Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Baker Ranch Rodeo Program, 4-11-1926
Saugus, California


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The Baker Ranch (Page 5)

Location — 1 mile from Saugus on the Mint Canyon paved road.

Purpose — Breeding, raising and training the very finest 5 and 3 gaited show and pleasure saddle horses.
See pedigree on next page.

Stallion in Service — Peavine McDonald.
Season of 1926 at the fee of $100 to insure mare in foal.

Blood Mares — We have imported from Kentucky the finest band of saddle brood mares that experts could collect.

Our Aim — Is to develop some of the finest show and pleasure horses that expert training and correct blood lines can produce, and to have every person buying horses from us absolutely pleased. Every horse upon our ranch is young and sound and will never be misrepresented in any way.

Caring For and Training Outside Horses — We have in our organization several expert trainers from Kentucky. We are equipped to care for and train outside horses at a much lower rate than usual.

Our Pasture — Contains 2,500 acres — good grass feed and fine spring water. Our man rides the pasture daily. Monthly or yearly rates upon request.

For Your Information — We believe with this wonderful band of brood mares and colts and Peavine McDonald, located 33 miles from Los Angeles, that it is unnecessary for you to journey to Kentucky to buy your saddle horses and your show horses. You will learn that our prices are only a fraction of the Eastern prices and our horses are all acclimated, and you also avoid the long shipping risk — and expense.

Our Invitation to You — Whether or not you are interested in buying horses, we will be glad to have you visit our plant. You will enjoy a few hours among our wonderful horses, also seeing our ranch. You are welcome at any time.

Directory of Advertisers
Bob Anderson (Horses)
13
Army & Navy Store
9
Bank of Italy, Newhall
16
Central Meat Market, Newhall
18
Community Cleaners, Newhall
18
Daley's Inc. (Grocer), Newhall
17
Doty Ford, Newhall
3
Druding's Cafe, Newhall
12
Hammond Lumber Co., Newhall
21
Healey & Perkins, Realtors
8
Kerckhoff-Cuzner Mill & Lumber, San Fdo.
14-15
King Drug Co., San Fernando
22
C.H. Kingsbury's Meat Market, Newhall
22
Lichtenberger Ferguson Co. (Saddlery), L.A.
19
Milleranche at Newhall
8
Motor Stage Cafe
4
Newhall Feed Store
16
Newhall Pharmacy
4
Newhall Realty Co.
8
Renfro's Pharmacy, Saugus
11
San Fernando Hardware Company
20
San Fernando Nursery
9
Saugus Meat Market
20
Saugus Pool and Billiard Parlors
11
A.C. Swall, Land Agent
8
Waite Bros. Furniture
12
Western Hay and Grain Co., L.A.
6
Will G. Noble Ambulance, San Fdo.
25
Wood's Garage, Saugus
3
Woodwards Cafe, Saugus
10
Wren and Van Allen (Insurance), L.A.
21

Page 24

Here the presenters do a little bit of marketing by sharing the area's gold and oil history. We give them an "A" for the effort but a "D" for the details.

Gold: Francisco Lopez made California's first documented discovery of gold in 1842, in Placerita Canyon. He may have found some color in the area in 1841, and Outland tells us a story of Spanish missionaries coming across some Indians in the Castaic area who were using gold in the 1820s. But 1842, not 1835, is the event to which Baker and Anderson and their publicist are referring. We don't know what they mean by "inmate;" Lopez was a relative of a major local landowner.

The idea that the first California gold dust to be turned into U.S. gold coins came from Placerita merits examination. This is 1926; the dedication of the Oak of the Golden Dream in Placerita Canyon, which is tied to the 1842 Lopez discovery, came four years later in 1930. The inclusion of this statement suggests it may have been a popularly held belief at the time of the tree's celebration.

Is it possible that "the first California gold that was coined in the Philadelphia mint came from (Placerita Canyon)?" Well, yes, it's possible, but it might not be possible to prove it. The prominent Los Angeles merchant and freighter Abel Stearns sent a sample of Lopez's gold to the Philadephia mint for assaying. The common practice at the time was for a person to take raw gold to the mint, have it assayed and weighed, and then exchange it at the mint for the same dollar value in U.S. gold (and subsidiary) coins. What would the mint have done with the raw gold it took in? It would have mixed it in with other raw gold and turned it into more gold coins. We don't know the size of the sample Stearns sent to the mint, and we don't know what Stearns' messenger did with it after it was assayed. Did he keep it, send it back to Stearns, or exchange it for current coin? One day we'll have to search the National Archives for the "records of assays of various monetary metals, 1795-1873"; recognizing, however, that many assay reports and other historical mint documents from the 1800s and early 1900s were destroyed during the Carter administration.

Following the inital assay in Philadelphia, when miners started exploting the Placerita gold field, some of their raw gold was turned into coins — in Mexico. Remember, until 1848, Placerita Canyon and the rest of California were part of Mexico.

Oil: We'll keep it brief. If everybody had waited until 1884 to sink a well in Pico Canyon, they wouldn't have been first.


Baker Ranch Rodeo program, April 11, 1926. Twenty-six pages (back cover and inside back cover are blank), 6"x9".

Events included a bareback riding contest (pg. 3), cowgirls' half mile dash (pg. 4), wild cow milking (pg. 9), trick and fancy riding (pg. 11), pack and saddle race (pg. 12), cowgirls' relay race (pg. 16), Roman standing race (pg. 19), cowboys' relay race (pg. 22) and wild horse race (pg. 23). The big draw was the bucking contest (pg. 18), with a top prize of a silver mounted saddle valued at $1,000 and $50 in cash. A special exhibition featured G.L. Becker of Ogden, Utah, billed as the "champion rifle and trap shot of the world" (pg. 7).

This program, acquired from a retailer in 2013, is informative on several levels. First, it provides proof that Roy Baker and partner Bob Anderson (see pgs. 2 & 13) staged at least one rodeo at their Saugus ranch before they built the Baker Ranch Rodeo arena, which started construction in December 1926 and opened May 1, 1927. We don't know how often they staged rodeos before they opened the area, but we'd have to guess it was infrequent; this is April, and page 26 implores guests to offer advice "so that we may be better prepared to please you next year." Not next month — next year. It is also notable that there is no photo of the rodeo grounds in the program, unlike later Baker Ranch Rodeo programs. Was the April 1926 rodeo held in a corral? Or was there an earlier arena, as some have suggested? This doesn't tell us.

Second, we see that Roy Baker's primary purpose was not to stage rodeos but to sell Kentucky show and pleasure horses that he bred on the property. Perhaps his true purpose for staging rodeos was to put his business on the map and attract horse buyers.

Third, it gives us a good idea of the prominent businesses in Newhall and Saugus in 1926 and enlightens us as to some rather interesting ones, such as "The Beautiful Old Milleranche at Newhall" on page 8, which was "available for poultry ranches or country estates." Owned in part by historian-judge-water company manager A.B. Perkins, it counted among its selling agents the Newhall grocer and hotelier Albert Swall. Our best guess is that it might have been Perkins' relatively successful effort to develop housing in the Wildwood Canyon section of Newhall.


About Baker Rodeo / Saugus Speedway

About Saugus Speedway.

The future Saugus Speedway was built originally as a rodeo arena in 1927 by Roy Baker, brother of shoe magnate C.H. Baker.

Roy Baker purchased the 40-acre property east of Bouquet Junction in 1923 for the purpose of breeding and selling show and pleasure horses. To that end he imported saddle brood mares from Kentucky and studded them with a pedigreed, chestnut-colored saddlebred stallion named Peavine McDonald (b. 1910), which sired five pedigreed mares and four pedigreed colts between 1920 and 1936. Baker advertised that he had 2,500 acres of grazing land and also offered training and boarding services for outside horses.

Probably to attract horse buyers to his ranch in faraway Saugus, Baker staged rodeos. Some references suggest he built a 12,000-seat arena in 1924, but this is dubious. We do know he held a rodeo on the property on April 11, 1926. That December, Baker and partner Bob Anderson started construction on a new stadium, complete with partially covered grandstand seating and a quarter-mile oval track. When it opened May 1, 1927, it seated 18,000 fans, and thousands more had to be turned away for lack of room.

Over the next decade, ownership of the arena would change hands three more times.

As with a majority of the American populace, Baker was hit hard financially by the Great Depression of 1929 and was forced to sell the stadium to cowboy actor Hoot Gibson in 1930. Gibson continued to hold rodeos at the stadium and drew a Hollywood crowd including famous actors such as William S. Hart, Harry Carey, Tom Mix, and John Wayne. He also used the stadium as a movie set or leased it to other companies for film making.

But Gibson felt the effects of the Depression, as well. In September 1933 he appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom and pleaded poverty, saying he had no assets with which to repay a $2,500 loan. He testified that he owned a one-third interest in Hoot Gibson Inc., which owned the Saugus rodeo, and that it was in arrears.

In 1934, Gibson sold the stadium to Paul Hill, owner of the Western Livestock Stockyards, who continued to call it the Hoot Gibson Rodeo. As with his predecessors, however, the stadium brought Hill financial hardship when it was hit by the Great Flood of March 2, 1938. Heavy rains that year caused a river of water to flow down Soledad Canyon and filled the ranch home and arena with mud and debris. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the "old buildings ... collapsed during the March floods" and the arena was built anew.

Nonetheless, Hill lost the ranch sometime after the April 1938 rodeo. According to Reynolds, the property was repossessed by the bank. In 1939, ownership passed to William Bonelli, and it was renamed Bonelli Stadium.

Bonelli, a professor of economics at Occidental College, continued the annual rodeo tradition for a number of years but introduced auto racing in 1939 on a more frequent schedule; ultimately auto racing became the primary draw and Bonelli renamed the arena Saugus Speedway. Occasional rodeos and circuses continued until at least the late 1960s, auto racing until 1995. The facility was sometimes used for concerts before the grandstands were removed in 2012 (the originals had been replaced in 1955). The venue continues to host an outdoor swap meet.


LW2311w: 9600 dpi jpeg from original program
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