Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

The Story of Ranger Bill Jenkins of Castaic, California, 1835-1916.

Webmaster's note.

As he explains at the end of this story, the writer met William W. Jenkins, the "Baron of Alcatraz and Casteca" — he claimed to own both — in 1908, eight years prior to the subject's death, and befriended him and his family and conducted research into topics relevant to Jenkins' life.

Physically, Jenkins' legacy is the Stonegate subdivision in Castaic, which had been Jenkins' Lazy Z Ranch. Historically, Jenkins' legacy is a colorful tale of California life shortly before, during and after the time of the American takeover. Perhaps most memorable today is the Jenkins-Chormicle "range war," which pitted two arch-rivals against one another in a fight for rights to land in Castaic. Chormicle eventually "won" the war, convincing a court to uphold his claim to some 2,000 acres of land in Castaic to which he held a U.S. patent. The present story includes a discussion of the war through Jenkins' filter.

Nothing is altered from the original save for some punctuation (the writer generally used dashes in place of commas, and numbers in place of numerals); and the words "through" and "although," which appear as "thru" and "altho" in the original. The reader will note that some sentences are incomplete despite their tremendous length and occasional repetitiveness. The original manuscript is typewritten and contains no chapter headings or separations; separations have been added here.

Attached as an addendum to the manuscript (included here, at the end) is a transcription of the agreemnent among Jenkins, Sanford Lyon and Henry C. Wiley to drill the first oil well in Pico Canyon in 1869.

The boy was born in Circleville, Ohio, October 12, 1835. In the family Bible he was recorded as William Willoby Jenkins. William preferred to be called "Wirt" and eliminated Willoby. So, William Wirt Jenkins carries through.

He came to the West in 1851 and in the next sixty-five years he took a hand in everything — high, low, Jack-and-the-game — apparently rode California from ocean to mountains, indeed to the limit. He came through with a sense of humor, a grand group of friends, and passed on with a smile and a wave of his hand.

Step-by-step, day-by-day, shot-by-shot, this Ranger and his kind gave to all posterity a chance of better living. It is rather amazing that there is even the will to live eighty-one years, but the California of today was molded and melded by such wiry factors as Ranger Bill Jenkins of Castaic, California.

Elizabeth Myers Jenkins, his mother, became a widow by reason of the death of her husband, Richard Jenkins, and married Mr. George Dalton. Then the Dalton family moved West to Los Angeles, arriving at that city (via Aspinwall and San Francisco) on March 10, 1851, with Ranger Bill now 16 years of age. His brother, Charles M., accompanied the family. The senior George Dalton brought three children by his first wife, Mary Ann Sage: George Dalton Jr., Elizabeth M. Dalton (Mrs. W.H. Perry) and Mrs. John D. Crum. His second marriage records Winnall Travelly Dalton, Edwin Henry Dalton, Nathaniel Myers Dalton and Josephine S. Dalton (Mrs. Charles V. Hill). These ladies and gentlemen moved into the top levels of everything western in this West — and the wheels of California as a state were just beginning to turn — although Alcalde was still the title for Mayor-plus.

On arrival in this land of gold which had called forth one of the greatest migrations of peoples, everyone with hardly an exception ran for the mountain canyons and streams for that gold. The brother of George Dalton had lived in this country for many years and had had grants of land — thousands of acres, from the Mexican government — and Mr. Henry Dalton, not only rated high internationally and intellectually, also owned Azuza, and the San Gabriel area, and there is where Will Jenkins headed for — and amusingly related years later just what happened. He had gone for gold, which resulted "in two years farming experience from the effort." In 1853, Harris Newmark in his "60 Years in Southern California" noted him working for Douglas, Foster and Wadhams at the corner of Commercial and Main streets.

Then came the vigilante era. The Indians were on the aggressive. The Mexicans of Sonora[1], principally, were belligerently making banditry a constant exercise. The sheriff could not employ enough regular deputies; county taxes totaled an insufficiency. So, with the inspiration of Joaquin Murrieta, a gangster of the Range, the community developed the volunteer Rangers — and so, volunteer Ranger Bill Jenkins started in his California career, to be eventually called "Judge," "Registrar," the "Baron of Alcatraz and Casteca"; and how he did grow into a western efficiency from 1851 to 1861 when the Civil War began. He widened his friendly circle, learned the use of weapons; horses became full-time friends — and Kentucky rifles, Bowie knives, pocket Derringers and Colts. He became competent to carry arms in California, and it could be that he was able to learn how to properly mark his weapon as the record grew.

The names of Joaquin Murrieta and Tiburcio Vasquez were among the bandits of distinction in a murder-and-highwayman sense, and while their cruelty called for their elimination, a certain fast-moving bravery left rather a permanent engraving. While the excitement of the Murrieta chase was on — and the Rangers followed him to the death — there is an indelible record extant in the writings of Major Horace bell, who in addition to Law edited the weely Porcupine and stated, "Ah, yes, Ranger Bill Jenkins, I remember you from the Murrieta days." And in one of his descriptions of the Rangers he wrote with a swing: "These volunteer Rangers were led by a dashing four — Major Horace Bell, Billy Reeder, Bill Jenkins and Cy Lyons." When the crusading Rangers started on a punitive expedition, they seemed to go through to conclusions. The Owens River Indians' horse-stealing excursions annually , clear down to Don Benito Wilson's Providencia Rancho, were never repeated after the Rangers rode nearly a thousand miles on a convincing ride, indeed. Such historic incidents plus statements "that Ranger Bill just waded into the shooting on the law side," and that "he always leaned toward helping the underdog" — these echoes of approval encourage the use of "Ranger" instead of "Mister" for a man whom each day meant decisions with realistic understanding. There was no written law applicable, and when a contest occurred in a canyon on a matter of right — water right, or gold, or even imaginary — they had to be settled on the spot, or die! Many times they settled it — and died. The laws governing mining rights, water, or power lights — over the world today — have been aided by the rough, hard, murderous conditions that tried to down Ranger Bill Jenkins' type. There was almost a deadline every day.

In his 65 years of California training, he was slowed up seven times. Seven different shots stopped him temporarily, but after all, his name was not very clear on all of them. From gossip it might be said that twice that many bullets were passed by the seven — en route. Even when he was 77 years of age, and ambushed, he came on back strong, with the aid of his two fine daughters and a wife who in her baby days in Illinois was rocked in the arms of Abraham Lincoln. He grew to know the difference between Ireland's "Uisge" (the Mountain Dew), Scotland's "Whiskey" and the hailing days of "Bourbon" "Whisky." His knowledge of horses brought Lucky Baldwin and Santa Anita ito the picture. And as to poker and gambling, he was cunning, able, rough and clever, and the way he is alleged to have taught the most picturesque gambler in the West a lesson still echoes down the corridors of California. Jack Powers was the gambler de luxe — sartorially perfect, educated, a sharpshooter with a gun and his mind; smooth, ultra-clever in all games of chance including la femme; fearless. The word got around that Jack Powers was in town and was going to sit-in a game at the Plaza that night, and quite a crowd stood up almost all night to see the Powers-separator work. The players were keen and the luck of Powers seemed a natural, and it was all going his way when a series of bets added hundreds to the pot; then Powers threw in his last $800 as his final — and that raise caused Ranger Bill Jenkins to hesitate, and then to say, "I don't want to ask a favor, and I would call, but I have no more money. So, I make this suggestion: It is now 3 a.m. If you'll seal the hands — give them to the bartender — I'll have time to get over to a friend in Boyle Heights, get the money and call you. If I am not back by 7 a.m., you win." It was agreed.

Then with the dim light of a dawn around, a graceful swing into the saddle, a pat on the palomino's neck, the figure of a Centaur pointed East to Boyle Heights over the river until Uncle Billy Workman was shouted out of his sleep, passed out $800, and Ranger Bill was off to the West. In good time he barged into the crowded room, matched the bet — and won. And all he had was two deuces. Powers had only ace high, no-pair hand. This story is probably quite true; the voice of Ranger Bill Jenkins is recalled telling the tale. On the trail of a California degree, incidents like these are rather a proof that there is some reward for learning, courage and decision. But one thing leads to another...

In the late 1850s, many miners began to drift south, away from the gold and towards the breadbasket — agriculture — in Southern California. Ranger Bill Jenkins went north, however. The press had an item that caused many a smile, but with this young man it was a call to action. It seems that Thomas E. Parrish, a recent arrival in San Francisco, had registered at the noted old Rassette House at Sansome and Bush and was quoted as saying, "There are rats by the million. After dark you have to kick them from the sidewalks as you walk." In a very few days he collected and crated about 100 cats, hauled them down to San Pedro and sent them by ship to San Francisco where he sold them for approximately $8,500 — nearly $100 apiece — and his cost was around $1 each. Most of these dollars were given to the so-called laundries, so wonderfully efficient in San Francisco as separators of "fools and his money," but Ranger Bill Jenkins took it in stride.

The so-called laundries of San Francisco were known to be the most efficient cleaners of pockets, even to the last fleck of gold dust, and enabled the stranger to go home quickly. All over the West, the progress of the gold miner, the speculator, the gambler in the crossroads, the small towns, the villages, the valleys, the mountains, the canyons and the deserts was through the winning of an aggregate grand total — and then build up the lovable San Francisco. Could it be that the gambling had anything to do with growth, prestige and charm? If so, could this be an industry that definitely should be anchored in the home spots, in the sources, or must we go to a cleaning center and kow-tow to the experts? These thoughts, encouraged by Ranger Bill's experience, bring to mind the Chinese in California:

In 1848, there were 2 males.

In 1852, there were 11,780 males, 7 females.

In 1870, there were 116,000 altogether, at the conclusion of transcontinental railroad construction.

Chinese centers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York were the centers of gambling — and much of everything else that makes police records grow voluminously. The establishment of a Chinatown of thousands — this applies to the Chinaman of pre-1912 — the man of the queue, the loose-hanging sateen clothing, the shows of custom and the cap — all of which at that time were part of the slave costume edict of Kublai Khan, and continued through the Manchus even to Sun Yat Sen's successful revolution.

Before Ranger Bill Jenkins began to use his own wit to take the world wherever he could, he had to learn from the past. He worked in a store of a civic leader, and one day he sold a saddle to someone — and just plain forgot whom. His employer said, "Mail a bill to everyone, and the one who doesn't kick is the buyer." The smiling outcome was that five saddles were paid for, and one family paid for a saddle they did not get and refused to pay for a tablecloth that they actually did get but apparently forgot it.

In 1850, the gold call of the northern part of the state attracted the immigration of the hundreds of thousands, but in the southern part of the state, when the Jenkins brothers arrived in the Census, Los Angeles was 1,610, which in 1860 became 4,400, which only led to 5,614 in 1870 — and many events occurred in these 20 years. From around 1854 the outlook was dull, overcast and unrestful, accentuated by the writings of Judge Hayes, a respected circuit judge for a decade. There was a great shortage of feed on the ranchos, and many sections of the country were actually denuded and poverty-stricken. The Pacific Sentinel published in terrific and increasing tempo its comment on the time with a particular sense of the approach of the year 1856 — the great Vigilante year over the entire coast. "It is a strange year, curious, excitable, volcanic, hot, windy, dusty, thirsty, murdering, bloody, lynching, robbing, thieving season. Sonora Town Mexicans increased strikingly. Banditry on a big scale was very active. Large bands of a hundred riders had to be met and broken up. In all of California, the Citizenry group could hardly keep up to the pace of the highwaymen who stopped at nothing except a better armed force of the Law group. The same Pacific Sentinel in '56 said, "This is not an insurrection but a necessary stoppage of bad habits, both of government in the North and the irresponsibles [sic], numerically, in the South." This reference to the South meant that a lot of trouble had been caused by Ranger Bill Jenkins, now deputy to Sheriff Alexander. In carrying out his official duties, Jenkins had killed a prisoner, Antonio Ruiz, and the reaction from the numerous Mexican contingent meant deep trouble for weeks. Even Judge Hayes was shot at, by Benito Lugo and Salomon Pico. Even the priest was robbed by Carrierga, but Ed Hines shot Carrierga; and Esparza from Baja, California, shot Pico; however, Lugo died in bed.

The Jenkins shooting of Antonio Ruiz in 1856 was very serious. The deputy was immediately arrested, evidence quickly adjudged and trial and acquittal under Judge Hayes was the course of justice. However, an untoward incident stopped the possibility of a neighborhood entente cordiale The shooting, the trial, acquittal and return-to-duty within a very few hours paralleled the funeral rites of the hundreds of Mexican friends, so when the mourners saw the shooter of their friend back on the policing job as if nothing had happened, the mob spirit began to flare, and in a body they approached the sheriff's headquarters with the threat of a killing attack. Sheriff Alexander, however, and his defensive plans showed clearly his purposes, too, and the Mexicans faltered, then scattered. Following this episode, it was unsafe for anyone to be on the streets or to leave the home without protection. The newspaper El Clamor Politico, a Spanish-language paper, published the explanation of Judge Hayes, but the Mexican peoples, still resenting the political loss of California to the U.S.A., kept up a sort of feud; and even as late as May 1860, Lieutenant Governor of Baja, California, Esparza, stated that "he had just chased former Deputy Sheriff Jenkins out of Mexico clear to Santa Ysabel and had issued orders to kill him on sight." Esparza even charged Ranger Bill with burglary, but Judge Hayes canceled the charge as the Jenkins relationship were too responsible to permit such a charge. The judgment of time leans to the logic that the arresting or punitive officer has to be on a double-alert in dealing with men known to be rather uncertain as a peaceful citizen, but while Ranger bill was making history in the Southland; a shooting quite similar was going on in the North, with a sill wider ramification.

A deputy sheriff in Yreka, California, shot a prisoner, with this difference: The Yreka officer was pretty well beaten up before he shot the prisoner. In the South, the deputy did not wait to be beaten up. The San Francisco Herald printed a full page of the Jenkins-Ruiz affair and the Yreka duplicate, condemning both, but considering the southern case the most criticisable. This newspaper opposed completely the Vigilante plan under the William T. Coleman leadership, and as a consequence lost all advertising of business and professions who were all enlisted in the purpose to make San Francisco safe to live in. The Herald faded away. The need of organization was clear to meet the situation in San Francisco — where the underworld practically controlled the city — and when murders became too frequent, without punishment — in fact a murderer had really more chance to live into a future after his trial than anyone else — the 9,000 citizen-business factors joined forces and discouraged a good many vicious underminers of good government; prior to joining together, they were knocked of singly, but as a joined movement they hanged a few, banished many, and this movement seems to be almost alone in commendation for the way it worked ex-law. The first Vigilantes sessioned one month, the second about three months and the third, a few days. There was a fear that in some way the Vigilantes were affiliated in some devious way with the pro- and anti-slave movements that resulted in war in '61.[2]

The existence of the Vigilantes of 1856 showed what a strong peoples, ably led, could to, even extra-legally, and added inches to the stature of a San Franciscan.

As of 1856, Ranger Bill Jenkins was now 21 years of age, and every road that pointed to California, every ocean channel, was carrying thousands to carry on this wonderland, which early in the next century would be millions — and this 21-year-old was one of those that prepared the way for the "wise men of the East." He did so much, so many facets of life he helped develop, some possibly criticisable, but he was the California type of pioneer that "rang the bell"; he moved forward usually, but he moved.

In a land that sparkled with gold of the ages, that overflowed with the oil the world needs, that in many ways, spiritually and physically, added to the health and laws by living them through — the Bill Jenkins type need not be aggrandized or belittled, but definitely deserves the deference and recognition that we are pleased to record; why, Ranger bill Jenkins contributed something on every level. The sequences of his life make California memories tingle. Think of it: the deep drama of the '56 Ruiz episode; the Peralta-Arizona-Reavis affair involving millions and bringing such names as Robert Ingersoll, Collis P. Huntington to accent something truly spectacular, however fraudulent; and the "Alcatraz" inheritance from "El Templito" (F.P.F. Temple) — the latter has been in a sort of coma for some time and stems back beyond John C. Fremont and his court-martial. Ranger Bill knew horses, and knew well Lucky Baldwin — and when the Baldwin Colors won on the tracks of Saratoga, Jenkins had part of the training on his Castaic Ranch and knew them all by their first names. And his effort as Registrar and as Justice of the Peace in the northern part of Los Angeles County (Newhall) — this statement was made in a trial where he was a witness — sought to protect an old Mexican edict as to filings on agricultural lands or mining lands in the Castaic District.

Of the seven times that Ranger Bill Jenkins was shot in his 65 years of California, four of them occurred because of his conscientious effort to prevent agricultural filings in the area which had no lands large enough to be self-supporting. The limits of this area were through the Castaic from Piru to the lakes, Elizabeth and Hughes, down to Newhall. Prior to the American occupation, the Mexican government, at the insistence of the Alcalde of Los Angeles, encouraged an edict from Mexico City, D.F., permitting only mineral-mining areas to be filed upon. And for many years Jenkins constituted himself the adviser to anyone contemplating agricultural filing. Until one day an alert settler took all the tricks. Jenkins had used every legal means to prevent or discourage the more recent settler, but the man had aces up his sleeve. He reached into his treasure chest, or somewhere, and pulled out some of the Railroad scrip, wherein the U.S. government had granted priorities over other documents or cash even, and the settler took over the land he sought. The courts disapproved of Ranger Bill's contention.

It should be known that in 1769, Spain, with Father Junipero Serra of the Church and Don Gaspar De Portola of the Army moved into California at San Diego, and governed with hardly an interest until 1821, when Mexico (New Spain) revolted. So Spain actually controlled 52 years, and Mexico only had an indefinite possession until 1846, with the California citizenry opposing the Mexican Revolution and supporting Spain. Mexico ruled Alta California for only 25 years. This whole area was granted by the Mexican government to the Covarrubias family — much of which is now in possession of the Newhalls of San Fran.

The changeover from Mexican political control to the state of California, U.S.A., and the arrival of Ranger Bill Jenkins so near the date meant that he and his type carried on the development that is so appreciated today (1952). Among the many actions of the Mexican government in the 25 years of their control — 1821-1846 was the elimination of the Franciscan control of the Missions — the control and sale of the thousands of acres of land by the Mexican government — the Indians of the Missions were thrown on their own, after having been nurtured and educated for about 60 years — and many events were developing, as for instance oil, called at the time "dirty, tar, coal oil," and around Pico, California, the seepage was so fluid and of such refinement that Ranger Bill and the majordomo of the old San Fernando mission and the few priests — now only spiritual advisers to the Indians — used to take trips to a flowing seepage and fill no-leakable rawhide bags from which the padres at the Mission and up at Camulos drew off their fuel for lighting. The beginnings in California of the magic in one finger of God, and just one of the blessings, in the aid of better living [sic]. It was the discovery of gold in 1842 in the Placerita Canyon near Newhall that the records of the Mint in Philadelphia shows as the first record of California gold. In 1854 within a few miles of the Castaic Ranch of the Jenkins gold was taken out of Feliciana Gulch amounting to over $65,000. Francisco Garcia[3] did the mining, aided by the spring at the head of the canyon. When gold fell in production, oil superseded, and still majors in California, with citrus, cotton, land and ocean boulevards and people, all supporting what the old-timers prophesied before they knew of most products — the climate, which they claimed to be the most long-lived and livable anywhere. (California is rated, in a population sense, second in the nation in '52.)

The canyons of Southern California never did attract the thousands that flooded into Columbia, Placerville, Weaverville, et al., but even in Newhall, California, the principal town within Ranger Bill Jenkins' vision, it was necessary to have gold scales; and a very fine, extremely valuable Scales was placed in the Lindenfeldt Store — Scales tuned to the finest of weights — and the Camptons, the Jenkins, the Powells, all used it, including many Indians. It is well known that a "pinch" of gold dust was good for a "drink" or a "dollar." It was in this area that Jenkins' official title was Judge. He bought one nugget, with Cy Lyon, from Jose Mariposa valued at $1,928, and John Shumacher bought one gold nugget for $800 and traded for the whole corner of First and Spring Sts., Los Angeles — eventually a high-value estate.

Many actions of the Mexican government between 1821 and 1846 had repercussions throughout Alta California: the absorption of the several million dollars in the Pious Fund by President Santa Anna and stoppage of any support for any angle of the Franciscan effort; the inability of the Texan to live under the regime that took over Mexico from Spain, and the ability of the Texan to use the same kind of methods that Mexico had used in severing her Mother-Nation — had something to do with Alta California but the only point to touch on here seems to be, "Why did the U.S.A. grant $16.8 million (with interest) for Alta California — to Mexico — when we were actually occupying Vera Cruz, Chapultepec, etc.?" It seems to be the policy of the U.S.A. to pay heavily if it wins a war; may she never lose one!

Memorandum of interest:

Mexico ousts Spain — 1821

Texas ousts Mexico — 1836

Mex. Wars USA — 1846-1848, Treaty 2/2/48

California occupied — 1846

California a state — 1850, Sept. 9.

In the early days of California there were habits and conditions that developed around this particular kind of an immigration — that is, the young, vigorous, single man; he had to be able to stand about every hardship and shortage. In some of Ranger Bill's appearances in court, opposing lawyers would sneeringly advance a remark like, "How does it happen that you are always to be found at the gambling centers, the drinking bars and similar?" and Ranger Bill expressed amazement at the questions, stating, "These were the only places of warmth, fellowship, gaiety, discussion; such spots were really the city's Forum; you would borrow money, you could help a friend, you could actually sing a song, alone or with others!" For the first several years of the gold fever, the so-called home life of a normal Eastern city simply wasn't.

During the years of approach to the Civil War, 1861-1865, the serious differences between what were called North and South, free and slave, white and black, state's rights divided the pioneers from the very beginnings of the state, and back of that controversy was the not improbable foundation of the Pacific Republic which would eliminate the traditional enmities of North-South, it was felt. So far as slaves went, the California land had no problems of mass labor, after the railroads canceled the Chinese labor — so the Southern leaders who were now making a state Constitution could not intelligently oppose the clause "wanting no slaves." But John C. Calhoun, in one of his final speeches, almost smothered the borning California in vituperation. Southern minds did make a bow to traditions of Eastern controversy and wrote: "No Negro or Red Indian is allowed to testify in any action in which a white person is a party." Written '49, canceled '63.

During the first 30 years of Ranger Bill's life in Southern California, the Indians gradually disappeared, for many reasons; among them were their inherent diseases such as tuberculosis, a certain paucity of needed foods, the effects of the Spanish-Mexican-American and foreign immigration and their dissipations and diseases. It was during this period that the cruelty to the red Indian was stressed in a great novel named "Ramona," by its author, Helen Hunt Jackson, climaxed by the killing of Indian Alessandro by the American invader ruffian. The book became as much of a factor in California as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of Harriet Beecher Stowe became for the slave situation in the U.S.A. The alleged cruelties against the red Indians of the Southwest might be compared iwtwh the Cortez affair in Mexico, the Pizarro affair with the Incas, the Inquisition in Spain, the pogroms in Imperial Russia, the Boxers in Peking and China, the Nazis and their complete planning to eliminate a race, the recurrent activities of the successors to the imperial Russian control. If a vote could be taken as to which group should get the Gonfalon, it could be that the little detail of the Southwest could almost be forgotten; the old-timers found that the Indian had nothing: no horses, no food, no economy, a certain plan for existing, none for cooperating with either other Indians or the newcomers; whereas the newcomer had everything the Indian wanted or needed: guns, food, clothing, and had no inhibitions as to how to get them. During all this period, Ranger Bill was getting acquainted with all the shrinking Indian tribes in the area, learning their language, and becoming such a friend that it led eventually to his being termed — facetiously, it is true — the "Baron of Alcatraz and Casteca" by the genial Major Horace Bell.

California declared itself a pro-Union state in '61, electing Leland Stanford governor; he was one of the four great developing railroad factors in California. The Union control held the state close to the United States idea, but the authorities did not exercise arbitrary or rough methods over the sympathizers with the Southern seceding states. A striking example was the administration of a Test Law — the Test Act — which, in effect, said: If you do not sign this oath, you may not appear in any court; so many lawyers did not sign and stayed away from law, and otherwise were permitted to do, to live, in freedom, providing nothing overt was done.

This slavery-inheritance problem separated for a lifetime Ranger bill and his brother, Charles. Charles, enlisted, had a hard time getting to an enlistment center; finally came to a Boston contingent, enlisted and shortly afterward was made a POW by the Southern Army and was in the military prison for the rest of the war. From the year 1867-1873, Charles Jenkins was the city zangero[4] and lived a long and popular life.

During these years Ranger Bill was at times a miner, a cattleman, a farmer; the grain of the valleys began to fill up ships to England; the wines of California began to be notable in France, even. The Comstock Lode was thrilling the world; silk culture was taking hold and being supported by the Legislature in the hope of supplanting cattle culture which drought had affected; Lincoln was assassinated and then everything in the Southland dropped to a new low when a lot of hatchet-men of the Tongs in Chinatown caused a hanging of about 20 Chinamen by the citizens — this was in 1871. The Chicago Fire occurred this year and the great Panic of 1873 was ahead, as also apparently (later) were some clearing skies and a certain recognition by men of courage and brains.

In 1876, banks failed; railroads built through from San Francisco and on towards the East via Yuma — the S.P.R.R. — and the Santa Fe was working westward through the Canyon. The failure of the Temple and Workman Bank, which affected the entire territory of the Southwest, brought "Lucky" (E.J.) Baldwin into the picture, as he had to foreclose his loans made to the T.&W. Bank and buy the Santa Anita Acres. Prior to Baldwin's coming in to be a major factor, Temple of the Bank (Francis Pliny F. Temple, nicknamed "El Templito") was the leading horse fancier and racer who spent thousands on equipment, importations of blooded stock and racing, and had arranged with Ranger Bill to take care of them. Then along comes the expert horseman "Lucky" Baldwin, who moved along the same horse breeding and racing plans, and Ranger Bill moves right in — and also at his own ranch at Castaic pastured and conditioned these horses. World's records show the stable of E.J. Baldwin to have had the symbol of the Maltese cross for the racing, and the names of Rey El Santa Anita, Volante and the Emperor of Norfolk will always be known so long as printing lasts. The association with the horses of both "El Tempelito" and "Lucky" brought lasting and respected friendships for William Jenkins, the "Ranger Bill"; in fact, F.P.F. Temple listed W.W. Jenkins in his will. The Temple-jenkins friendship lasted until Temple died in 1880. Baldwin died in 1909.

Then the ranch at Castaic in Section 24 moved into the position it holds today. Great peppers and eucalypti shade the old ranch buidings — what was left after the mountain feuds became somewhat settled along about the turn of the century.

On the Castaic Ranch, events began to gain momentum in the fiftieth year of Ranger Bill's life. Spectacular events, indeed. The first moves in this drama came in the reaches of the San Francisquito Canyons and ends up (the next to the last chapter) with such names as Robert G. Ingersoll, Collis P. Huntington and Lawyer Delmas of San Francisco and the names of Lloyd, Wood and Brown. Jenkins was always willing to have friendly folk come out from the city and rest for a week or so, and at one time he had has his guests Major William P. Reynolds, a Eruasian, and a Downey School teacher by the name of Reavis who develops in a storybook manner form the status of "cabbages to kings," and the Jenkins Ranch at Castaic should be noted as the originating spot of one of the great episodes of the West published under the title of "Prince of Impostors." The Major Horace Bell writings give us most of the highlights of Major William P. Reynolds, and as to James Addison Reavis, his modest schoolteacher life was a colorless background to the "Prince of Impostors" who nearly won almost the whole state of Arizona from the federal government by his dramatic adaptation of ideas recorded by the imagination of Major Reynolds — on the Castaic Ranch.

The part that Ranger Bill Jenkins and Cyrus Lyons [sic] had in it was interesting but rather inconclusive, and Major Bell in his comment says, "Bill Jenkins was taken advantage of by James Reavis."

In the first item of interest it should be known that Major Reynolds settled in Pueblo Los Angeles and became owner of the Bella Union[5] and died in 1889. Was the son of a Massachusetts sea captain and a Malay-Chinese mother, and born in Manila. Educated in Boston. The major was a pilot, with master's papers. The S.S. Vincennes was berthed at Honolulu, and the then-independent Hawaiian government issued an order detaining the ship, but Major Reynolds rated the bridge on the Vincennes and came to the Port of San Francisco piloting safely and courageously, and then came to Los Angeles, where having made a friend of Major Bell — the latter writes glowingly of Reynolds' familiarity with all weapons, a master chef, a No. 1 liquor connoisseur, a skilled rancher, fertile imagination — a total of a wonderful mind. And while enjoying a siesta at the Jenkins Ranch he wrote the greatest story of Spanish land grants ever, and it developed into a legal battle for 12 million acres, and the Romance of the West was enhanced. After writing the tale, he loaned it to James Addison Reavis. It was so developed by Reavis that while it ultimately failed, it rated with some of the greatest frauds, such as Limantours, Santitlan and became known as the Peralta Fraud.

The legal action was founded for the court procedure by depositions given by Ranger Bill and his friend Cy Lyon to Notary Charles A. Baskerville on Nov. 15, 1890. Each recalled that about 40 years before, there were many Indians, half breeds, with a certain one — a peculiar chap fading out in illness with gossip thick around him that he was the last descendant of nobility in this area; that he was the last descendant of Peralta, who had received a grant from Spanish kings. Once that supposed personality was formed on the record, it was possible to bring forth a daughter of this now tangible person, and if admitted there could easily be the deduction that she was the final heir of the Peralta Grant from Spain in the 18th Century. Then, James Reavis married her, and her name became "Sofia Loreto Micaela Peralta Reavis nee Maso y Silva de Peralta de Cordoba." They voyaged to Spain, were received eminently, and clipped much evidence from documents they thought they should bring back to America. They destroyed some records they did not like and came home to Phoenix — on the way up!

Having laid the foundation of the Peralta Fraud by certifying to a "Jose Maso," also known as "El Espanol," as one of the links in the land grant by the king of Spain, Reavis with his ultra-clever adaptation of Major Reynolds' story caused a double-barreled attack on the U.S.A. — history — and Arizona. He so prepared documents that apparently proved (1) that the king had granted the vast lands, 12/20/1748; (2) that the grantee, the Baron of the Colorados Peralta, in 1864 had in turn transferred his title to a Mr. Willing, who in turn transferred to James Addison Peralta Reavis. That series of actions being proven — and it seemingly was — Reavis with his supercharged imagination double-cinched the acceptance of the above by marrying the one living heir, this alleged daughter whose status was rather affirmed by the collaborative Jenkins and Lyons [sic]. Reavis really established the town of Arizola, an S.P.R.R. station about 63 miles from Tucson, as the original home of the Baron of the Colorados. The grant was 236 miles long and 78 miles wide. The great sums of money paid James Reavis by the railroad company for rights-of-way, etc. — vast amounts paid by some communities for agreement to clear title later — and the great names in these United States that were drawn in for many reasons — Collis P. Huntingson and the S.P.R.R.; Robert G. Ingersoll of New York; J.E. McClay and William R. Martin of New York; Hernando Money and A. Thomas of Washington, D.C.; Andrew Squire of Cleveland; Ignacio Sepulveda of Mexico City; B.F. and Heraclia Garciadiego of Guadalajara, Mexico; Thomas B. Catron of Santa Fe, N.M.; and I.N. Alexander of Phoenix, Arizona. The lawyer brigade was second to none. Then, the Honorable Peter B.Brady, special agent of the Interior Department, stopped the Peralta Reavis Fraud in its tracks, and the story factor lost nothing by the detecting methods of exposure.

James Addison Reavis in the penitentiary at Santa Fe. From Charles Lummis' Land of Sunshine magazine, February 1898. (Image not part of Kreider.) Click to enlarge.

A newsman — a printer-newspaper man, Mr. Tom Weedin, editor of the Florence Citizen — had, and his associate Bill knew paper manufacture, and when they inspected the documents of alleged antiquity, they found the paper to be of recent manufacture — in Wisconsin Paper Mills, which caused the entire breakdown of the whole forged plan. "Baron" Reavis was sentenced to 6 years in the Santa Fe Penitentiary; served less account good behavior, studied law in prison, but his spectacular years were no more. Reavis, his Indian wife and two children — traveled over the world — received everywhere in state and lived in luxury in Washington, St. Louis, Chihuahua and Madrid, Spain. The wife recedes from sight, having stated that she had been convinced by Mr. Reavis as to her descent. The two children, who were indeed royal in appearance, have disappeared from the record.

The drama that Reavis conceived and acted on, based on the Reynolds script, with the basis laid on the ranch of and the person of Ranger Bill — while it became a failure in the courts of the land, it has become a feature in the radios as a play of early Western romance, with still more to be written. It seems to be a definite fact, as Major Horace Bell asserted: "Bill Jenkins was taken advantage of by James Reavis." As a story, it first appeared in the magazine "Land of Sunshine," 1898 February and March editions, entitled "The Prince of Impostors."

When Reavis established his own Peralta center at Arizola — it was with the full cooperation with the S.P.R.R. — "It must stop whenever Reavis desired to travel" — and so it did. There was a parallel in the Lucky Baldwin understand[ing] with the Santa Fe running through his Santa Anita principality, but when Baldwin made the request of the local agent, who in his ignorance declined the request, "Lucky" began to tear up the Santa Fe; the train stopped.

The benefits to this Castaic area in the continuous observations of William Wirt Jenkins with reference to gold or oil or agriculture, which all means the water supply and sources. He rode his horse over every inch of the territory many times, saved many from foolish expenditures. In the matter of placer gold, he had the plans if necessity developed of using the water in the high Elisabeth lakes down through the canyons. He knew the oil seepage, but in the early days it was only good for roads and roofing — the tar of it. Some of the more refined by nature was used for lighting, and from then on it grew. Jenkins encouraged oil experts from Pennsylvania to survey the Castaic area and practically all of the following engineers predicted that oil production would be greater than gold in California. The engineers of the early years were Messrs. McChesney, Defty, Hanks, French, Silver, Miner, W.P. Reynolds and Alexander Womble. Jenkins was one of five who originated the Santa Clara Oil Co. in 1901 with Dr. Lopswitch, M.L. Wicks, R.T. Gordon, Moye Wicks and L.W. Hall.

Prior — and when oil was first becoming known; it had just been commercially drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, and the experts were coming west to investigate the seepage around Southern California, and W.W. Jenkins became one of the directors of the Crown Hill Oil Company along with Victor Ponet, Andrew Mullen, H.H. Metcalfe, J.F. Conroy, Steve White, Schultz and Barlow. Lighting was the only outlet then, and refinement processes were slow in coming out from Pennsylvania, so only the project at Pico, near Newhall, became a producing unit, and from 1875 to 1952, action had been constant. Up to 1885, Ranger Bill Jenkins had always shown on the Great Register as a farmer, then with residence as Newhall, and Castaic; he steadied into miner and began to hold the line in this area, in the traditional, minerals-only sense. No agriculture filings.

The Castaic Ranch was attacked several times. Attackers shot to kill — and sometimes did. Many spoke familiarly of the "range war" in this area where law enforcement was perhaps a bit slower. Many odd events occurred at the ranch — many striking bits of Californiana of the times, such as the great imported and domestic race horses of "El Tempelito" (F.P.F. Temple) and "Lucky" (E.J.) Baldwin. Temple and Jenkins were close friends, as was proven later when Ranger Bill aided in the distribution of the estate of Francis Temple, then carried on with the horses of Baldwin. Notable because the names of the horses were known widely.

But it was in 1890 that the first big attack came and Sheriff Martin Aguirre brought W.C. Chormicle and W.A. Gardiner from Ventura to the county jail. They admitted the killing but pleaded self-defense, successfully. Then in 1900 the war continued; two men were killed this time, and Marshal Bob Clark not only said he spent two years settling this range war, but also that he had to spend his honeymoon around Castaic as his duties compelled him to stay on that job. The marshal also added that in this isolated and lawless district, over 21 men were really eliminated — the feud being between [sic] the cattlemen, the squatters and the mining group. The war continued even down to 1913 when in a Los Angeles court, Ranger Bill Jenkins — pretty well shot up this time by a rancher, Billy Rose — successfully asserted that his assailant be convicted, and then regained his health with the sterling aid of his unusually fine wife, Olive Roades Jenkins and his two fine daughters, Ruby and June. (A side light here: The reporters of the newspapers were so pleased at the loyal, healthy and pulchritudinous daughters that press photos were constantly demanded.) This was Ranger Bill's 78th year; there were no more bullets pointed his way.

If a man is known by the company he keeps, this Ranger Bill Jenkins would be rated high among the California pioneers, as among his best friends were the governor of the state, Henry T. Gage, another fighting wise man and cordial to the death; a United States Senator Stephen M. White, well beloved, an eminent Harbor factor; his lifelong friendliness with Francis Pliny Fisk Temple was through their mutual interest in horses, which led to an active cordiality with the ubiquitous and virile "Lucky" Baldwin. And many others, but particular reference is made to the close and active good will of the Temples. This relationship led to the ramifications of California history that led to the notable John C. Fremont; to the Island of Alcatraz; through Fremont's court-martial and conviction and pardon and resignation. And, to the ultimate designation in the Porcupine[6] by Major Horace Bell, of Ranger Bill Jenkins as the "Baron of Alcatraz and Casteca" with considerable warrant. The owners down through the years quite apparently did not recognize that the land title belonged to the U.S.A. just because troops had camped thereon, and just simply did not move off; here are the facts that are interpretable over a hundred years. We'll start about the middle of interesting background, personalities, and controversies, concerning this picturesque Island Alcatraz — a menace to navigation in the fogs of the Bay — but affords perfect incarceration for the antisocial prisoner of the federal government.

In 1893, William Wirt Jenkins made his first legal effort to secure legal title to the Island of Alcatraz — "and ornament to the most beautiful bay in the world," also likened in the public prints to "a battleship." Shortly after the approach to the law, on March 17, 1894, the Porcupine published its comment on the filing under the heading "The Baron of Alcatraz":

We always knew that Bill Jenkins would come out at the open end of the horn and sure enough he has.

He is now the Baron of Alcatraz and the undisputed owner thereof. That is to say there is no one disputing his title unless perhaps it is Uncle Sam.

Within the last year, Baron Bill personally served a notice to quit on the United States military commander of that island prison in San Francisco Bay.

Yes, Bill, in writing, told the colonel to get up and get! That if so minded, he could remove his baggage — his troops, traps, guns, great and small, prisoners and prisoners' furniture — but that he, Bill Jenkins, wanted the pedis possessio of the Post.

We have not heard of the colonel getting himself out or of Bill getting himself in, but still the Baron claims the right of possession, and his title is founded on a grant made by Governor Pio Pico to William Workman about the time that Mexico lost her balance at the Bay.

The grant maybe like that of the San Fernando Rancho: made a year or two after the cession of California to the U.S.A. by the U.S.A. But you know that does not make much difference so far as claim for title goes.

Bill was not the sole proprietor of the island but a joint owner and tenant in common with the late John G. Downey, who, as the last act of his life, quitclaimed to Bill, and the deed has been recorded in San Francisco. Of course, that settles the title and Uncle Sam must get out, peaceably if he can, for go he must! (By Major Horace Bell.)

Legally the record shows that Ranger Bill Jenkins had definite and impeccable rights to the Island of Alcatraz.

And here runs the River of Destiny from 1845.

Troops of the United States commanded by the Pathfinder, Captain John C. Fremont, camped on the Island of Alcatraz under permission of the Mexican government (now 23 years existent) and with the consent of the owners. F.P.F. Temple and Associates. It was William Workman who received the land grant from the Mexican governor, and the Alcatraz part of it he ceded to his partner in many enterprises, Francis Temple. This Fremont camp was not a force majeure military advance but a favor to visiting U.S.A. soldiery that was balanced by the purchase of supplies of all kinds. These supplies were to be paid for in the usual way that U.S. Army custom provided. Fremont's actions were so seriously accused by the Army authorities, his authorizations on Alcatraz were alleged to be abuse of authority and worse.

His court-martial convicted him, but the president offered pardon but Fremont resigned. But, the United States government continued to occupy the island and still continues. The appointment of Fremont as governor of the state, which was questioned, placed him in temporary position to confirm grant of Alcatraz to Temple as remuneration for some of the supplies. His alleged authority was not recognized, but in the meantime, the owners of the island gradually delegated portions of the land to others, and when wills were made thy designated the heirs, and it could be presumed that Temple never had any advice of their island being preempted or seized or even occupied; and here is the outline of what could be the inheritance of William Wirt Jenkins and/or his heirs:

Mexican official grand to lands, including Alcatraz, to William Workman, for sterling services to the Mexican administration.

William Workman deeded Alcatraz to Francis Pliny Fisk Temple and A.M.W. Temple.

F.P.F. Temple to John G. Downey, one-half interest, undivided.

John G. Downey to W.W. Jenkins, one-quarter interest.

A.D.M. Temple to W.W. Jenkins and John H. Temple, two-thirds of one-half interest.

W.W. Jenkins to John G. Downey, one-sixth interest.

John G. Downey to W.W. Jenknis, one-sixth interest.

ADM Temple to Thomas Temple, one-sixth interest.

This memorandum is from an unconfirmed discussion; is thought rather incomplete but thoroughly indicative of the interest of Ranger Bill Jenkins. The wills, the transfers, the documents are in possession now.

By an unusual action of the attorney who was sent to file the original claim of 1893, it may be that Uncle Sam did not get all the information he was entitled to; and it is also understood that a federal law was passed after the Mexican War that all claims to land titles under the peace treaty terms of February 2, 1848, must be filed prior to the end of 1852. Just 100 years ago.

However, we are educated to feel that law aims at justice and that the time element may not be the only measure preventing a judgment. It may be a field for some healthy lawyer who dreams.

His friendships were so remarkable that he [could] easily have entered into a popularity contest for the typical Californian. And he had beautiful enemies who will never forget him.

He was a bantering friend, with a smile. Blue-eyed, brown-haired, rather light of complexion and about 5'10" tall. A grand horseman, but no better than his wife, Olive, and on that Castaic Ranch there was riding to be done. Even the daughters, June and Ruby, won prized for horsemanship at the various fiestas over on the banks of the Santa Clara, or over at the lakes. A family grew up around Ranger Bill Jenkins in which the wonderful loyalties from one to the other could not have been excelled and were constantly proved.

In the beginnings he moved out on all ranges in many capacities; he never was really stopped until his final curtain in 1916. Towards the end of the first decade of the 1900s, he wrote comments for the historical society[7] on water rights, placer mining and Southern California farming. He served with Henry T. Hazard, Dan G. Stephens and Ben Truman on the Good of the Order Committee.[8]

Farmer, miner, ranger, lawman, Centaur, judge, historian, father and friend, he was truly a symbol of California from the daredevil stage through the constructive, then the observing coach. Governor Henry T. Gage made a remarkable but endearing statement when he said his friendship for Bill Jenkins was one of the reasons he loved California. If the spark and the flash of the pioneers like Ranger Bill faced, life would be dull. These early birds could do anything — and did. Some of us vote grateful that such men preceded us in Southern California.

This story is based on personal friendship with William Wirt Jenkins, his wonderful wife Olive Rhoades Jenkins, and his fine daughters, Anita Ruby Jenkins Kellogg and June Jenkins Owens Kinler, the latter still on the famous ranch in Castaic. It was at an admission day celebration, September 9, 1908, at the Santa Clara creek on the Newhall lands, originally a Spanish grant. 'Twas an outdoor, fresh-air, under the trees, with guitars and dance and horse riding contests in the best old vaquero tradition, and the riding of the daughters proved they were champions. I knew Ranger Bill Jenkins from 1908-1916.

Consulted State Librarian Gillis of Sacramento for Great Vote Register entries from 1866.

Historical Society Records — of Los Angeles.

Huntington Library — the Peralta-Reavis-Arizona affair.

Los Angeles County court records of trials, shootings, evidence.

Major Horace Bell's "Reminiscences of a Ranger," "On the Old West Coast" and the "Porcupine."

Judge Benjamin Hayes diary, 1849-1875.

Gordon Young. "Days of '49."

Herbert Asbury. "Barbary Coast."

Laurence Powell. "Philosopher Pickett."

Blaine Cendars. "Sutter's Gold."

Thomas E. Farish. "The Gold Hunters of California."

Robert Glass Cleland. "From Wilderness to Empire," "Cattle on a Thousand Hills," "California, American Period," "California, in our time."

John Walton Caughey. "California."

Harris Newmark. "Sixty Years in [Southern] California."

Jackson A. Graves. "My Seventy Years in California."

William A. Spalding. "History of Los Angeles."

John McGroarty. "Los Angeles, from the mountains to the sea."

Saga of the Comstock Lode, by George D. Lyman.

Jonathan C. Warner. "Los Angeles County," 1889.

J.M. Guinn. "History of Southern California," 1902.

Boyle Workman. "The City That Grew," 1936.

Wm. Heath Davis. "Seventy Five Years in Calfiornia," 1929.

Father Engelhart. "Official Santa Barbara Mission Reports."

L.A. Examiner. Year of 1913.

Harry Carr. "The West is Still Wild," 1932; "Riding the Tiger," 1934.

San Francisco Herald of 1856; of Vigliantes-Jenkins.

Innumerable discussions with relatives, friends and enemies, possibly.

Sam L. Kreider, April 16, 1952.

Copy of handwritten sheet delivered to ACS by Anita Ruby Kellogg:

We agree to put up an equal amount of money to drill one well or more at Camp Pico in Pico Canyon, where Lopez told us about the oil seepage and taking tar & oil to San Fernando Mission later.

Sanford to oversee operations as he is much more knowledgeable regarding drilling but to have our full cooperation at all times.

If any, profits from said wells to be divided equally. Will call the first well Lyons No. 1 as Sanford is getting the bad end of it.


W.W. Jenkins

Sanford Lyons [sic]

H.C. Wiley

Jan. 8, 1869

We went down about 50 ft., got about 9 barrels a day. When Alex Mentry took over operations with his knowledge, skill and modern machinery, we must have laughed at our primitive endeavours.

Copied from original agreement by June Jenkins Kinler.

Webmaster's footnotes.

1. The writer is referring to Sonora Town, the impoverished Mexican section of Los Angeles in the 1850s-60s.

2. The U.S. Civil War.

3. The names Francisco Lopez and Francisco Garcia were often interchanged at the time this was written, but there is evidence they were two different people. The writer probably means Lopez. It is established that Lopez was mining gold in San Feliciano Canyon in the early 1840s.

4. Water supply manager.

5. L.A.'s fanciest and most famous hotel of the period.

6. Bell published a Los Angeles newspaper, The Porcupine.

7. Apparently the City of Los Angeles Historical Society.

8. A committee of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization.


• Bill Jenkins & Lazy Z

••• SERIES •••
Chormicle, Gardener Tried for Murder of Cook, Walton

• Pollack Story 2014
• Reynolds Story
• C. Rasmussen Story


Story of Bill Jenkins
Kreider 1952


W.C. Chormicle


Chormicle Allies Start a School, 1889/90


Land Feud Goes to Court 1890


Chormicle's Son Arrested 1890


Dolores Cook Land Patent 1891


Suen Murders Aceda 1895


Chormicle Sued for Slander 1910

SEE ALSO: Lazy Z (Jenkins Ranch) Graves Unearthed 1998

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