An old blacksmith's shop is the newest exhibit at the Mojave River Valley Museum.
By Trevor Summons
The San Bernardino Sun
I was leaving the city of Barstow the other day, when I thought that I would just stop in at the Mojave River Valley Museum. It had been two years since I went there and it’s always an interesting place to visit.
I was glad that I did as the president of the organization, Robert Hilburn, was on hand to show me their latest acquisition. It was a blacksmith shop that originated in the 19th century and was now in full operation again.
Initially, I was surprised because I expected to see a large fire in a corner, but the shop here has a wheelbarrow-type container that was the main fire source.
“We use a mixture of coal and coke,” Hilburn explained.
He himself is an experienced metal worker and knows about the blacksmithing art.
“Coal burns hot, but then there is charcoal that burns even hotter,” he explained. “For the best heat you have to have coke.”
Coke is a refined form of coal that has had the impurities removed. When a current of air is passed through the burning embers, the heat intensifies enough that metal can be worked and reformed.
Hilburn puts on regular demonstrations in this compact workshop, but for my interest, he showed me some tricks with cold metal.
Rolling a rod of metal on an anvil, he showed me how a blacksmith would hit the rod where the light shines beneath it.
“That’s where the term ‘beating the daylights (out of you)’ came from,” he said.
The Mojave River Valley Museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Before the collection exhibits were gathered, most of the items were stored in people’s garages. An offer from the San Bernardino Museum allowed the use of a building, the writing of a catalog and storage of a wide range of artifacts.
If you would like to see a demonstration of the blacksmith’s work then it’s necessary to make an appointment. They will be happy to oblige.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Monday, February 3, 2014
A map of the area from the early 1900s.
By Nick Cataldo
San Bernardino County Sun
For centuries the Cajon Pass has served as an important gateway into Southern California, from its earliest days as an Indian trail right up to the present-day 15 Freeway. In the interim, a plethora of trails evolved over the years to accommodate the ever-changing needs of travelers — mule caravans, freight wagons, settlers — and finally the dawn of the automobile. This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of those arteries, known as the National Old Trails Road.
Shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, the horse drawn wagon was slowly being replaced by the horseless carriage as the primary method of road travel. And before long, the Automobile Club of Southern California, which was founded in 1900, campaigned for state and federal aid to connect a series of old wagon roads into a cross-country automobile highway.
Judge J. M. Lowe of Kansas City, Mo., promoted this novel idea at the National Good Roads Convention in Oklahoma City in 1910 and the first National Old Trails Road convention was held in Kansas City in April 1912.
When the first of automobile thoroughfare (albeit dirt all the way) ran through the Cajon Pass and across the Mojave Desert in 1913, it was actually known as the Santa Fe-Grand Canyon-Needles Highway.
|National Old Trails Road inthe early 1900s.|
On Oct. 20, 1914, a special election held in San Bernardino County voted to surface the road at 16 feet wide with crushed limestone aggregate and asphaltic binding.
Much like its better-known successor — Route 66 — the National Old Trails Road extended from Los Angeles through the San Bernardino Valley and meandered through the Cajon Pass before continuing into the Mojave Desert heading east.
Initially, traffic over the National Old Trails Road was minimal. According to the Auto Club, 419 motor vehicles traveled the road in 1914. However, traffic increased over the next few years — 1,367 in 1915, 1,774 in 1916, 2,607 in 1917, and, despite wartime restrictions, 4,240 cars passed over it in 1918.
To meet the growing demand for services along the highway, a number of stores, gasoline stations and tourist camps sprang up almost overnight. The most pressing need for climbing the Cajon grade from San Bernardino was water for overheated engines. Automobiles in those days did not have the super cooling systems of today’s vehicles, and many were the motor cars that were obliged to pull to the side of the road with steam rising from their boiling radiators.
The driver proceeding up the National Old Trails Road from San Bernardino came first to the small railroad siding of Verdemont, eight miles from town (but now part of San Bernardino), where water for radiators was available. Two and a half miles further was the small community of Devore, where gasoline, water and groceries could be obtained.
Beyond Devore, Cajon Canyon narrowed considerably as mountains closed in on both sides.
In four miles the driver passed Keenbrook, another railroad siding where water was available. Just beyond, the highway and the Santa Fe tracks close on the left twisted through the narrow defile of Blue Cut to Cozy Dell, shaded by great oaks, with its grocery store and gas station.
A mile and a half farther was Cajon Station, where fuel and supplies were available. Another half mile brought the driver and his passengers to Camp Cajon, a public campground with 50 cement tables, stoves and restrooms built by William Bristol, a wealthy citrus rancher from East Highlands. The AAA rated Camp Cajon, dedicated on July 4, 1919, as one of the best in the west.
A mile and a half beyond was Meeker’s Store, café and garage, founded by Marion Meeker in 1919. Two miles further on, the National Old Trails Road crossed the Santa Fe tracks and passed Alray Station, the last water stop before the final climb to the 4,200 foot Cajon Summit. If the driver didn’t tank up before this stretch, his engine would be boiling well before he reached the top.
Finally, if the driver made it to the summit, 25 miles or so from San Bernardino a welcome “oasis” greeted him known as the original Summit Inn. Established in the early 1920s, it was here that the weary traveler was accommodated with a café, store, gasoline station and garage. Serving as the main stopping point on the highway before dipping down into the Mojave Desert, the Summit Inn was a popular rest stop. Needless to say, the Summit Inn garage did one heck of a business fixing overheated engines.
Wow, those were the days. With thoroughfare improvements and the christening of Route 66 in 1926, the National Old Trails Road has evolved into a forgotten piece of our history.
If you would like to find out more about the National Old Trails Road, as well as other fascinating Cajon Pass history, on March 22, I will be teaching “Exploring the Cajon Pass,” a one-day course that is offered through the Cal State San Bernardino Office of Extended Education.
The class is a field trip involving a vehicle caravan, some walking and visits to many historical sites.
The course, which has a fee of $83 for no credit and $140 for one unit of credit, will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
There will be an optional no-host breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Summit Inn, 5960 Mariposa Road, Pinion Hills, before the start of the trek.
For information or to register, call the Office of Extended Education at 909-537-5975.