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The Time Ranger | A 150-Year-Old Signal Chicken for Sale … 

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

Don’t mean to moan and whine as it’s most non-cowboyish, but one has to get up mighty darn early to saddle several thousand horses for these weekend trail rides. 

A warm and Western howdy to all you old-timers, new homesteaders, renters, folks on the federal relocation program and addendum citizens of the Santa Clarita. C’mon. Go find your particular steed. There’s Buster, Whirlwind, Widow Maker, War Lord, Daisy, Blackie, Faustus, Cheyenne … well. Let’s not dally. I’ll tell you your horse’s name when we’re on the trail. 

We’ve a most interesting trail ride ahead through Santa Clarita Valley history, filled with not just chickens and lions, but, one of my favorite categories: Other Things. 

Let’s mosey …  


BIG BAD JOHN — There is some debate regarding Judge John Powell. Truly, he was one of our most amazing citizens, having led troops in seven major Civil War battles (for the North) and leading an expedition to free 700-plus slaves from a camp in Africa with Stanley Livingston. Some local historians note that on May 8, 1875, the Soledad Judicial District was formed, with Judge John F. Powell being appointed as first jurist and that he served for 40 years. That number may be closer to 34 years. We have documents noting his trying of a case here in 1875 — a year before Newhall was founded. Other reports indicated that he was appointed in 1900 and that he served until 1923. (We have Signal accounts of his last case being heard in September of that year and that Port C. Miller took over for him). Best we can figure, Judge Powell WAS judge here in 1875, but moved away to Resting Springs for several years to try his hand at storekeeping, then came back. 

The Powells had homestead up Dry Canyon, running cattle and sheep. Used to be a reservoir there and was home to the San Fernando Valley Gun Club. Old Johnny Powell was one of 48 names on a petition to start the Newhall School District. Powell moved his judicial district office to Newhall house property in 1900. His court only held three people.  

One hot day, he moved his court outside and a small crowd was stung by a nest of angry bees. The D.A. from L.A. was rather miffed about holding court under a big shade tree. Powell also held court at a temporary construction warehouse on the Ridge Route. Forty workers had been arrested for gambling and instead of bringing them into town, Powell drove out at 10 p.m. and held court in the building while other workers pelted the building with rocks. When Powell and the deputies got back to their cars, all the tires were flat.  

Mrs. Powell ran a room and board house next to Newhall’s General Merchandise store on Market and Main opposite the Southern Hotel. Other end of the one-block street, his brother and former miner, Mike Powell, ran the Palace Saloon, just south of Campton’s store, across from 8th and Main. 

Judge Powell’s home and courthouse lasted up until 1960 when it was torn down to put up some shops. 

Another report was that when Powell died in 1925, it was on the bench, in the middle of a court case. Possibly, it might have been elsewhere. We’re looking into that. 

PETE & THE SWEET WATER — Anybody who speaks even a modicum of Spanish knows that our community of Agua Dulce means Sweet Water. But who named the place? It was none other than the swashbuckling Pedro Fages. The tall, aristocratic Spaniard was in the original expedition with Gaspar de Portola when they “discovered” the SCV in 1769. Fages led 25 Catalan soldiers in that trek. Fages would later become the first military governor of Southern California. One day, while stationed in San Diego, he discovered six of his soldados de cuero (soldiers of leather, after the thick vests they wore) disappeared with a half dozen fetching Indian maidens. Fages went out looking for the couples. He was either very dedicated or had serious wanderlust (actually, a bit of both) because he ended up riding all the way back to the Santa Clarita, via Soledad Canyon. That’s where he stopped in the hills north of here in 1772. He explored some more, giving names to Cienega (which means “swamp” and would be under present day Castaic Lake and Laguna (Elizabeth Lake). He also named Tejon (badger) Pass, which was also called Canada de los Uvas after the wild grapes growing there. Fages never found the deserters, but filled in some details on the Spanish maps. He would become California’s fourth governor and retired in 1790 to Seville, Spain. 

MAY 11, 1924 

SAVING THE COST OF A TRIAL — Four bandits robbed the Antelope Valley Bank in February and were captured in Saugus. Three of them drew wide-ranging sentences of one year to life. A fourth did not. He was shot dead by posse member Fran McAdam. 

HISTORICAL CERTAINTY: YOUNG PUNKS — Certainly on these history trail rides I’ve dropped the bromide that history is circular. The Mighty Signal noted, in their editorial 100 years back, that 80% of the nation’s hardened criminals were under 25. “A generation ago, the parents governed the family. Today, the tables are turned and the family policy is dictated largely by the children. Consequently, before either the school or the church can assume any guardianship, the seeds of potential disorder have been sown. Nothing plainer than that moral education, like charity, must begin at home.” We could run that same op-ed today … 

SENSIBLE WALKING SHOES, AND, HYDRATE — The upper Soledad could be an unforgiving terrain if you didn’t know the way of the wild. Miss Irene Robertson, who ran a women’s boarding house near the nearly abandoned community of Sterling, got lost walking home and nearly perished in an April heat wave. A posse set out looking for her, but couldn’t find Irene. She managed to stumble into the Schaffer Ranch, many miles away. 

MAY 11, 1934 

THANKS, FLORIDA, FOR RICE CANYON — Here’s some interesting trivia for you. On this date, Walter A. Rice of Tallahassee, Florida, came back to visit Newhall. An oilman, he owned some property next door to present-day Ed Davis/Towsley Canyon Park. Yup. That’s where Rice Canyon got its name, from old Walt. Mr. Rice came here in 1900, bought the property and dug seven wells. He had some bad luck with poor equipment and collapses, but believed there was an ocean of oil under the canyon that still bears his name. 

BAD YEAR ALL AROUND — It wasn’t a good year for the Rasmussen family. Ray died in a local mine cave-in in 1933, and, less than a year later, his wife died of a heart attack. They owned an 8-acre chicken ranch in Happy Valley. 

FROM THE ‘THAT’S A MIGHTY DARN OLD CHICKEN’ DEPT. —  Here’s an interesting use (or not) of syntax. From a Mighty Signal classified ad 90 years back: “FOR SALE: 150 year old White Leghorn hens. 50 cents each.” Guess poultry farmer John Omar didn’t want to pop the extra money for the hyphen OR the proofreader …  

CHICKEN TRIVIA — Regular henhouse chickens usually live between three to seven years. If they’re babied and kept away from dogs, coyotes or Democrats, they can live up to 12 years. 

MAY 11, 1944 

SO LONG, PARDNER … — There was sadness on La Loma de los Vientos. On the Hill of the Winds, William S. Hart mourned the loss of his friend and companion, Pardner. Hart had been given a blooded Great Dane from the kennels of silent film superstar comedian, Harold Lloyd, on Oct. 28, 1938. The dog, Minnie, presented Hart with five pups. Two he gave away. Two were his famed companions, the harlequin black and white Danes named Prince and Gal. The fifth pup, Pardner, was slate gray and Hart made him a present to Johnny Imperial, the Horseshoe Ranch foreman. Pardner was guardian of the ranch gate and took up an odd relationship with Hart’s pickup truck. Wherever it went, Pardner went. He slept in it or under it, rain or shine. Pard developed some mysterious ailment, made worse by staying out during a February cold spell. He died on this date and was added to Hart’s beloved animals in their private graveyard. Hart never forgave himself for sleeping through that storm. Old Two-Gun Bill Himself would also pass away two years later. 

WE JUST DON’T SEEM TO LEARN … — It’s funny how history repeats. Some of you saddlepals will remember how Scott Newhall took on speeding big rig drivers in 1974. Thirty years earlier, on this date in 1944, The Signal’s Fred Trueblood started an editorial war “… to eliminate the hazard to life and limb caused by huge vehicles barreling through the town with the throttle wide open.” Back then, the main highway went through downtown San Fernando Road, sometimes at 60 or 70 mph. 

VOTE SOBER — “Big” Bill Bonelli, owner of hundreds of acres of prime Santa Clarita real estate, including a big cattle ranch and the future Saugus Speedway, didn’t make himself popular with many Californians. Triple-B wore many hats, including director of the state Board of Equalization, which handles things alcohol-related. There was a law on the books at the time that liquor could not be sold while polls were open. Bonelli promised to make sure that law would be enforced. I truly wonder if that affected Bonelli’s own candidacy. He ran for U.S. Senate on the same ballot. And lost. 

MAY 11, 1954 

FRED? YOU WOULD NOT RECOGNIZE TODAY’S CULTURAL LANDSCAPE — The Mighty Signal ran an op-ed piece on this date, condemning comic books. Signal editor/publisher Fred Trueblood turned most conservative in his later years. From “Unfunny Funnies” — “Often (the comics’) principal ingredients are violence, horror, sex and sadism along with advertisements for such items as dueling swords, pistols, rifles and knives.” The article noted how a New York psychiatrist linked the reading of these magazines as a “contributing factor to juvenile delinquency.” 

MAY 11, 1964 

TINY BIT OF A PROBLEM ON YOUR RAP SHEET — Depending on whom you ask, it was a nice meeting for the cops and not so nice for Leonard Hodgson. He was pulled over by local California Highway Patrol officers on suspicion of drunk driving. When they ran his license, it turned out he was wanted on a lengthy list of charges, included being an escaped convict from Washington state. If he had been drinking Dr. Pepper, he might have skated. 

SO MUCH FOR THE HONEYMOON — Ollie Taylor and Tommy Mitchell retired from the Fire Department after lengthy careers fighting blazes. Taylor had started in 1936 as a motorcycle messenger. That’s how they communicated on strategy and movement before the days of walkie talkies, cell phones and CBs. Mitchell noted that the only requirement to being a fireman then was passing a routine physical exam. There was no training or boot camp. Much of their gear — primarily shovels and hoes — for fighting back-country blazes was transported via pack mules. Mitchell had been married just a week when he had to leave his wife for a month and take off on a horseback fire patrol that lasted a good part of the summer.  

THAT LONG, LAST SCENIC RIDE IN THE COUNTRY — Another poor soul gave up the ghost via monoxide poisoning. Lewis Hinkle drove all the way up from Los Angeles to Placerita Canyon to commit suicide. He left a will, leaving everything to his ex-wife and a note asking that his heart be donated to UCLA Medical Center. 

MAY 11, 1974 

SOMEBODY BUY THAT ACCOUNTANT A STEAK DINNER — The Newhall Land & Farming Co. proved that while you can’t fight City Hall, you can fight your property tax assessment. They challenged their assessed property value, won and it decreased by $2 million, saving them about $200,000. Of the 3,445 reductions granted, only Xerox had a larger boon with their property valuation dropping by $3 million.  

NOT EXACTLY A WITTLE BOO-BOO KITTY — Charlie Hamlin was petting his cat when it bit him on the head. Mr. Hamlin started to stand, lost his balance, went backward and startled the feline, who batted him and playfully bit his head. The wound required 100 stitches and having some of Mr. Hamlin’s scalp reattached. Mr. Hamlin was a lion handler at Lions Etc., in Soledad Canyon. The cat in question was a 600-pound male African lion. 

I REMEMBER THOSE NIGHTS WELL — Lyons Avenue enjoyed its third week of Cruise Night, the unofficial copycat of Van Nuys’ Boulevard’s cultural phenom. Because of some minor vandalism and rowdiness, the local sheriff’s office beefed up patrols. 

MAY 11, 1984 

HAUNTED HIGHWAY — Highway 126 was both blessing and curse. The curvy road was lined with ancient and sometimes giant eucalyptus. It was one of the prettiest roads in the state — and the most dangerous. On this date the California Transportation Commission approved a plan to widen the 126 and, in the process, take out more than 500 of the huge trees in the $52 million project. From the Irony Department? California planted those 500 eucalyptus trees in the 1930s to commemorate the deaths of the estimated 500 souls lost in the St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928. 


I can see from that spinning vortex up ahead we’re back to the here-&-now. Thanks so much for the company, dear saddlepals. See you in seven with another exciting Time Ranger trail ride. Until then? “¡Vayan con Dios, amigos!”  

If you do love local history and reading about ghosts, myths and monsters, visit Boston’s bookstore at Pick up JB’s two-volume set of local horror and macabre … 

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