Friday, August 19, 2016

Earp cabin, Clyde Ranch barn among local historical vestiges lost to Blue Cut fire

The burned Clyde Ranch off Lone Pine Canyon Road. On the property was the Earp Cabin, used by Virgil Earp (brother of Wyatt Earp) and original owner Almond Davis Clyde back in the 1860s. The cabin burned during the Blue Cut fire. The fire has burned 37,000 acres, 96 homes, 213 outbuildings and was 26 percent contained as of Friday morning. (Will Lester — Staff Photographer)

By Beatriz Valenzuela
San Bernardino Sun

A pair of local landmarks — the Earp cabin and an old barn on the Clyde Ranch — can be added to the historical vestiges lost to the fast-moving Blue Cut fire, which has gobbled up more than 37,000 acres of brush and chaparral in the Cajon Pass.

The fire has devastated the West Cajon Valley, decimating more than 100 homes and more than 200 outbuildings, leaving a scarred and blackened landscape in its wake.

“It’s been an absolutely devastating fire in more ways than one,” said Nicholas R. Cataldo of San Bernardino. “We’ve lost bits of history to this fire.”

Cataldo, a Cajon Pass historian, was still dealing with news of the loss of the historic Summit Inn Cafe when he learned two of the oldest structures in San Bernardino County were devoured by the massive blaze.

Thursday, the news began to spread that the Earp Cabin, as it’s known in the community, and an old barn on the Clyde Ranch along Lone Pine Canyon Road were gone.

According to Cataldo, the cabin was built by Almon Clyde with help from Virgil Earp, brother of famous western lawman, Wyatt Earp.

“A couple of the Earp Brothers — and primarily Virgil — was good friends with Clyde,” said Cataldo. “They would go up there and hunt deer. They would be up there a week at a time. It’s a real shame it was lost. If it’s not the oldest building in San Bernardino County, it was certainly one of the oldest.”

The cabin and the barn were built using square nails, Cataldo said.

“I remember Bob Clyde said they were hoping to turn (the cabin) into a little museum but they never did.” Bob Clyde was Almon Clyde’s grandson.

In 1883, Clyde acquired the property on Lone Pine Canyon Road from a member of the Swarthout family, Mormons who settled in the Cajon Pass in 1847, according to historians. Clyde established a cattle ranch and an adjacent apple orchard that is still owned and operated by the Clyde family.

“Some of those apple trees are a century old,” said Cataldo.

The scorched earth was still smoldering Friday morning around a lone, tall chimney standing sentry above the fragments of what once was the old Earp Cabin.

Clyde Ranch before the Blue Cut fire.
The barn, also built in the 1860s, was also gone. The machinery, some of it 100 years old, was twisted by the heat of the flames.

Still standing on the property is the more modern main house where members of the Clyde family still live and the service station built by Almon Clyde.

“It’s devastating to know the cabin and barn is lost,” said Zack Earp, a descendant of the legendary lawmen. Earp, 68, of Riverside, said he was glad he was able to visit the ranch at least once before the buildings were destroyed.

News of the Clyde Ranch loss was all the chatter at Mountain Hardware in Wrightwood, only a few miles from the ranch.

“It’s a shame to see it go,” Mike Troeger, owner of the hardware store, said Friday morning as he chatted with the trickle of customers who made their way into the business. Most weren’t looking to buy anything but instead wanted to talk about the fire. “Everyone knows about the history of the place.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Historian John Hockaday battled Blue Cut Fire using a Walker

NBC4 speaks with 83-year-old John Hockaday who did battled the Blue Cut Fire while using a walker. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 6 on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016)

By Mekahlo Medina

After some homeowners decided to stay and battle the ferocious Blue Cut Fire with just their garden hoses, NBC4 caught 83-year-old John Hockaday who did it using a walker.

He was one a few neighbors who stuck it out. Hockaday is known as a local historian and even at 83, even with a walker, he said he was not only protecting his house but history.

"It's an off-road walker," joked Hockaday as he was covered in soot and dirt talking about how he used his spinners to fight the fire. "The fire was coming down this way. That didn't stop it, but it slowed it down enough that I could keep up with it."

Newschopper4 flew over as he used his garden hose to battle back the flames.

Ron Snow, Hockaday's cousin living in the Bay Area, saw Hockaday on the NBC4 website and worried that he might not make it through the intense fire.

But Hockaday was too intense himself to give up.

"I was going to go down with the ship," he said. "I'm Cajon pass guy, you know?"

"Cajon Pass Guy" is an author who wrote two books about the area and was protecting the oldest house still standing in the Cajon Pass.

Built in 1928 he says and he fought all night to save it and when he ran out of water he drove down to get help.

Fire crews thought he was trespassing and detained him. He was released a couple of hours later, returned home, fire still raging, determined to save what he could.

"It's my thing," he said. "I'm Mr. Cajon Pass."

He read a poem:

"The thing that brings troubled to me is that my brain still thinks I'm 33. But no matter how much I curse and fret. Thank the Lord, I ain't dead yet."

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Unlikely reunion: Cousins meet again over coffee in Apple Valley after 70 years

Cousins meet again over coffee in Apple Valley after 70 years
A young Don Harris shines shoes at the Harvey House in Barstow in 1941, where he used to meet all the troop trains carrying the soldiers to war during World War II. (Courtesy of Don Harris)

By Rene Ray De La Cruz
Victorville Daily Press

APPLE VALLEY — Army veteran Donald Harris said he doesn’t know if it was coincidence or divine intervention that brought him and his cousin together after almost seven decades.

The 83-year-old Harris told the Daily Press that he met his long-lost cousin, Harvey Stanley, 79, about two weeks ago at Mega Tom’s restaurant on Bear Valley Road in Apple Valley.

“We were both born in Starks, Louisiana, a very small town with about 40 to 50 folks,” said Harris, as he sipped his coffee inside the eatery. “I about fell over when Harvey told me that he was also born in Starks.”

Harris and Stanley said they were both equally shocked when they discovered that Walter Harris was their uncle after they began discussing names of residents who lived in the small bayou town about 40 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico and three miles from the Texas border.

“You have to realize that Starks is a tiny spot on the map, with about 10,000 mosquitoes for every person,” said Stanley, a Navy veteran who served in the Pacific. “I think they recently had a population boom and Starks has about 600 people living there now.”

Harris said he left Louisiana at age six and visited a few times before age 10. He remembers playing with a lot of kids on his Uncle Walter’s farm, but doesn’t remember names or playing with Stanley. He added that, "with Starks being so small, we probably did cross paths at one time or another when we grew up."

The cousins also discovered that they've been living about four blocks away from each other in Apple Valley for the last 20 years, something Harris calls, “A coincidence that is beyond comprehension.”

“About six months ago, we saw this guy who was about our age group sitting at a different table inside Mega Tom’s,” Harris said. “We asked him if he’d like to join our group that meets about three times a week at the restaurant.”

With Harris having served in Korea, his girlfriend, Sheree Merrone, said Stanley’s Korea Veteran baseball cap caught her attention as the couple invited Stanley to join the senior group.

“Two weeks ago, we were at Tom’s without our group and we bumped into Harvey,” Harris said. “We finally had a chance to get a word in edgewise without the group. We started a conversation and that’s when we found out we were related.”

Merrone said she believes “Jesus brought the cousins together” and restaurant waitress Maria Pinkney remarked that the chances of Harris and Stanley meeting was “pretty astronomical,” considering how the duo’s life journey has taken them in different directions over the years.

Harris moved to California as a child when his father, who worked for Santa Fe railroad, was transferred to Barstow where an 8-year old Harris grew up and made money as a shoeshine boy at the Harvey House.

“I used to shine shoes when the troop trains came through town,” Harris said. “That was back in 1941, just after World War II started.”

As a teenager, the young Harris joined the Army and was stationed in Japan and Korea in the early ‘50s. After his time in the military, Harris returned to Barstow, then spent the next 40 years moving to Alaska, Denver, Missouri, Northern California, Oregon, Florida and Arizona.

“I moved to Apple Valley in 1998, built a couple of houses and spent a lot of time traveling by motorcycle,” Harris said. “I met Sheree in 2004 and we’ve been together ever since.”

After growing up on a cattle farm and riding bulls, Stanley said he quit school at age 17 and headed to California where he joined the Navy and met his wife, Charlotte, who lived in Downey.

“He met my parents and on my 16th birthday we went to the Pike in Long Beach,” Charlotte Stanley said. “That’s when he decided that he was going to marry me. We met in September 1955 and got married three months later.”

Charlotte Stanley, who grew up near the historic McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Florence Avenue in Downey, said she still remembers the couple ordering 15-cent burgers at the third restaurant franchised by Richard and Maurice McDonald, who founded the chain in 1948.

Harvey Stanley said he shipped out to sea and returned home just before the couple’s first daughter was born. After he was discharged in 1957, the couple spent the next 30 years living Downey, Louisiana, Lucerne Valley, the Los Angeles area before finally moving to Apple Valley in 1987.

While the couples enjoyed breakfast at Mega Tom’s, Charlotte Stanley and Merrone began chatting and quickly discovered they both lived near the Downey McDonald’s. For a brief moment, the couples thought another family connection was about to occur.

Harris and Stanley told the Daily Press they have a lot of “catching up to do” and the couples have many “double dates” planned.

“When we first met, we started having coffee as friends, now we're having coffee as family," Harris said. “I guess coming together after all these years was just meant to be.”