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Antelope Valley Local History Information
Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What was Llano del Rio and how can I find out more about it?
  2. What is that place that looks like a castle along the California Aqueduct?
  3. Where were the Butterfield stagecoach stations in our area?
  4. What can you tell me about Littlerock?
  5. What can you tell me about Edwards Air Force Base?
  6. Where can I find old photographs of Antelope Valley?
  7. What can you tell me about Lancaster's history?
  8. What can you tell me about the history of Palmdale?
  9. What can you tell me about the Los Angeles Aqueduct?
  10. What can you tell me about agriculture in the Antelope Valley?
  11. What can you tell me about mining-and the Gold Rush-in the Antelope Valley?
  12. What can you tell me about Tiburcio Vasquez, the namesake of Vasquez Rocks?
  13. What can you tell me about Pancho Barnes?
  14. What can you tell me about John Wayne when he lived near Lancaster?
  15. What can you tell me about Judy Garland when she lived in Lancaster?
  16. What Indians lived here?
  17. What can you tell me about cowboys and cattle ranching in the Antelope Valley?
  18. What can you tell me about General Beale's American Camel Corps?
  19. What can you tell me about the San Andreas Fault and its association with the Antelope Valley?
  20. What can you tell me about the history of railroads in the Antelope Valley?


Job Harriman, the founder of Llano del Rio, c. 1900 1. What was Llano del Rio and how can I find out more about it?

[Some of the information below courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

On May 1, 1914, the Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, was established north of Los Angeles in the southeast Antelope Valley. Among its founders was Indiana native Job Harriman, an idealistic and charismatic young lawyer who had unsuccessfully run on the first-ever Socialist Party platforms for Vice President in 1900 and mayor of Los Angeles in 1911. Thwarted by political efforts to effect social change, Harriman and his fellow visionaries instead thought they could accomplish their utopian goals via the colony's cooperative economic system. Llano del Rio was promoted nationally by the socialist magazine The Western Comrade, and the cooperative thrived for several years-its population exceeding 1,000 people in 1916-until its long-term water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault.

Job Harriman, the founder of Llano del Rio, in May Day Parade, c. 1915 In 1917 about 200 participants moved the colony to Stables, Louisiana, a defunct lumber town, and renamed it New Llano. Despite numerous internal hurdles and external criticism, the colony for more than two decades made its mark as a social experiment. It had one of the country's first Montessori schools; it was renowned for the production and sale of high-quality food and other items; it was where the national socialist paper The American Vanguard moved its headquarters; it hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, replete with orchestras and theater groups; it set up satellite colonies in Gila, New Mexico, and Fremont, Texas; and its innovative social services-including low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care-were decades ahead of their time. Though financial woes and infighting forced the colony into bankruptcy in 1939, Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history's most important non-religious utopian community. More information about Llano del Rio can be found in the following sources:

A furnished tent house at Llano del Rio, c. 1914-1917

Website Links:

  • Llano Del Rio Commune: includes a brief history, demographics, colony timeline, map, and letter and photo archives.

The land as the Llano del Rio colonists first saw it, c. 1914

Print Sources:

  • Conkin, Paul Keith. Two Paths to Utopia: The Hutterites and the Llano Colony. University of Nebraska Press, 1964.
  • Davison, James N. Newllano: History of the Llano Movement. Woodville, TX: Dogwood Press, 1994.
  • Greenstein, Paul. Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles. Los Angeles: California Classic Books, 1992.
  • Hine, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
  • Llano Colonist. Los Angeles, CA: United Co-operative Industries.
  • Llano Colonist. Newllano, LA: Llano Publications, 1921-1937.
  • McDonald, Alexander James. The Llano Co-operative Colony and What It Taught. Leesville, LA: The Author, 1950.

A dormitory and the Hotel Llano del Rio, 1916 Ruins of the Llano del Rio Hotel, c. 1920s

A group of Llano del Rio colonists, 1914
The last colonists leaving Llano del Rio, 1918

Images:

  • Job Harriman, the founder of Llano del Rio, c. 1900
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Job Harriman, the founder of Llano del Rio, in May Day Parade, c. 1915. Job Harriman is on the front passenger side.
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • A furnished tent house at Llano del Rio, c. 1914-1917
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The land as the Llano del Rio colonists first saw it, c. 1914
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • A dormitory and the Hotel Llano del Rio, 1916
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Ruins of the Llano del Rio Hotel, c. 1920s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • A group of Llano del Rio colonists, 1914
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The last colonists leaving Llano del Rio, 1918
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Construction of Shea's Castle, 1925 2. What is that place that looks like a castle along the California Aqueduct?

Shea's Castle is an architectural curiosity in the southwest Antelope Valley designed to look like an Irish castle. Real estate baron Richard Peter Shea (usually identified as John Shea) built Shea's Castle as a residence in 1924. The Shea property, which also includes a Kitanemuk petroglyph site and a private airstrip, passed through many hands and is still privately owned today.

Images:

  • Construction of Shea's Castle, 1925
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
>

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3. Where were the Butterfield stagecoach stations in our area?

The Overland Mail Stage line, commonly called the Butterfield Stage line after its organizer John Butterfield, ran up San Francisquito Canyon, by Elizabeth Lake, along the southwest edge of Antelope Valley, and though Tejon Pass. Although there are no stage stations in the Antelope Valley, almost any old building in our area might be touted as a Butterfield Stage station, even though miles from the actual route. Later stage lines, including local short lines, have been confused with the Butterfield which operated from 1858 to 1861. More information about the Butterfield Stage can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Flickwir, Richard F. Report on Route of the Butterfield Stage Line, San Francisco to St. Louis; Known as the "Overland Mail" between Los Angeles and Chino. Los Angeles County, CA: County Surveyor.

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Little Rock Dam, c. 1920 4. What can you tell me about Littlerock?

Founded in 1893, Littlerock is an agricultural town with approximately 12,600 residents, located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. Known today for its orchards, fruit stands, and antique stores, and dubbed "The Fruit Basket of the Antelope Valley," Littlerock is the Valley's largest unincorporated community. The area's original inhabitants were groups of Piute Indians until the first non-native settler moved there during the mid-1860s and stayed until he was killed by a grizzly bear in 1886. In the early 1890s the town's core population began with a group of settlers who planted almond and pear trees, started a blacksmith shop as the first business, and called the community first Alpine Springs Colony and then Tierra Bonita before changing its name to Littlerock in 1893-the same year that the first post office opened.

Pear picking in Littlerock, 1920s Development milestones continued into the early twentieth century with the 1913 opening of the first schoolhouse and the 1914 founding of the first library. Littlerock Dam-now considered a historical architectural structure-was completed in 1924 to provide water to irrigate the town's orchards and today also provides recreational amenities such as boating, fishing, and camping.

More information about Littlerock can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

  • Little Rock Dam, c. 1920
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]
  • Pear picking in Littlerock, 1920s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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5. What can you tell me about Edwards Air Force Base?

Edwards Air Force Base began in 1933 as Muroc Air Force Base, a remote bombing range built at Muroc Dry Lake. During World War II, it was a major bomber training base, and in 1947, after taking off from the base, Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in a Bell XI aircraft while flying over Antelope Valley. The base's name was changed in 1950 to honor Captain Glen W. Edwards, who died while test-piloting the experimental YB-49 aircraft there on June 5, 1948. More information about Edwards Air Force Base can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Desert Wings [micoform]. Muroc, CA: Africa's Printers for personnel of Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB.
  • Hendrickson, Walter B. Winging into Space. Bobbs, 1965.
  • Pace, Steve. Edwards Air Force Base Experimental Flight Test Center. Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International, 1994.
  • Palmdale: How It All Began. City of Palmdale, 1998.

Places to Visit:

    Edwards Air Force Base History Office
    AFFTC/HQ
    305 E. Popson Avenue
    Edwards AFB, CA 93524-6595
    (661) 277-2498

    City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery
    44801 N. Sierra Highway
    Lancaster, CA 93534
    (661) 723-6250

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6. Where can I find old photographs of Antelope Valley?

Historic photographs of the Antelope Valley can be found in a number of locations. Two major sources are the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and the Palmdale City Library:

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Intersection of Sierra Highway and Lancaster Boulevard, looking south on Sierra Highway 7. What can you tell me about Lancaster's history?

[Portions of the information below courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

Lancaster - which today calls itself "the heart of the Antelope Valley"-owes its birth to the Southern Pacific Railroad. In the summer of 1876 the railroad laid track through the town's future location and by September had completed a railroad line through the Antelope Valley, linking San Francisco and Los Angeles. The origin of Lancaster's name is unclear, attributed variously to the surname of a railroad station clerk, the moniker given by railroad officials, and the former Pennsylvania home of settlers. Train service brought passengers through the whistlestop-turned-community, which with the help of promotional literature quickly attracted new settlers.

Aerial view looking north and showing almost the entire city of Lancaster, c. 1952

The person credited with formally developing the town is Moses Langley Wicks, who in 1884bought property from the railroad for $2.50 per acre, mapped out a town with streets and lots, and by September was advertising 160-acre tracts of land for $6 an acre. The following year, the Lancaster News started publication, making it the first weekly newspaper in the Antelope Valley. By 1890, Lancaster was bustling and booming, and thanks to ample rainfall farmers planted and sold thousands of acres of wheat and barley.

The town was devastated by the decade-long drought that began in 1894, killing businesses and driving cattle north, though fortunes improved somewhat in 1898 following the nearby discoveries of gold and borax, the latter to become a widespread industrial chemical and household cleaner. Thanks to the five-year construction of the 233-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct starting in 1908, Lancaster became a boom town by housing aqueduct workers.

The Gillwyn Hotel, which became the Western Hotel and was used as Lancaster's first high school, c. 1880s

The 1912 completion of Antelope Valley Union High School allowed students from the growing region to study locally instead of moving to distant cities, and the school boasted the state's first dormitory system to accommodate students from outlying districts. For seven years starting in 1926, a young Judy Garland-then still Frances "Baby" Gumm-lived in Lancaster and honed her skills as a child singer, dancer, and entertainer before going on to become one of Lancaster's most famous residents. The community began a steady growth spurt in the 1930s, starting with construction of Muroc Air Force Base, frequent flight tests, and later space shuttle landings. Lancaster was controlled politically by Los Angeles County until 1977, when it was incorporated as a city. More information about Lancaster can be found in the following sources:

Lancaster Boulevard, looking west, c. 1900

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Palmdale: How It All Began. City of Palmdale, 1998.

Tenth Street, c. 1940
Lancaster Boulevard, looking east from Cedar Avenue, 1950s
Places to Visit:
    City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery
    44801 N. Sierra Highway
    Lancaster, CA 93534
    (661) 723-6250

    Lancaster Public Library
    601 W. Lancaster Boulevard
    Lancaster, CA 93534
    (661) 948-5029

The Lancaster Airport on the northwest corner of 10th Street West and Avenue I, 1930


Map of Lancaster, 1940s

Images:

  • Intersection of Sierra Highway and Lancaster Boulevard, looking south on Sierra Highway
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Aerial view looking north and showing almost the entire city of Lancaster, c. 1952
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The Gillwyn Hotel, which became the Western Hotel and was used as Lancaster's first high school, c. 1880s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Lancaster Boulevard, looking west, c. 1900. The Western Hotel is the building in the center of the photograph.
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Tenth Street, c. 1940
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Lancaster Boulevard, looking east from Cedar Avenue, 1950s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The Lancaster Airport on the northwest corner of 10th Street West and Avenue I, 1930
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Map of Lancaster, 1940s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Aerial view of Palmdale business district, c. 1930 8. What can you tell me about the history of Palmdale?

Palmdale, located approximately 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is the offspring of long-defunct Antelope Valley communities Palmenthal and Harold. Palmenthal was founded in 1886 by westward Swiss and German settlers who in 1888 named their new community Palmenthal after mistaking the local Joshua trees for palm trees; initially prospering as grain and fruit growers, many settlers abandoned their homesteads after drought decimated their crops and land scams prevented them from clearing their property titles. Harold-also known as Alpine Station and Trejo Post Office-was founded at the junction of the Southern Pacific Railroad and what is now Barrel Springs Road; but it too went under after the railroad moved the site of its booster engine station north of town. Both abandoned communities blended into Palmdale, so-named in 1899, when residents jointly relocated to a new site near the Southern Pacific railroad station and the stagecoach line between San Francisco and New Orleans.

Palmdale Grammar School at the end of Main Street (Avenues Q through P), 1925 During the first quarter of the twentieth century, irrigation systems and dry farming techniques allowed Palmdale to flourish as an agricultural community known for its alfalfa, apples, and pears. After World War II, Palmdale's economic base shifted to aerospace and defense industry with construction of Air Force Plant 42 and the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Route Traffic Control Center. Palmdale became incorporated in 1962 as the Antelope Valley's first city and in recent decades has experienced astounding growth: its geographic size increased from 2.1 square miles in 1962 to 102 square miles today, and its population soared tenfold from 12,227 residents in 1980 to about 122,400 people today, making it one of the country's fastest-growing cities. More information about Palmdale can be found in the following sources:

The Avenue S area in old Palmdale, 1890-1895

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Palmdale: How It All Began. City of Palmdale, 1998.

Aerial view of Palmdale, from the airport to where the Colton Spur of the railroad track crosses Sierra Highway, c. 1986

Places to Visit:

    Palmdale City Library
    700 E. Palmdale Boulevard
    Palmdale, CA 93550
    (661) 267-5600

Palmdale looking northwest from the railroad water tank toward houses on Pacific Avenue (6th Street East) and beyond, c. 1918
The Palmenthal schoolhouse and students in old Palmdale, 1890s

Images:

  • Aerial view of Palmdale business district, c. 1930
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Palmdale Grammar School at the end of Main Street (Avenues Q through P), 1925
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The Avenue S area in old Palmdale, 1890-1895
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Aerial view of Palmdale, from the airport to where the Colton Spur of the railroad track crosses Sierra Highway, c. 1986
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Palmdale looking northwest from the railroad water tank toward houses on Pacific Avenue (6th Street East) and beyond, c. 1918
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The Palmenthal schoolhouse and students in old Palmdale, 1890s. The school was located near present 30th Street East and Avenue S.
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Construction of Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1910 9. What can you tell me about the Los Angeles Aqueduct?

In the early twentieth century, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built as a way to provide much-needed water to rapidly-growing Los Angeles. It was the brainchild of William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant who worked his way up from ditch cleaner to become the chief engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In 1904 the Owens Valley-located between the Sierra Nevadas and the White Mountains-was targeted as the likely source of additional water for Los Angeles, a move that touched off the so-called "Owens Valley Water Wars" between city and valley residents. Nonetheless, the next year the project was publicly announced and Los Angeles residents approved a bond to pay for the aqueduct's construction.

52-Mule team used in the construction of the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct across the west side of the Antelope Valley, 1908 It took until 1913 to complete the 233-mile structure across mountains, hills, and desert, with some 6,000 men working round-the-clock as miners, laborers, and plasterers, using picks and shovels to dig trenches, drive tractors, put cement in place, and transport pipes. The project revived the economy of Antelope Valley communities Lancaster, Mojave, Fairmont, and Elizabeth Lake, whose farms and businesses had been decimated by a decade-long drought beginning in 1894. Becoming the country's largest municipal water system in its day, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed in 1913-ahead of schedule and under its projected $25.5 million budget-when it began transporting water from the Owens River into the San Fernando Valley near Sylmar and Mulholland. More information about the Los Angeles Aqueduct can be found in the following sources:

Workers standing in front of tunnel entrance in the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1908

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Kahrl, William L. Water and Power: The Conflict over Los Angeles' Water Supply in the Owens Valley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

The completed Fairmont Tunnel (aka the 'Elizabeth Tunnel') of the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1920s

Images:

  • Construction of Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1910
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • 52-Mule team used in the construction of the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct across the west side of the Antelope Valley, 1908
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]
  • Workers standing in front of tunnel entrance in the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1908
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • The completed Fairmont Tunnel (aka the 'Elizabeth Tunnel') of the Los Angeles-Owens Valley Aqueduct, c. 1920s
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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First combine in the Antelope Valley on the Godde-Stratman Ranch, early 1900s 10. What can you tell me about agriculture in the Antelope Valley?

The Valley's first agricultural boom occurred during the 1880s and early 1890s, when heavy rainfall attracted homesteaders who successfully cultivated alfalfa, barley, wheat, and a variety of fruits and nuts. However, a serious drought between 1894 and 1904-the worst in Southern California's recorded history-devastated farms, forcing many settlers to abandon their land in the valley. With the drought's end came an agricultural resurgence after 1905 in the form of irrigation, thanks to pumps powered first by gasoline and later by electricity, which proved more reliable than the former reliance on artesian wells. Irrigation, besides allowing for the replanting of the crops that previously thrived, also allowed the large-scale cultivation of alfalfa, which by 1920 was the Antelope Valley's major crop.

Crate label from the Blum Ranch, c. 1950s Between the 1880s and the late 1920s, farmers were also plagued by jackrabbits, who reproduced and ate crops so quickly that they made it impossible for many farmers to stay in business; Evan Evans, a settler and county road superintendent, noted that the rabbits were so thick that at night the ground appeared to be moving. To eradicate these pests, farmers held big jackrabbit drives in which horseback riders drove the rabbits into makeshift corrals, clubbed them to death, and then barbecued the meat; the events were considered a weekend sport that attracted locals and city folk who came by train from Los Angeles. Though communities such as Littlerock have retained their agricultural character, the Antelope Valley has undergone tremendous change and growth in the second half of the twentieth century with a shift from agriculture to defense and aerospace development. More information about Antelope Valley agriculture can be found in the following sources:

Antelope Valley farm scene with an early hay baler, c. 1902

Print Sources:

  • Palmdale: How It All Began. City of Palmdale, 1998.

Images:

  • First combine in the Antelope Valley on the Godde-Stratman Ranch, early 1900s
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]
  • Crate label from the Blum Ranch, c. 1950s. Printed on it is 'The sweetest story ever told . . . Blum Ranch, grown and packed by Ray Billett in Acton, California'.
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]
  • Antelope Valley farm scene with an early hay baler, c. 1902
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Letter from O. F. Goodrich of the Antelope Valley Hay and Grain Company to a Mr. Kelly regarding a poorly behaved mule., c. 1920s
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]
  • An Antelope Valley road separating an orchard and the desert, c. 1920s. The caption on the photo reads: 'conquering the desert with water.'
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • Interior of a pear packing shed, c. 1920s. Probably located on Atlantic Avenue/Sierra Highway, just south of East Harding Street/Avenue Q.
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
  • New pear orchard (possibly in Pearland) and water flowing from a standpipe
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]
Letter from O. F. Goodrich of the Antelope Valley Hay and Grain Company to a Mr. Kelly regarding a poorly behaved mule., c. 1920s
An Antelope Valley road separating an orchard and the desert, c. 1920s

Interior of a pear packing shed, c. 1920s   New pear orchard (possibly in Pearland) and water flowing from a standpipe

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Twenty Mule Team loaded with hay at the John Searles' San Bernardino Borax Company warehouse in Mojave, c. 1880 11. What can you tell me about mining-and the Gold Rush-in the Antelope Valley?

[Portions of the following information are courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

California's Gold Rush began southwest of the Antelope Valley, contrary to the popular belief that James Marshall found the first gold in 1848 at Sutter's Mill in northern California. The big discovery occurred in 1842 at what was then called Live Oak Canyon when Francisco Lopez, stopping for lunch while searching for stray cattle, pulled some wild onions and found flakes of gold clinging to their roots.

Early day miners at entrance to the Lida Mine, c. 1900s

In the subsequent gold rush, the canyon was named Placeritas, meaning "Little Placers," and today is called Placerita Canyon. Gold rushers soon flocked to the canyon and took an estimated $100,000 of gold from the region before heading north to the more exciting discovery at Sutter's Mill.

Mining changed the region's history in profound ways, as gold seekers settled permanently in the valley's southwestern corner during the 1850s and 1860s. The area further grew during the Civil War, as gold, silver, and copper were extracted from the Soledad Canyon region and Fremont's Pass was enlarged to facilitate and speed up ore shipments. However, in a more sustained fashion
Ezra Hamilton's Lida Mill, c. 1900s mining helped valley residents survive the drought between 1894 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, though desert mining imposed numerous hardships that included high equipment costs, broken-down wagons, temperatures that swung between bone-chilling winters and scorching summers, fatal mine shaft accidents, a shortage of lumber for buildings and fuel for fires, looting in camps and supply stations, and lack of water. Mining continues today in and around the Antelope Valley, where besides gold, silver, and copper, the ores and minerals extracted over the years include antimony, borax, calcium, chloride, feldspar, granite, gypsum, iron, lead, lime, limestone, marble, potash, rotary mud, salt, silica, tungsten, uranium, volcanic rock, and zinc.

Fred Hamilton (son of Ezra Hamilton) in mining clothes and surrounded by the tools of his trade, c. 1900s

Map showing the Tropico Mine in Rosamond, CA, c. 1960s

Images:

  • Twenty Mule Team loaded with hay at the John Searles' San Bernardino Borax Company warehouse in Mojave, c. 1880. This is one of the earliest photographs taken in the Antelope Valley.
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Early day miners at entrance to the Lida Mine, c. 1900s
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Ezra Hamilton's Lida Mill, c. 1900s
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Fred Hamilton (son of Ezra Hamilton) in mining clothes and surrounded by the tools of his trade, c. 1900s
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Map showing the Tropico Mine in Rosamond, CA, c. 1960s. The map also shows Willow Spring.
    [Courtesy of the Palmdale City Library]

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12. What can you tell me about Tiburcio Vasquez, the namesake of Vasquez Rocks?

Tiburcio Vasquez was a legendary and much-feared 1870s California outlaw who was considered a hero by Californios and a villain by the Anglo population. Born in 1835 to a wealthy and respected family in Monterey, Vasquez was a well-educated teenager with a poetic flair when, following a fight at a dance in 1852, he and two other men were accused of killing a sheriff. The only one of the three to escape a mob lynching, Vasquez opted to live a life of crime rather than obey mainstream laws. Imprisoned twice for petty theft and stealing horses, upon release he and former prisoners formed a gang and held up stagecoaches, stole horses, robbed cattle, and otherwise cut a wide criminal swath throughout central and southern California.

The target of the greatest manhunt in California's history, Vasquez eluded his captors for almost twenty years in mountainous and rural areas that included the vast Antelope Valley. There, he found an ideal rock fortress near Agua Dulce springs-a spot known today as Vasquez Rocks Park-that he used as a hiding place by passing himself off as horse buyer Ricardo Cantuga. In April 1874, with a $8,000 bounty on his head, Vasquez was caught by a posse near what is now the Hollywood Bowl, put on trial in San Jose, and hanged in 1875. More information about Tiburcio Vasquez can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:


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Pancho Barnes and Amelia Earhart, late 1920s 13. What can you tell me about Pancho Barnes?

Florence Leontine Lowe Barnes, nicknamed Pancho, was a colorful and fiercely independent socialite who made her name as a pioneering female pilot. Born in Pasadena in 1901, the high-spirited Florence thwarted the efforts of her fundamentalist parents to channel her energies in a conventional direction; though they arranged their debutante daughter's marriage in 1921 to proper Episcopalian minister C. Ranken Barnes, she left him after receiving a half-million dollar inheritance following her mother's 1924 death. Thus began her life as a freewheeling globe-trotter and hostess: she headed for South America on a luxury liner, returned to the United States to entertain movie stars and pilots such as Bette Davis and Amelia Earhart, crewed on a south-bound banana boat, and trekked across Mexico, where she indulged her rebellious streak by adopting the nickname "Pancho."

Pancho Barnes, c. 1920s A life-changing experience occurred in July 1928, when Pancho took her first flight out of Ross Airfield; the next week she bought a Travel Air 4000 aircraft and started taking flying lessons, and in September she made her first solo flight. From then on, flying became her passion and claim to fame, perhaps no surprise given her lineage as the granddaughter of Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, who during the Civil War commanded observation balloons for the Union Army. In 1930 alone, Pancho won the women's world's speed record of 196.19 miles per hour (beating the record previously held by Earhart), was the first woman to fly into Mexico's interior, and won her first Tom Thumb race. Several years later she also started the Women's Air Reserve and trained women in flight exercises, first aid, and parachute drops.

Pancho Barnes's truck with Rancho Oro Verde, c. 1940s During the 1940s, the outspoken, cigar-smoking Pancho ran a tavern/inn sixty miles north of Los Angeles known as the Rancho Oro Verde (also known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club"), which included Sunday brunches for pilots, exciting rodeos, training programs for civilian pilots, and Wednesday night dances; the inn was frequented by pilots and future astronauts testing aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base. Her fortunes took a bad turn during the 1950s and 1960s when the Air Force took her property for expansion and she suffered ill health, but circumstances improved about a decade before her death in 1975. Over the course of her eventful lifetime Pancho was also a barnstormer, movie stunt pilot and movie double, songwriter, and animal trainer. Valerie Bertinelli portrayed her in Pancho Barnes, a 1988 made-for-television movie. More information about Pancho Barnes can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

Pancho Barnes's Rancho De Oro after it burned, early 1960s

Print Sources:

  • 92 M2938 Dwiggins, Don. Hollywood Pilot: The Biography of Paul Mantz. Doubleday, 1967. The life of a movie stunt pilot includes information about Pancho Barnes flying planes for Howard Hughes's Hell's Angels and her forming of the Motion Picture Pilots Association.
  • Mitchell, Barbara. "Pancho Barnes: A Legend in our Lifetime." Antelope Valley Spectator, January-April 1963; Hi-Desert Spectator, May-August, 1963. This is a five-part biography of Pancho Barnes.
  • 92 B2604 Schultz, Barbara Hunter. Pancho: The Biography of Florence Lowe Barnes. Lancaster, CA: Little Buttes, 1996.
  • 92 B2604 Tate, Grover Ted. The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus: The Story of Pancho Barnes. Maverick, 1986.
  • 629.1 Wolfe, Tom. The Right Stuff. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979.

Images:

  • Pancho Barnes and Amelia Earhart, late 1920s
    [Courtesy of the Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Flight Test Center-Headquarters]
  • Pancho Barnes, c. 1920s
    [Courtesy of the Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Flight Test Center-Headquarters]
  • Pancho Barnes's truck with Rancho Oro Verde, c. 1940s
    [Courtesy of the Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Flight Test Center-Headquarters]
  • Pancho Barnes's Rancho De Oro after it burned, early 1960s
    [Courtesy of the Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Flight Test Center-Headquarters]


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14. What can you tell me about John Wayne when he lived near Lancaster?

The movie actor John Wayne-born in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907 as Marion Morrison-spent about two years of his childhood on a farm near Lancaster. He was the first-born child of Mary "Molly" Brown and Clyde "Doc" Morrison, who after being diagnosed with tuberculosis moved his family during the 1910s to an 80-acre homestead near Lancaster-roughly where the United Parcel Service is now located near Sierra Highway. As a child, Marion attended the old Lancaster Grammar School on Lancaster Boulevard, though school records show he had poor attendance and at age 12 was promoted only to the third grade. Doc, unsuccessful at farming, soon returned to his original profession as a pharmacist in Glendale, where he moved his family. Marion went on to attend the University of Southern California on a football scholarship and later became an actor who made more than 150 films. He died of cancer in 1979. More information about John Wayne and his time in the Antelope Valley can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Bishop, George Victor. John Wayne: The Actor, the Man. Ottawa, Illinois: Caroline House, 1979.
  • Carpozi, George. The John Wayne Story. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1972.
  • Davis, Ronald L. Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

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Downtown Lancaster street scene showing the old Valley Theater on the west side of Sierra Highway, 1940s 15. What can you tell me about Judy Garland when she lived in Lancaster?

Frances Ethel Gumm, later known as Judy Garland, lived in Lancaster during part of her childhood. Born in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Frances and her family-father Frank, mother Ethel, and sisters Mary Jane and Virginia-moved to southern California in 1926. Frank, in search of a movie theater where his three daughters could sing and dance, looked first in Glendale and then West Hollywood before buying the 500-seat Lancaster Theater. He renovated the interior, built a box office, installed air conditioning, changed the name to the Valley Theatre, and thus created a venue where the "Gumm Sisters" could perform on a regular basis, with their mother as agent and manager. While living in Lancaster before relocating to Los Angeles in 1933, the Gumm family lived in three houses, one near the high school and two on Cedar Avenue.

Sierra Highway from the Valley Theater to the old Ledger Gazette Building, c. 1948 Though much of Frances's early stage and theater experience took place in Lancaster, she and her family performed beyond the Antelope Valley as well, in Los Angeles and outlying towns. Frances' stage name changed several times-and included Frances Gayne, Alice Gumm, and Baby Gumm-before it became Judy Garland. She went on to become a prolific and versatile entertainer, whose oeuvre included 32 movies, one Academy award and two nominations, and thousands of theater, nightclub, television, and radio performances. She is best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and her acting in Andy Hardy movies. In her personal life she was beset with emotional problems, however, and she died in 1969 at age 47, apparently from an accidental sleeping pill overdose. One of Lancaster's most famous residents, her childhood footprints are imprinted in a cement sidewalk slab now located in the backyard of the city's historic Western Hotel. More information about Judy Garland and her time in Lancaster can be found at:

Print Sources:

  • Dahl, David. Young Judy. Mason/Charter, 1975
  • Morley, Sheridan. Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow. New York: Arcade Pub., 1999.
  • Shipman, David. Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend. New York: Hyperion, 1993.

Images:

  • Downtown Lancaster street scene showing the old Valley Theater on the west side of Sierra Highway, 1940s. Judy Garland's father owned this theater and Judy Garland and her sisters performed here.
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Sierra Highway from the Valley Theater to the old Ledger Gazette Building, c. 1948
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Mano and metate from the Piute Butte area 16. What Indians lived here?

[Information courtesy of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum]

Today it is hard to imagine large groups of Native Americans living off the land in the Antelope Valley. Hundreds of years ago, however, the landscape of the Antelope Valley was very different. Vast plains of tall native bunch grass covered the valley floor and active springs and pools were plentiful. The lush vegetation and abundant water supply supported many types of wildlife which are no longer found in the valley. Archaeological evidence from what appear to be several major village sites indicate that substantial numbers of Indians occupied the valley floor year round at one time. Major trade routes from the coast to the eastern Mojave and Southwest, as well as north-south routes from the Central Valley and Owens Valley to the Los Angeles Basin also crossed the Valley.

Archaeologists believe that Native Americans have been living in, or at least visiting, the Antelope Valley for at least 11,000 years before the present. Over time, many cultural groups have passed through the Valley and left their mark. The original inhabitants were Paleoindians. These peoples were probably hunters of large game animals that have since become extinct. Among their weapons were spears with fluted projectile points. Little is known of the culture of these original people and only their artifacts survived.

Burden basket of the type used by Piute Indians From 9000 to 7000 years ago, as the Ice Age ended, great lakes formed in the Valley. Evidence exists of large groups living near these lakes. Many grinding tools have been found from this era pointing toward more dependence on plants for food, however, hunting remained an important activity. Many archaeologists believe that during this period, the atlatl (spear thrower) became more important as hunting activities became centered on faster game animals such as dear and antelope. Some people have speculated that these early people may have been Hokan speakers, the language ancestral to present day groups like the Chumash, Pomo, and Dieguenó. These groups may have formed the oldest semi-permanent settlements in the Great Basin.

During the period from 6000 to 4000 years ago, larger groups began to establish more permanent settlements. Game animals became smaller as evidenced by the increased use of dart points and other archaeological evidence. Plant processing also became more important in everyday life. As these settlements became more advanced toward the end of the period, a complex religious life began to emerge as well.

Starting about 4000 years ago and lasting until 1500 years ago, the people of the Antelope Valley became seasonal hunters. The mountain sheep was of major significance in this culture. Many of the rock art sites throughout the Coso Mountain Range near present day Ridgecrest appear to celebrate hunting and the mountain sheep. Archaeologists theorize that the rock art constituted a form of "hunting magic." These peoples often had summer and winter camps which were spread throughout the Antelope Valley and nearby mountains. These camps helped in the seasonal gathering of food. The ceremonial life that evolved to produce such beautiful rock art is little understood.

After about 1500 to 1000 years ago, people depended more on gathering than on hunting. Hunting itself also changed considerably during this period. The invention of the bow and arrow forever changed the way the people hunted. Fewer men could acquire game more quickly and with more stealth.

From the period 1000 years ago, and perhaps earlier, until the Spanish arrived in California, the culture of the Antelope Valley changed dramatically. It is believed that this is the time the "Shoshonean Wedge" swept through the Great Basin and California. The Uto-Aztecan (Shoshonean) speakers more or less took over the Great Basin and parts of Southern California during this period. The details of their origins or how rapidly they spread remain controversial.

More is known about these people than about those that came before them. The cultures that developed during this time are what we today call the Great Basin people. They lived in summer and winter homes. They created the great communal grinding stones found throughout the Antelope Valley. They supplemented their diet of acorns and piñon nuts with small game and deer. These are the people the Spanish first encountered when they began to explore the Antelope Valley.

When the Spanish and other Europeans began to come to California about 400 years ago, the Antelope Valley's population had already begun to decline, probably because of the increasingly arid climate. Groups of Serrano, Kitanemuk, Tataviam, and Kawaiisu were living in and around the Valley, but not in great numbers. Many of these groups shared the Paiute culture with the people living further north in the Owens Valley. Some Chumash influence also existed in the Valley, as evidenced by different language groups. Trading among the different groups was extensive. Obsidian from the Mono Lake area and sea shells from the coast are still frequently found today throughout the Valley.

The first fully documented contact with the people of the Antelope Valley came in 1776 when a Franciscan priest, Father Francisco Garcés began a trip to Monterey through the Mojave Desert. Garcés's diary of the trip has been used by many scholars to identify the people, cultures, and language groups living in the Antelope Valley at this time. For several years, the contact with the Spanish was limited and benign, however, increasingly the people of the Valley began to be "resettled" to the San Fernando Mission. In 1808, the Spanish sent a military expedition into the Valley. There is no documentation of any violence during this expedition, but it began the continual and eventually deadly contact with the Spanish. In 1811, Mission records indicate the "resettlement" of two entire villages.

The slow decline in the population of the Antelope Valley followed that of other native Californian societies. Disease spread by contact with the missions and forced labor continued to take its toll. To the Europeans, tribal and clan affiliation held little meaning. As with many California cultures, the old ways began to die along with the people.

Many revolts were staged against the Spanish, as various tribal groups attempted to free themselves from the oppression of the government-sanctioned Mission system. Only a few succeeded, and then only for short periods. In the mean time, the Spanish, by then under the flag of the Mexican government, and other Europeans began to establish farms and ranches in Southern California, thus dislocating the original people. By the time California was transferred from Mexico to the United States in 1848, the people of the Antelope Valley were losing their struggle for survival.

While the Gold Rush did not directly impact the people of Southern California, it was important in many ways. The massacres of many tribes to the north cut off centuries old trading patterns. As more people came to California in search of gold, many filtered south for the rich farming land of the San Joaquin Valley. The United States government began a policy of relocating Native Americans to give the best land to the European settlers. In 1853, Fort Tejon was established in the mountains on the western edge of the Antelope Valley. The United States government established a reservation there to "protect the Indians." By 1864, the 1000 people living there had deserted the fort in an attempt to return to their ancestral lands in the Tehachapi Mountains and in the Antelope Valley. However, the government continued its reservation and relocation program well into the twentieth century. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most native groups remaining in the Antelope Valley simply faded into the European culture growing up around them. More information about native populations in the Antelope Valley can be found in:

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Sturtevant, William C., ed. Handbook of North American Indians. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
  • Heizer, Robert Fleming and M. A. Whipple. The California Indians: A Source Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.
  • California Indians Fact Cards. Milpitas: Toucan Valley Publications, 1996.

Places to Visit:

    Antelope Valley Indian Museum
    on Avenue M, between 150th and 170th Streets East in the Antelope Valley
    (661) 946-3055

Images:

  • Mano and metate from the Piute Butte area
    [Courtesy of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum]
  • Burden basket of the type used by Piute Indians
    [Courtesy of the Antelope Valley Indian Museum]

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Cattle round-up on Butterworth Ranch, c. 1906 17. What can you tell me about cowboys and cattle ranching in the Antelope Valley?

[Information courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

Cowboys and cattle ranching began in the Antelope Valley as early as the 1840s and became more prevalent in the following decade after the gold rush led to a demand for beef. One of the most important jobs for cowboys was to round up calves in the spring-and perhaps again in the fall-and to brand, castrate, dehorn, and vaccinate them. Among the best known cowboys were Ted Atmore, Emery Kidd, and Forrest Patterson. Cattle ranching was especially important in the region between 1886 and 1910, though it was hurt by the drought between 1894 and 1904. Cowboys and farmers sparred over a number of factors, including competition for land and crop damage by livestock; the tension prompted farmers to erect fences to keep cattle out and led ranchers to discourage prospective farmers from settling in the region. By the 1920s the cattle industry had slowed down tremendously in the valley due to a growing population and disputes with sheep herders and alfalfa growers.

Cowboys at H. J. Butterworth corral, c. 1905-1910
The first rodeo in Antelope Valley, c. 1910

Images:

  • Cattle round-up on Butterworth Ranch, c. 1906
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • Cowboys at H. J. Butterworth corral, c. 1905-1910
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]
  • The first rodeo in Antelope Valley, c. 1910
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Beale Adobe at Tejon Ranch, 1863 18. What can you tell me about General Beale's American Camel Corps?

[Information courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

Edward Fitzgerald Beale-a Mexican War veteran who traveled to Washington, D.C., as the first person to report news of California's gold discovery-came up with the idea of using camels to reach distant Western military posts. After he successfully pitched the idea to War Secretary Jefferson Davis, Congress voted in 1855 to spend $30,000 for an experimental American Camel Corps, and the following year the camels started to arrive at the mouth of the Mississippi River. General Beale and a team of men led the camels from New Orleans to Fort Tejon, where they subjected the animals to various tests but ultimately found the experiment problematic. Ultimately, some camels headed out into the desert and the rest were sold at auction by the U.S. Army-and with the 1937 demise of their last descendant, "Topsy," the American Camel Corps died a quiet death.

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • Stacey, May Humphreys. Uncle Sam's Camels. Harvard University Press, 1929.
  • Thompson, Gerald. Edward F. Beale and the American West. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

Images:

  • Beale Adobe at Tejon Ranch, 1863. The adobe was built in 1863 and is the oldest building in Antelope Valley.
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Aerial view of San Andreas fault line from just west of the Palmdale Reservoir to Big Pine, c. 1935 19. What can you tell me about the San Andreas Fault and its association with the Antelope Valley?

The San Andreas Fault, one of the world's most heavily scrutinized tectonic plate boundaries, extends along the Antelope Valley's entire southern slope. Although the fault is perhaps best known for the 1906 earthquake that caused the great San Francisco fire, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in U.S. history occurred when a major rupture occurred on the fault's line at Fort Tejon on January 9, 1857. As a result of the quake, which registered about 8.0 on the Richter scale and is estimated to have lasted up to three minutes, the Kern River reversed course and overran its banks by four feet, water from the Mokelumne River was thrown on the banks, and Fort Tejon-located at the epicenter-was severely damaged. Because the affected area was sparsely populated at the time, only two people died; today, the same earthquake would probably kill many more people in communities such as Frazier Park, Palmdale, Taft, and Wrightwood, all built on or near the area that ruptured in 1857. More information about the San Andreas Fault can be found in the following sources:

Website Links:

Print Sources:

  • American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The San Andreas Fault Zone from the Temblor Mountains to Antelope Valley, Southern California. Pacific Section, AAPG, SEPM, and San Joaquin Geological Soc., 1964.
  • Barrows, Allan G. Geology and Fault Activity of the Palmdale Segment of the San Andres Fault Zone, Los Angeles County, California. Sacramento, CA: California Division of Mines and Geology, 1976.
  • Beeby, David J. Preliminary Fault Map of the Lake Hughes Segment, San Andreas Fault Zone, Los Angeles County, California. Sacramento: California Division of Mines and Geology, 1977.
  • Wallace, Robert E. Aerial Views in Color of the San Andreas Fault, California. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept of the Interior, Geological Survey, 1983.
  • The San Andreas Fault [videorecording]. Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation in cooperation with the American Geological Institute; Bert van Bork, producer. Chicago, Illinois: Britannia Video Cassettes, 1974.

Images:

  • Aerial view of San Andreas fault line from just west of the Palmdale Reservoir to Big Pine, c. 1935
    [Courtesy of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society]

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Lancaster Railroad Depot, c. 1900-1905 20. What can you tell me about the history of railroads in the Antelope Valley?

[Information courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery]

During the 1870s, completion of a Southern Pacific Railroad line through Antelope Valley changed the region from an isolated basin to a magnet for settlers. The railroad had been looking for an inland railroad route between San Francisco and Los Angeles since 1853, following passage the previous year of the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railroad Act to give railroad companies land grants to encourage settlement near train routes and distribute public land to make family farms affordable. The Southern Pacific finished its route through the valley in 1876 and settlers soon flocked to the region and established homesteads near surface water, thus launching a boom growth period. More information about railroads and the Antelope Valley can be found in:

Print Sources:

  • Settle, Glen Allen. Along the Rails from Lancaster to Mojave. Rosamond, CA: Kern-Antelope Historical Society, 1977.
  • Palmdale: How It All Began. City of Palmdale, 1998.

Images:

  • Lancaster Railroad Depot, c. 1900-1905
    [Courtesy of the City of Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery and its many donors]

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