Tulare County - By subdividing the land that used to be their father's logging camp, the children of Claud Rouch established the mountain community of Sequoia Crest, near Springville, in eastern Tulare County. The three brothers and one sister have always run their business as a family operation,
Now 88 and proud of it, Sonny enjoys talking about his many years in the mountains of Tulare County. Apparently, many others enjoy hearing him talk about his life and experiences. More than 120 people attended a recent talk he gave at a meeting of the Tulare County Historical Society.
The Rouch family first arrived in California in the 1870s from Iowa, although his paternal grandmother's family was here before that. Since Sonny has been around for most of that time, he will be the one to tell the story of the Rouch Family and the establishment of Sequoia Crest.
“My grandfather died when he was very young. I never met him. He was killed in an accident before I came along. He and his cousin left Iowa on horseback by themselfs, they were not with a group.
. They would stop and work in order to make a living. By the time they got to Kingsburg, they had earned enough money to buy 160 acres. That's the ranch where I was raised. It was out in the country near Kingsburg.
“He farmed, but he was quite an entrepreneur. He got involved in a sawmill up in the mountains near Shaver Lake, hauling lumber down the old Toll House grade. It was a very very steep grade. He had two wagons and about 16 or 18 head of horses and mules. They would have steel shoes under the back wheels and tie the chains there to stop the sliding.
“My dad built a sawmill near Balch Creek. I went to junior college for two years, and then I went up to help him with the operation of the sawmill. This was before the war (World War II). Then I went off to the service. I was four years in the Army Air Corps. I was stationed in South America and at Ascension Island. Ascension Island is 1,600 miles from South America and 1,200 from Africa. It's quite a place now. It's a good place to pull up on the Internet. The military forces built an airstrip there in early 1942 and 25,000 airplanes went through there to the war.
“In 1945, when the war ended, I came back home. Within a week, I went to work building a road to Sequoia Crest where we started logging. My dad had built a sawmill at Springville where the rodeo ground is now. At that time, we had 100 people working for us in the mill and in the woods. I ran the woods.
“It's the largest grove of redwoods in private hands is at Sequoia Crest. The largest tree there we named the 'Stagg Tree.' It's the fifth largest of all the sequoia gigantias. It used to be number 6, but the one that was number 2 lost a big part of its body to a fire or something so Stagg Tree made it up to number 5.
“We cut pine and fur. We didn't cut redwoods. I don't know why we chose not to.
“Shortly after we completed our logging there (in the early 1950s), we were logging in the Tule Indian Reservation. My dad and I built 50 miles of mountain road in the Indian reservation.
“When we were up in the reservation, in a place called Redwood Corral now, we saw these tremendous birds flying around. We realized they were the condors and we'd seen one of them had a nest in the redwood trees. There was a pine tree about 70 feet high so I climbed it. I used to do the climbing for the logging operation. I climbed and cut the limbs and I could look in that hole in the redwood and here was a young bird, a young condor.
“There was sure a lot of interest in it at that time. Here comes a fellow from The Los Angeles Times. He wanted to get a picture of that condor in that nest. That guy was really too heavy, too fat, but we got him up into that tree and he got his picture. Then in about a week or two, here comes a news story where he rescued me! Which is an absolute lie!
“As a result of that, I've gotten to believe that the news media is often not truthful.
“We had skiing at Sequoia Crest and we were hauling people from Wishon. We had a dirt road of six miles to Sequoia Crest. We took two army trucks and hauled the people to our resort. It was a very rough place but we had four rope tows. There was some very good skiing there. The snow, it seemed to me, at that time was better than it is now. It was very consistent.
“At that time, we had a group from the county road department. We wanted the county to take the road over. It never came about because the road was really not suitable for the county to take over. But the forest service became aware that we wanted this ski resort and they also wanted a good road in there to do logging. At that time, the forest service was happy to sell timber. So an engineer came up from their head office and in two days, he more or less flagged down a road. Then the forest service built a narrow road, which is a good road now. Later on, when we started subdividing, we supplied a certain amount of money to the county.
“The county then (in 1958) hired me to rebuild the road and widen it out to two lanes. After that, I had a lot of experience in road building and the use of dynamite. I did other jobs for them.
“Ten or 15 years after the logging, the family started subdividing Sequoia Crest. We built roads and put in a water system and we sold at least 200 lots. Now there's 100 houses there and some unusual property.
“We never cut any sequoia trees down for houses. Why would we? That was one of the things that people wanted.
“The family still owns over 500 acres. The reason I quit (subdividing) is that things changed with the road department and they wanted roads so wide it would have destroyed the country. We had a new subdivision ready to go if we built the roads, but I wouldn't do it. I just quit.