WEEKLY COLUMNJohn Boston’s Time Ranger and SCV History: The Acton Hotel Burns; Telephones Come to SCV
Posted on: 03/16/2017 00:00
Phew. Just flew in from Oklahoma not just 20 minutes ago and I won’t even go near one of those “boy howdy are my arms tired” tired jokes. Was visiting some pals at the national Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum.
I mention that because it’s now a tax deduction.
I want to first thank Tom Frew for rounding up our tens of thousands of horses and saddling them up for our time traveling ride, although, next expedition, Tom, the saddles go on the back and the reins up and over the ears and not the other way around.
Saddles on the head tend to spook the horses, plus, it’s hard on their necks.
Many interesting vistas ahead, saddlepals. We’ve got sabertooth tigers in dire (get it?) need of a chiropractor, heinous crimes, heroic stuntmen, and, one of my favorite categories of local history: chimpanzees.
And whatever you do, don’t take any horseback riding lessons from Henry Mayo Newhall...
(PHOTO CAPTION: It started out humbly, as a store around 1888 with a couple of rooms in the back for lodging. Locals jokingly called it “Hotel de Acton.” Its real name was the Acton Hotel and it was started by newspaper publisher, Rudolph Nickel.
Acton was a thriving community — much larger than Newhall and Saugus together — in the 1890s. Trains would drop off tourists for the Woodbine Resort up Aliso Canyon. The tourists would take a stage from Acton to Woodbine. Nickel noted that he had to expand his little store with the beds in the back.
Clay was hauled from nearby and a Mr. Mitten formed the bricks right on the spot. The Acton Hotel would become an impressive brick two-story affair in which presidents Hoover, Cleveland, McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt would stay. The place had 14 rooms.
The stately resort lasted until the 1940s when it was the victim of arson — by the local postmaster. For the next 10 years, folks slowly carried away the place brick by brick, using the material to build patios or outdoor barbecues.)
WAY, WAY BACK WHEN
• One wouldn’t want to come right out and say it, but town founder Henry Mayo Newhall certainly flirted with being the Gerald Ford of his day. On a freighter bound for the Philippines, cabin boy Henry Mayo Newhall fell from a rigging and busted both his legs. Years later, on March 13, 1882, he fell from his horse while riding into the town which had been named after him just six years earlier. Poor Hank. A few days later he died from the accident.
• At 1:35 p.m., March 19th, 1875, the trap door open and legendary outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez fell through. He was hanged for a murder in the small town of Tres Niños, where, years earlier, he and his gang took over the entire community, raping, looting and murdering. Tibby’s last words? “Pronto.”
• We sure could use the rain. But, on the bright side, we’re not as beholding to the precipitation gods as we were during the days when our biggest industry was agriculture and ranching. For you weather buffs, here’s some of our older wet seasons. In 1883-84, we had 38.18 inches of rain and that record would hold for 60 years until the middle of World War II. The 1889-90 was a wet one, with 34.84, and then we go to 1892-93 when 26.28 inches fell. In 1913-14, we had nearly two feet of rain, but most of that fell almost all at the same time, causing big ag and property damage.
WAY, WAY, WAY, REALLY WAY BACK WHEN
• There used to be huge sabertooth mega-cats here in the Santa Clarita Valley. An entire skeleton was found on Fat Jones’ place in the 1920s. Interesting note about the big cats’ lives: they probably suffered from arthritis. A study of fossils by, of all things, a Los Angeles surgeon, noted the predators had signs of joint disorders. “The sabertooth was an ambush hunter and its method of attack was a forceful lunge onto its victim,” noted Dr. Fred Heald. Crashing at high speed into even bigger creatures and getting whipped around violently caused many spinal and leg disorders. Guess everyone was limping around during the Santa Clarita Pleistocene...
MARCH 17th, 1927
• Harvesting oil can be a dangerous profession. Eighty years back, J.J. Summers lost his foot when a huge drill came crashing down on it, smashing it to pulp. Poor guy had to have it amputated at the ankle.
• The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. announced that their communication device was finally becoming popular in the SCV. We jumped from having 74 phones in 1924 to 100 by this time in 1927. The first phone was installed here in 1900. The second one? 1911. Here’s a breakdown on total phones in service for the early 20th century for the valley: 1912 — 3 telephones; 1913-15 — it dropped back to 2 telephones; 1915-16 — 3; 1917 — 5; 1918 — 18; 1919 — 13; 1920 — 15; 1921 — 27; 1922 — 31; 1923 — 42; 1924 — 48; 1925 — 57.
• Work crews started installing telephone poles up Lyons and Wiley Canyon. Residents were promised phone and electric service by the summer of 1927.
MARCH 17th, 1937
• For centuries, Santa Clarita has had up and down seasons for drought and flood. We were in the midst of our third wettest season since they started keeping records in the late 19th century. By this date, we already had 27 inches of the wet stuff.
• The Newhall Water Co. just about finished hooking up residents. Back then, our water supply came from three giant wells, all 500 feet in depth and coming from the semi-artesian water flow near the south end of town, by the mountains. It’s the same underground system that supplied San Fernando with its water then. Two of the wells were in Railroad Canyon and a smaller one in Happy Valley. The principle well emptied into a 400,000 gallon reservoir and fed the town through a small 6-inch pipe.
• Andy Jauregui’s brand new rodeo outfit, “The Traditions of the Old West Company,” fell victim to Mother Nature. One of the problems of being in the midst of that third-wettest winter was that that kind of weather isn’t conducive to sitting in the stands and watching Western-folk wrestle steers and such. Andy took a loss his first year, but made up $85 by winning the calf-roping competition at the Palm Springs Rodeo.
MARCH 17th, 1947
• Where’s the beef? Los Angeles. We were in the top 10. Today, I don’t think we’d make the top 10,000. Sixty years back, Los Angeles ranked #9 for cattle raising of all the counties in the United States. We grazed a reported 148,916 head. Cherry County, Nebraska, was again at the top of the list with 237,888 and Elko, Nevada, where they hold that other Cowboy Poetry Fest, was #2 with 181,608.
MARCH 17th, 1957
• All that was left were a few unmelted dimes and nickels from the juke box. In the middle of the night, a suspicious blaze burnt two neighboring cafes — the Redwood and the Ranch — at the old Solemint Junction.
MARCH 17th, 1967
• The 5-Mile Grade claimed more lives. Five people were killed in a gruesome crash when a car lost control on a rain-slicked highway and spun head-on into another vehicle. It was one of the worst weeks in history for traffic accidents, with a total of eight people dead and 32 seriously injured. Number 6 was a pedestrian struck on Highway 14 and Numbers 7 and 8 were on a plane that tried to make a forced landing on Highway 99. There was a ninth victim. A San Fernando woman suffered a fatal coronary after coming upon an accident.
• Such legends as John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and countless others made movies here. A few even called Santa Clarita home. Add to the list of show business notables, Judy. Just Judy. Like, just Madonna. Judy was the talented Saugus chimp who was the co-star of the TV show, “Daktari.”
MARCH 17th, 1977
• Residents of Castaic were complaining about their terrible tasting water. Fred Lamkin noted they shouldn’t waste water up there. They should dilute it, first.
• Cal Worthington had his tiger. Magic Ford had its bull. Well. Sort of. A 2-year-old bull wandered out of pasture on San Fernando Road and moseyed into town. It was found browsing through the used car lot of the Ford dealership on San Fernando Road. It surrendered without a struggle to animal control officers.
MARCH 17th, 1987
• The war with LAFCO and its controversial leader, Ruth Bennell, continued. Bennell refused to release public documents about the upcoming election and proposal to form the City o Santa Clarita. The Signal filed a lawsuit seeking access to public records.
• This was a sad, horrific and dark day in our history. The 19-year-old son of a prominent local leader was sentenced to 15 years-to-life in prison for his role in a murder and attempted murder. The teen helped a friend kill his mother by holding her while he strangled her with a rope in her bedroom. Afterwards, the local teen bought rat poison and tried to force his friend’s 8-year-old brother to eat a peanut butter sandwich laced with the poison. The little boy refused. The child had witnessed his mother’s murder. The pastor’s son then tied the child up and drove him to Malibu with his mother’s corpse. With his two friends, the pastor’s son set the car on fire and pushed it over a cliff with the child and his mother’s body inside. The child was able to escape the wreckage call the police.
• On this date, Bob Fitzpatrick quit his presidency of CalArts to head up a new mouse project overseas: EuroDisneyland.
• The county again played the role of villain, at least to 1,000 kids in the Canyon Country Little League. The league was late in filing some routine permits and L.A. said they couldn’t use the field, period.
• One of the valley’s noted matriarchs, Olive MacDougall, died on this date. She was the wife of Judge C.M. MacDougall, the justice of the peace who was also the owner of the Saugus Cafe. Mac was known for his numerous attempts to pass the bar exam — long after he was appointed judge. Judge Mac died in 1976. Olive was 91 when she passed. She and her husband met at an Old-timers Clubhouse Dance in 1928. You might have heard of their daughter. They named a school after her: Jereann Bowman.
• It was the best stunt Jan Schultz ever pulled. The Newhall man was coming home from his daughter’s birthday party when he spotted a fiery wreckage on the freeway — and a man on fire from the armpits down, screaming: “My children! My children!” The flaming car was rolling backwards and Schultz jammed a piece of metal to stop it, then opened the back door. A blast of heat, flame and smoke hit him, but he pulled out two children, Micole Scott, 8, and Mike Mackey, 6, saving their lives. The car was smashed and a third passenger was still in the car. With a burst of adrenaline, Schultz pulled the door off its hinges and dragged the woman out. Only then did he realize she was already dead. The accident was caused by a drunk driver, who had just stopped in the middle of the freeway. He was later charged with vehicular manslaughter. Schultz was a professional stuntman and stand-in for actor Chuck Norris. Bless you, Jan Schultz, for your heroism.
Come back and visit next week here under the warming glow of your SCV Beacon. I’ll be waiting with another thrilling trailride into the yesteryears and history of this wonderful Santa Clarita. Until then — vayan con Dios, amigos!
(SCV Historian John Boston also writes The John Boston Report blog for your SCV Beacon. Don’t forget to check out his national humor, entertainment & swashbuckling commentary website — http://www.johnbostonchronicles.com/ —you’ll be smiling for a week…) — © 2017 by John Boston. All rights reserved.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Order Boston’s gripping international thriller, ADAM HENRY
AND THEN, order his 5-star cult classic adventure comedy novel, NAKED CAME THE SASQUATCH