Survey number:      Owner:      Date of discovery:

August 27, 1871: “A Los Angeles telegram of the 23rd says Lieutenant Wheeler’s party of thirty-five men led Hohn, the well-known guide, which left Independence about two weeks ago for Death’s valley, was last heard from via Desert Springs, suffering for water on the road.  About the same time another officer and party left Indian Wells for the Colorado and soon after Lieutenant Lockwood left Desert Spring Station, between Los Angeles and Owens Valley, with seventy-seven men.  These parties are all under command of and comprise the famous Wheeler Exploring Expedition, sent from Washington by the Government.  It will rendezvous at Callville on the Colorado, and proceed thence to Prescott, Arizona. –San Francisco Chronicle


From “Desert Bonanza”

April 19, 1873:  “The editor of the Havilah Miner went down from the mountains to investigate this not-too-far—off borax excitement.  Returning, he printed a little about boras and a great deal about the disappointing menus he’d been forced to subsist on during his several-day stay at Desert Station.  The editor we are led to believe from diatribe, lived very well at home, and was a frontier gourmet of no low degree’

From the April 10, 1873, Havilah Miner:

….The springs are white sulphur but the taste of sulphur is not objectionable; they are on the west side of the (Kane) lake.  Four miles north of Ball’s station (this station was just south of the dry lake) is the proper place and will be the site of the new town “BORITANA.”  Here Mr. Chapman proposes erecting his works or the reduction of borate…

He saved is real editorial zeal for his dissertation upon the food and liquid shortcomings of the station, which he began—

With the exception of a clean bed, Desert Springs station is the  biggest bilk of a place that we ever struck.  Everybody with whom we came in contact entertained  ideas of this character and expressed hen in very fiery terms.  That is, they coupled the infernal regions in their remarks.  The bar was well stocked with NOTHING except bad whiskey and stale, highly watered claret, which was modestly dispensed to gentlemen who were accustomed to having the  genuine article…

November 27, 1873: “A TERRIBLE TALE OF SUFFERING–A correspondent of the Sacramento Union thus relates the sufferings of Frank Gilbert, who recently crawled into Desert Station, almost dead from thirst, hunger and fatigue. The narrative is from the lips of the sufferer, with the declaration that nil the statements are verified by Ball, Caughlin, Lent and others. He said: “I had been at work for judge Colby of Havilah, Superintendent of the Joe Walker mine, and started with a good horse to visit the Slate Range mines, and arrived here Wednesday. After a good night’s rest I left for Slate Range Thursday morning at 8 o’clock. The weather was quite hot, but I filled my canteen with water and started off; at Mesquite Spring, eleven miles away, I found water, arriving there about noon, and after a rest I filled my canteen afresh and started for Bedrock Springs, the next water, have full and clear Instructions from Ball as to the route. These springs are a little off the road, and somehow 1 passed the trail and missed the springs; to next water was thirty miles of desert, and in the afternoon I had culled on my canteen often, and by 3 o clock I had exhausted Its contents, and by 4 o’clock was very thirsty, the sun pouring down intense heat, and the dust from a sand storm almost blinding me and my horse, now showing signs of great thirst and fatigue. Thinking to strike Bedrock Springs every rod I urged my horse forward, but as mile after mile was left behind and the sun sank behind the hills, 1 became conscious that I must have passed the springs; but I kept on until dark, and then turned to retrace my way, well aware that I must have water for my horse or I would never reach Slate Range, across that thirty mile desert; about midnight, becoming satisfied that I had lost the spring trail, I tethered my horse to a bush and slept two or three hours, but at the first break of day I started again and left the road for a canon where I thought there must be water. I went up the canon four or five miles but found no trace of water. I then began suffer intensely for water and took across the mountains, throwing away my pack to lessen the weight on the horse. At about 10 o’clock t reached the summit, when my horse weakened and refused to go a step. I tied him up and started down the canon on the east for water; the heat had now become great, and I was suffering till the agony of hell, but nerved by the thought of dying of thirst I actually ran a long way, and at last, aware that there could be no water found, started back to the spot where I left my horse. I was becoming so fully exhausted and almost overcome with the heat, and without reflection, or in delirium, I can’t say which, I took off my vest, trousers and woolen shirt and threw them away; slowly I dragged myself to my horse, mounted him and started to the west, but in a few hundred yards he again stopped and refused to go ahead. I then saw certain death before me unless I could obtain some relief. My body was exposed almost naked to the torrid sun, and was becoming blistered, my tongue was parched, swollen and sore, and I was suffering more than I can tell you; it occurred to me that my only way to live was to bleed my poor horse and drink his blood, but I had thrown away my knife with my clothing, and had no Instrument to bleed him. I hunted, around and found a piece of slate rock which was sharp on one edge, and with this I succeeded in opening v vein on the inside of the hind leg, and the blood trickled forth. I put mv mouth to the wound and moistened my tongue with the hot, pungent blood, which, though bitter and nauseous, afforded me some relief, and in a few moments f was able to swallow, and then 1 drank all 1 could; and tearing open the wound, I held my hat and caught at least a quart of blood which 1 afterwards drank and then laid down In the shade of a bush; the blood made me quite sick at the stomach for a little while, but I soon got stronger, and, conscious that my life depended on my endurance, started down the mountains, lying down frequently in the shade of bunches of sage brush; whither I was going I knew not, only that I prayed to God for strength and direction to water; I kept on until dark, and then, having reached a dividing ridge laid down; the hot air was blowing hard, and singed me like a furnace, but with my hands I dug down into the sand to moist earth and showered it over my body to cool my agony, for the relief I had experienced from drinking blood had all departed, and all my sufferings returned tenfold. At last I fell asleep and must have slept several hours (as near as I can tell, till midnight) and when I awoke the wind had become fiercer and cold, and I was so chilled and benumbed that I could scarcely move, and racking pains as sharp as a knife pierced me through and through. 1 rubbed my cramped limbs and at last got so I could stand; when by swinging my arms and stamping the ground I was enabled to walk, and although my feet were so swollen that 1 could not put on my shoes, and the sand had worn the flesh from my soles, I started about daybreak down to the eastward, and about!» o’clock, when the sun had become almost intolerable, struck the road which I came in and from the bones of a skeleton horse which I remembered, I knew I must be twelve or fifteen miles from Mesquite Springs, and although nearer Bedrock Springs; I felt it unsafe to find an unknown place, and one, too, which I had first missed, and I was assured that my only chance for life was in reaching Mesquite Springs. I started, and every half or quarter of a mile, I would dig down to damp sand and get temporary relief by a regular sand bath, and resting a little while go forward. Oh! Sir, if you only knew how I suffered during that struggle for life along that terrible road; how I prayed for a wagon; for a breath of cool air; for a drop of water to cool my fevered throat and parched mouth. My feet were bleeding, my fingers wore to the quick digging, and my tongue protruding from mouth and cracked with heat and fever; unable to swallow and almost suffocated, my body covered with burning blisters, and my strength almost gone. 1 thought of all I had ever done, of friends and life, and then came the thought of death in that terrible desert, it was horrible, so I walked and crawled along, and about 1 o’clock I think, reached the spring. I remembered now drinking water had caused death, and although I crawled and rolled into the spring, whose waters were as sweet as life, and were life, I only bathed my mouth and tongue until the swelling subsided, and then I drank a cup full or so. For about an hour I lay in that glorious spring, and gradually my fever stopped and my burning throat quenched. And then the pangs of hunger came on, and I felt almost fainting with its terrible gnawing. I then left the spring, and after the longest hours I ever knew, reached this place in the condition these gentlemen tell you. 1 shall never forget their or your kindness, and may God grant death at once rather than a second journey of sixty-four hours without water.” –Los Angeles Daily Herald

December 25, 1893:  “FROM THE MOUTH OF RED ROCK canyon a drive of sixteen to eighteen mines, continuing in the same northeasterly course from Mojave, brings one to the mouth of Goler Canyon, Midway of the distance the level road for miles skirts a dry lake, whose surface is covered with a grayish white crust of crystalline effervescence, chiefly soda and salt.  By the head of this lake is a place called Desert Springs is the headquarters of a cattle range where stock is driven from the Kern-river country for winter and spring feed on salt grass.  As a general thing these ranges are over-stocked, twenty to twenty-five acres of desert feed being none too much for one animal, so most of the poor creatures do penance for their daily lives by browsing upon greasewood, and a sorry-looking lot they are.” –San Francisco

This entry was posted in Fremont Valley, Fremont Valley Overview. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.

Back to top