Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

The Times Traces the Great Meteor of August Seventh to Deadman's Canyon.

Webmaster's note.

Deadman's Canyon was another name for lower Bouquet Canyon, although "Bouquet Canyon" was also used. Judging from clues in the story — e.g., midway between Saugus (which meant area surrounding the current Bouquet-Magic Mountain intersection) and Elizabeth Lake — it appears the L.A. Times' "explorers," who triangulated the drop zone from witness statements, narrowed it down to Texas Canyon. "Between" Texas and Deadman's canyons suggests it might have been near today's intersection of Bouquet and Texas canyon roads.

The story references the "Chicapolus" range, which is more familiarly spelled Chicalopes and was an early name for the Vasquez Rocks area. Probably named for Chico Lopez, it is nonetheless commonly pronounced CHICK-a-lopes (lōpes as in antelopes).

Some place names that are unfamiliar to your webmaster: Sears ranch, Bitterson ranch.

Scroll to the bottom to view the printed version.

The Meteor Located.

At a point between Texas and Deadman's cañons, at the lower end of the Chicapolus range, the great meteor of August 7, which dazzled the residents of a large section of Southern California with its brilliancy and caused some of them to think the end of the world had come, fell to earth.

The exact spot where it alighted will perhaps never be known, as it appears to have exploded into atoms which were consumed by the intense heat engendered by its rapid flight through the terrestrial atmosphere, before reaching terra firma.

Conjectures as to the place where the meteor fell have been as various as the number of observers and places of observation. A large number of those who were nearest to its place of descent and who heard the resulting detonations were confident that it alighted somewhere in the mountainous region of Los Angeles county near the Ventura county border. Most reports were to the effect that it fell somewhere in the Castaic Cañon, but this conclusion has been proved to be erroneous.

To set all controversy on the subject at rest, and to locate, if possible, the remains of the aerolite, The Times sent out an exploring party, with instructions to spare no pains nor expense in tracing the meteor in its flight and to find its ultimate landing place. Owing to the ruggedness of the country which had to be explored, the intense heat and the scarcity of water, the task was a difficult one, but was performed with a tolerable degree of success, in spite of all difficulties.

The Landing Place.

Through the efforts of The Times' explorers the locality where the chance visitor from space appears to have struck the earth has been narrowed down to an area a few square miles in extent. But diligent search over every acre of the ground where the descent was almost certainly made failed to disclose even a fragment of meteoric stone, or a mark or scar on the landscape to indicate that a violent contact had occurred.

It is a well-known scientific fact that some meteors rush through the air with such great speed that they are consumed by frictional heat and nothing but meteoric dust or ashes eventually reaches the earth. In the case of the meteor of August 7, there was a series of explosions as the missile neared the surface of the ground, which leaves little doubt that the fiery mass was shattered into infinitesimal particles which were either entirely consumed or deposited over a considerable area of ground in the form of dust.

The Times' explorers were nine days in the field, most of the time being spent in the saddle. They traveled 185 miles on horseback through one of the most rugged regions in Southern California. Starting at Fillmore, Ventura county, they zigzagged back and forth over the mountains and through the cañons lying between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Antelope Valley, as far east as Acton. Nearly every one of the inhabitants of that sparsely settled country was interviewed as to the direction of the light and noise by which the meteor had manifested itself. In this manner the explorers were enabled to come nearer and nearer to the spot where it descended, until they had it surrounded.

The Spot Located.

After many miles of weary travel and much patient inquiry, they got the field of research narrowed down to a circle several miles in diameter. They found that if they deviated to the east or west of a certain line, the direction in which the meteor was observed changed accordingly. The same was true if the explorers wandered north or south of a certain base. They were thus convinced that the actual fall must have taken place within a small proscribed territory, which they located at the lower end of the Chicapolus range, between Texas and Deadman's cañons, about seventeen or eighteen miles northeast of Saugus, and perhaps the same distance south of Elizabeth Lake.

The density of the manzanita growth made it impossible to view every foot of the ground minutely for evidence of the meteorite, but the search was nevertheless so thorough as to convince the explorers that no large fragment of the visitor from outer space had reached the ground unbroken. All the circumstances tended to confirm the theory that nothing but dust and ashes were deposited on the earth as the result of the fiery trail and loud explosions which characterized the flight of the meteor as it neared the earth's surface.

Mountaineers' Theories.

It was discovered that the mountaineers accounted for the strange visitation in various ways. Some who heard the noise, but did not see the blinding light, imagined that a shipload or carload of dynamite had exploded at some point on the coast, or along the railroad. Some fancies that a powder magazine had blown up somewhere, and others were of the opinion that a boiler explosion might have caused the frightful din. Those who saw the fiery mass descend toward the earth, and were near enough to hear the report of the explosion, either divined the true nature of the phenomenon, or regarded it as some supernatural manifestation.

All sorts of queer characters live in the lonely mountain region where the meteor fell. Some of these mountaineers are very superstitious, and the meteoric phenomenon filled them with awe. Of all the unique theories advanced as to the cause of the strange freak of nature, that of old Jack Temple is perhaps the most interesting.

When The Times' explorers reached the Temple ranch in Mint Cañon, they knew that they were not very far from the spot where the meteor fell. Temple said he saw a great ball of greenish white fire drop in to Texas cañon, just west of his place, with a terrific noise. He was surprised that any one should come all the way from Los Angeles to learn what it was.

Old Rush's Spirit

"Do you know what it was?" was asked.

"You bet I do," was the laconic reply. "It was ol' man Rush's spirit come back to ha'nt the cañon, that's all. You know he was murdered over there. It's his spirit, all right."

"Did you go over to see whether it really was Rush's spirit, or is that just your guess?"

"No, I didn't go over to see. I didn't need to do that. I know; and I ain't looking for any spirits, even if they was friend and neighbors once."

Old man Rush lived the life of a recluse in Texas Cañon, and he was found dead in his cabin there a few months ago, with a bullet hole in his head. The Coroner pronounced it a case of suicide, but some of the mountaineers believe to this day that the old hermit was murdered. According to reports of residents on all sides, the big meteor fell at no very great distance from the old hermit's cabin, on a ridge of the Chicapolus Range, between Texas and Deadman's cañons.

Times Explorers.

The members of the exploring party were [Mr.] Vivian Tresslar of The Times' art staff, Norman and Frank Aurendell of Fillmore, and H.E. Woest, a seasoned mountaineer. Their equine equipment consisted of three horses and a burro named Callie, which carried a pack as large as herself. The start was made from Fillmore, August 10(?). The Aurendell boys were members of a hunting party in the Piru hills when the meteor fell. From an eminence upon which they were camping they had a very good view of the monster aerolite, and their guess was that it fell somewhere near the head of the Castaic Cañon. Thitherward the explorers first proceeded.

Tresslar, who had not been astride an animal for several years, asked for a nice, fat horse that was easy to handle, and a soft saddle. When raw-boned old Baldy was led out and introduced to him as his mount he had his misgivings, but Baldy proved himself to be a most efficient mountain climber, even if Tresslar did stand up in the stirrups nearly all of the 185 miles traveled, in order to ease the pain caused by contact with the saddle.

On the Meteor's Trail.

Striking out for the Piru Mountains the party found the place where the Aurendell boys had camped when they saw the meteor. Taking an observation from this point, the direction the meteor had flown was marked on a field map prepared for the occasion, and with the aid of a magnetic compass this line was followed as nearly as possible. It led up the Castaic Cañon, but inquires made en route showed that the aerolite fell away beyond the Castaic. As the exploring party proceeded toward the heart of the mountain wilderness, the stories about the size of the meteor and the noise it made, increased. Mr. Tresslar in his notes of the trip says:

Terrifying Noises.

"Our first night's camp was on the Rose ranch, at the head of Charlie Cañon. Here we were told that the noise made by the meteor had a terrifying effect upon the farm animals. A flock of 150 turkeys roosting on a hill came down with a rush, and the cattle threw up their heads and huddled together as if for mutual protection.

"From the Rose ranch our way led through the mountains, where there were few trails, but little water and no people. In one place we went up a dry cañon so steep that even poor Callie rebelled and lay down on her pack with all four feet in the air.

"Our second night's camp was made in San Francisquite [sic] Cañon, near the St. Francis ranch, where we found plenty of running water and feed for the horses. Our commissary having been replenished during the day by the bagging of a fine deer, fresh venison, with plenty of spuds and flapjacks, made camping out quite tolerable.

"In San Francisquite Cañon a number of people were interviewed about he meteor. All had heard loud reports, as if five big cannon had been fired very close together; then a long, low rumble, lasting for about six minutes, was heard. One man became so frightened that he filled his canteen and made for the highest hill away from the noise, and stayed all night. He said he didn't know but it was a volcano, and he wasn't taking any chances.

Loud Reports

"Resuming our journey, our course led up the cañon via the Elizabeth Lake road. Near the foot of the grade we met Ben Hicken, who said he was flat on his back on top of a stack of hay when the meteor fell. He felt no shock, but heard a great rumble, and five distinct reports. He directed us to Bouquet Cañon, which we reached after a hard day's steady climb, with no stop for lunch.

"Reaching the Sears ranch, we interviewed the two Sears brothers. Here the noise was the most pronounced of any place yet visited, and lasted nearly seven minutes, commencing with small, sharp reports, like small arms being fired in quick succession, followed by larger guns coming faster and faster; then a long, low rumble as if a railway train going haphazard over a mountain of rocks, touching only the high places.

"Still our direction was east. Thinking we were getting very near the spot we were seeking, we went up and down Bouquet Cañon, interviewing everybody in sight. All agreed as to the direction and general character of the sound.

Like Noise of Battle.

"Three old soldiers living in the cañon described the sounds very graphically, as like the noise of battle during the Civil War — first picket firing, then irregular firing as the lines advanced, followed fast and furious by the steady musketry as both armies came into action, with the boom, boom, of heavy guns in the distance, which soon seemed to settle down to the steady awful roar of a mighty battle. One grizzled veteran said he had fought so often when the sound was just like that, that he thought he was dreaming while wide awake; he grabbed his gun and ran out, only to run back frightened as no real battle had ever frightened him.

"Our camp her was on the Bitterson ranch, where we were treated right royally, and where some of our most definite information was secured. From here, our road lay over the Chicapolus range, the highest we encountered on the trip.

Hardships Encountered.

"It was from this point the real hardships commenced, for from the time we left the trail at Big Oak spring, above the Bitterson place, we saw no person to ask about the noise; no water except what we had in the canteen, and no feed for our horses until we made Acton, which took us out of our way nearly twenty miles, and used up two days' time.

"At Acton, no noises were heard, though people from Mint Cañon, southwest of Acton, had reported having heard queer things. So to Mint Cañon we started winding around past old deserted mines, ranches long abandoned for lack of water, with not a soul to ask a question of. It was three days' steady travel, nearly all by compass, and one time for eighteen hours without a drop of water for the horses, and for six long, hot hours our canteens were dry, while we put pebbles in our mouths to induce a scanty flow of saliva.

Rat Juice to Drink.

"A ranch with a broken windmill hove in sight at last, but this ranch, like so many others, was abandoned, and the windmill refused to operate, though we were sure water was there, but being after dark, we could not see it. Woest, our cook and guide, rigged up a long pole, and the windmill worked, when we all pushed or pulled on the far end of the pole. We soon had water, but it smelled bad and tasted worse, but it was wet, and no spring mattress was ever more welcome than our bed of stones with an inverted saddle for a pillow that night.

"But the rude shock to be suddenly called out of a deep sleep by the cook, with the remark that ‘We might as well be moving; this ain't no place to eat again; there's a lot of dead rats in this well!'

"So we moved, but we did not fill our canteens there, or need pebbles in our mouths to make us spit. The taste of those rats was enough.

"A few miles further on we rode into the Temple ranch, filled our canteens and asked the usual questions.

Final Round-Up.

"After old man Temple told us about old Rush's fiery spirit having returned to haunt Texas Cañon, we headed for that locality, spirits or no spirits. We crossed three more ranges of hills before we found anyone else to interview. Then we found we had again arrived to the west of the course taken by the meteor. We had passed to the north and east of its line of flight, and it only remained for us to decrease the size of the circle we had described in order to arrive at the spot we were seeking.

"For three days it was one constant round and round, over the three ranges between Deadman's Cañon and Mint Cañon, each trip narrowing the limit of the ground we had to search for traces of the fallen meteorite. When we had reduced the unexplored area to a circle a few miles in extent, all accounts obtainable indicated that the explosions must have taken place within that limited space.

"The tall, thick growth of manzanita made it difficult to examine the surface of the ground within this area, but we traversed it so thoroughly that I am satisfied that we must have crossed the very spot over which the minute remnants of the meteor were strewn after it was reduced to atoms by the series of explosions which took place before the descending mass reached the ground."

After nine days spent in the mountains the exploring party returned to civilization via Deadman's Cañon, emerging upon the railroad at Saugus.

Click to enlarge.

News article courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.



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