QUICK HISTORY OF LUCERNE VALLEY
by Ethel Owen

chimney.jpg (11112 bytes)

Chimney Rock is at the north edge of Rabbit Dry Lake

In the early days, natural springs in what is now Lucerne Valley provided good camping grounds for Indians on their way into the San Bernardino Mountains to gather pinon nuts. The Indians resented white pioneers settling in the territory and committed some violent acts against them. Instead of discouraging the settlers, it caused them to marshall forces and attack the Indians. (Piute, Chemehuevi and Serrano)  In Feb.1 1867, a decisive battle at Chimney Rock caused the Indians to retreat and leave the territory to the white pioneers. (Chimney Rock is at the north edge of Rabbit Dry Lake. A historical marker is beside the highway at the east end of the lake. A quite complete story of the Chimney Rock Massacre is available at the Lucerne Valley Branch of the County Library.)

In July, 1873, five men, L.D.Wilson, John E.McFee, W.S.Manning, W.P.Morrison and (?)Holmes located the springs known as Rabbit Springs. They laid claim to the springs and 100 surrounding acres (20 acres each) according to a recorded document.

In 1884 Peter Davidson operated a Way Station at Rabbit Springs. Travelers could get fresh water, exchange news, rest and/or sleep over. "Uncle Pete" died in 1906. His grave is at Kendall Road and Rabbit Springs Road.

In 1886, W.W.Brown brought his family to this valley, which was without a name at the time. Brown had the water rights at the Box S. (The Box S ranch is where the drainage ditch now crosses Highway 18) The family stayed at "Uncle Pete's" until an old abandoned house could be moved onto the Box S property.

In 1896 Al Swarthout acquired the Box S, intending to raise cattle. There was plenty of water but not much forage. Swarthout and a friend found a place about 15 miles to the east, which had even more water and lots of forage. After one year he gave up the Box S and moved to Old Woman Springs Ranch. (It is said the Indians used to leave their old people camped there while the young ones went into the mountains after pinion nuts.)

In 1897 James Goulding came to the Box S with his wife, Anna, and two small children, Mamie and George. Three more children, Minnie, Jim, and Nellie were born in Lucerne Valley. "Dad" Goulding proved the fertility of our soil with his apple orchard, vegetable garden and alfalfa fields. He also raised cows, horses and other animals. He dug a well which proved to be artesian.
In 1905 a friend suggested to Goulding that this valley should have a name. Because of his success in growing alfalfa (also known as lucerne) he christened this place Lucerne Valley.

Dad Goulding is generally acknowledged as the founder of Lucerne Valley.

In 1907 Goulding legally established Lucerne Valley School District. Hanna Brown, a cousin whose family lived near Oro Grande, came to live with the Gouldings so the requirement of six students could be met. The school building was a former cook shack on wheels, 8 ft. by 18 ft. With wheels removed, and one end of the inside painted black for a blackboard, the school opened Sept. 9 on the Box S ranch.

Meantime, more families were settling all over Lucerne Valley.

In 1910, Goulding donated property for a new school where the Baptist church now stands.
In 1912, people in the east end of the valley thought the school should be closer to them, so they formed a new school district to be known as Midway.
In 1915, still another school district, Rodman, was formed in North Valley.
In 1916, windstorm and fire destroyed both Lucerne Valley and Midway schools. All the students attended Rodman school until the other two were rebuilt, which took a couple of years, because of war-time problems. In 1920, Rodman school lapsed and joined with Midway, which by then was in its present form.
In 1941, Lucerne school was condemned as unsafe and all students went to Midway. The building and grounds were purchased by the Community Church (not the present Community church) and used until 1952, when the building burned to the ground during a terrific windstorm at night.
In 1951, construction was begun on the new Lucerne Valley school at its present site.

Lucerne Valley's Library history began with 140 books in the front room of the Box S ranch house, in 1912. Most of them were for school use but some could be borrowed by local residents.
In 1915, the library was at Midway school and was made a branch of the County Library.
In 1916, a storm damaged some of the books and the library was moved to the Boom Ranch, on Wilshire, northeast of Midway.
After being closed during WW1, both Midway school and the library re-opened in Sept. 1918. The Library continued as a combination school-public library until March, 1928, when it became a Community Branch of the County Library System.
When the Lucerne school building was condemned for school use, the library moved in. When the church bought the building the library was moved into a smaller room there. Later it was moved into a small, narrow trailer behind the present China House. Ethel Windschanz Clafton, the librarian, said that looking out the little, port-holeshaped windows during a strong wind made her feel like she was on a sinking ship.
The library moved again to the building which is now occupied by the Sheriff's office. Mrs. Vera Russell (John's mother) was one of the librarians at that location. The library's last move was into the present building, generously provided by John Russell at very low rent. From there it will move into its beautiful new permanent home for which ground was broken March 17, 1988.

Lucerne Valley Post Office was established in 1912 at the ranch of John and Rosa Koehly, who came here in 1909. It was at the southeast corner of Rabbit Springs Road and Post Office Road. (Have you wondered about that road name?) Rosa Koehly was Postmaster. Some days only 8 worth of stamps were cancelled, so that was the Postmaster's salary.

In 1935, the Post Office moved to a one-room building on the highway, west of the Box S ranch, with Ed Smith as Postmaster. (Ed Smith was also a licensed electrician and Scoutmaster of Lucerne Valley's first Boy Scout Troop 71 from 1928 to 1933. Some of those Scouts are still living here, among them Harold Reed and Dick Owen.)

Later the P.O. moved again, to share the Clark Building with John Hutson's and Irving Seeberg's Hardware store. (The Clark building is now occupied by the China House.) Flora Ann Clark was Postmaster. The P.O. moved again to "the triangle" on Verdugo Road at Oracle Road (now renamed Oracel by the county street-sign makers) Early Postmasters there were Vern Ely and Ray Bonin.
The Post Office is now in its permanent location on Highland Ave. south of Highway 18.

A Volunteer Fire Department was first organized during WW2, along with Fire Watchers, Sky Watchers, Plane Watchers, Civil Defense, etc. In the early 50's a firehouse was built with donated material (cinder block) and volunteer labor. It was located about where Shell Gas Station/Halleck's Market is now. They had a unique system. People would phone Dick's Center store to report fires. Dick Grobaty would then press a button on his wall, which was wired to the siren on top of the firehouse. That was how the volunteer firemen were summoned.
The building was torn down after a short period and the present County Fire District was formed in 1962-3. At that time it still operated with volunteer firemen and one paid chief.

Some of the descendants of the early settlers still live here. William Russell (John's father) filed on his land at Lucerne Springs in 1911. John came here to live in 1949, and has been building houses and commercial buildings ever since.
Also in 1911, Theodore P. Owen filed on 640 acres two miles north of Midway school. His son, Dick, has come and gone but has lived here steadily since 1950.
Athene Sieswerda was another very early settler. She was the first to have pistachio trees here. Her son, Joe Sherman, lives here now. Orlando and Mildred Jacobs came here in 1928. There were about 250 people in Lucerne Valley then. At the Jacobs home in North Valley, Jake baked 60 or 70 loaves of bread, sweet rolls, cakes and pies on Saturdays and sold them through Max Lewis's grocery store. Later he rented from Goulding the building now Rosebud Gift Shop and established Homestead Bakery and Grocery. At the same time Mildred ran the Jackrabbit Cafe, located on land now occupied by Halleck's Market. In 1936 Jake and Mildred moved their house onto land they bought from So. Pac. RR, SE corner Barstow Rd. and Old Woman Springs Rd. The Jacobs's donated 10 acres of their land which is now Pioneer Park. As Jake's health failed, Mildred gave up the cafe and ran the Homestead Bakery. She still found time to clear and plant for the Park along with other citizens. The Jacobs's had two daughters, Shirley Ann and Millie Lou. Millie Lou lives in Maryland and Shirley Ann (Mrs. Bob Fuller) lives in Apple Valley.

Ethel Owen came in 1946 as Ethel Johnston and built Lucerne Valley's first Beauty Shop. Ethel and Dick Owen were married in 1950 in the old Community Church and their daughter, Lilli Ann. born in 1952, was dedicated there shortly before it burned down.

The foregoing was prepared by Ethel Owen on March 25, 1988 from material obtained from L.V.Library and from her own memory. She apologizes for any inaccuracies of dates or facts and/or omissions. There is much to be added that could not be contained in these pages.


[Lucerne Valley Website] [Lucerne Valley History] [San Bernardino County Service Area 29]
[Lucerne Valley Chamber of Commerce] [Root Diggers Genealogy Association]

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