During the great silver boom in the Calicos, a small community grew up around the Bismarck mine in the next canyon east of Calico camp. Together with the miners of the Garfield, Odessa, Occidental and other mines, there were perhaps 40 persons in the area, which was known as East Calico.
While Calico was less than a mile away, by airline, the direct trail was steep and rugged and the road roundabout. The government did not consider the population sufficient for a post office, and the miners didn’t care to hike into Calico for their mail. So they contributed to a fund to pay a boy named Dave Nichols to bring the mail over, by burro, from the mother camp. But Dave found a better job and no one else wanted to be mail man.
About that time a man named Stacy, brother of the Stacy who was postmaster at Calico (their first names have variously been given as James, William, Everett and Alwin) opened a store at Bismark. The Stacys had a dog named Dorsey, a big Scotch collie who had come to them for shelter one stormy night. The Bismarck Stacy took the collie’ with him to East Calico.
But Dorsey’s affections were divided, and after a few days at Bismarck, he ran away back to Calico. Postmaster Stacy attached a note to his neck, switched him and sent him back to Bismarck. After a few such runaways, Postmaster Stacy conceived the notion of tying a sack with newspapers in it on Dorsey’s back when he sent him home. Dorsey delivered them successfully, and soon little saddlepacks labeled “U. S. Mail” were made and attached to the dog’s back and a regular mail service set up between the two camps on a thrice-weekly schedule.
Dorsey soon became one of Calico’s most famous characters, but success did not go to his head.
Though he was not a civil service employee and his mail route entirely unofficial, he was faithful in the completion of his appointed rounds. Though the miners enjoyed attempting to lead him astray or tamper with the mail, he managed to elude them, then resume his course.
There is only one instance of possible misuse of his office on record. One Christmas Herman Mellen was living in a cave near Bismarck and his mother sent him a box of candy and sweets. Stacy had tied this box under Dorsey’s neck, and when he arrived at Bismarck the bottom was out and the contents missing. Whether temptation had proven too strong, the goodies had been hijacked or whether the package had broken open, allowing the contents to spill out was never determined.
The famous dog mail carrier continued his route for two years, until a dip in the boom caused the mines of East Calico to close and mail service became unnecessary. When the Stacys left Calico, they gave Dorsey to John S. Doe, wealthy San Francisco man interested in Calico mines, and Dorsey spent the rest of his life in comfort and ease in the Bay City.
It is the same for many other places using common names; Arrastre Canyon, Grapevine Canyon, Round Mountain, etc. I have been told that there are 7 different ranges named “Granite Mountains.”
The springs were described as located along the Twentynine Palms–Victorville route. Mr. Ford mentioned speaking with A. W. Johnson, a long-time prospector of the area. Johnson said he was visiting the spring in 1914, and mention that you could find Indian artifacts such as grinding stones, broken pottery, and arrowheads being plentiful, and they were there for the taking. The author also mentioned a train running through the desert landscape and then making a sweeping, graceful turn near a sign that read Cottonwood Station. There’s only one place in the Mojave Desert that fit, and that was confirmed near the end of the article- Old Woman Springs. Eureka! I wondered though, why was the spring renamed Cottonwood Spring some 50 years ago, and again renamed Old Woman Springs?
The Old Women of Old Woman Springs
In 1855 Colonel Henry Washington of the U.S. Army came through the then-unnamed Johnson Valley surveying the baseline. Near the west end of the valley, he found two elderly Indian women alone at a spring. Names of places came cheap, and I’m sure someone thought the name was appropriate, so the name was recorded for all posterity to ponder. The two Indian women may have been left there to watch young children traveling with the band. The rest were probably in the nearby mountains gathering piñon nuts and hunting, as hunter-gatherers were known to do. The children may have been hiding—watching, as the curious party passed through the valley. The springs, as far as anyone knows, were quiet for the next 40 or so years.
People & Places
It is through the people, within the times they lived, interacting with the land and their relationship to each other that we learn of and possibly understand the unique character of places in our desert.
Charlie Martin is to Albert Swarthout as Albert is to Dale Gentry. Dale Gentry is to Cottonwood Springs as Swarthout is to Old Woman Springs Ranch and Martin to the Heart Bar. Now that all that is out of the way, let’s begin in the San Bernardino Mountains with Charlie Martin and the Heart Bar Ranch.
At over 200 pounds Charlie Martin was tough, as hard as a horseshoe, and ran with a dubious crowd. In Martha Wood Coutant’s book, Heart Bar Ranch, he was reported to have operated a resort for his criminal friends at his place in Glen Martin. Brothers Bill and Jim McHaney were frequent guests, and of the brothers, Jim would come to have his own gang after being run out of the mountains. Charlie, at one time a rustler and later a police chief of San Bernardino, is interesting to note that this apparent conflict in careers could have worked in the good citizen’s favor. Who else would better narrow the playing field of bad guys but the host of them all? Maybe that’s how Jim McHaney and his gang were forced to find a new range?
According to historian Willenna Hansen, Charlie killed at least two people. The first, after a loud argument, broke into a gunfight. Both combatants fired on each other. The victim kept missing Charlie and Charlie didn’t. The second killing was when Charlie was unarmed and approached a claim jumper known only as the Frenchman. He came after Charlie with a knife and started stabbing him. Charlie beat him off with his fists and made his way back to his wagon where he left his revolver. He shot the Frenchman square in the forehead without taking his gun out of the holster. There were no witnesses, so this time Charlie would be tried for murder. In court, his defense consisted only of him taking off his shirt for the jury to observe the 40-some, still-healing, stab wounds on his arms, chest, and back. The verdict returned was self-defense.
The Heart Bar Ranch
Charlie Martin had a number of irons in the fire. He came to believe that his fortune may lie in cattle ranching. He approached Mr. Button regarding a loan for $900. Button, possibly considering Charlie Martin’s reputation, decided he’d rather be his partner than loan him the money. It was in early 1884 when they registered the Heart Bar brand in San Bernardino. Over the next dozen years or so Martin had a variety of partners in the Heart Bar—however; nobody knows what may have come of Mr. Button.
Albert “Swarty” Swarthout was born February 11, 1872, in San Bernardino, California. He was the youngest of five children born of George and Elizabeth Swarthout, Mormon pioneers who came to the area in 1851. George and his two brothers became cattlemen in the San Bernardino Valley. Albert never knew his father, because George died two months after he was born. It was too late; Albert already had cattle in his blood. He grew up dreaming of having his own cattle empire someday.
Swarty married Lillie Furstenfeld of Hesperia on February 10, 1895, at her parent’s house in Alhambra, California. Soon afterward they moved to Lucerne Valley and homesteaded what became the Box S Ranch. It didn’t take long for Albert to figure out the area was no place for a cattle ranch. They moved back to San Bernardino where he used his family’s connections to get a job as a forest ranger. He used the opportunity to become familiar with the mountains and meadows in the San Bernardino Mountain Range.
The Old Woman Springs Ranch
Al Swarthout, after giving up his claim to the Box S, homesteaded Old Woman Springs. With a 400 acre ranch and rights to 1600 acres of grazing being used as winter range for the Heart Bar in mind, Swarty was poised to begin his cattle empire. Martin and Swarthout entered into a partnership in 1907.
There were good years and bad years, and a few in-between years. The Swarthouts lived at the Heart Bar headquarters at Big Meadows during the summer and moved down to Old Woman Springs in the winter, driving stock back and forth through Rattlesnake Canyon between the two ranges. Charlie and Swarty seemed to get along pretty well, and Charlie took to Al’s son Donald becoming quite the uncle, taking him camping and riding often. Charlie tired of it all, and in 1914 sold off his share of the ranch to Albert’s next partner.
The Manhunt for Willie Boy
Swarthout kept a tight, hardworking outfit. Those who worked for Swarty liked and respected him, and he treated them as friends. Willie Boy, who in 1909 killed his fiance’s father and became the subject of the last manhunt in the area, according to V.C. Hemphill-Gobar in her book, Range One East, had worked for Swarty. She continues that it had been rumored he stopped by the ranch looking for help. Swarty said he wished he had been there for him. He felt he may have been able to talk Willie Boy into giving up without further bloodshed. Al wasn’t bragging, he knew and was friends with the ranch hand turned desperado. The reader should note that this subject in itself is controversial, with some believing that Willie Boy made good on his escape and lived to old age as a rancher in Nevada.
Steady Development through Tumultuous Times
After another series of partner changes in Heart Bar Ranch ownership, Swarty took an out in 1918. However, in 1922 Swarthout and Dale Gentry formed a partnership and bought the
ranch outright between them.
Over the years before, and during the years after this final partnership was formed, Swarty developed the ranch property; more buildings were built, springs and wells developed, and a field of alfalfa maintained. Even with this much water available, no more than 12 acres of alfalfa could be grown. Martha Wood Coutant states, “It would get so hot, and the crop would have to be harvested by hand quickly before it ‘shattered’ and became useless to cattle.”
Swarty and his friend Julian “Junie” Gobar from Lucerne Valley had figured out a clever irrigation system wherein the most productive spring produced roughly 150 miner’s inches (nearly 1700 gallons per minute) of water flow. The accomplishment was highly regarded by hydraulic engineers of the day.
By 1938 the end of the Heart Bar was unavoidable. The price of beef was down and stack was getting mixed in with the herds of other ranches. Many cattle were dying from drinking water poisoned by the cyanide from gold recovery operations further up the mountain. Swarthout and Gentry were arguing and agreed to bring it all to an end. The ranch went into litigation. However, a decision regarding the properties wasn’t reached until 1947. It was decided Gentry would get the Big Meadows property in the mountains and Swarthout the Old Woman Springs property in the desert. Swarty thought it was fair—Gentry did not. Albert agreed to trade halves straight across. The deed was drawn up, done and both went their separate ways. Albert Swarthout at the time was in his mid-70s and still a very active individual. He and Lillie stayed at Big Meadows until 1952, after which they moved to San Bernardino.
Throughout the 1950s Dale Gentry was the owner of the Old Woman Springs Ranch. There was plenty of water and 400 acres of land to do with as he wished. As a young man living in Hawaii, he had worked on a pineapple plantation. He admired the steam-powered locomotives that carried the product in from the fields. Now that he had the money and the room for it, he purchased an engine, tender, two flat cars a boxcar, and a caboose. They were brought to the ranch along with ten miles of narrow gauge track. Next, a water tower, depot, and roundhouse were built, and Gentry enjoyed giving rides to his visitors at the ranch.
Other than six or so railroad ties found embedded in the dirt service road awhile back, there is no trace that Gentry’s “Cottonwood & Southern Railway”, ever existed. There are the buildings; the water tower, a depot, the engine room, but when I first toured the ranch in the late 1990s I figured they could be the result of another wild-eyed desert story—Of course they are.
Closing the Gate
From the highway, the ranch looks much the same as it could have 100 years ago when it was a part of Swarty’s dream brought to reality. It’s not a stretch imagining him among the cottonwoods with his friend Junie figuring ways of getting more water to more cattle on the range. Not long ago one may be able to imagine Dale Gentry’s steam engine gracefully rounding the curve, hauling a dozen or so happy passengers out to his station at the renamed Cottonwood Springs. Perhaps from there, with little effort, could look further back in time, hundreds, or maybe even a thousand years, when hunter-gatherers would leave their mothers to watch over the children while they went into the mountains for food.
Charlie Martin passed away in 1927 of cancer after serving several years as Chief of Police of the City of San Bernardino.
Albert Swarthout died November 10, 1963, at the age of 91.
Dale Gentry seems to have driven his train off into distant and dusty memories.
And, nobody knows what may have come of Mr. Button.
The Old Woman Springs Ranch is a private property located in the Johnson Valley, 15 miles east of Lucerne Valley on State Route 247, the Old Woman Springs Highway.
adapted from ~ Cottonwood Springs — Desert Magazine – April 1959 – Walter Ford
DESERT RAT TEN COMMENDENTS [sic] BY THE EDITOR (from Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrapbook)
Thou shalt love the DESERT, but not lose patience with those who say it’s bleak and ornery (even when the wind is blowing).
Thou shalt speak of the DESERT with great reverence, and lie about it with great showmanship, adding zest to Tall Tales and Legends.
Thou shalt not admit other DESERTS have more color than the one on which you have staked your claim.
Thou shalt on the Sabbath look to the Mountain Peaks so’s to know better your whereabouts, so’s you can help others to know the DESERT, dotting on the map the places where you have camped.
Honor the Pioneers, Explorers and the Desert Rats who found and marked the water holes . . . they tell you about the next water hole and try to help you.
Thou shalt not shoot the Antelope-Chipmunk, Kangaroo Rat or other harmless Desert friends. (Keep your shot for a snake.)
Thou shalt not adulterate the water holes nor leave the campsite messed up. Be sure to take 10 gallons of water with you. Don’t have to ask the other fellow on the road for a quart, but be able to help the tenderfoot by giving him some water.
Thou shalt not steal (from the prospector’s shack), nor forget to fill the wood box and water pail.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor; you know the mining laws; you know the whereabouts of his monuments.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s sleeping bag, his gun, nor the contents of his canteen.
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.
Two Gunmen ‘Shoot It Out’ when Cowpuncher Meets Up with Man Who Did Not Run’
One Found Sitting Against Wall, Legs Crossed, as Other Fell on Bed
WOMAN MAY BE INVOLVED
Another Dramatic Chapter of Desert History Is Written With Lead ~ By EARL E. BUIE
Matt Burts and Bill Roberts, feudists and two-gun men of Government Holes, met face to face Sunday-night.
True to the first law of the range, “shoot it out”–the law that the quickest on the draw lives–Burts and Roberts never flinched. It was fair; there was no advantage.
“Six-guns” flashed and two of the last of the gunmen of that weird vastness that centers around the water holes In the desert fell, each dying from the other’s bullets. Matt Burts and Bill Roberts died with their boots on: that is the unwritten but the immortal epitaph of the range.
Woman Likely To Be Involved
And even in this lonely desert a woman may he involved, for the wounds on Burts were washed clean and Roberts’ body was lying on a bed when the officers arrived, and woman was known to have been near the scene.
The duel spot is 260 miles by road from San Bernardino in the Ivanpah country, with its open cattle range, famed for lawlessness and gun fights. There last night Deputy Sheriffs Jack H. Brown and Jesus Amarias had not positively concluded that the tragedy with its two deaths was a closed crime. In a telegram to Sheriff Walter A. Shay, the officers bluntly told the story, partly dispelling the first theory that a murderer had slain the two men and fled across the desert hills. The telegram read:
“Bill Roberts and Matt Burts dead. Looks like duel between them, each killing the other. No arrests.”
The duel was but another chanter of Government Holes thrilling history. On the wide and rocky ranges run the herds of “a big cattle outfit” the Rock Springs Land & Cattle company–and those of the “little man.” It Is what is known to cattlemen as an open range, worthless without its water holes. And since beef cattle were driven into the country there has been a never-ending dispute as to water rights. Into the quarrels crept the charges of “rustling,” strong words that brought hard men.
Matt Burts Is Two Gun Man
Matt Burts was one of these men. He carried two guns, one on each hip. In the courts here two years ago when Burts appeared as a witness against Bob Holiman in a “rustling trial, Holiman openly charged that Burts had been imported from Arizona to kill him. During the case, Holiman’s attorney requested the court to have Burts searched for a gun. Burts was then an employe of the Rock Springs outfit, but lately has had his own herd of a few cattle.
Bill Roberts kept his job as foreman of the Rock Springs company because he was a “man who wouldn’t run.” Three foremen ahead of him at Government Holes had been run out of the country by gunmen, threats and by snipers who fired from behind the rocks on the hills overlooking the water hole and the foreman’s shack. Officers of the Rock Springs company charged that, rustlers’ were warring on the foremen, often alone at the holes while range riders were miles away.
Burts, since he left the cattle company, had been a quarrelsome character, drinking heavily and making his threats against his enemies in the district. He wouldn’t leave; that would be cowardly. Stories of his enmity toward Roberts have drifted into the sheriff’s office for weeks.
And in the country, wild and barren as it is, was a woman, a Mrs, Ridell, who lives on a lonely homestead In the Government Holes district. She once was arrested for moonshining when Burts was suspected. But she claimed that the still was hers and took her medicine in the Needles courts without whimpering.
Meanwhile, Roberts virtually lived by his guns. Three weeks ago, the cattle outfit foreman came to his shack after a day on the range and found 13 bullet holes through the house a mute warning that Government Holes was unhealthy for him. But Bill Roberts was, too, a man of the waste lands who wouldn’t leave.
Sunday, the story goes. Burts drove up to Roberts’ place with Mrs. Ridell and her grandson. Burts went up to the house, presumably to ask for a drink. Roberts met in the door. In an instant, their guns were in play, firing simultaneously, for neither Bill Roberts nor Matt Burts had a superior on the range for drawing in a hurry. It was the inevitable. Both shot straight and both died.
Two Men Are Found in Cabin
The bodies of Burts and Roberts were found in a ranch house. Burts had been shot squarely through the forehead. He was found in a sitting position, with his legs crossed and his hat on. All blood had been washed away from the wound. Roberts, shot through the abdomen, was found laid out on a bed. Both men were killed by .44 caliber bullets.
Sheriff Shay received word of the duel at midnight Sunday and immediately sent Deputies Brown and Amarias to the scene. The officers left San Bernardino at 1 o’clock Monday morning and six hours later they were in Goffs, 220 miles away an average of nearly 40 miles an hour across the desert. By 10 o’clock they were on the ground at Government Holes, 40 miles south and east of Lanfair.
The officers may return late today. They will conduct a thorough investigation of the case, however, as the sinister stories that first reached the city have not died down, and the position of bodies indicate a possible new angle in the case. Mrs. Ridell’s grandson was questioned for hours yesterday, but reiterated the duel story.
Government Holes, however, has had its gun duels before. Six years ago it was the scene of the spectacular gun fight between Pat and Roy Woods, father and son, and Bob Holiman. In the fight, Holiman emerged the victor, although not a drop of blood was lost.
Water Hole Was Cause of Feud
Pat Woods and his son, Roy, were cowboys employed by the Rock Springs company. And again it was the rights to the water holes and the enmity between the “little men” against the Rock Springs company that led to the duel. It was commonly known that Roy Woods practiced shooting by killing jack-rabbits with his six-shooter while riding in a flivver and on horse-back And Pat, the father, could break a beer, bottle with his six-shooter 50 yards away.
In the spring during the roundup, Pat and Roy Woods met Bob Holiman on the open range. Pat began shooting and, apparently rattled, missed Holiman. Then Holiman got into action. He shot Pat Woods’ horse out front under him and with a second shot knocked Roy’s hat off his head.
Fate probably saved the Woods from extermination. Holiman was shooting like a sharpshooter when his gun jammed. Holiman’s friends, who were spectators to the duel, shouted to Holiman to “tickle his horse”–sinking the spurs into his horse’s flanks. And Rob “tickled” his horse and galloped away without a return fire from the Woods.
Trial Resembled Movie Location
The trial in the courts here resembled a moving picture outfit on location. Scores of cowboys of the wide ranges attended and there were no convictions. The Woods, however, left Government Holes and so far as known never returned.
Two years ago, Holiman again figured in tho courts in a case involving the ownership of a calf that he killed. Burts, then one of the stout-hearted men hired by the Rock Springs company to protect their cattle, charged that Holiman killed a Rock Springs calf and sold the beef at Needles. Holiman offered no fight when Burts arrested him. In this case, Holiman was not convicted, the jury disagreeing and the charge dismissed.
It was In this case that Burts’ past life was revealed in open court. Burts, six feet tall, handsome, and with coal black hair, was a picturesque figure at the trial. On his right hip he wore a six-shooter. When he was called to testify against Holiman, Attorney Ralph E. Swing began a cross-examination
“Have you removed that revolver that you have been toting around?” asked the attorney.
Burts glared back silently.
Did Not Want Witness Armed
“I wish to interrogate this witness,” Attorney Swing told Judge J. W. Curtis, “and I don’t want him sitting there with a revolver on his hip.”
Burts then arose in his seat, held his coat under his shoulders and turned around slowly. “I took it off.” he explained.
Then the attorney began questioning Burts.
“Were, you ever convicted of a felony?” he asked.
“Yes, twice,” retorted Burts.
“What was the first offense you were convicted of?” Burts was asked.
“And what were you convicted for the second time?”
“For shooting a fellow.”
Burts then explained that he was sentenced to serve five years for the train robbery and was pardoned after serving six months. This was in Arizona. On the second offense, he was sentenced to serve 10 years and was pardoned by the governor after serving five months, he said. That was years ago, Burts said.
His Brother Deputy Sheriff
Burts has a brother, Tom Burts, a deputy sheriff, living at Tucson. The brother yesterday wired Sheriff Shay asking that the body be forwarded to Tucson.
Little is known of Robert’s past history. Walter S. Greening, president of the Rock Springs company, said last night that he did not know where Robert came from, but that he was sent to Rock Springs “because he wouldn’t run.”
And he didn’t.
This story first appeared in The San Bernardino Daily Sun — November 10, 1925
In the early seventies, while the Southern Pacific Railway was building from San Francisco to
San José, some twelve or fifteen bandits, carousing at a country dance in the Mexican settlement, Panamá (about six miles south of Bakersfield) planned to cross the mountains and hold up the pay-car. They were unsuccessful; whereupon, they turned their attention to the village of Tres Pinos, robbed several store-keepers and killed three or four men. They were next heard of at little Kingston, in Tulare County, where they plundered practically the whole town. Then they once more disappeared.
Presently various clues pointed to the identity of the chief bandido as one Tibúrcio Vasquez, born in Monterey in the thirties, who had taken to the life of an outlaw because, as he fantastically said, some Gringos had insolently danced off with the prettiest girls at fandangos, among them being his sweetheart whom an American had wronged. With the exception of his Lieutenant, Chavez, he trusted no one, and when he moved from place to place, Chavez alone accompanied him. In each new field he recruited a new gang, and he never slept in camp with his followers.
Although trailed by several sheriffs, Vasquez escaped to Southern California leading off the wife of one of his associates—a bit of gallantry that contributed to his undoing, as the irate husband at once gave the officers much information concerning Vasquez’s life and methods. One day in the spring of 1874, Vasquez and three of his companions appeared at the ranch of Alessandro Repetto, nine miles from town, disguised as sheep-shearers. The following morning, while the inmates of the ranch-house were at breakfast, the highwaymen entered the room and held up the defenseless household. Vasquez informed Repetto that he was organizing a revolution in Lower California and merely desired to borrow the trifling sum of eight hundred dollars. Repetto replied that he had no money in the house; but Vasquez compelled the old man to sign a check for the sum demanded, and immediately dispatched to town a boy working for Repetto, with the strict injunction that if he did not return with the money alone, and soon, his master would be shot.
When the check was presented at the Temple & Workman Bank, Temple, who happened to be there, became suspicious but could elicit from the messenger no satisfactory response to his questions. The bank was but a block from the Courthouse; and when Sheriff Rowland hurriedly came, in answer to a summons, he was inclined to detain the lad. The boy, however, pleaded so hard for Repetto’s life that the Sheriff agreed to the messenger’s returning alone with the money.
Soon after, Rowland and several deputies started out along the same trail; but a lookout sighted
the approaching horsemen and gave the alarm. Vasquez and his associates took to flight and were pursued as far as Tijunga Pass; but as the cut-throats were mounted on fresh horses, they escaped.
Even while being pursued, Vasquez had the audacity to fleece a party of men in the employ of
the Los Angeles Water Company who were doing some work near the Alhambra Tract. The well known Angeleño and engineer in charge, Charles E. Miles, was relieved of an expensive gold
In April, 1874, Sheriff Rowland heard that Vasquez had visited the home of “Greek George”— the Smyrniot camel-driver to whom I have referred—and who was living about ten miles from Los Angeles, near the present location of Hollywood. Rowland took into his confidence D. K. Smith and persuaded him to stroll that way, ostensibly as a farmer’s hand seeking employment; and within two weeks Smith reported to Rowland that the information as to Vasquez’s whereabouts was correct. Rowland then concluded to make up a posse, but inasmuch as a certain clement kept Vasquez posted regarding the Sheriff’s movements, Rowland had to use great precaution.
Anticipating this emergency, City Detective Emil Harris-four years later Chief of Police-had been
quietly transferred to the Sheriff’s office; in addition to whom, Rowland selected Albert Johnson, Under Sheriff; B. F. Hartley, a local policeman; J. S. Bryant, City Constable; Major Henry M. Mitchell, an attorney; D. K. Smith; Walter Rodgers, proprietor of the Palace Saloon; and G. A. Beers, a correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle. All these were ordered to report, one by one with their horses, shortly after midnight, at Jones’s Corral on Spring Street near Seventh. Arms and ammunition, carefully packed, were likewise smuggled in. Whether true or not that Vasquez would speedily be informed of the Sheriff’s whereabouts, it is certain that, in resolving not to leave his office, Rowland sacrificed, for the public weal, such natural ambition that he cannot be too much applauded; not even the later reward of eight thousand dollars really compensating him for his disappointment.
By half-past one o’clock in the morning, the eight members of the posse were all in the saddle and silently following a circuitous route. At about daybreak, in dense fog, they camped at the mouth of Nichols’s Canyon-two miles away from the house of Greek George-where Charles Knowles, an American, was living. When the fog lifted, Johnston, Mitchell, Smith and Bryant worked their way to a point whence they could observe Greek George’s farm; and Bryant, returning to camp, reported that a couple of gray horses had been seen tied near the ranch-house. Shortly thereafter, a four horse empty wagon, driven by two Mexicans, went by the cañon and was immediately stopped and brought in. The Mexicans were put in charge of an officer, and about the same time Johnston came tearing down the ravine with the startling statement that Vasquez was undoubtedly at Greek George’s!
A quick consultation ensued and it was decided by the posse to approach their goal in the captured vehicle, leaving their own horses in charge of Knowles; and having warned the Mexicans that they would be shot if they proved treacherous, the deputies climbed into the wagon and lay down out of sight. When a hundred yards from the house, the officers stealthily scattered in various directions.
Harris, Rodgers and Johnston ran to the north side, and Hartley and Beers to the west. Through
an open door, Vasquez was seen at the breakfast table, and Harris, followed by the others, made a quick dash for the house. A woman waiting on Vasquez attempted to shut the officers out; but Harris injected his rifle through the half-open door and prevented her. During the excitement, Vasquez climbed through a little window, and Harris, yelling, “There he goes!” raised his Henry rifle and shot at him. By the time Harris had reached the other side of the house, Vasquez was a hundred feet away and running like a deer toward his horse. In the meantime, first Hartley and then the other officers used their shotguns and slightly wounded him again. Vasquez then threw up his hands, saying: “Boys, you’ve done well! but I’ve been a damned fool, and it’s my own fault!”
The identity of the bandit thus far had not been established; and when Harris asked his name, he answered, “Alessandro Martinez.” In the meantime, captors and prisoner entered the house; and Vasquez, who was weakened from his wounds, sat down, while the young woman implored the officers not to kill him. At closer range, a good view was obtained of the man who had so long terrorized the State. He was about five feet six or seven inches in height, sparely built, with small feet and hands-in that respect by no means suggesting the desperado-with a low forehead, black, coarse hair and mustache, and furtive, cunning eyes.
Not the Spanish Alejandro; a variation doubtless suggested by the Italian Repetto’s forename.
By this time, the entire posse, excepting Mitchell and Smith (who had followed a man seen to leave Greek George’s), proceeded to search the house. The first door opened revealed a young fellow holding a baby in his arms. He, the most youthful member of the organization, had been placed on guard. There were no other men in the house, although four rifles and six pistols, all loaded and ready for use, were found. Fearing no such raid, the other outlaws were afield in the neighborhood; and being warned by the firing, they escaped. One of Vasquez’s guns, by the way, has been long preserved by the family of Francisco Ybarra and now rests secure in the County Museum.
Underneath one of the beds was found Vasquez’s vest containing Charley Miles’s gold watch, which Harris at once recognized. The prisoner was asked whether he was seriously hurt and he said that he expected to die, at the same time admitting that he was Vasquez and asking Harris to write down some of his bequests. He said that he was a single man, although he had two children living at Elizabeth Lake; and he exhibited portraits of them. He protested that he had never killed a human being, and said that the murders at Tres Pinos were due to Chavez’s disobedience of orders.
The officers borrowed a wagon from Judge Thompson—who lived in the neighborhood—into which they loaded Vasquez, the boy and the weapons, and so proceeded on their way. When they arrived near town, Smith and Mitchell caught up with them. Mitchell was then sent to give advance notice of Vasquez’s capture and to have medical help on hand; and by the time the party arrived, the excitement was intense. The City Fathers, then in session, rushed out pellmell and crowds surrounded the Jail. Dr. K. D. Wise, Health Officer, and Dr. J. P. Widney, County Physician,administered treatment to the captive. Vasquez, in irons, pleaded that he was dying; but Dr. Widney, as soon as he had examined the captive, warned the Sheriff that the prisoner, if he escaped, would still be game for a long day’s ride. Everybody who could, visited him and I was no exception. I was disgusted, however, when I found Vasquez’s cell filled with flowers, sent by some white women of Los Angeles who had been carried away by the picturesque career of the bandido; but Sheriff Rowland soon stopped all such foolish exuberance.
Vasquez admitted that he had frequently visited Mexicans in Los Angeles, doing this against the
advice of his lieutenant, Chavez, who had warned him that Sheriff Rowland also had good friends among the Mexicans.
Among those said to have been in confidential touch with Vasquez was Mariano G. Santa Cruz, a prominent figure, in his way, in Sonora Town. He kept a grocery about three hundred feet from the old Plaza Church, on the east side of Upper Main Street, and had a curiously-assorted household. There on many occasions, it is declared, Vasquez found a safe refuge.
Five days after the capture, Signor Repetto called upon the prisoner, who was in chains, and
remarked: “I have come to say that, so far as I am concerned, you can settle that little account with God Almighty!” Vasquez, with characteristic flourishes, thanked the Italian and began to speak of repayment, when Repetto replied: “I do not expect that. But I beg of you, if ever you resume operations, never to visit me again.” Whereupon Vasquez, placing his hand dramatically upon his breast, exclaimed: “Ah, Señor, I am a cavalier, with a cavalier’s heart!”—¡Señor Repetto, yo soy un caballero, con el corazón de un caballero!
As soon as Vasquez’s wounds were healed, he was taken by Sheriff Rowland to Tres Pinos and there indicted for murder. Miller & Lux, the great cattle owners, furnished the money, it was understood, for his defense—supposedly as a matter of policy. His attorneys asked for, and obtained, a change of venue, and Vasquez was removed to San José. There he was promptly tried, found guilty and, in March, 1875, hanged.
Many good anecdotes were long told of Vasquez; one of which was that he could size up a man quickly, as to whether he was a native son or not, by the direction in which he would roll a cigarette—toward or away from himself! As soon as the long-feared bandit was in captivity, local wits began to joke at his expense. A burlesque on Vasquez was staged late in May at the Merced Theater; and the day the outlaw was captured, a merchant began his advertisement: VASQUEZ says that MENDEL MEYER has the Finest and Most Complete Stock of Dry Goods and Clothing, etc.”
from: Sixty years in Southern California, 1853-1913, containing the reminiscences of Harris Newmark. Edited by Maurice H. Newmark; Marco R. Newmark
L. Burr Belden San Bernardino Sun-Telegram September 6, 1959
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 40- stamp mill at Gold Hill and the operation was supporting a good-sized town, the town of Doble.
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.
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 camp out 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.
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, the 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 harnesses, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jacob Breyfogle was a prospector who roamed the country around Pioche and Austin, Nevada, with infrequent excursions into theDeath Valleyarea. 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 ofShoshone, 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 Bernardinowith the wounded man. The ore, a chocolate quartz, was thrown into the wagon.
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 andSmith(thePacific 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.”
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
I was standing here one day taking some train shots and some guy told me this was where Say Davis Jr. had the accident where he lost his eye. I asked him if he knew if or not that it had been found? He told me it hadn’t and I told him I would look around before I left.
Strange, but not true … (or, All in favor, say “Eye.”) 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!
A MYSTERY FROM THE MYSTERIES OF THE MYSTERIOUS MOJAVE
Where did Sammy Davis Jr. Lose His Eyeball?
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).
BTW; His eyeball is not there either–I looked. If the ‘Google’ says that’s it, that’s it!
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.
” 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.