Roads to Yesterday — Van Dusen Road

In 1861 the county of San Bernardino contracted with John Brown to build a toll road through the Cajon Pass from Devore to Cajon Summit. That would do fine to get wagons and freight between San Bernardino and the Mojave Desert. At the same time the county also approved a subscription road to be built by Jed Van Dusen from near the summit through the mountains so equipment and supplies could be freighted to the mines in Holcomb Valley.

History in the Making

Mountain Road Cost Miners $2,000 in Gold

Brown’s Toll Road

Back in the early 1860s the gold rich but food poor miners of Holcomb Valley decided the number one need for their mountain metropolis was a road.  in typical pioneer fashion instead of looking to San Bernardino, Sacramento or Washington these miners resolved to build the road.

At the time supplies for Holcomb Valley were brought up by way of a packed train trail up Santa Ana Canyon from the San Bernardino Valley and thence to Holcomb Valley by trails threading either Polique or Van Dusen Canyons.  these trails served for burros,  mules or horses but the only way to get a wagon to the gold mines  was to take it apart and load its pieces on pack animals.

Toll Road up Cajon

John Brown Sr.

The Holcomb Valley mines were reputedly among the richest in California. Free gold, as the placers were known,  was becoming hard to obtain in quantities up in the worked over streams of the Mother Lode and accordingly thousands of footloose miners poured into Holcomb Valley making an increasingly heavy strain on the thin supply line.

Down in San Bernardino John Brown Sr. a resourceful Rocky Mountain man, who was one of the leaders in the settlement both during and subsequent to the Mormon regime, had an experienced eye for trade routes. Brown was probably one of the first to vision San Bernardino as a trade center due to its central location and proximity of favorable mountain gateways.

Brown saw that San Bernardino could obtain an even better share of overland travel with better roads. Accordingly he planned to make  the Cajon Pass gateway the  preferable way east. He applied to the Board of Supervisors and was granted a toll road franchise. His road utilized the East Cajon route  which he improved so it could accommodate wagons. Then Brown went farther and started a ferry over the Colorado River at Fort Mohave.

Builder Paid $2,000

Van Dusen Road/ Coxey Truck Trail from Cajon Summit to Holcomb Valley

Van Dusen Road/ Coxey Truck Trail from Cajon Summit to Holcomb Valley

The Brown Road diverted Holcomb Valley traffic  away from the Santa Ana trail. A new trail was blazed down Holcomb Creek, Willow Creek and Arrastre Creek to reach the Mojave Desert floor  in the vicinity of Deadman Point.  From Deadman Point  it was an easy open  path to Brown’s road.

Miners  and supply men who used the new trail  saw that it could be widened to accommodate wagons. The usual method of making a road would have been for the Holcomb Valley miners  to turn out with their picks and shovels, but that meant leaving their claims just when water was high enough for gold washing. Accordingly a person of $2,000  in gold dust was raised and Jed Van Dusen, the camp blacksmith, was hired to build the road. He did just that. Van Dusen was a resourceful fellow. He had assembled a wagon from parts brought up to Holcomb Valley by pack train. In between running his smithy he had some good claims he worked in the canyon  that has been given his name. Van Dusen’s chief claim to fame, however, was neither his skill as a road builder, blacksmith or miner. it rested on the fact he was father of a very pretty little girl named  Belle.

Dead Man's Point

Dead Man’s Point

Daughter Honored

When the miners cast about for a name for their town in Holcomb Valley  they found W. F. (Billy) Holcomb  reluctant to have it named for him. Then someone had an idea. Why not name the camp for Jed Van Dusen’s little girl? So Belleville became the name of the big roaring mining camp that had almost as many residents as the rest of the county.

gold mine

Lucky Baldwin’s Gold Mountain

For a dozen years or so the Van Dusen built road  carried the heaviest traffic in the county. The travel to the mines,  of course, was a great help to the Brown tollway. Heavy machinery needed for quartz mining  was hauled over the road as gold veined ledges were discovered. The latter  included two of the most famous gold mines San Bernardino County history, E. J.  (Lucky) Baldwin’s  Gold Hill property and Richard Garvey’s Greenlead.

During Civil War days the Van Dusen –  built road carried a strange assortment of passengers and cargo. Liquors for Greek George’s  notorious  saloons and dance halls, staple goods, the inevitable blasting powder and large bullion shipments. Strangest of all travelers, however, was a ragged troop of filibusters recruited in Visalia  who called themselves Confederate calvarymen  and commanded by Mariposa County’s  stormy Assemblyman  Dan Showalter. Showalter and his motley horsemen were trying to reach southern lines in Texas but a few weeks later ran into California volunteers near Warner’s Ranch and were taken prisoner.

This was the same Showalter who had recently slain San Bernardino County’s  Assemblyman  Charles Piercy in a duel at San Rafael. The duel  was fought with rifles at 40  paces. First shots of both antagonists went wild and Showalter allegedly jumped the gun and shot the second time at the count of two, killing Piercy. Showalter was a fugitive when he was in Holcomb Valley but secessionist  sentiment plus that of roughs  who wanted no government at all  served to protect the fact it was San Bernardino County’s legislator  he had slain.

The roughs around Belleville  ran things with a high hand, at least until Greek George fell mortally wounded from the knife of ” Charlie  the Chink”  in the drunken aftermath of a Fourth of July celebration. In a reminiscent account written 35 years later Billy Holcomb told of that fatal July 4 and of George’s killing three men before his fatal combat with  the celestial.

Coxey Meadows - Van Dusen Road

Van Dusen Road

It was members of George’s gang, left more or less leaderless, who held up an outgoing stagecoach and relieved the Wells Fargo messenger of $60,000. It was the disgusted miners,  anxious to drive out the roughs, who pursued the highway men and killed them all. The last bandit  was slain a bit too quick for he died while trying to tell where the $60,000 was  hidden. As far as is known it has never been found, a sizable  cache of gold bars  that has  lured treasure seekers  unsuccessfully  for something like 90 years.

Baldwin Garvey Feud

The Van Dusen Road carried the ballot boxes in the weird election when Belleville tried to become county seat, and probably succeeded in polling a countrywide majority but lost on the official count by the “accident”  of a  Belleville  precinct’s box being lost in a bonfire  down in San Bernardino.

After the richer placer deposits had been worked Belleville and upstream Beardstown  dwindled in size. The emphasis’s one to hard rock mining which required less men more capital and tools. In the hard rock field the giant was Baldwin, who at one time was running a 100- stamp mill at Gold Hill and the operation was supporting a good-sized town, the town of Doble.

Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin

Next in size to Baldwin’s operation were those of Garvey.  Garvey had owned Gold Hill at one time and reportedly sold it to Baldwin for $200,000. The Garvey family always contended that Baldwin took a bill of sale for the mine  but neglected to pay the Irish-born Garvey all the promised money. Garvey trusted his supposed  friend.

Garvey held onto the Greenlead, which is almost at the side of the Van Dusen Road in lower Holcomb Valley. When hard times depressed  Los Angeles real estate  Garvey found he owed $300,000 on the land no longer worth the amount of the mortgages. Three shifts worked the Greenlead and Garvey paid all  but $90,000 of the $300,000 debt. The family held onto the Greenlead.  It had been leased, sold and worked from time to time. The new owner from Sherman Oaks was on the property a year ago with plans for reopening the long tunnels where there is still said to be quantities of ore  rich enough to pay for mining even under current costs.

Long Cattle Drives

In the wake of the minors cattlemen moved into the San Bernardino Mountains. The old road to Holcomb Valley saw huge drives in both spring and fall as cattle were moved from desert ranges to the mountains and back again.

When the first dam was built at Bear Valley in the 1880s A. E.  Taylor hauled supplies over the old road, then completed and used the road up Cushenbury direct to Bear Valley. Advent  of the Cushenbury gateway, now Highway 18, and the later Mill Creek and crest routes serve to diminish the importance of the old route but it was not closed.

Coxey Meadows

Coxey Meadows

Halfway down to the desert, at the well-known landmark of Coxey’s Ranch, the Forest Service  had one of its early ranger stations. It was one of the picturesque log cabin structures typical of such stations 40 years ago. A search for the station earlier this summer disclosed that he had reverted to the status of a guard station and that two or three years ago it was burned when a gasoline lantern or stove exploded. The old corral remains Coxey’s. Today’s guards campout and have telephone service.

The old road is a popular one with Forest visitors who like to get away from the pavement and camp out. There are public grounds at Horse Springs, Big Pine Flats, and that Hannah Flats. Numerous Springs make the route a well watered one that it is no place for a pavement driver with a low center car.

L. Burr Belden
San Bernardino  Sun-Telegram  September 6, 1959

Some Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stoddard Ridge (Sawtooth)

I had heard that the rocks in the Sawtooth area were of an unlikely composite origin.  So, I asked a friend to send me an abstract of the geology (as if I would understand it).

The following abstract seems to indicate that the geologic complexity of this area is more intricate than even geologists previously thought.  It looks as if there are several kinds of rocks introduced through widely varying events from as far back as 1.5 billion years up to as recently as 66 million years ago combining unlikely materials to form the obviously unique Stoddard Ridge.

Now, since I have mostly no idea on what I am talking about I will keep going out there and studying the area to see if I can ever understand it.

ABSTRACT
GEOLOGY OF THE STODDARD RIDGE AREA, WEST CENTRAL MOJAVE DESERT, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY CALIFORNIA — BROWN, Howard J. – Omya -Lucerne Valley, CA – May 2013

Stoddard Ridge is a prominent landmark south of Barstow California in the west central Mojave Desert area. The 35 square mile area was mapped in detail at a scale of 1:12,000. The geology is far more complex than depicted on all older published maps. The new mapping adds significant new data regarding the variety of rocks present, and adds new details on the geologic structure and complex geologic history of the area.Several packages of rocks are exposed. At the east end of the ridge the oldest rocks are exposed and include PreCambrian basement gneiss complex, metamorphosed intrusive rocks, and possible Late Proterozoic metasedimentary rocks (schist units). The central part of the ridge exposes several sequences of steeply dipping Mid Jurassic Lower Sidewinder volcanic (JLSV) rocks, and younger (JLSV) rhyolite dome complex that includes extrusive, flow banded and massive hypabyssal intrusives. The western portion of Stoddard Ridge is largely heterogeneous Mid Jurassic plutonic rocks (post JLSV) which form a steeply dipping sheeted intrusive complex, that includes diorite, granodiorite, quartz monzonite and felsite. Plutonic and to a lesser degree volcanic rocks are cut by numerous younger mafic and felsic dikes correlated with the Independence dike swarm of Late Jurassic age. The eastern part of the ridge has been intruded by homogeneous Mid Jurassic plutonic rocks, and Cretaceous granitic intrusive rocks are exposed along the southwestern base of Stoddard Ridge. Several ages of Late Cenozoic alluvial units were also differentiated in mapping.

Geologic structure is complex, the result of several deformational events including shearing, folding, faulting, intrusion and metamorphism of pre Mid Jurassic age, followed by multiple Mid Jurassic age volcanic, intrusive and deformation (folding and faulting) events, and younger Cenozoic age faulting. Most bedrock units have a northwest trending structural grain which likely formed in Jurassic time. Suspected concealed faults are present under alluvium. Several prominant young northwest trending high angle faults are present on the south side of the ridge and can be seen to cut alluvium.

 

 

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.

Mojave or Mohave?

THIS WORD “MOJAVE”: J OR H?

Much confusion and arguement have arisen from the two spellings of the word “Mojave.” A ruling of the Geographical Board in Washington, D.C. however a few years ago simplified the problem someshat. If you are in California, the name of the river, the city and the desert should be spelled with a “j”: Mojave. If, on the other hand, you happen to be in Arizona, then you must spell the name of the county and the Indian tribe with an “h”: Mohave. Dr. A.L. Kroeber of the University of California, noted anthropologist, claims that only the “h” spelling should exist, since the word is an Indian one, not Spanish, and was only transliterated by the early Spanish, who gave all “h” sounds a spelling of “j”. The very same problem arose with the greatest Indian tribe of Northern Arizona: should it be Navaho or Navajo?

The word Mojave (or Mohave) itself is of Indian origin and is that tribe’s name for “three mountains,” referring to three distinctive landmarks near the present city of Needles, whose name also refers to this geological oddity.

Desert Rat Scrapbook
Published by Harry Oliver

Fort Commander, Publisher, Distributor, Lamp Lighter, Editor, Artist, Gardener, Janitor, Owner
A paper that grows on you as you as you turn each page . . . excepting page 5

Pictures are by the author, many of them are woodcuts.

“I Did All but the Spelling.”

The “Battle” of Wingate Pass

from; Death Valley Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining – Volume I
Linda W. Greene

Probably the most publicized event in the Wingate Pass area concerns one of Death Valley Scotty‘s most infamous hoaxes, referred to as the “Battle” of Wingate Pass. Conceived as a last-ditch effort to discourage further investigations by a mining engineer who was insisting on actually seeing Scotty’s bonanza gold mine before recommending that his employers invest any money in it, the attack turned out to have almost fatal consequences for one of Scotty’s brothers, put Scott himself in and out of jail several times during the ensuing months, and ultimately, six years after the incident, resulted in his confessing in a Los Angeles courtroom to long-term and full-scale fraud and deceit. (The most concise version of this tale appears in Hank Johnston, Death Valley Scotty: “Fastest Con in the West” and serves as the basis for the following account.)

photo of the con man, Death Valley Scotty

Death Valley Scotty

The escapade had its beginnings in February 1906 when a New England mining promoter, A.Y. Pearl, whom Scott had met in New York, interested some bankers and businessmen in investing in Scott’s supposedly rich mining properties in Death Valley. Before committing any money, however, the Easterners insisted that Daniel E. Owen, a respected Boston mining engineer who happened to be in Nevada at this time, personally inspect the property and give his opinion of its worth.

Arrangements were accordingly made with all the parties involved, and by February 1906 Owen, Pearl, and Scott were in Daggett preparing for the journey into Death Valley. Other members of the expedition were: Albert M. Johnson, president of the National Life Insurance Company of Chicago (soon to become Scotty’s long-term benefactor), who had recently arrived from the East and, intrigued by the stories of Scotty’s untold wealth, asked to accompany the party; Bill and Warner Scott, brothers of Death Valley Scotty; Bill Keys, a half-breed Cherokee Indian who had prospected with Scott in the Death Valley region for several years, who had found the Desert Hound Mine in the southern Black Mountains, and who several years later, after the “ambush” incident, moved to a ranch in what is now Joshua Tree National Monument [park]; A.W. DeLyle St. Clair, a Los Angeles miner; and Jack Brody, a local desert character.

The entire trip, if carried out as planned, had the potential of proving extremely embarrassing for Scott, who, after all, did not have a mine to show in order to consummate this lucrative transaction. Desperate for a solution, he turned to his friend Billy Keys and persuaded him to let him show Owen the Desert Hound instead. Although not as large as Scott had reported his bonanza to be, at least the Hound was there on the ground for Owen to see. Papers of agreement were drawn up to the effect that Scott and Keys would split the proceeds from the mine sale.

Later, fearful that Owen would reject this mine as being too small a producer to warrant investment by his employers, Scott devised a scheme that he hoped might succeed in scaring Owen away from the area and dampening his enthusiasm for penetrating into the Death Valley region as far as the mine. A shootout would be staged and hopefully be authentic enough to disrupt Owen’s intended mission.

Starting out on 23 February 1906 with two wagons fully loaded with provisions, extra animal feed and fresh water, and a string of extra mules and horses, plus a liberal supply of whiskey, the party journeyed on to camp the next evening at Granite Wells. On Sunday, 25 February, the caravan pushed on twenty-six miles toward Lone Willow Spring, site of their next camp. In the morning Scott directed his brother Bill to stay at the spring with the extra animals and told Bill Keys and Jack Brody to proceed on ahead and look for any danger. After giving these two a reasonable head start, the rest of the party began the trek toward Wingate Pass and, surmounting that obstacle, proceeded on down the wash into the south end of Death Valley. Toward dusk that evening, as the party was trying to decide where to camp, shots were heard and a lone rider appeared from the north. He turned out to be an ex-deputy sheriff from Goldfield, Nevada, who excitedly reported that he had just been fired on from ambush and his pack train stampeded.

Receiving Scott’s assurances that he could fight off any outlaws, the party warily resumed its journey. A little further up the road beyond Dry Lake, near the site of the earlier shooting, Scotty suddenly drew his rifle and fired two shots. Startled, the mules pulling Warner Scott and Daniel Owen in the lead wagon began to buck, the force tipping Owen over backwards; a sudden shot from behind a stone breastwork on a cliff to the south hit Warner in the groin. It was at this point that Scotty made the fatal blunder that, in the recalling, forced Owen to doubt the authenticity of the ambush. Upon realizing that his brother had been seriously wounded, Scotty, nonplussed, galloped away toward the “ambushers” yelling at them to stop shooting.

Establishing camp quickly, an attempt was made to close Warner’s wounds. In the morning the party headed the wagons quickly back toward Bill Scott and Lone Willow Spring, and eventually toward Daggett, leaving their provisions behind by the side of the road. Keys and Brody never did rejoin the group. Reaching Daggett on 1 March, the group put Warner on a train for Los Angeles; Scotty hurriedly took off for Seattle where he was about to star in a play, “Scotty, King of the Desert Mine.” Johnson left immediately for Chicago and, due to some fast legal work by his lawyer, was not involved in any of the ensuing litigations.

Bill Keys Desert Queen Ranch

Bill Keys

The incident struck the fancy of Los Angeles newspapermen, who, however, were hard put to locate the principals involved or determine the true facts of the case. Pearl circulated a good story of fighting off four outlaws, but Owen, disaffirming this tale, and evidently convinced that Scott had meant to kill him, reported the true facts to the San Bernardino County sheriff and later to the press. Two weeks later warrants were issued for the arrest of Walter Scott, Bill Keys, and Jack Brody on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. In an attempt to determine the identify of the party’s attackers, the San Bernardino County sheriff, John Ralphs, and an undersheriff entered the Death Valley country to find Keys and Brody. Although these two managed to elude the law this time, the provisions that had been hurriedly left at the scene of the attack by the Scott party were found at Scotty’s Camp Holdout; other incriminating evidence took the form of a statement by Jack Hartigan, the Nevada lawman who had also been shot at, that he had backtracked and seen Keys running from the scene after Scott’s plea to stop shooting.

Publicity given to Scotty and the incident was becoming unfavorable, many people now deciding it was time to show Scotty up for the fraud and liar he was believed to be Scotty, working in his play out of town while loudly condemning these attacks on his character and reputation, continued to propogate the story of a bona fide attack by outlaws who were after his life and his valuable claims. Sarcastic poems and invective cartoons began to appear in the Los Angeles Evening News his primary accuser, which had earlier asked in an editorial, “What is the truth about this desert freak? He has ceased to be a joke. People are getting shot and action must be taken. . . . ” [235]

In the midst of all this attendant publicity that for a while brought full houses to his play, Scotty was arrested around 24 March by order of the San Bernardino sheriff; he was released later that night on a writ of habeas corpus, his bail of $500 having been raised by Walter Campbell of the Grand Opera House. Seemingly true to the profile presented in the News commenting that “He [Scott] occupies the cheapest room in the Hotel Portland, drinks nickel beer, and leaves no tips!,” [236] after release from jail this time Scotty asked the crowd in attendance “to have a drink. Every body had visions of wine and popping of corks, but Scotty announced it was a case of steam beer or nothing.” [237]

Scotty was arrested again two days later and again released on bail, and then on 7 April 1906 Scott pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Out again on $2,000 bail, more bad luck was awaiting him in the form of a $152,000 damage suit filed by his brother Warner, now out of the hospital, in Los Angeles Superior Court against Walter and Bill Scott, Bill Keys, A.Y. Pearl, and a “John Doe.” Three days later Keys was arrested at Ballarat, and, also pleading not guilty to the two charges against him, was summarily slapped in jail. Luckily for Scotty, Keys kept silent on the whole matter.

On 13 April, for the fourth time in under three weeks, Scotty was arrested; this time A.Y. Pearl and Bill Scott were also taken into custody. All ended up in the San Bernardino County jail. Out again through habeas corpus proceedings the next day, Scott rejoined his acting troupe. Then, on 27 April, only four days before the preliminary hearing on the case was to start, all charges were dismissed by the San Bernardino County Justice at the request of the District Attorney. To the disappointment of many of Scott’s detractors, but true to the luck that seemed to always rescue him from tight places, a jurisdictional problem had arisen over the fact that the scene of the shooting was actually in Inyo County, which alone had jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Because Inyo County authorities seemed loathe to proceed, all prisoners were released from custody and the final act of the long, drawn-out affair seemed over.

One newspaper article published soon after Scotty’s death (besides stating erroneously that one of the “outlaws” in the fracas had been Bill Scott) charged that Scotty himself moved the surveyor’s post marking the Inyo-San Bernardino County line. [238] This seems to be borne out by Scotty’s own version of the whole affair, which of course pursues the theory that outlaws were trying to get title to his “claims” by permanently removing him from the scene. After several supposed attempts on his life (this most recent encounter not the only one that had taken place in Wingate Pass) from which he always recovered.

Our gang, including my brother Warner, who was working for me and spying for the other crowd, came into Death Valley through San Bernardino County. The two ‘frictions’ met in Wingate Pass. They thought we was the Apache gang. Somebody began to shoot.

I said to Johnson, ‘Get back where the bullets are thickest.’ That was in the ammunition wagon.

I knew something was wrong. When I hollered, ‘Quit shooting!’ things quieted down. The other gang disappeared. We look around and find Warner has been shot in the leg. The same bullet has gone around and lodged in his shoulder. Johnson took eighteen stitches in it. We hauled Warner a hundred miles to a doctor. Had him in a buckboard. Made it in ten hours.

At this time I had a show troop. While it’s playing in San Francisco, I am arrested. I get out on a two-thousand-dollar bond.

Later I was re-arrested, and this time the bond is five thousand, but between the two arrests, I’ve had time to get things fixed. You remember, the fight took place in San Bernardino County, and i don’t want to be tried there.

I decide I’ll move the county boundary monument. When I was a boy, I’d been roustabout for the crew. that surveyed that part of the country, so I know it like a book. I go back and move the pile of rock six miles over into San Bernardino County. That puts the shooting into Inyo County.

The trial starts in San Bernardino. I say, ‘If you investigate, I think you’ll find this affair occurred in Inyo and that this court has no jurisdiction.’ The trial stopped. They investigated. Sure enough, they found the boundary marker. According to the way the line ran, the battle occurred over the line in Inyo County.

Inyo County wasn’t interested. The case was dismissed. [239]

map of Location of Wingate Pass with county boundary lines.

Location of Wingate Pass with county boundary lines.

The true nature of the whole affair was later revealed by Bill Keys who admitted before his death that he and a companion (possibly the teamster Jack Brody, although according to Keys it was an Indian named Bob Belt) had faked the ambush at Scotty’s behest. The shooting of Warner had been accidental, his partner being too drunk to aim his gun properly.[240]

Warner Scott dropped his damage suit against his brother on condition that he assume the medical bill of over $1,000 owed to a Dr. C.W. Lawton of Los Angeles. Scott agreed and then promptly left the city. Lawton obtained a judgement against Scotty, but the latter proceeded to ignore it, having no tangible assets anyway.

During the next few years, Scott still had some associations with Wingate Pass, a notice being found that in 1908 he interested Al D. Meyers of Goldfield and a couple of associates in a strike made there. Notwithstanding Scott’s earlier famous experience, the men outfitted in Barstow and accompanied him to inspect the property. There is no evidence that they encountered any difficulties, though nothing further was heard of the outcome of the proposition. Bill Keys was also mining for lead ore in Wingate Pass in 1908, in partnership with Death Valley Slim. [241]

Six years after the Wingate Pass incident, however, on 20 June 1912, the past caught up with Walter Scott, and in a rather spectacular trial in a Los Angeles courtroom, Scotty was forced to acknowledge a multitude of sins. In order to secure his release from jail where he had been confined for contempt of court for not paying the doctor’s bill for his brother Warner’s medical care, Scotty was forced to confess to the shams involved in the ambush in Wingate Pass, in the big rolls of money he always carried (which he confessed were “upholstered with $1 bills”), and in the reports concerning the vast amounts of money he was reputed to have received from the Death Valley Scotty Gold Mining and Development Company. He had, he continued, never located a mine or owned one, and was completely at the mercy of mining promoters and schemers who profited from the advertising his various stunts provided for them. Exposed as a fraud and a cheat, Scott was returned to jail pending further investigation by the District Attorney’s office–a long-awaited and seemingly conclusive finale to the strange affair known as the “Battle” of Wingate Pass. [242]

235. Los Angeles Evening News, 19 March 1906, quoted in Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, p. 68.
236. Los Angeles Evening News, no date, quoted in Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, p. 70.
237. Inyo Independent, 30 March 1906.
238. Ibid., 12 February 1954.
239. Eleanor Jordan Houston, Death Valley Scotty Told Me (Louisville: The Franklin Press, 1954), pp. 72-73.
240. Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, pp. 76-77; L. Burr Belden, “The Battle of Wingate Pass,” Westways (November 1956), p. 8.
241. Rhyolite Herald, 10 June, 30 September 1908.
242. Inyo Register, 20 June 1912.