Historic mountain stove to be restored

Dec 24, 2020 | Uncategorized

Staff Writer

When the Kuffel/Henck woodburning stove from “The Old Homestead” in Skyforest was seen for sale on a local Facebook page, a group of residents got together to purchase it and keep it on the mountain.

The stove is now a little rusty from being in storage for several decades but is currently on display in the general mercantile section of The Treasure Box & Co. in Crestline on Manzanita Drive. That building itself has been considered a historic landmark building in Crestline for decades.

The stove has a rich history. It was first purchased by the Kuffel family, who homesteaded the area that is now known as Skyforest in 1889. Adam and Ruth Kuffel already had 13 children when they moved to the San Bernardino Mountains from Santa Ana, where they had been ranching 150 acres, raising cows and hogs.

They homesteaded the 160 acres of the former Metcalf-Sherman Sawmill property, moving into the two-story sawmill home. They found the land to be quite fertile, so they planted apples, beans, corn, rhubarb, melons and, of course, raised cows. The sons worked at the nearby sawmills, although sadly two of their children died during the decades they lived there.

The original home burned down in 1892, so they built another home closer to the rim, with a beautiful view of the valley below, which became known as The Old Homestead.

In 1899, the Kuffel family bought a brand-new woodburning stove and had it hauled up the mountain by horse power for the family to use. They lived in The Old Homestead two more decades until 1918, when they sold it to the Henck family so Adam and Ruth, due to frail health, could move to Beaumont. Ralph Grant, who was married to their daughter, Nellie Kuffel Grant, later started the Skyforest Mutual Water Company in 1937.

Joseph Henck and three partners bought the Kuffel Canyon area to develop the land into Arrowhead Lake View Forest vacation properties. Joseph moved immediately to the mountain from Hemet, where he grew olives with his wife, Mary. Mary was helping to start the Ramona Pageant, so she and the children waited in Hemet to move in until after Joseph installed running water and flush toilets into the The Old Homestead. The home came equipped with the woodburning stove, which was used by Mary.

Joseph ran the mercantile store and put in roads and developed a water system for the lots he was creating out of the land, while also selling insurance. Mary, a former school teacher and assistant principal at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, started the Lake Arrowhead School so her children would get an education. She was the school’s first teacher and persuaded the residents of the area to pass a school bond to build a school building, which is now used as County Fire Department Station 91. She was on the school board for many years. When the Rim district in the 1970s decided to build an intermediate school, they named it after her, Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School.

“My husband’s mother was Ethel Henck, the youngest sister of the three Henck children,” noted Deborah Grant. She lived in The Old Homestead prior to 1999 after the death of her father-in-law, Dick Stewart, who had lived in The Old Homestead while running The Timberline Journal newspaper in Skyforest. She remembers the stove being used intermittently into the 1990s during the sheriff’s association gatherings, to cook the chili.

In 1995, Grant had the stove removed from the kitchen and all shined up and sitting in the living room on the hearth for its decorative appearance.

“It was a joy to look at,” she said.

J. Putnam Henck, the oldest son of Joseph and Mary, lived in the The Old Homestead from 1999 until his death in January 2010. He was one of the contractors who worked on building Santa’s Village on his family’s property and was its owner when it closed down in 1998.

Now, 10 years later, the home was being restored and the stove with more than a 121-year history on the mountain was for sale. Local resident Devina Vincent was concerned it would move off the mountain. Knowing the impact the Kuffel and Henck families had on the early growth of the mountain, she organized some residents who purchased it and got it moved to a safe, indoor location.

After the first of the year, volunteers have dedicated themselves to restoring it back to its former glory; Deborah Grant is excited for the stove to be preserved locally.

If you wish to be a part of this cleaning and restoration project, contact Vincent through her business, Print and Page Booksellers at the corner of Thousand Pines Road and Lake Drive in Lake Gregory Village, and volunteer your expertise or effort.

“She’s going to be so pretty when she is scrubbed and shined up. The silver accents are stunning,” said Vincent.

“This preservation of a piece of mountain history is a win-win for our mountain community,” added Crestline resident and Treasure Box owner Gary Lopez. “I am honored to be a small part of it.”



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