Category Archives: Profiles & Biographies

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

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 “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

 

 

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

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