Amen, boy howdy, (or, if you’re French, “Amon garçon bonjour!”) saddlepals. Good to see you. We’ve a most exciting trail ride ahead through the back canyons of Santa Clarita Valley history.
We’ve got rustlers and cattle-killing cougars, lawmen, crooks, thieves, con men and land for a song and a dance.
Where we’re going, you won’t need surgical masks, rubber gloves or disinfectant, unless you’re into that kind of stuff and if so, we’ll do our best not to judge you.
To be sure, we’ll gossip about you.
But, we won’t judge you …
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
Hope they got unemployment — Our own Ignacio del Valle founded a rugged group of hombres to fight crime in the tiny El Pueblo. Life was so tough in early Los Angeles, there was a murder every day. The California Rangers took just a year to shoot, stab, hang, beat up or drive out of town anyone they even suspected of being a jackass, let alone a criminal. Crime plummeted. Major Horace Bell (who rode the first stagecoach into Newhall, uh, sort of; he got out before it crashed at the Newhall Pass) was in charge of the Rangers. If you want something done right, you get a Newhall man to do the job. Bell hired as his captains famed SCV gunmen W.W. Jenkins and Cyrus Lyon. They were disbanded in 1855 essentially because they had cleared up crime. Both the Los Angeles Police Department AND Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were formed from the formula created by the Rangers.
APRIL 26, 1920
SCV land, $5 per acre (any takers?) — After World War I, lots of homesteading and homesteading nullification were going on in the SCV. Some folks were just laying claim to acreage on the outskirts of the valley and setting up farms. Other lands were being purchased after folks abandoned homesteaded lands from years earlier. The federal government was selling land under something called the Timber and Stone Law of 1878. That allowed people to buy land based on the estimates of how much the value of, well, timber and stone were on the property. The average price of around 20 acres under this law was about $100.
APRIL 26, 1930
Need this for your quarantine? — On this date, our local booze squad led by the SCV’s local federal agent, James Bond (not THAT James Bond) destroyed 196 gallons of illegal moonshine.
No Denzel Washington movie night at Henry’s House? — Henry Kreig, owner of the Kreig Ranch (today, Vasquez Rocks) circulated a petition around the valley, urging people not to sell their property to Negroes. Said one resident: “Out of consideration for the feelings of the community, quite a few of us have refused pretty good offers for our property from colored people, but it seems that some others have no such scruples. We, who know the pinch of hard times, sympathize with any effort to realize cash when it is possible, but to turn the neighborhood into a Mecca for Central Avenue isn’t fair to those who try to remain and make their homes here.” It should be pointed out we had a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan here from the 1920s up to the war years.
Right next to the prune juice trees — Two tourists from Los Angeles were reported to have driven up to Bouquet Canyon, in search of prune orchards. They were pointed further up the road by a “helpful” farmer.
Fill up the truck for a quarter — We were just coming out of a gas war and prices returned to normal (about 20 cents a gallon). One of our local garage owners kept up an old sign with various prices crossed out. He got quite a run of customers. Seems his last price was 1 cent a gallon. Maybe it was just the old bait-&-switch …
APRIL 26, 1940
That dang Pepina made him do it — On this date, famed actor Walter Brennan was ticketed for speeding through Newhall by local CHP officer Bob Meyer. A little trivia? Brennan was one of only five actors to win three Academy Awards. The other four were Daniel Day Lewis, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Ingrid Bergman. Streep was nominated a staggering 21 times. Katherine Hepburn was nominated 12 times and holds the record for four wins.
Guess somebody forgot to bribe him — For some, the historic 1940 Newhall Rodeo was a huge success. To others, it was a nightmare. More than 6,000 people were turned away at the gates. A county inspector showed up at the last minute and ruled that 6,000 bleacher seats were unsafe and could not be used. About 13,000 were allowed in the approved bleachers.
The ol’ bull at my camera excuse — Monty Montana was the parade grand marshal and it was noted that there was more equestrian finery than in the Rose Parade. Cowboy film stars Tom Mix and Buck Jones — both 60 — thrilled patrons with a chariot race. (Tommy won.) There weren’t too many pictures of the big rodeo. Seems The Signal photographer was in the arena during the bull rides and got chased by a big Brahma. He nearly clawed down a gate trying to get away and broke his camera with all the film in it.
APRIL 26, 1950
That’s why dads don’t want their daughters dating — Rawlin Bilby of Forrest Park went next door to clear up an altercation between his daughter and a teenage boy. Voices were raised and the 17-year-old ended up whacking Rawlin with a kindling ax. Rawlin chased the boy a good distance, then dropped from a lack of blood. Despite the gruesome encounter, Rawlin recovered nicely and had some rather fetching dueling scars for his adventure.
Losing my head over you — Ollie Taylor from China Gulch/Towsley Canyon parts saw a scene nearly reenacted from the La Brea Tar Pits millions of years ago. One of his steers had wandered into an oil bog, partially covered with water. The cow was moaning and slowly sinking toward Madagascar. Charlie lassoed the pitiful beast, tying one end around his Jeep and SLOWLY pulling the steer free. Charlie learned his lesson. A time earlier, he had another steer caught in the mire but pulled the creature’s head clean off with his Jeep.
Gaining my head over you? — While we’re on the topic of bizarre 4-H projects, a double-headed calf was born on the TC Wood Ranch in upper Castaic Canyon. The little bovine had two perfect and moving heads. It did well for about two weeks, as well as a two-headed calf can do in a world of single-noggin creatures. Finally, the creature passed, unable to absorb nutrition. The only question was how did the creature pop into this dimension? Well. There were reports of uranium in the Castaic hills …
Purina cougar chow — OK. This is the final cattle saga. On this date, a mountain lion tore off half the hide of one of Roy Crocker’s prize Herefords on his Sand Canyon ranch.
APRIL 26, 1960
Today, the EIR would reach the moon — The Newhall Land and Farming Co. offered up a site to the Department of Water and Power on this date. The DWP had plans to build a $20 million nuclear power plant. Before the days of EIR reports, DWP got clearance to build the reactors just six weeks later. The plant was never built. To our knowledge.
APRIL 26, 1970
We could write a book on local bozo hunters — Rancher Fred Gregg found one of his cows in distress, wandering about the pasture with an arrow in its side.
It’s true. Boston picks on conservatives — Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. addressed 4,000 people at Arroyo Seco Junior High School’s Earth Fair. BGJ spoke eloquently on saving gas and alternative uses of travel. When asked by a young and waggish yours truly what kind of car HE drove, Jr. mumbled something about a big ol’ Cadillac.
Snow? Really? — Yup. Pull up your collars, saddlepals. Odd as it may seem, we had a blizzard on this date. Fifty years ago, the Golden State Freeway was closed from north of Castaic to the other side of the Grapevine. An unusually late storm dumped enough snow to slick up the roads with ice, causing two traffic deaths in two separate accidents.
What are the odds? — Newhall Ford closed its doors on this date. Owner Al Colia disappeared, along with several dozen new cars. The dealership would open up with a new name and owner — Magic Ford. Years later, a future owner of Magic Ford would disappear, owing gambling debts reported in the millions …
APRIL 26, 1980
Dyslexic Christianity? — The wisdom is supposed to go along the lines of “’tis better to give than to receive.” Not for First Southern Baptist Church of Canyon Country Treasurer Doris Rendahl and the church’s financial advisor, Bill Mahoney. The pair was arrested for grand theft. Doris and Bill surrendered after $40,000 in missing church funds somehow turned up in Bill’s checking account. Now that’s financial advice …
Just a heck of an interesting trail ride today, tweren’t it? Thanks so much for the company, dear saddlepals. Look forward to riding with you on another exciting Time Ranger history adventure next week. Until then —¡Vayan con Dios, amigos!
John Boston has been writing about SCV history for more than 40 years. Got some down time? You can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other books on Amazon.com.