June 2013 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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Cerro Gordo officially


as of July 25, 2012

Please phone Sean Patterson (661-303-3692) or Cerro Gordo (760-876-5030) for additional information.

Caretakers are still on site to prevent vandalism.


Contact us through email at:


Now Available

Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

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

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


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.

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

Credo Quia Absurdum




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.



Quenching the Thirst of

Early Sunland-Tujunga

By Cecile Page Vargo

“Our water shed, the great Tujunga River, is ten times greater than that which supplies Pasadena and the surrounding territory. It is 50 times greater than the water resources of famous Sierra Madre, and many times greater than those of Monrovia. Any government contour map of California will show this.” 

M. V. Hartranft early land promoter circa 1910

“Haines Canyon ran like creek the year around from springs at its head. Bluegum Canyon was gorged after heavy rains, but ordinarily was dry. Blanchard Canyon, the same.   Zachau Canyon stood dry until rain water drained from the Seven Hills watershed above Tujunga.  And the Tujunga Canyon Wash ran all year, alive with trout for the locals…

In the first decade the settlers carried by hand all water for their household needs or, until the first well was dug, fetched it up by mule from the Wash.” 

 Charles Miller, history columnist, Record Ledger 1986

Title Insurance and Trust Company 1937 map of Southern California Spanish and Mexican Ranchos.                                                                (Library of Congress Collection)

Bertrand Begue and his son Philip came to Los Angeles from San Francisco following a smallpox epidemic which took his beloved wife and daughter. Together they opened up a butcher shop and would traverse by freight wagon to eastern Tujunga. The local honey, deer, bear, and other game they found in the green Verdugo Hills and surrounding areas was brought back to their butcher shop to sell.

By 1882 Philip and his wife Franciscoa arrived in Rancho Tujunga permanently to make a home as the  first settlers in the area.  Lot 46 of Rancho La Canada and 10.92 acres of property in the southern portion of present day Tujunga Canyon Boulevard was purchased from Victor Beaudry , the Cerro Gordo mining mogul and brother to former Los Angeles Mayor Prudent Beaudry.  The property cost five dollars an acre, which was high at the time. In addition, the Begue’s purchased water rights to Haines and Blanchard Canyons.

With visions of grape vineyards on his properties, Begue faced the problem of how to irrigate them. Wells and hand delivery took care of the dilemma until he could build a reservoir in Haines Canyon and pipe water down to the lower elevation where the ranch was. Early reservoirs were small sand-bottoms with pipes heading downhill, requiring regular maintenance of the intake area to prevent clogging. By 1884, a handful of land owners in neighboring Sunland including William Bernhard, Alfred Adams, Loren Rowley, and others, followed suit by installing a six inch pipe from Big Tujunga Canyon to their orchards and vineyards.

Marshall Hartranft was a land promoter and publisher of an agricultural newspaper entitled The Los Angeles Daily Fruit World, as well as a magazine entitled The Western Empire. In 1907, he purchased 1,728 acres of Tujunga land that had been set aside originally for a college and educational center. To help put his theory  “population creates land values” to the test,  he formed the Western Empire Suburban Farms Association and purchased Philip Begue’s water rights in Haines Canyon. To supplement water supply needs, he also purchased Mary Ann Johnson’s water rights in the Big Tujunga Canyon.  Subscribers would purchase bonds for road construction, sagebrush clearance, and irrigation and domestic water. Each bond that was purchased gave the holders the choice of waiting until the land was paid for and take a profit, or they could exchange the land for $300 an acre in bonds. Every bond entitled the owner to one share in Hartranft’s Western Empire and one share in the water company.

The north east San Fernando Valley, including the communities of Sunland and Tujunga are shown in this 1923 Southern Califonria Motorist Map.          (Rumsey Map Collection)

The Haines Canyon Water Company was formed in 1910. The water came from two wells that augmented the gravity supply with two unroofed concrete reservoirs and one large dirt reservoir, both uncovered and unlined. As Marshall Hartranft joined forces with William Smythe to create the utopian Little Landers Colonies the populations grew with more demands for wells and reservoirs. One  reservoir was built on Apperson Street with booster pumps to raise the water to fill it. A second was built on Tujunga Canyon Blvd. and Summitrose Ave. and  a third built on Pinyon in 1929. The Pinyon reservoir had a capacity of 750,000 gallons of water. The water to fill it was raised 600 feet and passed through the other reservoirs. This water supplied 5, 10, and 20 acre parcels of land just east of Mount Gleason Avenue and west to the Sunland olive and orange groves.

Maintenance on the water system was challenging.  J. H. Livingston was one of the men in charge of this daunting task. The original pumps weren’t powerful enough and had to be torn out and bigger ones installed. When pumping was started to fill the reservoirs redwood plugs were driven in to the ends of the laterals to keep the water climbing, but as it reached the first of the laterals, the plugs blew out and everything stopped so the plugs could be spiked in. Upon a second start, the spike plugs held, but the next level of laterals blew. This went on at each level, with plugs continually blowing and more spiking required, until the water found its way to the high reservoir. It was also important for the man in charge of the pumps to know when the reservoir was full. Mr. Livingston built a raft outfitted with a red lantern, and floated it on top of the water. Once he saw the red glow of the lantern above the reservoir walls he knew it was time to stop pumping water.

Water was relatively cheap at a cost of one dollar per 1000 acre feet for domestic water and two and one-half cents an hour for irrigation water. Both water came from the same pipes, but the irrigation water had a schedule of delivery that was arranged with the company and operated under the authority of a “Zanchero”.  Water meters were installed in 1923.

The Haines Canyon Water Company sold to the American States Water Company, eventually selling to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Another reservoir was built with more pipes. Water would play a role in the battles over Sunland/Tujunga’s eventual annexation to the City of Los Angeles. The city would need the water to supplement their supplies as it swelled to a huge metropolis, and the small communities would benefit from supplemental water the city could provide brought in from other areas in drought years.   










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