Category Archives: Adventure

Pioneer Trail

Pioneer Trail – by Mintor Jackson Steorts

Wagon wheel furrows cut deep in the sand,
winding through desolate desert land,
on through arroyos, climbing a rise
to snow-covered mountains that reach to the skies;
ruts that the elements tried to erase
from the deserts redoubtable face,
but fate has preserved, through all of these years,
the trail of the wagon train pioneers.

We follow their route in a multi-wheel drive
and marvel that anyone could survive.
Through famines, and droughts, and blizzards and rain
on a rumbling ox-drawn wagon train,
and eke out a living from off of a land
of solitude, emptiness, cactus and sand;
Did they vision rainbows way over there
where we find a cauldron and the smog laden air?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will the future historians find
when they search for the trails we leave behind?
Will our many-lane highway be plain to see,
that leads toward that “Great Society?”
Or maybe they’ll excavate someday,
through atomic ashes to our freeway,
and wonder how anyone could survive,
on a careening, rumbling, four-wheel-drive.

Mohave III – Scrapbooks of History, (c)Mohahve Historical Society, 1966 – page 119

Bear Lake, Baldwin Lake and Big Bear Lake

in the summer of 1845, Benjamin D Wilson, own part of the interest in the Jurupa Rancho, site of the present city of Riverside, led a troop of Calvary in search of cattle rustlers.

Setting out from San Bernardino Valley, he divided his command. Most of the men he sent through Cajon Pass, keeping only 22 Mexican troopers with him to follow a trail across the mountains. Two days later, Wilson and his men reached the lake where they  sighted scores of grizzly bears.

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake

Most of the soldiers had been vaqueros. They formed in pairs and drew reatas, each pair attacking a bear. One looped a rope around bear’s  neck;  his companion  roped same bear by a hind foot. Then the men drew apart to stretch  the rope taut and hold the bear  a prisoner. They bagged and  skinned eleven bears, stretcher  their  hides and continued across the mountains to join the rest of the command on the desert at Rancho Las Flores, on the Mojave River.

Here the reunited party engaged Indians in a fight, after which Wilson and his 22 vaquero-troopers returned home by the way of the lake. They again found the place overrun with bears, and the same 22 soldiers brought in eleven more bears– enough to give them a bear rug apiece as a trophy. It was then that Wilson gave the name of Bear Lake to the little body of water.

Years later the name was changed to Baldwin Lake. The name survives, however, in Big Bear Lake which was created in the site of the Talmadge Ranch in 1884 when a dam was built to provide a constant water supply for the Redlands District.


adapted from ~ Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County – WPA – 1940.

Horse Thieves & Gold in Lost Horse Valley

Johnny Lang - Lost Horse Mine Joshua Tree

Johnny Lang

Johnny Lang set out one day in 1894 to search for a lost  horse.  He ran smack into a band of wrestlers and found a fortune in gold.

Johnny was plodding over the little San Bernardino Mountains, in that area known today as Joshua Tree National Monument,  Where masses of rock form fort-like walls  around hidden valleys and grass meadows. Here it was that the rustlers pastured their stolen stock. They ran choice cattle and horses ranches in Arizona, into the little San Bernardino’s  ( by easy stages), and from there they spread through Southern California, selling their contraband herds.

The first thing Johnny knew one of the rustlers lookouts who drew a gun and threatened him. ” You ain’t lost no horse,”  the gunman said. “Git  going!”

Johnny made his way back down the mountain and return to the camp. There he met another prospector, a stranger, who pointed out a nearby hill as a likely spot to dig for gold. Johnny took his advice. He found a rich outcropping of ore and staked out a claim which he called the Lost Horse Mine.

Bill & Willis Keys burying Johnny Lang

Bill & Willis Keys burying Johnny Lang

News of the strike brought on a gold rush– and that was the end of the last great band of organized rustlers entrenched in California. The minor sworn to the hills and valleys and drove the rustlers from their hideouts. Johnny Lang made fortunes during his lifetime and never saved up any. One day in 1928 he was found dead. He died with his boots on, still searching for gold in the wilderness of rock.

adapted from ~ Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County – WPA – 1940.

More about Johnny Lang & the Lost Horse Mine:
http://mojavedesert.net/people/lang.html

Scouts & Scalps

The characteristic account of the hazards of traveling through the Mojave during pioneer days appears in the journal of General John Charles Fremont. Leading a party of topographical engineers, with the famous Kit Carson and Alex Godey as scouts, Fremont was on the last leg of an exploration trip through  Oregon and California,  and was headed for Salt Lake City when he called camp at the lagoons 8 miles below Yermo for the purpose of killing and jerking enough beef for the long  “jornada” to the next waterhole.

Here, on the afternoon of April 24, 1844, Fremont was surprised by the sudden appearance of two Mexicans, one a man, Andreas Fuentes, the other an 11-year-old boy named Pablo Hernandez. They were members of an advance party of six men and women who had left Los Angeles well ahead of a large caravan, in order that they might travel leisurely with their head of 30 horses. They had reached Agua Archilette (now Resting Springs) , where they decided to remain until the caravan overtook them. While camped here, they were visited by several seemingly friendly Indians. A few days after this they were surprised to see approaching them a large number of Indians, estimated to be about 100.

Resting Springs, Tecopa Ca.

Agua de Archilette (Resting Springs)

The commander of the Mexican party shouted to Fuentes and Pablo, who were on guard duty, to drive the horses to their former water hole. The guards were mounted according to custom and managed to  stampede the horses through the Indian lines despite a volley  of arrows. Knowing they would be pursued, the man and boy drove the horses about 60 miles, halting only to change mounts. When they reached Agua de Tomaso (now Bitter Springs)  they left the horses there and pressed on, hoping to meet the oncoming caravan. Exhausted, the two were overjoyed to find the Fremont party.

Bitter Springs, Agua de Tomosa

Agua de Tomosa (Bitter Springs)

The Fremont cavalcade broke camp immediately, left the river  and,  turning north, followed the old Spanish trail 25 miles to Agua de Tomaso. Here they found traces of recent origin that showed the Indians had captured the horses and run off with them. Carson and Godey, accompanied by Fuentes, decided to follow the marauders. That evening, Fuentes returned alone, his horse having given out.

The scouts had been taken  about 30 hours. They estimated their trip had taken them about 100 miles. At nightfall of the first day they had entered the mountains. Bright moonlight made the pursuit easy for a time, but when they entered a defile, it became necessary to dismount and feel for the trail with their hands. At midnight they lay down to sleep.

Cold as it was, they dared not to make a fire and till morning when in a little ravine, they kindled a tiny  blaze to  warm themselves  before starting on.

Kit Carson

Christopher “Kit” Carson

At daylight they continued their pursuit and about sunrise ran across a few of the missing horses. Concealing their exhausted mounts behind a pile of rocks, they crept toward the crest of a nearby hill, from which they could look down on four lodges and about 30 Indians were gorging themselves on horse meat.

The cautious movements of the scouts disturbed a horse grazing nearby, which snorted, giving  warning of their presence to the feasting Indians. The scouts charged, shouting as they went. Carson downed in the Indian with his first shot. Godey shot twice and hit another. Godey received an arrow through his shirt collar. The rest of the Indians fled, no doubt believing the two men were the advance of a large party.

Carson stood guard while Godey dashed down to scalp the two prostrate figures. As he stripped the scalp from one of them, the Indian regained consciousness and screamed. An old squaw, ascending a nearby hill, turned, hurled a handful of gravel down on Godey, and screeched maledictions.  Godey  mercifully killed the man. Then the scouts returned to the herd and drove it off without interference.

John C. Fremont

John C. Fremont

The scouts’ story told, Fremont ordered camp broken. The party proceeded north across the open plain. Two days later, Fremont came across the bodies of two men, Hernandez, father of Pablo, and another member of the Mexican advance party. Both had been mutilated. Later the bodies of the two women who completed the advance party were discovered, also murdered and mutilated.

adapted from ~ Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County – WPA – 1940.

Indian Raids

Horse Thief Springs - Kingston Range

Horse Thief Springs – Kingston Range

In 1840, raiders under Peg-leg Smith and Wakara, an Indian renegade, made a simultaneous attack against a number of ranches Southern California, and drove off hundreds of horses. Some of these horses came from as far north as San Luis Obispo, but all were run south and into the Mojave Desert through  the Cajon Pass.

When Peg-leg was asked  how many horses had been stolen, he replied, “Only about 3,000. The Spaniards followed us and got half of what we started away with, damn them.” During that wholesale raid, Wakara, alone, leave to have led about 1,000 tame horses from the mission corral at San Luis Obispo.

In 1843, Michael White obtained a grant to the El Cajon de Muscupiabe Rancho in Cajon Canyon, for the purpose of guarding the pass against the Indian raiders. It was the practice of the marauders to slip through the pass in the San Bernardino Mountains, and, under cover of darkness, to rob and pillage. Their constant raiding depleted the Californian’s herds.

In the  early fall of  1845, Governor Pio Pico sent against the plundering Indians  a force of 80 well-armed men under the command of Benjamin D Wilson. Wilson was a native of Tennessee, and had been a trapper in New Mexico when he joined Workman party which entered San Bernardino County in 1841. In 1843 he purchased one half interest in the Jurupa Grant with Juan Bandini.

Following the instructions of the governor, Wilson planned and outfitted its expeditionary force. A pack train and 58 soldiers passed through the Cajon, and Wilson, with 28 Californians, crossed my. From Bear Valley, the Wilson party followed the East Fork of the Mojave River down to the Mojave desert floor. There they joined the other division. For several days the expedition marched northward along the Mojave River. Wilson, riding a mule, was usually two or 3 miles in advance, looking for Indian signs.

On the fourth or fifth day, Wilson saw four Indians coming toward him along the trail. Certain they had not seen him, he turned his mule into the river bed and kept under cover until he judged he was opposite them. When he climbed the bank he called in the savages responded in a friendly manner.

It had been Wilson’s intention to take the Indians prisoners in order to obtain some much needed information, but one of the four was a renegade Indian for all Southern California had been looking– at the notorious Joaquin. This office state have been trained as a page by the Catholic Church at the San Gabriel mission, but a career of crime at brought him the customary reward: a branded lip any crop year.

Wilson commenced a conversation in Spanish, and the Indians to them to be nothing more than a traveler until his force came into view. Joaquin, realizing that Wilson was the vanguard of this group, jerked an arrow from his quiver and strung his bow. Wilson fired from the hip at the same time Joaquin loosed his arrow. The Indian shaft struck Wilson in the right shoulder; the white man’s bullet pierced Joaquin’s breast area the force of the arrow caused Wilson to drop his gun, but the shot had brought Joaquin to the ground where he lay cursing the white race.

The other three Indians made off across the desert. Wilson ordered his soldiers to take them life. The Indians resisted and were killed. Joaquin watching the  slaying of his kinsman continued to pour profanity on Wilson and his kind until a soldier put him to death.

Upon examination of his wound, Wilson found that he had been struck by an arrow made poisonous by putrid meat blood. The Comanche Indian, Lorenzo Trujillo, who had accompanied Wilson from New Mexico suck the blood from the extremely painful wound. Although the swelling began to reduce, Wilson was unable to travel, so he kept five men with him and sent the remainder down the river to find the Indian camp.

After several days,  his command returned to report that they had struck a fresh Indian trail about 10 leagues below Wilson’s camp. Following the trail up a rocky mountain, they discovered Indians hidden among the rocks. The Californians made an attack but were obliged to retreat  with several badly wounded men, leaving the Indians in command of their natural fortress. Wilson’s wound now healed, this first major battle between San Bernardino settlers and Mojave marauders pronounced a draw, and the punitive expedition withdrew to  return the wounded man home.

adapted from ~ Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County – WPA – 1940.

 

The Father of San Bernardino County

Captain Jefferson Hunt
b. January 20, 1803
d. May 11, 1879

picture of Jefferson Hunt

Jefferson Hunt – LDS photo.

… Jefferson Hunt had rejoined his family at Salt Lake Valley after the close of his military service, and he was called by President Young in November of 1847 to return to California to purchase seed, livestock and supplies for the people of the Church. There were eighteen in the company, including his sons, Gilbert, John and Peter Nease. On this trip they suffered greatly for food, having to subsist for some days upon the flesh of their work mules, but through all such ordeals, Great Grandfather rose to the occasion and manifested the great strength of body and mind necessary for a wise father and leader of men to possess. The little boys, John and Peter, suffered greatly on this trip, being only 14 years old and not accustomed to starving. They returned to Salt Lake in May, 1848, bringing horses, mules, cattle, seed and provisions. During the following two or three years he acted as pilot and guide to companies of gold seekers going to California.

In 1851, Jefferson Hunt was called by the leaders of the Church to go with Apostle Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich to establish a Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California.

In the years that followed, he served his church as a member of the High Council of San Bernardino. He served his church and the State of California as a member of the legislature for six years, and he was appointed with a delegation of California lawmakers to go on a special mission to Washington D.C. Their trip from California to Independence Missouri was all accomplished on horseback.

With the coming of Johnston’s Army to Utah in 1857, Jefferson Hunt responded to the call of Brigham Young, and with the other loyal members of the church they left their homes in San Bernardino and came to Utah.

His service to the State of California was recognized in tribute paid to him by the California historian Ingersol: “Captain Hunt was a man of strong character, deeply religious by nature, he believed with his heart in the divine revelations of the Mormon Doctrines. Energetic, clear sighted and indomitable in will, he was especially fitted for the leadership, which he always acquired in whatever position he was placed. Generous to a fault, his home was open to his less fortunate brethren, and he gave a helping hand to many a needy man, saint and gentile alike for he was above petty distinction. He deserves a large place in the memory of the citizens of San Bernardino for he filled a large place in the early and vital events in the history of the town and country. While he served as legislator he introduced the bill to divide Los Angeles County from San Bernardino County, and has been known since as the Father of San Bernardino County.”
~

Adapted from a copy of an address given at the dedication of a monument erected at the grave of Captain Jefferson Hunt in 1950. The speaker was his great grandson, Jesse A Udall.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=22927878

The Division of Trails

Old Spanish Trail in Victorville, Ca. Mojave Desert

The Division of Trails

There is a book titled “Trails across the Mojave” that describes a fork in the Old Spanish Trail that splits off to John Brown’s toll road on the left and the Mormon Hogback and Sanford’s Pass to the southwest. Now the photo showing the fork located according to the directions provided most likely has no resemblance to what the original trail looked like if it were indeed at this particular point. I would say this fork is basically the same alignment in the same location as the trail was 150 years ago. The left goes to Cajon Summit while the right leads to Phelan to descend into the West Cajon Valley.

There is another important location to be remembered, it is the “Division of Trails”  that goes over Cajon Pass. The word “Cajon” is Spanish and means “box”. The steep sides of the formidable mountain pass made the name appropriate.  The rigors of El Cajon must be faced to arrive in San Bernardino Valley. The high Sierra Mountains were the last barrier to the weary travelers.

Here the trails divided. The left fork was the way used by the pack-trains of the Spanish traders and was called the Old Spanish Road. The other road was chosen by the Mormons for they had wagons which could not be pulled up or down the narrow canyon which the Spanish had followed. So, the Mormons made a bend westward to the right to avoid the higher portion of the mountains.  This division of trails is today a a few hundred yards to the east of Highway 395 at the crossroad of Duncan Road.

The Spanish trail turned back to the left and slowly climbed the summit, entering the edge of Horse Thief Canyon. From there they traveled down grade about 6 miles until reaching Crowder Canyon (earlier called Coyote Canyon), then from Cajon junction the road went south which is located today on the present Highway 66. This section in the 1860s and 1870s was known as John Brown’s toll road.

Trails across the Mojave – Grace Jackson, Lucille Matson – 1970

A Story of Four Boys

Devil's Canyon, San Bernardino National Forest, Old Spanish Trail

Devil’s Canyon

One day a wagon train rolled in off the desert to San Bernardino. On this wagon train there were four sick and hungry Paiute Indian boys.

Each one of these boys was placed with separate families in San Bernardino, and each one of the boys, living in a good Mormon home, got better.

One boy went rabbit hunting with his foster brother. There they ran into the Thomas brothers who were also out hunting. One brother got into an argument with the Indian boy. They get louder and louder then the Thomas boy raised and aimed his pistol at the Indian and the Indian immediately raised his rifle and shot Thomas. He fell over dead.

Obviously, it was self-defense and no matter how they looked at it at trial it came out self defense. The Indian was acquitted and went free.

Sawpit Canyon. Old Spanish Trail

Sawpit Canyon

Life went on and things seemed as if things were forgotten and when it came time for the Indian boys to go home, an escort was provided for them. The escort was made up of one of the Thomas’ and several of his friends.

The party left San Bernardino and rather than going up the Cajon Pass, they took the old trail up Devil’s Canyon to the ridge then dropped down into Sawpit Canyon. The area was heavily forested and the young Paiute that had killed the Thomas boy figured out what was going on and slipped into the woods escaping.

Summit Valley, Las Flores Ranch

Summit Valley

The remaining three boys were brought down into what is now the Las Flores Ranch area and summarily murdered. Then they were decapitated and their heads placed on the top of long poles.

Not much was ever mentioned of the incident afterwards most, likely because the boys killed were Indian.

A few years later a caretaker on the property found two of the skulls. He took them and nailed one to each of the gate posts at the entry to the ranch. Being the braggart that he was, he would tell the story of the Indian skulls nailed to the gate and if an Indian wanted to know what that story was, they were welcome to come and an he would happily show them.

(retold from History of Victor Valley – Lyman)

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