Category Archives: Profiles & Biographies

The Last Days of Al Williams

by Phillip I. Earl –   Apple Tree correspondent

Death Valley is perhaps the West’s  most aptly named topographical feature and over years it has taken the lives  of countless thousands of travelers, prospectors,  treasure hunters and others who ventured into its tortured arid wilderness.

The circumstances of these deaths  are roughly similar:  horses died,  they ran out of water, got lost, became delirious with the heat etc.,   but at least one of the valley’s victims left behind a more accurate account of his last hours on earth.

Bill Williams’ body  was found the morning of August 3, 1911 at Sharpe’s Camp,  a sometime [ng]  a few miles southeast of Darwin, California. A Nevada prospector who had traversed Death Valley many times in the [l,]  Williams apparently lost his horse then lost himself on this trip.  He had set out from [o]  Springs on May 18 and nothing more was heard of him until his body was found,  though his friends had searched for him earlier in the summer, sick and unable to leave his camp, Williams apparently waited day by day for someone to come and rescue him. As he waited, he recorded his condition and his thoughts in the following diary which was found on his body:

Thursday, May 18
Left Coso Springs.

Wednesday, May 24
Nothing to eat since Thursday.

Friday, May 26 —
week in sick, cannot walk 50 feet. Tried to get dove; no go.

Saturday, May 27
Hungry, hungry and so weak.  Headache, sick. Will probably die soon.

Sunday, May 28
Very weak today. Nearly froze last night. Very hungry.

Monday, May 29
Cold:  almost froze. Am much weaker; do not think I have will last two days more. Pain in my side.

Tuesday, May 30
Colder than ever last night. Did not sleep a minute. Very weak. Hello the headache. Very dizzy.

Wednesday, May 31
Am nearly all in;  can scarcely breathe. Water getting low.

Thursday, June 1
Worse today,  Sick; no sleep; too cold. Water is playing out fast it will not be long til the end.

Friday, June 2
Am about the same.  No sleep; cold nights. This is a living hell. Very weak.

Saturday, June 3
No sleep;  cold night. Am worse than ever.  will hold out as long as I can.

Sunday, June 4
Vomit yellow, bitter stuff when I drink water. Second time now. Cold; no sleep; very weak.

Monday, June 5
Vomit when I drink. Very weak; legs sore; cold all night; no sleep. Cannot last much longer.

Tuesday, June 6
Vomited again. Getting weaker.

Wednesday, June 7
Don’t  see how I can live much longer. I stagger like a madman. Feel drunk and dizzy.

Thursday, June 8
Worse;  am nearly blind;  very sick and dizzy. No sleep; gnats are eating me up.

Friday, June 9
Don’t  believe I can get another canteen of water.  Sick and dizzy: cannot see much. Think it will be all off soon.

In the back of the diary under the date of June 9, 1911, Williams wrote the following: “Have stood it 23 days without anything to eat. If I can get one more canteen of water I am satisfied it will be the last one. This is surely hell on earth.  And so sick and dizzy I can scarcely see this in the gnats are eating me up.”  Too weak to write and almost blind for the last three days of his life,  Williams merely made his cross in the diary to show that he was still alive.

The men who found the body at first considered bringing it out to a nearby ranch and notifying the Inyo County coroner, but its condition was such that they decided against such a course. A shallow grave was dug on a high bench about 50 feet from the dry spring and Williams was laid away.

One of the men wrote a short account of his death from the diary and placed it in a tobacco can which was then stuffed into a crude monument built over the grave.

Williams diary itself was brought back to Darwin and given to the editor of the Inyo County Independent  who subsequently might venture out  unprepared or who might go out on a rescue mission and give up too soon, thus condemning another of their fellows to the awful sacrifice which the desert seems to periodically demand.

The Story of John Brown

John Brown (1817 – 1899)

One of the more unusual pioneers of the early nineteenth century was John Brown, born in Worcester, Massachusetts on December 22, 1817. He started west as a teenager making his way to St. Louis and getting a job rafting down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He took a job sailing along the Gulf Coast and was shipwrecked off the coast of Galveston. We can not follow him too clearly during this period but he fought with Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. He spent two years at Fort Leavenworth and then became a trapper for some fourteen years in the Rocky Mountains. He was able to tell of his encounters with bears and with Indians in a most exciting way.

In 1842 it is believed that he helped physically to build Fort Pueblo. It is here that he made the acquaintance of such frontiersmen as James Waters, Tim Goodale, Dick Owens, Calvin Briggs, John Burroughs and Old Bill Williams. He trapped from Colorado to the Yellowstone and met Kit Carson, James Bridger, the Bents and the Sublettes.

James Beckwourth: 1809 – 1868

Jim Beckworth, a former slave from Virginia whose father had freed him, was a noted trapper who spent several years as a member of the Crow Indian tribe, found himself a Mexican bride, Louisa Sandoval, in Taos and brought her and their small daughter, Matilda, to Fort Pueblo in October 1842. He set up as a trader with only limited success and when spring came, he set out for California, leaving his wife and daughter at the Fort. It was here that Louisa met John Brown and they decided to live together as a family. There were no clergy nearer than Taos. The marriage was certainly successful since they remained together for the rest of their long lives and had several children. Before John Brown settled down to a more quiet married life, he had had an experience with Nicolasa, apparently a fascinating young Mexican girl, and killed a Frenchman in a duel which took place in the early 1840s on a ranch of Jose Weis on the Greenhorn. It was the same Nicolasa, who incited Rube Herring to kill Henry Beer at Fort Lupton on July 4, 1843. Herring took Nicolasa to Fort Pueblo and lived with her there until James Waters stole her away from him. Not long after Waters killed Edward Tharp in a fight over the same girl. (When most of these men went to California a few years later, Nicolasa was left behind.)

From 1843 to 1845 John Brown made Fort Pueblo his headquarters. Can we speculate that he had a few successful trapping expeditions? At any rate he moved to the Greenhorn in 1845 and opened a store. He must have found some money in order to invest in a store. It was his policy to trade chiefly with whites and not with Indians although there were times when he sold whiskey to the Indians under the counter, since it was illegal to sell alcohol to Indians. The record of his accounts has been preserved in the Huntington library in California. He noted the sales made and the names of the buyers. His first accounts appeared in April 1845. Brown
stocked only what he called essentials, but did not at first include such items as coffee, sugar and flour. He did carry whiskey and tobacco. Brown bought his goods mostly in Pueblo. With demand he soon added flour, sugar, coffee, pants, shoes, etc. Among his customers was William Bent who sent E. Garry (Edmund Guerrier) to sell goods and to buy a steer from Brown in November 1846. William’s brother, George Bent, bought 1½ fanegas of corn. Other customers whose names appeared in his account book were Cosper (who worked for Alexander Barclay), James Grieves, William Adamson, one of Barclay’s foremen, Joseph Bridger and Rube
Herring. No Indian names appear except those Indian wives of whites.

It is revealing to note that the specie which Brown handled included doubloons, sovereigns, gelders, and Mexican pesos and gold pieces as well as American dollars.

Louisa was active in the store. Entries often appear in her handwriting. She also made candles and soap when a pig was slaughtered. The store was prosperous and Brown expanded his business into other projects such as farming. He built irrigation ditches and grew corn,
watermelons, wheat and hired Mexicans to herd cattle and horses. The Mexicans he hired became his customers. He built for them adobe houses and then added a grist mill between December 1846 and February 1847. The Mexicans were well treated. They were free employees, not like the peons on a Mexican hacienda who were paid only in supplies which kept them constantly in debt to the ranchero. Brown hired 3 men in 1845, 24 men in 1846, 8 men in 1847, and 2 men in 1848. Most stayed only a few months.

Not only did Brown mill his own flour, he accepted grain from others to be milled. He sold flour for 5 cents a pound or $8 per fanega. (One fanega was equal to 1.6 bushels.) Farmers from Hardscrabble and from Pueblo brought their wheat and corn to be ground at $1 per fanega. Barclay and Doyle rented yokes and harnesses from Brown.

Although it was illegal to sell whiskey to Indians, Brown did sell them whiskey, much watered down by four to nine times, and he even added drugs to keep the Indians quiet when they were drunk. We should not criticize Brown too severely for this practice since all traders did
sell to the Indians illegally in spite of the attempts of such men as Fitzpatrick to put a stop to it. The Indians would get into brawls with one another. It has been estimated that in 1841 there were 120 Indians killed in drunken brawls and in 1842 up to 500.

One of the intriguing facts of the life of John Brown was his experience as a psychic. He had a Spirit Guide who came to him in his waking moments and gave him significant messages. On one occasion the Spirit Guide appeared to Brown and saved him and his friends Estes and Stone from a grizzly. Once when Brown was camped at the foot of Pikes Peak the Guide showed
Brown an emigrant family named Washburn arriving at Pueblo along with a Mr. Waters who had a grey mare brought from the East for Tim Goodale. His friends made fun of Brown, but took him seriously enough to send Goodale to Pueblo to learn whether the vision was accurate. Goodale returned with the report that every fact was correct.

On another occasion while living in an Indian lodge with Briggs and Burroughs, the Guide told Brown that he would throw a stone and break his mule’s leg. In spite of his serious attempts to control himself, he threw a stone which broke the leg of the mule. Brown was literate and wrote a book about his spiritualist experiences called the “Mediumistic experience of John Brown, the
medium of the Rockies.” The book was published in San Francisco and is very rare today.[1]
In Pueblo on February 2, 1848 in an argument over Candelaria, the wife of James Waters, Edward Tharp was killed by Waters. Waters hid out on the Fountain while his friends brought him food. He soon went to Greenhorn, where he stayed and hired a team to go to Pueblo to get his things and bring them to Greenhorn, where he stayed, grinding corn and herding cattle for
John Brown. With no lawmen in the area at that time, the only crime which was recognized for punishment was that of murder. The accepted punishment was banishment.

On June 6, 1848 John Brown had a sale of all his goods and closed his store. California called! Brown started south with his wife Louisa and their son John, Jr., who had been born the previous October in Greenhorn. Those who went with them included Archibald Metcalf, James Waters and Blackhawk leading 60 horses and mules packed with deerskins which they had traded from the Utes. They were joined by Lucien Maxwell, his servant Indian George, and Charles Town. Some Apaches attacked them and they raced to escape. Some friends (?) urged Louisa to throw down the child and escape. She clutched him tightly around the neck and
jumped her horse over a ravine and escaped back to Greenhorn. She held the boy’s neck so firmly that ever afterwards he could not hold his head upright. All the horses and mules with the deerskins were lost to the Apaches. After this loss some of the travelers were determined to get to Taos. Lucien Maxwell and his party decided to avoid the popular Raton Pass and take
the next pass to the east of Raton, Manco Burro Pass. At the top they were resting when the Apaches attacked. In quite a lengthy battle Indian George and Charles Town were killed. But Lucien Maxwell was one of those who managed to struggle down the south side of the pass
where they were rescued by Dick Wootton who had come to look for them. Fortunately for the Browns, they did not travel with the group at that time.

Greenhorn was not completely abandoned. Kit Carson and Jesse Nelson and ten others left Taos on June 25, 1848 and went through Greenhorn where they found only Bill New, Calvin Jones and some Mexicans. But when they crossed the St. Charles they found a few farmers including John Brown and his family, Charles White, James Waters, and Rube Herring cultivating the lowlands and living in some old houses that had been abandoned.

In June 1849 a large procession left the Arkansas for California. John Brown and his family, now including three children, joined John Burroughs and Calvin Briggs and their Shoshoni wives, Lancaster Lupton with his Cheyenne wife and four children, Rube Herring without Nicolasa, Charles White, Alexis Godey, James Waters with Candelaria. They reached Salt Lake City on July
4 and arrived at Sutter’s Fort on September 1, 1849. Almost all of them decided to move south. Actually, John Brown was not comfortable in the climate of the Bay area and they all went to San Bernardino where they spent the rest of their lives as friends and became very wealthy. It was in 1851 that they boarded a schooner at San Francisco and sailed south to San Pedro where they landed in April 1852. Brown hired Sheldon Stoddard to take his goods to San Bernardino where he arrived on May 1.[2]

Brown bought a cabin from Marshall Hunt on the west side of the Mormon stockade. San Bernardino County was created on April 26, 1853. John Brown, Col. Isaac Williams, David Seeley and H. G. Sherwood were named county commissioners to supervise the first election. In 1854 Brown rented the vast Yucaipa Valley which was part of the San Bernardino Rancho of the
Mormons. Brown occupied a large two-story house built of adobe in 1842 by Diego Sepulveda. He raised cattle and grain. In 1857 James Waters bought the Yucaipa Ranch lands and also Brown’s cattle. Brown moved to town in San Bernardino and built a two-story house at Sixth and D Streets. He became the Justice of Peace and Rube Herring became the first County Assessor and School Superintendent.

In 1857 when there was unrest in Utah and President Buchanan sent the army against the Mormons, Brigham Young recalled all the settlers from San Bernardino. Brown and the non-Church faction now took over. With the Civil War coming on, Brown supported the Union.
In 1861 the army established a string of five outposts along the Mojave Desert trails. Brown and Henry M. Willis and George L. Tucker obtained a 20-year charter from the California legislature to build and operate a toll road through Cajon Pass. Brown also built a ferry
across the Colorado River at Fort Navajo and put Chief Sic-a-hoot in charge. The chief had trouble with money and the ferry was soon abandoned.

Brown had a contract for delivering mail to the mining camps at Holcomb and Bear Valley during 1873-74. In the 1880s Brown spent much of his time writing the treatise about his psychic experiences. His Spirit Guide had appeared to him often when he was in Colorado but
failed to come to him in the later part of his life. Nevertheless he wished to preserve the memories of those times in the mountains. His book, which was published in San Francisco during his lifetime was entitled, “The Mediumistic Experiences of John Brown, the Medium of the Rockies.”

As one of the older residents of his area Brown became one of the founders of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers. He and James Waters were among the first vice presidents of the organization and John Brown, Jr. was the first secretary. Brown died on April
20, 1899. His funeral was held by the Spiritualist Society. His body was in a huge white casket with young women in flowing white robes surrounding it as an honor guard.

The obituary appeared in the San Bernardino Daily Sun in April 1899. He was survived by six daughters and four sons: Mrs. Sylvia Davenport, Mrs. Mary Denber, Mrs. Matilda White, Mrs. Laura Wozencraft, Mrs. Louisa Waters and Mrs. Emma Royalty. The sons were John Jr., Joseph, James and Newton.

John Brown was a man of at least three careers. As a teenager he went west and joined the fur trappers at the height of the fur trade era. As this trade shrank he turned to the management of his store to sell goods chiefly to settlers and traders, branching out to agriculture and milling. At a time when the Indians were still a menace, he decided to move to California. Here he became a wealthy rancher and was a civil servant helping to organize the County of San Bernardino, still the largest county in the United States. He was a good business man and well liked by his fellows. It is interesting to note that several of the settlers in the Pueblo area became prominent and wealthy in California.

References
1. Editor’s note: A search for the book, published in 1897 by the Office of the philosophical
Journal, found only 20 copies listed in library or university holdings. The nearest repository
for a copy is the Denver Public Library, which will not release the book for inter-library loan
because of its fragile condition. The book is available for examination by request at the
library.
2. Editor’s note: Brown recorded in his book that when he arrived at San Bernardino he
found his old friend Isaac Slover already living there. Slover’s story can be read in The
Pueblo Lore, November 2001, pp. 6-10.

Bibliography
Belden, L. Burr. “John Brown.” In Hafe, LeRoy R., ed. The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West. Glendale, Calif., Arthur Clarke Co., 1965-1972.
Hafen, LeRoy R. “Colorado mountain men.” In Colorado Magazine, 30:26.
Hammond, George P. The Adventures of Alexander Barclay, Mountain Man. Denver, Old West
Publishing Co., ca1976.
Lecompte, Janet. “The Hardscrabble settlement.” In Colorado Magazine, 31:94.
Lecompte, Janet. Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn, the upper Arkansas, 1832-1856.
Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, ca1978.
Shaw, Dorothy Price. “The Cragin collection.” In Colorado Magazine, 25:176.

The Story of John Brown
(1817 – 1899)
By Edward Broadhead
(Reprinted from The Pueblo Lore, January 1985)

Wrightwood Historical Society
Wrightwood Roots Friday,March 4, 2005 A.D.
Edited by George Tilitson

Charles Vincent Dougherty

– A.K.A. Charles Tom Vincent –

This story was derived from Chapter 5 of Pearl Comfort  Fisher’s “The Mountaineers,” written by Dorothy Evans Noble and edited by George F. Tillitson

Dorothy Evans Noble, former postmistress at Valyermo and wife of geologist Dr. Lee Noble, wrote this memoir of the Serrano Old Man Vincent whose name was given to Vincent Gap and Vincent Saddle. Mrs. Noble wrote that the memory of the man might not be lost. She gave it to the United States Forestry Service (USFS) who graciously accorded Pearl Fisher to include it in her book, “The Mountaineers.”

Restored cabin

Old Man Vincent’s daily newspaper came to our small post office at Valyermo, California, but he never did.   Our nearest neighbor,  Bob Pallett, who had a  cattle ranch adjoining our fruit orchards took his mail to Vincent once a month when he took supplies by horseback to the cabin twelve miles up Big Rock Creek on the slope of North Baldy Mountain (now Mount Baden-Powell).  It was a steep trail from our thirty seven hundred fifty foot altitude to Vincent’s sixty six hundred foot. Bob said he was a sort of hermit who hated all women and most men, chasing visitors off his land with a  rifle and spending all his time mining gold and shooting game. He liked Bob and depended on him, and Bob enjoyed sessions with the old man. We heard stories about Vincent for three years before we ever saw him.

Original cabin – 1999

The first week of April 1914,  brought such frightful news of war in Europe that ranch work seemed futile and we decided on a sudden walking  trip into the mountains to think things over. A geologist, Greg, was visiting us and we three set out on foot to climb Mount Baldy. We took Vincent’s mail with us. It was a long climb up to Vincent  Saddle at the head of Big Rock Creek where we followed a trail high on the slope of the mountain for a mile and looked down on a neat clearing with a small gray cabin shaded by two tremendous spruce trees. We skidded down the hill, slippery with pine needles, and zoomed right to the cabin door which opened with a bang, and Old Man Vincent faced us rifle in hand.

“Who in hell are you?” was his greeting.

He was a sight to remember, a thin old man in blue jeans and a faded blue shirt that barely covered his barrel chest, with piercing blue eyes  that glared from under tufted white eyebrows and a little white beard under an aggressive chin.

Before we could explain he spotted the bundle of mail my husband held out, made a grab for them, yelling “Papers? Good.”

He dashed back into the cabin, slammed the door and slid the bolt inside. We sat down for a while on his woodpile, glad for time to take in the good lines of the cabin with its steep roof and chimney, all in the shade of its sides weathered to a soft gray that blended into the bushes and pine needles around it.  There was water in a moat,  a small ditch that circled the cabin, fed out of a pipe at the back where icy cold water dripped into a barrel. Two small tents nearby and a big meat safe hanging  from a limb of the largest spruce aroused our hope of a friendlier reception later.

Suddenly the door burst open and Vincent charged out, waving  a newspaper and screaming with excitement.

“Say, is it really true, is it war?”

And when we confirmed the awful truth he was wild with joy, not distressed at all.

“Fine, fine, I ain’t died too soon. War’s the stuff I like. Maybe we still got some real men in the world after all. Let ’em fly at it, rip things up, git a little action to stir things up. Shoot, kill, that’s the life.”

Nothing was too good for us from then on. He took us into the cabin  cross-questioning  us as to the number of men killed so far and insisting  on our spending the night with him after we climbed the mountain.  He even went with us part way.

Tired by the long climb we were delighted to find Vincent busy with a pot of savory stew made of jerky (dried venison), onions, potatoes; and one of beans.  He had fixed beds of boughs in the tents for us and set places in the rickety little homemade table by the stove. He let me make the green tea and wash the dishes later while the men talked war. Vincent stretched out on the bunk, Lee and Greg perched on the other and by bedtime  we were  all old buddies,  beginning  a friendship  that lasted as long as the old man lived.

A  loud bellowing of song woke us  the next morning.

Vincent was fixing breakfast to the tune of “If you get there before I do, Tell Old Jack I’m comin’, too,” followed by “Fifteen  men on a dead man’s chest, Yo-ho-ho  and a bottle of rum.” He described the battle of Gettysburg while we ate, claiming that no losses  in Germany  could equal those bloody days.  He was wounded  there and sent back to Conneut,  Ohio, his birthplace.  He was a  member   of Company F, 8th Ohio Infantry and proud of it.  As we left him that day he barked at me,

“Don’t you ever come back here again.” And when I gasped, he added, laughing. “Unless you stay a week here.”

I had heard of his remark to a silly Los Angeles woman who had come to thank him for letting  her use water from his ditch when she camped nearby.  She had minced in and grabbed his hand, saying,

“I do hope I’ll see you in the city sometime.”

His retort was, “I hope I never see you again, Madam.”

So we realized that the ice was broken for us. From then on until his death in l926 Vincent was our close friend and real companion.  We often spent a week or two with him and when we found his birthday was on Christmas Day we formed the habit of having him with us for the day. The first time he came he told us that it was the first Christmas dinner he had not eaten alone in fifty years.

The last Christmas dinner he ate with us when he was feeble, but he polished off two big slabs of his favorite dessert, mince pie liberally  laced with strong, homemade applejack. Bob Pallett asked  him the next day how the pie “set.” Vince’s reply was,

“Swell, you bet. Course all night I thought sixteen jack rabbits was loose in my stomach but it was worth it.”

I had pulled  a boner that day by saying I wished he had brought his glasses along  so he could write in our guest book. He was outraged, said he never needed glasses, that no one ever would who lived outdoors and followed deer tracks instead  of ruining his sight poring over books. Vincent’s  sight was really remarkable for he could  spot a moving object miles away, and also read close up even in his eighties. Stretched out on his bunk of an evening he put a lighted candle on his barrel chest, between the “Los Angeles Times” and his eyes pored over every item. He kept his books under his bed, a few old favorites that he read over and over. A copy of “Life of Napoleon”  and one of “Treasure Island” were read most. A bottle of whiskey flanked them but he drank from it seldom.

Vincent loved to talk and he had a gift of understatement and a pungent way of expressing himself that was masterly. He wasted no words and omitted unnecessary details. His pet subject was the Civil War, particularly the Battle of Gettysburg where he was wounded in July of l863. He and a pal named Lockwood had enlisted as lads and after the war they went home, planning  to set up in business together with their families’ help. This was refused so they set off for good on horseback, heading west. They left in a fury and never communicated with their kin.

The story of that trek was fascinating. They decided to prospect for gold and in Arizona they found rich claims, filed on them, built a shack and set to work. Vincent never would explain why they moved on, just said they had trouble and shoved on for California on horseback. He told of crossing  a river and stopping  to swim in it, leaving their clothes on a bank. They spied an Injun sneak up and make off with their clothes. He waited for us to ask how they got them back, then just said,

“That Injun never stole nothin’ more. I took off after him. I got the clothes.”

They finally reached Los Angeles, a nice little town in l868 but too citified for Vincent. Lockwood settled there, but Vince prospected the mountains for months all over the region, even going to Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada country.  Nothing suited him until he happened on Big Rock Creek on our edge of the Mojave  Desert and rode up its source on the slope of North Baldy Peak, camping on what is now known  as Vincent  Saddle, the divide between Big Rock Creek and the beginning of the San Gabriel  River. His first claim was located away from the slope beyond steep, rocky Mine Gulch,  and he named it Big Horn because he killed a mountain sheep there.  This claim he later sold and it was developed by a mining company into a rich, high grade mine which ultimately  produced many thousands of dollars.

Bighorn Mine

The location at Big Horn did not suit Vincent so  he continued prospecting until he found one that did, a flat wooded place with fine big timber and a spring near enough to provide water after he had dug half a mile of ditches. He had adapted a kitten by that time, a Maltese gray, and he named the new claim he had found Blue Cat. It was near Mine Gulch, about half a mile from the flat place which meant more ditches and trails. Then he tackled building his cabin which stands intact to this day. (By the thirties it had collapsed into ruins but not until after Nancy Templeton did an oil painting of it.  Maxine Taylor did an oil painting of Vincent’s Cabin in the mid l980s. Her painting is reproduced herein.)

He hand-hewed shakes (shingles)  from the trees, built a stone fireplace  in one end, put up the one-room, steep- roofed cabin with just one small window  and a door. He made two bunks, one on each side of the fireplace, two arm chairs and a small table. He said he worked too hard to be lonely for when the cabin was finished he had the mine to timber and later made  a small stamp-mill with a Pelton wheel run by water from his spring.

He had help after a few years when he sold Big Horn and that company built a good trail on the slope above the cabin so a heavy stove was moved up and cement to mix with the rocks for a cabin floor.  Another prospector built a shack away from Vincent’s but “The Nigger” as Vince called him, although his name was Delancey and he wasn’t colored, and Vince fought like cat and dog. But Vincent lived on solitude by choice for forty years, working on his tunnels and ditches, hauling ore back by wheelbarrow to the stamp mill, to refine by running crushed ore over a mercury chute, then sacking the gold to take to the city once a year.

The winters must have been grim at the altitude of sixty six hundred feet, but he had a huge woodpile  at hand, lots of dried venison stored up, beans and canned tomatoes, potatoes and onions laid away by late fall. Summers are lovely and cool there, and nine months of the year hunting  was fine sport; deer and mountain  sheep, quail, rabbits and doves all made good food and he could catch fish in Vincent Creek.

By the time we knew Vincent the cabin had every comfort heart could wish, and Bob Pallett to haul freight from Palmdale once a month he could relax and live the life of Reilly. The big screened meat safe that hung from a spruce tree, out of reach of bears, was full of venison for there was no closed season then and Vince  would  have disregarded if there had been. A picture of McKinley hung over the old man’s bunk and a goldpan  and rifle were fastened to the chimney. Every afternoon when he came in from work he stripped to the buff and threw a potfull of hot water over his strong, rugged body, regardless of company; so we learned to vamoose.  He was strong as an ox, the picture of health, thin and wiry with pink cheeks and snowy white hair. He could and did, walk for miles tracking  a deer and he never fired an unnecessary shot. He loathed the city fellers that banged away regardless, when after game. Once we asked him what sort of winter’s  hunting he had had, and he said,

“Only fair. I missed one shot clean. Took me six shots to get my five deer.”

When he killed he dressed the deer on the spot, packed as much on his back as he could carry home, then made trips back to get the rest. Hunting meant a food supply, not sport, to him.

He was a crank about coffee which must be strong and coal black. When I made the coffee one morning  and asked him if he wanted a second cup, his answer was,

“Well, yes I do, but God it’s weak I don’t see how it gets up the spout.”

His pet comment was “Strong coffee never hurt no one, but weak coffee is pizen.”

He called Postum “Potassium” and was scornful of it, and he always pronounced boulevard “bovelard”  and brooked no correction. He drank what little whiskey he imbibed straight, scorning fancy drinks. Once we took some rare old sherry up for his pleasure and sat  by the fire with cups of it, expecting a nice session of talk. Vincent took one sip out of his cupful, swore, spat it angrily into the flames and threw the whole cupful into the fire.

“God, what truck,” he said. “What’s wrong with whiskey that anyone bothers with this hogwash?”

Even with the Palletts the old man was secretive,  so we sensed some mystery  in his past. The way he kept his cabin window boarded up unless he was inside, his fury when anyone tried to take his picture, his refusal to let anyone else go to his Los Angeles post office for his pension checks, all added up to some secret. We never dared to refer to a penciled name we once found in one of his old books, for it said “Mrs. Charles Vincent” so we supposed it concerned a wife he’d had sometime.  Only once did any relative show up, a cousin from Conneaut brought to him by Lockwood, who insisted on Vincent’s  attending a dinner at her home in Glendale.

Later we wormed the story out of him to our lasting amusement.  He went, they had a swell meal, and then

“Durned if she didn’t get out a big book of postcards, pasted in, and she begun on ‘my trip to Europe’  page by page. I had come by trolley and I happened to see one startin’ down the street, so I said ‘Goodbye, Ma’am, here’s my car’ and I run out and hopped on it.  She won’t see any more of me.”

Socialist colony ruins, Llano, Ca.

He had great scorn  for the developments  in southern California. He referred to the Socialist colony (Llano) that settled on the desert below us as a “nest of vermin” and he fulminated against Pasadena and other fancy  towns.

“This country’s the next to git its lickin'” he once said. “I’ll bet I live to see the Japs amarchin’  up Broadway. I sure would like to see a troop bivouacked on them Pasadena lawns.”

Vincent was hipped on cleanliness and order, kept everything in its appointed place and did his washing regularly. He told me once about some campers who had stayed nearby, and his comment on the woman who cooked was

“Say, that there woman was a caution. You could plant a potato patch on the back of her neck. I often seen dough on her elbow from last week’s bakin’. Water didn’t bother her none.”

Before he dug a moat around the cabin and ran water in it he was bothered by ants, for he bought sugar by the sack, and he told us,

“Ants got all through the sack and I couldn’t sift them out. So I jes hauled it down to the M—– family, it was all right for them, they didn’t notice.”

He stayed at the cabin winters until, when he was eighty three, he carried  a quarter of deer back to the cabin from away up the slope of Mount Baldy and collapsed from the effort, so we had to take him to Los Angeles to our doctor, a heart specialist. He was taken to the hospital and kept there for several months as he had a torn ligament  of one of the arteries to his heart.  We feared he was done for, but he came back in good style and lived for years after that, though he could no longer spend winters at the cabin and moved into a tent house by Big Rock Creek on the Pallett Ranch.

I remember his first Christmas holiday there when he came to the post office to cross question me about a geologist who had spent the holidays working  on our geology.

“Say, Noble,”  said he, “What kind of a dam fool was that feller anyway? I was settin’ by my tent, watching the creek in big flood with the bridge washed out and all, and I heard a big splashin’  and seen this guy wadin’ across in water up to his waist.  Up he came and durn if he didn’t tip his hat and say,

“‘Excuse me, sir, but could I trouble you for a drink of water?'”

At intervals Bob Pallett would call us up to say Vincent had collapsed and we would hurry him to the city to install him in the hospital, expecting each trip to be the last. Not so, he came to time after time, and he would chortle over his fooling the doctors.

“They hung around my bed like crows around a dead horse,” he would say, “Waiting to see me die.”

The nurses took a great shine to the game old man and he was a favorite  there.

“I like that place,” he said. “Best coffee in Los Angeles there.”

Once I visited him there and he introduced me to his pet nurse.  I asked him her name and he said it was “Scenery.” When I looked puzzled, he explained.

“Seems as though  the head nurse complained  because so many  nurses came in to talk, so one day they heard her comin’ down the hall and this nurse, she got excited and run. She tripped over the rug on her way out and, say, some scenery I seen.  That’s  been her name ever since.”

Vincent was a baseball  fan and made yearly  trips to Los Angeles to see the games. He would take with him the small sack of gold he had refined from the “Blue Cat” and “Little Nell”, another mine he had developed and named for his pal Lockwood’s daughter Nell;  would  cash it in and put in a safe deposit box. He had a post office box in the city where his Civil War pension checks came, and he would  cash them, too, and put them in the box. When Bob Pallett fell on hard times and was about to lose his ranch he was astonished to have Vincent produce five thousand dollars in cold cash and present it to him.

On September  8, l926,  our doctor phoned  to say that Vincent  was dead and was to be buried on the thirteenth at Sawtelle, the Veterans Home. He had died in the hospital and had told the doctor his life secret in order to assure his burial in the soldiers’ graveyard.  So the Palletts joined us in the drive to Sawtelle where we went to the chapel, asking for the Vincent funeral.

The Veteran’s Chapel for funerals is divided by a crosswall so that two services can be conducted at the same time, one for Catholics  and one for Protestants; so we made for the Protestant part only to learn that no Vincent funeral was slated for that day but a Dougherty funeral was. We were baffled. A Catholic soldier was slated for the other side.

Then a car raced up and our doctor’s secretary rushed up to tell us  that Vincent’s real name was Dougherty,  so the service went through as scheduled, and we all followed the body which was placed on a double gun carriage with that of the Catholic  soldier and taken to Section 9, Row G, Grave 22, in the lovely green cemetery where hundreds of veterans’ graves lie in neat rows.

Bob Pallett whispered, “You’d sure have to hold Vince down if  he knew he was  on that gun carriage  with a Catholic!”

Then our doctor told us the amazing story Vincent had told him a few days before.  He had used his real name, Charles Vincent Dougherty, until a stay in Arizona in 1866 where he and his partner had found gold and staked out prospects. they planned to stay there as the claims were rich and had built a shack and worked away happily in that wild, deserted country. One evening they found three strange men in the shack.

One said he was the sheriff and was checking up on claims. Vincent and Lockwood didn’t like the looks of these men and decided to spy on them. They left the men talking in the shack and went out pretending to work outdoors, crept up at dusk to overhear them talk.  The three men were laying plans to jump the claims, do away with the partners and take over. Vincent and Lockwood  beat them to it, shot all three in a surprise attack and buried them there and then.

Then they lit out as fast as they could on their horses and fled to the wilder west.  They expected to be followed, not realizing that no law force existed then, so they changed their names and hid out the rest of their lives though no one came after them. Vince chose his middle name, Vincent. Of course they had to abandon their rich claims, but Vince knew he could find others as he did later. That is why he never allowed anyone to take his picture, why he barred the one window in his cabin at night, why he suspected strangers, why he had a mail box in Los Angeles to have Dougherty pension checks come to.

The doctor said he would never forget that talk, the fiery old man blurting out the old, old secret, not one bit repentant; proud of his past.

Mt. Baden-Powell

He was  a  fighter, from his boyhood  days on through Gettysburg and his trip west, and his one desire was to be buried with other fighters  as he is. He was taught to kill in the Civil War; he considered the Arizona killings a matter of self-defense; he loved to show his skill in shooting but never killed an animal except for food. His unending labor made him a veritable  Robinson Crusoe on a mountainside, slaving away day after day to make a comfortable  life for himself. He loved the life he led. His magnificent physique kept him from illness, he was full of high spirits and was entertaining  a companion  as we have ever known. Always kind and generous to the few he liked, all his friends agree Charles Vincent  was a Man.

Courtesy Wrightwood Historical Society
-.-

September 1883 – the Cajon Pass

September 1883 to California Southern Railroad, with Santa Fe backing, completed its line northward from National City ( just south of San Diego)  to San Bernardino. The next step was to build a line to connect with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad’s line  from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Needles, and the California Southern Extension Railroad was formed for this purpose. The A&P was known as the  35th Parallel Route and was a joint venture  by  the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (the AT&SF  railroad became the AT&SF  railway in December 1895)   and the St. Louis in San Francisco Railway (Frisco).

Cajon Canyon

A railroad line across the Mojave desert from Mojave to needles, at the Colorado River,  had been built by the Southern Pacific in 1882- 1883 to thwart the A&P’s  westward advance,  but was later acquired by the A&P  in a trade wherein SP  obtained Santa Fe’s line to Guaymas, Mexico. Prior to this swap,  the A&P  least the  Needles-Mojave  line from the SP beginning October 1, 1884, and its trains make connection with SP trains at Mojave.

The SP plan to build a line overcome would pass to connect its San Joaquin Valley line with its line from Los Angeles to El Paso, and kept a watchful eye for any activity that might indicate that another railroad was intending to build through the Pass.  Thus, when CSRR’s  chief engineer, Fred T Perris, and his survey party settled up their horses and headed eastward from San Bernardino through San Gorgonio Pass  at Beaumont indents to Morongo Valley,   some 40 miles (64km)  east of Cajon Pass,  SP observers were confident that this CSRR  had a different route in mind and would not attempt to build through Cajon.

Then Perris, one certainly was not being followed, headed westward through Lucerne Valley in approach cone pass from the east by a more southerly route,  where the Pass  could be entered at a much lower elevation than the LA&I’s  abandoned, several miles to the northwest. No tunnel would be needed along this route, but extensive cutting and filling would be required in the first few miles below the canyon rim.

by the time the SP realized what Paris was up to, his party had staked a line through the Pass, and the California Southern Extension Railroad was soon being constructed between San Bernardino and Waterman Junction (shortly to be renamed Barstow after William Barstow Strong, president of the Santa Fe)  on the A&P The last spike was driven November 9, 1885, and the city of San Diego now had a rail connection to the east.

More than eight decades would pass before SP rails entered the Cajon Pass.

A network of railroads grew rapidly throughout Southern California, and in 1889  the California Southern Railroad  and two other short lines were merged into Southern California Railway Company.  in 1897, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company took over the A&P  and reorganized it under the name Santa Fe Pacific. In 1902 the  Santa Fe Pacific became just another part of the AT&SF, and in 1906 the Southern California Railway lost its name to the Santa Fe system.

from:
Cajon,  Rail Passage to the Pacific by Chard  L. Walker
Trans-Anglo BooksGlendale, California

1864 Travel Tip – Hold Hostages

From the diary of Sarah J. Rousseau , 1864:
Regarding traveling with Indians across the Mojave

Sunday, November 6 … The lava that has been thrown out looks like cinders. The mountains, some of them have a grand appearance, some a red color while others have a white appearance. Some of them I think must be 400 feet high. This canyon is called Diamond. at the mouth it takes us into Santa Clara Valley which we traveled through and down a pretty dangerous hill to Santa Clara Creek where we got food and shelter for horses. Here came a number of Paiute Indians. they are a tribe that is very fond of horse flesh to eat, and will steal anything they can lay their hands on. We have came today 20 miles.

Santa Clara/Virgin River divide

Monday, November 7. Started from camp late this morning. It is a cold, windy time. The Dr. had to prescribe and deal out medicine for a little child that belonged to a Mormon Bishop. About breakfast time a number of Indians came to the camp and we gave some their breakfast. When we started four of them started with us, three of them on foot and one on horseback. They are miserable looking creatures. Some of them almost entirely destitute of clothing. I believe it is their intention to go to the Muddy with us. as for me I would rather have their room than their company. I am afraid of them. We have crossed the Santa Clara 15 times this morning, and have now camped. It is cold and windy, a real disagreeable time.

Sarah Jane Rousseau

Sarah Jane Rousseau

Tuesday, November 8. A cold blustering morning, the wind blowing hard all night. Started from our camp rather late with an escort of from 10 to 15 Paiute Indians. Last night two of them stayed with us as prisoners. Our guide, Mr. Hatten, said it would not do to let them leave camp after dark, as they might get some other Indians, come back and do us some mischief. We started from camp with five, which increased to 15 of them. We crossed the Santa Clara this morning 14 times in after going 12 miles made a dry camp at Camp Springs, having filled our kegs the last crossing place. the Indian chief told the guide we must all give them something for traveling through their country, to renumerate them for using water and grass. We all gave them some flour. We intend to let them have the care of our horses tonight, they are going to take the cattle as well. The Chief with four others we kept as prisoners till morning when they bring back the stock. Then they will be free.

Virgin River

Virgin River

Wednesday, November 9. A pretty warm morning. Started from camp about sunup. The Indians brought back the stock safely back. Left camp with our escort, traveled over some rough roads till noon. This afternoon the road’s much better. Passed over the summit between the Clara and Virgin, went 5 miles in the canyon and camped. Some grass for the stock but no water.

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp Wyatt's dad.

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp

Thursday, November 10. A cool but pleasant morning. Last night the Indians were prisoners again. They left the stock go on to the mountains to feed. We fed five among us. All are willing to do so but Mr. Earp. He swears and cuts up about it, although he derives the same benefit as the rest of us. I fear he may cause us some trouble when we get to the Muddy. … “

History of Lucerne Valley

by Ethel V. Owen

In the early days, natural springs in what now is Lucerne Valley provided good camping grounds for Indians on their way into the San Bernardino Mountains together pinon nuts. The Indians  resented white pioneers settling in the territory and committed some violent acts against them. Instead of discouraging the settlers, caused them to marshal forces and attack the Indians  who were of the Paiute, Chemehuevi and Serrano tribes. in February 1867 a decisive battle at chimney rock caused the Indians to retreat and leave the territory to the white pioneers. (Chimney Rock is at the north edge of Rabbit Dry Lake. A quite complete story of the Chimney Rock Massacre is available at the Lucerne Valley branch of the county library.)

Rabbit Springs

Rabbit Springs

In July, 1873 five men, L. D. Wilson, John E. McFee, W. S. Manning, W. P. Morrison and (?) Holmes located the springs known as Rabbit Springs. They laid claim to the Springs and 100 surrounding acres 20 acres each according to a recorded document.

In 1884 Peter Davidson operated a way station at Rabbit Springs. Travelers could get fresh water, exchange news, rest and sleep over. “Uncle Pete” died in 1906. His grave is at the corner of Kendall Road and Rabbit Springs Road.

Pete Davidson's grave

Pete Davidson’s grave

In 1886,  W. W. Brown brought his family to this valley, which was without a name at the time. Brown had the water rights at the Box S. (The Box S ranch is where the drainage ditch now crosses Highway 18.) The family stayed at “Uncle Pete’s” until an abandoned house could be moved on to the Box S property.

Box S Ranch, Lucerne Valley, CA.

Box S Ranch, Lucerne Valley, CA.

In 1896 Al Swarthout  acquired the Box S, intending to raise cattle. There was plenty of water but not much  forage. Swarthout and a friend found a place about 15 miles to the east, that had even more water and lots of forage.  after one year he gave up on the Box S  and moved to Old Woman Springs Ranch. (It is said the Indians used to leave their old people camped here while the young ones went into the mountains to forage for pinon nuts.)

In 1897 James Goulding came to the Box S  with his wife Anna and two small children, Mamie and George.  Three more children, Minnie, Jim, and Nelly were born in Lucerne Valley. “Dad” Goulding proved the fertility of our soil with his apple orchard, vegetable garden and alfalfa fields.  He also raised cows, horses and other animals. He dug a well which proved to be artesian.

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

In 1905 a friend suggested to Goulding that this valley should have a name.  Because of his success in growing alfalfa (also  known as lucerne)  he christened this place Lucerne Valley.

Dad Goulding is generally acknowledged as the founder of Lucerne Valley. In 1907 Goulding legally established Lucerne Valley School District. Hanna Brown, a cousin whose family lived in near by Oro Grande, came to live with the Gouldings so the requirement of six students could be met. The school building was a former cook shack on wheels, 8′ x 18′.  With wheels removed and one end of the inside painted black for a blackboard, the school opened on September 9, 1907 on the Box S Ranch.

In the meantime, more families were settling all over Lucerne Valley, and Goulding donated property in 1910 for a new school where the Baptist Church now stands.

In 1912, people in the east end of the valley thought the  school should be closer to them,  so they formed a new school district  to be known  as Midway. Still another school district, Rodman, was formed in North Valley, in 1915.

View of Lucerne Valley from North Valley

View of Lucerne Valley from North Valley

Then, in 1916, windstorms and fire destroyed both Lucerne Valley and Midway schools. all the students attended Rodman school until the other two were rebuilt, which took a couple of years  because of wartime problems. In 1920 Rodman School District lapsed and joined with Midway, which by then was in its present form.

In 1941 was certain school was condemned as unsafe and all  students went to Midway. The building and grounds were purchased by the Community Church ( not the present Community Church) and used until 1952. It was then that the building burned to the ground during a terrific  windstorm at night.  Construction was begun in 1952 on the new Lucerne Valley School at its present site.

Lucerne Valley’s library began in 1912 with 140 books in the front room of the Box S ranch house. Most of them were for school use, but some could be borrowed by local residents. In 1915 the library was at Midway school. In 1916 storm damage some of the books in the library was moved to the Boom Ranch on Wilshire, northeast of Midway. After being closed during World War I, both Midway school and the library reopened in September 1918. The library continued as a combination school-public library until March 1928, when it became a community branch of the county library system.

The Lucerne school building was condemned for school use, so the library moved in. When the church  bought the building, the library was moved into a smaller room there. Later it was moved into a small, narrow trailer behind the present China House.  Ethel Windschanz Clapton, the librarian, said that looking out the little, porthole shaped windows during a strong wind made her feel like she was on a sinking ship.

The library moved begin to the building which was occupied by the Sheriff’s office. Mrs. Vera Russell was one of the librarians at that location. The library then moved into the building generously provided by John Russell (Vera’s  son) at very low rent.  From there moved into its beautiful new permanent home for which ground was broken March 17, 1988.

Lucerne Valley post office was established in 1912 at the ranch of John and Rosa Koehly, who came here in 1909. It was on the southeast corner of Rabbit Springs Road and Post Office road.  (Have you wondered about the road name?) Rosa Koehly  was postmistress. Some days only eight cents worth of stamps were canceled, so that was the postmistress’s salary.

In 1935, the post office moved to a one-room building on the highway, west of the Box S Ranch, with Ed Smith as postmaster.  (Ed Smith was also a licensed electrician  and Scoutmaster of Troop 71,  Lucerne Valley’s first Boy Scout troop, from 1928 to 1933. Some of those scouts are still living here, among them  Harold Reed and Dick Owen.)

Downtown Lucerne Valley, CA.

Downtown Lucerne Valley, CA.

Later the post office moved again, to shared the Clark building with John Hutson’s and Irving Seeberg’s hardware store. ( The Clark building is now occupied by the China House.)  Flora and Clark was postmistress. The post office moved again to “the triangle”  on Verdugo Road at Oracle Road ( now renamed Oracel  by the county street sign makers.)  Early postmasters there were  Vern Ely and Ray Bonin. The post office is now in its permanent location on Highland Avenue south of Highway 18.

A volunteer fire department was first organized during World War II, along with fire watchers, skywatchers, plane watchers, civil defense, etc. In the early 50s a fire house was built with donated material (cinderblock) and volunteer labor.  it was located about where Shell gas station/ Halleck’s Market  is now. They had a unique system. People would phone Dick’s Center Store to report fires. Dick Grobaty would then press a button on his wall, which was wired to the siren on top of the firehouse. That was how the  volunteer firemen were summoned. The building was torn down after a  short period and the present County fire district was formed in 1962-63. At that time it still operated with volunteer firemen and one paid chief.

Lucerne dry lake

Lucerne dry lake

Some of the descendants of the early settlers still live here. John Russell’s father, William Russell in 1911 had filed on land called Lucerne Springs which brought son John here to live in 1949. He has been building houses and commercial buildings ever since. Also in 1911, Theodore P. Owen filed on 640 acres to miles north of Midway school his son, Dick, has come and gone but has lived here steadily since 1950.

View from shack at Gobar Ranch

View from shack at Gobar Ranch

Athene Siewerda  was another very early settler. She was the first to have pistachio trees here. Her son, Joe Sherman, lives here now  Orlando (Jake)  and Mildred Jacobs came here in 1928. There were about 250 people in Lucerne Valley then. At the Jacobs home in North Valley, Jake bake 60 or 70 loaves of bread, sweet rolls, cakes and pies on Saturdays and sold them through Max Lewis’s grocery store. Later he rented from Goulding  the building now housing the Rosebud Gift Shop and established Homestead Bakery and Grocery. At that same time Mildred ran the Jackrabbit Café, located on land now occupied by Halleck’s Market.  In 1936 Jake in Mildred moved their house onto land they bought from the Southern Pacific Railroad, the southeast corner of Barstow Road and old woman Springs Road. The Jacobs  donated 10 acres of their land which is now Pioneer Park. As Jake’s health failed, Mildred gave up  the café  and ran the Homestead Bakery. She, along with other citizens, still found time to clear implant for the park, along with other citizens. The Jacobs had two daughters, Shirley Ann  and Millie Lou. Millie Lou lives in Maryland and Shirley Ann (Mrs. Bob Fuller)  lives in Apple Valley.

Ethel Owen came in 1946 as Ethel  Johnston and built Lucerne Valley’s first beauty shop.  Ethel  and Dick Owen  were married in 1950 in the old community church and their daughter, Lilli Ann, born in 1952, was dedicated there shortly before it burned down.

The foregoing was prepared by  Ethel Owen  on March 25, 1988 from material obtained from Lucerne Valley library and from her own memory. She apologizes for any inaccuracy of dates of facts and/or  omissions. There is much to be added that could not be contained in these pages.

From: History of Lucerne Valley by Ethel V. Owen
Mohahve V – Scrapbooks of History – 1991, 2016
Mojave Historical Society

A Bottle Full of Teeth

John Searles

John Searles

John W Searles‘  bottle full of his own teeth was a reminder of one of the most remarkable encounters with the grizzly bear ever related in San Bernardino County.

While hunting deer in March, 1870, Searles, a miner  and hunter,  came to the brink of  a precipice, and saw in the valley that spread out before him two fully grown  bears  and a cub. Although he had only for good cartridges, he had contrived to make a few extra makeshift loads for his gun from a misfit box of ammunition which had  been sent  to him by mistake.

Searles  entered the valley and road for hours over rough, snow-covered country, looking for the bears, before he finally came upon one sleeping under a clump of brush.  He fired a shot  and the bear rolled over from the impact of the bullet.  two more shots finished them. Then, nearby, Searles heard the sound of another bear.

Wet with snow, Searles worked his way cautiously through the brush,  only to be surprised when a second massive bear reared up before him, its nose scarcely 10 feet away.  the thick brush made it impossible to step back   and aim. Searles  jammed another bullet in his rifle and pulled the trigger, but there was no report. It was one of the off size cartridges.
grizzly bear
Before he could try a third time, the grizzly charged, mouth agape. Searles  tried to jam his rifle down the bear’s  throat. The animal flung the weapon aside and threw Searles to the ground.  With one foot on the hunter’s breast, the grizzly bit off a large section of Searles’ lower jaw, then gashed his throat and laid bare his shoulder bone. Searles managed to roll over, his coat doubled up on his back in a  hump. The bear bit the coat once and left.

Despite his mangled condition, Searles recovered his horse and, with the freezing cold sealing his ruptured veins, road 4 miles to a camp, where he received first aid before proceeding on a three-day trip to a Los Angeles hospital.   Doctors  gave him no chance to live, but three weeks after they had patched, sewed and pieced him together, the hunter was up and able to get around.

For years afterward, Searles kept in his desk a 2 ounce bottle containing 21 pieces of broken bone and teeth, torn from his lower jaw  by the grizzly. And, in the corner of his office,  his old Spencer rifle stood, its lock  showing clearly the  dents of the grizzly’s vicious teeth.

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

More about John Searles

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 . . .

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

Charles Brown at Greenwater

From “Loafing Along Death Valley Trails” by William Carruthers

Charles Brown General Store - Shoshone, Ca.

Charles Brown General Store – Shoshone, Ca.

The story of Charles Brown and the Shoshone store begins in Greenwater. In the transient hordes of people that poured into that town, there was one who had not come for quick, easy money. On his own since he was 11 when he had gone to work in  a Georgia mine, he only wanted a job. And he got it. In the excited, loose-talking mob, he was conspicuous because he was silent, calm, and unhurried.

There were no law enforcement officers in Greenwater.  The jail was 150 miles away. Every day was a field day for the toughs in the town. Better citizens decided to do something about it. They petitioned George Naylor, Inyo County Sheriff at Independence to appoint or send a deputy to keep some semblance of order.

Naylor sent over a badge and a note that said, “Pin it on some husky youngster, who is unmarried and unafraid and tell him to shoot first.”

The Citizens’ Committee met. ” I know a fellow who answers that description,”  one of them said. ” Steady sort. Built like a panther. Comes from Georgia. Kind slow motion in till he is ready to spring. Name is Brown.”

The badge was pinned on Charles Brown.

Charles & Stella Brown

Greenwater was a port of call for Death Valley Slim, a character of the Western deserts, who normally was a happy-go-lucky likable fellow. Periodically Slim would fill himself with desert “likker”,  his belt with six guns and terrorized the town.

Shortly after Brown assumed the duties of his office, Slim sent word to the deputy that he was on his way to that place for a little frolic. ” Tell him, ”  he coached the messenger, “Sheriffs rile me and he better take a vacation.”

After notifying the merchants and residents who promptly barricaded themselves indoors, the officer found shelter for himself  in Beatty, Nevada.

So Slim only seen empty streets and barge shutters upon arrival.  Since there was nothing to shoot at, he  headed through Dead Mead Canyon for Greenwater.  their he found the main street crowded to his liking and the saloons jammed. He made for the nearest, ordered a drink and, whipping out his gun, began to pop the bottles on the shelves. At first blast, patrons made a break for the exits. At the second, the doors and windows were smashed and when Slim holstered his gun, the place was a wreck.

Messengers were sent for Brown, who was at his cabin a mile away. Brown’s stuck a pistol in his pocket and went down. He found Slim in Waddell’s saloon, the town’s smartest.  their Slim had refused to let the patrons leave with the bartenders cowed, the patrons cornered, Slim was amusing himself by shooting alternately at chandeliers, the feet of customers, and the plump breasts of the nude lady featured in the painting behind the bar.  following Brown at a safe distance, was half of the population, keyed for the massacre.

Brown walked in and said “Hello Slim”. ” Fellows tell me you  are hogging all the fun. Better let me have that  gun, hadn’t you?” “Like hell,” Slim sneered, ” I’ll let you have it right through the guts.”

As he raised his gun for the kill, the panther sprung  and the battle was on.  they fought one over the bar room –  standing up, laying down, rolling over –  first one, then the other on top. Tables toppled, chairs crashed. For half an hour they battled savagely, finally rolling against the bar –  both  mauled and bloody. There, with his strong vice-like  legs  wrapped around Slim’s  and in arm of steel gripping net and shoulder, Brown slipped irons over the bad man’s wrist. ” Get up,”  Brown ordered as he stood aside, breathing hard.

Greenwater, Ca. ghost town site, Death Valley National Park

Slim rose, leaned against the bar. There was fight still in him and seeing a bottle in front of him, he had seized it with manacled hands, started to lift it.

” Slim,”  Brown said calmly , ” if you lift that bottle, you’ll never lift another.”

The bad boy instinctively knew the look that foretells death and Slim’s fingers fell from the  bottle.

Greenwater had no jail. Brown took him to his own cabin. Leaving the manacles on the prisoner, he took off his shoes and locked  him in a closet.  no man, drunk or sober, he reflected, would tackle barefoot the gravel street littered with thousands of broken liquor bottles.  He went to bed.

Waking later, he discovered that Slim had vanished and with him, Brown’s size 12 shoes.  Brown tried Slim’s shoes but couldn’t get his feet into them. There was nothing to do but follow barefoot.

He left a bloodstained trail, but at 2 AM he found Slim in a blacksmith shop, having the handcuffs removed. Brown retrieved his shoes and on the return trip, Slim went barefoot. After hog tying the prisoner, Brown chained  him to the bed and went to sleep.

Thereafter, the bad boys scratched Greenwater off their calling list.

Slim attained fame with  Pancho Villa down in Mexico,  became a good citizen and later went east.

courtesy – Mohahve Historical Society archives