Charles Fiske (or Fisk) was born in Vermont in 1813, and operated a store in Old Town, Maine for many years. He and his wife, Mary Ann (Eaton) had 13 children. Charles’ older brother Royal was a merchant in California, and although Charles wrote that he wished to see “fancy places,” he felt he couldn’t uproot his family.
But the lure of California finally became too strong. About 1863 Charles followed in the his older brother to California. Drawn by the lure of Silver Mountain City, then a booming mining camp, Charles settled in Silver Mountain and erected the Fisk Hotel: three stories tall, and one of the town’s earliest and finest hotels.
When Alpine County was formed the following year, Charles Fisk became one of its earliest officials, serving as Public Administrator and county coroner. Not surprisingly he also invested in the local silver mines, purchasing stock in the Mammoth and other claims. Royal Fisk, the more practical brother, chided him about “dabbling” in the mines, noting that those who did so “have in almost every instance come out second-best.”
Charles’ wife Mary Ann was said to be “ill a good deal of the time,” and daughter Mary Jane Fiske was described as the “presiding genius” of the hotel in 1864. Both Mary Jane and her brother Fred also worked setting type in the local newspaper office, the Alpine Chronicle. Fred would go on to run his own newspaper, the Eureka Daily Leader, in Eureka, Nevada.
Silver Mountain’s winters were long and bitterly cold. The Fiske family would close up their hotel to spend the winter months at the lower elevation of Murphys, and by 1873 it appears that Charles and Mary Ann had moved to Murphys for good. Charles opened a store there and his youngest son, Frank, became local postmaster and would serve on the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors for 14 years, beginning in 1886.
Mary Ann passed away in 1893, and Charles in 1896. They are buried
in the old Murphys graveyard, along with many of their children and grandchildren.
As for for the Fisk Hotel in Silver Mountain, it was disassembled in 1885 and moved to Markleeville to serve guests at the local hot springs. This wonderful old building still graces the corner of Main Street and Montgomery, as a restaurant/bar. So if you happen to visit the historic town of Markleeville, you can still step inside Charles Fisk’s amazing Fisk Hotel!