Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Watterson Family Genealogy

www.SaltTram.blogspot.com   SalineValleySaltTram@gmail.com
Salt Tram history is rapidly disappearing, and we are striving to rediscover the efforts of our forefathers in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories. We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

QUESTION1:  Can you help with the Watterson Family genealogy as detailed below? Thanks in advance!

As some may know, James "White" Smith (the first President of the Saline Valley Salt Company) was married to Margaret Watterson.  Margaret was born on Isle of Man, England.  She is the sister of William Watterson of Inyo County fame.  More notorious are his two sons, Mark Quayle Watterson, and Wilfred Watterson who owned and operated several banks in the Owens Valley around the time of the Salt Tram thru the late 1920's.  They were also very involved with the construction of the L.A. Aqueduct and some believe they were the brains and money behind the vandalism and dynamiting of same.

Both Mark and Wilfred were convicted of embezzling funds from their own banks and served time in San Quentin.  In fact, the 1930 U.S. Census shows Mark as an inmate in San Quentin in Marin County!  However, the consensus is that many in the valley were very forgiving of their sins as it was believed that much of the embezzled money was used to fund the fight against the building of the aqueduct.

Through research on a genealogy website, we found out that Wilfred passed away in 1941 in Los Angeles, and Mark followed in 1948 and passed in Studio City also in Los Angeles.

NEED HELP!!! - We are trying to locate any living descendants of the Watterson's as we are desperately trying to acquire photographs of White and Margaret Smith!  In addition, there may be additional personal information about them relating to the Salt Tram that would be great to add to our book and are hoping to contact these descendants and find out.  More than likely there are related Watterson's still in the Owens Valley so if any of you blog followers living in Bishop, Lone Pine, etc could help with this, that would be greatly appreciated!!!



  1. regarding living Watterson descendants--My grandmother was Gwen Watterson, Margaret's sister. So my dad is Margaret's nephew. He might be of help. You can contact him...Bruce Bell 760 873-6905, or me...Andy Bell 760 873-6905 Bishop, Ca

  2. Correction--I was a generation off. My grandmother Gwen Watterson's sister was Margaret, but her mother was the Margaret you want. She was Margaret Leece Kneale Watterson. They are all buried in the Independence cemetery.