Pinon Hills California Information and Pioneer History

Pinon Hills California Information and Pioneer History

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(Best Syndication News) Pinon Hills CA – The community of Pinon Hills is at the very edge of the Mojave Desert in the hills overlooking the Victor Valley. Situated in San Bernardino County approximately 45 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the high desert community sits between Phelan and Wrightwood.

With more than 6,000 residents, Pinon Hills is part of the unincorporated first district of San Bernardino County. The town center is approximately 28 miles east of Palmdale and 25 miles west of Hesperia and Victorville. Pinon Hills Elementary School is in the Snowline School District and middle school students attend Pinon Mesa while high school students attend Serrano High in Phelan. The Pinon Hills zip code is 92372 and the area code is 760.

The Kowalski Plan

The Pearblossom Highway (138) crosses Pinon Hills. East / west cross streets include Oasis and Phelan Road. The post office is located on Oasis Road just south of Highway 138.

Pinon Hills California History

Native Americans lived in Pinon Hills as far back as 4,000 years ago. The Serrano Indians established camps in Pinon Hills approximately 1000 – 1500 years ago. Rather than battle the harsh mountain winters, these Native Americans traveled to the area now known as Pinon Hills. The Shoshonian, primarily mountain Indians inhabited the Jaw Bone Canyon, according to a qnet article.

First White Men in Pinon Hills

The first known (recorded) white man to appear in the Mojave Desert was Francisco Garces in March 1776. Garces was a Spanish Franciscan priest who followed the old Indian trail along the Mojave River looking for a route from Arizona to Northern California. This trail was later known as Fort Tejon Road.

Jesuit priests discovered gold in the 1700s somewhere between Littlerock and Pinon Hills. When the priests were recalled in the 1730s they caused a landslide which covered the mine. Some claim that it was one of the richest gold mines in the southwest. It has not been rediscovered since.

Mormon Trail Through Pinon Hills

In 1851 the Mormons pushed through the Mojave. Charles C. Rich and other settlers moved into the area. There is a marker in the West Cajon Valley that explains that the trail passed up near Mountain Top Café and down the West Cajon Valley into the Cajon Valley and on down to San Bernardino.

Butterfield Stage Route

On October 8, 1858 the Fort Tejon (about 40 miles south west of Bakersfield) became a stop for the Butterfield Stage. The stage traveled along the Fort Tehon Road. The army experimented with camels and Fort Tejon housed the short lived US Camel Corps from Nov. 17, 1859 to April 1860 when they were sold.

Later the stage would stop at the Frontier Ranch. Catherine Schneider and her father J.G. Schneider homesteaded the ranch. In 1926 school age students would stop at the ranch for pear pies baked by Catherine’s mother. The cement slab near Fort Tejon Road and the mail boxes may still be there.

The Grettenbergs, Hale, Kunzel, Schneider, the Detless and Beekleys Homesteaders

There were other homesteaders in the area. Maud Grettenberg purchased 40 acres on the northwest corner of Smoke Tree and Sheep Creek Road. Later William Schwarts purchased the Smithson Springs Water Company, along with the Grettenberg Ranch and became the sole owner of 640 acres for many years.

William Beekley married Mable Detless and built the Yucca Inn (sometimes referred to as the Beekley Mansion) on Beekley Road just south of HWY 138. They also built the market building on Mountain and HWY 138.

Henry and Winnie Ellison, were also homesteaders. They built the houses on Tamarack Road, east of Mountain Road. Phelan Road turns into Tamarack where Green Road splits off south of HWY 138.

Walker and Anthony Pioneers

The Great Depression forced many homesteaders out of the area. In the 1920s Joseph Walker and Henry Anthony, Sr. settled on Spring Road. From the upper Pinon Hills area they could see and count 31 liquor stills down on the flats during prohibition. The population was dwindling during the depression.

George Air Force Base and World War II

The Victorville Army Flying School opened in 1941. In 1948 the school was renamed George Air Force Base after Brig Gen Harold Huston George (1892-1942), a World War I fighter ace. This brought residents back to Pinon Hills and the High Desert Area. George Air Force Base was officially decommissioned in December 1992.

Early Pinon Hills Names

Before Highway 138 was paved the town was called Border Town because it was located on the border of San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Later travelers began to call it Horine Springs because homesteader Merrie Horine let them water their horses.

Smithson Springs

The upper area of Pinon Hills was called Smithson Springs. Alfred Mondorf, who created a water company along the area of Mountain Road named the area after a cattleman named Smithson.

Desert Springs

The water brought residents. Waterlines were laid around the area of Mountain Road and homes soon sprouted up. Residents didn’t like the name Smithson because of all the s’s, so they changed it to Desert Springs. A post office was set up and Winifred E. Ellison was their first postmaster.

Mix Up With Desert Hot Springs Brings About Pinon Hills

The name Desert Hot Springs is very similar to Desert Springs and mail was mis-sorted at the main San Bernardino Post Office. This prompted residents to call for another name change. The Chamber of Commerce (located on Mountain Road) had a secret ballot the name Pinon Hills won out. . The name Pinon Hills comes from the Pinus monophylla (pinyon pine) that dominate the desert-facing slopes.

Chamber of Commerce

The first Pinon Hills Chamber of Commerce opened on the homestead property of John and Nettie Jane Hale in a Quonset hut. Their property was located north of Highway 138.

Later residents wanted a location on the south side of the Highway where most of the people lived. In 1934 the property was sold and Fred and Maude McGee donated land for anew building on Mountain Road south of the highway.

It took many years and many contributions before the money was raised to finish a building on the new site. In the late 1950’s the new community center was built.

County Service Area 70 and Area Land Zone L Water District

Water is always a major concern in the desert. According to longtime resident Mike Adams, Smithson Spring Water Company was able to provide water from caves dug into the side of the mountain. The Sheep Creek Water Company did something similar in Wrightwood.

Except around Mountain Road where the water company serviced, water had to be hauled in. There were many dry years during the 1970s and the county placed a moratorium on new building in Pinon Hills.

In 1978 the stockholders of the Smithson Spring water company offered to sell their company to the county. On April 26th the county board of supervisors approved the annexation of the water company and created County Service Area 70, Area Land Zone L.

The water infrastructure grew fast. Pipes were laid and wells were drilled. Water storage tanks were placed all around the community along with 3.5 million dollars in improvements to the infrastructure. They were able to lift the five year building moratorium in Pinon Hills.

In 1978 Phelan and Pinon Hills joined together to create a Callman Volunteer Emergency Service. Participants received first aid and fire response training. The County now has a fire station on Beekley Road.

The Phelan Pinon Hills Community Service District (CSD)

On February 5th the voters of Phelan and Pinon Hills voted to breakaway from the county and create a Community Service District (CSD). The elected 5-member board handles the water, street lights and parks and recreation.

By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication News Writer


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