Bassetts Station Is For Sale:
By Jean Myles
A historic "way station" in Sierra County, Bassetts Station is for sale. Now owned by Mike Williams, Bassetts began in the early 1860's when Wm. G. Hancock welcomed travelers over the Yuba Gap into his home at Howard Creek. According to James J. Sinnott's History of Sierra County and Goodyear's Bar, the first "station" was known as Hancock House. Sometime around 1865, the Howard Creek property became the property of Howard Tegerman, who kept Hancock House going. In the 1870's, Jacob and Mary Helen Hagerty Bassett purchased the Howard Ranch. The established station on the Yuba Gap Road, became "Bassetts Station." (Note that the Yuba Gap Road officially opened in 1871.) Jacob Bassett worked in the Sierra Buttes Mine at Upper Sardine Lake, and Mrs. Bassett tended the inn. The original inn included a sawmill and a blacksmith shop, plus barns for horses and oxen.
According to Sinnott's History and other sources, ensuing owners were the Bassett's children and Sam Lusk. In 1901, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louden purchased the property, calling it "a fine business stand." The Bassett's son, John, purchased the property from the Loudens, and ran it until he sold to a Mr. and Mrs. Reed in 1905. The Reeds ran the station until 1910, when they moved to Downieville for Mr. Reed's health. Wm. Gott, Mrs. Reed's brother, managed the property until 1914, when his sister, now Mrs. Edward Hinzie, returned to manage the station in 1914. Mr. and Mrs. Hinzie owned Bassetts until well into the 1930's.
The Hinzies installed the first gasoline pump, the only one between Sierra City and Sattley, and maintained a store and a restaurant as well as providing rooms for travelers. Arthur and Emma Doss purchased the property from Mr. Hinzie at Mattie's death, and ran it for several years. In the 1940's, Harold and Edna Greene became new owners, and in 1960, the Greens subdivided the property into what became Bassetts Station, Green Acres and the Howard Ranch. Rod and Irene Smith owned or managed Bassetts for a short time in the 1950’s, when Leland and Nina Winters are recorded as the owners. The Winters owned Bassetts when it burned in 1961. They moved the station to its current location at the
junction of Highway 49 and Gold Lake Road. Winters built a private residence over the new restaurant and store, and added the motel rooms by Howard Creek for travelers.
Wayne and Jackie Kelley purchased Bassetts in the early 1960's (not certain of this date), and ran it for five years before selling to Gene and Jean Adams. In 1986, Lee and Joyce Daugherty became owners and proprietors. During Daugherty's ownership, Bassetts became a popular stop for vacationers to the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. The Daughertys catered to area residents by staying open all year long. They upgraded the gas pump, installed a pay phone on the sheltered porch, and enlarged the store into a convenience store for travelers and locals alike. Breakfast at Bassetts became very popular. When the Daughterys retired to Oregon in 2002, Susan Sherman purchased Bassetts. Whether she intended to run it or not is not clear, because she sold Bassetts to Mike and Carol Williams in 2004. The Williams' opening weekend was the July 4th weekend, 2004.
A "way station" such as Bassetts needs an owner who, as the late Scotty Blair of Virginia City, Nevada, said, "is a joint man" - a person who relates to people and their needs, not only for travelers but also
for the local residents. As Scotty used to say,
"the local peo-ple are your best customers." Both Lee
Daugherty and Mike Williams have been very successful "joint men." Mike is also a skilled guitarist, often entertaining customers and staff with his extensive repertoire. Both of these long-time owners have provided services to travelers and summer people, and became involved in their community. Being able to successfully run a place such as Bassetts is a rare gift.
Both Lee Daugherty and Mike Williams also provided jobs for local people, often teens who have grown up at Bassetts, learning lifetime skills. Until just recently, Bassetts remained open year-round. The motel is open year-round, and emergency services are available 24/7. However Mike closes the restaurant and store during the winter months.
The current staff includes "Ed" Amende, who has been a general staff member at Bassetts for over 17 years. Ed has served many roles under the past three owners of Bassetts, and orders supplies as well as serving behind the store counter.
Main chef Sarah Hoverkamp has been behind
the kitchen pass-through for 8 years, preparing excellent short-order meals, as does the second chef, Nick Voorhees, who has been on staff for 4 years. Waitresses Amber Brooks has brightened the restaurant with her ready smile and wit for 7 years. Waitress Krystan Humphrey, on board for 2 years, and Becky Brooks, off duty for the moment, also brighten customer’s visits with smiles, efficient service, ready conversation and directions to local areas of interest. Dana Clark, the store clerk, is new this year, but fits right into the crew. Levi Walke and Mallory Wilson, the "multi-taskers," are both working their second years. Hopefully, new owners will see the wisdom of retaining the staff, who are known to the local and summer customers, and who efficiently answer questions for directions and deal with any problems they may meet. As with many establishments like this, the staff has become a mixed family. They work together and care for each other.
Mike has added many features to Bassetts, including walk-in freezers and refrigerators, and the historic notes and photographs on the walls. The ice cream counter was a plus, attracting children and adults alike, and they make real milk shakes! The Daughertys installed the generators that keep the facility running during the frequent mountain power outages.
Mike is also a multi-tasker, able to service and maintain equipment, cook a mean hamburger, wait tables and run the store and gas pump. He keeps the approach to the facility clear of snow in the winter, and the hummingbird feeders filled throughout the summer. Area "birders," are often to be found taking photographs of the several varieties of hummingbirds that may be seen at the feeders.
During the 2006 fire, Bassetts was the central staging point for the firefighters, well lit during the duration of the fire. Highway 49 became a parking lot for the fire vehicles. Water trucks traveled from the fire to the bridge over the Yuba where huge tanks were kept filled with water.
Area resorts were evacuated during the fire. Some brought the food they had on hand to Bassetts; the local volunteer firefighters families, the staff at Big Springs and people from Sierra City set tables up in Bassetts parking lot, and kept the Bassetts kitchen
busy. Firefighters were well fed during the time that it took to get the fire under control. Boxes of fruit and home baked cookies appeared on the porch for the firefighters, and Bassetts provided showers and respite time for the tired firefighters. Many of the firefighters were heard to comment on the amazing community spirit that they found at the Bassetts Fire.
Mike and Carol Williams will be missed. They have become an integral part of the local community, and the lives of the "summer people" as as well.
NOTE: Most of this information was gathered as I wrote a history of the USFS Recreation Residence Tract at Haskell Creek. There is a copy in the History Museum in Downieville, and one at the museum at the Kentucky Mine. Some was taken from oral histories, and some from James B. Sinnott's histories of Sierra City. Sinnott mentions Bassetts several times in his histories, and includes photos of the original Bassetts. The histories are fascinating, but very difficult to use as reference, because they have no index. Also note that Bassetts has always been written without an apostrophe.
- J. Myles, August 1, 2016