Category Archives: Profiles & Biographies

Nothing but Jackrabbits

Much the same as for anywhere and anyone else, times were both good and not so good. Once, after a forty day stretch of having nothing but jackrabbit to eat, their pet badger found its way to the dinner plate. The Mitchell’s felt terrible about it, but what has to be done has to be done. From the experience, Jack came up with the following technique for preparing badger:

First remove the head and hide and probably the insides. Mix a generous amount of dish soap, a gallon bottle of PineSol, and a goodly quantity of Alka Seltzer together in a large wash tub. Don’t forget the Alka Seltzer because if you happen to taste the meat, or get some in you, the seltzer will fizz and the animal will think a rattlesnake crawled into its hole and it’ll come right out of you possibly leaving you alive. Soak the badger in it for six weeks. This will give the meat a shiny, silky texture when you take it out of the oven and gives the chemicals a chance to thoroughly penetrate the meat and saturate it with its subtle and aromatic chemicals.

Jack and Ida Mitchell of Mitchell Caverns

Jack and Ida Mitchell

Your badger is now ready for the oven. Next, find an old piece of concrete that will fit in the oven. Strap the badger to the concrete, surround with overly-ripe limburger cheese, then salt and pepper liberally. Be sure to tie the badger down tight to the concrete as you don’t want it to escape-it may still be able to. Place the whole thing in the oven that has been preheated to 500 degrees. Next, set the temperature to 2800 degrees and call in a fire alarm. After the fire is put out, open all the doors and windows to get some fresh air in the room, pry open the molten oven door, scrape the badger and cheese off the slab, throw them in the garbage and eat the concrete. I recommend serving with a sledge hammer and suggest a boiling pot of very strong coffee to wash it down. You’ll need it.

More about Jack Mitchell

 

Junior’s Ranch

Mrs. Kemper Campbell
by Eva Neal

Mrs. Kemper Campbell, with her husband and their law partner, Mr. Sorenson, acquired the Verde Ranch in 1924. Mrs. Campbell, now 76 years of age, recalls that the original Verde ranch was approximately 4000 acres. The Campbells  retained the north portion of 1900 acres, while Mr. Sorenson retained the south portion. Part of the Kalin ranch, from the south portion along Bear Valley Road, is now being developed for the new Victor Valley College.

Verde/Kemper Campbell Ranch

Verde/Kemper Campbell Ranch

Mrs. Campbell describes the red House is consisting of nine rooms and in good repair. The print of the red House is used to the courtesy of Mr.’s is Campbell and it is from her collection. The “red house” was built in 1870 by John Brown Sr. and was used by the Mormons as a hotel and stopover. It was a meeting place of the pioneers on  their journeys south to the San Bernardino Valley.  In 1867, John Brown homesteaded the Verde Rancho, which became the first major ranch of the Mojave River Valley.  Horse  and cattle raising and production of alfalfa have been the major uses of the ranch by a succession of owners:  the Coles, Sterlings and Greers before the Campbells and Mr. Sorenson became owners. The Campbells operated their portion as a working ranch. In the 1930s they added attractions for guests, and for many years it was well known as the “North  Verde.”  after the death of their oldest son during World War II the name was changed to “Kemper Campbell Jr. Ranch”  in his memory.

Adapted from Mohahve I – Scrapbooks of History, page 93 – Mohahve Historical Society

The Father of San Bernardino County

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

picture of Jefferson Hunt

Jefferson Hunt – LDS photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Ellen Baley – Lost in the Desert Night

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

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

~ Charles W. Baley

Coyote Holes

Note on: Freeman Stage Station (Coyote Holes).

Robber's Roost near Freeman Junction

Robber’s Roost near Freeman Station

Freeman Station was established by the ex-stage driver Freeman S. Raymond in 1872. On the last day of February, 1874, the Station was attacked by Tiburcio Vasquez. Although the station occupants had surrendered, “Old Tex” (who was sleeping in the barn) awoke and fired at Vasquez, wounding him in the leg.

Tiburcio Vasquez

Tiburcio Vasquez the ‘Gentleman’ bandito.

Vasquez returned fire and delivered a leg wound to Tex (Pracchia, 1994). In 1894, Freeman’s parcel became the first homestead in Indian Wells Valley.
~ R. Reynolds

 

 

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Illustrator of Mojave Desert flora

Henry R. Mockle (1905-1981),
Illustrator of Mojave Desert flora

Rather than documenting the structure of each plant species in scientific detail, Henry Mockle intended to his illustrations would capture “the pleasurable feeling at coming up on one of these little creations”.

Henry Mockle painting of desert Indian paintbrush

Paintbrush

As did naturalist Edmund Jaeger, Mockle took pride in all his studies of desert plants being taken directly from life. This work often involves lying on the ground for hours, in conditions ranging from hot to cold, windy to wet. As some annual plants – like the Phacelia – per growing up and through the protective spread of woody shrubs. Mockle found he had to lay beneath creosote bushes and other scrub vegetation to depict these wildflowers in full.

Henry Mockle painting of coyote melon

Coyote melon

 

Painting of desert mallow

Desert Mallow

 

Source: Riverside Metropolitan Museum

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The Man Who Was Hanged Twice

Skidoo came to life because of a fog. When Harry Ramsey and a man called One-eye Thompson lost their way on a road leading to the new boom camp of Harrisburg, they stopped to rest near a log lying against an outcropping of rock. When the fog lifted, the rock turned out to be gold. This was back in 1905. In deciding upon a name for the town that sprung up, a numerologist associated a popular expression of the day, 23-Skidoo, with the fact that a Rhyolite man named Bob Montgomery had successfully piped water from Telescope Peak 23 miles away and suggested the name Skidoo. So it became.

Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park

Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park

Old timers say the camp produced over a million dollars worth of gold ore between its discovery and its demise some 20 years later. Skidoo’s chief claim to fame, however, was not its riches. Rather, it was an infamous lynching of a scoundrel named Joe Simpson in 1908.

On a tour to the ghost town of Skidoo in 1962, we were privileged to be accompanied by an 87-year-old gentleman named George Cook. The interesting thing about Mr. Cook was that it was he who pulled on the rope at the lynching. His participation had only recently been divulged to a few intimate friends—after all others involved had passed on to their rewards, or whatever.

Joe "Hooch" Simpson

Joe “Hooch” Simpson

“Joe Simpson,” Mr. Cook told us, ‘was a would-be villain who had killed a man at Keeler after shooting-up Jack Gun’s Saloon in Independence the preceding year. He’d somehow gotten off and drifted to Skidoo where he became a partner with Fred Oakes in the Gold Seal Saloon. Across the street was Jim Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company.

“Arnold was a friendly, well-liked man and had always been on good terms with Simpson, but Simpson became drunk and abusive one April morning and decided to hold up a bank situated in part of Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company. Apprehended, his gun was taken away and hidden by the deputy sheriff, but a little later Simpson found his weapon and returned to the store to shoot Jim Arnold. He then turned on two other men who had come to the rescue, but his aim was poor and both escaped. Eventually Simpson was overpowered and placed under guard in the deputy sheriff’s cabin. Unfortunately,” Mr. Cook lamented, “the popular Jim Arnold died that night.”

Skidoo went wild with indignation. After Arnold’s funeral, which the entire camp attended, a group went to the improvised jail, led the prisoner out at the end of a rope and hanged him to the nearest telephone pole. When Sheriff Nailor from Independence arrived, after a hazardous trip over rough roads via Tonopah and Rhyolite, he made the now famous statement, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Inyo County; it saved us $25,000!”

But this wasn’t the end. Several spectators had forgotten their cameras and wanted pictures of the hanging. So, Joe Simpson’s body was obligingly strung up again, this time from the ridgepole of the tent where he was “laid out.” News of this gruesome encore spread and the lynching won everlasting fame. In his private narrative of the event, George Cook added a factor never before related: “Joe was dead before we got the rope around his neck; he died of a heart attack (from fright) and was already gone when dragged to the telephone pole scaffold.”

It was also he, George Cook confessed, who assisted Dr. MacDonald in removing the head from Simpson’s corpse. The doctor, it seems, had once performed an operation on Simpson s nose and wanted to make a further medical study of the case. Going at night, they performed the severence at the lonely prospect hole where Simpson’s body had been tossed. (No one in Skidoo would give him a decent burial, so great was the indignation at his senseless crime). The skull was exhibited for a period in a showcase at Wildrose, but later disappeared.

The remainder of the skeleton resisted oblivion, however. Years later when George Cook returned to Skidoo to work in the mill, an agitated prospector appeared one day to report a headless skeleton of a man who’d evidently been murdered. Because Cook was the only old timer around at the time, he was consulted. Indeed a crime had been committed sometime, he agreed, but of the details he had conveniently forgotten.

Last year George Cook passed away. Small in stature, religious, mild-tempered and giving to writing sentimental verse, he was the antithesis of our Western idea of a vigilante. The role forced upon him by his acute anger over the murder of a friend bothered this good man to the end of his days. His belief that Simpson did not expire at his hand appeared to be a real comfort. And, perhaps he was right. We cannot disagree, for George Cook was there.

Much interesting history is connected with the now defunct Skidoo. Following its early boom, the town was deserted for a period, then, under new management, the mine and mill reopened during the 1930s and a period of production occurred. The old wild days never returned, however, and its fame as a mining camp still rests upon the lynching incident —to which we add, “Joe Simpson did not die because of a rope and a telephone pole. He died of a heart attack!”

by Myrtle Nyles – November 1964 – Desert Magazine

Editor’s Note: This is but one version of this story, and it is worth saying that it has generated many other versions and stories through its telling.

History of Skidoo

In January 1906 two wandering prospectors, John Ramsey and John (One-Eye) Thompson were headed towards the new gold strike at Harrisburg. Along the way a blinding fog came in and the two camped near Emigrant Spring for fear of getting lost. … More

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Special Delivery

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now

Jack and Margaret Nelson, were a very nice couple, who lived on the corner of Olive and E Street. They had three dogs, two were copper-colored police dogs, named Penny and Copper, and one chow dog, named sugar. My parents became very good friends with them. They had a cow, and we soon started buying our milk from them, until they moved away.

After the Nelsons left the area we started purchasing our melt from the Snell Dairy and Creamery Company that was located in Apple Valley. Dick and Winnie Weening took over the milk routes, serving all the high desert, as far as State Line in 1942. In 1943, the Weening family purchased the dairy and the name of Snell Dairy.  The milk was delivered in glass bottles and the empty bottles were picked up with the next delivery. The milkman would even put the full milk bottles in the refrigerator.  There will never be service like that again.
599-snell-dairy-hesperia
This photo was taken in 1945 or 1946, and was provided by Barbara Weening Davisson, daughter of Dick and Winnie Weening. She notes, that the picture is of the Johnny Weening, driver and Iva Weening Carpenter, with son Jerry (standing), Phil McGurn, being held.

~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

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Hesperia, California

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Walters’ General Store

We did what shopping money would allow, at Roy Walters’ general store. We purchased some beans, flour and canned food items, (canned tuna for my mother and me and canned sardines were for my daddy) gas for the vehicle, and I remember ice for the icebox and we also picked up our mail. The post office was located inside of the store, in our mailing address was PO Box 166, Hesperia, CA. There were no ZIP Codes back in those days.
599-walters-r6533
The store was indeed a general store. They carried just about everything a person would need. There was a glass enclosed section that had any candy, which always drew my attention. There was a very large glass jar that sat on the counter that held dill pickles. I remembered these, because I liked both. There were shelves with items all the way from food, medicine, cosmetics two blankets. I remember a large cabinet that had a lot of small drawers, with labels on them. But I do not remember what was in the drawers. I think there were a couple wood barrels sitting on the floor and many items hanging on the walls. If I remember right, I think the butcher shop was located in the back of the store with a cold storage box to keep the meat from spoiling.. I do not remember if the bread was sliced. But I do remember that oleomargarine, (butter substitute) was non-colored and you had to mix a yellow powder packet into it, to make it yellow.

There was a wooden barn that sat next to the store, where the hay and grain was stored. The gas pump was located in front of the store. I only remember one, but there must’ve been to. I am not sure what brand gas they sold. I do remember that you could buy oil for your vehicle or what equipment you might have at home. I do not remember, but going by the fact that the Walters store carry just about everything, I would guess they also sold batteries for your vehicle and equipment, else well as for your radio and flashlight.

For the longest time, they had the only telephone in this area. And going by history, the railroad station had a telegraph office. The Hesperia depot set almost across the street from the store.

Roy and Laura were both extremely friendly and up on the latest gossip. Roy loved to talk, and so did my daddy, so they would talk for what seemed like hours.

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now
~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

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Hesperia, California

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‘Billy Goat’ Thompson

Rock house, Hesperia, CA.

Rock house

Our nearest neighbor, was a Dr. Nelson, who lived in the large rock house further up Highway 173 on the next bend in the road. He was a Seventh-day Adventist who spent weekends there and would manage to come to our house at dinner time. Daddy would always ask him if he would like to stay for dinner, and he would always say yes, and eat meat. Our neighbor on the other side, which would have been on Lake Arrowhead Road, was an old man my daddy called ‘Billy Goat’ Thompson. My guess is, that his real name was Russell Wilson Thompson, but because he raised goats, people had given him the name of ‘Billy Goat’ Thompson. He was a rather dirty man, with a tattered clothing and a beard. I remember that he lived in a cave and had a number of working herd dogs, that I enjoyed watching. I remember that he had a very gentle voice and that he loved his animals.

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now
~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

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Hesperia, California