Saturday, December 29, 2012

Visit Old California at museum

Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, California.
Trevor Summons, Correspondent
San Bernardino Sun

With so much concrete around us, it's sometimes hard to imagine that life was not always this way. Take away the roar of the freeway running close by and you can begin to piece together life as it used to be at the Mojave River Valley Museum.

It's perched up above the cut that now provides access to Interstate 15, with people heading out to Sin City several hours away to the east.

Back in 1776, Father Francisco Garces came along this way as the first European to forge tracks across the almost empty land. But he was not the first human.

Long before Europeans arrived, the Native Americans used the route as a trading link, leaving behind evidence of their lives in the form of baskets and jewelry, pots and other artifacts.

Explorer Jedediah Smith came through in 1826 and soon afterward the road became a busier, and more dangerous thoroughfare. It's hard to imagine today but you took your life in your hands if you traveled this way.

The museum is quite small but crammed with a huge variety of artifacts.

Wandering around the glass-fronted cabinets, I was taken with a couple of old uniforms. They belonged to Herbert J. Simmons. He served as a soldier in World War I, and then once again as a seaman out in the Pacific in World War II. It must have been tough for those people who were of an age where they were liable for service in both those mighty conflicts.

Next to this display I came upon a little bit of history from my own past. A collection of old cameras took me back to my first real job after I left school.

It was with a company that was the English equivalent of Kodak. They made all types of photographic materials and X-ray films. They also made cameras and I was trained to take photos and develop them.

How strange that an entire industry could collapse with the invention of digital photography. No more need for developer, fixer, film or the other chemicals that made everything happen. I well remember using sepia to add that little touch of color before that too was to disappear forever.

The cameras on display here are of all types and have the bellows to allow expansion and enlargement of the image. Some of them must have been the prized possessions of enthusiastic amateurs engaged in the capture of the perfect picture.

As you wander around you will find many examples of the local geology. The variety of local rocks and minerals is surprising and will perhaps encourage you to look further at the desert all around you. It may look empty but in fact there's a lot going on.

There are plenty of reminders of the earlier people who lived and fought in the area. I liked the account of some of the local tribes who could travel 100 miles in a day. They were called runners, not surprisingly.

Outside the building is a fine example of a caboose, which served as a drovers' wagon during the cattle driving days. The bunks inside don't look very comfortable, but after a long hard day in the saddle, any flat surface no doubt was welcome.

There is a gift shop and an archive of old newspapers, describing life way back when. You will find plenty to interest you on a visit, and the docents have a full understanding of the subjects.

Mojave River Valley Museum
Where: 270 E. Virginia Way, Barstow
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Christmas
Contact: 760-256-5452,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Madonna of the Trail Statue Is Restored

Employees with Keystone Waterproofing of Greensburg, Pa., have been busy performing detailed restoration work on the Madonna of the Trail statue, located near the entrance to Wheeling Park. A mason heats granite dust, which is applied to patchwork on the memorial. (Photo by Scott McCloskey)

The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

A Wheeling statue that stands as a "memorial to the pioneer mothers of the covered wagon days" is being restored for the first time since it was erected in 1928.

The Madonna of the Trail statue, located along National Road near the entrance to Wheeling Park, is undergoing a large-scale restoration, as time has taken a toll on the historic memorial.

Employees with Keystone Waterproofing of Greensburg, Pa., have been busy performing detailed work on the statue, including: pressure washing, filling cracks and missing areas on the statue, applying clear water repellent and securing the surrounding retaining wall. Workers said they hope to have the project complete soon, weather permitting. The project was awarded through a bidding process to Allegheny Restoration and Building Corp. of Morgantown and subcontractor Keystone Waterproofing.

The restoration project, which is estimated to cost nearly $35,000, is being sponsored by the Wheeling Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp.

It is funded in part by the West Virginia Division of Highways' National Scenic Byway program, including a $1,000 gift from the Elizabeth Stifel Kline Fund and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

"The Wheeling chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution is honored to receive the largest Historic Preservation Grant available from the President General's Special Projects Grant Program to restore the Wheeling Madonna of the Trail," said Debi Smith, Wheeling chapter and state historic preservation chairwoman for NSDAR. She said the group was able to secure $10,000 toward the project from the grant program.

"The weather and time have truly taken its toll on Wheeling's Madonna of the Trail, and we are so fortunate to have local professionals who can complete the restoration work. ... We are also fortunate to have such a strong preservation organization as the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. to support and help find funding to complete various preservation projects," said Smith.

She said she loves the fact that the reddish-grey granite dust workers are using to blend with the patchwork on the statue came from the same rock quarry in Missouri that the original materials for the statue came from. She said the Wheeling Park Commission plans to take care of the landscaping at the site.

Jeremy Morris, executive director of the WNHAC, said, "The Madonna is a Wheeling icon, and we are pleased to lead this great restoration project with the Wheeling Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. ... It is a great example of Wheeling organizations partnering together."

He said a rededication for the statue is planned for next spring.

The Wheeling statue is one of 12 that were erected in 12 states between 1928 and '29 along what was then called National Old Trails Road, more commonly known today as National Road or U.S. 40. The Wheeling monument was dedicated on July 7, 1928. The statues were created by sculptor August Leimbach and were meant to honor the strength and fortitude of the pioneer women who braved the uncertainties of the great journey west and helped settle the American frontier.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Over $1 Million of Grants Mark the Upcoming 100 Year Anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

November 5, 1913-- The scene of the formal opening for the Los Angeles aqueduct.  General Adna Chafee, president of the Water Board turned the wheel that allowed the first Owens River water to flow into the aqueduct.
LOS ANGELES -- To mark the upcoming centenary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (11.5.2013), the Metabolic Studio is awarding grants to the following organizations to realize projects that will bring consciousness to the impact and importance of this monumental piece of hydraulic engineering.

The Metabolic Studio convened Chora Council 2012: a unique team of civic, tribal, educational, environmental, museum and nonprofit leaders from along the Aqueduct's 223-mile length to nominate the organizations and institutions that are receiving funding.

Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio are pleased to announce 16 Chora Council grants, representing over $1 million of funding. Providing significant support for action, research, education and community-building in the context of "one hundred years of L.A. water," the Chora docket reflects on the past century in the context of glacial time, while simultaneously acting for the coming 100 years.

Some of the recipients of Chora Council 2012 funding are:

Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University - The Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University brings people and ideas together across multiple disciplines to shape answers and envision a future in which landscapes and communities are resilient in the face of regional aridity--environmentally, culturally and economically.

Arizona State University Desert Initiative for ARID: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology - ARID is a creative and scholarly journal for contemporary works addressing desert culture, environment, and landscape. Marking the L.A. Aqueduct centenary, ARID will commission works that consider local, regional and international issues related to the social, environmental, cultural, political, engineering and economic impacts of conveying water across vast distances.

Autry National Center of the American West - An intercultural center and museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, the Autry National Center will digitize archival holdings related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Bishop Paiute Tribe's First Bloom An initiative of the Bishop Paiute Tribe - First Bloom is an environmental education program that connects 4th and 5th grade children to the outdoors and Native American culture. Tribal elders and historians will lead activities that teach the values and history of water, while emphasizing the Owens Valley's native peoples' strength through struggles imposed by land trades and water exports.

California State University, Northridge, Special Collections and Archives - The Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge will digitize archival holdings related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, including the recently acquired Catherine Mulholland Collection.

Claremont University Consortium's Honnold/Mudd Library - The Special Collections department of the Honnold/Mudd Library at Claremont University will digitize archival holdings related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, including Fred Eaton's photograph album and typescript documenting his trip to Owens River Valley in November 1905.

Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery - In partnership with the University of California's Institute on California and the West, the Huntington Library will sponsor three events designed to bring historical perspective to water and aqueduct themes to draw attention to, and comment upon, issues of contemporary interest and concern regarding Los Angeles, water, the aqueduct, the Owens River/Valley and water use more generally.

Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation (LPPSR) - The Lone Pine Paiute - "Water Ute" - fought for their lands and water when settlers claimed both in the 1850s. By 1937, when the Reservation was formed, the diversion of local water to L.A. had already, in turn, destroyed the settlers' agricultural economy. Today the approximately 350 LPPSR residents depend on LADWP for water access. This Chora Council award will support charitable and educational activities on the Reservation that work to preserve and protect the Reservation's cultural heritage.

Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy (SLRC) - Dedicated to preserving and enhancing the benefits of Silver Lake's open waters and open space, SLRC will erect information kiosks that engage the history, ecology, infrastructure and future of the reservoirs to tell "The Story of Water in L.A."

The Eastern California Museum - Dedicated to the cultural and natural history of Inyo County and the Eastern Sierra, the Eastern California Museum will produce a yearlong series of events and programs to commemorate the completion of the L.A. Aqueduct. The series will support the Museum's exhibition of photographs exploring construction of the Aqueduct, a steel thread that has woven through life in the Owens Valley for over a century.

University of California Press Foundation's Boom: A Journal of California - A cross-disciplinary quarterly from the University of California Press, Boom embraces scholarly and less usual formats, including artworks and first-person accounts, to explore California. Boom will commission critical interpretive surveys of the L.A. Aqueduct and its historical, cultural and ecological legacies from prominent scholars, independent writers and critics.

University of California, Riverside, Water Resources Collections and Archives - The Water Resources Collections and Archives collects contemporary and historic materials on all aspects of water resources. It will digitize archival holdings related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, including the Lippincott Collection, which contains more than 800 photographs documenting the construction of the Aqueduct.

William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) - The Department of Archives and Special Collections of the William H. Hannon Library at LMU will digitize archival holdings related to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, including editions of the Big Pine Citizen 1922-1928, and the J.D. Black papers, which provide a view of the L.A. Aqueduct from the perspective of Owens Valley residents.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Big Bear Historical Society members take artifact for museum

An example of an arrastre used during the Gold Rush to crush ore to remove gold. Three members of the Big Bear Valley Historical Society pleaded guilty in December 2012 to stealing a historical artifact -- a similar arrastre -- from the San Bernardino National Forest. (U.S. FOREST SERVICE)

By Brian Rokos, Staff Writer

Three members of the Big Bear Valley Historical Society who were convicted of stealing a historical artifact from the San Bernardino National Forest were simply trying to preserve Big Bear-area history and didn’t mean to commit a crime, one of the members said.

One big problem — they took the artifact without permission.

David North, 66, Jean Karwelis, 50, and Donald Schaub, 77, all of Big Bear Lake, pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to removing a prehistoric, historic or archaeological resource, structure, site, artifact or property from National Forest Service lands, according to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The item was an arrastre, which was used during the Gold Rush period around 1860 to grind ore that contained gold. An arrastre consists of a circular, stone-lined pit and a drag stone that was pulled in a circle by a horse or mule.

Scores of arrastres survived the period, but most have been destroyed or vandalized, according to a news release on the case issued Friday, Dec. 14.

This arrastre was part of an exhibit on the Gold Fever Trail at the Metzger Mine in Holcomb Valley, north of the Big Bear valley.

Schaub said in a phone interview Friday that the arrastre had been vandalized and that he, North and Karwelis wanted to take it back to the Big Bear Valley Historical Museum, which the historical society runs, to repair it.

“I had no idea that this was a historical arrastre. I thought it was just a bunch of messed-up rocks,” Schaub said. “I’m not a thief. I wanted to help the museum.”

But Schaub also said that there were no plans to return the arrastre to its original site.

“We were going to leave it at the museum for the future people to see,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry C. Yang said in a phone interview that the historical society members did not have permission to take the arrastre.

“This is a big deal,” Yang said. “These are things we need to protect and people need to respect.”

The three defendants each were fined $1,000. Also, they must replace the arrastre in its original location under the guidance of a Forest Service archaeologist. The charge was a misdemeanor.

“This sends a clear message that it is not OK to loot archaeological sites,” Bill Sapp, a Forest Service archaeologist, wrote in the news release.

Forest Service spokesman John Miller said in a phone interview that theft of artifacts from national forests is a problem, but that prosecutions are rare because the thefts are seldom witnessed. The artifacts “wind up in someone’s backyard,” he said.