L to R: Rachael
Huckaby Wonacott, Forrest Wonacott, Charles William Wonacott,
Dwight Wonacott, Evangeline Wonacott Backert taken 1917
at Old Ranch in Bishop
Wonacott Family of Bishop
and text courtesy of Carol Backert.
references to "I" or "my" are personal commentary
by Forrest (Bud) Backert.
Wonacott Family, California Pioneers [pdf]
by Carol Backert
taken at Riverside School
Back Row (L to R): Carrie Wonacott, Ray Southern, Jeff Smith,
Hattie Wonacott, Don Wonacott, Nina Brown, Marion Brown, Lester
Jenkins, Forrest Wonacott, Harvey Hutching, Ruth ?
Front Row (L to R): Albert Wonacott, Dwight Wonacott, ?, Ana
Brown, 2 Allison girls, Vernon Jenkins, Robert Hutching
- Graduating Class of 1894
Back Row (L to R): Mary Leidy, Etta Shirley, Ed Dehy, Frankie
LeBarge, Joe Inman, Emma Chalfant, Mrs. Mamie Clarke (teacher)
Front Row (L to R): Arthur Shirley, Agnes Chalfant, Libbie Garretson,
Jessie Miller, Catherine Cashbaugh, Carrie Wonacott, James Dehy
and Emily Huckaby and family and Charles Wonacott and wife Rachel
(Huckaby) came from the east in a wagon train. They chose the
Owens River Valley as their ultimate goal and arrived in 1874
at what was then known as the Love Bridge, now ridges. George
homesteaded acreage on Dixon Lane and one tall white silo cylinder
is a marker standing just west of U.S. Highway 6 north of Bishop.
Both families lived on the ranch. Then the Huckaby family sold
the ranch to Charles Wonacott and moved to land beyond the Owens
River until eventually moving to Laws. (This isn't quite the
story, actually Rachel's parents, Hiram and Louvicey Huckaby
owned the ranch. Hiram died and she left the ranch to the children,
James, George and Rachel. And her husband Charles bought out
the two Huckaby boys.) George (Huckaby) and Emily (his wife Emily
Smith) were the parents of Florence (Huckaby) Smith. Florence
Huckaby married Joe Smith, a different Smith and she was in Laws
for years. She was postmistress until just before her death and
her little post is at the museum at Laws. I always called her
aunt Florence, but she wasn't an aunt.) Wonacott built a two-story
home on Wonacott Lane, as earlier known. He teamed between Candelaria,
Carson City and Bishop Creek and was also busy as carpenter helping
build several schools and some of the bridges over the Owens
Recently, a pretty, ornate medal the size of a dollar was discovered
near the Wonacott, silo by use of a metal detector. The embossed
words, "This medal of excellence to Charles Wonacott for
a cartridge loader, 1877. The historic piece indicates a sort
of contest unknown in 1877.
Charles and Rachel raised eight children. One son, Don, managed
the farm in later and built the silo. (Charles sold the ranch
to his son Don on August 12, 1924. His name is noted in the Inyo
Creamery Papers. The Wonacott children had to hike salt grass
fields to attend Riverside school to the north. (The school /
the ranch, Charles donated the one acre to the school district
for ''as it shall be used for school purposes"). In those
days there were no fences from our place clear to town"
as told by Albert W. (Bob) Wonacott. Bob liked to tell of the
few years he lived in Nevada. His father was then the town undertaker
and Bob was employed as a teamster. He drove teams the long trip
to and from Sodaville, which was then the end of the railroad
from Carson and points north. The route used by stages and the
long teams was across the flats by Millers and over the Monte
Carlo Range with two night stopovers.
Another interest of Nevada's early days told by Bob was a mode
of transportation between Tonopah and Goldfield after the T &
G Railroad was completed. Autos were equipped with flanged wheels
so they could run on the tracks between train schedules. Passengers
were hauled at a cost of $30 per round trip. Holiday time parties
would "charter" the rail traveling cars for a special
event at Goldfield for a sum anywhere from $30 to $50.
In 1908 Bob and Carrie Thompson were married. They raised three
children, Thelma, Thomas and Barbara Jean. The family was long
known for their dairy business near Bishop and also in the Mammoth
Lakes area. Milk and cream were always delivered to the door
with a cheerful greeting or a bit of news. Bob and Carrie were
very hospitable people Bob welcoming friends with a reminder
of early days, "put your horses in the corral and bring
in your bedrolls" Family history from the late Bob and Carrie,
homestead in Bishop, California circa 1911.
is the Wonacott-Huckaby family home in Bishop, California. Built
by Chas. Wonacott and Hiram Huckaby about 1900. My mother, Evangeline's
room was on the second floor, just behind where the people are
standing on the balcony. She grew up there, went to Riverside
School which was on the ranch. Most of the Wonacott children
were either born in this house or married in it. My great grandmother
Louvicey Huckaby and my grandmother Rachel both died in this
Hiram Huckaby and his wife Louvicey Hicks Huckaby homesteaded
the property. After Hiram's death Louvicey gave the house and
the 160 acre ranch to her three children, Rachel, George and
James. Charles Wonacott bought the two brothers shares and had
Rachel quit claim her share, thus he became sole owner of the
ranch and house. The City of Los Angles took the water from the
valley, the ranch had to be sold to the City, at their price.
The house and ranch were abandoned and finally the Indians set
it on fire. The only visible reminder of this tragedy is the
concrete silo on Dixon Lane, it stands today as mute testimony
to avarice and greed As Will Rodgers said, "Los Angeles
needed the water to put in their orange juice."
See the ditch [in front of the fence] I played in when I was
six years old. The trees are bare in the picture as it is winter,
but in the summer it is a cool green place a home where seven
children were raised and when the children grew up there were
grandchildren. That place was home to all of us.
The house originally had no inside toilet, my grandmother said
she didn't want people doing that in her house. There was a hand
pump over the kitchen sink and a tank as part of the stove (called
a water back). Eventually water was piped into the house and
a toilet was added upstairs. The building in the rear was a stone
house used to store vegetables and meat, it would be cool in
summer and frost free in the winter. Between the house and the
stone house was a wash house used for laundry. The washing of
clothes was done by Indian women who worked on the ranch and
lived there as part of the family.
the upper balcony from L to R are: Bob W Wonacott, his wife Carrie
Thompson-Wonacott, my (Bud Backert's) grandmother Rachel, my
grandfather Charles Wonacott. The young woman is Evangeline W
Wonacott-Backert, my mother.
On the first floor the figure on the left is Forrest Wonacott,
the uncle I was named after. The boy on the right is Dwight Wonacott
he too was my uncle.
and son Forest Xavier Backert
Wonacott was born September 12, 1856, in Cass County, Ill. She
died February 1, 1922 in Bishop, California. She is buried in
the Pioneer Cemetery in Bishop.
Huckaby family has been traced back in Virginia to about 1720.
This work done by Dennis Huckaby, a grandson of George Washington
Huckaby, who is currently living in Scottsdale, Arizona. The
Virginia Huckaby's are probably related to other Huckaby's that
research has turned up in Georgia and Louisiana, there are several
spelling variations, but no direct connection has been found.
Our Huckaby family, or at least parts of it, left Virginia sometime
after 1800 and went to Tennessee. It looks as if they spent the
Civil War there. Hiram Huckaby, the father of Rachel was born
there in Campbell County in 1817 or 1813. He was married there
in 1859. The Civil War began in 1861 and ended in 1865.
From Tennessee the family moved to Illinois and from there to
Missouri for a short time. On April 10, 1874 they left Independence,
Missouri for California. There was a total of seventy-five in
the party, it included Hiram Huckaby, Louvicey Hicks-Huckaby,
his wife and Moses Smith and his wife Saphrona Herrill (Merrill?)
Smith, George Washington Huckaby and his new bride Emily Smith.
Charles Wonacott and Rachel Huckaby were married on June 16,
1872 in Osceola (Ritches Mill), Missouri so they were newly wed
also, they were members of the immigrant train until it got to
Laramie, Wyoming where Rachel's first child, Franklin died, and
her second child Carrie Belle was born. The main party arrived
in Bishop October.26, 1874, this according to Dennis (Chuck)
Huckaby, but Rachel, her husband Charles, and the new baby Carrie
didn't arrive in Bishop until November 1875.
Rachel's third child, Don Lester, was born in Bishop December.21,
1876, her fourth child, Albert Warren (Bob), was born in Murphys
in 1886. They returned from Murphys to Bishop and Rachel inherited
one third of the Huckaby homestead, later the Wonacott ranch
on Dixon Lane. She and Charles bought out the other heirs and
owned the ranch themselves. When Charles bought out the other
Huckaby's he had Rachel quit claim her share to him, including
4 cows and five calves. Don't know why this was done this way,
especially in a community property state, but it makes interesting
Rachel had two brothers, James, who never married and George
Washington Huckaby, who married Emily Smith, in Missouri, before
coming to California. Emily and George had eleven children: James,
Franklin, Charles, Will, Claude, Ray and Raymond the twins, Alice,
Ethel, Ella and Florence. Most of them lived in the Laws area
and went to school in Laws and Bishop. Emily ran a Hotel in Laws
(Dennis Huckaby said he was born in it), Claude had a pool room
and a dance hall there. George and his wife Emily owned several
pieces of property there.
There is no town of Laws now, not really. The Railroad Museum
is there, which is really something worth any of the family seeing,
there is a house or two, a commercial plant, a movie set, you
might find some concrete work with the name A.O. Adams imprinted
in it. The post office that Florence Huckaby-Smith took care
of for so many years has been moved to the museum grounds. But
really there is no Laws anymore, no ranches around there; no
ditch companies bring water to the fields. When you go there
you aren't going to see much of anything and you will probably
think that Laws is a pretty desolate place to live, no one would
want to make a home there or to raise children there, it is just
so much sand and sage brush. Near town is the Owens River, now
a kind of brackish looking stream, wouldn't drink the water,
for sure. Don't care too much to swim in it anymore. But there
was a time. It was long ago, in the seventies, no,no, the eighteen
seventies, not the nineteen seventies, when the Wonacott's and
the Huckaby's and the Smiths came to the Valley there was water,
and the water made the Valley bloom. It is hard to believe that
there were ranches and fields of grain and schools and stores
and people with children, and yes, even signs of prosperity in
the latter years as a reward for those who weren't afraid to
pioneer the land. The clearest example I can give is the old
silo on Dixon Lane (it used to be Wonacott Lane). It is easy
to find. Go there. There used to be a home there, a barn, out
buildings, an orchard, gardens and trees. It was a working ranch.
Over on the other side of the ranch (the next road north) was
the Riverside School where many of the Wonacott's and Huckaby's
went to school, but now sage brush, sand, nothing. Doesn't even
look like it could have ever been anything. It can't, not without
the water. It is gone, Laws is gone. The worst part is that that
what is left isn't nice and green or pretty. That all went when
the water went. Most of the Owens River now flows in a big steel pipe.
Go north of Bishop and on the left or east side of the freeway
at the bottom of Sherwin Grade is a road that will take you to
the Owens River Gorge, where Charles and Rachel had the saw mill,
you can look at that nearly dry gorge and at the same time hear
the Owens River rushing by in all its purity... in a big steel
and Jeanne Backert (2003).
to James for allowing me to use his painting images in the construction
of the background of this page. These images are copyrighted
by J.E. Knauf.