Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
"Wiley's Windlass" (Artist's Rendering)
(Pre-) Newhall Pass

This image appears on page 26 of Reynolds (1992) along with the following unsourced notation:

Before 1852, getting over the mountain pass between the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys was an arduous task. Entrepreneur Henry Clay Wiley, new part-owner of a hotel-restaurant-saloon, saw an opportunity to to make more money by offering to lower wagons and animals down the precipitous incline for a fee. Wiley installed and operated this massive windlass at the top of the hill.

Let's be clear: There was no such thing as "Wiley's Windlass."

Local historian Stan Walker writes (2023): "Although many documents report that a windlass was used to help get wagons over [the] pass, none give any credit to Wiley, probably because he wasn't there at the time. Wiley's windlass was invented by Reynolds."

So ... where was Wiley?

After serving in the Mexican-American war of 1846-1848, H.C. Wiley ended up in San Diego in 1852 and served as a constable there. The following year, he married an illegitimate daughter of ex-Mexican Army General Andrés Pico. The bride, Anna Maria (aka Anita), was born and raised in San Diego, which was also Andrés' birthplace (see Walker: "Henry Clay Wiley"). Wiley is identified as a San Diego County grand juror in 1854 and 1856 (San Diego Herald, June 24, 1854, and January 5, 1856). In 1857 he was still employed as a constable; in 1859 he was also a lighthouse keeper in San Diego (Walker, ibid.).

About 1859, Wiley relocated to Los Angeles County where he worked as superintendent on his father-in-law's (ex-Mission) San Fernando Rancho. He wasn't on scene in the Santa Clarita Valley until May 1864 when he took out a 5-year lease from José Ygnacio del Valle for the land that included the buildings which, from 1858-1861, served as the Overland Mail station at present-day Eternal Valley Cemetery. The land that he leased would be described today as the area surrounding Sierra Highway from about Placerita Canyon Road on the north to Beale's Cut on the south. The lease document describes it as "1½ miles north of the [stagecoach station] now occupied by said Wiley as his residence" to the southern boundary of the Del Valles' Rancho San Francisco.

Shortly before Wiley's arrival, Beale's Cut was completed, obviating the need for a windlass. The cut had already been in use for a few years prior to its completion.

An oft-cited source of information about a windlass in the Newhall Pass (aka San Fernando Pass, Fremont Pass, New Pass) is the account of J. Kuhrts as published in the Historical Society of Southern California Annual Publication of 1906, under the title "Reminiscences of a Pioneer." As suggested by the title, it should be noted that the account is given from memory, five decades after the fact:

In 1857, in company with John Searles, I left San Francisco with a big mule team for Slate Range and Los Angeles. The road we took was by the way of San Jose, Pacheco Pass, San Joaquin Plains, Visalia, Lynn's Valley, Green-Horn Mountains, Kern River, Walker's Pass, Indian Wells, across the desert and Borax Lake to Slate Range.

After unloading my teams at the mines, I made my way to Los Angeles. Then I had to make part of the road myself; no team had ever traveled that way before. The road I took was by the way of Bed-rock Cañon, and a place I called El Paso, where I was fortunate enough to find water. From there I went to Cane Springs, Desert Springs, the Sinks of Tehachepi, Oak Creek, Willow Springs, Elizabeth Lake, San Francisquito Cañon, over San Fernando Pass, where it took four yokes of cattle and a windlass to bring my team over the pass into the San Fernando Valley, and thence to Los Angeles [emphasis added].

— Leon Worden 2023

HS9029: 9600 dpi jpeg from printed image.

• Lyon's Station


Obituary d. 10/25/1898


Bio, HSSC 1898


"Wiley's Windlass"

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