If the world of the Foresthill Divide, Placer County and the Northern Sierra was anyone's oyster, it belongs to Gene Markley. Markley, 78, a life member of the Placer County Historical Society, made his mark reinventing the early Mountain Man in novel ways. He came west from his native Wisconsin. He loved the mountains. He loved the Indians and how they survived for thousands of years in harmony with nature. He led the way and wrote the book on gorge scrambling for the Sierra Club. Best of, all for more than a half century he kindled a passion among legions of followers through his Sierra Club outings and 37 years of popular Placer Adult School Gold Camps, wilderness skiing, snowshoeing and other outdoor adventure outings. He made it fun to learn about history, uncommon literature and preserving what we can of nature and the past. We enjoyed the paths less traveled to places we never may have seen but for Gene. For some of us, it included Placer County's Damascus, a once small Gold Rush community.with a school, a post office, a brass band and a scattering of homes that started as Strong's Diggings about 1852. Since the 1960s Damascus has mostly disappeared from maps and memory. On Dec. 10, 1988, Markley led one of his adult classes with a group from the Foresthill Historical Society to Damascus to install a marker on a nearly flat rock the old fashioned way. The adventurers took turns using star drills to hammer in one inch holes to anchor the plaque to memorialize a spot whose remaining buildings were virtually eliminated by a 1920s forest fire. This Markley pearl came to mind as the man dubbed "The Old Buffalo" took what may well be his final trip back home to Wisconsin last month to be cared for by his loving kin. If you haven't heard by now, Markley suffered a near fatal stroke in his Orangevale home in February. His family frantically worked these past several months to put his affairs in order here and to cut through legal and other red tape to fly him back to Wisconsin where they feel they can better care for him.Nearly 100 friends and relatives showed up for a potluck picnic at Regional Park in Auburn on Oct. 14 to say goodbye and pose for photos with Gene. Thanks to Gene's and his family's wishes, part of his vast collection of books, photos, research and maps is working its way into the Placer County Archives, the Placer County Library history-genealogical collection and the Foresthill Museum. Some of his devoted followers are continuing the outings, developing an Atlas of Gene Hikes and putting together photos and coordinates on early mines and markers as a lasting legacy. If you would like to write to Gene, here's his new address: Waunakee Manor, Room B5, 801 South Klein Drive, Waunakee, WI 53597. ° ° °This article was originally published in the Nov-Dec 2012 edition of The Placer.Footnote: The City Council for the City of Auburn, Ca. approved a commemorative plaque honoring Gene Markley. This plaque has been placed in Auburn's Central Square.
Gene Markley The Old Buffaloby Michael Otten, PCHS President
Commemorative plaque on display at the Central Square, Auburn, CA
Gene’s plaque is located near the sculpture of the Nisenan Indian Dancer