Angelus Oaks has a far more fascinating history than previously thought if we take into account the lives and experiences of the people who gave it a place on a map.

As I have written at other times, the area was significant for the Indigenous people as a place to camp on their way higher into the mountains. It was called Tekamun by the Yuhaaviatam people for centuries before Europeans and Americans arrived. Ethnographer J.P. Harrington went into our mountains with Santos Manuel in 1918 and he wrote the following. “At Tekamun I interviewed the middle-aged man who is in charge of the place there. He said that his name was Sam Perry and that the name of the flat there is Glen Martin. Charlie Martin of San Bernardino is the owner. Charlie Martin owns a whole section here. There are several cabins and they had quite a large field of corn. The cabins are for rent and the place has evidently at times been quite a resort. Until recently the name was not Glen Martin but was Forest Home.”

Santos Manuel, age 90.

Courtesy San Diego History Center.


Harrington goes on to tell the story about travelers who mistook the Forest Home owned by Richard Jackson and Thomas Akers further down in Mill Creek Canyon for the one up there and had a good deal of trouble sorting it out. After that happened, a short time before Harrington arrived there, the name was changed to Glen Martin. Charlie Martin homesteaded 160 acres in township 1 north, range 1 west, San Bernardino Meridian in the northeast quarter of section 28, and James Cadd the southeast quarter, both in April of 1898. Over time, Martin acquired the entire section. When he died in 1927, the land passed to his son-in-law, Clifford Shay, but before that, they had already started selling off parcels and sold 320 acres to Arthur M. Gilman of Los Angeles. In 1924, Gilman intended to build a swanky $75,000 Normandy-style hotel with cottages. In the end, however, he never built the hotel and sub-divided lots for cottage homes.


Above: Ethnographer John Peabody Harrington, circa 1920.

Courtesy, California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections, Northeastern California Historical Photograph Collection.


Northeast of Glen Martin, the Mohr brothers, Edward and Adam, known as Bard, founded Camp Angelus. Over the years, many assumptions have been made about the naming of this place. For a time, some people believed that the name was taken from famous evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple. Others thought that the Roman Catholic angelus, or prayer of devotion, inspired the Mohr brothers spiritually and that was why it was given that name. The truth may actually be much more interesting.


Ed and Bard Mohr were born in Berks County, Pennsylvania near Reading. Their father, Henry C. Mohr was a prominent physician and their mother, Lydia, had nursing skills frequently put to use in the care of patients. Henry Mohr died in 1892. As a result, Ed and Bard inherited a fair sum of money, both from their father and their paternal grandmother. In 1902, It was announced in the Pottsville, Pennsylvania newspaper that 22-year-old Bard

Mohr was on a mission. Under the headline, “Pretzels for Far West,” they reported that, “For months past preparations have been made by Mr. Mohr for the crusade at the Golden Gate for the twisted dough product. He had been out in California for a year or more for the benefit of his health and then became possessed with the idea that Californians had but to taste the Berks [County] staple bakers’ product and they would capitulate to its seductive charms for the palate at once.” Bard left on November 24, 1902, with his mother Lydia in tow to become the pretzel man of California. Edward, who was then a tailor and newly married stayed. For reasons that aren’t apparent, Bard and his mother decided on Los Angeles after a brief period in San Francisco. He bought land and built a building for his pretzel factory at 504 Molino Street in downtown Los Angeles, opening his business in 1903. Ads for his “Steam Pretzels” in local directories demonstrate that he gave it a good go, at least until 1906. However, other events would swiftly overwhelm Bard, and his mother Lydia, who lived at a rooming house on Hill Street. At 5:12 in the morning on April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shattered San Francisco and was felt in Los Angeles. By the 25th, trainloads of refugees from the northern city were arriving in L.A. and the city was mobilized to help. Just blocks from where Bard and Lydia lived, the Agricultural Park [now Exposition Park] was turned into a refugee camp. The camp for the women was called – Camp Angelus. Lydia Mohr volunteered, nursing refugees injured in the quake and cooked while Bard supplied baked goods to the camp. Camp Angelus, during its time in service sheltered, fed and cared for more than 20,000 refugees. It also became the focus of some outrage when predatory madams tried to lure young women who had lost their families in the quake into the flesh trade. In any case, despite the scandals, the name Camp Angelus loomed large in the consciousness of Southern Californians and became synonymous with hospitality and refuge.

The site of Camp Angelus refugee center was the California State Agricultural Park in Los Angeles. It is now Exposition Park.


In 1910, a man named W.B. Dewey opened a resort camp on Forest Service lease land at the very summit of Mount Baldy and as an homage to the refugee camp named it Camp Angelus, though its name changed after 1913 when it burned down. During that same period, Bard Mohr tried mining in the mountains and became an assayer. Ed Mohr and his wife Rosa had joined Bard and mother in California shortly after the quake. . In 1917, the brothers acquired the lease for the Yorkshire Hotel at 710 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, which remarkably is still there. Then, in 1919, like Dewey, the Mohrs acquired a lease on Forest Service land and founded Camp Angelus In the San Bernardino Mountains, opening the Angelus Lodge in 1921. By 1930, the entire Mohr family lived in Camp Angelus and were very involved in their new community. For the rest of their lives, the Mohr brothers remained in the hospitality business in Los Angeles, Bard eventually running the Melrose Hotel on Grand Avenue and Ed running the Yorkshire Hotel. Ed Mohr died in 1945 and Bard in 1951.


In 1962, the U.S. Postal Service decided to amalgamate the post offices in Seven Oaks and Camp Angelus. The new post office was named Angelus Oaks and became the official name of the small town perched on the mountainside along California State Highway 38.

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Updated: Mar 2

As a historian, some of my favorite fascinations are disappearing places like drowned towns beneath reservoirs, lost mines, and the almost or never was of sites on maps that dissolve with time. Also, giggle-worthy names. Therefore; the saga of Octavius Gass is one that I particularly like.



History remembers Octavius Decatur Gass as a man who was always just a little too short of something. As one wit put it, he was, “Almost at the right place at the right time, but never exactly. Opportunity knocked at his door regularly, but he was always in the bathtub.” He may not have made his fortune, but he did make history in his travels. Gass had already had a long and very adventurous life by the time he came to live in Mill Creek Canyon in the late 1890s. Born near Mansfield, Ohio, Octavius attended Ohio Wesleyan College in 1847. He left in 1849 without obtaining a degree to sail from Baltimore around Cape Horn to San Francisco. The gold rush of ’49 saw a severe housing shortage and an enterprising gentleman on board the ship was taking a cargo of portable 2-room houses to the goldfields. Gass hired on to unload the shelters for $10 a day and made his grubstake. He went to El Dorado County in the Sierra foothills to try his hand at gold mining but quickly became frustrated. By 1853, he’d drifted to Los Angeles where he spent a year as a zanjero tasked with the city’s water distribution. His first intersection with Mill Creek history came in 1858 when he partnered in the Temescal tin mines with Daniel Sexton, the Louisiana pioneer who had operated the canyon’s first sawmill. The tin mines, the only ones then known in the entire U.S., didn’t go well for either Sexton or Gass as they were snarled interminably in disputed ownership claims. Gass lost too much capital in the Temescal deal to take advantage of the Holcomb Valley gold strike in 1860. Instead, he went to prospect on the Colorado River, staking several claims in 1863.



Octavius Gass at his Las Vegas Rancho home.


The following year, the U.S. Government created the Arizona territory out of New Mexico. With partners, Gass acquired 160 acres and an abandoned Mormon fort in a large meadowland in the northwest corner of the new territory. He also invested heavily in Callville, a Colorado River port town, believing that steamship traffic on the river between Utah and California was going to be the next big thing. As postmaster of Callville and an important landowner, he was elected to the new territorial legislature. There, he lobbied for the creation of Pah Ute County, Arizona with Callville as the county seat, and won. But two years later, Nevada legislators won the annexation of Pah Ute County to Lincoln County in their state. Not only had Gass lost his bid for power, but he was also suddenly living in the state of Nevada and could no longer serve in the Arizona legislature. Moreover, the transcontinental railroad with its fast, convenient routes put paid to his dreams for steamship routes to Callville, a town that would eventually sink beneath the waters of Lake Mead.



Still, he prospered, supplying miners and travelers with equipment, food, and a place to rest on their way to California. He also began courting Mary Simpson, a niece of then-President Ulysses S. Grant, and won her hand in marriage in 1871. His business was successful enough to buy out his partners and acquire the entire 640-acre section of land that he'd developed, which would one day contain the present city of Las Vegas, Nevada. But he lost it to debt in 1879. He and Mary with their six children and 1,500 head of cattle went to California in 1881. Both parents wanted education for their children and Octavius felt that his financial success would finally come in the Golden State. Although he tried planting vineyards in Pomona, Yucaipa, and Whitewater, agriculture wasn’t kind to him. Meanwhile, he never gave up on his dreams of riches. In 1884, he patented a mineral claim where Crafton Hills College is in Yucaipa and worked a quartz vein hoping to find gold.


From the days of the Mormon settlement, people had been prospecting in Mill Creek Canyon hoping to find gold or silver, but it was a disappointing exercise. Then in October 1897, a report in the Redlands Facts said that three men had struck gold not far from Akers’ Forest Home. It was the height of the Klondyke gold rush and people were fizzing for riches. The Redlands Citrograph reported, “A landslide on the mountain on the south side of Mill Creek and about one mile south of George Jackson’s place uncovered the lode, which was first found by E. L. Allen, in August. About the middle of September, Mr. Allen, E. P. Whitney, and Mr. Porter went to the ledge. It is about fifty feet wide, but much of it is covered by dirt coming from above in the same slide which uncovered it at the point of discovery.” After pulling out ten pounds of quartz and having it crushed, the three men netted $2.65 in gold and 4.15 ounces of silver.



Octavius Gass also turned his gaze toward Mill Creek Canyon, obtaining a permit from the U.S. government for the Mountain Home Prospect gold mine. Gass, who was 71 in 1900, lived near Kate and Lue Harvey in Mountain Home Canyon and worked a quartz vein just above present-day Mountain Home Village. Notably, his wife Mary and their remaining minor children lived in Perris, California quite apart. Documentation shows that only a minuscule amount of gold was taken from the mine. Within two years he had given up. By 1907, he had set up on a ranch in Reche Canyon where he discovered a promising vein of coal. But a wildfire burned the ranch to cinders. Eventually, he moved to Barton Road in Bryn Mawr with his son Fenton and lived to the ripe old age of 96, growing oranges. He passed away on December 9, 1924.


Octavius Gass told many people during his lifetime that he aspired to be a wealthy man living in a mansion and perhaps dabbling in politics. He didn’t achieve the first part of that dream, but he was an Arizona territorial legislator whose county disappeared into another state, the postmaster of a drowned town in Nevada, the possessor of a fortune that dissolved under debt, the founder and loser of Las Vegas, an owner of gold mines that never were, who retired to Bryn Mawr; a town that has vanished beneath the wheels of progress. I like that story.

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Shannon Wray

Author

Pioneers of Mill Creek Canyon

The History Press


Uriah U. Tyler Rachel Moore Tyler


The best of the treasure stories I have collected has to do with the Tylers, a 19th century San Bernardino pioneer family that purchased one of the two first homesteads in Mill Creek Canyon. Uriah Tyler was a very early pioneer in San Bernardino who came to the valley in 1847 from New York State. He purchased a portion of the old Lugo Rancho in San Bernardino in the 1850s. He was a member of Henry Washington’s survey team on the peak of Mount San Bernardino, which established the San Bernardino Meridian. Uriah drove the mail between San Bernardino and Los Angeles and operated the only butcher shop in the valley. He became Justice of the Peace and the County Assessor after the departure of the Mormon Colony. In 1892, Uriah’s widow, Rachel Moore Tyler, and her son George W. Tyler purchased their ranch and orchards in Mill Creek Canyon from the Peter A. Forsee estate. Thereafter, the prime spot in the lower canyon that is now Mountain Home Village was known as the Tyler Ranch.

Rachel Tyler operated the large, beautiful property along the creek as a resort for eleven years. Her son, George, was one of the principals in the Mill Creek Sandstone Company at the time. This week’s strange true tale belongs to him.

In June of 1913, George Tyler cut down a hillside on the family ranch in San Bernardino and moved earth to fill in lower ground when he made some bizarre discoveries. The first thing he unearthed was a giant skeleton. Then, upon further digging, he found a vault made of slate stone. Inside the vault were Native American artifacts and clay jars filled with an immense quantity of gold. According to the account in the San Bernardino newspapers, “The location of the strange find is at the corner of Second and Arrowhead, along the bank of Warm Creek and at a low depression, which, at one time, was on a

George W. Tyler

sloping hillside.” The measurement of the skeleton estimated that the man would have been more than eight feet tall. The bones of his body were intact and facing south, but his head was missing. Several of the old pioneers from the pioneer society came to view the find and conjecture on it, as did the oldest Mexican citizens in the community. Their ideas about what it all might have meant are fascinating.


Several of the pioneers said that they believed it was an Indian burial ground, and three of them, “Brothers” Thomas, Miller, and Brown, (no identifying first names), “stated that they were present and attended Indian funerals along this bluff.” The presence of the vault mystified some. “Brother Thomas thought it was a contrivance of Mr. U.U. Tyler, pioneer butcher, for making lard and melting tallow. Brother Cox thought it was an old sweat house used by the Indians, which they would spring from into the brook close by for curative purposes.” The rest of the pioneers who came to gawk and squawk believed it to be a vault built by the Lugos or other rich Mexican period dons to keep valuables in as there were no banks to secure them at the time.


The oldest of the Mexican residents in the city at the time concurred with the idea that it must have been beneath one of the Lugo homes located there. They also reported the discovery several years before of a giant head a short distance away from the site where the skeleton was found. They assigned the headless state of the skeleton to warring tribes taking trophies from enemies. Ghost stories and old legends revived and spread rampantly through the city.

The Lugo homes on the rancho were owned by Jose del Carmen Lugo, Jose Maria Lugo, Vicente Lugo, and Diego Sepulveda. The Lugos were the sons of Antonio Maria Lugo, one of the wealthiest of the land grant owners. It was said that he could ride from San Diego to Sonoma and never leave his own land. His sons sold the 35,000-acre rancho to Charles Rich and Amasa Lyman for the San Bernardino Mormon colony. $16,000 of the price was paid in $50.00 gold pieces.



Diego Sepulveda

In response to the assertion that the vault belonged to the Lugos, “Mr. Tyler says that one of these old ranch houses of the Lugos stood exactly over that spot as nearly as he can remember, as he plainly recalls the remains of such a house when he was a boy. The Tylers have owned the property where the find was made for 58 years, Mr. Tyler looking up the record yesterday. His [step]father purchased it from Lyman & Rich, they having purchased it direct from the Lugos, the latter getting it as a grant.”


From an anthropological and archaeological point of view, the find was a bit of a bust. After measuring the skeleton, Tyler put the bones in a box. As hundreds of people showed up to see the astonishing discovery, they took souvenirs from the box until nothing was left of the giant skeleton. Little was reported about the “Indian artifacts” found at the site. The reports did include some interesting geological information. “The vault where the pots were found is an object of much curiosity. It is built of stone slabs, the stone itself indicating that it came from Little Mountain north of the city, there being no other stone around here like it.

Ultimately, George Tyler spirited away the jars of gold so quickly that no one could guess at the gold value. Eyewitnesses said it was substantial. Though he lived a long life, passing away 30 years later in 1943, George never disclosed the treasure trove's extent. Today, the location of Tyler’s astonishing find is in the vicinity of the Superior Court of California of San Bernardino and Meadowbrook Park.


Copyright 2020, Shannon E. Wray. All Rights Reserved. No reprints in whole or part without permission.

www.shannonwray.com

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