A Bottle Full of Teeth

John Searles
John Searles

John W Searles‘  bottle full of his own teeth was a reminder of one of the most remarkable encounters with the grizzly bear ever related in San Bernardino County.

While hunting deer in March, 1870, Searles, a miner  and hunter,  came to the brink of  a precipice, and saw in the valley that spread out before him two fully grown  bears  and a cub. Although he had only for good cartridges, he had contrived to make a few extra makeshift loads for his gun from a misfit box of ammunition which had  been sent  to him by mistake.

Searles  entered the valley and road for hours over rough, snow-covered country, looking for the bears, before he finally came upon one sleeping under a clump of brush.  He fired a shot  and the bear rolled over from the impact of the bullet.  two more shots finished them. Then, nearby, Searles heard the sound of another bear.

grizzly bear
NPS photo

Wet with snow, Searles worked his way cautiously through the brush,  only to be surprised when a second massive bear reared up before him, its nose scarcely 10 feet away.  the thick brush made it impossible to step back   and aim. Searles  jammed another bullet in his rifle and pulled the trigger, but there was no report. It was one of the off size cartridges.

Before he could try a third time, the grizzly charged, mouth agape. Searles  tried to jam his rifle down the bear’s  throat. The animal flung the weapon aside and threw Searles to the ground.  With one foot on the hunter’s breast, the grizzly bit off a large section of Searles’ lower jaw, then gashed his throat and laid bare his shoulder bone. Searles managed to roll over, his coat doubled up on his back in a  hump. The bear bit the coat once and left.

Despite his mangled condition, Searles recovered his horse and, with the freezing cold sealing his ruptured veins, road 4 miles to a camp, where he received first aid before proceeding on a three-day trip to a Los Angeles hospital.   Doctors  gave him no chance to live, but three weeks after they had patched, sewed and pieced him together, the hunter was up and able to get around.

For years afterward, Searles kept in his desk a 2 ounce bottle containing 21 pieces of broken bone and teeth, torn from his lower jaw  by the grizzly. And, in the corner of his office,  his old Spencer rifle stood, its lock  showing clearly the  dents of the grizzly’s vicious teeth.

from :
Pioneer tales of San Bernardino County
WPA Writers Program – 1940

More about John Searles

The Massacre at Agua de Hernandez: Resting Springs

Kit Carson
Christopher “Kit” Carson

from the Autobiography of Kit Carson

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

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

Explorer John C. Fremont
John C. Fremont

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

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

Resting Springs, Agua de Hernandez
Resting Springs – where the massacre took place.

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

Crossing the Mojave: Kit Carson (1829)

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

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

Colorado River at Moab
Colorado River at Moab across from Topock, Az.

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

Mojave River fan

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

 

San Gabriel Mission

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

from: The Autobiography of  Kit Carson

Charles Brown at Greenwater

From “Loafing Along Death Valley Trails” by William Caruthers

Charles Brown General Store - Shoshone, Ca.
Charles Brown General Store – Shoshone, Ca.

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

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

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

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

The badge was pinned on Charles Brown.

Charles & Stella Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nothing but Jackrabbits

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

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

Jack and Ida Mitchell of Mitchell Caverns
Jack and Ida Mitchell

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

More about Jack Mitchell

 

Junior’s Ranch

Mrs. Kemper Campbell
by Eva Neal

Mrs. Kemper Campbell, with her husband and their law partner, Mr. Sorenson, acquired the Verde Ranch in 1924. Mrs. Campbell, now 76 years of age, recalls that the original Verde ranch was approximately 4000 acres. The Campbells  retained the north portion of 1900 acres, while Mr. Sorenson retained the south portion. Part of the Kalin ranch, from the south portion along Bear Valley Road, is now being developed for the new Victor Valley College.

Verde/Kemper Campbell Ranch
Verde/Kemper Campbell Ranch

Mrs. Campbell describes the red House is consisting of nine rooms and in good repair.  The “red house” was built in 1870 by John Brown Sr. and was used by the Mormons as a hotel and stopover. It was a meeting place of the pioneers on  their journeys south to the San Bernardino Valley.  In 1867, John Brown homesteaded the Verde Rancho, which became the first major ranch of the Mojave River Valley.  Horse  and cattle raising and production of alfalfa have been the major uses of the ranch by a succession of owners:  the Coles, Sterlings and Greers before the Campbells and Mr. Sorenson became owners. The Campbells operated their portion as a working ranch. In the 1930s they added attractions for guests, and for many years it was well known as the “North  Verde.”  after the death of their oldest son during World War II the name was changed to “Kemper Campbell Jr. Ranch”  in his memory.

Adapted from Mohahve I – Scrapbooks of History, page 93 – Mohahve Historical Society

The Father of San Bernardino County

Captain Jefferson Hunt
b. January 20, 1803
d. May 11, 1879

picture of Jefferson Hunt
Jefferson Hunt – LDS photo.

… 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.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=22927878

Little Ellen Baley – Lost in the Desert Night

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.

from –
Disaster at the Colorado
Beale’s Wagon Road and the First Emigrant Party

~ Charles W. Baley

Coyote Holes

Note on: Freeman Stage Station (Coyote Holes).

Robber's Roost near Freeman Junction
Robber’s Roost near Freeman Station

Freeman Station was established by the ex-stage driver Freeman S. Raymond in 1872. On the last day of February, 1874, the Station was attacked by Tiburcio Vasquez. Although the station occupants had surrendered, “Old Tex” (who was sleeping in the barn) awoke and fired at Vasquez, wounding him in the leg.

Tiburcio Vasquez
Tiburcio Vasquez the ‘Gentleman’ bandito.

Vasquez returned fire and delivered a leg wound to Tex (Pracchia, 1994). In 1894, Freeman’s parcel became the first homestead in Indian Wells Valley.
~ R. Reynolds

 

 

Illustrator of Mojave Desert flora

Henry R. Mockle (1905-1981),
Illustrator of Mojave Desert flora

Rather than documenting the structure of each plant species in scientific detail, Henry Mockle intended his illustrations to capture “the pleasurable feeling at coming up on one of these little creations”.

Henry Mockle painting of desert Indian paintbrush
Paintbrush

As did naturalist Edmund Jaeger, Mockle took pride in all his studies of desert plants being taken directly from life. This work often involves lying on the ground for hours, in conditions ranging from hot to cold, windy to wet. As some annual plants – like the Phacelia – per growing up and through the protective spread of woody shrubs. Mockle found he had to lay beneath creosote bushes and other scrub vegetation to depict these wildflowers in full.

Henry Mockle painting of coyote melon
Coyote melon

 

Painting of desert mallow
Desert Mallow

 

Source: Riverside Metropolitan Museum

The Man Who Was Hanged Twice

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

Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park
Downtown Skidoo. Death Valley National Park

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

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

Joe "Hooch" Simpson
Joe “Hooch” Simpson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Myrtle Nyles – November 1964 – Desert Magazine

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

History of Skidoo

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

Special Delivery

Hesperia, CA.  pre-1950 – Then and Now

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

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

~ Mary Ann Creason Dolan-Rohde

More about …
Hesperia, California

Walters’ General Store

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

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

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

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

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

More about …
Hesperia, California

‘Billy Goat’ Thompson

Rock house, Hesperia, CA.
Rock house

Our nearest neighbor, was a Dr. Nelson, who lived in the large rock house further up Highway 173 on the next bend in the road. He was a Seventh-day Adventist who spent weekends there and would manage to come to our house at dinner time. Daddy would always ask him if he would like to stay for dinner, and he would always say yes, and eat meat. Our neighbor on the other side, which would have been on Lake Arrowhead Road, was an old man my daddy called ‘Billy Goat’ Thompson. My guess is, that his real name was Russell Wilson Thompson, but because he raised goats, people had given him the name of ‘Billy Goat’ Thompson. He was a rather dirty man, with a tattered clothing and a beard. I remember that he lived in a cave and had a number of working herd dogs, that I enjoyed watching. I remember that he had a very gentle voice and that he loved his animals.

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

More about …
Hesperia, California

A Story that could have been Funnier

Shorty Harris

Single Blanket Jackass Prospector Shorty Harris’ burial beside Jim Dayton in lower Death Valley was quite an occasion. Four hundred CCC boys, an army chaplain and a goodly gathering of desert rats and interested visitors gathered at the site near Eagle Borax and awaited arrival of the hearse from Bishop, as the sun dropped to the crest of Telescope Peak.
Shorty Harris' grave in Death ValleyAll day two old miner friends had been digging the grave aided and abetted by a jug of firewater hidden behind a clump of greasewood.

When the casket arrived and was measured the grave was too short as the diggers had figured on the length of the “Short Man” and not the coffin.

As the sun dropped behind the Panamints and the chaplain and mourners fidgeted uneasily, a voice came from the grave.

“Bend the so and so in the middle and let’s plant him. He won’t give a damn.”

However it wasn’t feasible to bend a coffin but it was lowered on an angle and Shorty was buried with his head up.

—Told by T.R. Goodwin, Superintendent Death Valley National Monument
Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrapbook

Trapper Andrew Sublette and Salt Springs History

Gold was discovered on December 1, 1849, by Mormons who were led by Jefferson Hunt to take gold seekers and others to southern California over the Old Spanish Trail. Most wagons left Hunt in southern Utah for a short cut to the gold country—ironically, short-cut survivors took up to two months longer to reach Los Angeles. It wasn’t much of a short cut. Those seven wagons that stayed with Hunt camped on the Old Spanish Trail at Salt Creek, near the present Hwy. 127 and Salt Creek Mountains. Some men rode up the Amargosa Spring wash and found gold. The Los Angeles Star dated May 7, 1851, reported the story.

When Hunt’s group arrived in Rancho Chino, owner Col. Isaac Williams sent out his right hand man Davis to examine the gold site. Ben Wilson, later mayor of Los Angeles and ancestor of General George Patton, fitted out another expedition to check on the Salt Springs site. Both expeditions brought back rich specimens and reported a “whole mountain” of gold bearing ore.

But as was the case of desert mining for years to come, there were obstacles to making desert mines pay off: transportation, distance, food and water, machinery to process the gold so that it would be practical to bring the ore to a smelter. Realistically, in the 1850s, miners still thought that in the Sierra Nevada gold country, gold could still be just picked up.

Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.
Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.

One explorer went to San Francisco and shared his enthusiasm for the Salt Springs gold. Investors in June, 1850, sponsored another party to investigate. When they came back in July, they formed the Los Angeles Mining Company and made plans to take possession and work the area.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs

Another of the Los Angeles initial prospectors. Mr. Davis, went to the Sierras to find a supposed Gold Lake. When he returned to Grass Valley, he told Col. Lamb about his trip to “Gold Mountain,” i.e., Salt Springs. Lamb fitted out another exploratory trip, this time led by Davis. Col. Lamb’s group evidently arrived before the Los Angeles company and claimed what he thought were good areas, and sold three-fourth of his interest under the name Desert Mining Company in January 1851. By that spring the two mining companies had three Mexican arrastres (animal powered rock gold crushers) in operation, two for Desert Mining Company and one for Los Angeles Company. The latter company also bought, according to the Star, “a fine engine and machinery on the Amohave (Mojave) River, a little over half way out” —where it became stuck and was temporarily left in the sands of the Mojave River. The assay samples brought into Los Angeles were too few to be conclusive, but varied from 10 cents to many dollars per pound of rock. One of the companies had dug a mine 30’ deep.

Mojave River
Mojave River

Andrew Sublette, famed trapper and mountain man family of brothers, was encouraged to invest in the Desert Mining Company, his great hope to become wealthy. He had became ill gold mining in the Sierras and went to San Jose to recuperate. In a letter to his brother Solomon, March 20, 1851, from Los Angeles, we see his dreams:

“I am concerned with a Company in a gold mine. It is in the rock and very rich. I have been there for six months and will Start out to that place tomorrow [to] take charge and Start some machinery to grind the rock… I have invested all my means (which was but little) in that mine but hope to get it out with interest.”

He was so poor that he borrowed money at 5% to invest and took the job as “chief field man,” (Superintendent). The company did not have enough resources, and President James F. Hibberd tried to obtain additional operating money with more investors and by attaching assessments for the stock owners to pay, or they would forfeit their stocks. For example, on May 7, [1851 ?] the company set an assessment on $2.00 per share.  On June 10 it assessed another $1.00 per share. In August, 1851, the Desert Mining Company failed! Sublette declared insolvency. The partnership of B. D. Wilson and A. Packard dissolved.

Amargosa Mine ruins at Salt Springs
Ruins: Amargosa Mine at Salt Springs

A new mining company Salt Springs Mining Company, was formed. The new President was Benjamin D. Wilson, Albert Packard was Secretary-Treasurer, also partners in a transportation company. Since Andrew Sublette had no money to invest, he continued as chief field man. The company was running again in November 1851.

Always positive it seems, Sublette praised the mine to the Star, and said that Indians had been troublesome, had stolen tools and ruined machinery, but “The workmen were taking out remarkably rich specimens of quartz: on the whole the news is encouraging.”  Sublette sold his holding in St. Louis for $6,000 to pay off bills and invest again in Salt Springs Mining. He wrote to his brother again in March 1852 that he had started mining again with new partners and that prospects were good. He hoped to go back to Missouri and visit again soon. His health has been the best it has been for the last two or three years.

Things were really going well.

Ravine in Cajon Pass
Ravine in Cajon Pass

But that’s not usual for mining in the Mojave Desert. In the next couple months things were typical for desert mining: Two of his men killed in the Cajon Pass, more Indian difficulties, the 220-mile supply line to Los Angeles, the dwindling supply of money, the calling for  stock assessments–all led the Salt Springs Mining Company to try to sell to foreign investors—and that failed, and so did the mining at Salt Springs—for awhile at least.

Sublette, now broke again, went back to his mountain man roots: bear hunting to make some money. He provided some meat for the Los Angeles markets. He was badly wounded, but recovered.

Barracks, Ft. Tejon
Barracks, Ft. Tejon

Because of his freight experience and his friendship with Wilson, Sublette received a contract to provide supplies to the new Indian reservation at Ft. Tejon. He went into partnership with James Thompson. They prospered and even leased the La Brea Ranch. According to his biographer, Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr., Andrew Sublette had quite a resume of occupations: trapper, trader, guide, soldiers, hunter, peace officer, miner—and sometimes with ill-health—he found success as a California Indian Department contractor. Yet, within a few months he was dead at age 40.

Andrew Whitley Sublette’s funeral was in the parlor of the El Dorado Saloon in Los Angeles, and as Major Horace Bell said, “…every gringo in town turned out for the funeral.”

Sublette and his partner, James Thompson, hunted for grizzlies in Malibu Canyon. The two became separated, and when Thompson heard a shot he ran toward it, and found “Sublette locked in hand to hand struggle with the ferocious animal. To one side, partly covered by a cloud of dust stirred up from the contest between man and beast, lay the huddled corpse of the attacker’s mate. Apparently Sublette had slain one of the bears with his rifle, and then before he could reload his weapon, was set upon by another. With knife flashing, his hunting dog, Old Buck, adding his bite to the fray, Andrew finally dispatched his assailant with a mortal thrust. Falling near the crumpled carcass Andrew lay bleeding and dying.”

Thompson got help and took him to the Padilla Building where Dr. Thomas Foster frantically tried to stop the bleeding. The next day Sublette’s trapping, hunting and mining days were over. He was buried at Foothill Cemetery, a dramatic end to a short but glorious life of one of America’s great trappers, Andrew Sublette. Despite his illness, he struggled to the end to make a good living in difficult occupations. His last years added interesting facets to the history of the Mojave Desert.

Salt Springs had another 158 years of history. It continued its up’s and down’s in mining, with scandals where “miners mined the investors,” with a great glory hole, and now this important water hole on the Old Spanish Trail is marked by the BLM with a picnic area, restroom, signs and trails. It is just a hundred yards off Hwy. 127.

Thanks to Emmet for most of this information. I also sourced Andrew Sublette: Rocky Mountain Prince 1813 – 1853, by Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr, at the Huntington Library.

by Cliff Walker – Mojave River Valley Museum

A Visit With “Death Valley Scotty”

By Ivan Summers, from the SANTA MONICA EVENING OUTLOOK, Automotive Section, Thursday, January 29, 1925.

“Oh My Gawd”! The explosion of words roused my dog snoozing nearby. What else would you say when, while pawing through an old box of family junk, an eighty eight year old newspaper smacks your eyeballs? Especially if you’ve had a lifelong addiction to desert minutiae. The absorbing yarn of about 2000 words (with no byline) entails a journey by two Franklin automobiles into and out of Death Valley including a successful meeting with the legendary Death Valley Scotty. The (crumbling) newspaper itself is an historic gem laced with ads touting “Balloon Tires,” the new Maxwell Coupe, the Rio Roadster, the Hudson super six–all iconic in U. S. car history. As well, splashed front page, are several pics of the famous air cooled Franklins in the valley and a photo of that career rascal himself–Scotty!

According to the writer (unnamed) there had been an attempt the previous summer to negotiate Franklin cars from Furnace Creek Ranch to Scotty’s digs. But 126 temp and road (or no road) conditions turned them back for another try in January of 1925.

Good stuff here. They breakfast in Mojave, proceed to Randsberg, Leach Springs and Owl Springs. You can’t do that today as Leach Springs is on sacred military ground. That trip assuredly went
over what still is the Steamwell road out of Johannesberg, through Granite Wells connecting with Owl Springs and on to the Harry Wade road. Then east on Bradburg Wash to Shoshone. Tough going today if
you could even find it.

These guys eventually got to Scotty but with an interesting little aside in Rhyolite. The mining camp had only been “partly disassembled.” A moving picture company was filming something to be entitled “The Air Mail.” (Film archives)??

Scotty, apparently a genial host, saw that the travelers were housed and fed. The writer goes on to inform that Scotty’s house was furnished with elaborate stuff from China with maybe a $6,000 import fee plus other niceties that exceeded $150,000. The story implied that these were Scotty’s digs done with Scotty’s money There was mention by Scott of his ‘partner.’ Albert Johnson, who Scotty mentioned was going to build a million dollar house near his.

photo of the con man, Death Valley ScottyApparently what the Santa Monica writer didn’t know in 1925 was that Scotty was one of the magnificent cons of the early 20th century. He’d been exposed in 1906 and again in 1912 as a fraud and hoaxer. He relieved numerous gullible investors, including Johnson, of many thousands–invested in nonexistent gold mines. He even did some jail time in 1912. Despite this egregious behavior he remained in Johnson’s affection until Johnson passed in 1948.

The Franklin car party’s announced intention was to negotiate the length of the valley, in this instance from North to South. From Scotty’s out of the south end. The article states “this had never been done before.”

Well, uh, not exactly the case. This writer’s father, Herbert S. Summers, made a journey in 1923 in a Model T Ford from south to north at least as far as Furnace Creek Ranch. His route was from Barstow north east past Bicycle Lake, Garlic Springs, Cave Springs and directly up the  valley to Furnace Creek Ranch.

Summers wrote a delightful little tale of their adventure describing the perils of mid-summer travel and took numerous photos–still in the family archives.

On exiting Scotty’s, the Franklin party passed by something referred as the “lost wagon” and another site called “Surveyors Well,” neither of which appear on today’s maps. They evidently turned west to take the Wingate Wash (Pass) road paralleling the Epsom Salt Mono Rail and eventually found Mojave, unaware that it was possible to complete the North-South transit through Cave Springs and to Barstow. It in fact (in reverse) had been done.

Death Valley survived Scotty–and is a better place for it

Life in Harmony with Nature

Olive Oatman
Olive Oatman

Indians living in harmony with nature is an idealization to say the least. Life was hard and often got harder as evidenced by Olive Oatman’s observations of the Mojave Indians in the 1850s.

“One day I was out gathering. Chottatoe, when I was suddenly surprised and frightened by running upon one of the victims of this stupid, barbarous inhumanity. He was a tall, bony Indian of about thirty years. His eye was rather sunken, his visage marred, as if he had passed through extreme hardships. He was lying upon the ground, moaning and rolling from side to side in agony the most acute and intense. I looked upon him, and my heart was moved with pity. Little Mary said, ‘I will go up and find out what ails him.’ On inquiry we soon found that he had been for some time ill, but not so as to become utterly helpless. And not until one of their number is entirely disabled, do they seem to manifest any feeling or concern for him. The physician was called, and soon decided that he was not in the least diseased. He told Mary that nothing ailed him save the want of food ; said that he had been unable for some time to procure his food ; that his friends devoured any that was brought into camp without dividing it with him ; that he had been gradually running down, and now he wanted to die. O there was such dejection, such a forlorn, despairing look written upon his countenance as made an impression upon my mind which is yet vivid and mournful.”
~ Olive Oatman

 

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part VI

Continued from Part V
Salt Lake

Philemon’s mother hearing that we were coming started out to meet us but got on the wrong road, missed us, and had to walk back a long distance — we were about two weeks making the trip and the worry of it all must have told on me for when my sister-in-law first met me she said “is this you, Cyrena, or your ghost?”

About a week after I got back, my two children were taken sick with chills, then I was sick; then baby took croup and only lived about 12 hours, dying on the sixth of September.

I let father and mother Merrill take my fitout (of wagon, oxen etc,) and they went on with the first company that went to Salt Lake in 1847, but I stayed here at Kanesville until my husband’s return on December 11, 1847 from Battalion.

He spent his time in getting land warrants for the Battalion Boys and assisting Brother Young to get emigrants across the plains.

Here on September 10, 1848, our third daughter, Melissa Jane, was born.

In the spring of 1849 Brother Young having sent our teams back Salt Lake we fitted up and crossed the plains. Now we were really going to Zion and as our hearts were filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His love and protecting care, we were enabled to endure all our trials with cheerful fortitude. Our faith was strong — we loved each other and lived in unity and we were blessed abundantly, and our souls often rang out on the prairies.

While passing through the Rockies we encountered severe snowstorms in many of our cattle perished, but again the Lord helped us, for father Merrill sent a team with a nephew to assist us into the city of Salt Lake.

Our first stopping place was in Salt Lake City where we built a log cabin in the Southwest or 19th Ward stayed here until 1857.

On the Big Cottonwood 7 miles from Salt Lake City, our first Utah baby, our second boy, Morgan Henry was born on February 17, 1850. And when he was three weeks old we moved into the 19th Ward of the city and my husband again left me alone with my little ones.

Houses then were scattered and the measles broke out among the Indians and they would rush past our cabin howling and screaming — run and jump into the warm springs and then take cold and die — then others would bewail and screech — and at all times of the day or night their howls or mournings rent the air and my hairs would stand on and from fright; the only times I ever slept that night was one of my brothers-in-law would come up from Cottonwood to stay a while.

Philemon had gone back to the Platte River to keep the ferryboat.

— continued —

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part V

Continued from Part IV

The Call for 500 Men

During 1845, although we were preparing to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains, they were pushing the work on the Temple and on May 24 the walls were finished and the Apostles administered to hundreds of the people — the services often continuing all day and all night. We received our endowments in the last of December going through the Temple at night.

photo of the Mormon Battalion flag
Mormon Battalion flag – note the spelling of the word “Battalion.”

Now as the mob it said “we will still drive all the Mormons into Nauvoo and all Nauvoo into the Mississippi,” preparations were made immediately evacuating the city and on February 6, 1846, my husband left with the first K guards to guard the records across the river, and went on to Garden Grove, leaving me with my little ones in Nauvoo. When he came back near the last of April with a team, our second daughter Lucy Cyrena, was three weeks old — she, having been born on April 7 — and taking only our bedding and clothing — leaving everything else in the house we went by wagon to Mount Pisgah.

Authorities held counsel and concluded to move on, after putting up some huts which could be used by those coming later.

When within a few miles of Council Bluffs we were met by an United States officer to enlist men for the Mexican War. Coming to a halt Brother Brigham called for 500 volunteers. On July 16 the troops were mustered, my husband being among the number, thus we were left without our natural protectors and as this took our stoutest and best the way much hard work was thrown on the women and the aged. I had only one week’s provisions on hand.– But our faith was strong and Brother Brigham would lead us on. After they had been gone three days some men returned from the Battalion and started to the camps that Capt. Alan had sent them to gather up 50 families of the Battalion Boys, and they could travel with their husbands to California as the government would pay all expenses.

At first I did not wish to go but being over persuaded, I joined the company to follow my husband. My driver was Monroe Frick, a boy of 14 who was such a good kind boy. I arrived at Fort Leavenworth about August 1, 1846.

The joy of once more meeting my husband was of short duration for he could not consent to me traveling with them with my little children and the young babe; so after putting up a wagon with 18 months provisions and to yoke of oxen, Monroe and I started back over that lonely road of 200 miles to the camp of Israel. This was done by the advice and counsel of Brother P. P. Pratt.

Philemon went a day’s journey with us and when he left us in the morning was the hardest of all my trials — we had to travel through Missouri whose swamps were full of malaria, and several times we came to places where the rain had washed out the road and we had to unload our flour and provisions, get the wagon across, then carried the things over and reload. It seems a miracle that we ever succeeded in reaching Winter Quarters, but in God was my trust and he protected us and cared for us.

— continued —

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part IV

continued from – Part III

Cyrena’s New Family

Again joining Brother Stanley’s company in the spring of 1839 I traveled to Quincy, Illinois. My health was very good and I walked every step of the way; sometimes with my skirts wet to my knees and at night we slept only the canopy of the heavens for a roof and it rained every night thus soaking our bedding through before morning. We often cheered ourselves on our march by singing the songs of Zion and we kept our health.

Brother Stanley had managed to procure some flour before leaving Far West, and we had plenty of squash pies — not made with eggs and sugar and milk as it is generally made — but just squash boiled and put in between two crusts, and oh, how good it tasted. Anything eaten with God’s blessing on it and with thankful hearts is sweet and good.

At Quincy was residing a brother of my father’s who had joined the Church, and there I lived for a few weeks but his wife persecuted him and made it so unpleasant for me that I could not stand it but went out to work; while here oue goods and clothing came which we had sent by water from New Portage — coming back from St. Louis where they had been stopped — nothing traveled fast in those days.

I now wrote to the home folks and they were glad to hear from me, particularly about my good health, but they wanted me to come home and not have to endure any more of such privations; they would send me the money and if I did not want to return alone, one of my brothers would gladly come for me — but I answered “I would live and die with the Latter Day Saints.”

I worked out all summer for two dollars a week and was always treated well and my health was good.

In December or late in the fall of this year I went to Nauvoo with Brother Tarletan Lewis and family. They were such good people and so very kind to me.

At Nauvoo we found nearly everyone sick with chills and fever so I went to nursing sick folks. I went to nurse at Stephen Markham’s, for they were all down sick and while there — their daughter — a lovely girl about my age — and her parents would not hear of me leaving them, so I made my home with them from that time.

Sometime in February 1840, Philemon C. Merrill was passing through Nauvoo from Fort Madison to Carthage and had stopped to see his friend, Brother Markham, who brought him home to dinner and I waited on the table. After dinner he asked Brother Markham “Who that young lady was” and when told, he remarked, “I’ll be back here someday, where she will be my wife.” Brother Markham laugh at him and also some at me, but so it proved, or on September 30 we were married, and went to housekeeping in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s
Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

On August 21, 1841, a daughter, Sabrina Lodena, came to gladden our home. While my husband worked on the Temple which the Saints had begun to build in our beautiful city on the Mississippi River — a son, Philemon Alisandre, was born to us to cheer us and bind our hearts together. His birthday was November 18, 1843, and oh, how happy and contented I was with my loving husband and little daughter and son — the clouds were gathering around our beloved Prophet, and everyone knows the terrible times of the next year — the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum and how we obeyed the voice of the twelve when they told us to be peaceable, quiet citizens and blessed would be those who held out faithful to the end.

continued

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part III

continued from – Part II

It rained a little during the night and our bedding was soaked through and not being used to exposure of any kind of course I took a severe cold, which with the long walk and the worry of leaving home under such trying circumstances brought on a fever and a nervous prostration.

I shall ever remember how kind and good to sisters and brethren were to me during that long ride from New Portage, Ohio to the Missouri River; they gave me every attention that I could be given under the circumstances; many times sacrificing their own comfort for mine.

As day by day went by and I still remain so very low, albeit Brother Stanley sadly concluded that I could not recover — and several times I was taken from the wagon and laid down by the roadside while they all gathered round expecting me to breathe my last — but I had great faith, for my blessing said I should go to Zion and I clung to that, (and so did Brother Stanley) and I felt as if that must be true. Sometimes as we were traveling along, people would come to our camp and talk to us and they would say “Why do you drag that sick girl with you? Can’t you stop long enough to let her die in peace? It looks inhuman to take her over these rough roads.” And when told it was prophesied that she should go to Zion, they would shake their heads and say, “She’ll never lived to get there anyway.” We were stopped several times by mobs who were determined we should not go on, but we were strong in faith and continually prayed to the Lord to deliver us from these people and so we finally overcame all difficulties and arrived at the Far West. I had been getting some better before the end of the journey — and oh, how we rejoice that are long tiresome traveling was ended and we could meet and have sweet concourse with the Saints here. But our rest and comfort was soon broken, for in a few days Far West was surrounded to our enemies and I saw Joseph’s aged father and mother weeping over their son as he was taken away a prisoner. During the winter our fate which tried to the utmost — in a strange country – our beloved leader was torn from us — and our food and clothing very scarce — at times we had nothing to eat but parched corn with a little squash.

My health continued to improve daily and Father Smith obtained a place for me to work at Little  Platte (about 20 miles from Far West), with an aged couple who treated me like a daughter but thought I ought to return to my parents. They begged me to go home to my mother who must be so lonely without me, even offering to pay my fare back to Ohio and send their son with me for company — but my faith in the Gospel was strong and I never had any desire to give up our religion or leave the Saints.

To my great joy I found (while living here) Brother and Sister Horn living near, although I had no idea that there was a Latter Day Saint within miles of me — the us is the Lord cheered my heart at all times when I most needed consolation. These new friends told me that the Saints were moving to Quincy, Illinois. After staying with these good folks three months I went with brother and sister Horn to Far West, to again cast in my lot with the Saints although the lady where I had been working went over me and wish me to stay with her or return home to my parents, but I now felt that the Saints’ home was mine.

continued

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part II

continued from – Part I

Accordingly, I left home and went to reside in the family of elder Alexander Stanley, who was an old acquaintance and neighbor. He was like a father to me and there I lived until I gathered with the Saints in Missouri.

A few nights before we started for Missouri, I went to my father’s house and I talked with all of them. My father and mother cried and begged me not to go, even until late into the night; when they found pleading was of no avail, they tried hiring me to stay, and when that also failed, father said he would follow me and have me arrested and brought back by a process of the law. We all then retired and in the morning early father went away for he could not say goodbye.

As I was leaving the house, I turned back at the door and bore a papal testimony to the truth of the gospel; and that was the last time I ever saw any of my father’s family (except Sylvenus who passed through Utah on his way to Montana in 18__).

I was strongly impressed that my going was not only for my own salvation before that of the family also; yet at that time I little realized in just what manner this might occur, and in fact never did thoroughly understand, until the work for the dead was revealed. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to know that I stood in a position to do a work for them which would give them the privilege of accepting in the Spirit world, the gospel which was neglected in this. In April, before starting to Psion, I, with Brother Stanley’s family, went to a Blessing meeting held at the house of brother Sears, in Randolph, Ohio, a few miles from where we then lived, and received a Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith Sen. (the first one who held the office of Priesthood and Patriarch in this dispensation.)

My blessing has been a great comfort to me in the trials which I have had to pass through and it also assisted to give me the necessary faith, courage and fortitude to make this sacrifice of leaving home and friends and to start out alone in the world to fight the battle of life among strangers. I went forth trusting in the Lord, in full faith that he would give me grace sufficient to overcome all obstacles and difficulties which might be thrown in my way, and that I might endure to the end.

In September following we left our homes and commenced our wearisome journey – with Alexander Stanley as leader. His family, his father and family, three of his brothers in law – Sam Kent, Brother Sears and Brother Ellsworth – and their families and myself; all in one wagon.

We started early in the morning and were fearful that father would stop us, for we had to pass his house, but as we neared home we saw the hand of the Lord in causing a dense fog to envelope the house until after we had passed; we could not see even the signboard at the street door.

We traveled on unmolested until noon — when they stopped to rest the horses. I, being fearful of fathers overtaking us, walked on with Sister Kent, but in her haste and anxiety we got on the wrong road; after walking some distance, we inquired and found the right one — but now our minds were more anxious than ever, being afraid we would miss our friends altogether as from fresh tracks in the road we knew that they were ahead of us. We walked as fast as we could but my strength was failing and finally the worry and exertion proved too much for me, and I laid down by the roadside completely exhausted and frightened lest father would still overtake us. Sister Kent sat by me, encouraging me and comforting me and together we pray that someone might return for us, for we dreaded passing the night by ourselves.

While we were resting the company had gone on to New Portage and unloading goods to go by water; then not finding us there, they brought back the wagon to meet us. With renewed faith because our prayers were answered we got into the wagon and went on to New Portage where we made our camp and I slept out of doors for the first time in my life.

continued

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part I

A Sketch in the Life of Cyrena  Dustin Merrill as Given by Herself
(Courtesy of the descendants of Cyrena Dustin Merrill)

I, the daughter of Seth Dustin and Betsy Redfield, was born January 6, 1817, in Genesee County, New York. My father, with his family, moved into Ohio, portage County when I was a bout a year old, where you lived until after I left home. I never had good health and was never expected to do anything around the house but all the family waited on me. I first heard the gospel when about 19 years old and believed and embraced it later, going into the waters of baptism in March 1837 – Elder James Emmett officiating.

I am the only one of my father’s family that ever embraced the gospel; yet I know that my father believed, and had it not been for some unwise conduct in one of the Elders who my father had befriended and assisted, he probably would have been baptized at the same time I was. My brothers and sisters were greatly mortified at my joining the church and as long as I lived at home I had to endure their persecutions.

Sometimes during the summer of 1837, I visited Kirkland and viewed the temple; the first one reared by command and under the direction of the living God in this generation. It would be difficult to describe my feelings while going through that edifice where the Savior and holy Angels had appeared to the servants of God. Truly I felt like thanking God that my mind had been enlightened and that I had been permitted to embraced the gospel and partake of its blessings.

I remained at home during the coming winter, but the spirit of gathering seem to come upon the Saints about that time and I felt I could not be left behind and so determined to go with them to Missouri. This was a severe blow to my father, who had sympathize with me from the beginning, and when he found that I was determined to go he requested me to leave home immediately, that he might become reconciled to the separation before I left entirely; his real motive was a hope that I might become so homesick that I would give up the idea of going with the Saints and return home to stay.

continued

John C. Fremont

“From the ashes of his campfires have sprung cities.”
~ Jessie Benton Frémont:

John Charles Fremont (1813-1890), nicknamed “the Pathfinder” in recognition of his groundbreaking expeditions to map the American West. An amazing explorer, controversial soldier, and a failure as a Civil War general, politician, and a businessman.

Explorer John Charles Fremont
John C. Fremont

John Charles Frémont

Desert People – Bob Reynolds

Bob Reynolds, the one-time earth sciences curator for the San Bernardino County Museum and lifelong explorer of the geology and paleontology of the Mojave Desert is the only dude I know that has had a mineral named after him–reynoldsite.

In this shot Bob is talking about fossil deer tracks and how they may have come to be at this undisclosed location in the Mojave Desert millions of years after they were made.
Bob Reynolds
Geology icon immortalized with mineral:
http://www.pe.com/articles/mineral-652961-reynolds-kampf.html

 

Milt Stark – A Flower-Watcher’s Guide to Wildflowers of the Western Mojave Desert

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Milt several times.  His guide was the first book I bought describing wildflowers in the Mojave.  Very simple and straight forward I also learned quite a bit about the way people perceive color differently from one another.

Written for people with no botanical knowledge who are curious about the names of wildflowers, this book is beautifully illustrated with 214 full-color photos arranged by color of flower. Each photo refers the reader to the text description of the flower, which includes the common and botanical name, areas where it is found, and possible uses by Native Americans and pioneers. Over 187 of the most common and significant wild plants found in the western Mojave Desert and bordering foothills and canyons are included. This guide should be in the glove box of every Southern Californian who ever vowed to take a ride out to the Antelope Valley to see the wildflower blooms. (Amazon)

If you are interested in a copy of this or other quality desert books, I recommend buying them through the Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, CA.  Your purchase means so much to such a worthy cause.

MVRM Book list

A Flower-Watcher's Guide
Milt Stark