Charles Manson, Belmont and a woman named Rose


Matt Hufman

A door frame in the Belmont Courthouse links Charles Manson to the property in 1969. Historians cannot confirm that he visited the town, but Rose Walter told people the group was there.

Click to enlarge photo

This is a photo of Rose Walter that sits in the Belmont Inn & Saloon. It appeared in a 1974 edition of National Geographic. Rose - people still refer to her as just "Rose" - was considered the "guardian" of Belmont. She died in 1987 at the age of 93.

If you know anything about Belmont, you’ve probably heard the story about how Charles Manson’s family stayed in the courthouse, or at least left some graffiti in it. It’s a popular spot on the tour and the story of the graffiti has been well reported.

But you may not know the story of Rose Walter, the unofficial town guardian of Belmont for many of her 93 years, and how she reportedly sent the Manson family packing. Here it is:

One day a little more than 40 years ago Rose saw a group of people, including several young women, in the historic courthouse. They wanted to camp in town.

Rose, as she is affectionately referred to, had two rules for Belmont: Don’t take anything and don’t camp in town. People who knew her say she had no fear and no problem enforcing the rules. She commanded respect and spoke with authority.

So Rose, who would have been in her 70s, told the group that they couldn’t stay in town. She told them there was a campground up the road. The group complied.

A few days later, members of the group came back through Belmont and thanked her for telling them about the campground. They said they were headed back to their ranch in Death Valley and they left.

And life went on in Belmont as normal.

Some time after that, Rose, who didn’t have a TV, was visiting a relative in another town and saw a newspaper that had a story about the Manson family’s crimes. There were pictures of some of the members. Rose recognized the pictures – they were part of the group she ran out of town. At least that’s what she told people.

Now, is it true?

Historians have tried to confirm the reported Manson family visit, but there’s no proof. Anyone could have carved the graffiti. But no one who knew Rose thinks she would – or could – have pulled off such a prank. They say the graffiti that appeared on the wall of the courthouse was first seen about the time Rose described.

And it would have been in Rose’s character to take on one of the most infamous groups in American history. So people here tend to think that’s what happened.

No one can prove it, but it sure makes for a good story.

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