One of the most famous landmarks in the Santa Clarita Valley is the narrow slit through the Newhall Pass called Beale's Cut. From 1863 to 1910 it was the only way to get out of Los Angeles and up into the San Joaquin Valley.
The saga of the cut begins in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 1822, with the birth of Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale. His father, George, was a Navy paymaster, and his grandfather, Thomas Truxton, was commodore of the USS Constellation. With these credentials, it is no surprise that Edward was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy by President Andrew Jackson.
A midshipman, Beale served under Commodore Robert Stockton in the peaceful takeover of California. He was sent east, along with Kit Carson, with news that all was secure, when he met troops under the command of General Kearney. The general put Beale and Carson to work as scouts and led them back to the coast. Along the way, Andrés Pico jumped them at a place called San Pasqual with one hundred lance-wielding Californios.
The army was saved only after Beale, Carson and two Delaware Indians made "The Long Crawl," as it came to be known, to San Diego, returning with reinforcements.
In all, Beale and Carson made seven hazardous transcontinental journeys carrying dispatches, including the first announcement of the discovery of gold on the American River. Something of a natural hero after such exploits, Beale resigned from the Navy in November 1852 and was promptly appointed superintendent of Indian Affairs.
The reservation system was established during his short tenure. The first two were at San Sebastian, near Bakersfield, and Tejon, on the Grapevine Pass.
Beale was ousted from office after earning the displeasure of some powerful politicians but was quickly taken into the War Department, appointed brigadier of the militia and assigned to the post of surveyor-general of California and Nevada.
To settle a boundary dispute, General Beale bought Rancho La Liebre on August 8, 1855 for the princely sum of three cents an acre. This small beginning would grow to include Ranchos Castac (Castaic), Los Alamos Y Agua Caliente and Tejon — a total of 297,000 acres sprawling from the Sawmill Mountains down onto the floor of the San Joaquin Valley. It is said that Abraham Lincoln refused Beale's reappointment with the memorable words, "I will not have a surveyor who becomes monarch of all he surveys."
Road improvements over the pass had been started by Generál Pico during the winter of 1862-63 but were washed out by floods. Beale went before the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, took over Pico's franchise and got five thousand dollars to do the work. He then called out the troops from Fort Tejon to dig a ninety-foot slash through the mountain barrier with picks and shovels.
On September 19, 1863, Beale loaned two thousand dollars, at two percent interest, to A.A. Hudson and Oliver P. Robbins, who built a toll house below Beale's Cut. The loan was to be repaid from toll receipts, of which Hudson and Robbins got to keep one-third, with the balance going to the general.
For the next twenty-one years — until it reverted to the county — getting through the pass cost twenty-five cents for a horse and rider, fifty cents for a horse and wagon, $1.50 for teams of six or seven horses, and two dollars for teams of twelve or more. The fee was a dime each for loose animals, while sheep were at the bottom of the list at only three cents apiece.
The general married Mary Edwards, the financial genius behind the Beale empire, and built her an adobe hacienda which still stands at the western end of the Antelope Valley. The couple had one son, Truxton.