Fawnskin History: A Town Named Fawnskin

Above: Old postcard of the Arrowhead Hot Springs Resort. Arrowheads was a slang term used for some of the Native Americans living here in San Bernardino County.

One of the local Fawnskin residents asked me about contributing some of the history she has researched about Fawnskin. A couple of years ago I was able to visit and view many of the documents and photos she has collected.

Today I am happy to have Eileen contribute what she has researched about this rustic town that is known for the renegades, independent minds, and artisans that live here.

Although this North Shore village has been known by a variety of names, the urban legend that most people believe about how the town got its name is actually a white man’s tale.

Indians originally occupied the San Bernardino Valley. In the early 1800s, the two tribes documented by the first outside explorers were the Serranos and the Cahullia Indians.

In this brief piece, taken and edited from an account published in June 1925 by Fawnskin Folks, an early newspaper about the area, you’ll get an early version of what they reported as “the one and only story to explain how the town became named Fawnskin.”

It might be surprising to some that many of the people that came to Fawnskin in the early days came because the town was an artist colony. They came for inspiration and used this inspiration in their music, photography, art and writing. Many of the first residents were world famous in these creative fields and brought many famous people to Fawnskin.

Okay this may be a tease but there is a Norman Rockwell and Clark Gable connection to early Fawnskin. However, I am getting a little ahead of the story. So let us start at the beginning, the legend behind the town’s name.

According to legend, the Native American tribe, called the Arrowheads, loved the spot where Fawnskin is now located.

The Arrowheads made their annual pilgrimage from San Bernardino valley to what is now downtown Fawnskin. It was here that they met with the Desert Native Americans to barter corn and flintlock.

According to Native American legend passed down from generation to generation, there was a young chief and two warriors traveling over the Delmar Mountain that rises to the Northeast of the valley.

As the party gazed down at the location of today’s Fawnskin, the meadow appeared to be shaped like a deer skin. This shape combined with the large clusters of white flowers that dotted the brown meadow suggested the hide of a young deer. Hence, the name Fawn Skin was given to the meadow many years before the first white settlers appeared in the valley.

Of course, the town developers, Cline and Miller, were very smart and knew that the name Fawnskin would sell more expensive lots to their wealthy clients than the name of Grout.

So, the name Fawnskin was adopted for the town (Note: The date of the name change is attributed as May 18, 1912.) and this Native American legend was shared with all of their clients and guests. The town still bears this name today.

In my next story, the town’s concept and designs were based on a famous artist village far from California.

About the Contributor: Eileen Downey bought a home in Fawnskin as a retreat from the fast pace of the big city. Living here she has found inspiration, a renewed spirit, an endless amount of creativity and curiosity. Off the mountain, Eileen is an elementary teacher for children with autism but for the last three years, her passionate hobby has been to collect, read, and sort through the history of Fawnskin and its founding settlers. She hopes you will enjoy her series and be inspired by the first Fawnskin residents who called themselves “Fawnskin Folks.”

If you have any additional information you would like to share, or have questions about the history of Fawnskin, please comment below.



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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2008 and is filed under Fawnskin Folk, Fawnskin History, Mountain Lake Resort.

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5 Responses to “Fawnskin History: A Town Named Fawnskin

  • 1
    Chau Randall
    April 24th, 2008 11:34

    The Downeys are my next door neighbors in Fawnskin. They were the first that welcome us to the valley when we purchase our retreat cabin last year. Very nice people, indeed. Further note on the history of Fawnskin. Decoration in one of Eileen’s bedrooms was inspired by the first female composer in the US who resided in Fawnskin in the early 20th century.

  • 2
    Shadow's Mom
    April 24th, 2008 19:38

    This will be very interesting to learn about the history of Fawnskin. Thank you GG and Eileen!

  • 3
    As A Deer
    April 28th, 2008 13:10

    I MUCH prefer Eileen’s version of the origins of the name of Fawnskin than the one presented on this website:

    http://www.beachcalifornia.com/fawnskin-bigbear-discovery-center.html : “While Fawnskin derived its name from hunters who may have arrived in this Holcomb Valley location in the late 1800′s and probably found skins stretched to dry in the afternoon sun…”

    Perhaps Eileen should let them know what she has uncovered in her research.

    I look forward to reading more of Eileen’s work. Thank you for providing her this forum so her work may be shared.

  • 4
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    April 28th, 2008 17:40

    @As A Deer: Yes, much more realistic I think than the other version which has been perpetuated throughout the area for eons. Even the Chamber of Commerce uses the other story you found elsewhere. I think you are going to like the Fawnskin history stories–there are a bunch more coming.

  • 5
    Eileen Downey
    May 2nd, 2008 18:06

    I wanted to thank everyone who read and left comments on my story. I am sure that you will be amazed about the untold story of Fawnskin. There is something very special about our town, the people who call it home.
    One Happy Fawnskin Folk,
    Eileen