Bill McHaney would have been around 73 years old when this photo was taken, and had lived and prospected in the area for over 50 years. Willis Keys noted that he always wore a red or blue bandana, like the one pictured around his neck in this photograph, and would not come out of his cabin without it.
Born in the Midwest, McHaney came to California with the waves of easterners moving west towards the end of the 1870s. Bill and his brother James first arrived in the area in 1879 as members of what local legend says were cattle rustlers who used the area’s isolation to hide stolen cattle until they could be sold. Old timers remember that the higher valleys of the park were covered in tall grass, providing good winter cattle grazing. The McHaneys established a headquarters that included adobe cookhouse, barn and bunkhouse amongst the foothills of what is now the Desert Queen (Keys) Ranch.
McHaney lived and prospected in the area for nearly 60 years. The cabin in the photograph no longer exists, but it is known that William F. (Bill) Keys took over this neighboring homestead when it was abandoned, and likely asked McHaney to stay there to maintain the claim. When McHaney became too ill to take care of himself, the Keys family brought him to their homestead, where he passed in 1937.
Desert Queen Ranch Collection, Willis Keys photo album
In 1933, Bill lived in a wickiup in upper Musick Valley, Gold Park, and claimed he had lived there for 35 years. In 1933, his sight was very bad, and shortly before this interview, he had picked up a 10-button rattler, thinking it was a piece of rope. Bill mostly prospected, although at times, he worked for others. He claimed that he and/or his brother first found several of the best early mines.
Notes of an Interview with William H, McHaney
by W, E. Ketcham and W, Egbert Schenck – March 1933
Transcribed by Schenck March 1952