Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures


Today more than 100,000 people live in the Santa Clarita Valley, a series of small arroyos and connecting flood plains wedged into the mountains of northern Los Angeles County. Most of these residents have arrived within the past two decades, making it the fastest growing region in the county.

While the communities of Newhall, Valencia, Canyon Country, Saugus, Agua Dulce, Acton, Castaic and Val Verde may seem to be new, they are actually built upon a heritage that dates back hundreds, indeed thousands, of years.

Unfortunately, no one has ever sat down to write the full story of the Santa Clarita. Bits and pieces can be found in some books; other parts may be gleaned from recollections of longtime residents; occasionally some letter or newspaper account throws a little light onto the past.

This chronicle is a rich one, for it is actually a microcosm of the saga of the American West. Through the passes 28,000 years ago flowed hunters in search of mammoths and camels. Over the hills rode blue-coated explorers, sent by the kings of Spain to secure this last outpost of the empire. Buried on the bluffs overlooking Castaic Junction are remnants of a Catholic sub-mission and the home of a great Mexican land owner.

Prospectors swarmed all over the creeks long before anyone ever heard of James Marshall's better-publicized find on the American River at Sutter's Mill. With the coming of the Yankees, forts were set up and manned by U.S. dragoons. Stagecoaches clattered across the valley, past small farms and ranches.

After the railroad arrived there were "tank towns" with false fronts facing onto boardwalks and dusty streets. They were crowded with gold, silver and copper miners, cowboys, freighters and oil field roustabouts. There were running gun battles in the hills and shoot-outs in the streets.

Asphalt highways eventually snaked their way across the land, bringing automobiles, tract homes and shopping centers. Several dams rose — and one fell, with tragic consequences. The people tried twice to secede from the county and several times tried to incorporate as a city.

Legendary is the name of Tiburcio Vasquez, a grim-eyed and heartless outlaw who left his legacy in the names of a road and a spectacular county park. Also remembered is Henry Mayo Newhall, in hospital, town, avenue and corporation. Wiley Canyon, Lyons Avenue, Nickels Street, the Del Valle tract and Lloyd Houghton Street all commemorate early settlers who will be brought to life in these pages.


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