Category Archives: Old Spanish Trail

The Stoddard Boys

Of all the brother acts operating in and around San Bernardino County during the Mormon period, Few accomplished more for the ultimate benefit of the area than the Stoddard boys, Arvin and Sheldon.

Neither cut an imposing figure. Arvin, the quiet one, was only 5’5″ tall and weighed 135 pounds soaking wet, while Sheldon wasn’t much larger.  But what they lacked in height they more than made up in spirit.

Arvin, however,   had an imposing ally in his wife Caroline. She was 6 feet tall and weighed well over 200 pounds —  a formidable Amazon and an extremely vocal one too. One is tempted to ask if she carried him across the threshold on their wedding night.

She became Arvin’s mouthpiece and  did not hesitate to make her opinions known, particularly when the chips were down. As their grandson, R. Jackson Stoddard  wrote in the March 1970 issue of the LA Westerners Branding Iron, “For although she followed the will of her husband, in many cases the will of her husband was truly only a reflection of her own wants and desires.”

Stoddard Mountain

Stoddard Mountain

Today, a stretch of the Mojave Desert between Victorville and Daggett is blanketed with sites bearing the Stoddard’s names. They include the Stoddard Mountains, Stoddard Hills, Stoddard gulch, Stoddard Valley, Stoddard Well and Stoddard Wells Road —  all  directly attributable  to Arvin’s work in the area during the 1850s and 60s.

Flag of the Mormon Battailion

Flag of the Mormon Battailion (note spelling)

There were four Stoddard Brothers at the beginning; Rufus, Albert, Arvin and Sheldon, who were all born in Canada. When their father died in 1838, mother Jane gathered them all up and crossed the United States border, first to Ohio in then to Warsaw, Illinois, where she became hooked on the Mormon religion. When the church made it’s great trek to Salt Lake City in 1847, she and her boys were in the initial contingent.

Rufus was the first of the boys to reach California, arriving in San Diego as a member of the Mormon Battalion. After his group was disbanded in Los Angeles, he remained in the area for almost a year before he rejoining his family at Salt Lake City in 1849.

Sheldon was the next to go. Leaving Salt Lake in 1848, along with  30 other men found for the placer diggings near hang town, they traveled as far as Mountain Meadows with a larger company who hired Capt. Jefferson Hunt to guide them to Los Angeles over the Old Spanish Trail.

At the Meadows they left Hunt’s party and turned west to take what they thought was a shortcut to the gold fields and for the next 17 days blindly followed a false trail without a guide, compass or map to go by.

On the 18th day, hopelessly lost in facing death without water their lives were spared when a sudden rain squall drenched the area.   As Sheldon later wrote, “We caught the water by spreading out our rubber blankets on the ground and drank it with a spoon.”

They then turned east on the Muddy River, followed at South until they fortunately encountered Capt. Hunt’s company again and accompanied it up the Mojave River, through Cajon Pass and down to the Chino Ranch.

Crowder Canyon, Cajon Pass

Crowder Canyon – Old Spanish Trail

Tragically enough, on the same trip another group of would-be minors left Hunt’s command at Provo, Utah, insisting they also knew a shorter route to the gold fields, only to blunder into Death Valley, where five died before the survivors made it to Los Angeles.

Death Valley

Death Valley

From Chino the party went on to Mariposa, where they broke up to mine, while Stoddard ran a trading post in nearby Carson Valley  for a few months before returning to Salt Lake with a herd of horses and mules.

in March 1851 Sheldon married Jane Hunt, daughter of Capt. Hunt, and the following month they accompanied the first group of Mormon colonizers to the San Bernardino Valley, making temporary camp at Sycamore Grove.

After the Mormons purchased the San Bernardino Rancho that September, and moved down into the valley, Sheldon built the first  log cabin in the settlement on First Street,, west of I Street. His cabin was later moved to and made part of the Westside of this stockade constructed on the present courthouse site as protection against hostile Indians.

For the next 14 years Sheldon Stoddard was engaged in freighting and carrying mail between San Bernardino and Salt Lake City, crossing the Mojave 24 times in all. In 1865 he made one trip to Nevada in Montana with a mule team which covered  over 1300 miles, and took six months to complete.

Arvin Stoddard and his wife also came to San Bernardino with the first Mormon train and lived in the stockade for three years before receiving an urgent message from Mormon leader Brigham Young, authorizing him to investigate a gold strike in the Calico Hills to see if he could ” obtain as much gold as possible to help finance the founding and furtherance of the faith,”  keeping only enough to live on during the venture.

Calico hills

Calico Hills

Arvin and Caroline,  ardent church devotees, packed their wagon and with their poor young children in tow, headed for the hills without hesitation.

Mojave River at Afton Canyon

Mojave River at Afton Canyon

But before looking for gold, Arvin  search for water to raise crops to feed his family and stock and to flush through sluice boxes used to separate flakes of gold from the desert sand.

One of his more successful wells, known as Stoddard Well, is still flowing today and besides furnishing the family with ample water, also  provided and impetus  for others to break out a new road on almost a straight line from Lane’s Crossing,  near today’s Oro Grande, to Fish Ponds Station  between present-day Barstow and Daggett, thereby saving many miles compared with the old route, which followed the westward band of the Mojave River.

Although it took him almost 8 years of prospecting, Arvin  finally struck a rich claim and extracted a sum that Caroline estimated at  $60,000   before calling it quits  and lighting out for Salt Lake City to hand to Brigham Young.

But before they reach the Mormon Temple, they were held up by Indians and robbed of all their hard-earned loot, except for a few thousand dollars hidden in Caroline’s underwear.

As her grandson related, “The Indians were neither red nor brown.  they were more white than any Indian she (Caroline)  had ever seen.”  Caroline deduced they were renegade Mormons, acting on behalf of the church, and  although her suspicions were never resolved, her once benevolent attitude toward the Mormon hierarchy  changed overnight and led to her eventual break  with the church.

In 1869 the Arvin Stoddards  move to Milford, Utah, where they build a hotel called, naturally, “The  Stoddard House,”  where they lived until Caroline died in 1904.

Sheldon Stoddard remained in San Bernardino for the rest of his life, Rev. and honored by all who knew him for his contributions to the county and state.

Blue Cut - Cajon Pass

Blue Cut – Cajon Pass

After serving as president of the pioneer society, he spent his final years  surrounded by old friends like John Brown and Billy Holcomb. They camped and fished together in their mountain retreats and dedicated monuments to the pioneers in Cajon Pass.  he was active up to the day of his death in 1919 at the age of 89.

From:

Heritage Tales 1988
by Fred Holladay
published by the City of San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society

Naming Death Valley

In 1849 in the rush to the goldfields of California the Bennett-Arcane party of the Mojave-San Joaquin wagon train decided to try an unknown shortcut and became stranded in what is now known as Death Valley.  Two young men, William L. Manly and John Rogers walked out, across the desert and into the canyons north of Los Angeles.  At a rancho in San Francisquito canyon they managed to get a white horse and a one-eyed mule as well as supplies then they walked back to those who were remaining at the camp.  Once they returned they led the lost party to safety. Following are their observations of the topography of the Mojave and how Manly claimed Death Valley got its name.

While waiting for the women Bennett and Arcane wanted to go out and get a good view of the great snowy mountain I had told them so much about. The best point of view was near our camp, perhaps three or four hundred yards away, and I went with them. This place where we now stood was lower than the mountains either north or south, but were difficult to climb, and gave a good view in almost every direction, and there, on the back bone of the ridge we had a grand outlook, but some parts of it brought back doleful recollections. They said they had traveled in sight of that mountain for months and seen many strange formations, but never one like this, as developed from this point. It looked to be seventy-five miles to its base, and to the north and west there was a succession of snowy peaks that seemed to have no end. Bennett and Arcane said they never before supposed America contained mountains so grand with peaks that so nearly seemed to pierce the sky. Nothing except a bird could ever cross such steep ranges as that one.

West and south it seemed level, and low, dark and barren buttes rose from the plain, but never high enough to carry snow, even at this season of the year. I pointed out to them the route we were to follow, noting the prominent points, and it could be traced for fully one hundred and twenty-five miles from the point on which we stood. This plain, with its barren ranges and buttes is now known as the Mojave Desert. This part of the view they seemed to study over, as if to fix every point and water hole upon their memory. We turned to go to camp, but no one looked back on the country we had come over since we first made out the distant snow peak, now so near us, on November 4th 1849. The only butte in this direction that carried snow was the one where we captured the Indian and where the squashes were found.

The range next east of us across the low valley was barren to look upon as a naked, single rock. There were peaks of various heights and colors, yellow, blue fiery red and nearly black. It looked as if it might sometime have been the center of a mammoth furnace. I believe this range is known as the Coffin’s Mountains. It would be difficult to find earth enough in the whole of it to cover a coffin.

Just as we were ready to leave and return to camp we took off our hats, and then overlooking the scene of so much trial, suffering and death spoke the thought uppermost saying:–“_Good bye Death Valley!”_ then faced away and made our steps toward camp. Even after this in speaking of this long and narrow valley over which we had crossed into its nearly central part, and on the edge of which the lone camp was made, for so many days, it was called Death Valley.

Many accounts have been given to the world as to the origin of the name and by whom it was thus designated but ours were the first visible footsteps, and we the party which named it the saddest and most dreadful name that came to us first from its memories.

from: Wm. L. Manly – Death Valley in ’49 – Chap. X

A Massacre at Resting Springs

From: Shoshone Country; Resting Springs – Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by W. Caruthers

Fremont 1844

Early in 1843, John C. Fremont led a party of 39 men from Salt Lake City northward to Fort Vancouver and in November of that year, started on the return trip to the East. This trip was interrupted when he found his party threatened by cold and starvation and he faced about; crossed the Sierra Nevada and went to Sutter’s Fort. After resting and outfitting, he set out for the East by the southerly route over the old Spanish trail, which leads through the Shoshone region.

Old Spanish Trail - Bitter Springs, Fort Irwin

Bitter Springs

At a spring somewhere north of the Mojave River he made camp. The water nauseated some of his men and he moved to another. Identification of these springs has been a matter of dispute and though historians have honestly tried to identify them, the fact remains that none can say “I was there.”

In the vicinity were several springs any of which may have been the one referred to by Fremont in his account of the journey. Among these were two water holes indicated on early maps as Agua de Tio Mesa, and another as Agua de Tomaso.

Red Pass on the Old Spanish Trail

Red Pass on the Old Spanish Trail between Bitter Springs and Salt Spring

There are several springs of nauseating water in the area and some of the old timers academically inclined, insisted that Fremont probably camped at Saratoga Springs, which afforded a sight of Telescope Peak or at Salt Spring, nine miles east on the present Baker-Shoshone Highway at Rocky Point.

Salt Springs ACEC

Salt Spring

Kit Carson was Fremont’s guide. Fremont records that two Mexicans rode into his camp on April 27, 1844, and asked him to recover some horses which they declared had been stolen from them by Indians at the Archilette Spring, 13 miles east of Shoshone.

Christopher “Kit” Carson

One of the Mexicans was Andreas Fuentes, the other a boy of 11 years—Pablo Hernandez. While the Indians were making the raid, the boy and Fuentes had managed to get away with 30 of the horses and these they had left for safety at a water hole known to them as Agua de Tomaso. They reported that they had left Pablo’s father and mother and a man named Santiago Giacome and his wife at Archilette Spring.

With Fremont, besides Kit Carson, was another famed scout, Alexander Godey, a St. Louis Frenchman—a gay, good looking dare devil who later married Maria Antonia Coronel, daughter of a rich Spanish don and became prominent in California.

In answer to the Mexicans’ plea for help, Fremont turned to his men and asked if any of them wished to aid the victims of the Piute raid. He told them he would furnish horses for such a purpose if anyone cared to volunteer. Of the incident Kit Carson, who learned to write after he was grown, says in his dictated autobiography: “Godey and myself volunteered with the expectation that some men of our party would join us. They did not. We two and the Mexicans … commenced the pursuit.”

Fuentes’ horse gave out and he returned to Fremont’s camp that night, but Godey, Carson, and the boy went on. They had good moonlight at first but upon entering a deep and narrow canyon, utter blackness came, even shutting out starlight, and Carson says they had to “feel for the trail.”

Amargosa River, Tecopa

Amargosa River, Tecopa

One may with reason surmise that Godey and Carson proceeded through the gorge that leads to the China Ranch and now known as Rainbow Canyon. When they could go no farther they slept an hour, resumed the hunt and shortly after sunrise, saw the Indians feasting on the carcass of one of the stolen horses. They had slain five others and these were being boiled. Carson’s and Godey’s horses were too tired to go farther and were hitched out of sight among the rocks. The hunters took the trail afoot and made their way into the herd of stolen horses.

Rainbow Canyon/China Ranch

Rainbow Canyon/China Ranch

Says Carson: “A young one got frightened. That frightened the rest. The Indians noticed the commotion … sprang to their arms. We now considered it time to charge on the Indians. They were about 30 in number. We charged. I fired, killing one. Godey fired, missed but reloaded and fired, killing another. There were only three shots fired and two were killed. The remainder ran. I … ascended a hill to keep guard while Godey scalped the dead Indians. He scalped the one he shot and was proceeding toward the one I shot. He was not yet dead and was behind some rocks. As Godey approached he raised, let fly an arrow. It passed through Godey’s shirt collar. He again fell and Godey finished him.”

Tecopa

Tecopa

Subsequently it was discovered that Godey hadn’t missed, but that both men had fired at the same Indian as proven by two bullets found in one of the dead Indians. Godey called these Indians “Diggars.” The one with the two bullets was the one who sent the arrow through Godey’s collar and when Godey was scalping him, “he sprang to his feet, the blood streaming from his skinned head and uttered a hideous yowl.” Godey promptly put him out of his pain.

They returned to camp. Writes Fremont: “A war whoop was heard such as Indians make when returning from a victorious enterprise and soon Carson and Godey appeared, driving before them a band of horses recognized by Fuentes to be part of those they had lost. Two bloody scalps dangling from the end of Godey’s gun….”

John Charles Fremont

John Charles Fremont

Fremont wrote of it later: “The place, object and numbers considered, this expedition of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest and most disinterested which the annals of Western adventure so full of daring deeds can present.” It was indeed a gallant response to the plea of unfortunates whom they’d never seen before and would never see again.

When Fremont and his party reached the camp of the Mexicans they found the horribly butchered bodies of Hernandez, Pablo’s father, and Giacome. The naked bodies of the wives were found somewhat removed and shackled to stakes.

Fremont changed the name of the spring from Archilette to Agua de Hernandez and as such it was known for several years. He took the Mexican boy, Pablo Hernandez, with him to Missouri where he was placed with the family of Fremont’s father-in-law, U. S. Senator Thomas H. Benton. The young Mexican didn’t care for civilization and the American way of life and in the spring of 1847 begged to be returned to Mexico. Senator Benton secured transportation for him on the schooner Flirt, by order of the Navy, and he was landed at Vera Cruz—a record of which is preserved in the archives of the 30th Congress, 1848.

Three years later a rumor was circulated that the famed bandit, Joaquin Murietta was no other than Pablo Hernandez.

Lieutenant, afterwards Colonel, Brewerton was at Resting Springs in 1848 with Kit Carson who then was carrying important messages for the government to New Mexico. He found the ground white with the bleached bones of other victims of the desert Indians. Brewerton calls them Pau Eutaws.

-end-

(editor’s note: the dates do not match up placing Pablo as either Joaquin Murrieta or his nephew Propacio  so this was just a rumor,)

Across the Mojave – Mountain Meadows

Mountain Meadows–the dark valley where in late 1857 the murder of 135 men, women and children took place. They were rendered defenseless and surrendered after several days of siege on their defensive circle of wagons losing 10 men in the battle. The unsuspecting victims, expecting to be led to a local town were marched up a hill and the slaughter began in earnest.

The Old Spanish Trail enters the Mojave from the northeast south of Mountain Meadows in Utah.

In 1864 Sarah Rousseau came through the site on her way to California with the Earp family noting the following comments in her diary;

They arrived here in September, ’57, where they were murdered in cold blood by the Mormons. There was a monument raised to their memory once before, but the Mormons tore it down. This spring sometime in May, some soldiers came through California and erected this monument and dared any of the Mormons to touch it.

Mountain Meadows

Mountain Meadows

There were survivors. She continued;

There were 150 cruelly butchered men women and children, only six small children, too young to tell the tale, were suffered to live. They are at Salt Lake City. I cannot for a moment suppose that such barbarism will be buried in oblivion. “Oh, it cannot be.” It will be brought to light and the aggressors punished.

Mountain Meadows

Brevet Major Henry Carleton led his troops into the area discovering the hastily buried bodies at the massacre site.

Maj. J. H. Carleton

Maj. J. H. Carleton

In his special report of 1859 the Major did not hold back his distaste for Mormons and these events;

“In pursuing the bloody thread which runs throughout this picture of sad realities, the question how this crime, that for hellish atrocity has no parallel in our history, can be adequately punished often comes up and seeks in vain for an answer. Judge Cradlebaugh says that with Mormon juries the attempt to administer justice in their Territory is simply a ridiculous farce. He believes the Territory ought at once to be put under martial law. This may be the only practical way in which even a partial punishment can be meted out to these Latter-Day devils.

“But how inadequate would be the punishment of a few, even by death, for this crime for which nearly the whole Mormon population, from Brigham Young down, were more or less instrumental in perpetrating.

In his book, Roughing It, Mark Twain described the reaction of the pubic upon hearing of the mass murder: “The whole United States rang with its horrors.

Hindered by the Civil War and other events indictments were issued but the only one convicted was a Mr. John D. Lee who was executed by firing squad in 1877, 20 years after the fact.

http://mojavedesert.net/mountain-meadows/

Some Thoughts

To the uninitiated there is something rather uncertain about the reasons why a person will take time to view a location or an artifact. Ask the visitor why they make the trek or handle an object. The  response may take the form of a smile, and perhaps the timeworn cliché ” because it was there.”  That smile in phrase only does  partial justice in explaining personal gratification.

Why should we visit sites where history of any magnitude happened?  Perhaps it is because a fresh vista creates a more objective insight in pursuit of historical knowledge. Personal enjoyment and related benefits require one to approach a subject with a receptive and determined mindset.

In stories about stagecoaches and freight wagons  we may be entertained or learn about animals, load, dust, storm, good, evil, driver, passenger, comedy, sadness and so forth –  a whole range of emotions. a writer may have captured our imagination in words, but obtaining a complete and satisfying grasp of the event is a personal quest.

Often our inquisitiveness may provide answers only by standing on the spot, embracing the environment, and getting the feeling of how it may have been back when. Imagine sound, smell of man, equipment noise in animals doing the work. Anticipate the next riser dip the road and how it must have affected progress. Consider the impact on those traveling in good, bad, or indifferent weather.  Envision people, dress, available tools, and reasons for passing this way. Think of small but important details, such as animal harness, conveyancing station construction.  Perhaps the preceding thoughts may help create for you a new perspective and enjoyment of history.

from:
Indian Wells Valley Stage and Freight Stops 
1874 – 1906
Comments and Directions by Lou Pracchia
Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert

Pioneer Trail

Pioneer Trail – by Mintor Jackson Steorts

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

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

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

Mohave III – Scrapbooks of History, Mohahve Historical Society, 1966