Tag Archives: history

$150,000 Summit Road Route Being Considered

Summit Valley Road

Summit Valley Road

State Highway Commissioner Darlington has under advisement the matter of which route to choose for the 15-mile state highway to be built from Summit to Victorville at a cost of $150,000.  A delegation headed by Louis Evans of Hesperia asked Darlington to choose the route that would include Hesperia on the highway.

Los Angeles Herald, Number 58, 8 January 1919

Farmland – Oro Grande

Farmland in Oro Grande along the Mojave River

Farmland in Oro Grande

“During his years at the upper crossing, Captain Lane, as Aaron was known throughout much of his life in California, had ample opportunity to discover where the richest farmlands lie along the Mojave River.”

Pioneer of the Mojave – Green Gold and Mint Juleps

Riverside Cement – Oro Grande

Oro Grande Riverside cement plant, Victor Valley, Mojave Desert

Riverside Cement in Oro Grande, CA started in 1907 as the Golden State Cement Plant. It was shut down during the depression and restarted as Riverside Cement in 1942. The plant was enlarged and completely rebuilt in the late 40s. In late 1997, TXI purchased Riverside Cement.

More about Oro Grande

Keeler to Mojave by Stage

Book Review: 101 moments in Eastern Sierra History
by Dave Babb

“In the 1890s, Mr. W.K. Miller established a six horse stage line between Keeler, on the northeast shore of Owens Lake, and Mojave.

The stage left Keeler and Mojave every other day at noon. In those days the trip took nearly 24 hours of continuous dusty travel through cactus and sand, and around hummocks.

The coach was that typical Concorde carriage of the day, square and rather high. It had a door on each side, and multiple layers of leather straps served as springs.

Inside,  two seats face each other and eight people could be seated. A ninth could write on top with the driver and kids could sit on their parents laps. The fare was $10 per person.

The first leg of the trap, from Keeler to Olancha, was the roughest part of all — taking up to six hours. After a change of horses, which took about five minutes,  Haiwee could be reached in another three hours.

They changed horses eight times during the trip, and had to average about 5 mph to make a few Mojave by noon.  Some 60 horses were kept in reserve to keep the stage rolling in on time.

Passengers carried their own food and water, and comfort stops were made upon request — behind the nearest bush at the back of the stage.”

Dave Babb first came to the eastern Sierra in 1952, at the age of 13 for a two-week camping and hiking trip along the John Muir Trail.   after completing his education receiving BS and MS degrees in wildlife biology he returned to Bishop with his wife and their three children.

He has authored or co-authored nearly two dozen publications on the history and natural resources of the Inyo-Mono region and written more than 170 articles on Eastern Sierra wildlife.

This is a great little book to own, entertaining and informative.
You may be able to find it here.

101 moments in Eastern Sierra History
by Dave Babb
Published by Community Printing
ISBN 10: 0912494395 ISBN 13: 9780912494395

The Man Who Was Hanged Twice

Skidoo came to life because of a fog. When Harry Ramsey and a man called One-eye Thompson lost their way on a road leading to the new boom camp of Harrisburg, they stopped to rest near a log lying against an outcropping of rock. When the fog lifted, the rock turned out to be gold. This was back in 1905. In deciding upon a name for the town that sprung up, a numerologist associated a popular expression of the day, 23-Skidoo, with the fact that a Rhyolite man named Bob Montgomery had successfully piped water from Telescope Peak 23 miles away and suggested the name Skidoo. So it became.

Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park

Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park

Old timers say the camp produced over a million dollars worth of gold ore between its discovery and its demise some 20 years later. Skidoo’s chief claim to fame, however, was not its riches. Rather, it was an infamous lynching of a scoundrel named Joe Simpson in 1908.

On a tour to the ghost town of Skidoo in 1962, we were privileged to be accompanied by an 87-year-old gentleman named George Cook. The interesting thing about Mr. Cook was that it was he who pulled on the rope at the lynching. His participation had only recently been divulged to a few intimate friends—after all others involved had passed on to their rewards, or whatever.

Joe "Hooch" Simpson

Joe “Hooch” Simpson

“Joe Simpson,” Mr. Cook told us, ‘was a would-be villain who had killed a man at Keeler after shooting-up Jack Gun’s Saloon in Independence the preceding year. He’d somehow gotten off and drifted to Skidoo where he became a partner with Fred Oakes in the Gold Seal Saloon. Across the street was Jim Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company.

“Arnold was a friendly, well-liked man and had always been on good terms with Simpson, but Simpson became drunk and abusive one April morning and decided to hold up a bank situated in part of Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company. Apprehended, his gun was taken away and hidden by the deputy sheriff, but a little later Simpson found his weapon and returned to the store to shoot Jim Arnold. He then turned on two other men who had come to the rescue, but his aim was poor and both escaped. Eventually Simpson was overpowered and placed under guard in the deputy sheriff’s cabin. Unfortunately,” Mr. Cook lamented, “the popular Jim Arnold died that night.”

Skidoo went wild with indignation. After Arnold’s funeral, which the entire camp attended, a group went to the improvised jail, led the prisoner out at the end of a rope and hanged him to the nearest telephone pole. When Sheriff Nailor from Independence arrived, after a hazardous trip over rough roads via Tonopah and Rhyolite, he made the now famous statement, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Inyo County; it saved us $25,000!”

But this wasn’t the end. Several spectators had forgotten their cameras and wanted pictures of the hanging. So, Joe Simpson’s body was obligingly strung up again, this time from the ridgepole of the tent where he was “laid out.” News of this gruesome encore spread and the lynching won everlasting fame. In his private narrative of the event, George Cook added a factor never before related: “Joe was dead before we got the rope around his neck; he died of a heart attack (from fright) and was already gone when dragged to the telephone pole scaffold.”

It was also he, George Cook confessed, who assisted Dr. MacDonald in removing the head from Simpson’s corpse. The doctor, it seems, had once performed an operation on Simpson s nose and wanted to make a further medical study of the case. Going at night, they performed the severence at the lonely prospect hole where Simpson’s body had been tossed. (No one in Skidoo would give him a decent burial, so great was the indignation at his senseless crime). The skull was exhibited for a period in a showcase at Wildrose, but later disappeared.

The remainder of the skeleton resisted oblivion, however. Years later when George Cook returned to Skidoo to work in the mill, an agitated prospector appeared one day to report a headless skeleton of a man who’d evidently been murdered. Because Cook was the only old timer around at the time, he was consulted. Indeed a crime had been committed sometime, he agreed, but of the details he had conveniently forgotten.

Last year George Cook passed away. Small in stature, religious, mild-tempered and giving to writing sentimental verse, he was the antithesis of our Western idea of a vigilante. The role forced upon him by his acute anger over the murder of a friend bothered this good man to the end of his days. His belief that Simpson did not expire at his hand appeared to be a real comfort. And, perhaps he was right. We cannot disagree, for George Cook was there.

Much interesting history is connected with the now defunct Skidoo. Following its early boom, the town was deserted for a period, then, under new management, the mine and mill reopened during the 1930s and a period of production occurred. The old wild days never returned, however, and its fame as a mining camp still rests upon the lynching incident —to which we add, “Joe Simpson did not die because of a rope and a telephone pole. He died of a heart attack!”

by Myrtle Nyles – November 1964 – Desert Magazine

Editor’s Note: This is but one version of this story, and it is worth saying that it has generated many other versions and stories through its telling.

History of Skidoo

In January 1906 two wandering prospectors, John Ramsey and John (One-Eye) Thompson were headed towards the new gold strike at Harrisburg. Along the way a blinding fog came in and the two camped near Emigrant Spring for fear of getting lost. … More

Special Delivery

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now

Jack and Margaret Nelson, were a very nice couple, who lived on the corner of Olive and E Street. They had three dogs, two were copper-colored police dogs, named Penny and Copper, and one chow dog, named sugar. My parents became very good friends with them. They had a cow, and we soon started buying our milk from them, until they moved away.

After the Nelsons left the area we started purchasing our melt from the Snell Dairy and Creamery Company that was located in Apple Valley. Dick and Winnie Weening took over the milk routes, serving all the high desert, as far as State Line in 1942. In 1943, the Weening family purchased the dairy and the name of Snell Dairy.  The milk was delivered in glass bottles and the empty bottles were picked up with the next delivery. The milkman would even put the full milk bottles in the refrigerator.  There will never be service like that again.
599-snell-dairy-hesperia
This photo was taken in 1945 or 1946, and was provided by Barbara Weening Davisson, daughter of Dick and Winnie Weening. She notes, that the picture is of the Johnny Weening, driver and Iva Weening Carpenter, with son Jerry (standing), Phil McGurn, being held.

~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

More about …
Hesperia, California

Walters’ General Store

We did what shopping money would allow, at Roy Walters’ general store. We purchased some beans, flour and canned food items, (canned tuna for my mother and me and canned sardines were for my daddy) gas for the vehicle, and I remember ice for the icebox and we also picked up our mail. The post office was located inside of the store, in our mailing address was PO Box 166, Hesperia, CA. There were no ZIP Codes back in those days.
599-walters-r6533
The store was indeed a general store. They carried just about everything a person would need. There was a glass enclosed section that had any candy, which always drew my attention. There was a very large glass jar that sat on the counter that held dill pickles. I remembered these, because I liked both. There were shelves with items all the way from food, medicine, cosmetics two blankets. I remember a large cabinet that had a lot of small drawers, with labels on them. But I do not remember what was in the drawers. I think there were a couple wood barrels sitting on the floor and many items hanging on the walls. If I remember right, I think the butcher shop was located in the back of the store with a cold storage box to keep the meat from spoiling.. I do not remember if the bread was sliced. But I do remember that oleomargarine, (butter substitute) was non-colored and you had to mix a yellow powder packet into it, to make it yellow.

There was a wooden barn that sat next to the store, where the hay and grain was stored. The gas pump was located in front of the store. I only remember one, but there must’ve been to. I am not sure what brand gas they sold. I do remember that you could buy oil for your vehicle or what equipment you might have at home. I do not remember, but going by the fact that the Walters store carry just about everything, I would guess they also sold batteries for your vehicle and equipment, else well as for your radio and flashlight.

For the longest time, they had the only telephone in this area. And going by history, the railroad station had a telegraph office. The Hesperia depot set almost across the street from the store.

Roy and Laura were both extremely friendly and up on the latest gossip. Roy loved to talk, and so did my daddy, so they would talk for what seemed like hours.

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now
~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

More about …
Hesperia, California

Indian Queho – Part II

Queho had killed before.  He killed a man named Bismarck in Las Vegas.  Bismarck was another Indian, so it didn’t matter.

I have heard Queho killed his half-brother, Avote.

Avote was a killer in his own right. Supposedly, Queho put his brother to the knife on Cottonwood Island.  The current in the Colorado was too strong for Queho to swim with the body across. So, to prove he killed him, Queho cut off his hand.  Avote was known to be missing a finger–lost to pay a drunken gambling debt.

The hand wasn’t proof enough.  Queho went back to the island and cut the head from the carcass.  Proof enough.

Queho expected a parade, but all he got was a job as assistant to the night watchman at the Goldbug Mine.  It was not much more than constant abuse from an alcoholic bigot.  Queho was fired after a month and cheated on his pay. He buried his rage deep.

Queho stole the watchman’s badge,  gun and horse.  He was on the run.  A renegade.  A killer.

continued

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