Lucile Weight
Copyright 1975

JT Brands cover:133k

Starting in the 1800's, cattle grazed in the area now within Joshua Tree National Monument and in the adjacent Morongo High Desert. (1) In fact, a search for pasture led indirectly to the discovery of some of the mines. Pioneer cattlemen were responsible for development of water supplies that also serve native wildlife. The first cattle were brought into the area in the 1870s and continued to range here until the early 1950s. Although the Monument was established in 1936, some cattle remained on privately held land within the preserve.

The last cattleman to range cattle in this area transferred his grazing leases to the north in 1950, but already the importance of San Bernardino as a cow county had ended. By 1963, more than one and three-quarter million acres of public land in the eastern part of the county were closed to grazing by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The State of California now has about 30,000 brands registered for cattle, horses, mules and burros. Records of many early brands and associated land grants have been lost or confused through regimes of Spain, Mexico, and the United States.

Concerning brands whose history intertwines that of the pioneer ranchers, the earliest association is that of the San Gabriel Mission, founded in 1771. While a few Spaniards had come as far east of San Gabriel as San Bernardino Valley by 1772, it was in 1810 that the area was surveyed as a site for a mission station and ranch, and almost ten years later that the stock ranch of San Gorgonio was established in the Pass of that name some sixty miles west of the Monument.  But within two years, Mexico had revolted from Spain, throwing into confusion the question of Spanish land grants. Moreover, the Mexicans not only parceled out land grants, but in 1834 secularized the Franciscan missions. This brought about the abandonment of San Gabriel's ranch in the Pass as well as its chapel which had been in use only a few years. (The restored chapel or asistencia is now a historic building belonging to the San Bernardino County Museum Associa­tion on Barton Road, Redlands).

(1) The term "Morongo High Desert" generally refers to that part of the desert extending from Morongo Valley in the west, east to Sheep Hole Mountains and Dale dry lake and mountains, and south to include part of Joshua Tree National Monument. .


  Under Mexican administration in the 1840s, events took place that were to affect this region. In 1841, Antonio Maria Lugo who already owned a Spanish land grant, was given the Santa Ana del Chino ranch (near the present city of Chino, California) as a Mexican grant. When his daughter married Isaac (Julian) Williams, the latter was deeded a share of the ranch. In 1842, Lugo's three sons and a nephew, Diego Sepulveda, received the San Bernardino Rancho to the east which included part of the remaining holdings of the San Gabriel Mission. Lugo, under permit, had started to colonize part of it as early as 1839. It was this land which the Mormons bought in 1851, the year after California became an Ameri­can state.


While it was still Mexican, the eastern portion of the land once claimed for San Gabriel, known as San Gorgonio Rancho and including the Beaumont-­Banning sites, was sought by Americans who took Mexican citizenship. On July 22, 1845, "Pauline" (Paulino) Weaver and Lugo's son-in-law, Williams, submitted their petition to Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor. Both had come to California with a trapping party more than ten years before.

Weaver retained his interest in the ranch until late 1853, during which time he periodically served as a guide and trouble shooter for U.S. troops. He was also a Mormon Battalion guide during the Mexican War and helped arbitrate Indian troubles throughout Arizona. It is not known if Weaver ever had a registered brand or drove cattle as far eastward as the Morongo High Desert. However, he probably used the Indian route by the Twentynine Palms Oasis on occasions when he went to Arizona for service with the government. His wife is believed to have been a Chemehuevi Indian girl.


Weaver transferred his interest in the San Gorgonio ranch to Dr. Isaac William Smith who had come to San Bernardino in 1853, three years after California became a state and in the year San Bernardino County was created from part of Los Angeles County. His son Frank, who was nine when they came to the ranch, later became manager of the Whitewater outpost ranch (near today's  Whitewater or Snow Creek roadside rest). The ranch house served also as a stage stop during the La Paz gold rush days in the early 1860's. When son Oliver (Ollie) was old enough, he took up ranch duties there. He was born in 1859 or 1860, the first Caucasian boy born in the Pass.

In 1869 a young Oregon bachelor, James M. Gilman, arrived and on January 11, 1871, married Martha (Mattie) Smith who had been three when the Smith family came to .the Whitewater Pass. Gilman had bought the Newton Noble ranch (originally the Chapin sheep ranch), near today's Banning, and the house became a stage stop.

The brand used by Ollie (0 S) dates from the late 1800s. The combined Smith-Gilman brand is probably no earlier than 1871. Dr. Smith came to the area in 1853, and in fact had cattle before the name Gilman was imprinted on Pass history.


While Smith-Gilman is apparently the earliest recognized Caucasian American brand, the oldest (1850?) is the rather intricate symbol of Juan Antonio, a leader and one of the best known of the Southern California Cahuilla Indians. He and his band had cattle in the San Bernardino Valley area in 1841-42. They helped the Lugos protect stock from Indians who raided through Cajon Pass, and were asked to remain there in the American era.

Juan Antonio, who headquartered in San Timoteo Canyon, knew Paulino Weaver of San Gorgonio. When Juan died of small pox in 1863, leadership passed to Cabezon of Coachella Valley. Gradually people looked to Cabezon's nephew, John Morongo, as interpreter and advisor. John, the son of Sia Morongo, the leader of the Serrano Indians at Morongo Valley and Mission Canyon, was born in Morongo Valley. His birthdate is given both as 1846 and 1850. The clan is believed to have lived in Morongo Valley, near the northwest edge of the present Monument, from the early 1800s, but in 1863 they left for the Potrero (2) in the Pass. A twin reversed C (or rainbow on end?) brand, dated about 1900, was owned by Morongo and Martin. John Morongo's wife, Rosa, was a Pass Cahuilla Indian and their daughter was Sarah Morongo Martin.

(2) While Potrero means "pasture land", the Morongos probably went to the Potrero Agenio, or Chief Genio's pasture. This is the location of the Morongo Indian Reser­vation, set aside in 1865. The natives called this Malki, hence the name Malki Museum, located there.


The next occupants of Morongo Valley (brands are unknown) were Hans and Marguerite deCrevecoeur. Hans first came to this area in 1873, going east past Twentynine Palms Oasis, looking for pasture. He decided to bring his sheep and cattle to Morongo Valley, from the Pass area where they had been staying. The following year their son Ben was born, the first Caucasian child native to the Morongo High Desert.

Soon after the deCrevecoeurs went back to the Pass, the Mark B. (Chuck) Warren family came to Morongo Valley from San Bernardino and lived there until 1912. The Mark Warren brand of 1876 appears like an interwoven "M" and "W." Several children were born at their home, a daughter, Lela Warren (Arnett) arriving in 1892, the first white girl native to the Morongo High Desert. The Warrens ran cattle, but their ranch also served as a stopping place for freighters, prospectors and others.

The Warrens dug Warren Well, at what is now Yucca Valley Airport. The well was important not only as a watering stop, but also as a roundup point when the cowboys brought cattle out of the Twentynine Palms and the Monument area for the drive up to summer pasture in the Big Bear country, or around by Old Woman Springs to the railroad at Victorville, for market.


The 1879 lone star brand of William McHaney is that of the earliest known Caucasian resident of Twentynine Palms Oasis. He had come from Missouri in a covered wagon with his parents at age 18. For 60 years or more, Bill McHaney was best known as a prospector and miner and is especially associated with the Desert Queen Mine and Music Valley. The McHaneys who first settled in the Santa Ana Canyon area were cattle people, and Bill was a cowboy at an early age. It was while looking for pasture that ore the Desert Queen Mine) was ­discovered in what is now near the center of Joshua Tree National Monument. Thereafter, Bill's interest turned from cattle to gold.

Discovery of the Lost Horse gold claim aha resulted from a search for pasture. After John Lang filed on the Lost Horse, McHaney said he had seen the ore earlier, but failed to make his claim. Both claims were located, registered, and had mines developed in the 1890s.

Lang, like McHaney, was another cowboy who rode into Monument country and spent most of the rest of his life there. His father, George W. Lang, was an old Arizona cattleman who drove cattle into California for sale. On one of the drives, in 1891, he found much of the Colorado Desert had flooded, and pasture had: sprung up along New River. That was the year that the former dry lake beyond Orocopia Mountains became the Salton Sea. Upon this discovery, Lang went back and brought 9,000 head of cattle across the desert. Among buyers in the San Bernardino area was John R. Metcalf whose English father had come from Australia in Gold Rush days. Freighting and supplying frontier posts had led him into lumber and cattle. His son John, born .in 1863, eventually went into the cattle business and extended his ranching to White water in San Gorgonio Pass for winter pasture.

The actual date of John Lang's cattle activity in the region is uncertain. He reportedly first came into the area in the spring of 1893, possibly from Coachella Valley up Berdoo or some other canyon, through the Pinon or Little San Bernar­dino ranges, while looking for a stray horse. It was then that Lang gained pos­session of the claim that resulted in the famous Lost Horse Mine, northwest of Pleasant Valley.

John Lang's father, George, was a partner of J. D. (Jep) and Matt Ryan long before they came to California, and young Johnny had ridden with them on cattle drives over the Oregon Trail. Jap Ryan bought Johnny's interest in the mine in January 1894. Most of Jep's prior experience had been with cattle in Montana and Arizona. (Here, the bar was broken from the "R" of Jep Ryan's brand) .

Johnny's development of the Lost Horse, and its sale to Ryan, resulted in nothing for him. According to one account, Johnny's problems started when he married a Tombstone dancehall girl. Her interest in mines lasted long enough to get the money paid to him for the Lost Horse, then she left, divorcing Johnny. He went back to herding cattle for his father, working for the Ryans intermit­tently. During the mid 1920s, he lived in a cabin near the Lost Horse Mine. He left there for the last time on January 10, 1926, some thought for Twentynine Palms, hut apparently he had headed for Coachella Valley instead. His body was found by Bill Keys three months later along the road Keys had developed, not far from Keys (formerly Salton) View;


The two brands of Bill Keys relate to both his cattle and his mining in the Monument, spanning six decades. The earlier was a "key" shape; the later a "DQ" for Desert Queen mine (and ranch). The last of his cattle were sold in the 1940's, but he continued living on the ranch until his death. Keys had started a life of adventure when he left his Nebraska home while in his teens, then cow­boyed In Arizona, and mined in Nevada and Death Valley with Death Valley Scotty.


Before Keys came to the area, the Barker and Shay operation was active throughout this Morongo High Desert. Winter range was from Whitewater to the Dale district twenty miles east of Twentynine Palms. Along this line and up in the future Monument, their cowboys developed much of the water supply, digging wells, damming natural drainages, and adding cement troughs. C. O. Barker, in 1906, bought the holdings of George Myers, whose star and crescent brand was very familiar to miners and early homesteaders of the area. The main base for the cattle operations was at Whitewater, and Twentynine Palms Oasis was an eastern base. About May the cowboys started moving cattle up to the Pipes northwest from Yucca Valley, and then on to summer pasture in the Big Bear area.

One of the cowboys here was Joe Pechacco, of the last Indian family to live in the Oasis. He rode for Barker about 1912-13, until he became ill with tuber­culosis. Another cowboy well-known in the area was Gus Seely, who had charge of the cattle here in 1927 when they were branding calves at the Old Indian Pasture, almost at the spot where the 29 Palms Inn now stands. Summer camp was up at the Lost Horse (Ryan) ranch. The Seely son, Bill, had his first job of cowboying here. While Barkers have lived in the Banning area since the 1880s, the Barker partner, Will Shay, had roots in the state dating from 1849, Will and his brothers, Walter and Tom, were sons of Walter A. Shay, a Nova Scotian who had settled in Boston in the 1840s, then took the first available ship for California and the gold fields. With gold, he bought cattle and sheep, coming to San Bernardino soon after the city was founded in 1851. Son Will became best known as the cattleman. His 1908 brand is called the Ace of Clubs (like a stylized shamrock).


The "IS" brand of the Talmadge brothers (1912-40) was once seen through-out the range from Whitewater through the Morongo, and at Big Bear in summer. The senior Talmadge, Frank L., born in New York in 1830, had come west by ox team in 1853. He worked in some of the earliest sawmills in the San Bernar­dino Mountains. Son William S. became a stockman, pasturing cattle in Bear Valley in summer and in winter using Warren Well with its surrounding range. The brand is older than the Talmadge ownership of it, for it belonged to James Smart, who registered it in 1882. When Smart went to Los Angeles to have his "JS" cast, the lower hook was broken off, but it was roundup time and he used the iron as it was. Will Talmadge increased his acreage and in 1913 his brothers John and Frank were his partners.


James W. Stocker was known by more High Desert people than were the other cattlemen, not only because of his tenure as Sheriff but because he still was running cattle when the early Twentynine Palms development was taking place, and later when the Small Tract Act homesteaders were starting to move in.. His parents had come from Illinois to Redlands in 1884, and in 1899 acquired property in Big Bear Valley.

While the father, James Monroe Stocker, spent most of his spare time on business in Redlands, mother Sarah started and operated a lodge at Big Bear, her young sons packing supplies up the Seven Oaks Trail. (This was a route from Whitewater used by some of the cattlemen, including R. H. Coombs in 1901). Son Jim owned and operated a transfer business in Big Bear but became the well-known cattleman-sheriff; his brand dated 1930.


The "RB" brand of Raymond T. Bolster, dating back to 1923 does not reflect the early days he spent in the area. Ray first came to the Dale Mining District with a freight outfit in 1910, from Pasadena. Not old enough to homestead, he later took up a claim in Morongo Valley, but the next day he signed up with the Marine Corps for service in World War 1. Years later he and his wife, Billie, moved to Twentynine Palms where Ray had charge of the Division of Forestry station and was official weather observer. He was also a one-man fire department until this service was provided by the water district.

Covington is best known now as the name of a park in Morongo Vallev, but this park area covers the old Warren Ranch which was acquired by William V. Covington in 1916, several Banning lots being traded in the deal. The Covingtons were farmers and wood dealers in San Timoteo Canyon from the 1880s. Bill Covington not only ran cattle in Morongo, but stocked supplies for travelers who were beginning to drive gasoline-powered rather then horse-drawn vehicles into the desert.

The McKinney-Duncan brand, 1912, was that of two other Morongo Valley cattlemen. The Duncan ranch was on Little Morongo Creek, about a mile south of Twentynine Palms Highway. O. S. McKinney, early settler and later of Palm Springs, was a well driller. He once tried without success to get water for cattle by drilling a well two miles east, of Warren Well, but at 333 feet he had a dry hole.

Another brand is that of Fred Pollard who leased the Warren ranch when the family left in 1912, and operated it until Covington took over in 1916­.

The 1928 brand of John Kee's ranch is above Pioneertown but he also spent time on a homestead place in north Twentynine Palms. Following the winter of 1937, after he had been snowed in at The Pipes, and rescued twice by the county snow plow, Johnny moved his family to the "warm climes" of the Twenty­nine Palms ranch until spring. He engaged in many occupations after coming to the desert, but cattle, beekeeping, and poultry, and operating a guest ranch, took up most of his time. He was known throughout the district by the young generation as a bus driver when all high school students were brought to Twentynine Palms.

Many brands were not registered; some perhaps, were registered in other counties or under silent partners. Some not shown here are: M.E. Button, May, 1854; Martin & Button, 1-14-1884; W. F. Holcomb, 1862; G. L. Chapin, May 11, 1860 (sheep); W. V. Covington, January 7, 1892; Newton Noble, January 10, 1864, which was later transferred to J. M. Gilman, May 8, 1869; Mark Warren, April 9,1860; D. G. Weaver, May 16, 1867; W. R. Stocker, September 2, 1902; Sydney P. Waite, 1859 and 1872; Will Morongo, August, 1890; W. M. Warren, July, 1901; Alice Pollard, 1913; Marion Shay, June 5, 1909; A. T. Shay, 1915, etc.


While the gleam of gold has brought more recorded and fanciful accounts, cattle­men left their enduring mark on the land in the form of added water supplies-which today are valuable assets to the wildlife of Joshua Tree National Monument. Records of the cattle era are sparse and broken. Numerous discrepancies are noted as information about the brands is searched. Sources, in addition to personal observations, were interviews and correspondence, published biographical and historical studies, the county great register, directories of two counties published in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the Desert Trail newspaper issues of the 1930s.

As a part of the 1963 commemoration honoring pioneers of the Morongo Valley, Mrs. Cyril (Mary) Millington cast a set of 9x12x2-inch concrete tiles showing cattle brands of the area. After being used in the dedication of the historical marker by the Native Sons of the Golden West, the tiles were donated to Joshua Tree National Monument. Some of them are now on display at the Monument's Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms.

1876         U.S. BICENTENNIAL         1976


Joshua Tree National Monument is one of the areas administered by the National Park Service, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Monument was established to preserve the richness and variety of the resources of this desert area. Preservation extends to all natural, archaeological and historic objects, so that visitors today and for generations to come may enjoy this desert in its natural state.

Published by the


A non-profit org­ani­za­tion pledged to aid in the pre­ser­va­tion and inter­preta­tion of the scenic and sci­enti­fic features of the Monument.

Produced in Cooperation
with the


Joshua Tree
National Monument
Twentynine Palms, California

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