Revised 9 May 2008

Cedar Lake Camp

There have been many visitors to Cedar Lake Camp over the years, each of whom has brought to the camp their own legacies and departed with their own memories.  One name that comes to mind for his deep interest in the camp over the years is Mr. Bob Gwartney.  Another very familiar face at the camp in earlier days was Mr. Winston Smoyer.  For those interested in a detailed photographic story of the camp, the church has created a booklet, which was in honor of our anniversary.  For those wishing a more detailed written history, I turn to a book written by Jim Rhone, whose family long held a deep love and interest in Cedar Lake Camp, entitled "The Development of Cedar Lake.  I will not cite all the long property descriptions, but the history is well worth noting.  The information contained herein is completely his, so please credit Jim Rhone, if taking data from this document.  I take no credit for its creation.  If, upon reading this, you decide you wish to purchase a copy of the photo book, please contact the business office at First Church.  There is a nominal fee for the book and they can give you better information than can I.  There is no publication date on this, but it appears to have been written somewhere around the mid 1950's.  This is a direct quote throughout, so I will dispense with quotation marks.  Where major changes have occurred, I will try to cite them in parenthesis.  Jim called this a paradise for photographers.  How true this is.  This land is in love with the camera and there are numerous beautiful locations throughout the camp that are a photographer's dream.  Sources for Jim's article will be listed at the end.  Jim is now gone and I don't think he will mind us re-publishing his wonderful article, however, should one of his family members object, I will be happy to remove it upon their request.
Cedar Lake is a scenic lake nestled above Big Bear Lake high in the San Bernardino mountains of California.  At one time it was an internationally known tourist attraction, a much-used location for outdoor movies.  Today it is the site of the camp and conference grounds for one of Southern California's largest churches, the First congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Cedar lake is "That portion of the Northwest 1/4 of Section 25, Township 2 North, Rage 2 West, San Bernardino Base and Meridian, in the County of San Bernardino, State of California, according to Government Survey, described as follows:....1

The Cedar Lake property presently covers 269.8 acres (Ed. Note:  may have changed since then), with the lake covering three and one-half acres.  The land surrounding the lake is covered with ponderosa and sugar pine, California Canyon oak, incense cedar, and several meadows.  Holding the thirty-acre-feet of water contained in the lake is a dam which is thirty feet high.  The lake is kept at an overflow level.  At one end of the dam is the famous "Old Mill" (Ed Note:  Now a restored version and usable for very small groups) which was used in the filming of "Trail Of the Lonesome Pine" (Ed Note:  Copies of this film and others filmed at the camp are available through the Country Store - this site.  Some are in VHS format, some are on DVD)  South of the lake is a "western street" (Ed note:  Most of which is now gone due to age and weather) used in the filming of many motion pictures.  Above the lake are two cottages.  There are seven meadows which are either on or adjacent to the property. Prior to 1956, the only thing which marred the forest was a fire which had swept through the area several hundred years previously.

The land which Cedar Lake is on has undergone several ownerships.2  The Talmage Brothers bought the land in the 1890's for the purpose of grazing cattle.  Section 25 was just a part of their "I. S. Ranch". In approximately 1922, the Talmage Brothers sold the land to the Bartlett Brothers.  The Bartlett Brothers in turn sold parts of the section to various private parties. In 1937 they sold the remaining 109.8 acres, complete with lake, to a son, Guy M. Bartlett.4  The present owner, the First Congregational church of Los Angeles, bought the land from him in 1955.

The Bartlett Brothers were interested in subdividing, promoting, and selling the land for a profit.  That part of Section 25 was just a portion of the Bartlett Brothers' extensive land purchases in the Big Bear area.  They found that that particular part was too remote for promotion.  The property needed something extra to make it an attractive buy.  The Bartlett Brothers felt that if they could form a lake on the land, the land would sell.

Construction of the dam which would form Cedar Lake started in the spring of 1929; it was completed that fall.  However, it was not easy.  Considerable resistance was met on the matter of water rights.  After much trouble, water rights were secured and, as a result, the water now flows down Metcalf Creek into Big Bear Lake.  it was not easy for the Bartletts to obtain a construction permit for the dam.  A permit was finally granted, and a government engineer was on duty throughout the construction period.   The cost of the dam is not known.

The construction of the dam was completed immediately before the stock market crash.  This left the Bartletts with their fingers in the dike and with no one to whom they could turn.  With money being so scarce, the Bartletts were left with no prospects for buyers.  They were left with a very beautiful lake which they could neither afford to keep nor sell.

In 1937 they finally made the sale to one of the brother's sons, Guy M. Bartlett. It was Guy's intention to develop a resort on the lake.  He even considered starting a rod and gun club.  His intentions were never developed.

Guy Bartlett did, without attempting to do so, develop Cedar lake into an internationally known tourist attraction.  Cedar Lake was known to the people of Big Bear to be a scenic spot, just what a tourist wanted to see.  Tourists began over-running the property.  They were drawn to Cedar lake by the lure of natural beauty and their eagerness to see some glamour of the movie industry, which was using the property for several feature-length movies.  In an effort to keep the public away from his property, Bartlett began charging a twenty-five cent admission fee.  To his amazement, people still kept coming, and in bigger numbers.