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Friday, July 29, 2016

Hiram Leavitt & the Leavitt House

Born in 1824 in Grantham, New Hampshire, Hiram L. Leavitt was lured to California while in his late twenties by the California gold rush. His wife Eliza and infant daughter stayed behind in Boston. In November 1856, he returned for them. He brought them and their belongings by way of a sea voyage back to California. The 1860 census shows him and his family including wife, Eliza, 8 year old daughter Ida and son Alfred, one year old, living in Township #1 in Tuolumne County near today’s Sonora, California. Another child was born to them about a year later.

Along Sonora Pass near where it joins with Hwy 395

About 1863 Hiram Leavitt moved his family to the eastern end of road near the Little Walker River, now known as Highway 108, or Sonora Pass, linking Sonora with Mono County. The area then known as Indian Valley was later named Leavitt Meadows in his honor. He built a hostelry as a stagecoach stop to serve the growing traffic, primarily miners, traveling between Sonora and Aurora, which at first was thought to be in Mono County, California and was the designated county seat. When it was determined that the town of Aurora was actually in Nevada, not California, Bridgeport was then designated as the county seat of Mono County.

Bridgeport was a growing town, and Leavitt moved his stage stop business, called Leavitt Station, to the center of town on what is now known as Highway 395, the road which connects Reno and Carson City, Nevada to the mining towns in California further south. He commissioned builder Sam Hopkins to construct a two story inn, the Leavitt House, to serve travelers along this major thoroughfare in the eastern Sierra Nevada region. Builder Hopkins later married Leavitt's daughter Ida.  

Part of my latest novella, Haunted by Love, takes place in the Leavitt House.

On October 20, 1869, Hiram Leavitt was elected as a judge of Mono County, California and served as such for several years.

Hiram and his wife Eliza Leavitt continued to live in the Leavitt House  until Hiram died in 1901 at age 77.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Leavitt Peak, Leavitt Meadow, Leavitt Creek and Leavitt Lake appear on California maps. The Leavitt House was later sold, but remained a popular inn for travelers. Today it is known as the Bridgeport Inn.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. The first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine,  A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, and Haunted by Love are now available.  

You may purchase Haunted by Love from the following:
Amazon  |  B & N  |  Smashwords  |  Kobo  |  iTunes


  1. As a writer, isn't it great fun to be able to incorporate real history into our stories? As a reader, I enjoy finding out these historical tidbits. It's like I'm in on a secret that no one else knows. *grin*

    1. Thank you, Kaye. I usually come up with a story idea and then do the research to support it. With this series, I came across events, buildings and people connected to the history of Mono County and built my stories around them.

  2. This is the type of history I love, the people. Thank you. Doris

    1. Thank you, Doris. Being a family historian before I wrote for publication, I researched this family as well as I could. I just wish I could have found a photo of him online. You would think with him having been a judge someone would have expected him to have a portrait taken to hang in the courthouse. Still, he is an interesting character, and I'm glad he fit into my stories.

  3. I'm still trying to imagine why anyone would name their son Hiram. But names are particular to the time period as most of us know well.
    I wonder what that voyage must have been like from the northeast coast to the west coast. The Panama Canal wasn't built yet, so did they go north over the Artic Ocean, or South around the famously dangerous horn of South America? In any case, that had to have been an adventure in itself.
    You posted some great pictures. I see how Leavitt House has expanded since the beginning. I think they did a clever renovation to keep the character of the building. This blog reminds me of the many stories we have of those early entrepreneurs and pioneers in our country who managed to survive the trials and become successful. I am in such awe of them.
    I'm always happy to see real historical people and places incorporated into a story. It takes some finesse and imagination to accomplish such a feat.
    This was a marvelous post, Robyn. I loved Her Independent Spirit, and look forward to reading your book Haunted by Love. I wish you continued success and all the best of everything to your corner of the earth.

  4. I'm always amazed at the stories you find. Fantastic.