January 2010 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles




Sky high gas prices along with sluggish economic conditions have severely impacted our tour business for over a year.

We have reluctantly decided to suspend our tour operations for the time being.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to all who continue to support us.

LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support


Support Room 8's charitable legacy by donating to the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation or adopting one of their cats.

Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you



The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com


It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.



Click on the bag to find out how.


Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Mono Lake Committee.


Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505

Hey Brother,

Can 'Ya

Spare a Job?

The nation's economic downturn has severely affected the newspaper industry. My job of nearly 30 years was eliminated several months ago.

I'm actively looking for full or part time job opportunities within my diverse skill set.

If you have, or know of any openings, please contact me through this CONTACT  link.




Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway.

     Click your mouse through the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



The Rowley’s of  Monte Vista Valley

Part I: From Homestead to Family Home

by Cecile Page Vargo

For nearly thirty years I have known of the historic Rowley House in my neighborhood of Sunland/Tujunga.  In the past ten years it finally dawned on me that the magnificent rock house I regularly passed on the backroads to the Sunland post office was the same one pictured in my local history books.  Somehow I missed the year it was offered on our historic house tour. In the last year, I have been given a personal glimpse into the past and present of this wonderful home, thanks to newfound friendships. This is the first in a series about the house and the hardy and often boisterous pioneers who called it theirs in the early days of what was then known as Monte Vista Valley.  

It was 1882 when the Rowley brothers first wandered up to the hills of Tujunga north of the City of Los Angeles. The buckboard was loaded with bee hives as they drove through washes and logging roads looking for a place to homestead and farm.  Their first home was a tent, complete with their bees and one horse, on 160 acres in the area now known as Seven Hills.

1915 map view of Monte Vista (now Sunland-Tujunga) valley located above the center of the map, east of San Fernando and north of Burbank.                            (Map courtesy Library of Congress collection)

The Rowley family came to California from Minnesota looking for an escape from the depression that had hit the Midwest so hard after the Civil War. The bright brochures and colorful posters promoted by the railroads lured many families to the rich farm lands and milder climates of Southern California. The promise of government land and a new life, combined with cheap rail rates to get there, called to the Rowley boys as well.  Loron Rowley purchased a Southern Pacific ticket and joined two brothers in Mandeville Canyon (Hollywood Hills) raising bees and selling honey.  In 1882, he found his own land in the Monte Vista Valley. With the help of the original Verdugo family of California’s Rancho fame, he was able to build a ranch house on homesteaded  acreage.

In addition to beehives, Loron raised cattle and found a market for the wood on his property. The ever growing City of the Angeles some fifteen miles away, needed wood for steam boilers, heat and cooking. An abundant supply of greasewood and pine trees of the foothills of the San Gabriels provided a lucrative business.

By the 1890’s, the wood played out and the forests were in need of replenishing.  Loron struggled with his cattle and beehives until the land developers and promoters arrived. In 1885 he signed on to help build a two story structure on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and First Street (now Fenwick and Oro Vista). The building was used for mail distribution and a general store that sold everything from crackers to coal oil.  Loron’s freight and mail service helped connect the early Sunland Tujunga pioneers to the outside world and kept them in supplies they could not raise or hunt themselves.

The great boom that brought Loron and his brothers to Monte Vista Valley began to collapse in 1888.  Many original land and building prospectors moved and went on to other ventures. Loron’s businesses and services suffered with the downturn. During this time, Loron met his future wife, Virginia, who came to tame a rowdy and struggling schoolhouse.

Loron also sent for more of his family. Father, Asa Rowley, and his sister, Mary Grace homesteaded on land near by. The bees and honey continued to thrive, but olive groves, peach orchards, and alfalfa replaced the family cattle.

The Rowley homesteads grew to 1,000 acres over the years, as they bought or quitclaimed land at the base of the mountains from Big Tujunga Canyon to neighboring La Crescenta.

Following a two year courtship, Loron and the bold school teacher, Virginia Florence, married. The year was 1893, and the ranch against the hills became the new Mrs. Rowley’s home. Virginia continued to teach at the now orderly school, as well as tending to her home garden, and helping with her husband’s various enterprises.

In 1896 she gave birth to their first son, Eustace. Sometime in the 1890’s, the little family was encouraged, by Loren’s brother Dr. Quentin Rowley, to live in the fading Monte Vista Hotel he had bought as an investment. They watched over the hotel closer to the town center, managed the ranch and enlarged the family. Robert Rowley was born in 1898 at the hotel, and Dorothy came along in 1902. 

The Monte Vista Hotel, 1886.

                          (Photo courtesy CSUN/ San Fernando Valley History Digital Library)

In 1903, Dr. Q. Rowley sold the Monte Vista Hotel, and Loren, Virginia and children were back at the ranch house. The boys were in school with a two mile hike every day to get there.

  By 1905, the Rowley family built the first rock home in Monte Vista on Hill Avenue near Flower Street (now Hillrose and Floralita).

The Rowley House, 1905. Inscription reads, "Aunt Marion & Dorothy 1905."

                                                                                         (Photo courtesy Rowley House collection)

Not only was it easier for the children to get to school, they were closer to community businesses and Loren’s endeavors beyond ranching and farming. Virginia moved her flock of chickens and her vegetable garden to the backyard behind the stone house. An adjacent pasture was perfect for the family horses and milk cows, with a running spring to keep the ground damp and the grass green all year round.  

The Rowley house was quick to become a home, with two more children joining the family as the years went by. Virginia managed to take care of children and both the Hill St. house and the family ranch. She also took over as postmistress, and helped Loren with the general store, freighting, and more.

At an early age the children pitched in where needed, at home or one of the family businesses. Loren and Virginia made sure they were well schooled, and received formal music lessons. Evenings they were seen on the big front porch playing games, and practicing their musical instruments. Weekends were large homegrown dinners, with Sunday’s reserved for Free Methodist church services. The entire family had a large presence in the foothill community, and was well known.

To be continued...


From Crackers to Coal Oil

by Mary Lee Tiernan

The Early History of Sunland, California, Voume IV

Snoops Desktop Publishing

Sunland, California 91040


Founding sisters - Life Stories of Tujunga’s Early Women Pioneers 1886-1926

by Mary Lou Pozzo

Zinnia Press

Tujunga, California 2005


Rancho Tujunga

A History of Sunland/Tujunga, California

Compiled by Sarah R. Lombard

Published by Sunland Woman’s Club

Produced by Bridge Publishing

Burbank, California


Sunland and Tujunga From Village To City

by Marlene A. Hitt

Little Landers Historical Society

Arcadia Press, 2002


Monte Vista Valley map courtesy Library of Congress

Online Exhibition http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/lamapped/lamapped-exhibit.html


Monte Vista Hotel photo courtesy San Fernando Valley History Digital Library Collection


Special thanks to the current residents of the Rowley House for graciously sharing their personal archives with us.

NOTE:  According to Sarah Lombard various old maps show “Tuhunga” on the Southern Pacific Railroad, near Little Tujunga Canyon. An early post office was located between the town of San Fernando and the confluence of Big and Little Tujunga Rivers. There was a post office established in “Tuhunga” on January 5, 1885 through March 3, 1894. 

The first post master was J. S. Florey. Mail was received from San Fernando by Rural Free Delivery after 1894. The actual town of Monte Vista (now Sunland) was platted in March 1885. Sherman Page and F. C. Howes were responsible for sales of lots and acreages for farms



Cerro Gordo Update

Cerro Gordo's tram trestle stands against a star-filled sky in this time exposure.

The ghost town of Cerro Gordo remains open to day visitors. Volunteer caretakers have assumed day-to-day visitor operations and are in town at all times. In spite of rumors to the contrary, Cerro Gordo has not been abandoned or closed after Mike Patterson's death.

Cerro Gordo's official website (www.cerrogrodo.us) is being updated. Please contact us through the email address below if you have questions about Cerro Gordo.

Town hours are from approximately 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. (PST), weather and road conditions permitting. Visitors should dress warmly, bring drinking water and haul out their own trash. Cerro Gordo shirts and souvenir silver-lead bullion bars are available for purchase in the American Hotel. Admission is $10 per person.





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