Category Archives: True Facts, Legends & Lies

Goodies that may or may not be true facts, somewhat exaggerated, or even wild-eyed stories. You be the judge.

Getting Used to the Wind

Death Valley was having one of its periodic wind storms when the tourists drove up in front of Inferno store to have their gas tank filled.

Hard Rock Shorty was seated on the bench under the lean-to porch with his hat pulled down to his ears to keep it from blowing away.

Desert wind storm

Desert wind storm

“Have many of these wind storms?” one of the dudes asked.

“Shucks, man, this ain’t no wind storm. Jest a little breeze like we have nearly every day. You have to go up in Windy Pass in the Panamints to find out what a real wind is like.

“Three-four years ago I wuz up there doin’ some prospectin’. Got together a little pile o’ wood
an’ finally got the coffee to boilin’. Then I set it on a rock to cool while I fried the eggs.

“About that time one of them blasts o’ wind come along and blowed the fire right out from under the fryin’ pan. Blowed ‘er away all in one heap so I kept after it tryin’ to keep that fryin’ pan over the fire to git my supper cooked.

“I usually like my eggs over easy, but by the time 1 got one side done I wuz all tired out so I let ‘er go at that. Had to walk four miles back to the coffee pot.”

 

from; Desert Magazine – December 1953

Shorty’s Grubstake

Shorty Harris in Ballarat

Shorty Harris in Ballarat

Once I asked Shorty Harris how he obtained his grubstakes. “Grubstakes,” he answered, “like gold, are where you find them. Once I was broke in Pioche, Nev., and couldn’t find a grubstake anywhere. Somebody told me that a woman on a ranch a few miles out wanted a man for a few days’ work. I hoofed it out under a broiling sun, but when I got there, the lady said she had no job. I reckon she saw my disappointment and when her cat came up and began to mew, she told me the cat had an even dozen kittens and she would give me a dollar if I would take ’em down the road and kill ’em.

“‘It’s a deal,’ I said. She got ’em in a sack and I started back to town. I intended to lug ’em a few miles away and turn ’em loose, because I haven’t got the heart to kill anything.

“A dozen kittens makes quite a load and I had to sit down pretty often to rest. A fellow in a two-horse wagon came along and offered me a ride. I picked up the sack and climbed in.

“‘Cats, eh?’ the fellow said. ‘They ought to bring a good price. I was in Colorado once. Rats and mice were taking the town. I had a cat.  She would have a litter every three months. I had no trouble selling them cats for ten dollars apiece. Beat a gold mine.’

“There were plenty rats in Pioche and that sack of kittens went like hotcakes. One fellow didn’t have any money and offered me a goat. I knew a fellow who wanted a goat. He lived on the same lot as I did. Name was Pete Swain.

“Pete was all lit up when I offered him the goat for fifty dollars. He peeled the money off his roll and took the goat into his shack. A few days later Pete came to his door and called me over and shoved a fifty dollar note into my hands. ‘I just wanted you to see what that goat’s doing,’ he said.

“I looked inside. The goat was pulling the cork out of a bottle of liquor with his teeth.

“‘That goat’s drunk as a boiled owl,’ Pete said. ‘If I ever needed any proof that there’s something in this idea of the transmigration of souls, that goat gives it. He’s Jimmy, my old sidekick, who, I figgered was dead and buried.’

“‘Now listen,’ I said. ‘Do you mean to tell me you actually believe that goat is your old pal, whom you drank with and played with and saw buried with your own eyes, right up there on the hill?’

“‘Exactly,’ Pete shouted, and he peeled off another fifty and gave it to me. So, you see, a grubstake, like gold, is where you find it.”

Shorty Harris

from:
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails
A Personal Narrative of People and Places
Author: William Caruthers

Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

During the great silver boom in the Calicos, a small community grew up around the Bismarck mine in the next canyon east of Calico camp. Together with the miners of the Garfield, Odessa, Occidental and other mines, there were perhaps 40 persons in the area, which was known as East Calico.

While Calico was less than a mile away, by airline, the direct trail was steep and rugged and the road roundabout. The government did not consider the population sufficient for a post office, and the miners didn’t care to hike into Calico for their mail. So they contributed to a fund to pay a boy named Dave Nichols to bring the mail over, by burro, from the mother camp. But Dave found a better job and no one else wanted to be mail man.

Calico ghost town photo

Calico 1884

About that time a man named Stacy, brother of the Stacy who was postmaster at Calico (their first names have variously been given as James, William, Everett and Alwin) opened a store at Bismark. The Stacys had a dog named Dorsey, a big Scotch collie who had come to them for shelter one stormy night. The Bismarck Stacy took the collie’ with him to East Calico.

The true story of Dorsey the Dog Mail Carrier

Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

But Dorsey’s affections were divided, and after a few days at Bismarck, he ran away back to Calico. Postmaster Stacy attached a note to his neck, switched him and sent him back to Bismarck. After a few such runaways, Postmaster Stacy conceived the notion of tying a sack with newspapers in it on Dorsey’s back when he sent him home. Dorsey delivered them successfully, and soon little saddlepacks labeled “U. S. Mail” were made and attached to the dog’s back and a regular mail service set up between the two camps on a thrice-weekly schedule.

Dorsey soon became one of Calico’s most famous characters, but success did not go to his head.

Though he was not a civil service employee and his mail route entirely unofficial, he was faithful in the completion of his appointed rounds. Though the miners enjoyed attempting to lead him astray or tamper with the mail, he managed to elude them, then resume his course.

There is only one instance of possible misuse of his office on record. One Christmas Herman Mellen was living in a cave near Bismarck and his mother sent him a box of candy and sweets. Stacy had tied this box under Dorsey’s neck, and when he arrived at Bismarck the bottom was out and the contents missing. Whether temptation had proven too strong, the goodies had been hijacked or whether the package had broken open, allowing the contents to spill out was never determined.

The famous dog mail carrier continued his route for two years, until a dip in the boom caused the mines of East Calico to close and mail service became unnecessary. When the Stacys left Calico, they gave Dorsey to John S. Doe, wealthy San Francisco man interested in Calico mines, and Dorsey spent the rest of his life in comfort and ease in the Bay City.

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Mining History

Calico Print- Established 1882 by Vincent & Overshiner
Published at Calico Silver Camp
San Bernardino County, California
EDITED BY HAROLD AND LUCILE WEIGHT
Copyright by THE CALICO PRESS

 

Desert Rat 10 Commendents [sic]

DESERT RAT TEN COMMENDENTS   [sic]
BY THE EDITOR (from Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrapbook)

I

Thou shalt love the DESERT, but not lose patience with those who say it’s bleak and ornery (even when the wind is blowing).

Coyote Lake wind storm

Even when the wind is blowing ..

II

Thou shalt speak of the DESERT with great reverence, and lie about it with great showmanship, adding zest to Tall Tales and Legends.

Bath tub in desert.

Adding zest …

III

Thou shalt not admit other DESERTS have more color than the one on which you have staked your claim.

Amboy Crater

IV

Thou shalt on the Sabbath look to the Mountain Peaks so’s to know better your whereabouts, so’s you can help others to know the DESERT, dotting on the map the places where you have camped.

Summit Valley, Hesperia

… on the Sabbath look to the Mountain Peaks …

V

Honor the Pioneers, Explorers and the Desert Rats who found and marked the water holes . . . they tell you about the next water hole and try to help you.

VI

Thou shalt not shoot the Antelope-Chipmunk, Kangaroo Rat or other harmless Desert friends. (Keep your shot for a snake.)

white-tailed antelope squirrel

Don’t shoot these.

VII

Thou shalt not adulterate the water holes nor leave the campsite messed up. Be sure to take 10 gallons of water with you. Don’t have to ask the other fellow on the road for a quart, but be able to help the tenderfoot by giving him some water.

10 gallons of water ought to do it.

VIII

Thou shalt not steal (from the prospector’s shack), nor forget to fill the wood box and water pail.

Burro Schmidt Cabin, El Paso Mountains

Don’t be an asshole and mess up or steal stuff from some guy’s cabin.

IX

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor; you know the mining laws; you know the whereabouts of his monuments.

no tresspassing sign

Sign of the times.

X

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s sleeping bag, his gun, nor the contents of his canteen.

Shoshone Cemetery

Ultimately

~ The End ~

 

 

Shootout at Government Holes

Two Gunmen ‘Shoot It Out’ when Cowpuncher Meets Up with Man Who Did Not Run’

One Found Sitting Against Wall, Legs Crossed, as Other Fell on Bed

WOMAN MAY BE INVOLVED

Another Dramatic Chapter of Desert History Is Written With Lead
~ By EARL E. BUIE

Matt Burts and Bill Roberts, feudists and two-gun men of Government Holes, met face to face Sunday-night.

True to the first law of the range, “shoot it out”–the law that the quickest on the
draw lives–Burts and Roberts never flinched. It was fair; there was no advantage.

“Six-guns” flashed and two of the last of the gunmen of that weird vastness that centers around the water holes In the desert fell, each dying from the other’s bullets. Matt Burts and Bill Roberts died with their boots on: that is the unwritten but the immortal epitaph of the range.

Woman Likely To Be Involved

And even in this lonely desert a woman may he involved, for the wounds on Burts were washed clean and Roberts’ body was lying on a bed when the officers arrived, and woman was known to have been near the scene.

The duel spot is 260 miles by road from San Bernardino in the Ivanpah country, with its open cattle range, famed for lawlessness and gun fights. There last night Deputy Sheriffs Jack H. Brown and Jesus Amarias had not positively concluded that the tragedy with its two deaths was a closed crime. In a telegram to Sheriff Walter A. Shay, the officers bluntly told the story, partly dispelling the first theory that a murderer had slain the two men and fled across the desert hills. The telegram read:

“Bill Roberts and Matt Burts dead. Looks like duel between them, each killing the other. No
arrests.”

Rock Springs Cattle Co.

Rock Springs Cattle Co.

The duel was but another chanter of Government Holes thrilling history. On the wide and rocky ranges run the herds of “a big cattle outfit” the Rock Springs Land & Cattle company–and those of the “little man.” It Is what is known to cattlemen as an open range, worthless without its water holes. And since beef cattle were driven into the country there has been a never-ending dispute as to water rights. Into the quarrels crept the charges of “rustling,” strong words that brought hard men.

Matt Burts Is Two Gun Man

Matt Burts was one of these men. He carried two guns, one on each hip. In the courts here two years ago when Burts appeared as a witness against Bob Holiman in a “rustling trial, Holiman openly charged that Burts had been imported from Arizona to kill him. During the case, Holiman’s attorney requested the court to have Burts searched for a gun. Burts was then an employe of the Rock Springs outfit, but lately has had his own herd of a few cattle.

Bill Roberts kept his job as foreman of the Rock Springs company because he was a “man who
wouldn’t run.” Three foremen ahead of him at Government Holes had been run out of the country by gunmen, threats and by snipers who fired from behind the rocks on the hills overlooking the water hole and the foreman’s shack. Officers of the Rock Springs company charged that, rustlers’ were warring on the foremen, often alone at the holes while range riders were miles away.

Burts, since he left the cattle company, had been a quarrelsome character, drinking heavily and
making his threats against his enemies in the district. He wouldn’t leave; that would be cowardly.  Stories of his enmity toward Roberts have drifted into the sheriff’s office for weeks.

And in the country, wild and barren as it is, was a woman, a Mrs, Ridell, who lives on a lonely homestead In the Government Holes district. She once was arrested for moonshining when Burts was suspected. But she claimed that the still was hers and took her medicine in the Needles courts without whimpering.

Meanwhile, Roberts virtually lived by his guns. Three weeks ago, the cattle outfit foreman came to his shack after a day on the range and found 13 bullet holes through the house a mute warning that Government Holes was unhealthy for him. But Bill Roberts was, too, a man of the waste lands who wouldn’t leave.

Sunday, the story goes. Burts drove up to Roberts’ place with Mrs. Ridell and her grandson. Burts went up to the house, presumably to ask for a drink. Roberts met in the door. In an instant, their guns were in play, firing simultaneously, for neither Bill Roberts nor Matt Burts had a superior on the range for drawing in a hurry. It was the inevitable. Both shot straight and both died.

Two Men Are Found in Cabin

The bodies of Burts and Roberts were found in a ranch house. Burts had been shot squarely through the forehead. He was found in a sitting position, with his legs crossed and his hat on. All blood had been washed away from the wound. Roberts, shot through the abdomen, was found laid out on a bed. Both men were killed by .44 caliber bullets.

Sheriff Shay received word of the duel at midnight Sunday and immediately sent Deputies Brown and Amarias to the scene. The officers left San Bernardino at 1 o’clock Monday morning and six hours later they were in Goffs, 220 miles away an average of nearly 40 miles an hour across the desert. By 10 o’clock they were on the ground at Government Holes, 40 miles south and east of Lanfair.

Map of Government Holes area

Map of Government Holes area

The officers may return late today. They will conduct a thorough investigation of the case, however, as the sinister stories that first reached the city have not died down, and the position of bodies indicate a possible new angle in the case. Mrs. Ridell’s grandson was questioned for hours yesterday, but reiterated the duel story.

Government Holes, however, has had its gun duels before. Six years ago it was the scene of the spectacular gun fight between Pat and Roy Woods, father and son, and Bob Holiman. In the fight, Holiman emerged the victor, although not a drop of blood was lost.

Water Hole Was Cause of Feud

Pat Woods and his son, Roy, were cowboys employed by the Rock Springs company. And again it was the rights to the water holes and the enmity between the “little men” against the Rock Springs company that led to the duel. It was commonly known that Roy Woods practiced shooting by killing jack-rabbits with his six-shooter while riding in a flivver and on horse-back And Pat, the father, could break a beer, bottle with his six-shooter 50 yards away.

In the spring during the roundup, Pat and Roy Woods met Bob Holiman on the open range. Pat began shooting and, apparently rattled, missed Holiman. Then Holiman got into action. He shot Pat Woods’ horse out front under him and with a second shot knocked Roy’s hat off his head.

Fate probably saved the Woods from extermination. Holiman was shooting like a sharpshooter when his gun jammed. Holiman’s friends, who were spectators to the duel, shouted to Holiman to “tickle his horse”–sinking the spurs into his horse’s flanks. And Rob “tickled” his horse and galloped away without a return fire from the Woods.

Trial Resembled Movie Location

The trial in the courts here resembled a moving picture outfit on location. Scores of cowboys of the wide ranges attended and there were no convictions. The Woods, however, left Government Holes and so far as known never returned.

Two years ago, Holiman again figured in tho courts in a case involving the ownership of a calf that he killed. Burts, then one of the stout-hearted men hired by the Rock Springs company to protect their cattle, charged that Holiman killed a Rock Springs calf and sold the beef at Needles. Holiman offered no fight when Burts arrested him. In this case, Holiman was not convicted, the jury disagreeing and the charge dismissed.

It was In this case that Burts’ past life was revealed in open court. Burts, six feet tall, handsome,
and with coal black hair, was a picturesque figure at the trial. On his right hip he wore a six-shooter. When he was called to testify against Holiman, Attorney Ralph E. Swing began a cross-examination

“Have you removed that revolver that you have been toting around?” asked the attorney.

Burts glared back silently.

Did Not Want Witness Armed

“I wish to interrogate this witness,” Attorney Swing told Judge J. W. Curtis, “and I don’t want
him sitting there with a revolver on his hip.”

Burts then arose in his seat, held his coat under his shoulders and
turned around slowly. “I took it off.” he explained.

Then the attorney began questioning Burts.

“Were, you ever convicted of a felony?” he asked.

“Yes, twice,” retorted Burts.

“What was the first offense you were convicted of?” Burts was asked.

“Train robbery.”

“And what were you convicted for the second time?”

“For shooting a fellow.”

Burts then explained that he was sentenced to serve five years for the train robbery and was pardoned after serving six months. This was in Arizona. On the second offense, he was sentenced to serve 10 years and was pardoned by the governor after serving five months, he said. That was years ago, Burts said.

His Brother Deputy Sheriff

Burts has a brother, Tom Burts, a deputy sheriff, living at Tucson. The brother yesterday wired Sheriff Shay asking that the body be forwarded to Tucson.

Little is known of Robert’s past history. Walter S. Greening, president of the Rock Springs company, said last night that he did not know where Robert came from, but that he was sent to Rock Springs “because he wouldn’t run.”

And he didn’t.

San Bernardino Sun Newspaper Headline

San Bernardino Sun Newspaper Headline

 

This story first appeared in The San Bernardino Daily Sun — November 10, 1925

The Walters Family

The Walters family is an important part of Hesperia history.  Starting with George Francis Walters, who moved his family from Illinois to California because his wife, Harriet C Finigan Walters had asthma.

Hesperia Hotel

The family first settled in the Riverside area where he went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. According to Bolton Minister, son of George O Walters Minister, George was offered a transfer to Hesperia to manage the Hesperia Hotel.

The Walters family consisted of George and his wife Harriet, and their children, in birth order, Georgia Henry had to Walters Minister-Henry, Verial  W.  Walters Ormond and Roy Edward Walters.

According to Mr. Minister, both the daughters went to work in the hotel. They were later joined by Laura McClanahan who in 1921 transferred from the Goodsprings Hotel,   in Goodsprings,  Nevada.

Roy & Laura Walters

Verial  was postmistress, until she moved away when she got married, and then her position was given to her brother Roy.

Roy ended up marrying Laura McClanahan and having a daughter, Geraldine Henrietta Walters.  Geraldine married first, Yeager  and second Schwartz.

According to Mr. Minister,  George Francis Walters built the Walters house in the Walters general store according to Geraldine, her grandmother Harriet was the midwife in the delivery of 32 Hesperia babies.

When George passed away the store was handled over to Roy, who operated it for many years.

I do not know where George and area Walters or Barry. However, I do know that Roy and Laura are buried at the cemetery in Victorville.

With the passing of time, their store had deteriorated and will eventually disappear from Hesperia. As eventually, the Walters name will.

Hesperia California
Pre 1950

Then and Now

by Mary Ann Creason Dolan Rhode

Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others

The most famous lost mine in the Death Valley area is the Lost Breyfogle. There are many versions of the legend, but all agree that somewhere in the bowels of those rugged mountains is a colossal mass of gold, which Jacob Breyfogle found and lost.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - Death Valley

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Jacob Breyfogle was a prospector who roamed the country around Pioche and Austin, Nevada, with infrequent excursions into the Death Valley area. He traveled alone.

Indian George, Hungry Bill, and Panamint Tom saw Breyfogle several times in the country around Stovepipe Wells, but they could never trace him to his claim. When followed, George said, Breyfogle would step off the trail and completely disappear. Once George told me about trailing him into the Funeral Range. He pointed to the bare mountain. “Him there, me see. Pretty quick—” He paused, puckered his lips. “Whoop—no see.”

Breyfogle left a crude map of his course. All lost mines must have a map. Conspicuous on this map are the Death Valley Buttes which are landmarks. Because he was seen so much here, it was assumed that his operations were in the low foothills. I have seen a rough copy of this map made from the original in possession of “Wildrose” Frank Kennedy’s squaw, Lizzie.

Breyfogle presumably coming from his mine, was accosted near Stovepipe Wells by Panamint Tom, Hungry Bill, and a young buck related to them, known as Johnny. Hungry Bill, from habit, begged for food. Breyfogle refused, explaining that he had but a morsel and several hard days’ journey before him. On his burro he had a small sack of ore. When Breyfogle left, Hungry Bill said, “Him no good.”

Incited by Hungry Bill and possible loot, the Indians followed Breyfogle for three or four days across the range. Hungry Bill stopped en route, sent the younger Indians ahead. At Stump Springs east of Shoshone, Breyfogle was eating his dinner when the Indians sneaked out of the brush and scalped him, took what they wished of his possessions and left him for dead.

Ash Meadows Charlie, a chief of the Indians in that area confided to Herman Jones that he had witnessed this assault. This happened on the Yundt Ranch, or as it is better known, the Manse Ranch. Yundt and Aaron Winters accidentally came upon Breyfogle unconscious on the ground. The scalp wound was fly-blown. They had a mule team and light wagon and hurried to San Bernardino with the wounded man. The ore, a chocolate quartz, was thrown into the wagon.

Resting Springs Ranch - Old Spanish Trail, Mormon Road

Resting Springs

“I saw some of it at Phi Lee’s home, the Resting Spring Ranch,” Shorty Harris said. “It was the richest ore I ever saw. Fifty pounds yielded nearly $6000.”

Breyfogle recovered, but thereafter was regarded as slightly “off.” He returned to Austin, Nevada, and the story followed.

Wildrose (Frank) Kennedy, an experienced mining man obtained a copy of Breyfogle’s map and combed the country around the buttes in an effort to locate the mine. Kennedy had the aid of the Indians and was able to obtain, through his squaw Lizzie, such information as Indians had about the going and coming of the elusive Breyfogle.

“Some believe the ore came from around Daylight Springs,” Shorty said, “but old Lizzie’s map had no mark to indicate Daylight Springs. But it does show the buttes and the only buttes in Death Valley are those above Stovepipe Wells.

“Kennedy interested Henry E. Findley, an old time Colorado sheriff and Clarence Nyman, for years a prospector for Coleman and Smith (the Pacific Borax Company). They induced Mat Cullen, a rich Salt Lake mining man, to leave his business and come out. They made three trips into the valley, looking for that gold. It’s there somewhere.”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith

Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

At Austin, Breyfogle was outfitted several times to relocate the property, but when he reached the lower elevation of the valley, he seemed to suffer some aberration which would end the trip. His last grubstaker was not so considerate. He told Breyfogle that if he didn’t find the mine promptly he’d make a sieve of him and was about to do it when a companion named Atchison intervened and saved his life. Shortly afterward, Breyfogle died from the old wound.

Indian George, repeating a story told him by Panamint Tom, once told me that Tom had traced Breyfogle to the mine and after Breyfogle’s death went back and secured some of the ore. Tom guarded his secret. He covered the opening with stone and leaving, walked backwards, obliterating his tracks with a greasewood brush. Later when Tom returned prepared to get the gold he found that a cloudburst had filled the canyon with boulders, gravel and silt, removing every landmark and Breyfogle’s mine was lost again.

“Some day maybe,” George said, “big rain come and wash um out.”

Among the freighters of the early days was John Delameter who believed the Breyfogle was in the lower Panamint. Delameter operated a 20 mule team freighting service between Daggett and points in both Death Valley and Panamint Valley. He told me that he found Breyfogle down in the road about twenty-eight miles south of Ballarat with a wound in his leg. Breyfogle had come into the Panamint from Pioche, Nevada, and said he had been attacked by Indians, his horses stolen, while working on his claim which he located merely with a gesture toward the mountains.

Subsequently Delameter made several vain efforts to locate the property, but like most lost mines it continues to be lost. But for years it was good bait for a grubstake and served both the convincing liar and the honest prospector.

Nearly all old timers had a version of the Lost Breyfogle differing in details but all agreeing on the chocolate quartz and its richness.

That Breyfogle really lost a valuable mine there can be little doubt, but since he is authentically traced from the northern end of Death Valley to the southern, and since the chocolate quartz is found in many places of that area, one who cares to look for it must cover a large territory.

From: Chapter XXII
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by William Caruthers

 

All in Favor Say “Eye.”

Strange, but not true … (or, All in favor, say “Eye.”) Oro Grande, Ca.

 Route 66 in Oro Grande, CA

RR bridge on old Route 66 in Oro Grande, CA

This is not where Sammy Davis Jr. was in an auto accident and lost his eye–it would have been found by now if it were!

I know. I went and looked for it.

http://digital-desert.com/oro-grande-ca/

So I was curious;

A MYSTERY FROM THE MYSTERIES OF THE MYSTERIOUS MOJAVE

Where did Sammy Davis Jr. Lose His Eyeball?

Bullet-shaped horn button on '55 Caddy

Bullet-shaped horn button on ’55 Caddy

As he was making a return trip home to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, Davis lost his left eye to the bullet-shaped horn button (a standard feature in 1954 and 1955 Cadillacs) in an automobile accident on November 19, 1954, in San Bernardino, California. The accident occurred at a fork in U.S. Route 66 at Cajon Boulevard and Kendall Drive (34.2072°N 117.3855°W).

Kendall Rd. & Cajon Blvd.

Kendall Rd. & Cajon Blvd.

 

 

BTW; His eyeball is not there either–I looked.

Modern Cliff Dwellers

by Glenn Adams

A rental sign  could honestly read, “Doublin Gulch, modern cliff  dwellings for men only.”  But these living quarters, carved out of the earth, are never rented.

They belong to the occupants while they live there,  and the first man to move-in is the next owner. It is not a written law, but is a habit and custom of the country and is respected by rich and poor alike.

It started with Dobe Charley  when he needed a home. A tent was too hot in summer and too cold in winter. he pondered the problem through one  cold  windy winter and one hot desert summer.

When “camping out”  became too unbearable he took refuge in an old deserted mine tunnel a few miles from Shoshone, and was comfortable. He was protected from all weather hazards, but it was too isolated to suit his tastes.

Shoshone, Ca.

Shoshone, Ca.

” Why not make  a tunnel in a hill  closer to town?”  the idea grew, and he looked all over the hills close around. Finally he picked out what he considered an ideal place.

It was a cliff of hard adobe  mud, within easy walking distance of the general store and post office. Not that he intended to walk, that is, that while his motorcycle would run.

He dug out a whole as big as a medium sized room and put a door on it. When it was finished to his satisfaction, he moved in and became the envy of all the loafers in the little desert oasis on the fringe of Death Valley.

Joe Volmer,  a retiring, middle-aged man, got himself a dwelling nearby. His consisted of several rooms connected by tunnels. To enter one of the rooms one must pull aside a cupboard and go a short distance down a ladder through a narrow passageway.

Ashford Brothers, Shshone, Ca

Ashford Brothers

The Ashford brothers, Harold and Rudy, decided to follow suit. They were dapper little fellows, very English and very neat and clean. Their cliff dwelling reflected them, neat and across the gulch from the others. like its occupants, it stood a little apart from its companions.

Bill, big and lazy, liked Doublin Gulch, but hadn’t  the ambition to dig a dwelling. He built his one-room shack on a level place against the cliff.

Crowly,  aggressive and authoritative, look it over and chose the point of the hill,  a position dominating all the other cliff houses. An imposing location, but like its builder, it was untidy.

Crowly  appointed himself a sort of Mayor of Doublin Gulch. If the others resented it  they gave no indications. Mostly they did not mind as long as no one interfered with their way of life.

Cool in the summer–and a great view!

Other men settled along the cliff. Thrown together by circumstances, these men were a variable lot. For the most part their past was a closed book. Some, no doubt, came to escape this or that, but on the whole they lived as they pleased, working at the nearby mines until they had saved a stake, returning to their cliff dwelling to live the leisurely until it was gone.

When one has finished with this life and needs his home no longer, another  drifter,  perhaps fleeing from his past or maybe just tired of the sorrows and troubles of the outside world and finding solace in the desert, moves in.

Thus these cliff dwellings of Doublin Gulch have passed from one occupant to another.

Who can tell what secrets they have hidden or what sorrows have been  soothed  by the quiet and solitude of these rugged refuges thrusting their doors from the face of the cliff like turtle’s heads  from under their shells.

Ghost Town News
Knott’s Berry Place
Buena Park, Calif.
December 1944

Dublin Gulch Photos

Warm in the winter, cool in the summer, the caves carved into the soft material of the banks of this wash were home, at one time or another, to people …

Dublin Gulch

Dublin Gulch

No Burro — No Gold

Feral ass

Sandy Walker, Desert Rat, says that in the desert a Ford lives 3 years – a dog 3 times the age of the Ford – 9, a horse 3 times the age of a dog – 27, and a man 3 times the age of the horse – 81, and some say a burro 3 times the age of a man – 243, at least this is 4/5ths true.

Sandy Walker says you can’t find gold with Fords – have to have burros. Says he’s been out here in the desert 26 years, 6 years hunting gold and 20 years hunting burros. He didn’t find his mine while hunting gold. He found it while hunting his dadburned runaway burros.

Many prospectors will tell you that no one has ever seen a dead burro.

—Printed first in “The Gold Miner,” 1930.

Wild Burro

Uncommon to locally common in deserts of California. Range extends into eastern Lassen Co., and from extreme southern Mono Co. south to the Mexican border. Most are found in Inyo Co., northeastern San Bernardino Co., and in the vicinity of the Colorado River.