When a Horse is More Than a Horse

What history of the Old West would be complete without mention of horses?  As transport, farm hand or war engine, once humanity realized that this animal was too valuable to eat, the horse has played an integral part in mankind’s survival and the expansion of the civilized world.

While their days of hard toil may be dimly remembered, the horse has and always will remain an icon of all that is romantic, daring and adventurous in the human spirit.  The horse is freedom. The horse is endurance. The horse is beauty in motion.  What better emblem of enduring love and devotion for a newlywed couple’s entrance into the next chapter of their lives than to pass through a doorway bearing the image of a gallant steed.

Every summer, here in Graeagle brides and grooms pass through just such a doorway.  The venue now known fondly as The Corner Barn is one more example of how our history is treasured and lovingly repurposed here in our little town.  Never gone, never forgotten.


Today’s Corner Barn at the junction of Highways 89 & 70

In the year 1920, this very structure served, believe it or not, as an actual barn.  The barn housed a stable of horses used for the transportation and enjoyment of wealthy adventure seekers and celebrities desiring a secluded getaway. These travelers enjoyed the height of luxurious accommodations, arriving via the newly completed Western Pacific Railway line at a depot dedicated just for them as guests at The Feather River Inn.  One such regular guest, known only as “Mrs. Cooper” to the daughter of the stable manager, Chris Lemm, became a friend of the family and, as a gesture of that friendship gifted them one of her prize Palomino Arabian Stallions, a yearling named Golden Dawn.

The story was recounted decades later in the self published booklet, California’s Beautiful Mohawk Valley, by Ruth Martin and Jane Long.

“…it was the railroad that opened this area to the world. Mrs. Cooper from New York became my mother’s friend and gave her a yearling foal from her stables. His tendon had been cut by barbed wire and Mrs. Cooper considered destroying him.

He developed into the famous gold-plated stallion, “Golden Dawn”, well known among horse breeders.”

Mrs. Cooper spared no expense in transporting Golden Dawn to his new western home.  To the family’s surprise, the elegant equine stepped onto the Feather River Depot platform from the passenger baggage car!  He must have known he was special, but I’m sure no one expected his visage to dominate the entrance to Graeagle’s premier wedding venue a century after it was placed there by his proud new owners, the Lemm family, back in 1920.



Golden Dawn, ridden by Feather River Inn livery manager and owner, Chris Lemm, in 1920.


The Corner Barn in 1920 when it was the livery stable for The Feather River Inn. Note the image of Golden Dawn over the entrance.

The loving restoration and repurposing of The Corner Barn by Graeagle Land & Water, including the detail of one of its former and very special occupants, is in keeping with tradition and the preservation of Graeagle history, honoring the many lifetimes that went into its making.

Bridles are now brides and grooms are…well, still grooms. Look upward, young couples, there will always be a Golden Dawn.

3 thoughts on “When a Horse is More Than a Horse

  1. Great story! I think you will very much enjoy the following book we just discovered from the Santa Barbara, California, area, on the history of one man and his Palomino horse breeding program, entitled: California’s Knight on a Golden Horse, by Dwight Murphy. I’m sure there will be crossovers between the horses in the book and the lovely Golden Dawn stallion you mention here.

    (Ironically, my name is also Dawn :)) :)) https://soulhorseride.wordpress.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s