The Time Ranger | How many live in Hangman Canyon?

The Timer Ranger
Time Ranger

Hey dear saddlepals and saddlepal-ettes. Light’s softly shifting and soon we’ll be burning daylight.

Shall we mosey through that spinning vortex into the splendiferous mystic?

C’mon. The horses know the way…


HOW WE GOT OUR VALLEY’S NAME — On Aug. 10, 1769, a humble padre, Fr. Juan Crespi, accompanied the first white expedition into the SCV. Father Johnny came up with the name for this valley that stuck to this day. While camping out near an Indian village in Castaic, Crespi noted that the 10th of August was the feast day for Saint Clare. He also dubbed the main waterway, the Santa Clara River.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TIBBY!! — Famed SCV womanizing bandito and pistol fighter Tiburcio Vasquez was born on Aug. 11, 1835, in Monterey, California. His house is still standing up there. Tiburcio still holds the record for being the subject of the biggest manhunt in the state’s history. Under his gentlemanly alias, he worked a horse ranch up near Sand Canyon and hid out from posses at a now-famous otherworldly rock formation called simply, The Rocks. After Tiburcio was hanged, locals named the geological outcropping Vasquez Rocks after the road agent, who, by the way, was a Leo.

GOTTA PROTECT THEM COWS — Aug. 10, 1854, though, Fort Tejon was established north of here to protect the trade routes and cattle drives.

CHUGGA CHUGGA CHOO CHOO — The first-ever train steamed through the Newhall Tunnel from the San Fernando Valley on Aug. 12, 1876.

AUGUST SURE IS A BUSY HISTORY MONTH — On Aug. 14, 1875, Charles Mentry began drilling for oil in Pico Canyon.

AND — On Aug. 15, 1849, an 8-pound gold nugget was found in Santa Feliciana Canyon here. That’d make for some serious pharaoh bling today…

AUGUST 9, 1920

A CENTURY LATER, THEY’RE STILL TRYING TO IMPROVE IT — On this date, the NIA was formed. Long before there was a Redevelopment Committee, the Newhall Improvement Association dealt with sprucing up downtown. First order of business for the NIA was appointing Tom Frew’s grandpappy and Bert Thibaudeau to build a garage to hold a horse-drawn fire wagon.

AND, A CENTURY LATER, STILL TRYING TO CLEAN UP THE DEMOCRATS — Newhall’s only legitimate presidential candidate, Henry Clay Needham, 100 years ago today, wrote: “We were making an effort to get the Democratic Party to clean up and be decent, but we found it a hopeless task.” Needham was a Prohibitionist who got food poisoning so bad he couldn’t accept his party’s nomination at their national convention.

SPEAKING OF HISTORY REPEATING — One of The Signal’s columnists, Maj. Gen. Clarence Edwards, wrote a think piece with the lede back on Aug. 12, 1920: “One of the gravest dangers menacing the country today is its irresponsible, undisciplined youth.” Major. Buddy. You have no idea…

AUGUST 9, 1930

ANOTHER HALF-A-HOBO — Oddly enough, one of the recurring stories in SCV history is having the rail-riding homeless bisected by freight trains. Best as I can count, we lost at least a half-dozen free riders in the 1930s who fell off a train and were turned to rail mulch. Alfonso Montes slipped off a flat car and fell into the wheels. There were 14 other men on the car. Most of them were arrested when the train pulled into Saugus.

HOMO SITTICUS TREEICUS — When we had more flora, we used to have a type of creature called a Tree Sitter. Employed by the Forest Service, these men would climb up a very tall tree during fire season and watch for blazes. Al Fisher was employed up in Acton and, evidently, found the swaying branches conducive to repose. He fell both asleep and to the ground. He sustained bruised ribs and two broken arches. Ouch.

IT WAS ALSO CALLED HANGMAN’S CANYON — Another small gold field was unearthed in Dead Man’s Canyon. Dust and nuggets (one valued at $4) were found in the red clay and operations at the small ranch brought in a blessed $10 a day — pretty good money during the Depression. Dead Man’s Canyon was still on the maps in the 1930s and aka as Hangman’s Canyon, it earned the handle when a cowboy was lynched during the great Castaic Range War (perhaps the biggest in American history) of the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, it’s called Bouquet.

DIDN’T SLEEP IN A BED FOR 75 YEARS — A Mr. Gibronson was hospitalized against his will. The 90-year-old ex-freighter was in failing health. He had wealthy relatives who kept track of him and, for years, they tried to get him to change his pioneer ways. Seems Mr. G had not slept in a house since he was 15. The elder gentleman had leased a spot of land outside of Newhall and lived in an old-fashioned Conestoga wagon until his health began to fail. Mr. Gibronson liked the outdoors and being close to his horses and mules.

YOU THINK YOU HAVE AIRLINE PROBLEMS TODAY? — Believe it or not, in hot old August, the San Fernando Valley was completely fogged in and several passenger planes were forced to land at Newhall International Airport. The passengers were then bused into Glendale. Interesting note — a 30-seat plane was considered — as our president likes to say — HUGE in those days.

AUGUST 9, 1940

SOMETHING FISHY UP BOUQUET — If they did that today, the fish would be overflowing onto the road. On this date 80 years back, 5,000 trout were planted in Bouquet Creek.

ANOTHER UNFINISHED LIFE — There have been many tragic hunting accidents in this area over the decades. This may have been one of the worst. Around 70 hunters were in the same area of La Liebre when one of them mistook a tan, 15-year-old boy with beige clothing for a deer. A high-powered round went through his chest. His father, a few feet away, rushed over to his boy just in time to have his son die in his arms.

GREAT NAME. LOUSY SHOT. — Another hunter was shot in the chest when his partner’s gun accidentally went off. James Kay, 52, was shot by his pal — Hercules Rico.

AUGUST 9, 1950

DEFUNDING THE LOCAL POLICE — Sheriff’s deputy Tom Vaughn was fired for shooting a doe up Pico Canyon. He had been warned several times about his, “hunting over-enthusiasm.”

ADIOS TO A ‘MODERN’ LEGEND — Twentieth century pioneer W.W. “Penny” Penhorwood died on this date. He owned the Saugus Cafe then built the first modern gas station in the valley — a Standard — at the corner of Newhall and San Fernando Road.

AUGUST 9, 1960

NOT EXACTLY TEXTBOOK WILDERNESS BEHAVIOR — Ritter Davis was driving home up Bouquet when he spotted a tourist scampering down a hill about 300 mph, arms and legs flailing. Davis stopped to give aid and noted the man was quite pale and was holding a large rock. Seems the tourista was hiking when he rounded a shrub and bumped nose to nose with a puma. The big cat was equally startled and fell back on its haunches. The man did the dumb thing, picked up a rock then started running.

I’VE GOT AN ALIBI — Rustlers slaughtered a 700-pound yearling steer and made off with the choice parts in a 1959 black and yellow Buick sedan. They haven’t caught the bovine thieves yet, so if you spot a vehicle matching that description, please note my 1959 Buick sedan was pottie brown…

AUGUST 9, 1970

YAY! WE MADE THE RECORD BOOK!! — The SCV earned the dubious distinction of being the hottest spot in the nation. The mercury hit 113 — hotter than Needles and Death Valley. A few days earlier, we hit 115.

AUGUST 9, 1980

I VOTE WE PASS A LAW TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL TO BE SO DANG HOT — With nearly a month of over 100-degree temperatures, many of the SCV’s crops were wilting. Lombardi Farms noted 25% of their fruits and vegetables pretty much melted.

11 COLLEGE DEGREES. COMPLETELY USELESS. — A surviving condor chick was reported as doing well. His brother died the week earlier when a Fish & Game biologist climbed up to its nest and literally startled it to death when he picked it up to determine its gender. It was a boy bird. And it was dead boy bird.

Thanks for keeping me company on our SCV time-traveling adventures this weekend. Come back here to The Mighty Signal next week. You bring yourn. I’ll bring ourn. We’ll head into yesteryear and get a little more smug and smarter with what we find out. Be kind to one another. ¡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 or Leave a review, if you’re amind.

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