March 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:


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,, 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 III: Life with the Rowley Family

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 second 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.  

This is the third of three parts. Read The Rowley's of Monte Vista Valley-Part I , The Rowley's of Monte Vista Valley-Part II.

Virginia’s Newcombe's father advised her before she headed up into the remote Monte Vista Valley. As the former Civil War sergeant under General Robert E. Lee, and the parent to a large family of all boys except for Virginia, he knew exactly how to handle “upstarts” that had closed down the one room school house tucked away in the foothills between the green Verdugo Hills and the great San Gabriel Mountains. If she had any hesitation to accept the teaching assignment that Dr. Quinton Rowley had given her for his brother Loron’s community, it was quelled by Sergeant Newcombe’s counsel, and her own experience handling her many brothers.

Undated photo of Rowley girls on the front porch.

(Photo courtesy Rowley House Collection)

For two years, Virginia taught in the little school house. Prominent Monte Vista citizen, Loron Rowley, helped her become acquainted with the schoolhouse and the remote neighborhood and eventually fell in love with her. He was ten years older than she, but the age difference didn’t seem to matter to either of them. After a two year courtship, Loron and Virginia Florence Newcombe married in 1893. He took her to his homesteaded ranch in the canyon now named after them, where the modern community of Seven Hills (Tujunga), California, sits today.

The beautiful canyon with the Rowley homestead was fortunate to have springs with water except in the late summer, aiding Virginia with her home garden and Loron with his crops. During rainy season, however, the water would wash boulders down the canyon making for adventurous living. It was also abundant with wildlife, particularly the coyotes that howled all night and raided Virginia’s chicken coops.

From their vantage point, the Rowley’s also had a view of the other ranches and homesteads as they sprouted in the Monte Vista Valley.  The Rowley family lived here until brother Quinton took over the rundown Monte Vista Hotel and asked them to manage it for him. They never let go of the ranch, and returned to it when the hotel was sold to someone else.

By 1905 Loron was buying land in the valley closer to town where school and services were nearby. Rock was the most abundant native building material, so he took advantage of this and built the first rock home in the area. Behind the magnificent little house, the backyard proved perfect for Virginia’s garden, and the chickens were brought down from the ranch and kept in a coop there.

The ever present coyotes still taunted the chickens, and the Rowley boys, Eustace and Robert, learned early on to grab their guns and scare them off in the middle of the night.  The large property also included a spring, so running water was never a problem. Nearby grass was always green from the constant dampness, allowing the family to keep horses and milking cows, as well. The children learned to milk the cows as soon as they were old enough to carry a bucket.

The fireplace mantle still retains a rustic look in the Rowley House  today.

The rock house was complete with a kitchen stove and two fireplaces, downstairs.  Upstairs, however, there was no heat. The children each had a rock with their name scrawled on it, which was warmed in one of the fireplaces, wrapped in old newspapers and put in their beds to keep their feet warm. The family cat, Smuggle, chose to sleep in the fireplace to keep warm, and often was seen walking around with slightly singed fur.

Loron and Virginia were well educated people, and took time to make sure their children were as well.  Although there wasn’t the time to read as he would have liked to, Loron often quoted from Homer’s Illiad and recited Robert Burns' poetry complete with Scottish dialect. His own education had been interrupted during his senior year at the University of Minnesota when the depression hit sending him in search of a more prosperous life in California.

Virginia focused on the children’s education, supplementing the three R’s and geography and spelling that the one-room school house provided. Rainy seasons caused the river to swell and wipe the road out to the school so often, that the Rowley’s spearheaded efforts for a new school closer to the center of town in the park. The county wouldn’t provide the money for the school, unless there were six children. The year attendance dropped to five, Virginia decided her second son was old enough to attend at age four and a half, resolving the problem.

Medical services were lean in Monte Vista Valley. Births were attended by midwives and often delivered by them if the doctor didn’t arrive in time. There wasn’t even a formal method of recording births. In the case of a serious accident, medical assistance was sought elsewhere. Young Dorothy Rowley was riding Jenny Wornum’s horse one day and broke her arm. Loron and Virginia raced her to town the four and a half miles in the rain to the train depot at Roscoe. Here they waited for the next train to Burbank where the doctor was.

Without the modern medicines we have today, even commonplace ailments could be deadly. At age fourteen, the youngest Rowley, Clara Virginia, died from an ear infection.  Virginia was schooled in home remedies, as was common in the day. Her “Senna tea” was a popular cure not only for her family, but for sick neighbors. The tea was served internally as a purge, or externally, soaked in water with turpentine, as an antibiotic.

Virginia was also noted for her meals. After deer hunting trips in the canyons, Virginia would cover the meat with wet gunny sacks to keep it fresh until it could be cooked. Sunday’s were big dinners with chicken and dumplings. The backyard garden provided the string beans, carrots, and other vegetables she needed, and homemade biscuits and cornbread completed the meal. The Rowley’s peach orchards provided fresh or preserved fruit for desert. Traditionally, this hearty meal was served mid-day. Biscuits and peaches with a mixture of honey and butter were served later in the day as a light supper. Virginia’s daughter tried to duplicate her mother’s dumplings in later years, but never quite achieved the perfection she did.

Music played a big part in the Rowley family life. Often they would be seen on the big front porch of the rock house practicing their musical instruments. Lessons were obtained from the local virtuoso, Walter Maygrove. In addition to family entertainment, Virginia, Loron, and oldest son Eustace would play at the Saturday night dances when Bolton Hall opened up in Tujunga. Folk dances, Virginia reels, waltzes, and two steps were popular.

Maintaining the rock house in town and the ranch was a chore. As more families moved into the valley there was fear that the homestead would be quick claimed by someone else. Virginia and her youngest daughters Marion and Clara Virginia often stayed at the ranch. Without modern means of communications that we have today, they would arrange an hour to signal by lantern to the family below that they were ok. 

"Red and Eustace building patio in Sunland, 1939," reads the back of this photo.

(Photo courtesy Rowley House Collection)

As the boys got older they had to ride the buggy on the mail run on Roscoe Station, and catch the train to school in Burbank. When school was over they walked the five miles to get home. By Robert’s second year of high school they were given a horse and buggy to drive ten miles to school in San Fernando. Virginia didn’t allow her daughters to attempt the difficult trek to the high school.

By 1918, the Rowley family moved to Glendale so the girls could attend Glendale High School. A family cousin bought the general store and Loron became truant officer for the Glendale School District. Slowly the land in Monte Vista Valley was sold off.

The Rowley House remains standing today as a testament to the life they lived. Their names are immortalized by canyons and streets named after them in the Sunland-Tujunga communities and San Gabriel Mountains.

Panoramic view of present day Vale of Monte Vista  (Sunland-Tujunga) looking north toward Big Tujunga Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains.



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

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




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 ( 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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