Originally, possibly a footpath for trade and society. There is no written record of that. After explorers, and then trade caravans wore in mule trails and braided paths as travelers do, to find the path of least resistance. Following the Mojave River, and to get to the hills and valleys of southern California this route was the most direct way, and indeed it was the only way for miles and miles in either direction where wagons could pass through the mountains.
All the frayed trails come together at essentially one point. Within a few yards either way, most all travelers would pass through this trail bottleneck. If there were remnants or traces of old wagon roads where pioneers and freighters passed through and they could still be seen, it would be here where this faint suggestion of an old trail can be observed.
I have heard that Captain Jefferson Hunt brought the first wagon through the pass. Since he succeeded at that, Captain Hunt became instrumental in bringing the early pioneer wagon trains across the Mojave Desert.
Steep at the top and rocky at the bottom, the solution was to disassemble wagons at the bottom and use mules to pack everything through the rocks on the mule trail, then put it all back together.
Floods were common and so was the erosion which would cause damage to the already rugged trails. One time this way would be good, the next time another.
This road is the great thoroughfare from Los Angeles and San Bernardino to the great gold and silver fields now known to exist and which at present are being worked, east of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range Mountains. And not only this but over it, all the travel from the north, not passing over the San Fernando Mountain, going southward, must pass. At the head of the cañon is one of the steepest mountains in the State, over which a road passes, and teamsters have always complained of the great difficulties encountered in the ascent. So severely has this been felt, that many of them have offered $5 a load toll to any parties who would cut down the mountain and make a turnpike road of it. As the travel on this road has been greatly increased of late by the trade to the mines, it has become absolutely necessary to take steps to improve the mountain pass road. For this purpose subscription lists have been circulated this week here and in San Bernardino, to raise money to cut down the road across the mountain, and thus facilitate transit to the mines. – Los Angeles Star – April 6, 1861
The road which I followed in 1865 crosses from left to right bank of the river a few miles above the Grapevine place said, continues past Cottonwood to Point of Rocks, 22 miles from Grapevine, on a southwest course; at Point of Rocks it turns due south to what was called Lane’s, or the Upper crossing, and there leaves the river entirely to strike straight south by west for Cajon pass in the mountains, reached in 19 miles from Lane’s. This is the way I went, as my itinerary shows: ” Nov. 9. To Martin’s ranch, 29 miles S. from Lane’s crossing; more than half the distance in open country, and then we entered the Cajon pass in the mountains, where there is a tollgate. The pass is a narrow, deep, and tortuous canon, the roughest I have ever traversed on wheels; there was 10 miles of this from the tollgate to Martin’s ranch.” Now Garces has been sent through Cajon pass, with a query, as by Bancroft, Hist. Cala., i, p. 275; but I do not think he went that way. Taking his courses on their face, he continued up the Mojave.
Mataviam described travel in general to Kelly (1933: 23:7) in the following way:
Travelers packed everything on their backs, and wore any kind of foot gear. Children always wore shoes; if the children were too small to walk, their parents took turns carrying them. They also took turns packing the water jar, which was carried in a burden basket (ais) or a net. Blankets, etc., were taken. Women took cooking utensils, including manos, but not metates. Men took weapons and walked ahead. Dogs accompanied the party. Children were given something to carry; perhaps a small skin sack, but not a burden basket or net. Travel along certain routes had to be timed so that people could be sure that there would be water available in drier sections. Timing was particularly important if some of these sources were tanks and sandstone potholes.
from: Southern Paiute – Chemehuevi Trails Across the Mojave Desert: Isabel Kelly=s Data, 1932-33 (Darling/Sneed Symposium, AAA 2004) Catherine S. Fowler University of Nevada, Reno
“One of Victor’s (Jacob Nash Victor) greatest contributions was supervision of a number of bridges constructed in San Bernardino County. The first and longest of these was the railroad crossing of the Mojave River in the lower narrows. It is not known just how directly involved he or Perris (Fred T. Perris) were with this project, since their correspondence includes a letter regarding recommendation from New England of another engineer-bridge builder anxious for employment just then. Whoever was directly responsible, huge granite blocks were shaped to fit snugly into cemented buttresses, which have not cracked or moved in over 100 years of continuous use and several devastating floods. The iron bridge, described as one of the finest structures of its kind on this coast, was brought in sections by railroad to Barstow and freighted from there to the site. This bridge was replaced early in the 20th century, including a second set of tracks, but the subsequent structures have all continued to utilize the same basic foundation buttresses. This would be the oldest structure in the region (the buttresses were built in 1885).”
~ History of the Victor Valley – Lyman
Published by Mohahve Historical Society
Transportation to and from Goldfield improved greatly with the arrival of the railroad. On September 12, 1905, at 12:30 p.m. the first passenger train arrived in Goldfield, greeted by 300 people. It was operated by the Goldfield Railroad Company. The arrival of the Railroad kicked off three days of celebrations, but mourning for some stage lines. In all there would be four railroads serving Goldfield, and one local line operated by the Goldfield Consolidated Milling & Transportation Company.
The Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad built railroad shops and a terminal near Aluminum and Fourth Streets, in May of 1910. The T & G operated until October of 1947, and had a life span of 44 years.The Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad was built in 1906 & 1907, from Las Vegas to Tonopah, and had stops in Beatty, Bullfrog, Rhyolite, and Goldfield. The LV & T ran for 14 years, until October 31. 1918, when the Nevada Department of Highways purchased the railroad right-of-way for Highway 95.
The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was built starting in November 1905, and completed October 30. 1907. It ran from Ludlow, California northward via Death Valley Junction to Gold Center, just two miles south of Beatty, and then northward on the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad. The T & T Railroad ran until June 14, 1940, a span of 33 years.
The Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad was constructed starting in May 1906, probably starting at Milltown in the Goldfield Mining District, at the terminal of the T & G tracks, and was completed southward to Beatty by April, 1907. The Bullfrog Goldfield freight depot and maintenance building was situated at Fifth Avenue and Pearl Street across from the Santa Fe Saloon and is under reconstruction today. The Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad operated until January, 1928. During various stages of its existence, the BGRR leased its tracks to either the T&T or LV&T. Management changed hands five times during its 21 year life span.
Railroad Day September 12, 1905. The arrival of the Railroad marked the end of the stage coach to and from Goldfield and Tonopah.
from: Goldfield Historic Walking Tour Booklet The Goldfield Historical Society
Fortifications along the western extension of the Santa Fe trail, route of the Whipple survey, were built initially because of Indian attacks on covered wagon trains of settlers. The Mojave War followed the massacre of one train by Indians at the Colorado River crossing a few miles above the present Needles.
The Army was not slow in punishing the Mojave tribes, and entire regiment being collected at Fort Yuma and going upstream. This was in the winter of 1858-59. The initial fort, Ft. Mojave, was established at the time. Supplying of this river outpost was both expensive and difficult.
The road over the desert San Bernardino had been given a bad name by Lt. Col. William Hoffman would take in the company of mounted infantry in a small dragoon escort from the Cajon Pass to the river. Hoffman’s command had been attacked by Indians in route. The Col. was under orders to find a site for a desert fort. He saw nothing between Summit Valley in the river he considered a likely site. In fact, Hoffman condemned the entire route as unsuited for travel.
It is probable the Hoffman report influenced the Army in initially supplying Fort Mojave by steamer from Yuma. When the river was slow and supplies could not be taken at far upstream the fort garrison was desperate. At this juncture In Winfred Scott Hancock, the same officer who appeared in a recent issue of the series, called on the Banning stage and freight lines to take supplies through. Banning’s experience Teamsters had no trouble They drove again heavy freight wagons, each drawn by eight mule teams to the river in 16 days. The Fort Mojave garrison again had both food and ammunition.
Cady Old Site
Hancock at the time an assistant quartermaster, prove that not only the Mojave Valley road was practical. He also reduce the Army’s transport expense to Fort Mojave by two thirds. The hall from drum barracks at Wilmington to the Colorado River via Cajon Pass cost only a third as much per pound as the long water haul around Baja California and transfer shipment to river steamer.
The site of Camp Cady was used as an Indian “fort” even before California became a part of the United States. Indians engaged in stealing horses from the Mexican ranchos built a crude sort of stronghold on the rocky hillsides of the Mojave River near that spot. It was a few miles East of the old Spanish Trail and also guarded the entrance to narrow Afton Canyon which could serve as an escape route if pursuit became too hot.
There is documentary evidence of the Indian use of their crude stronghold in 1845 point Benjamin Wilson, the Don Benito of Mexican rule, meeting Indians there in battle in 1845 a few days after the historic discovery of Bear Valley.
Wilson’s account of the pursuit of the horse thieves attributed depredations to renegade Indians from Mission San Gabriel but it is probable Sun desert tribes had Braves in the raiding parties. Wilson was alcalde at Jurupa and was called upon by Gov. Pico to punish the Indians. The acalde gathered a large posse including 22 young Californians mounted on fleet horses. The larger party in fact train went up Cajon Pass. Wilson in the young ranchers took the route up to Santa Ana Canyon, enjoyed hunting bear in what Wilson named Bear Valley, and joined the pack train somewhere near Rancho Verde in the present Apple Valley.
Wilson, wounded by a poisoned arrow, had his life saved by Lorenzo Trujillo. Trujillo, a New Mexican, was leader in the little colony of Agua Mansa and its twin town, Trujillo. In the Apple Valley fight the Indians were defeated in three of them killed. Wilson shot the notorious Joaquin, the ex-mission Indian, who was a ringleader among the horse thieves.
Several of Wilson’s Horseman pursued the remnant of the Indians down the Mojave though the wounded Wilson was forced to turn back. Nothing Indians halted in their crude fort near the site of Camp Cady. There, though the entrenched behind rocks, they were again defeated and dispersed.
In addition to the soldiers at the Mojave Desert forts there were a few civilians quartered at some of the posts. For instance, the returns of Camp Cady for December 1866 indicate an assistant wagon master was stationed there. He was paid $75 a month. Teamsters, their number not specified, received hundred and $75 a month, and herders $35 a month. Other notations would indicate the herders, at least some of them, were Indians. The Teamsters, whose work was the most skilled, where the aristocrats of the road whether they drove Concord stages and six horses or whipped along multiple freight teams. The Army officers themselves received far less pay.
There were also, at least at Cady and Mojave, sutler stores. The Army had no canteen or post exchange in that. And contractors, called settlers, were granted the privilege of establishing stores on military reservations and also, for that matter, with armies in the field. Suites that supplemented the monotonous menu, tobacco and whiskey as well as such notions as red, writing paper and ink were for sale at the sutler stores.
Soldiers receiving $7.50 a month did not have much money to spend but there was no place to go and as a result the software store almost invariably raked in the Army man’s wages. Passing travelers also helps well the sutler income.
The system was a poor one, and the cause of continuous complaint. The soldier, at times was victimized both by high prices in shoddy material. At one juncture soldier resentment in Camp Cady passed the usual grumbling stage and the garrison simply looted the store.
Looting did not satisfy the enraged soldiery. They set fire to the store and literally drove the hated sutler from the camp. The sutler came to San Bernardino and swore out complaints. That was in August 1867 after Camp Cady was manned by regulars.
First Lieut. Manual Eyre Jr. in command at Cady, reported the affair to first Lieut. C. H. Shepherd, assistant adjutant general at Fort Mojave. He said:
“Yesterday the sheriff was here and took with him five of my men for preliminary examination under charges of arson and robbery. The case is stated in my letter addressed to a AAAG at your headquarters, dated August 8, 1867. I should, I think, be in San Bernardino during the trial of these men, if they are held for trial. I also desire to present before the grand jury’s citizens who have harbored deserters.
“The posted by you till will be established under superintendence of an officer from Mojave. Could not an officer be spared temporarily to relieved Lieut. Drum and allow him to relieve me for 10 days or two weeks? If the Rock Springs garrison is withdrawn, I can leave Lieut. Drum here in command until my return?
“The intention of this man Dead (the sutler) is evident to me. He will try to obtain money from these men to let them off. If so, I would like to be present to prosecute him for attempting to compound a felony. I am of the opinion that, as much as I dislike it, I should be in San Bernardino as soon as possible, even if the men are released after preliminary examination when, of course they would be turned loose 100 miles from camp to find their way as they see fit.”
Until recent years Fort Mojave was maintained as an Indian school. When it ceased to be an army post, however, it is records were moved. Some were taken to Whipple barracks in Prescott, others to the Presidio at San Francisco. For Mojave, however had a wealth of old records that escaped attention of the detail entrusted to their moving. Within the past few years the grounds of the old fort were converted to agricultural use. The remains of an old adobe building were bulldozed flat. In the process the bulldozer broke through an old wooden floor long covered with several inches of earth. The accident disclosed a long forgotten cellar. In it were scores of packing boxes containing more records. These were assembled and shipped to Washington. Stacked in a line these rediscovered records stretch 29 feet.
As yet this latest ” mine” of Pioneer Army records has not been made available to historical researchers. Presumably in a few years, however, they will have been cleaned, indexed and deposited in the national archives and will furnish a far more detailed commentary on conditions in the Southwest during the pre-railroad decades,, and on Army activities at a dozen or more all but forgotten published such as Las Vegas, Resting Springs, El Dorado Canyon, and numerous early Arizona camps. Frequent transfers of headquarters seem to have made Fort Mojave a convenient depository for numerous papers no one wanted to which, under regulations, could not be destroyed. Paperwork in the military was almost as involved in the mid-19th century as it is today. Doubtless the company clerk of the Battalion Sgt. major of 1867 rebelled inwardly at the detail required of his job and doubtless to adjutants were hard put to find storage space for the growing mountains of paper but to their credit it must be noted they observed the rules and did not indulge in the periodic bonfires that mark some of the other branches of the federal service. For instance, research on Colorado River steamers is difficult because the customs offices of registry made it a practice to destroy old records.
Does this …
… Blow your mind? — Cajon Junction (el. 2950′) at I-15 and Hwy. 138 is actually at about a 300′ higher elevation than Victorville (el. 2650′). The slope from the summit to Victorville is gradual, not as noticeable, and provides us with the illusion that we are further up than we actually are.
The Old Spanish Trail had become increasingly used as a pack mule trail between New Mexico and California, and with this traffic came the opportunity for those to take advantage of the distance and desperate nature of the land.
California horses were beautiful creatures, and the mules were taller and stronger than those in New Mexico and they were easy to steal. The rolling hills and plains presented clear paths to the Cajon where numerous hidden canyons and washes were available to slip into and prepare for the furious run across the desert. Horses would be stolen in herds from many different ranchos at once. Hundreds of horses, even thousands could be commandeered and driven by just a few experienced thieves.
Chief Walkara, ‘Hawk of the Mountains’ and the greatest horse thief in all of history along with his band of renegade Chaguanosos , and notables such as Jim Beckwourth and Pegleg Smith would work together in this illegal trade. During one raid they were said to have coordinated the theft of 3,000-5,000 horses, driving them to Fort Bridger to trade for more horses to run to New Mexico to trade again. Horses would fall from exhaustion every mile and the local bands of Paiute would feast on the remains.
In 1843 Michael White was granted one league of land at the mouth of the Cajon Pass called Rancho Muscupiabe. At a point overlooking the trails leading into and away from the canyon he was expected to thwart the raiders and horse thieves that were plaguing the Southern California ranchos. In theory it was a good plan but in practice it did not work so well.
He built his home of logs and earth and constructed corrals for his stock. However, the location between Cable and Devil Canyon only served as a closer and more convenient target for the Indian thieves. His family was with him, but after six weeks until it became too dangerous. He left after nine months without any livestock and in debt.
Miguel sold his property, however, Miguel had misread the grant, letting the rancho go for much less than it was worth. The land described on the grant was roughly 5 times larger than Miguel thought. Blanco brought a suit but lost.
As the late 1840s and 1850s rolled by wagon roads were being developed in the canyon minimizing the effectiveness of the maze of box canyons being used to cover the escape of desperadoes on horseback. With California becoming a state frontiersmen such as Beckwourth and Peg Leg Smith would not steal from fellow Americans. Horse-thieving under U.S. law had become a crime where before it was just stealing horses from Mexicans. That was only serious if caught in the act. Americans would never extradite them. For the most part, that was the end of the horse stealing raids.
Fr. Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés, (April 12, 1738 – July 18, 1781) was a Spanish priest who crossed the Mojave Desert in 1776. This map shows his route across the Victor Valley. Following the Mojave River after crossing at Oro Grande he walked through what is now downtown Victorville bypassing the rocky narrows and connecting back with the river near today’s Mojave Narrows Regional Park. Following the river to where the West fork and Deep Creek join to form the Mojave. He visited with the Indians then made his way up Sawpit Canyon and over the mountain ridge descending into the verdant sycamore grove that is known today as Glen Helen.
50 years after Fr. Garcés made his way across the Mojave from the Colorado River, in 1826, Jedediah Smith retraced the trail of Garcés along the river then up and over the mountains. In 1827, one year after his first crossing, Smith had lost most of his men in a massacre at the Colorado River. Desperate for the safety of civilization, Smith, after crossing the Mojave River in Oro Grande, made his way directly to the Cajon Pass bypassing the San Bernardino Mountains.
September 1883 to California Southern Railroad, with Santa Fe backing, completed its line northward from National City ( just south of San Diego) to San Bernardino. The next step was to build a line to connect with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad’s line from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Needles, and the California Southern Extension Railroad was formed for this purpose. The A&P was known as the 35th Parallel Route and was a joint venture by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (the AT&SF railroad became the AT&SF railway in December 1895) and the St. Louis in San Francisco Railway (Frisco).
A railroad line across the Mojave desert from Mojave to Needles, at the Colorado River, had been built by the Southern Pacific in 1882- 1883 to thwart the A&P’s westward advance, but was later acquired by the A&P in a trade wherein SP obtained Santa Fe’s line to Guaymas, Mexico. Prior to this swap, the A&P least the Needles-Mojave line from the SP beginning October 1, 1884, and its trains make connection with SP trains at Mojave.
The SP plan to build a line overcome would pass to connect its San Joaquin Valley line with its line from Los Angeles to El Paso, and kept a watchful eye for any activity that might indicate that another railroad was intending to build through the Pass. Thus, when CSRR’s chief engineer, Fred T Perris, and his survey party settled up their horses and headed eastward from San Bernardino through San Gorgonio Pass at Beaumont indents to Morongo Valley, some 40 miles (64km) east of Cajon Pass, SP observers were confident that this CSRR had a different route in mind and would not attempt to build through Cajon.
Then Perris, one certainly was not being followed, headed westward through Lucerne Valley in approach cone pass from the east by a more southerly route, where the Pass could be entered at a much lower elevation than the LA&I’s abandoned, several miles to the northwest. No tunnel would be needed along this route, but extensive cutting and filling would be required in the first few miles below the canyon rim.
by the time the SP realized what Paris was up to, his party had staked a line through the Pass, and the California Southern Extension Railroad was soon being constructed between San Bernardino and Waterman Junction (shortly to be renamed Barstow after William Barstow Strong, president of the Santa Fe) on the A&P The last spike was driven November 9, 1885, and the city of San Diego now had a rail connection to the east.
More than eight decades would pass before SP rails entered the Cajon Pass.
A network of railroads grew rapidly throughout Southern California, and in 1889 the California Southern Railroad and two other short lines were merged into Southern California Railway Company. in 1897, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company took over the A&P and reorganized it under the name Santa Fe Pacific. In 1902 the Santa Fe Pacific became just another part of the AT&SF, and in 1906 the Southern California Railway lost its name to the Santa Fe system.
from: Cajon, Rail Passage to the Pacific by Chard L. Walker Trans-Anglo Books – Glendale, California
When I came over here three months ago, I brought four copies of Desert with me. Needless to say they have become rather dogeared as I have read them from cover to cover several times, and passed them around to my friends who have enjoyed them immensely.
The last day I was in sunny Southern California (it rained all the time I was in Frisco waiting to embark), I made one last sojourn to our desert retreat—the summit of Cajon Pass. Few people know of this unique retreat, except those who pass by on the trains, and then all they see is a street-car tucked away on the side of a hill, 200 yards from the tracks.
The street-car is the former Los Angeles railway’s funeral car Descanso. A group of railfans, known as Railroad Boosters, became interested when it was known the car was to be scrapped, and decided something should be done about it. So far as we were able to tell the Descanso was the only funeral car in existence, and to delegate such an ornate car to the junk heap was not a very fitting end. The L. A. railway then told us that if we could find a place to put it we could have it as a sort of museum piece. After several months of scouting around, we decided on summit. On July 4, 1940, the Descanso was hauled up to summit by flatcar on the Santa Fe. Eight of us spent a very strenuous day unloading the car. It weighed 18 tons.
Three weekends were spent in getting the car to its present position, by the tedious process of laying a section of track in front, pulling the car up with a truck by means of block and tackle, then picking up the section in the rear, placing it up front again, etc. Then began the process of scraping off the old paint, removing the seats, and taking out a few of the unnecessary controllers, etc.
In the two years that have passed since its arrival at summit, the Descanso has gradually transformed from a dirty looking old streetcar, to that of a newly painted, well furnished cabin. From the exterior it still has the same general appearance of a streetcar as it still is on wheels on a section of rail, the trolley is still up, and still has the stained glass in the upper halves of the windows.
Quite a change has taken place on the interior though. Only two of the original seats are left in place with a folding table in between. A pot bellied stove, and a wheesy old phonograph well stocked with records, dominate the center of the car, while an icebox, a few chairs and another table and a small but complete kitchen take up the rest of the available space. Eventually we may put some folding bunks in one end, but due to material shortage, we content ourselves with sleeping on the floor in our sleeping bags.
We find it an ideal spot to go on a weekend, either as a home camp for a small hunting expedition, or for hiking up and down the railroad, the mountains, or just to lie around in the sun and watch the trains go by.
For anyone wishing to visit Summit, just go up Cajon Pass on U. S. 66 to Camp Cajon, and turn east (right if leaving from San Bernardino). This road is known as the back road to Arrowhead. It’s about five miles from 66 to Summit which can’t be missed as the road leaves the twisting mountain road onto the level Summit valley road. Off to the left about a quarter of a mile is the railroad station of Summit with its scattering of section houses and the post office. The Descanso is directly behind the station.
In closing I wish to extend a cordial welcome to anyone visiting Summit, and wish I could be there and meet them personally. Until the war ends I’ve got to be content to visit the desert via Desert Magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. … “
The Van Dusen Road branched off from John Brown’s toll road heading east along the ridge after reaching the Cajon Summit. The road found its way down the Antelope Valley Wash to the Mojave River. At this point the trail crossed through the soft sand and ascended through a small canyon at the base of the mountains, finding its way east then southeast to Rock Springs. From the springs the road then branched to the left heading east to Holcomb Valley becoming what is now known as the Coxey Truck Trail.
As you whiz down the freeway in a well protected automobile, have you ever wondered what life was like in the good old days as the hardy pioneer planned the trip 50 miles into the desert with wagon and a team of horses?
Excerpts from ‘Water Supply Paper Number 224’ published in 1909 by the US Department of Interior states, “A party leaving a supply station to go 100 miles or more into an uninhabited part of the desert must take along everything needed, even to the most minute detail.”
” This means if the trip is to last for two weeks enough hay and grain for each animal and enough provisions to last each man that length of time must be taken.
” For four horses, drawing a wagon that carries for persons and their bedding, provisions, and tools, another team of four horses must also be taken to all sufficient hay and grain to feed the eight horses for two weeks.
” There are but few places in the desert, away from the railroads, where grain or hay of any kind can be procured. As the teams are rarely able to travel faster than a walk, heavy horses that are good walkers should be selected. The tires should be as wide as can be procured. Desirable widths of tires for freight wagons are 6 to 9 inches; for light wagons 3 inches.”
The average Victor Valley pioneer took a week every six months to travel by horse and wagon to San Bernardino, to do his shopping and come back home. Leaving the desert and spending the first night in Cajon Pass at one of the campsites close to the junction of State Highway 138 or Interstate Highway 15 further on down at Cozy Dell Campgrounds. it was another day’s journey to San Bernardino, and after doing shopping and visiting for a couple of days, it was a two-day journey back to the desert Homestead. Now with our sleek automobiles, we whisk down to San Bernardino and 45 minutes, sometimes grumbling because it takes so long.
Drinking java from an old tin can was a way of life and not a song in the past century. Living in the open and eating cowboy beans were part of traveling through the desert before the advent of the auto. The trails of yesterday became our freeways of today. Our present freeway route from Victorville to Barstow parallels the one the freighters to quit their mule trains to sell supplies to the minors and Calico in the 1880s. Instead of having a well-built bridge to span the Mojave as we do today, they forded the river even when it was high.
from: Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History (c)1984, 2016
In 1905, in an attempt to break the speed record from Los Angeles to Chicago, Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott paid the Santa Fe Railroad a purported $5500 to rent a three car train pulled by 19 different steam locomotives. The trip began in Los Angeles on 9 July and arrived in Chicago 44 hours 54 minutes later, a record that stood until 1936 when it was broken by the Super Chief. The Barstow to Needles segment of the run took just three hours and 15 minutes. Also known as the Coyote Special.
Bill Sanger was known to have ridden the rails all over the map. In his time he had seen all there was to see. One day he was talking with Jim Craig about mirages. Mirages are common sites. You see a lot of them, millions of them, in the dry lake bed out there at Amboy.
“Bill,” said Jim, “did you ever see the city that gleams out there on the lake in hot weather?”
“Yeah,” Bill replied.
“What you make of it?” said Jim.
Nothing,” Bill answered. “I do not hold with those dude scientists, that try to explain goes by saying the light rays pick up the picture hundreds of miles away and then bend it back and drop that same picture out there on the lake. It do not make sense. They’re ghosts, that is what they are. Just plain ghosts.
“One time,” Bill went on, “I nearly killed myself trying to hop a ghost train pulling out across Bristol Lake. I was walking out toward the salt works when along came a freight, not going very fast. I forgot where I was, and made a run for it. it started to pick up speed, so I gave a leap and grabbed on– nothing!
“I sprawled out flat on that dry lake bed. I looked up and saw the ghost train running in long as nice as you please– 42 cars and one caboose I counted. they road right smack over me and never even mussed my shirt. They are ghosts I tell you. Ghosts!”
from : Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mormon Road going south across the Oro Grande Wash would come up and head straight into the Joshua trees and juniper woodland. The slope was fair, the ground hard and the trail reasonably straight. There were variations, though. To the eyes of one, one way around a bush may look easier than it does to another. Trails evolve. If one branch is significantly better than another, that branch becomes wider and more popular. These branches and shortcuts may join together later. These variations due to mankind and weather begin a process I have heard to be called, “braiding.” It is quite possible for the main alignment, the busiest, the center-most version in the corridor to remain in use providing its continued existence to this very day.
Captain Jefferson Hunt
b. January 20, 1803
d. May 11, 1879
… Jefferson Hunt had rejoined his family at Salt Lake Valley after the close of his military service, and he was called by President Young in November of 1847 to return to California to purchase seed, livestock and supplies for the people of the Church. There were eighteen in the company, including his sons, Gilbert, John and Peter Nease. On this trip they suffered greatly for food, having to subsist for some days upon the flesh of their work mules, but through all such ordeals, Great Grandfather rose to the occasion and manifested the great strength of body and mind necessary for a wise father and leader of men to possess. The little boys, John and Peter, suffered greatly on this trip, being only 14 years old and not accustomed to starving. They returned to Salt Lake in May, 1848, bringing horses, mules, cattle, seed and provisions. During the following two or three years he acted as pilot and guide to companies of gold seekers going to California.
In 1851, Jefferson Hunt was called by the leaders of the Church to go with Apostle Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich to establish a Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California.
In the years that followed, he served his church as a member of the High Council of San Bernardino. He served his church and the State of California as a member of the legislature for six years, and he was appointed with a delegation of California lawmakers to go on a special mission to Washington D.C. Their trip from California to Independence Missouri was all accomplished on horseback.
With the coming of Johnston’s Army to Utah in 1857, Jefferson Hunt responded to the call of Brigham Young, and with the other loyal members of the church they left their homes in San Bernardino and came to Utah.
His service to the State of California was recognized in tribute paid to him by the California historian Ingersol: “Captain Hunt was a man of strong character, deeply religious by nature, he believed with his heart in the divine revelations of the Mormon Doctrines. Energetic, clear sighted and indomitable in will, he was especially fitted for the leadership, which he always acquired in whatever position he was placed. Generous to a fault, his home was open to his less fortunate brethren, and he gave a helping hand to many a needy man, saint and gentile alike for he was above petty distinction. He deserves a large place in the memory of the citizens of San Bernardino for he filled a large place in the early and vital events in the history of the town and country. While he served as legislator he introduced the bill to divide Los Angeles County from San Bernardino County, and has been known since as the Father of San Bernardino County.”
Adapted from a copy of an address given at the dedication of a monument erected at the grave of Captain Jefferson Hunt in 1950. The speaker was his great grandson, Jesse A Udall.
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.
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.
Huntington’s Station was the first trading post in the area, and although Heber Huntington only owned it from 1873 to 1878, it remained known as Huntington’s Station until the the railroad came through and renamed it Victor. The river crossing with a few modern exceptions as the Narrows Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and the cement plant looks much the same today as it did in 1872 when Mecham built what has become Stoddard Wells Road.
During this phase of the journey the wagon train was doing much of its traveling at night, owing to the great daytime heat of the desert and the long distances between water holes. At regular intervals during the night they would stop for a short rest. At one of these rest stops, eleven-year-old Ellen Baley, a daughter of Gillum and Permelia Baley, fell asleep and failed to awaken when the wagon train moved on. Somehow, she was not missed until the train traveled some distance. The poor girl awoke to find herself alone in the middle of a vast hostile desert. Filled with fright, she began running to catch up with the wagon train, but in her confusion she took off in the opposite direction. When she was discovered missing, her father and older brother, George, immediately rode back to where they had stopped. To their horror, she was not there! Captured by the Indians must have been their conclusion! Nevertheless, they continued their search by calling out the little girl’s name at the top of their voices as they rode back.Their efforts were soon rewarded when, far off in the distance, came a faint cry, “Papa, Papa.” Her father immediately answered and kept calling her name until he caught up with her.When reunited with her family and the other members of the wagon train, Ellen had a tale which would be told and retold by family members until the present day.
Disaster at the Colorado
Beale’s Wagon Road and the First Emigrant Party
“BOOMER—Drifter who went from one railroad job to another, staying but a short time on each job or each road. This term dates back to pioneer days when men followed boom camps. The opposite is home guard. Boomers should not be confused with tramps, although they occasionally became tramps. Boomers were railroad workers often in big demand because of their wide experience, sometimes blackballed because their tenure of stay was uncertain. Their common practice was to follow the “rushes”-that is, to apply for seasonal jobs when and where they were most needed, when the movement of strawberry crops, watermelons, grain, etc., was making the railroads temporarily short-handed. There are virtually no boomers in North America today. When men are needed for seasonal jobs they are called from the extra board”
~ from Railroad Avenue, by Freeman H. Hubbard – 1945
In August of 1907 a brakeman at Cajon Summit station failed to secure a train while unhitching helper engines and over fifty cars began rolling out of control down the grade into the Victor Valley. After seven miles of plummeting down the tracks thirteen cars derailed. A few miles further thirty more cars failed to make the curve before passing through the Upper Narrows. One after another they hurtled into the river bursting into flames. There were cattle on the train too. Many survived the initial accident, but died soon afterward. The last nine cars, with a frightened local rancher on the lead caboose, rolled to a stop in Oro Grande.
In the ashes of one car that burned for over a week, there were four hats found. The brakeman, it was discovered, had been selling rides to hobos for $1. Those at the scene agreed that there were at least that many that died.Photos – courtesy B.F. Minister
For a few months in 1883 when the Southern Pacific Railroad was being built, the Watson post office lived out its short tenure. Watson was named Watson for Josiah Watson who was the postmaster. When the Watson post office closed the railroad named their station Newberry. For a few months in 1899, the Newberry post office was reestablished then discontinued. In 1911 the post office reopened and was named Wagner after Madge Wagner who ran it. In July of 1919, the name was changed from Wagner to Water, who wasn’t a person but was named for the water that was pumped out of the ground for the Sante Fe Railroad’s use. Then, years later in 1967, the name was changed from Water to Newberry Springs. No one is quite certain who Newberry was, to begin with, but it could either be for either one or both of two brothers named Newberry who lived near the springs, of which one was killed in a gunfight over water rights to the springs and ended up being buried on top of a hill not far from the springs. Or the name of the springs came from Dr. J.S. Newberry, a physician in the 1857 survey expedition led by Lt. Joseph C. Ives.