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Mayfield Canyon Battleground (No. 211 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
Site of the Owens Valley Indian War of 1861-1865 – Landmark Adventures

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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Mayfield Canyon takes its name from Colonel Mayfield who died alongside one of the Cavalry men, Trooper Christopher Gillespie, when they were killed by local Native Americans. The canyon was one of many bloody places of battle between 1861 and 1865 when settlers and cavalry soldiers joined to fight the Paiute Indians of Owens Valley. The Paiutes had occupied their homeland territory in the Owens Valley for hundreds of years. As time went on, and the white settlers continued to move further into Pauite territory, disputes began over land rights, cattle and ammunition. The settlers wanted access to the valley because it served as an important passageway into Nevada and Southern California. The Paiutes began killing cattle on ranches for food because their own food sources had disappeared as a result of severe weather.

Some of the men who worked the gold fields stayed in California during the Civil War and were recruited to serve as volunteers in the Second Cavalry to fight in the Owens Valley Indian War among others of the period. In this specific battle, Cavalry soldiers believed a group of Pauites were hiding inside the canyon. The soldiers set up camp at the mouth of the canyon and went inside to search for them. Instead of cornering the Paiutes inside the canyon as the soldiers had expected, they were forced to retreat back into the Valley and Colonel Mayfield and Gillespie were killed.

Bishop Creek Battleground, San Francis Ranch, and Camp Independence are other California Historical Landmarks located in Inyo County that mark the sites involved in the Owens Valley Indian War.

Mayfield Canyon is .2 miles north of Farmer Wells Meadow Ranger Station. While traveling along Highway 395, drive 1.5 miles northwest of intersection of Pine Creek Road and North Round Valley Road. Then drive 1.5 miles north on Ranger Station Road to the historic site. This landmark is 15 miles northwest of Bishop.

Inyo County

Inyo means “dwelling place of great spirit” in Paiute Native American language. Inyo County has many “greats.” Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States and Death Valley, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, are both within Inyo’s boundaries. Great earthquakes have left their mark in recent history, changing the course of the Owens River and exposing ancient sedimentary rock.

Time Period Represented


Nearby Places