Huntington’s Station

Huntington’s Station was the first trading post in the area, and although Heber Huntington only owned it from 1873 to 1878, it remained known as Huntington’s Station until the the railroad came through and renamed it Victor. The river crossing with a few modern exceptions as the Narrows Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and the cement plant looks much the same today as it did in 1872 when Mecham built what has become Stoddard Wells Road.

Mojave River, Victorville
Mojave River at Huntington’s Crossing

 

Nurse Plant

Nurse Plant:

"Nurse plant pinon pine for Joshua trees

This pinon pine tree is nurse plant for a tiny forest of tiny Joshua trees.

Nurse plants are plants that help other plant species grow by providing shelter, a safe microhabitat for seed germination and seedling growth beneath their canopy.

Farmland – Oro Grande

Farmland in Oro Grande along the Mojave River
Farmland in Oro Grande

“During his years at the upper crossing, Captain Lane, as Aaron was known throughout much of his life in California, had ample opportunity to discover where the richest farmlands lie along the Mojave River.”

Pioneer of the Mojave – Green Gold and Mint Juleps

Riverside Cement – Oro Grande

Oro Grande Riverside cement plant, Victor Valley, Mojave Desert

Riverside Cement in Oro Grande, CA started in 1907 as the Golden State Cement Plant. It was shut down during the depression and restarted as Riverside Cement in 1942. The plant was enlarged and completely rebuilt in the late 40s. In late 1997, TXI purchased Riverside Cement.

More about Oro Grande

The First Bridge at the Narrows

The first Mojave River bridge September 22, 1890 – September 26, 1890Upper Mojave River Narrows 1890

In 1890 a bridge was to be built across the Mojave River.  The location just north of the upper narrows rather than further downstream at Oro Grande was chosen.  A few days before the bridge was completed the county supervisors and an engineer visted the structure for inspection. The engineer was disappointed in the fact that the suspension bridge failed to meet specifications and could not do the job it was designed to.

The bridge was finished and prior to opening to the public a physical test was to take place.  A large ore wagon loaded with 8 tons of rock and a trail wagon were pulled across the bridge by a boy, Austin Ellis, driving an 18 mule team.  He made it. There was a lot of clapping and yelling and celebrating when all of a sudden a pillar collapsed and a suspension cable “disappeared like magic, sending up a volcano of dust. The bridge collapsed dumping the wagons, mules, the boy and five men and boy into the river 50 feet below.

Whether anyone was injured or killed was not reported.  Life must have been cheap.

European Starlings — A Desert Invasion of the Worst Kind.

European Starling - US Fish and Wildlife Service
European Starling
Photo credit – Lee Karney, US Fish and Wildlife Service

The fleeting and dark aesthetic value of countless European starlings flocking through the air is quickly overridden by the realities of this highly invasive and destructive species.

Solar and wind farms certainly take their toll on our native and natural migratory avian wildlife, however, these damn birds will potentially eliminate weaker, less aggressive desert species as a vicious cancer would, silently eating its way through a once healthy body.

“The introduction of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in New York City in 1890 and 1891 resulted in their permanent establishment in North America. The successful occupation of North America (and most other continents as well) has earned the starling a nomination in the Top 100 list of ‘Worlds Worst’ invaders. Pimentel et al. (2000) estimated that starling damage to agriculture crops in the United States was $800 million yearly, based on $5/ha damage. Starlings may spread infectious diseases that sicken humans and livestock, costing nearly $800 million in health treatment costs. Lastly, starlings perhaps have contributed to the decline of native cavity-nesting birds by usurping their nesting sites. We describe the life history of starlings, their economic impact on agriculture, and their potential role as vectors in spreading diseases to livestock and humans. We recommend that the database on migratory and local movements of starlings be augmented and that improved baits and baiting strategies be developed to reduce nuisance populations.”

from ~ Managing Vertebrate Invasive Species: Proceedings of an International Symposium USDA/APHIS/WS, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO. 2007.

Awareness of the beauty of the desert is one thing, but awareness of the reality of circumstances is important too.

An Ancient Marble Quarry

Article describing Victor Valley quarriesHesperia could build houses out of marble from near Victor Station–Hesperians could live like Roman gods!!!

An Ancient Marble Quarry

A short time since it was announced that a large ledge of marble had been discovered near ”Victor Station on the California Southern Railroad near Hesperia. Mr. J. J. Clarke is Manager of the quarry and C. A. McDuffie is foreman of the works.

In opening the quarry and clearing away the debris that had obscured the most of the ledge Mr. McDuffie found the marks of the drill where large masses of the rock had been quarried out in ancient days, but by whom no one knows. A Herald reporter interviewed Don Pio Pico concerning the matter, but though be bad been Governor of California when It was a Mexican province and had lived in Southern California for 86 years, he knew nothing about it and no one knows what was done with the stone that was wrought from the quarry. It has been conjectured that the Franciscan Padres obtained the marble for tombstones, but no one knows where the tombstones are that resemble this marble which is white and very hard, formed of very large crystals.

Mr. McDuffie yesterday presented the Herald with a piece of this marble with one side finely polished. With the facility of quarrying this rock into large blocks at small expense, it is thought that the houses of Hesperia can be made of this stone in the rough cheaper than with lumber, so each settler can dream and dwell in marble walls. This quality Of rock will make very fine lime for building purposes. A company is being formed to day to open this quarry and deliver the stone in this city. Not far from this quarry is a quarry of the most beautiful granite in the State This has been opened and the stone is being brought to Los Angeles for building purposes.

Los Angeles Herald, 1886

A Story about Gold

Gold in the hills of the Mojave DesertMy friend’s mother used to tell me these stories about the desert. I loved them–nothing like sitting there listening to her–so interesting.

One story she told me was about a gentleman who found some gold. The gold was just laying there in this high, dry meadow at the top of a canyon which was at the top of a canyon at the top of yet another canyon. There was so much gold lying about free for the taking–right there in the open. The man took some home and sold it.

The man was of modest tastes and the money he had from the gold lasted quite awhile, but got spent as money tends to be. Of course he remembered the gold high up in the bare mountains, and there went and loaded up again. Over the years he went again and again. He didn’t need much so he didn’t take much, and when he died there was so much more left on the mountain. Just laying there.

My friend’s mom claimed this man told her where the place was. She said it was easy to get to yet required a little trickery to keep from being followed. “Nearly in plain sight,” she would tell me. A nugget or two or three here and there. Even now days no one gets suspicious. It doesn’t take much to live if you live a certain way.

Little Ellen Baley – Lost in the Desert Night

During this phase of the journey the wagon train was doing much of its traveling at night, owing to the great daytime heat of the desert and the long distances between water holes. At regular intervals during the night they would stop for a short rest. At one of these rest stops, eleven-year-old Ellen Baley, a daughter of Gillum and Permelia Baley, fell asleep and failed to awaken when the wagon train moved on. Somehow, she was not missed until the train traveled some distance. The poor girl awoke to find herself alone in the middle of a vast hostile desert. Filled with fright, she began running to catch up with the wagon train, but in her confusion she took off in the opposite direction. When she was discovered missing, her father and older brother, George, immediately rode back to where they had stopped. To their horror, she was not there! Captured by the Indians must have been their conclusion! Nevertheless, they continued their search by calling out the little girl’s name at the top of their voices as they rode back.Their efforts were soon rewarded when, far off in the distance, came a faint cry, “Papa, Papa.” Her father immediately answered and kept calling her name until he caught up with her.When reunited with her family and the other members of the wagon train, Ellen had a tale which would be told and retold by family members until the present day.

from –
Disaster at the Colorado
Beale’s Wagon Road and the First Emigrant Party

~ Charles W. Baley