The Massacre at Agua de Hernandez: Resting Springs

Kit Carson

Christopher “Kit” Carson

from the Autobiography of Kit Carson

About the first of April, 1844,   we were ready to start for home. We went up the valley of the San Joaquin, and crossed the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range by a beautiful low pass. We continued under Coast Range until we struck the Spanish trail, which we followed to the Mohave River, a small stream that rises in the Coast Range and is lost in the Great Basin. We continued down the Mohave and made an early camp at the point where the trail leaves the river. In the evening a Mexican man and a boy came to our camp. They informed us that they belong to a party of Mexicans from New Mexico. They were encamped with two other  men and two women at some distance from the main party,  herding horses.  The man and boy  were mounted, and the two men and women were in their camp, when he party of Indians charged on them for the purpose of running off their stock. They told the men and women to make their escape,  and that they would guard the horses. They ran  the animals off from the Indians and led them  to a spring in the desert, about 30 miles from camp.

We started for the place they described, and found that the animals had been taken away by the Indians  who had followed them. The Mexican asked Fremont to  aid  him to recover his animals. Fremont told his men that they might volunteer for the service if they wished, and that he would furnish horses for them to  ride. Godey and myself volunteered, supposing that some of the other men would join us, but none did, and Godey and I and the Mexican  took the trail of the missing animals.  When we had gone 20 miles the Mexican’s horse gave out, and we sent him back. The night wasvery dark, and at times we had to dismount to feel for the trail. We  perceived by the signs that the Indians had passed after sunset. We became much  fatigued, and unsaddling our horses, we wrapped herself in the wet saddle blankets and laid down. The night was miserably cold and we could not make a fire for fear of its being seen. We arose very early and went down into a deep ravine where we made a small fire to warm ourselves.

Explorer John C. Fremont

John C. Fremont

As soon as it was light, we again took the trail, and at sunrise perceived the Indians encamped two miles ahead of us. They had killed five of the animals and were having a feast on them. Our horses could travel no farther, and we had them among the rocks and continued on afoot. We reach the camp unperceived, and crawled in among the horses. A young colt became frightened, and this alarmed the rest. The Indians at length noticed the commotion and sprang for their arms. Although they were about 30 in number, we decided to charge them.  I fired, and shot one.  Godey fired and missed, but reloaded and fired again, killing another. Only three shots at been fired into Indians were slain. The remainder now fled, and taking the two rifles I ascended ill to keep guard while Godey scalped the dead Indians. He scalped the one yet shot was proceeding towards the other one, who was behind some rocks. He was not dead yet, and as Godey approached he raised up and let fly a narrow, which passed through Godey’s shirt collar. Again he fell back and Godey finished him.

We rounded up the animals and drove them to the place where we had concealed our own. Here we changed horses and rode back to our camp with all of the animals, save the ones the Indians had killed for the feast. We then marched onto where the Mexicans had left the two men and women. We discovered  the bodies of the men, horribly mutilated. The women, we suppose, were carried into captivity.  But such was not the case,  for a party traveling in our rear found their bodies very much mutilated and staked to the ground.

Resting Springs, Agua de Hernandez

Resting Springs – where the massacre took place.

We continued our march without molestation till we reach the point where the trail leaves the Virgin River. There we intended to remain a day,  our animals being much fatigued, the discovering a better situation, we moved our camp 80 miles farther on. Here one of our Canadians missed one of his mules, and knowing that it must have been left at the first camp,  started back after it, without informing Fremont or any other party of his project. A few hours later he was missed. The members of the horse guard said he had gone to our last camp to look for his mule, and I was sent with three men to seek him. On reaching the camp we saw a pool of blood where he had fallen from his horse and knew that he was killed. We followed the trail of his animals to the point where it crossed the river that we could not find his body we can return to camp and informed Fremont of his death. In the morning he went with the party to seek the body, but it could not be found. He was a brave, noble-souled  fellow, and I was saddened by his death. I had been in many an Indian fight with the Canadian, and I am confident that he if not was  taken unawares, he killed one or two Indians before he fell. We now left the Virgin River, keeping to the Spanish trail, till we passed the Vega of Santa Clara, when we left the trail and struck out towards . . .

Lost Arch Mine

In days gone by, in the Turtle Mountains, a party of Mexican miners found a rich placer area and they reportedly sluiced off $30,000 before the summer heat dried up their water sources. for a clue back to the gold, they built a two room house with an arch in it. In 1883 two men (so the story goes, but we found records of three names for these (supposedly) two men: Jim Fish, Crocker, and Amsden)  left Needles to explore the Turtle Mountains. A few weeks later only Amsden made his way to Goffs, more dead than alive, with his pockets full of gold. as soon as he recovered from his ordeal he returned to the east. A few years later Dick Colton of Goffs received a letter from him with a map and this message: “The mine is in the Turtle Mountains. The location is not far from a natural arch”.  Since then many people have searched the area, but so far none have found the mine.

Courtesy Pat Schoffstall: Mojave Desert Dictionary – Mojave River Valley Museum

Crossing the Mojave: Kit Carson (1829)

Leaving the headwaters of the Verde River in Arizona the party traveled to the Colorado River to the Mohave villages scattered along the east bank between what is now Topock and Bullhead City in Arizona.  From there they traveled toward the middle of the desert, possibly on the route of either Fr. Garces in 1776, or further north on the trail taken by Jedediah Smith in 1826 and 1827, these converging at the mouth of the Mojave River east of Afton Canyon.  It was two days before they found water after reaching the Mojave River. This may have placed them just east of today’s Barstow, California at a place that was known years later as Fish Ponds.

After four days travel we found water. Before we reached it, the pack mules were strung along the road for several miles. They smelled the water long before we had any hopes of finding any, it made all the best use of the strength left them after their severe sufferings to reach it as soon as they could. We remained here two days. It would have been impracticable  to continue the march without giving the men and animals the rest which they so much required.

Colorado River at Moab

Colorado River at Moab across from Topock, Az.

After remaining in camp two days we resumed our expedition and for four days traveled over a country similar to that which we had traversed before our arrival at the last water. There was no water to be found during this time, and we suffered extremely on the account of it. On the fourth day we arrived on the Colorado of the West, below the great Canyon.

Mojave River fan

Our joy when we discovered the stream can better be imagined than described. We also had suffered greatly for want of food. We met a party of the Mojave Indians and purchase from them a mare, heavy with foal. The mare was killed and eaten by the party with great gusto; even the foal was devoured.  We encamped on the banks of the Colorado three days, recruiting our animals and trading for provisions with the Indians, from home we procured a few beans and some corn. Then we took a southwestern course and in three days march struck the bed of the stream running northeast,  which rises in the Coast Range and its  lost in the sands of the great basin. We proceeded up the stream for six days, and two days after our arrival on it we found water. We then left the stream and traveled in a westerly direction, and in four days arrived at the of Mission San Gabriel.

 

San Gabriel Mission

At the mission there was one priest, 15 soldiers, and about 1000 Indians. They had about 80,000 head of stock, fine fields and vineyards, in fact, it was a paradise on earth. We remained one day at the mission, receiving good treatment from the inhabitants,  and purchasing from them what deep we required. We had nothing but butcher knives to trade, and for four of these they would give us a  beef.

from: The Autobiography of  Kit Carson

Ice–Five Cents a Rub

Calico,  like most of the Mojave Desert, is hot summer.  An incident  of the summer in the 1880s, while Calico was booming, indicates it was hot enough to send the devil scampering home to cool off.

Calico ghost town

Calico ghost town

The driver of the daily ice wagon was doing a grand business unloading his wares at three dollars a block, and no hagglers.  That is, not until a newcomer, a man who had that day come to work in the mines, rushed out of the boarding house and gasped: “Give me a nickel’s worth of ice.”

The Iceman extended his hand, took the nickel, then stepped back to wait.

” Well?”  the hot, tired, dust covered tenderfoot asked.
” Well?”  the Iceman answered.

The new miner made no move. He stood there and looked blankly from the load of ice to its owner and back again. the Iceman opened his mouth once or twice as if to speak, then snapped his lips together.

” Well?”  the newcomer repeated.
” Well yourself,”  was  the reply.  “Maybe you don’t know it but ice is five cents a rub.   If you don’t hurry, your rub is goin’ to be melted away!”

The tenderfoot hastily took his rub.

 from: Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County — WPA Writers Program

Charles Brown at Greenwater

From “Loafing Along Death Valley Trails” by William Carruthers

Charles Brown General Store - Shoshone, Ca.

Charles Brown General Store – Shoshone, Ca.

The story of Charles Brown and the Shoshone store begins in Greenwater. In the transient hordes of people that poured into that town, there was one who had not come for quick, easy money. On his own since he was 11 when he had gone to work in  a Georgia mine, he only wanted a job. And he got it. In the excited, loose-talking mob, he was conspicuous because he was silent, calm, and unhurried.

There were no law enforcement officers in Greenwater.  The jail was 150 miles away. Every day was a field day for the toughs in the town. Better citizens decided to do something about it. They petitioned George Naylor, Inyo County Sheriff at Independence to appoint or send a deputy to keep some semblance of order.

Naylor sent over a badge and a note that said, “Pin it on some husky youngster, who is unmarried and unafraid and tell him to shoot first.”

The Citizens’ Committee met. ” I know a fellow who answers that description,”  one of them said. ” Steady sort. Built like a panther. Comes from Georgia. Kind slow motion in till he is ready to spring. Name is Brown.”

The badge was pinned on Charles Brown.

Charles & Stella Brown

Greenwater was a port of call for Death Valley Slim, a character of the Western deserts, who normally was a happy-go-lucky likable fellow. Periodically Slim would fill himself with desert “likker”,  his belt with six guns and terrorized the town.

Shortly after Brown assumed the duties of his office, Slim sent word to the deputy that he was on his way to that place for a little frolic. ” Tell him, ”  he coached the messenger, “Sheriffs rile me and he better take a vacation.”

After notifying the merchants and residents who promptly barricaded themselves indoors, the officer found shelter for himself  in Beatty, Nevada.

So Slim only seen empty streets and barge shutters upon arrival.  Since there was nothing to shoot at, he  headed through Dead Mead Canyon for Greenwater.  their he found the main street crowded to his liking and the saloons jammed. He made for the nearest, ordered a drink and, whipping out his gun, began to pop the bottles on the shelves. At first blast, patrons made a break for the exits. At the second, the doors and windows were smashed and when Slim holstered his gun, the place was a wreck.

Messengers were sent for Brown, who was at his cabin a mile away. Brown’s stuck a pistol in his pocket and went down. He found Slim in Waddell’s saloon, the town’s smartest.  their Slim had refused to let the patrons leave with the bartenders cowed, the patrons cornered, Slim was amusing himself by shooting alternately at chandeliers, the feet of customers, and the plump breasts of the nude lady featured in the painting behind the bar.  following Brown at a safe distance, was half of the population, keyed for the massacre.

Brown walked in and said “Hello Slim”. ” Fellows tell me you  are hogging all the fun. Better let me have that  gun, hadn’t you?” “Like hell,” Slim sneered, ” I’ll let you have it right through the guts.”

As he raised his gun for the kill, the panther sprung  and the battle was on.  they fought one over the bar room –  standing up, laying down, rolling over –  first one, then the other on top. Tables toppled, chairs crashed. For half an hour they battled savagely, finally rolling against the bar –  both  mauled and bloody. There, with his strong vice-like  legs  wrapped around Slim’s  and in arm of steel gripping net and shoulder, Brown slipped irons over the bad man’s wrist. ” Get up,”  Brown ordered as he stood aside, breathing hard.

Greenwater, Ca. ghost town site, Death Valley National Park

Slim rose, leaned against the bar. There was fight still in him and seeing a bottle in front of him, he had seized it with manacled hands, started to lift it.

” Slim,”  Brown said calmly , ” if you lift that bottle, you’ll never lift another.”

The bad boy instinctively knew the look that foretells death and Slim’s fingers fell from the  bottle.

Greenwater had no jail. Brown took him to his own cabin. Leaving the manacles on the prisoner, he took off his shoes and locked  him in a closet.  no man, drunk or sober, he reflected, would tackle barefoot the gravel street littered with thousands of broken liquor bottles.  He went to bed.

Waking later, he discovered that Slim had vanished and with him, Brown’s size 12 shoes.  Brown tried Slim’s shoes but couldn’t get his feet into them. There was nothing to do but follow barefoot.

He left a bloodstained trail, but at 2 AM he found Slim in a blacksmith shop, having the handcuffs removed. Brown retrieved his shoes and on the return trip, Slim went barefoot. After hog tying the prisoner, Brown chained  him to the bed and went to sleep.

Thereafter, the bad boys scratched Greenwater off their calling list.

Slim attained fame with  Pancho Villa down in Mexico,  became a good citizen and later went east.

courtesy – Mohahve Historical Society archives

Old Mormon Fort: Las Vegas, Nevada

During the Spanish Colonial Period (1542-1821) in the American Southwest, the Spanish empire was competing for control over resources with the British, French, and Russian monarchies. They attempted to link colonies in the Spanish territories, later known as the New Mexico and California, by establishing trade routes to form a passageway across the entire Southwest desert region. The Old Spanish Trail was used commercially to link the towns that would later become Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1829 until 1848. The abundant spring water available in the Las Vegas (meaning “the meadows” in Spanish) Valley made it an ideal resting point on the trail.

Old Mormon Fort - Las Vegas, Nevada

Old Mormon Fort – Las Vegas, Nevada

The presence of the valley springs also drew the Southern Paiute Indians, a nomadic people moving frequently during the year, who made the valley their winter homeland. They raised small crops near the springs in the valley, which provided water and food for the Indians inhabiting the area and later for travelers making their way across the desert.

The Las Vegas Valley would become an attractive place for other European-American settlers as well. One group of settlers looking for a new home was the Mormons–also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–a religious sect organized by Joseph Smith in New York in 1830. Based on the Book of Mormon, which Smith said was revealed to him by heavenly messengers, this religious body felt called to restore the authentic church established by Jesus and his Apostles. The history of the Mormons is dramatic–filled with persecution, an exodus from the eastern part of the United States, and ultimately successful establishment of a thriving religious society in a desert. The Mormons formed in upstate New York, an area where the Second Great Awakening was most popular as the United States underwent a widespread flowering of religious sentiment and unprecedented expansion of church membership. The group was forced to move several times because of conflicts with residents in various places where they settled, including Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. They were accused of blasphemy and inciting slave insurrections. After Smith was killed by an angry mob in Illinois in 1844, it became necessary for the Mormons to find a new home once again.

A new leader emerged to guide the Mormons to a new Zion at the Great Salt Lake. Under the direction of Brigham Young, they began an arduous journey West to what would become Utah, where they arrived in July of 1847. In 1848, after the war with Mexico, the United States acquired the majority of what now constitutes the American Southwest. The Mormons petitioned Congress to become the State of Deseret, a word from the Book of Mormon signifying honeybee which was considered an industrious creature, but they were only allowed territorial status. Congress established the Territory of Utah, named for a local Indian tribe, and President Fillmore appointed Brigham Young governor in 1851. Young also became superintendent of Indian affairs. He oversaw the building of Salt Lake City and hundreds of other southwestern communities.

In the middle of the 19th century, the idea of “Manifest Destiny”–a phrase used to explain continental expansion by the U.S.–was embraced by many American people, including the Mormons. They began an industrious campaign to colonize Utah and beyond, establishing hundreds of settlements throughout the West and Southwest. As part of this process, Brigham Young called on volunteers to create a Las Vegas Mission, which would be strategically located alongside the Mormon Road (a portion of the Old Spanish Trail between New Mexico and California), halfway between the Mormon settlements of southern Utah and the San Bernardino Mission in southern California. There were eventually 96 settlements that included Lehi, Provo, Payson, Nephi, Fillmore, Beaver, Parowan and Cedar City. Meanwhile, the discovery of gold in California in 1848 made southern Nevada a corridor for westward emigrants and gold seekers. A gold seeker wrote in his diary on November 21, 1849 about stopping at the Las Vegas creek. Offering the only reliable supply of water for a 55-mile stretch along the Mormon Road, the Las Vegas Valley’s springs were important for watering the mules, horses and oxen of travelers crossing the region’s harsh desert environment. With the opening of the San Bernardino settlement in 1851, there was an additional need for a way station at the Las Vegas springs to provide supplies and rest. The mission the Mormons established as part of the Church’s westward expansion out of Utah became the first non-native settlement in the area, and the Mormons hoped to bring the American Indians into their flock. Although the Mormons occupied the site only from 1855 to 1858, it affected the development of what was to become southern Nevada.

from — The Old Mormon Fort: Birthplace of Las Vegas, Nevada — National Park Service

History of the Victor Valley

This book is a “must have” for anyone interested in a detailed history of the Victor Valley …

cover- history of the Victor ValleyAs readers of the early chapters will readily recognize, there are not many sources on the early history of the Victor Valley. Therefore, use of the Los Angeles in San Bernardino newspapers became essential, along with diaries and other writings of people mostly passing through the area. My familiarity with the Latter-day Saint history might have predisposed me to utilize more material from such sources than someone do. In fact, I concede that some coverage, particularly in the last half-century of the book is not completely even. This is an inherent problem for anyone trying to document recent history from the volumes of material available. Every historian has historical periods of interest. Mine are the 19th and early 20th centuries— not particularly the latter half of the latter century. Of all the publications and articles I have written, there is probably more of the post-1960 era contained herein than I have ever previously written.

This doubtless means that someday an ambitious person, at least with interest the last half century or so, will need to add greater historical detail, particularly on the many subjects not covered or at best sparsely covered herein from the 1960s forward.. With the passage of time, the advantage of hindsight will make the task is somewhat easier. On the other hand, is doubtful if much of the earlier. Will need to be redone, other than perhaps in providing a more balanced work that omits some of the extra, but interesting, detail included in this effort.

Excerpt from the Preface of History of the Victor Valley by Edward Leo Lyman

Only $30
Available through the Mohahve Historical Society

– 409 pages – historic photos – maps – subject index –

– Published by the Mohahve Historical Society –

Victorville “V”

Victorville V

Victorville “V”

Directions

From the parking lot of the Victor Valley Jr. High School Gym you will have an unobstructed view of the Victorville “V”.
 
Notes
In 1930 the Victor Valley High School site was where Victor Valley Jr. High is currently located. The Victorville “V” was placed on the side of the hill as a landmark for the high school. Keith Gunn, then high school football coach and shop teacher, later to become principal, spearheaded the project of the “V”. Southwestern Portland Cement Co. donated the cement and the students of the high school football team were responsible for the actual installation.
William E. Mutschler –

Nothing but Jackrabbits

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

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

Jack and Ida Mitchell of Mitchell Caverns

Jack and Ida Mitchell

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

More about Jack Mitchell

 

Life Histories: Whiptails

Life Histories:
Letters from Lizards to Lizards about Lizards

Cnemidophorus

Coy Cnemidophorus

Dear Troy,

It is not you but, me. I am leaving you for another female of our species. I have learned that female whiptails do not need male whiptails in order to reproduce. I do wish it could have been different. I am just so much more comfortable. Best of luck to you.

Much love. XO
~ Scarlett