The home located at 253 Market Street in Independence once belonged to notable local author, Mary Austin. Her family moved to the San Joaquin Valley in 1888 after she graduated from Blackburn College. Her father had been a Captain in the Civil War and chose California as the place to homestead. Originally Mary rebelled against moving to California. Upon her arrival, she developed a deep appreciation for the desert landscape and the people who lived there. Mary found the area both beautiful and therapeutic.
She began her writing career in 1900 with the publication of essays about the Owens Valley. Her first book published in 1903, “The Land of Little Rain,” is still in print and considered a piece of classic literature depicting the beauty of the Owens Valley. Mary held a fascination for the splendor of both the Owens Valley and the Southwest and wrote novels, essays, poetry and plays continuously to share the stories of the land and people from 1900 until her death in 1934. Her fascination led to 17 years of study to learn about the life of Native Americans living in the Mojave Desert.
She and her husband were involved in the Owens Valley Water Wars and lost the battle when Los Angeles began to divert water from the valley. Mary divorced her husband and moved to Carmel where she socialized with other notable authors such as Jack London, Ambrose Bierce and George Sterling. In 1910, while living in Carmel, Mary became one of the founders of the Historic Forest Theater in Carmel. This popular Carmel venue continues to produce live theater and is the oldest outdoor theater west of the Rockies.
You can find the historical marker in front of a private home at 253 Market Street in Independence.
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.