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Loafing Along Death Valley Trails

Chapter XIV

Shoshone Country. Resting Springs

The country about Shoshone is identified with the earliest migration of Americans to California.

It is a curious fact that prior to the coming of Jedediah Smith who, in 1826 was actually the first American to enter the state from the east, the contented Spanish believed that the Sierras were insurmountable barriers to invasion by the hated American or any attacking enemy.

After Smith the first white American to look upon the Shoshone region so far as known, was William Wolfskill, a Kentucky trapper who left Santa Fe in 1830-31 on a trading expedition with stores of cloth, garments, and gimcracks.

Having had poor luck in disposing of his cargo, when he reached the Virgin River he decided to push westward across the Mojave Desert and entered California by way of Cajon Pass. After resting at San Gabriel he went north into the San Joaquin Valley. There he disposed of his stock at fabulous prices, taking in trade mules, horses, silks, and other items which he took to Taos and Santa Fe, receiving for this merchandise equally huge profits.

Wolfskill later settled in Los Angeles, one of the earliest Americans in the pueblo where he acquired large land holdings. There he established the citrus industry, planting a grove in what is now the heart of Los Angeles.

In 1832 Joseph B. Chiles organized a party at Independence, Missouri, and started for California. It numbered 50 men, women, and children. Upon reaching Fort Laramie, Wyoming (which was officially Fort John, but for some reason was never so called) Chiles met Joseph Reddeford Walker and employed him as guide.

Eighteen years before the Bennett-Arcane party came to grief, Walker had discovered Walker River and Walker Lake in Nevada, 93afterward named for him. After reaching the Sierras, his jaded teams were unable to cross and had to be abandoned, the party narrowly escaping death. Having heard of the southerly course over the old Spanish Trail, he turned back and over it guided the Chiles party.

Early in 1843, John C. Fremont led a party of 39 men from Salt Lake City northward to Fort Vancouver and in November of that year, started on the return trip to the East. This trip was interrupted when he found his party threatened by cold and starvation and he faced about; crossed the Sierra Nevadas and went to Sutter’s Fort. After resting and outfitting, he set out for the East by the southerly route over the old Spanish trail, which leads through the Shoshone region.

At a spring somewhere north of the Mojave River he made camp. The water nauseated some of his men and he moved to another. Identification of these springs has been a matter of dispute and though historians have honestly tried to identify them, the fact remains that none can say “I was there.”

In the vicinity were several springs any of which may have been the one referred to by Fremont in his account of the journey. Among these were two water holes indicated on early maps as Agua de Tio Mesa, and another as Agua de Tomaso.

There are several springs of nauseating water in the area and some of the old timers academically inclined, insisted that Fremont probably camped at Saratoga Springs, which afforded a sight of Telescope Peak or at Salt Spring, nine miles east on the present Baker-Shoshone Highway at Rocky Point.

Kit Carson was Fremont’s guide. Fremont records that two Mexicans rode into his camp on April 27, 1844, and asked him to recover some horses which they declared had been stolen from them by Indians at the Archilette Spring, 13 miles east of Shoshone.

One of the Mexicans was Andreas Fuentes, the other a boy of 11 years—Pablo Hernandez. While the Indians were making the raid, the boy and Fuentes had managed to get away with 30 of the horses and these they had left for safety at a water hole known to them as Agua de Tomaso. They reported that they had left Pablo’s father and mother and a man named Santiago Giacome and his wife at Archilette Spring.

With Fremont, besides Kit Carson, was another famed scout, Alexander Godey, a St. Louis Frenchman—a gay, good looking dare devil who later married Maria Antonia Coronel, daughter of a rich Spanish don and became prominent in California.

In answer to the Mexicans’ plea for help, Fremont turned to his men and asked if any of them wished to aid the victims of the Piute raid. He told them he would furnish horses for such a purpose if anyone 94cared to volunteer. Of the incident Kit Carson, who learned to write after he was grown, says in his dictated autobiography: “Godey and myself volunteered with the expectation that some men of our party would join us. They did not. We two and the Mexicans ... commenced the pursuit.”

Fuentes’ horse gave out and he returned to Fremont’s camp that night, but Godey, Carson, and the boy went on. They had good moonlight at first but upon entering a deep and narrow canyon, utter blackness came, even shutting out starlight, and Carson says they had to “feel for the trail.”

One may with reason surmise that Godey and Carson proceeded through the gorge that leads to the China Ranch and now known as Rainbow Canyon. When they could go no farther they slept an hour, resumed the hunt and shortly after sunrise, saw the Indians feasting on the carcass of one of the stolen horses. They had slain five others and these were being boiled. Carson’s and Godey’s horses were too tired to go farther and were hitched out of sight among the rocks. The hunters took the trail afoot and made their way into the herd of stolen horses.

Says Carson: “A young one got frightened. That frightened the rest. The Indians noticed the commotion ... sprang to their arms. We now considered it time to charge on the Indians. They were about 30 in number. We charged. I fired, killing one. Godey fired, missed but reloaded and fired, killing another. There were only three shots fired and two were killed. The remainder ran. I ... ascended a hill to keep guard while Godey scalped the dead Indians. He scalped the one he shot and was proceeding toward the one I shot. He was not yet dead and was behind some rocks. As Godey approached he raised, let fly an arrow. It passed through Godey’s shirt collar. He again fell and Godey finished him.”

Subsequently it was discovered that Godey hadn’t missed, but that both men had fired at the same Indian as proven by two bullets found in one of the dead Indians. Godey called these Indians “Diggars.” The one with the two bullets was the one who sent the arrow through Godey’s collar and when Godey was scalping him, “he sprang to his feet, the blood streaming from his skinned head and uttered a hideous yowl.” Godey promptly put him out of his pain.

They returned to camp. Writes Fremont: “A war whoop was heard such as Indians make when returning from a victorious enterprise and soon Carson and Godey appeared, driving before them a band of horses recognized by Fuentes to be part of those they had lost. Two bloody scalps dangling from the end of Godey’s gun....”

Fremont wrote of it later: “The place, object and numbers considered, this expedition of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest and most disinterested which the annals of Western adventure so full of daring deeds can present.” It was indeed a gallant response to the plea of unfortunates whom they’d never seen before and would never see again.

When Fremont and his party reached the camp of the Mexicans they found the horribly butchered bodies of Hernandez, Pablo’s father, and Giacome. The naked bodies of the wives were found somewhat removed and shackled to stakes.

Fremont changed the name of the spring from Archilette to Agua de Hernandez and as such it was known for several years. He took the Mexican boy, Pablo Hernandez, with him to Missouri where he was placed with the family of Fremont’s father-in-law, U. S. Senator Thomas H. Benton. The young Mexican didn’t care for civilization and the American way of life and in the spring of 1847 begged to be returned to Mexico. Senator Benton secured transportation for him on the schooner Flirt, by order of the Navy, and he was landed at Vera Cruz—a record of which is preserved in the archives of the 30th Congress, 1848.

Three years later a rumor was circulated that the famed bandit, Joaquin Murietta was no other than Pablo Hernandez.

Lieutenant, afterwards Colonel, Brewerton was at Resting Springs in 1848 with Kit Carson who then was carrying important messages for the government to New Mexico. He found the ground white with the bleached bones of other victims of the desert Indians. Brewerton calls them Pau Eutaws.

The Mormons began early to look upon this region as a logical part of the State of Deseret, for the creation of which, Brigham Young petitioned Congress, setting forth among reasons for the recognition of such a state that: “... We are so far removed from all civilized society and organized government and also natural barriers of trackless deserts, including mountains of snow and savages more bloody than either, so that we can never be united with any other portion of the country.”

As early as 1851, the far-seeing Young decided to found a colony of Saints in San Bernardino, California, to extend Mormon influence. Sam Brannan, brilliant adherent of that faith, had already come to California with the nucleus of a Mormon colony in 1846, two years before Marshall discovered gold.

Brannan became an outstanding figure among the Argonauts. None exceeded him in leadership or popularity in the building of San Francisco 96and the state. He grew rich and unfortunately began drinking; finally abandoned Mormonism and died poor.

The colonizers sent out by Brigham Young were in three divisions. One under the leadership of Amasa Lyman, who brought his five wives. Another was headed by Charles C. Rich, who was accompanied by three of his wives. It is interesting to note that Rich became the father of 51 children by five wives.

The third division was under the command of Captain Jefferson Hunt, guide for the entire party. These leaders were all able men who were highly regarded by gentiles. They also camped at Agua de Hernandez and it was the Mormons who junked the previous name and gave one with significance. They called it “Resting Springs” and this more fitting name has lasted.

On May 21, 1851, the Mormon elder, Parley P. Pratt, heading a party of missionaries en route to the South Sea Islands writes in his diary: “We encamped at a place called Resting Springs.... This is a fine place for rest.... Since leaving the Vegas (Las Vegas) we have traveled 75 miles through the most horrible desert.... Twenty miles from the Vegas we were assailed ... by a shower of arrows from the savage mountain robbers.... Leaving Resting Springs the party arrived at Salt Spring gold mines toward evening....”

In 1850, Phineas Banning, pioneer resident of Los Angeles and later owner of Catalina Island, hauled freight from Los Angeles to the gold mine at Salt Spring opposite Rocky Point just south of the Amargosa River on the Baker road and in 1854 Mormons discovered gold 25 miles south of Resting Springs, long before Dr. French searched for the Gunsight in Death Valley.

The Amargosa River is one of the world’s most remarkable water courses. Originating at Springdale, north of Beatty, Nevada, it twists southward in zigzag pattern until it reaches a point about 34 miles south of Shoshone. There it turns west, crosses Highway 127, enters Death Valley at its most southerly point and then turns north to disappear 60 miles from the place of its origin.

You may cross and re-cross it many times totally unaware of its existence, but in the cloudburst season it can and does become a terrible agent of destruction.

In 1853 Major George Chorpenning obtained a contract to carry mail between the Mormon colony of San Bernardino, California, and Salt Lake. To reach Resting Springs, a station on the route, required five days. Today it is a journey of four hours.

Resting Springs was also a relay station for white outlaws and Indian raiders from Utah, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Even before Fremont, Carson, or the Mormons old Bill Williams, for whom Bill Williams River, Bill Williams Mountain, and the town of Williams, Arizona, are named was at Resting Springs.

Williams was a Baptist preacher, turned Mountain Man. He had guided Fremont through the terrors of the San Juan country and was accused of cannibalism when hunger threatened one detachment. Of Williams Kit Carson said: “In starving times, don’t walk ahead of Bill Williams.”

Williams brought a band of Chaguanosos Indians to Resting Springs and made it an outpost for a horse stealing raid. With him were Pegleg Smith and Jim Beckwith, the mulatto who after having been a blacksmith with Ashley’s Fur Traders in 1821, became a famous guide, Indian Chief, trader, and scout. (Also called Beckwourth and Beckworth.)

Leaving Resting Springs, they proceeded through Cajon Pass for their loot and on May 14, 1840, Juan Perez, administrator at San Gabriel Mission excited Southern California when he announced that every ranch between San Gabriel and San Bernardino had been stripped of horses. Two days later posses from every settlement in the valley started in pursuit. The raiders made it a running battle, defeated several detachments, adding the latter’s stock and grub to their plunder.

Five days later, reinforcements were sent from Los Angeles, Chino, and other settlements, all under command of Jose Antonio Carrillo—ancestor of the movie celebrity, Leo Carrillo. He had “225 horses, 75 men, 49 guns with braces of pistols, 19 spears, 22 swords and sabers, and 400 cartridges.”

The posse threw fear into the raiders, but didn’t catch them, though the latter lost half of the stolen horses. At Resting Springs, Carrillo found some abandoned clothing, saddles, and cooking utensils. Fifteen hundred horses that had died from thirst or lack of food were counted during the chase.

Later, when Pegleg Smith was chided about the high price he demanded of an emigrant for a horse, he remarked: “Well, the horses cost me plenty. I lost half of them getting out of the country and three of my best squaws....”

The earliest American settler at Resting Springs remembered by old timers was Philander Lee, a rough and somewhat eccentric squaw man. He was big, straight as a ramrod, afraid of nothing, and of an undetermined past. He was there in the early Eighties. He cleared 200 acres, raised alfalfa, stock, and some fruit. He had a way of adding the last part of his first name to his offspring, Leander and Meander are samples. Some of his descendants still live in the country.

It was near Resting Springs Ranch while Phi Lee owned it that Jacob Breyfogle, of lost mine fame, was scalped by Hungry Bill’s tribesmen. The story is told in another chapter.

Phi Lee’s brother, Cub Lee, who added spicy pages to the annals of Death Valley country, built the first home erected at Shoshone—an adobe which still stands. It was long the home of the squaw, Ann Cowboy. Another brother of Phi Lee was known as “Shoemaker” because he roamed the desert as a cobbler. All were squaw men.

Cub Lee established a reputation for keeping his word and it was said no one ever disputed it and lived. Indians over in Nevada were giving a “heap big” party. His squaw wanted to go. Cub didn’t. “You stay home,” he ordered. “If you go, I’ll kill you.” He rode away and upon returning, discovered she was absent. He leaped on his cayuse, went to the party and found her. Whipping out his gun he killed both wife and son, blew the smoke out of his pistol and leisurely rode away.

But the Nevada officials thought Cub Lee was too meticulous about keeping his word and Cub had a brief cooling off period in the pen.

Pegleg Smith made Resting Springs his headquarters for the greatest haul in the history of California horse stealing and reached Cajon Pass before the theft was discovered. These horses were driven into Utah and there sold to emigrants, traders, and ranchers. Smith may be said to be the inventor of the Lost Mine, as a means of getting quick money. The credulous are still looking for mines that existed only in Pegleg’s fine imagination.

Thomas L. Smith was born at Crab Orchard, Kentucky, October 10, 1801. With little schooling, he ran away from home to become a trapper and hunter, and following the western streams eventually settled in Wyoming. He married several squaws, choosing these from different tribes, thus insuring friendly alliance with all.

He had been a member of Le Grand’s first trapping expedition to Santa Fe and was an associate of such outstanding men as St. Vrain, Sublette, Platte, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, the merchant Antoine Rubideaux (properly Robedoux) of St. Louis. He spoke several Indian languages and earned the gratitude of the Indians in his area by leading them to victory in a battle with the Utes. Able and likable, he also had iron nerves and courage. His morals, he justified on the ground that his were the morals of the day.

J. G. Bruff, historian, whose “Gold Rush-Journal and Drawings” is good material for research, met Smith on Bear River August 6, 1849, and wrote in his diary: “Pegleg Smith came into camp. He trades whiskey.” Actually he traded anything he could lay his hands on.

While trapping for beaver with St. Vrain on the Platte, Smith was 99shot by an Indian, the bullet shattering the bones in his leg just above the ankle. He was talking with St. Vrain at the moment and after a look at the injury, begged those about to amputate his leg. Having no experience his companions refused. He then asked the camp cook to bring him a butcher knife and amputated it himself with minor assistance by the noted Milton Sublette.

Smith was then carried on a stretcher to his winter quarters on the Green River. While the wound was healing he discovered some bones protruding. Sublette pulled them out with a pair of bullet molds. Indian remedies procured by his squaws healed the stump and in the following spring of 1828 he made a rough wooden leg. Thereafter he was called Pegleg by the whites and We-he-to-ca by all Indians.

A wooden socket was fitted into the stirrup of his saddle and with this he could ride as skillfully as before. In the lean, last years of his life, he could be seen hopping along under an old beaver hat in San Francisco to and from Biggs and Kibbe’s corner to Martin Horton’s. Something in his appearance stamped him as a remarkable man.

Major Horace Bell, noted western ranger, lawyer, author, and editor of early Los Angeles, relates that he saw Pegleg near a Mother Lode town, lying drunk on the roadside, straddled by his half-breed son who was pounding him in an effort to arouse him from his stupor.

Smith had little success as a prospector, but saw in man’s lust for gold, ways to get it easier than the pick and shovel method.

In the pueblo days of Los Angeles, Smith was a frequent visitor at the Bella Union, the leading hotel. Always surrounded by a spellbound group, he lived largely. When his money ran out he always had a piece of high-grade gold quartz to lure investment in his phantom mine.

And so we have the Lost Pegleg, located anywhere from Shoshone to Tucson. Nevertheless, no adequate story of the movement of civilization westward can ignore South Pass and Pegleg Smith.

About 25 miles east of Shoshone and set back from the road under willows and cottonwoods, an old house identifies a landmark of Pahrump Valley—the Manse Ranch, once owned by the Yundt family.

The original Yundt was among the first settlers, contemporary with Philander and Cub Lee and Aaron Winters. Yundt was a squaw man and his children, Sam, Lee, and John followed the father in taking squaws for their wives.

Sam Yundt was operating a small store at Good Springs and making a precarious living when a sleek and talented promoter secured a mining claim nearby and induced Sam to enlarge his stock in order to care for the increased business promised by supplying provisions for the mine’s 100employees. Sam, with visions of quick, profitable turnovers, stocked the empty shelves. For a few months the bills were paid promptly, then lagged. Sam yielded to plausible excuses and carried the account. Finally his own credit was jeopardized and wholesalers began to threaten suits. Then he heard the sheriff had an attachment ready to serve. In his desperation Sam went to the debtor. “I’m ruined,” he pleaded. “You fellows will have to raise some money or we’ll all quit eating.”

The fellow said, “All I can give you is stock in the Yellow Pine. It’s that or nothing.”

Sam Yundt had done with next to nothing all his life, took the stock and waited for the sheriff. Then the miracle—pay dirt and Sam Yundt was rich, and now he did the natural thing. He decided he would live at a pace that matched his means.

George Rose, an old friend, had a mine in the Avawatz and he needed money. He went to Sam. “Now that you’re rich,” he told Sam, “you’ll be taking life easy. I’ve got some swamp land on the coast near Long Beach. Best duck shooting I know of and I’ll sell it cheap.”

Sam didn’t want it but he bought it just to accommodate his friend. In a little while the swamp land was an oil field and oil added another fortune to Yellow Pine’s gold. Sam put his squaw Nancy, away, moved to the city and married a white woman. Nancy was provided for and for years she could be seen driving all over the desert in her buggy.

A later owner of the Manse was one of whom the writer has a revealing memory. A battered Ford stopped at Shoshone and an unshaven individual stepped out, went into the store and came out with a loaf of bread and a chunk of bologna. Dirty underwear showed through a flapping rent in his patched overalls as he tore off a piece of bread and a chunk of the bologna and had his meal. The uneaten portions he tossed into the tool box, wiped his hands on his thighs and his mouth on his hand.

“Jean Cazaurang,” Brown chuckled, “won’t pay six bits for lunch in the dining room. Worth $2,000,000.”

When the dinner gong sounded Cazaurang went to his tool box, retrieved the rest of the bologna, twisted a hunk from the bread loaf, tossed the rest back into the tool box. This time he saved a dollar. He curled himself up in the Ford that night and saved $2.00. Besides the Manse Ranch he had a 10,000 acre ranch in Mexico, stocked with sheep, cattle, and horses, and had several mines.

Jean’s end was not a happy one. One payday at his ranch, the good looking and likable young Mexican who worked for him, came for his money. Jean counted out the money from a poke and poured it into 101the palm of the Mexican. The Mexican counted it and with a smile looked at Jean. “Pardon me, Señor ... it’s two bits short.”

“Be gone,” ordered Jean.

“But Señor, I have worked hard. My wife is hungry and I am hungry. My children are hungry.”

“Be gone,” again shouted Jean and whipped out his gun.

But the Mexican was young, lean, and lithe and he seized Jean’s wrist and when he turned the wrist loose Jean Cazaurang was dead. And then the Mexican made one mistake. Instead of going to the sheriff he became panic stricken and taking the body to a nearby ravine, he heaved it into the brush where it was found later, feet up.

But Jean Cazaurang had saved two bits.

A big luxuriously appointed hearse came for Jean and people said it was the first decent ride he’d ever had in his life.

Sentiment was with the Mexican, but he drew a short term for bungling.

Because in one will Jean left his property to his wife and in another to his housekeeper, the estate was tied up in court, where it remained for 11 years—fat pickings for lawyers. Finally the widow was awarded one half the estate under community property law, but the widow was dead. The housekeeper got the other half, and so ends the story of Jean Cazaurang and two bits.

Rarely did desert ranches show other profits than those which one finds in doing the thing one likes to do, as in the case of a recent owner of the Manse—the wealthy Mrs. Lois Kellogg—the soft-voiced eastern lady who fell in love with the desert, drilled an artesian well, the flow of which is among the world’s largest. Small, cultured, she yet found thrills in driving a 20-ton truck and trailer from the Manse to Los Angeles or to the famed Oasis Ranch 200 miles away in Fish Lake Valley—another desert landmark which she bought to further gratify her passion for the Big Wide Open.

And there you have a slice of life as it is on the desert—one miserably dying in his lust for money, one fleeing its solitude; another seeking its solace.

A Personal Narrative of People and Places
Published by Death Valley Publishing Co.
Ontario, California

A Foretaste of Things to Come
What Caused Death Valley?
Aaron and Rosie Winters
John Searles and His Lake of Ooze
But Where Was God?
Death Valley Geology
Indians of the Area
Desert Gold. Too Many Fractions
Romance Strikes the Parson
Greenwater-Last of the Boom Towns
The Amargosa Country
A Hovel That Ought To Be a Shrine
Sex in Death Valley Country
Shoshone Country. Resting Springs
The Story of Charles Brown
Long Man, Short Man
Shorty Frank Harris
A Million Dollar Poker Game
Death Valley Scotty
Odd But Interesting Characters
Roads. Cracker Box Signs
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Panamint City. Genial Crooks
Indian George. Legend of the Panamint
Ballarat. Ghost Town
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