Category Archives: Historical

Death Valley Scotty Special

Death Valley Scotty Special

In 1905, in an attempt to break the speed record from Los Angeles to Chicago, Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott paid the Santa Fe Railroad a purported $5500 to rent a three car train pulled by 19 different steam locomotives. The trip began in Los Angeles on 9 July and arrived in Chicago 44 hours 54 minutes later, a record that stood until 1936  when it was broken by the Super Chief.  The  Barstow to Needles segment of the run took just three hours and 15 minutes. Also known as the Coyote Special.

from:
Mojave Desert Dictionary – Patricia A. Schoffstall
Mojave River Valley Museum
 Barstow, California

The Origin of People

One day, Coyote went out to hunt rabbits. While he was hunting, he saw a large naked woman in the distance. This excited him. He said to himself, “Whew, I have never seen a woman like that. I will follow her.” He followed her for a long time, but could not quite overtake her. He followed her over many mountains. When he came to White Mountain [Fish Lake Valley], he was very thirsty. He saw that the woman was carrying a tiny basketry water jug, and he asked her for a drink. She gave him the little jug, and he drank and drank, but still there was water left in it. Then she walked on, and he followed her.

photo of coyote
Finally, they came to a large lake of water. The woman said, “My home is over there.” She crossed the lake on top of the water. Coyote said, “I cannot do that. I will walk around.” The woman turned and gave Coyote the legs of a water bug [skate?] that runs on the top of the water. Coyote followed her over to her house.

The woman lived in a house with her mother, who was called tsutsipü, “ocean,” maa’puts, “old woman.” She was like Eva, the first Woman. Eva had never seen a man before. In the morning, Eva got up very early and began to weave a fine, big water jug. Coyote stayed with the women for several days.

One day Coyote went hunting for deer. He wondered what was the matter [with the women] . . . He asked his stomach, his ears, his nose, and his foot what was the matter. None of them could tell him. Then a white hair on the end of his tail said, “You are just like a little boy. Take a neck bone . . . and use that.”

Coyote did this . . .

Coyote went out to hunt. The old woman had nearly finished her big water jug. The two women told each other that they were pregnant. When the jug was finished, they gave birth to many tiny babies, all like little dolls, and put them in the jug.

When Coyote returned, they said to him, “Maybe your brother, Wolf, is lonesome for you. We want you to go back home.” Coyote said, “All right, I will go.” Eva then said to the children, “You have no home here. You must go with Coyote.” She put the basket of children on Coyote’s back, and told him to carry it with him. It was very heavy, but Coyote said that he had carried deer down from the mountains on his back, so that he was strong and did not object.

The women instructed Coyote about the jug. They said, “When you come to Saline Valley, open the stopper just a little way, then replace it quickly. When you come to Death Valley, open it a little more. At Tin Mountain (Charleston Peak) open it half way. When you are in Moapa, take the stopper out all the way.” Coyote said he would do this.

Coyote carried the jug along, but soon became very tired and could scarcely hold it. When he arrived in Saline Valley, he opened the stopper a little way. Tall, dark, handsome men and girls jumped out and ran away. These were the best looking people in the jug. This frightened Coyote, but he put the stopper back, and picked up the jug. In Death Valley, he opened it again. Here, more handsome people jumped out and ran away. The girls all had long, beautiful hair. When he came to Ash Meadows, he opened it. The Paiute and Shoshoni came out. These people were fine looking, too. At Tin Mountain, Coyote let some fairly good people out of the jug. When he opened it in Moapa, very poor, short, ugly people came out. The girls here had short hair with lice in it. All the people had sore eyes. That is the way they are now.

This is the way Eva had her first children. Coyote was the father.

from:
Western Shoshoni Myths
By Julian H. Steward

$150,000 Summit Road Route Being Considered

Summit Valley Road

Summit Valley Road

State Highway Commissioner Darlington has under advisement the matter of which route to choose for the 15-mile state highway to be built from Summit to Victorville at a cost of $150,000.  A delegation headed by Louis Evans of Hesperia asked Darlington to choose the route that would include Hesperia on the highway.

Los Angeles Herald, Number 58, 8 January 1919

Mining Partners in a Deadly Quarrel

William Farley Kills Matt Price on the Desert Near Dale City, San Bernardino.

San Francisco Call - February 24, 1898

San Francisco Call – February 24, 1898

SANTA FE DEPOT, San Bernardino, Feb. 23. — The second murder on the desert within two weeks was committed yesterday morning about ten miles north of Dale City, this county, by William Farley. His victim was Matt Price, who is said to have been a partner of Farley in some mining property.

Only meager reports have been received and as the scene of the murder is in such a remote and almost inaccessible spot, being seventy miles from the railroad, it will be some time before the full particulars of the affair will be known. Parties who knew the men are inclined to believe that the murder was the result of a quarrel over a mining claim.

Farley has been placed under arrest and Coroner Keating, Deputy Sheriff McElvan. Assistant District Attorney Rolfe and I Benjamin, a stenographer, left for Dale City tin’s morning to hold an inquest. A. E. Reitz, who came in from Dale City yesterday, leaving there early in the morning, says that when he left the camp all was peaceable and that the principals in the affair seemed to be on good terms.

 

A Petticoat Mining Camp

Joe Joiner, the Calico dude, paid with his whiskers for the name he fastened on the town.

In 1881, when the miners of Calico petitioned Uncle Sam to establish a post office, a local committee was appointed to decide upon the name for the bustling camp. Joyner, the dude, wrangled an appointment and became a member of the christening committee. Attired in a swallowtail coat, he paraded at the meetings  and preened his knee length whiskers. On windy days he wore the whiskers in braids.

“Take a look at them hills,”  Joiner shouted to the committee. The hills surrounding the mining camp were streaked with many -hued  clays and iron oxides, tinged with green and old rose, yellow and turquoise. “They look like a calico quilt,”  Joiner exclaimed. ” Why not call the camp ‘Calico’?”

Calico ghost town

Calico – Desert Magazine photo

” Sounds like a woman’s petticoat,”  the miners muttered.

Joiner  succeeded in shouting down the opposing factions, and the name of Calico prevailed. The committee disbanded, mumbling threats of reprisal.

 

Calico ghost town post office

Calico post office

Later, in the glow of success  and liquor, Joiner fell fast asleep on the main street of Calico.  And while he slept the disgruntled  Silver Gulch and Buena Vista schools of miners huddled about him with a pair of shears.  When Joiner  awoke he was no longer the dude of Calico. The miners  had snipped off one tale of his coat– and all his whiskers.

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

Mohahve Historical Society: History of the Society

On January 30, 1963, the Victor Valley Union High School and Victor Valley College Districts jointly sent out invitational letters to the areas early-day  residents offering a college level course entitled, “Local Historical Research,”  which was to begin February 7, 1863.

Under the direction of Dr. Lawrence Davenport, sanctioned by Victor Valley College president Fred Berger, the class had one purpose: compile a history of the Victor Valley and the surrounding mountain and desert communities.

An “old-timers meeting” was held on Valentine’s Day, 1963, in the Del Rey school auditorium in Victorville. Longtime residents from Adelanto, Apple Valley, Barstow, Daggett, Helendale, Hesperia, Lucerne Valley, Oro Grande, Phelan, San Bernardino, and Victorville attended, bringing with them their old family pictures and other documentation to substantiate events and stories of the early days.

The class, totaling some 35 students, went to work sorting the material, copying pictures, and interviewing pioneer residents of the area. They traveled to some of the historical sites to gain their own personal impressions.

The results was Mohahve I,  a 200 page book published in June, 1963. With an initial run of 500 copies, it became an immediate “sellout” at $10 per copy.

Regretfully, the college drop the class from its fall schedule. About a dozen students, however, decided to form their own organization  and carry on the research to publish more historical works.

Thus, the Mohahve Association was formed in October, 1963, with Carl Cambridge serving as first president. The name was changed to its current Mohahve Historical Society the following year with Ellsworth Silvester serving as vice president.

A sequel to Mohahve I, Mohahve II was published in 1965 with the second printing in early 1966, Mohahve III followed later that year.

The Mohahve Historical Society was one of the first $1000 contributors to the newly formed Victor Valley Museum. They also donated artifacts that had been collected for a local museum. Many Society members are also active with the museum as well.

from:
Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History (c)1984
Mohahve Historical Society

 

Murder is Suicide

Amargosa Valley - Amargosa Desert

Amargosa Valley

Ted Hosung  was leaning against the counter of the Van Bresson Hotel in Daggett, one night, talking to the clerk, when Jack Duane, team superintendent of the borax company walked over to him.

” What you doing these days, Ted?”  he asked.
” Nothing,”  replied Hosung. ” Quit my job yesterday.”
” Looking for work?”
” Sure, what you got?”
” A 12 mule team starts for the Amargosa Valley in the morning, and I want a driver,”  Duane told him. ” Seventy a month and grub. Board and room in town.”
” Took!”  Ted put out his hand and  shook. ” but I haven’t got a swamper.”
” I’ll take care of that.  See you over at the corrals at five in the morning, ready to go.”

20 mule team

A 20 mule team — Much like a 12 mule team but with more mules.

Next morning a wagon and trailer, pulled by 12 mules, set out for the Amargosa Valley to get a load of borax.  Ted Hosung  was holding the lines  and his  swamper,  and old fellow named Bill, was sitting alongside him, rolling a cigarette. How they ever got into an argument, nobody knows, but when they got back to Daggett, they were not even on speaking terms. The hall was a hot pole and hard on the best man’s nerves, so it is not hard to understand how a pair could fall out with each other on the trip.  But these two must of had more than a friendly argument, because they quit their jobs, glaring at each other all the time.

Ted Hosung  went to the Van Bresson Hotel,  got himself a bottle of whiskey and proceeded to get roaring drunk. The guests listen to his shouting and cussing patiently; he would have done the same for any of them. Towards morning, Ted quieted down, and folks went to bed.

Stone Hotel – Daggett, CA.

Next day, about noon, old man Van Bresson went up to Ted’s room to take him an eye-opener. He found a gory mass that had once been a mule driver. Ted’s head had been bashed in with an iron wagon hub and his body beaten to a pulp by the heavy iron implement. Van Bresson would not have known him except for his clothes. Talk traveled fast in Daggett those days. By nightfall, swamper Bill was dangling at the end of a rope from a telegraph  cross arm.

A stranger writing into town stopped at the site of the hanged swamper,  and his eyes bulged out like door knobs.

” What did he do?”  he wanted to know.
”  Murder is suicide in this man’s town,”  he was told.

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

The Massacre at Agua de Hernandez: Resting Springs

Kit Carson

Christopher “Kit” Carson

from the Autobiography of Kit Carson

About the first of April, 1844,   we were ready to start for home. We went up the valley of the San Joaquin, and crossed the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range by a beautiful low pass. We continued under Coast Range until we struck the Spanish trail, which we followed to the Mohave River, a small stream that rises in the Coast Range and is lost in the Great Basin. We continued down the Mohave and made an early camp at the point where the trail leaves the river. In the evening a Mexican man and a boy came to our camp. They informed us that they belong to a party of Mexicans from New Mexico. They were encamped with two other  men and two women at some distance from the main party,  herding horses.  The man and boy  were mounted, and the two men and women were in their camp, when he party of Indians charged on them for the purpose of running off their stock. They told the men and women to make their escape,  and that they would guard the horses. They ran  the animals off from the Indians and led them  to a spring in the desert, about 30 miles from camp.

We started for the place they described, and found that the animals had been taken away by the Indians  who had followed them. The Mexican asked Fremont to  aid  him to recover his animals. Fremont told his men that they might volunteer for the service if they wished, and that he would furnish horses for them to  ride. Godey and myself volunteered, supposing that some of the other men would join us, but none did, and Godey and I and the Mexican  took the trail of the missing animals.  When we had gone 20 miles the Mexican’s horse gave out, and we sent him back. The night wasvery dark, and at times we had to dismount to feel for the trail. We  perceived by the signs that the Indians had passed after sunset. We became much  fatigued, and unsaddling our horses, we wrapped herself in the wet saddle blankets and laid down. The night was miserably cold and we could not make a fire for fear of its being seen. We arose very early and went down into a deep ravine where we made a small fire to warm ourselves.

Explorer John C. Fremont

John C. Fremont

As soon as it was light, we again took the trail, and at sunrise perceived the Indians encamped two miles ahead of us. They had killed five of the animals and were having a feast on them. Our horses could travel no farther, and we had them among the rocks and continued on afoot. We reach the camp unperceived, and crawled in among the horses. A young colt became frightened, and this alarmed the rest. The Indians at length noticed the commotion and sprang for their arms. Although they were about 30 in number, we decided to charge them.  I fired, and shot one.  Godey fired and missed, but reloaded and fired again, killing another. Only three shots at been fired into Indians were slain. The remainder now fled, and taking the two rifles I ascended ill to keep guard while Godey scalped the dead Indians. He scalped the one yet shot was proceeding towards the other one, who was behind some rocks. He was not dead yet, and as Godey approached he raised up and let fly a narrow, which passed through Godey’s shirt collar. Again he fell back and Godey finished him.

We rounded up the animals and drove them to the place where we had concealed our own. Here we changed horses and rode back to our camp with all of the animals, save the ones the Indians had killed for the feast. We then marched onto where the Mexicans had left the two men and women. We discovered  the bodies of the men, horribly mutilated. The women, we suppose, were carried into captivity.  But such was not the case,  for a party traveling in our rear found their bodies very much mutilated and staked to the ground.

Resting Springs, Agua de Hernandez

Resting Springs – where the massacre took place.

We continued our march without molestation till we reach the point where the trail leaves the Virgin River. There we intended to remain a day,  our animals being much fatigued, the discovering a better situation, we moved our camp 80 miles farther on. Here one of our Canadians missed one of his mules, and knowing that it must have been left at the first camp,  started back after it, without informing Fremont or any other party of his project. A few hours later he was missed. The members of the horse guard said he had gone to our last camp to look for his mule, and I was sent with three men to seek him. On reaching the camp we saw a pool of blood where he had fallen from his horse and knew that he was killed. We followed the trail of his animals to the point where it crossed the river that we could not find his body we can return to camp and informed Fremont of his death. In the morning he went with the party to seek the body, but it could not be found. He was a brave, noble-souled  fellow, and I was saddened by his death. I had been in many an Indian fight with the Canadian, and I am confident that he if not was  taken unawares, he killed one or two Indians before he fell. We now left the Virgin River, keeping to the Spanish trail, till we passed the Vega of Santa Clara, when we left the trail and struck out towards . . .

Lost Arch Mine

In days gone by, in the Turtle Mountains, a party of Mexican miners found a rich placer area and they reportedly sluiced off $30,000 before the summer heat dried up their water sources. for a clue back to the gold, they built a two room house with an arch in it. In 1883 two men (so the story goes, but we found records of three names for these (supposedly) two men: Jim Fish, Crocker, and Amsden)  left Needles to explore the Turtle Mountains. A few weeks later only Amsden made his way to Goffs, more dead than alive, with his pockets full of gold. as soon as he recovered from his ordeal he returned to the east. A few years later Dick Colton of Goffs received a letter from him with a map and this message: “The mine is in the Turtle Mountains. The location is not far from a natural arch”.  Since then many people have searched the area, but so far none have found the mine.

Courtesy Pat Schoffstall: Mojave Desert Dictionary – Mojave River Valley Museum

Crossing the Mojave: Kit Carson (1829)

Leaving the headwaters of the Verde River in Arizona the party traveled to the Colorado River to the Mohave villages scattered along the east bank between what is now Topock and Bullhead City in Arizona.  From there they traveled toward the middle of the desert, possibly on the route of either Fr. Garces in 1776, or further north on the trail taken by Jedediah Smith in 1826 and 1827, these converging at the mouth of the Mojave River east of Afton Canyon.  It was two days before they found water after reaching the Mojave River. This may have placed them just east of today’s Barstow, California at a place that was known years later as Fish Ponds.

After four days travel we found water. Before we reached it, the pack mules were strung along the road for several miles. They smelled the water long before we had any hopes of finding any, it made all the best use of the strength left them after their severe sufferings to reach it as soon as they could. We remained here two days. It would have been impracticable  to continue the march without giving the men and animals the rest which they so much required.

Colorado River at Moab

Colorado River at Moab across from Topock, Az.

After remaining in camp two days we resumed our expedition and for four days traveled over a country similar to that which we had traversed before our arrival at the last water. There was no water to be found during this time, and we suffered extremely on the account of it. On the fourth day we arrived on the Colorado of the West, below the great Canyon.

Mojave River fan

Our joy when we discovered the stream can better be imagined than described. We also had suffered greatly for want of food. We met a party of the Mojave Indians and purchase from them a mare, heavy with foal. The mare was killed and eaten by the party with great gusto; even the foal was devoured.  We encamped on the banks of the Colorado three days, recruiting our animals and trading for provisions with the Indians, from home we procured a few beans and some corn. Then we took a southwestern course and in three days march struck the bed of the stream running northeast,  which rises in the Coast Range and its  lost in the sands of the great basin. We proceeded up the stream for six days, and two days after our arrival on it we found water. We then left the stream and traveled in a westerly direction, and in four days arrived at the of Mission San Gabriel.

 

San Gabriel Mission

At the mission there was one priest, 15 soldiers, and about 1000 Indians. They had about 80,000 head of stock, fine fields and vineyards, in fact, it was a paradise on earth. We remained one day at the mission, receiving good treatment from the inhabitants,  and purchasing from them what deep we required. We had nothing but butcher knives to trade, and for four of these they would give us a  beef.

from: The Autobiography of  Kit Carson