Category Archives: Whatnot

The Last Days of Al Williams

by Phillip I. Earl –   Apple Tree correspondent

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18
Left Coso Springs.

Wednesday, May 24
Nothing to eat since Thursday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6
Vomited again. Getting weaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Vincent Dougherty

– A.K.A. Charles Tom Vincent –

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

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

Restored cabin

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

Original cabin – 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Say, is it really true, is it war?”

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

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

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

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

A  loud bellowing of song woke us  the next morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bighorn Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialist colony ruins, Llano, Ca.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Baden-Powell

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

Courtesy Wrightwood Historical Society
-.-

Lizard Love

“… Then I walked out of the bar room
Couldn’t even turn around
I guess I know what they were going to do
I knew what was going down
It’s not a long way from the dance floor to the dark of the parking lot
It’s kinda like love but it’s not.”
~ Kinda Like Love – Molly Hatchet

Observances one spring morning at Silverwood Lake

Ben the lizard perches upon his boulder puffing and pushing in the mid-morning sun hoping to attract an attractive lizard lady.

Ben spies the beautiful Paula along the ridge. Overcome with his little lizard emotions, he hesitates for an instant … she disappears. But, … he wants her.

Paula slips behind Ben, brushing his tail ever-so-lightly to tease and vex him.

He is teased and vexed, so, her plan is working. She has captured his interest, and he follows– He is a tool.

Paula titillates Ben and toys with his tiny little lizard heartstrings.

Ben, with his eyes blurred with lascivious lust, lost his luscious lizard lady in a blink of all four of his little lizard eyelids.

Ben looks and looks again and again. He can smell the excellent fragrance of her seasonal readiness. They both have needs.

There is a flicker of shadow in the slice of sunlight between the granite boulders. He asks himself, “is that her?” “Could it be?” She certainly is pungent.

“Peek-a-boo,” her teeny lizard voice calls out to Ben in their little lizard language that only little lizards in lizard love can hear.

Paula holds still while wholly swollen Ben creeps carefully and kind of creepily toward her. He excretes his musk as dirty, dry, crystals of salt from his excreter thing and cautiously edges toward her.

“This is it! This is really happening!” Ben’s teensy little lizard heart is pounding as they slip into the shadows to “do the deed.” There is a rustling in the leaves and rubble…

Their hot and heavy sexual activity finishes considerably sooner than they both anticipated–Ben just couldn’t seem to concentrate. Paula left shortly thereafter to go find bugs with her friends. Ben is spent and does one last, exhausted pushup with the sun on his back before taking a long, well-earned nap.

The End

 

 

 

 

Bathing Daily

Why the Daily Bath?
Because of Advertising!

From the Los Angeles Examiner of June 1, 1921

Why people take a daily bath was explained today. Charles H. Mackintosh, advertising
expert, said the newspapers were responsible and the soap manufacturers.

“Daily bathing is merely the result of newspaper advertising,” Mr. Mackintosh told the Association of Commerce of Advertisers in session here. “Only a short time ago we bathed once a week and that on Saturday—we even skipped that once in a while. Now the flood of
advertising loosed by soap manufacturers has persuaded us that we aren’t Christians unless we bathe daily.”
-,-

courtesy: Mojave River Valley Museum

1864 Travel Tip – Hold Hostages

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

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

Santa Clara/Virgin River divide

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

Sarah Jane Rousseau

Sarah Jane Rousseau

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

Virgin River

Virgin River

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

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp Wyatt's dad.

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp

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

Morning

Study of sunrise on Mormon Rocks –

Trains & Railroads

Victor Valley

The Cajon Pass — Yesterday

by Myra McGinnis 1968

Long years ago, Cajon Pass became the gateway into the desert interior of California.   The word “cajon”  means box in Spanish and was fittingly applied to the area that has served as a pass through the rugged country between the desert and the valley lands west.

San Gabriel Mountains

San Gabriel Mountains

Cajon  is not a pass through a mountain. It is a pass between two mountain ranges —  San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains  which overlap. It was through or around this pass that the early settlers had to travel. Either way, it was a difficult trek of uncharted roads and highways. for that time and era, it would seem that settlers might want to stay on the eastern side of the ranges and settle down rather than try to get horses and wagons over the steep and hazardous mountains.

Horse-drawn wagon

Many years in the past the Pass  became  the “gateway into the wilds of the interior.”  What an interior it is!  coming or going from the coastal area of the Southern California that great mass of mountain peaks and sheer drops from the high precipices are startling and they culminate into the one of the most rugged as well as one of the most beautiful in the West.

The fact that this pass was at the western end of the Old Spanish Trail made it an important spot in the emigrant days.

Old trail

Old road over the divide near the summit of the Cajon.

Camp Cajon, 3 miles above the Blue Cut was once an Indian village. Here the pass becomes wider, a fan-shaped site bounded by the divide on the upper edge. the divide is the desert rim. Eroding water cause the formation of the two major divisions which are known as East and West Cajon.

The divide at the top of the pass

Long before the Cajon Pass was an accepted one and used freely, the wilderness of the Cajon region was a hideout for renegade Indians and white men.  Cattle and horse-stealing became so common that the people of the lower valleys had to take to battle.  Once in the interior of the vast mountain area beyond Cajon it was almost impossible to recover the animals.

Brown's toll road

Brown’s toll road through the Pass.

One of the historic roads that benefited the desert for many years was built by John Brown Sr. , an early desert  settler. This was the toll road that he built to connect the desert territory with the outside areas. The toll road served the public for 20 years. It was built from the Cajon Pass to the old Verde Ranch adjacent to Victorville.

from: The Cajon Pass — Yesterday
by Myra McGinnis 1968
Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History
Mohahve Historical Society

Chapter X: The Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert Map

An exceedingly interesting region of California is known as the Mojave Desert. The region is traversed for a distance of 100 miles by the Mojave River, from which it gets its name. The area includes Inyo and San Bernardino counties, and eastern Kern, northeastern Los Angeles, and northern and eastern Riverside counties. Death Valley lies to the north. There is no definite line of demarcation separating the desert to the south from the similarly desert region lying to the east of Owens Lake, and including Death Valley and the Amargosa Desert.

Location and Extent

49 Palms Oasis

Mojave Desert is separated from the Colorado Desert, which lies to the south, by a series of southeasterly trending mountain ranges. The San Bernardino Range extends southeast from Cajon Pass more than 100 miles, and the Cottonwood, Chuckawalla, and Chocolate ranges extend to the Colorado River. The San Gabriel Range separates the desert from the Los Angeles basin on the south. The Desert is bounded on the west by the southern Sierra Nevada Range and the Tehachapi Mountains. It extends north to the latitude of Mount Whitney, and east to the State line and into Nevada. On the south and east it extends to the Colorado River, which forms the boundary of the State of Arizona. It is a part of the Great Basin region of North America. This vast desert region embraces more than 30,000 square miles, an area almost as large as that of the State of Maine. It is a vast arid region destitute of any drainage streams that reach the ocean. The water supply, such as there is, is obtained from springs and wells. The region is much broken by mountains and hills, often rough and rocky.

San Bernardino Mountain Range

San Bernardino Mountain Range

 

Soda Lake

Soda Lake

The topography is typical of the western deserts, consisting of bare mountain ranges and isolated knobs separated by nearly flat arid belts of varying width. The mountains rise abruptly from the desert, in places almost precipitously. The appearance of the mountains suggests that they are the summits of more massive ranges whose lower slopes are submerged beneath unconsolidated desert deposits. It is thought the irregularly distributed ranges and peaks of the southeastern Mojave Desert are ridges and peaks of a former vast mountain system comparable to the Sierra Nevada, which has been lowered by subsidence of the region, and by erosion, which has resulted in tremendous valley-filling. Alluvial fans occur at the mouths of gullies, and these unite into broad aprons which slope gently toward the centers of the basins. In the center is generally a flat nearly level area known as a playa, dry lake, or alkali flat. Such flats may be covered with water during parts of the year, and they are commonly covered with a white crust of alkali or salt. Toward the west the surface of the desert is generally level. Toward the east it is marked by isolated knobs and short ranges of mountains having no system of arrangement, and separated by broad stretches of alluvial deposits in the form of fans and playas. To the north, in Inyo County, mountain ranges are prominent and are arranged in a somewhat definite north-south system.

A striking feature of the landscape in many parts of the desert is the presence of flat areas ranging in extent from a few acres to many square miles, which are entirely devoid of vegetation. This intensely arid region, lying between the Sierra Nevada Range and the Colorado River, is in extreme contrast with the region lying west and south of the San Gabriel Range, in Los Angeles and Orange counties. However, wherever sufficient water can be obtained in the desert ranches have been developed, and their bright green is a welcome sight to the traveler weary of the interminable desert waste and the dark, forbidding mountains. Many of the valleys or basins that separate the mountain ranges are absolutely desert, totally destitute of water,  and treeless for distances representing many days’ journey, gray sage brush alone giving life to the landscape. In the larger basins the land slopes toward a central depression into which an intermittent stream may convey water during rainy seasons, forming playas or mud plains. Some larger valleys have permanent lakes, and these are saline or alkaline. The shores of such lakes are devoid of all forms of life except salt-loving plants.

Arid Conditions Due to Mountains

The great Sierra Nevada mountain system is the factor which determines the climate of the  desert region. The moisture-laden winds from the Pacific Ocean shed their moisture upon the high mountains, and the lands to the east are left literally “high and dry.”

Death Valley Region

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, Death Valley

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs, Death Valley

An outstanding feature of this great desert region is Death Valley. This remarkable sink of the earth’s crust is located about 50 miles east of the Sierra Nevada Range, 6 to 35 miles west of the Nevada State line. This depression of the earth’s crust has a length of more than 80 miles, and in width ranges from two to eight miles. It is 60 to 70 miles east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the United States. The lowest point in Death Valley, according to the U. S. Geological Survey, is 296 feet below sea level. This point is three miles east of Bennett’s well, about 30 miles in a direct line west from Death Valley Junction on the Tonopah & Tidewater railroad, and  about the same distance northwest from Saratoga Springs, following the road down the valley. The rainfall does not exceed two to three inches annually, with no precipitation at all some years. Mountain ranges on either side of the Valley rise nearly to the line of perpetual snow. Funeral Mountains and Black Mountains, of the Amargosa Range, rise on the eastern side of the Valley to altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet, while on the west the Panamint Range reaches a height of more than 10,000 feet.

High Temperature and Low Humidity

The most marked feature of the desert climate is the unusually high summer temperature and the low relative humidity. Temperatures in this arid region rise to 125 to 130 during the
summer months, and seldom during these months fall below 70. The humidity is low so that conditions are more endurable than would be the case under such conditions of heat in regions
of higher humidity. The highest officially recorded temperature of any place in the world is that of 134 at Greenland ranch in Death Valley. This is said to be the dryest and hottest place in the United States. A low temperature of 15 F. has been recorded at Greenland ranch. The difference between the highest and lowest recorded temperatures however is not as great in this desert region as in some parts of the United States. In the Dakotas and Montana differences of 150 have been recorded. In the desert region sunstroke is almost unknown, due to the low humidity. Because of the dryness of the air the moisture given off by the body quickly evaporates producing a cooling effect. Travelers in the desert should be provided with a sufficient water supply. One should never go far from a source of water, in winter or summer, without enough water to last until another supply can be reached. Travelers should carry at least two to four gallons of water per person for each 24 hours.

Three Rivers that Do Not Reach the Sea

Three rivers enter upon the vast domain of the Mojave Desert from high mountain ranges, but none delivers any water to the ocean. These are the Mojave, the Owens, and the Amargosa rivers. The rivers originate on high mountain ranges, fed by melting snows that gather upon the high ranges and peaks, and by rains that are condensed from the wind-borne clouds at high altitudes. These all start as rapidly flowing turbulent torrents. They continue for many miles as intermittent streams, but ultimately disappear by evaporation after passing into the porous soils and sands, detritus from the erosion of the mountain slopes. Other streams that flow as mountain torrents to the great desert plain sink at once into the sands and are “lost” as streams.

West Fork - Mojave River

West Fork – Mojave River


The Mojave is a typical desert river. It rises in the high San Bernardino Mountains, in southwestern San Bernardino County. The waters gather in the mountains and form a perennial stream. Within a short distance it emerges upon the desert plain, and much of the water sinks into the porous alluvium. The course of the stream is in a northerly direction to Barstow, where it turns to the northeast. In times of flood the water may be carried 40 miles east of Daggett to Soda Lake. Water sometimes flows into Silver Lake, another playa a mile or two to the north of Soda Lake. During many years no water from the river reaches the playas, but in years of extreme flood the water may be several feet deep in the playas and remain for
several months. The water that reaches the playas disappears by evaporation. The river ends in these depressions. The region of these playas has been called “the Sink of the Mojave.”

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Owens River is the principal stream occupying Owens Valley. Owens Valley is a long narrow depression lying between the Inyo Range on the east and the Sierra Nevada Range on the
west. Between these two ranges Owens River flows south to its end in the saline sea called Owens Lake. The valley is thought to have originated as an enclosed and undrained basin
through profound faulting of the crust of the earth. The origin of the valley is thought to be similar to that of Death Valley and most of the enclosed undrained areas of the Great Basin. This great structural valley extends from the great bend of Owens River north of Bishop southeast to the southern end of Owens Lake, a distance of 100 miles. It is wholly in Inyo County.

Owens River rises in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near San Joaquin Pass and descends the rugged eastern slopes as a turbulent stream. The river emerges from a deep canyon cut in a
table-land of volcanic lava north of Bishop and enters upon the level floor of Owens Valley, whence it pursues a meandering course southeastward to Owens Lake. It is one of the few
perennial streams of the Great Basin. Owens Lake, into which the river empties, lies in an undrained depression at the south end of the valley, from which the water disappears by evaporation. The waters of the lake constitute a dense brine containing common salt, sodium carbonate, potassium sulphate, borax, and other salts. The recovery of sodium carbonate is an important chemical industry established near Keeler. About 40 miles above the point where the river enters Owens Lake, near Big Pine, the pure mountain water is diverted through the Los
Angeles Aqueduct and conveyed to that city.

Fresh Water of Owens River forms Saline Lake

The waters that gather from the mountains to form Owens River are “pure” as surface waters go. Even the pure clear sparkling waters of mountain streams contain some mineral matter dissolved from the rocks. By long continued evaporation from Owens Lake the contained mineral matter becomes concentrated so that the waters of Owens Lake are strongly saline. The river waters diverted by the Los Angeles Aqueduct are essentially pure. The salts now contained in solution in Owens Lake were undoubtedly derived by the slow accumulation and concentration of the river waters entering the basin.

In the geologic past Owens Lake overflowed and supplied water to a series of lakes in Indian Wells, Searles, and Panamint valleys. On the bottoms of these lakes deposits occurred consisting principally of clay, with minor amounts of sand and almost no gravel. In most places they include some chemically deposited salts. In a few places these salts are of economic value.

Amargosa River rises in a group of springs about 17 miles northeast of Bullfrog, Nevada. It is dry the greater part of the time throughout much of its course. It is about 140 miles long. Its course is east of south through Franklin Dry Lake, thence south through a canyon about 10 miles long to the southern end of Death Valley. Here it turns westward to Saratoga Springs, where it flows northwestward to the sink of Death Valley. The northern end of Death Valley lies nearly due west of the head of the river, so that the depression which is occupied by the Amargosa River as a whole is in the form of a long and narrow U. Ordinarily there is water at only a few places along the course of the channel, but when a cloud-burst occurs it may become a raging torrent for a few hours. For many years the river has not been known to carry enough water to flow on
the surface as far as the lowest depression of Death Valley. The waters of the Amargosa are briny along its lower course. Where it spreads out into the large playa at Resting Springs
Dry Lake it leaves fields of salt as well as of borax and niter. Hot springs discharge into it at a number of places.

Coyote Dry Lake

Coyote Dry Lake

Playas or “dry lakes” are widely distributed throughout the desert region. It is somewhat paradoxical to speak of a “dry” lake. Often flat dry surfaces of saline mud are ripple-marked
from the wind before the water disappeared. Seen from a distance such “dry lakes” may deceive the traveler, the dry flat bottom having the appearance of a water surface. The term
“dry lake” seems therefore not entirely inappropriate. In the desert region the rainfall is very light, but sporadic. Mountain torrents tear down the slopes with great erosional force after
sudden rains. Broad basins between mountain ranges are generally filled, often to depths of hundreds of feet, with alluvial wash from the surrounding mountains. In the lowest parts of such basins water may gather after storms, and large areas may be covered by shallow sheets of water for a time. Soon, however, the waters disappear by evaporation, and the lowest part of the basin becomes a salt-encrusted flat pan, or dry lake.

Soda Lake

Soda Lake

Salt Deposits Accumulate on Lake Bottoms

Scores of dry lakes or playas range in size from a few acres to lake beds several miles across. One of the largest and most important playas is Searles Lake, which has an area of about 60
square miles. This playa is important because of the extensive deposit of crystalline salt in the central part of the broad basin. Solid salt beds embrace an area of 11 or 12 square miles, and
extend to depths of 60 to 100 feet. It is unique in that the salt is nearly pure crystalline mineral (sodium chloride), and not interbedded or mixed with dust or clay, as is the case in many playas where saline deposits occur. This deposit of salt is free from earth sediments, it is thought, because of settling basins in Indian Wells and Salt valleys through which waters passed from Owens Lake during Quaternary (Pleistocene) time when waters from Owens Valley evaporated here. Death Valley contains an immense salt field. It extends fully 30 miles south from the old borax works. It varies in width from two to four miles. Borax was once manufactured two or three miles north of the point where Furnace Creek emerges from the hills of the west slope of Black Mountains (Amargosa Range) .

World's tallest thermometer (134')

World’s tallest thermometer (134′), Baker, CA.

Soda Lake, southwest of Baker, is one of the largest playas in the desert, having an area of approximately 60 square miles.It is here that Mojave River ceases as a stream. To the north, and separated by a low divide, is the playa of Silver Lake. The great structural trough in which these playas lie is continuous with the trough of Death Valley, and it is thought that waters from the Mojave Valley in Pleistocene time moved northward and joined the Amargosa, and then flowed into Death Valley. Strand lines or beaches high above the valley bottom show that a large body of water once filled Death Valley.

Antelope Valley

Poppy Reserve – Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley, lying north and east of the San Gabriel Mountains and south and east of the Tehachapi Mountains, is a closed basin, having no outlet for its surface waters. The rainfall is so slight and the evaporation is so great that not enough water reaches the bottom of the valley to form a lake. Several playas occur, the largest of which are Rosamond, Rogers, and Buckhorn. It is thought that at one time (Pleistocene) all three formed a single large playa. The rainfall in Antelope Valley ranges from 3 or 4 inches to 1 inches annually, varying widely different years. The greater part of the annual precipitation occurs during the winter months of January, February, and March. The summer rainfall is so slight and so irregular that it is not of much value to agriculture. Irrigation is therefore important. The greatest development of agriculture in the Mojave Desert region has been in the Antelope Valley, where it is claimed 10,000 to 1 5,000 acres are under cultivation. Water for irrigation is obtained from mountain streams.

Geology of the Region Very Complex

Panamint Valley

Panamint Valley

The geology of Mojave Desert and the Death Valley region is very complicated. The region embraces the southwestern  portion of the Great Basin plateau. In the north, in the Death
Valley region, mountain ranges trend in somewhat parallel lines in a generally north-northwest and south-southeast direction. Faults in many cases mark the boundaries of the ranges and valleys. Death Valley, lying west of the Amargosa Range (Funeral and Black mountains) , is a sunken basin in which the floor dips to the east and north toward the great fault scarp which marks the mountain side. The structure of Panamint Valley, lying west of the Panamint Range, suggests that it is a down-faulted block with the greatest depression on the east side of the valley. What is thought to be a fault-plane appears in the abrupt wall of the mountain range on the east. Hot springs at the north end of the valley, and the springs near Ballarat, indicate a zone of faulting along this edge of the valley. The parallel arrangement of the mountains and valleys is generally believed to be due to a series of parallel faults, the valleys representing large blocks that have been lowered relatively with respect to the blocks that have been elevated or tilted to form the mountains.Post Office Spring Ballarat ghost town

Post Office Spring (Ballarat)

Crystalline Basement Rock

1.7 billion year old Crystalline Basement Rock

Very ancient rocks, granites probably of Archaean age, occur in some of the mountains. Whatever rocks may have been deposited over them have been removed by erosion. During the early part of the Paleozoic era (Cambrian period) some parts of the region were submerged beneath the sea. This is shown by beds of limestone and other sea sediments in which fossils have been found. If the sea covered the entire region during Cambrian time the formations that were laid down have been removed by erosion from most of the region. During the long Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian periods it is thought that the region was land, as no fossils of these ages have been found. Small patches of rocks containing fossils of Carboniferous age have been found, showing that the sea covered parts of the region at least during Cambrian time. Throughout the Mesozoic era the region is thought to have been land, and was greatly eroded. In the early part of the Tertiary period volcanic outbursts occurred and great lava flows spread over large areas. Throughout the long time of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods erosion was actively going on. A large part of the Tertiary lava flows and other rocks were worn away until now only remnants of once continuous formations are left. Disturbance of the rocks by faulting completed the work of deformation and resulted in the present relief. Geological conditions have resulted in the accumulation of mineral deposits. These constitute the greatest resource of the region, and have been the incentive for the early exploration and much of the later industrial development. Of metallic ores those of gold, silver, copper, and iron have been principally mined, but lead, zinc, quicksilver, and many rarer metals also have been found. Non-metallic minerals, as salt, potash, niter, borax, and gypsum occur in many places, some in commercially important quantities. Much literature relating to the minerals and geologic features of the region is available. (See Appendix.)

Lava flow at Fossil Falls

Lava flow at Fossil Falls

 

 

From: ADVENTURES IN SCENERY
A Popular Reader of California Geology
BY DANIEL E. WILLARD, A.M.
Fellow American Geographic Society, Fellow A.A.A.S.

A Bottle Full of Teeth

John Searles

John Searles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about John Searles