Legends of America

Follow the links to the various pages of Legends of America

The Old West Legends of America Outhouse Madness Ghostly Legends Outlaws Old West Saloons Rocky Mountain General Store Legends Photo Store The Book Store Route 66 Native Americans The Old States - Back East

Legends of America    |    Legends General Store    |    Legends Photo Shop 


Legends Of America's Facebook PageLegends Of America's Twitter PageLegends on Pinterest

Legends Home

Site Map

What's New!!


Content Categories:

American History


Ghost Stories

Ghost Towns

Historic People

Legends & Myths

Native Americans

Old West

Photo Galleries

Route 66

Treasure Tales


   Search Our Sites

Custom Search



About Us


Article/Photo Use

Copyright Information


Facebook Page




Privacy Policy

Site Map

Writing Credits


We welcome corrections

and feedback!

Contact Us


Legends' General Store

Old West/Western

Route 66

Native American

Featured Items

Sale Items


CD's - DVD's

Nuwati Herbals


Wall Art

Custom Products

and Much More!


  Legends Of America's Rocky Mountain General Store - Cart View


Legends' Photo Prints

Legends Photo Prints and Downloads

Ghost Town Prints

Native American Prints

Old West Prints

Route 66 Prints

States, Cities & Places

Nostalgic Prints

Photo Art Prints

Jim Hinckley's America

David Fisk (Lens of Fisk)

Specials-Gift Ideas

and Much More!!

Legends Of America's Photo Print Shop - Cart View


Family Friendly Site












California Flag - Golden State Legends IconCALIFORNIA LEGENDS

Belleville - Waiting for the Mother Lode

Bookmark and Share


Holcomb ValleyA short drive north of Big Bear Lake is Holcomb Valley and what little remains of the historic ghost town of Belleville. During the 1860s, Holcomb Valley was the richest gold mining area of southern California supporting some 10,000 residents. Belleville, the largest town in Holcomb Valley almost overtook San Bernardino as the county seat.


Gold was first discovered here by William F. Holcomb in 1860. After Holcomb filed five gold claims, word spread fast and prospectors rushed to the area. Before long, a gold camp sprang up east of where the gold was first discovered.

On a fourth of July celebration, Mrs. Jed Van Dusen made a flag out of her petticoats. To honor her for her patriotism, the town was named after her daughter Belle, the first child to be born in the camp. 

1860 was also an election year, and the population of Holcomb Valley was growing so fast that the voters soon outnumbered the rest of the county. One of the matters that needed to be decided was where the San Bernardino county seat would be located. The city of San Bernardino barely won the contest by only two votes.


In the beginning, the route to Holcomb Valley was a difficult trek through the Santa Ana Canyon. In June, 1861, Jed Van Dusen, a blacksmith, built a wagon road down the back side through Hesperia and the Cajon Pass at a cost of $1,500. Making it easier to access the camp, the settlement grew quickly and soon supported a store, two butcher shops, two laundries, a bakery, three carpenter shops, two blacksmiths, a stamp mill and a sawmill. Of course, there were also the ever present saloons and a place called the Octagon House where "painted ladies” danced and "entertained” men in small dimly lit cubicles.


Belleville brought travelers into the camp by a regular stage, which took two days to reach from San Bernardino. With the influx of miners, also came the ever present violence of Old West mining camps. By 1862, there had been 50 murders in Holcomb Valley. Soon, a large tree was designated as the hanging tree from which many a men found their deaths at the end of a rope.


As more and more prospectors came to the area in the hunt for gold and silver ore, the Bear Valley Mining District was founded.  Initial mining was for placer gold and was primarily done by small groups or individuals with claims along the stream beds.   Soon afterward quartz mining began, and the major mines were the Mammoth, Olio, Pine Tree, and the Metzgar. This hard rock mining required stamp mills to crush the rock, and several mills were built at different sites.

Though the Holcomb Valley gold rush was the largest in Southern California, it only lasted about a year. While limited mining continues, even to this day, the Mother Load vein has never found.

Today Belleville is a hiker’s paradise with very little to show of its former glory days. There are a couple of old graves, some mining shafts, a simple cabin, and a few pieces of mining equipment lying about the area.




Currently, there are still more than 2,000 claims being worked by hobbyist prospectors.


Belleville is located about 8 miles North of Big Bear Lake City in the San Bernardino Mountains.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2015.


A lonely cabin in Belleville, California

A lonely cabin in Belleville, California, photo by

Daniel Ter-Nedden, courtesy Ghost Town Gallery


Free eNewsletter


Our eNewsletter features articles on the Old West, travel destinations, ghostly legends, and subscriber only specials from our Legends' General Store. Sent directly to your inbox, grab a cup of coffee and travel the historic paths of the American West. Sign up today!


From Legends' General Store

Old West Wanted Posters and Wild West PrintsOld West Wanted Posters and Wild West Prints - From outlaw wanted posters, such as Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and the Wild Bunch, to Old West advertising, such as Pony Express, Stagecoach Rules, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and more. Prints measure 11"x17" are are produced on semi-glossy, 12 point paper. See the entire collection HERE!  Posters are just $7.99.


Old West Wanted Posters and Wild West Prints


                                                            Copyright © 2003-Present, www.Legends of America.com