Graniteville, California

A historic mining town in the Sierra Nevada mountains

Annie and Bill Kyle – a Graniteville Love Story

Annie Kyle McLean and Bill McLean

Annie McLean Kyle and Bill Kyle

Annie’s Apple Pie

Years ago on the Fourth of July, the tiny town of Graniteville, California would hold a great celebration for its citizens and visitors. People from all over Nevada County would come by horse back, wagon or stage to attend a weekend of dances, picnics, games for the kids, political speeches and their famous baseball tournament.

For the three day event visiting baseball teams came from far away mining communities like Washington, North Bloomfiled, Birchville, Snow Tent, Jackson Meadows and other towns up and down the Yuba River. Teams were comprised of mostly young men from local farms and gold mines and only the best players would make the long journey to Graniteville. Once they arrived , they were treated like VIPs throughout the weekend,staying at Graniteville’s finest hotel the Golden State.

During their stay at the Golden State Hotel the McLean family hosted the teams, providing them with rooms, meals and entertainment. They even had a saloon in its basement for a cold beer after the game. Their cook Ah Sing prepared all of the meals for the hotel, the picnic dinner and treats for the holiday BBQ and concert. Helping him in the kitchen were the McLean sisters Maggie and Annie.

The youngest McLean sister, Annie was a beautiful 22 years old red head who served as a waitress in the hotel dining room and baked pies in each morning. Her specialty was apple made from the local Mountain Apples, Mexican Lard, flour, cinnamon and sugar. She made each pie without a written recipe, instead guess-a-mating with her fists the correct amount of ingredients. A little pinch here and there of salt and spices before pouring the batter into the crust and finally into the hot wooden stove for baking.

Completing the first day’s round robin games, tired teams returned to the hotel for their evening meal. One of the pitchers from Sierraville, William “Bill” Kyle took a fancy to his waitress, Annie McLean and asked her to the dance later that evening. She thanked him but said no thanks to the invitation, but added with a smile “I can’t but I might see you there. I’m working there tonight”. They continued to flirt throughout dinner and later that night at the dance.

The chemistry must have been there. She was beautiful and he was handsome. “A good match”, Uncle Chas later told them. At the dance then she offered him a slice of her apple pie and then other. For the next two days, at every meal he would order her apple pie topped with cheddar cheese.

Years later, William Kyle would say that he fell in love with Annie after only taking one bite of her famous Apple pie. “Annie’s pies were a little piece of heaven” he said. “They had to be the best in Nevada County”, he added.

Before he left town for the long horseback ride back to Sierraville he asked her to marry him. She agreed and they were married in Graniteville later that year …1898.

William and Annie Kyle lived in mining towns like Graniteville for the next 24 years. They had two dozen years together before he died in 1922 from miner’s lung, followed by Annie’s death in 1968 from old age. They had seven children and dozens of grandchildren.

I guess one could say they had their share of sorrow and joy during their brief time together. Nevertheless, Grandma Annie Kyle once told me, “those years in Graniteville were the best of her life”. She added that she still missed grandpa after all these years.

In the summer of 1967, before reporting for duty in the US Navy, I stopped in San Francisco to say good-bye to Grandma Kyle. Annie was now in her 90’s living with her grown daughters. She told me that this would be the last time we would see each other. I understood her meaning and we said our good-byes at the door. Walking to my parents car for the long trip back to Glendora,  I heard call for me. Crying, she called me back to the front porch and then handed me a paper bag. “Here’s a little treat for the ride home. Be careful and have a happy life…”she added with a big hug and smile.

Later that day I opened the bag which contained four slices of her homemade apple pie. Sharing the apple pie with my parents, I remembered what Grandpa said so many years ago to my Aunts and Uncles. “Annie McLean’s pies were a little piece of heaven” and “they had to be the best in Nevada County”.

I think you were right Grandpa…

Thanks for reading….

Submitted by Barry Kyle, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, January, 2014

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