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Tuesday, July 5, 2011


blue jay was darting after. He did not realize until the next morning that the object was an Indian. 
In 1866, J.W. Gillette, Ed Parrish and Nephi Bemis started out to round up some stray cattle at the Dunlap Ranch. Gillette's mule was worn out, so he was sent back to get Pratt Whiteside to take his place. Gillette then stayed with the herd that Whiteside had been guarding. A short while later, the horses of Parrish and Bemis came back without any riders. The Parrish horse had blood on the saddle. Gillette went back to the ranch house to inform a sick Mr. Dunlap of the discovery and to gather more men and weapons. 
The body of Nephi Bemis was found about sundown. The searchers determined from the evidence that about 30 or 40 Chemehuevi Indians had killed him. The bodies of Pratt Whiteside and Ed Parrish were found the next morning. Parrish still had a stone in his hand that he had been using to defend himself against the attack. The Indians had removed all the clothing from the three bodies along with Whiteside's riding rig and pistol. The Indians ate Whiteside's horse then returned to the desert the same evening. 
The following winter in 1867, the Indians returned to the mountains and looted some homes in Little Bear Valley. The Indians went to the home of Bill Kane and they stole horses, supplies and guns from George Lish and John Dewitt. The next morning, Frank Talmage, Jonathan Richardson, George Armstrong and Bill Kane decided to go after the Indians. The men had returned to Kane's house and found it burned to the ground. Every item that the Indians could not carry had been destroyed. 
The families of the men were sent to the mill for protection. Help from San Bernardino was on the way, so the men decided to track the Indians through the new fallen snow. At Willow Canyon they spotted eight Indians. Talmage and Kane chased after them on horseback while Richardson and Armstrong followed on foot with the pack animal. 
The Indians hid behind a log. Kane was on top of them, but he didn't realize it. The Indians shot Kane's horse and it threw him. Kane lost his gun, but he still had his pistol. The Indians were trying to kill Kane as he hid behind a tree. Talmage arrived in time to save Kane from the Indians. Talmage killed one Indian and the others scattered. The men returned to the mill to gather more ammunition and more men to fight the Indians. 
The next day, Talmage, William Caley, A.J. Currey, “Noisy” Tom Enfufty, Henry Law, George Lish, Tom Welty, Frank Blair and Jacob Roar joined Kane, Richardson and Armstrong. The posse now contained twelve men. The posse met up with about sixty Indians in some thick timber on the top of the first ridge past the mill. The Indians opened fire on the men with guns, bows and arrows. After several hundred shots were fired, the Indians took their wounded and headed for the desert. The posse let them go and returned to the mill with their wounded men. Tom Welty was shot in the shoulder and Bill Kane was shot in the leg. The posse had killed one Indian. 
Men and supplies arrived from San Bernardino. The new posse split up with some men going through the mountains while others went through Cajon Pass. The posse reunited at the Dunlap Ranch on the Mojave River. W.F. Holcolm, Jack Martin, John St. John, Samuel Bemis, Edwin Bemis, Bill Bemis, Harrison Bemis, Bart Smithson, John McGarr, Johnathan Richardson, Frank Blair, George Armstrong, George Birdwell, Joseph Mecham, Jack Ayres, George Miller, and another unnamed man were the seventeen men who started out as the final posse. 
The posse located the Indians on a rocky mountain in the desert Northwest of Rabbit Springs. About three or four of the men became sick and went home. David Wixom, “Noisy” Tom Enrufty, Sam Button, a preacher named Stout, Stout's son and son-in-law, Griffith, joined the men and completed the final posse. 
That night, the men divided themselves into two parties. St. John was the leader of the party that headed North and Stout was the leader of the party that took the wagon road to the South. At daylight, the Southern party was in place, but the Northern party arrived late. The Southern party saw no Indians and fired some shots to let the Northern party know where they were. The men then turned to start back down to their wagons. The noise of the gunfire woke the Indians who only saw the Southern party. The Indians began to try to cut the men off from their wagons. The Northern party began to climb the rocks and were unseen by the Indians until the posse was upon them. The arrows and bullets began to fly. Richardson was struck in the breast by an arrow. He fell into the arms of George Miller. Miller tried to remove the arrow but the tip would not come out. Miller went to get help. Miller met St. John who told him to guard an opening in a pile of rocks because the Indians were escaping through it. Miller tried to stop the Indians while St. John went to get other men. 
The Indians yelled like coyotes during the battle. All of the Indians escaped except two women, a fourteen year old boy, a ten year old girl and a baby. The Indians had been surprised by the attack and when they thought they were trapped, they scattered. The posse took the prisoners and Richardson back to the wagons. Holcolm, Button, Armstrong, and Blair took Richardson to San Bernardino for medical attention. 
The next day, Martin, Miller, Bill Bemis and Ed Bemis went back to the battle scene to pick up the Indian's trail. They tracked the Indians and discovered that they had come back together. From examining the tracks, they determined that there were about 150 to 200 Indians. The men heard a shot, but decide to turn back. It was almost sundown, they had run out of water, and they had a six mile walk to camp. 
The next morning, three men stayed in camp while the others returned to the trail to track the Indians. The men arrived at the place where the others had turned back the night before and discovered that the Indians had been waiting on both sides of the canyon. If the men had gone any further the evening before, they would have been ambushed and killed by the Indians. 
The posse followed the Indian's tracks. They traveled in a half-circle until 3:00 P.M. They decide to return to camp, which was closer to them now than when they had left that morning. Stout's son met the posse. He had two extra horses, a canteen of water and lunch for his father and brother-in-law. The three men decided to continue to look for the Indians against the advice of St. John and Martin. 
The posse was eating their dinner at camp when they heard gunshots. Miller looked through a field glass and saw Stout's son running across the dry lake on a bald-faced horse. The Indians had laid in wait on the rocks and opened fire on the three men as they came through a small pass. The men from the camp hurried to help, and arrived just in time to save the two men from the Indians who were closing in on them. Stout's horse had been shot and Griffith, Stout's son-in-law, had a broken arm. The posse exchanged fire with the Indians and they scattered again. 
The posse took Griffith back to camp. They determined that after they sent men to take Griffith to San Bernardino for medical treatment, they would not have enough men left to fight the Indians. The posse disbanded and went home. This ended the thirty-two day campaign against the Indians and stopped the Indians from raiding the mountain areas. 
Writer's notes: The Chimney Rock site is a registered California Historical Landmark (# 737). Although the marker indicates that the site was the last Indian battle in California, historical records show that the last battle in California was during the Modoc War on April 11, 1873. Chimney Rock was most likely the last Indian battle in Southern California
Note: Many newspaper articles were written about this event however I wanted to base this paper on eyewitness accounts of the events. I went through the accounts and tried to put the stories of J. W. Gillette the eyewitness at the Dunlap ranch incident together with the letter from George Miller and the interview Miller gave in 1937 of his Chimney Rock battle in the proper time sequence. 
The article by Talmage gives much information however since he was not an eyewitness I only used his information on the speculated reasons the Indians began the attacks. The article by Phil Peretta was only used to supply the first name of Ed Parrish.


The Mojave dessert in Lucerne Valley has quite a few springs as well as artesian wells.  As a kid growing up on Rabbit Springs Road I was lucky enough to live next door to one of the biggest ranches in the valley.  When I was small it was known as the Harmony Hills Ranch and later it was named the Well’s ranch. 
Meridian Road was its western boundary and Rabbit Springs Road its southern boundary.
The forman for all of my twenty years there was a man named Mr. Lowe. He and his wife had a sweet house about a mile up Meridian from Rabbit Springs Road. At the edge of their property was a well house and we never passed it that we did not stop for a drink from that well. I lived less than a mile away yet the difference between the water from our well and the water from this well was stunning, even to a child. It was the sweetest taste in the world. People referred to it as an artesian well and I don’t know if that’s true but I do know it was some of the best water I have ever tasted.
I have been back several times in the recent years and have seen what has been done to that land.  Someone had a vision that they were going to build a community there on that oasis.  They tore down and ruined two ranches between Meridian Road and Barstow Road and planted some palm trees, which are now dying.  It is the saddest site in the world to me.  That artesian well up Meridian is nothing but junk now.  Mr. and Mrs. Lowes house (where I first watch Roller Derby and Wrestling on TV) is gone as well. 

I believe there is also a spring up at what was the Sky High Ranch.  Does anyone know what has become of that place?  There is a spring up on the mountain on the northwestern shore of LV dry lake but to my knowledge it is not a year-round spring and does not produce much fresh water. 

Closer to the Mojave River to the north there are several more springs but again, not year-round and with only sparse amounts of fresh water. 

The only reliable year round natural water sources that I know of in the dessert valley are at Old Woman Springs, Rabbit Springs, Deep Creek and the Mojave River.

There is no question in my mind that natives had a fairly permanent camp at Rabbit Springs.  As a kid in the 60’s I spent many hours roaming the hill adjacent to the spring.  I was able to find arrowheads, chips, pottery shards and beads without much effort.  Any digging at all on top of the knoll turned up even more.  It became clear to me that this was more than a transient camp and likely had been used over millennia if not longer.  A modern house has been built there now.  I never did look farther than that knoll and the area right around the spring itself. 

I can also attest to the fact the there were always hundreds of rabbits around the springs, even in the 1960s.  It seems obvious that it had been called Rabbit Springs long before Anglo settlers arrived.  A place with water and plentiful rabbits would be an obvious camp site for the natives, likely in the spring and fall. 

1884 Peter Davidson operated a Way Station at Rabbit Springs offering dusty travelers fresh water, news and rest.  He became known to those in the valley as "Uncle Pete."  He died in 1906 and his grave is at Kendall Road and Rabbit Springs Road.
In 1896 Al Swarthout acquired the land around Rabbit Springs and named it the Box S, intending to raise cattle. While there was plenty of water there was not enough natural grass to grow a ranch. Swarthout and a friend found a place about 15 miles to the east, which had even more water and lots of forage, Old Woman Springs.

Like Rabbit Springs, Old Woman Springs likely has a connection to its name. Was it a place where old women went for some reason?  Conventional thinking holds that it is where the old women stayed while the younger ones went to gather pinion nuts in the mountains.  I doubt that it was quite that simple but, given the year round above ground water, trees, forage and easy access to both the dessert floor and the mountains, Old Woman Springs had to have been a permanent native site.  Even today it is the best year round spring on the LV end of the San Gabriel Mountains; it seems likely it has been that way for thousands of years.  All of the other springs in the valley that I am aware of, including Rabbit Springs, are intermittent and mostly underground. 

I am guessing there is a fairly easy trail up to Holcomb Valley and Big Bear from Old Woman Springs.  It seems likely that Rabbit Springs, Old Woman Springs, Holcomb Valley and Big Bear would have all been native camp sites, not only hundreds of years ago but thousands of years ago. 

The Mojave River comes out of the mountains south of Apple Valley then heads to Victorville and then north to Oro Grande then it leans to the east where it passes through Barstow.  After Barstow it meanders on towards …

At many places in the river bed there is nothing but sand and even quicksand.  At other places the water rises and there is a stream.  And then at others it’s an above ground river year-round. 

The watershed of the Mojave River = approx. 3670 sq miles (9500 sq km)

Chronology of the Ancestral Mojave River through the late cenozoic.
11-10 Ma. (million years ago)
The region sloped toward the Pacific Ocean

8-7.6 Ma.
Birth of ancestral Transverse Ranges (San Gabriel fault)

3.5 Ma.
San Gabriel Mountains rise blocking the slope to the ocean and forming marshlands. Ancestral Deep Creek coming out of the San Bernardino Range begins to appear.

2.5-2 Ma.
Continued rise of the San Bernardino Range along the San Andreas fault reverse the regional drainage direction.

1.5-1 Ma.
The development of faults further to the north and east.

.5 Ma.
Appearance of perennial lakes Harper and Manix

70-80 ka. (thousand years ago)
Ancestral Mojave River develops as an incised channel with a course.

Pleitosine Era in the Mojave

LUCERNE VALLEY TRIBES -  today known as Piute, Chemehuevi and Serrano. 

Are they ancestors of ancient people that lived here tens of thousands of years ago, or did they migrate here from somewhere else?  Our theory is that the Piute, Chemehuevi and Serrano are the ancestors of a much more ancient people from the Pleistocene era and possibly even earlier.  Current theories on the populating of North America hold that it was migratory from Asia, Africa or Europe.  Our theory is that early humans evolved in South America much like the evidence we now have of early humans evolving in Africa.  At some point Africa and South America were connected so it is not a far leap to believe that early hominid species began in the south of a huge continent that ultimately broke apart becoming Africa and South America.  In the same way we see human evolution coming up out of Africa to the mid-east then to Europe and Asia, we believe human evolution grew out of South America and spread to North America. 

Dr. Louis Leakey came to the same conclusion but he did not have the technology available to us today, such as Google earth or hand held GPS units.  When I first heard about Leakey’s find near Barstow, dubbed Calico Man, I believed he had found a man.  It was not until much later that I discovered that he did not find actual direct evidence of a human or human like person; there was no Calico man like the Lucy he found in Africa.  What he did find at Calico was crystal clear evidence that early humans were here at a time, approximately 20,000 years ago when it was thought there were no humans on this continent.  What he found were stone tools.  But not just ordinary stone tools, these are identical to the stone tools discovered in Europe and Asia from the Pleistocene era, otherwise known as the stone-age, when “cave-men” roamed Europe and Asia.   Unfortunately for Mr. Leakey the academic world was not ready to accept this theory, which turned their theories on their heads.  Many in the academic community have tried to debunk Leakey’s Calico finds but, at the end of the day they simply have not been able to do so.  There should now be no question that stone-age people populated this continent.  Sadly that is not how it turned out. 

This discovery happened late in Dr. Leakey’s life.  Work continues, sort of, around Dr. Leakey’s Calico Man site.  The problem, as we see it, is that no one has taken what Dr. Leakey found and ran very far with it.

Here at the Rocking JTC, we intend to run with it.  We think we can find solid evidence of early human occupation of this same area.  Dr. Leakey figured out where stone would have washed down and then he dug straight down in that pile and ultimately came across stone-age tools.  We are looking to find the actual camp sites or meeting sites of the ancient ones and corroborate Dr. Leakey’s theory that early humans, at least from the stone ago, lived on the North American continent.

Where the Piute, Chemehuevi and Serrano camped and traveled would likely be the same as where the ancients camped and traveled.  There is no question that recent native groups as well as ancient natives would have lived near springs or fresh water.  It also seems obvious that they would have sought out caves to be used for various means, such as living in or as meeting places for local clans and tribes.