Where The Highway Ends, written by Geneva Hamilton in 1974 is, without a doubt, the best single volume ever written about the history of Cambria and the surrounding area. It is described on the cover as being, “The colorful history of Spanish explorers, Indians, Whaling, Life on the Ranchos, Chinese, Quicksilver mines, Fires, Floods, Swiss dairies, Hearst ranches, and Early California pioneers.” If you read the entire 200-plus page book from cover to cover you will come away with an accurate impression of how Cambria got started and how it came to be the way it is today. This book also contains nearly a hundred historic photographs each with an informative caption, some of which appear nowhere else.
It is apparent that Hamilton has done extensive research prior to writing this book with the result that her descriptions are brimming over with factual details. For example, the last chapter, entitled, “Rancho Santa Rosa”, is filled with dates, acreage numbers, and dollar figures which are meticulously accurate. Unfortunately, a great many of the details in other chapters are incorrect and, in many cases, it is hard to see how that could have happened. For example, in Chapter 14 entitled, “Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Station”, she states, “When the Captain [Thorndyke] went on duty in the evening it was his job to regulate the timing mechanism. Thorndyke, Jr. assisted him with this job. As the Captain made the adjustments the lad took off or added weight as his father called instructions.” While the lens was, in fact, driven around by a falling weight, regulation of the timing of the lens rotation was accomplished by adjusting the feathering vanes of the governor. The amount of weight required to make the lens revolve was fixed and was simply the amount necessary to set it in motion and additional weight would not effect the speed, a physical principle proved by Galileo around 1600. On the following page she says, “At the age of 75 Captain Thorndyke decided it was time to retire…After retiring he decided to remarry, choosing for a wife his former wife’s sister, Margaret Jarmon.” Actually, Thorndyke was 67 when he retired in 1906 and he had already been married to Margaret Jarmon for almost nine years.
In spite of these shortcomings, this book is highly recommended to readers wishing to gain an understanding of Cambria history and the many threads which are interwoven to create it. However, individual details should not be relied upon unless verified by an independent source.
Where The Highway Ends was first published by Padre Productions of San Luis Obispo and is currently out of print. However, it is readily available at local used book stores and on the internet.