form in 1921 with The Story of Inyo.
The Story of Inyo was followed by Outposts of Civilization
in 1928; Death Valley, The Facts in 1930; Tales of
the Pioneers in 1942 and Gold, Guns and Ghost towns
Chalfant was a familiar and respected figure in Bishop, his paper
admired for its sound judgment and courageous opinions. A quiet,
even reserved man, he thought his job was to report public affairs,
not participate in them. He had firm opinions on many subjects,
but those he expressed in editorial columns, not in public forums.
Even when he sold the paper in 1942, he continued both on the
masthead and in the editorial office. To honor him, the new owners
took the name of Chalfant Press for their three papers.
The Chalfants' name lives in other monuments to their contribution
to Inyo County. Chalfant Valley in the shadow of the 13,000-foot
White Mountain Range is famous for its Indian petroglyphs.
Summing up Chalfant's 56-year career, John B. Long, manager of
the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said, "Angels
Camp had its Mark Twain, the Valley of the Moon its Jack London,
San Francisco its Bret Harte, and Owens Valley its Bill Chalfant."
from the January 1992 issue of The Album]