28 February 2016

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #18999

Here's another one.


This probably took place last night, because it was not there yesterday afternoon, and this was photographed around Noon today.

This is the same spot on westbound Carbon Canyon Road, at the old entrance to the La Vida Mineral Springs motel in the Brea portion of the canyon, which has been the scene of many an accident over the years.  Just last month, the guardrail seen in these images was damaged yet again.


In this case, the driver evidently took the preceding curve too quickly, skidded off the road and came to an abrupt stop in a low dirt berm.

27 February 2016

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #18888


This morning, while driving westbound along Carbon Canyon Road, a dark-colored car was spotted stopped at an unusual place, a dirt access road to a portion of Chino Hills State Park bordering the state highway--and one that did have a gate.

Returning home several hours later, the scene showed another accident had taken place--the location being about 1/4 mile east of the state park's Discovery Center.


Whether it was just the one vehicle noticed earlier in the morning or not, there were skid marks and debris on the shoulder, scraping on a guardrail and, then, the damage left when the aforementioned car blasted through the steel gate and came to rest on the access road.

Obviously, a cause can only be speculated upon, but this marks a busy month for crashes on Carbon Canyon Road.


26 February 2016

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #s18627 & 18781

In the later afternoon today, there was another driver's departure from Carbon Canyon Road as a westbound traveler, evidently took the curve just below the Carriage Hills development a little too fast, skidded through the turn and very nearly headed down the steep embankment, though he managed to cling to the very narrow lip of the shoulder area.


The photo was snapped just as the tow truck had arrived and was preparing to remove the vehicle.  The young driver is shown seated by the roadside looking out towards the old Shelly Stoody ranch house atop the nearby hill, perhaps contemplating his dilemma and the consequences of his split-second decision-making.

It should also be pointed that there was another recent example of a driver unable to stay on the straight and narrow--the tire tracks and further denigration of an old section of chain link fence provide mute testimony from this instance, which took place within the last few weeks on the westbound side of Carbon Canyon Road just where it meets Old Carbon Canyon Road before the steep climb up the S-curve.

Just above this location, CalTrans crews were out earlier this week, replacing several sections of guardrail that were damaged in recent weeks and months.

Over on the Brea side, eastbound between Olinda Village and the old La Vida Mineral Springs property, a section of guardrail is crumpled and wood supports splintered by a vehicle's recent misadventures.

20 February 2016

The Latest Carbon Canyon History from The Champion

Today's issue of the Champion features two front page stories highlighting local history.  The first was David Kramer's talk, sponsored by the Chino Hills Historical Society, last Monday night about the history of Los Serranos Country Club, which his father, tennis legend Jack Kramer, purchased over a half century ago.

Kramer wore old-fashioned golf attire for the presentation, which covered the history of the site when it was the "Home Ranch" on the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, through the creation of the country club and the surrounding Los Serranos tract in the mid-1920s, and then through the Kramer family's full ownership since 1961.

Meanwhile, reporter Marianne Napoles, who penned the Kramer piece, also wrote another interesting article on John Klavins, a 100-year old native of the Baltic country of Latvia, near Russia, who has owned a 2.6-acre parcel in Carbon Canyon since 1962 that has been often discussed on this blog.

An ad for the Ponderosa Bar and Motel, Chino Champion, 6 February 1969.
The property still features surviving cabins and the old clubhouse from Camp Kinder Ring, the facility run from 1928 to 1958 by the Workmen's Circle Arbeter Ring organization in Los Angeles.
Later, a succession of social clubs occupied the site, which also housed the Ponderosa bar and motel and the Purple Haze bar, both of which featured nude dancing, during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

With legal problems attached to the operation of both Ponderosa and Purple Haze, Klavins decided not to renew the latter's lease and converted the structures on the property to rental unts, which they have been for the last forty-five years or so and which now accommodate fifteen residents.

The life story of Klavins is also remarkable.  Born in 1915, he remained in his native country until the outbreak of the Second World War, when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and his family's home and farm destroyed in the conflict.  Seized by the Nazis, he was sent to a labor camp in Germany, where he dug ditches for anti-aircraft guns.  His only sibling, a brother, was imprisoned in Siberia by the Soviets and died there.

An article from the San Bernardino Sun, 1 June 1971, about arrests for "marijuana and dangerous drugs" possession at the Purple Haze Bar "and adjacent cabins."
With the end of the war, Klavins was freed by Canadian forces and his fluency in several languages led to a job as a United Nations translator for migrants to America.  On his own arrival here, he got into the construction business and one of his projects was in Carbon Canyon--this being the construction of the Olinda Village shopping center.  Though long retired, he still lives in the same house he built in Orange sixty-five years ago and he intends to keep his Carbon Canyon property as long as he lives.

What happens after that, though, was encapsulated by a comment from one of his tenants, who assumed that, with the recent spate of development in the hills around the property, "like anything else, it's just a matter of time" before he and the other renters would have to leave, providing the Klavins property winds up being sold for more development.

Many thanks to Napoles and the Champion for continuing to promote the history of Carbon Canyon and the general area.

19 February 2016

Carmageddon Canyon This Weekend?

A major full closure of the 91 Freeway between the 71 Freeway and Interstate 15 will be conducted this week by the Riverside County Transportation Commission for 55 hours from today at 9 p.m. to Monday at 4 a.m.

The mantra appears to be "Steer Clear," which means that the commission "strongly recommends that morotists plan ahead, avoid travel in the area or stay home."  Otherwise, expected delays of 3 to 4 hours are expected.

Click on the image to see an enlarged view in a new window.
Alternative routes are stated as the 57 and 60 freeways and Interstate 10, but there are others, including Carbon Canyon Road.

So, who knows what the situation will be over the weekend, but be prepared for some heavy volume  if drivers decide that Carbon Canyon is a viable alternative.

More info on the flyer attached.

14 February 2016

Another Carbon Canyon Road Closure This Morning

UPDATE, 10:30 a.m, Monday the 15th: Carbon Canyon Road is still closed as Southern California Edison has finished its work on the downed poles, but now Verizon is making its repairs. City of Chino Hills updates still say detours are through the Carriage Hills community, though there has been rerouting through Summit Ranch.

, 8:15 P.M.:
There have been updates at 1 and 7 p.m., but there is no change to the closure of Carbon Canyon Road..  The highway is still closed on the S-curve at Summit Ranch.

Coming through a little before 1 p.m., the detour was actually through Summit Ranch, but both updates say that drivers will be redirected through the Carriage Hills neighborhood

Here was the message from the City of Chino Hills alert system:

February 14, 2016 6:39 AM

Carbon Canyon Road Closed at S Curves-Detour Available

A single vehicle accident has resulted in downed power lines and a complete closure on Carbon Canyon Road in the vicinity of the S curves. A detour is available through Old Carbon Canyon Road and the Carriage Hills area. SCE has been notified.

Presumably the road is still closed and work on the power lines continuing, because there haven't been any updates since then.

12 February 2016

The History of Los Serranos Country Club This Monday

The Chino Hills Historical Society offers its latest lecture on the history of the community with a presentation on the Los Serranos Country Club by David Kramer, whose father, tennis legend Jack Kramer, bought the golf course and club decades ago and whose family still operates it today.

This talk is this Monday, 15 February at 7:00 p.m. at the Los Serranos clubhouse, located at 15656 Yorba Avenue (click here for a Google map of the location).

Mention of Los Serranos Country Club and a proposed highway through Soquel Canyon—Carbon Canyon Road already linked the new country club, opened in 1925, with routes to Los Angeles.  From the San Bernardino Sun, 26 January 1927.
There is literally a direct connection to Carbon Canyon with Los Serranos, because when a Long Beach investment group bought the land from the Chino Land and Water Company in the 1920s, including the old Bridger Adobe, to develop the golf course, housing lots, and a lake (now within a mobile home park) it actively pushed for improvements to Carbon Canyon Road as a shorter route to the new facility from Los Angeles.  This eventually led to such work as fully paving the road, which was completed at the end of that decade.

So, hope to see you on Monday for what should be a very interesting look at one of the historic landmarks of a city many assume has no history because it is so new!

10 February 2016

Carbon Canyon Road Closure Underway

UPDATE, 9:25 p.m.:  Just passed the tow truck hauling the work vehicle that went off the side of Carbon Canyon Road earlier, followed by a ton of cars as the road had just reopened.


Driving back into Sleepy Hollow from Chino Hills an accident was encountered that closed down the road, although some traffic was allowed past.

This was a half-hour ago and eastbound traffic is moving right now, albeit slowly.  Here's the text received from the City of Chino Hills's alert system:

February 10, 2016 07:56 PM

Wed, February 10th at 7:45 pm. Carbon Canyon Road is closed at Canon Lane due to accident

Wednesday, February 10th at 7:45 pm A traffic accident on Carbon Canyon Road at Canon Lane has resulted in a full closure of Carbon Canyon Road at Canon Lane.


09 February 2016

Before Olinda: The Shanklin Ranch

As noted before, the area that became Olinda and extended into Carbon Canyon as far as the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino boundary, just east of today's Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in Chino Hills was considered public land from the Spanish period of California onward through the Mexican era.

Public lands became important as common grazing lands between ranches like Chino, Cajon de Santa Ana, La Puente, Cañada de la Brea, La Habra and others in the area, so that cattle could be moved from the ranches to the public lands to equalize the effect of grazing on grasses and other plant material.

James W. Shanklin's listing in the Great Register of Voters, San Francisco, 1866.  Click on any image to see the set in enlarged views in a separate window.
Once the American conquest of Mexican California took place in 1846-47, there were no immediate changes to that status, because the regional economy was still cattle-dominated and the ranches in full operation.

By the late 1860s, however, matters had changed considerably.  The end of the Gold Rush, an economic downturn in the late 1850s, floods in 1861-62, and drought to 1865 all contributed to the decline of the cattle industry and to the loss of many of the ranches that existed to serve it.  A new era was at hand, led by agriculture, including vineyards and orange groves, primarily.

In the late 1850s, President James Buchanan reversed the policy of Franklin Pierce and ordered tens of millions of acres of federal public land placed on the market--this followed the Depression of 1857 and a need for increased revenue was part of Buchanan's decision.  Between 25 and 30 percent of this land was in California alone.

James W. Shanklin's entry in the Great Register of Voters, Alameda County, 1870.
A problem was that surveys of California lands under the auspices of the federal General Land Office were proceeding slowly as land claims from Spanish and Mexican grants on ranchers was also moving through the courts at a glacial pace.

The state legislature passed an act in 1863 allowing persons interested in acquiring public land to apply to the state, which would then check with the federal land register.  If the land in question was determined to be open, not mineral land, or subject to any legitimate claim, the surveyor general would do a recheck.  If the land was considered available, it was up to the state to issue a patent, after one had been given from the federal government to the state.

Finally, public land sales, mostly to speculators and wealthy land owners with a great deal of pull, accelerated in the latter part of the Sixties.  By 1869, public land sales in California were more than those of all other states in the Union combined and another 8 million acres of lands initially set aside for schools, colleges, and as swamp lands, were being put on the market, as well.

Photo from James W. Shanklin obituary, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 March 1902.
It was in this context that former public lands in northeastern Orange County became available.  In a 1916 court case, Stutsman v. Olinda Land Company, the judge observed that property later part of the Olinda Ranch was composed of lands 'in lieu of a certain thirty-sixth section given to the state [by the federal government] under general grant for school purposes."

The plaintiff in this case, W. A. Stutsman, argued that the acquisition of the land at issue in this case was acquired by James White Shanklin in 1868 from a deputy federal surveyor, Henry Hancock, and that the property, being mineral land, could not be sold nor could Shanklin, who Stutsman argued was the state surveyor general, acquire the land.  Unfortunately for Stutsman, his facts were somewhat off base.  The judge, moreover, ruled that "the conveyance to Shanklin came from the state of California and not from the {federal] government" rendering Stutsman's argument moot and the matter was dismissed.

What did happen to the land that became Olinda, though, is that these former public lands were assumed by the federal government after the conquest of California, were in limbo as surveys were being completed and land grants sorted out, and then assigned to the state for sale by the late 1860s.

In early March 1874, Shanklin acquired 4,360 acres in the former public lands of northeastern Orange County for $1,000 from C.G. Jones and his associates.  Notably, Shanklin also filed an "agreement as to conveyance of lands" with Hancock, who was no longer a surveyor but an attorney specializing in land cases,  A week later, Hancock and others then conveyed their one-third interest in the 4,360 acres to Shanklin for $2,500.

Los Angeles Herald, 6 March 1874.
James W. Shanklin was born 5 August 1824 near Rochester, New York and worked on the family farm before briefly becoming a teacher and then studied the law in Rochester.  When the Gold Rush erupted, he followed the teeming hordes to California and mined on the American River.  He also participated in a lumber business.

In 1864, President Lincoln appointed Shanklin as the receiver in the federal land office in San Francisco just as California's public lands were beginning to be transferred to the state.  He then became the register in the same office, the same position mentioned above.  In 1870, Shanklin moved to Oakland, where he served on that city's Board of Education and then its city council during the following decade.  It was, of course, during these years that Shanklin acquired his property in what later became Orange County.  The Anaheim Gazette in its last issue of 1875 mentioned his "sheep camp," with the raising of these animals growing in significance in those years.

Shanklin then moved into state politics when he was elected in 1879 to be the state surveyor general, responsible for the surveying and tracking of the transfer of lands from the federal to the state government.  Shanklin served in this position from 1880 to 1883, when he decided not to run for reelection and returned to private life.

Los Angeles Herald, 19 March 1882 [the year was inadvertently listed as 1881 by the paper].
He did, however, add to his ranch holdings in what became Olinda.  In March 1882, Charles M. Laughlin sold to Shanklin additional acreage of an unstated amount (lots and sections were, however, listed, including areas within and to the east and south of future Olinda) for $6,000.

Early in 1883, Shanklin, having just left office, authored a bill to be introduced to the state legislature by Reginaldo F. del Valle of Los Angeles, concerning the better regulation of water for irrigation.  This was a contentious issue, concerning whether riparian water rights to be available to any land owners along the course of the river, stream, creek, or wash was to be superior over the right for nearby landowners to draw water by means of irrigation.

The Shanklin family's census listing, Oakland, 1900.
In semi-arid southern California, especially, the question of water rights and access was not only controversial but could lead to violence.  In Shanklin's case, he clearly needed irrigation to draw water from the Santa Ana River to his ranch.  In 1878, he was the president of the new Cajon Irrigation Company, formerly the North Anaheim Canal Company.  That November a new flume was completed, which was cause for a large celebration (documented in the accompanying photo from the collection of the Anaheim Public Library) and documented in the Anaheim Gazette and reprinted in the Los Angeles Herald.

Shanklin could not be present at the event, but had a letter read by W.M. McFadden, who then discussed the origins of the irrigation canal project in early 1875, just after Shanklin's purchase of his ranch and of a state law which cleared the way for such work.  The North Anaheim Canal Company was not named in McFadden's address, but the financial problems of continuing the work after eight miles were dug were noted.  Then, in 1877, a new effort was launched by seven men, (in addition to Shanklin and McFadden, there were names like Crowther and Gilman involved--the names of the latter three memorialized in Placentia street names today), with the 8-foot deep, 15-miles long ditch capable of irrigating 10,000 acres finished at a cost of $50,000.

The celebration of the completion of Flume #7, Cajon Irrigation Company, November 1878.  From the collection of the Anaheim Public Library.
Problems ensued, however, internally and externally and involving lawsuits, so in 1884, a new enterprise, the Anaheim Union Water Company, was created to embrace Cajon and two rivals.

In 1886, Shanklin and R.J, Northam were the heads of the Anaheim Anti-Riparian Irrigation Club, as listed in the Proceedings of the State Irrigation Convention.  That same year, an address to the State Irrigation Committee included this caustic commentary
J.W. Shanklin, once Surveyor-General of this State, ‘hogged’ more water in Los Angeles county than he has land to cover, or has ‘hogged’ more land than he has water to cover, we know not which, is up at Sacramento ‘bellyaching’ against the irrigation bills.  The burden of his song is that the laws proposed don’t fit his case.  Shanklin ought to buy an uninhabited island and move on it.  Then he could pass laws to suit his own views. 
Another potential problem, it seems, had to do with land squatters.  In June 1883, the Los Angeles Herald published an editorial claiming that squatters from Las Bolsas, near the Pacific in modern Huntington Beach, were flocking to the Santa Ana Mountains because of reports of oil found there.

The paper noted that there were several large landowners in the general vicinity, including Shanklin, and that these men "will not stand any squatter sovreignty" and "will use their lands for pasturage at present" for cattle, horses and sheep.  Most relevantly, the Herald continued, "there is no water for their stock in that highland plateau at present."

Shanklin took to renting out a large portion of his holdings, said by the Gazette to amount to a substantial 12,000 acres.  One such advertisement, in the Herald in August 1884, sought someone to take a lease on 5,000 acres, being "a splendid place for hogs or sheep," but also having access to "a good ditch of running water," presumably the irrigation canal, near which were 73 acres of alfalfa.

Los Angeles Herald, 13 August 1884.
The following year, 1885, brought the direct connection of a transcontinental railroad to Los Angeles through the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line, which ran along the southern reaches of Shanklin's domain.  Within a couple of years, the famed "Boom of the Eighties" erupted in the region.  Thousands and thousands of emigrants flocked to the area, land prices skyrocketed, and wild speculation was the order of the day.

Looking to get in on the action, former Los Angeles newspaper publisher Jesse Yarnell and future Los Angeles mayor Henry T. Hazard purchased some of Shanklin's ranch in March 1887, during the frenzy of the boom, for $50,000.  Within five months, Yarnell and Hazard were part of a syndicate planning a "colony" on their new holdings.  As reported in the Herald on 26 August, the group looked at their "patch" of 750 acres, valued at $150 an acre, for the laying out of a townsite adjacent to the new railroad line.

Los Angeles Herald, 8 September 1887.
A few weeks later, in early September, the Richfield Land and Water Company was incorporated, including Yarnell; Hazard; H. C. Witmer, a banker, streetcar line owner and real estate developer; W.H. Bonsall, whose realty deals included the Centinela Land Company near today's Los Angeles International Airport and the Redondo Beach Company and who was a Los Angeles city council and Board of Public Works member; and George O. Ford, who became the company's agent and whose home in the historic Angelino Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles still stands.

The company then announced a new townsite to be called Richfield, but, by the end of 1887, the Herald reported, in its 23 December issue, that it "now goes by the name of Carlton."  Perhaps in the flurried activity of the boom the paper got its towns mixed up, as Richfield was located by the Santa Fe rail line in what is now the Atwood neighborhood of Placentia.

Los Angeles Herald, 23 December 1887.
The other issue is that Carlton was not in the Yarnell-Hazard tract at the southern portion of the Shanklin Ranch, but was in the northern section.  This was sold by Shanklin, also in March 1887, to William Hervey Bailey, who was fellow Oakland resident.

As extensively covered in this blog, Bailey was the son of Congregationlist missionaries on the Hawaiian island of Mau'i and he and his family resettled in Oakland in 1885.  Earlier posts suggested he bought the land "about 1888" that he renamed "Olinda" after his family's sugarcane plantation in Mau'i, which in turn was named for the famed Brazilian region of Olinda.

Instead, Shanklin executed an "agreement to convey ranch" of just a smidgen over 4,857 acres on 30 March 1887 to E.W. Blaisdell of Oakland.  Then, that same day, Blaisdell issued "an assignment of above" to Bailey.  It was later reported, in October, when Edward Record bought a one-third interest in this parcel from Bailey for $33,333.33 that the purchase price by Bailey was $70,000.

The Herald did go on to say that "Carlton is on the same slope with Whittier," that is along the foothills of the Puente Hills-Chino Hills range.  Carlton, moreover, was said to be one mile from the rail line and that a proposed railroad to run from Pomona through Tonner Canyon and then to the coast was to pass through it.

Los Angeles Herald, 12 January 1888.
Significantly, the paper reported "an oil well has been drilled in the foothills one mile north of the place, and oil is now flowing from it."  This was a foretaste of the great Olinda oil field that was still a decade away from developing.

The article went on to say that Carlton sat amidst a very fertile region, as
large flocks of sheep are no grazing upon it, and within one mile are corn fields and orchards of almost all kinds of fruits.  Hundreds of wagon loads of pumpkins and watermelons are lying uncared for in the fields, and hundreds of acres of alfalfa are growing in the neighborhood.
The piece ended by predicting that "a new town will soon—perhaps within ninety days—look down upon the distant sea from this sunny slope."

Los Angeles Herald, 28 January 1888.
In January 1888, the first advertisements for Carlton were taken out in the Herald and a sampling of those is offered here.  With the usual hype, hoopla and hysteria, Carlton was pumped up to be many things, including "The Greatest Town of the Age!"  It was anything but, as the boom soon went bust and whatever was actually built in Carlton was probably little more than window-dressing for a speculative project that typified the excesses of greater Los Angeles's first huge growth boom.

Los Angeles Herald, 3 February 1888.
As for Shanklin, his luck continued with selling off pieces of his ranch to a great profit.  Having already pocketed $50,000 in sales to Yarnell and Hazard and $70,000 to Bailey, he returned to the ranch in April 1888 after a trip back from the East and, as noted by the Herald, spent a couple of days "during which the [ex-Surveyor] General will close up some of his business interests in the Shanklin ranch, near Anaheim." Among these "closures" was the sale of more parcels in the Yarnell-Hazard subdivision.  Still, in the Directory of Grape Growers and Wine Makers of California for 1888, Shanklin was listed among the many local vineyardists.

An ad selling a piece of the former Shanklin Ranch, Santa Ana Register, 9 February 1920.
Yet, some of the former ranch property remained in his possession until his death in Oakland in February 1902 at the age of 77.  He left behind a son, Edwin, a mining engineer, an adopted daughter Georgia, and his wife, the former Adaline Slater.  When his widow died in early 1920, she still had some of the old ranch land in her estate, which her son, as executor, sold, ending the Shanklin family presence in the Olinda area after nearly a half-century.

02 February 2016

Carbon Canyon Crime Capsule #5: Murder at the Keene Ranch, 1931

The last post detailed some of the history of Arthur G. Keene and his Carbon Canyon ranch, located on the Orange County portion of the canyon.  Keene had a sister, Ruby, who had been married to Texas native and blacksmith Gilbert Francis Collie, born in 1879 in San Antonio.  The couple had two sons, Herbert and Gilbert, Jr., before the relationship disintegrated, probably due to physical abuse by Collie, and the pair divorced.

Collie who drifted considerably over the years, remarried and had another son in Medford, Oregon, before his violent tendencies manifested themselves again.  Collie wandered through several areas of Oregon and California, living in Kern and Imperial counties for spells and then at Bailey Flat in Madera County in late 1930, before showing up in Carbon Canyon early in 1931.

Interestingly, in February 1931, the El Rodeo Riding Club, which is now in Carbon Canyon, but at that time was a four-year old organization out in Placentia/Brea near Valencia Avenue and Imperial Highway, held a rodeo on the Flying Cow Ranch of Ed Gaines, where the Olinda Village community is within the canyon.

A press photo of Gilbert F. Collie, who killed George Walker in Carbon Canyon early in 1931.  Click on any image to see the set in enlarged views in a separate window.
The 24 February edition of the Santa Ana Register featured an article on the festivities, which included a lunch "at a beautiful site on the hillside" and then the group "moved up to the stockade on the mesa behind the ranch house" where a goat roping contest was held.  Then, a pair of potato sack races, one for men and the other for women, followed.

The next activity on the program featured bronco riding, with that entertainment provided by "California Jimmie" Murphy and "Snake Bite" Gilbert Collie.  After that part of the day's events, there was an exhibition of "broom polo."  Participants included club president and recently retired Orange County sheriff Sam Jernigan, John Wagner of an old Placentia famiy, Mr. and Mrs. Alonso Yorba, descendants of the founding family of the northeast Orange County region, and dozens of others.

What isn't known is whether "Snake Bite" Gilbert Collie was the father or his namesake son, who was 20 at the time of the rodeo.  Young Collie did live in the area later in the 1930s, and, in fact, was arrested in August 1939 at the Tidwell Oaks tavern in Sleepy Hollow--the building still stands as an apartment in a complex at the far eastern edge of the neighborhood.  A resident of south-central Los Angeles, Gilbert, Jr. was hauled in for disturbing the peace (drunkenness) and Chino's Justice of the Peace Edwin Rhodes, later writer of a 1950s history of Chino, sentenced him to a $30 fine or 15 days in the town hoosegow.

A portrait of Gilbert Collie, probably from about the 1910s from the family tree of "cfirstoffive" on Ancestry.com.
While Arthur Keene was not listed as a guest at the Gaines affair, his ranch was just a short distance to the southeast near the La Vida Mineral Springs and his ex-brother-in-law soon found the Keene Ranch to be a particularly useful place.

As reported nationwide in the press just prior to Thanksgiving, a remote shack on the Keene Ranch was found to be fully engulfed in flames on 20 November.  Workmen, apparently from the ranch, responded and a gruesome discovery was made.

The body of 35-year old George Myron Walker, a laborer from Santa Rosa from northern California, was found inside.  Walker's skull was crushed, the little building torched, and the victim's car stolen. One account suggested Walker had been murdered several weeks before, but others indicate it happened just before the shack was set afire.  Notably, one media account stated that investigators believed that Walker's death was an accidental one involving an unexpected fire in the cabin.

From the Santa Ana Register, 4 January 1932.
Shortly afterward, however, Collie was arrested by San Bernardino County Sheriff Department deputies, because he was suspected of a similar murder involving 20-year old Dale Slater, a carpenter who had recently moved to Los Angeles from The Dalles, a town east of Portland, Oregon, where Collie had also resided not long before.  Slater's mother had received a letter from Collie claiming that Slater was in Las Vegas on a drinking binge, but his mother insisted that her son never drank.  With this information, Collie was arrested drew a crude map indicating where Slater's body could found.

Acting on this, authorities traveled to Yermo, a town out in the desert beyond Barstow and found the young Slater's body dragged from a shallow grave alongside railroad tracks, his body partially consumed by animals.  As with Walker, Slater had been killed by a blow to the head and his body burned.

Collie, known as "Gorilla Man" for his strength (obviously built up from years in the blacksmith trade) and black beard, apparently was a man prone to sudden irrational bursts of anger, as displayed by the profanity-laced tirade he unleashed when told he would not accompany investigators to Yermo to search for Slater's body.  While in jail the day after his arrest, he blurted out that he had killed 11 or 12 people and would have an unnamed person who bought Slater's car from him reveal the locations of their bodies.

From the La Grande (Oregon) Observer, 11 January 1932.
Yet, Collie's bravado soon receded and he was said to have spent restless nights in jail, crying out "I want to die!  Let them hang me now!"  On the 27th, he employed a crude suicide attempt by slashing himself with the lid of a can of chewing tobacco, cutting his wrists and throat from ear-to-ear in the early morning hours.  Scrawled in his blood on the walls of his cell was:
There will be Hell around here tomorrow, but it will be in blood.
Though he was found unconscious, Collie was revived and a preliminary hearing postponed until he was healed up.  On 2 December, he pled not guilty on a first-degree murder charge in his  hearing before San Bernardino County Superior Court judge Charles Allison.

On the 4th, the Chino Champion published an article in which Collie stated to authorities that he was a brother-in-law to Arthur Keene, but Keene answered that the marriage to his sister and ended in 1914.  While Ruby did marry again, to Gilbert Jara, that marriage also dissolved and she, notably, retook the Collie surname when she was counted in the 1940 census.

From the Bend (Oregon) Bulletin, 16 March 1932.
The rancher said that he was unaware of what had happened on his property until oil workers from the nearby Olinda oil field woke him up at his cabin, which was about a quarter-mile from the burning shack, but "obscured" from it, probably by hillsides in the narrow canyon.

It does seem strange, though, that Collie attended, nine months prior, the El Rodeo event at the Gaines ranch just a short distance away without Keene knowing that his former brother-in-law was in the area.

In any case, Collie was adjudged sane by a panel and ordered to trial on 4 January 1932.  A week later, on the 11th, he was found guilty for the Slater murder--the Orange County district attorney waited to see the outcome in this case before filing for one in the Walker slaying--and sentenced to be hung.  It was reported that the condemned man uttered "an almost inaudible expression of 'thank you'" when the judgment was rendered.

Collie's registration card at San Quentin State Prison, 12 January 1932.
Collie's court-appointed attorneys offered no defense, perhaps on his insistence, but, after the state rested, the jury took nearly 12 hours to return their verdict.  Because there was no recommendation for sentence from them, the judge was required by law to render a death sentence.

Collie was then sent up to San Quentin State Prison and it was not long before reports came out that he had gone mad over fear of his execution, which, ironically, was scheduled for April Fool's Day.  On 16 March, a jury in San Rafael near the prison found him insane, sparing him, for the time being, from the gallows.

Collie was transferred to a state mental hospital in Mendocino County and was there about a year, when the medical superintendent petitioned Governor Rolph to change Collie's sentence to life imprisonment, determining that the prisoner had "regained his sanity."


From the San Bernardino Sun, 30 July 1937.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Stanley Mussell, however, argued, based on conversations he had with Collie, that the insanity fit was an act to avoid execution and said that Collie told him as much, though also said at one point that he'd welcome a return to death row so that they could "get it over with."

Around the first of July 1933, Collie was back at San Quentin and the governor met with the chief justice of the state Supreme Court for advice on how to proceed with the matter of the death sentence.  While state law required a return to death row for men determined to have regained their sanity, the governor was careful about stating that he could not justify execution for an insane man.

Given this, it is not surprising that Rolph, on 16 January 1934, ruled that Collie would be spared the hangman's noose and had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.   Interestingly, just the day before, on the 15th, Collie somehow got hold of a hacksaw and cut his way out of the Mendocino State Hospital, though he was quickly recaptured without incident.  An account in the Register noted the irony of the fact that Arthur Keene had only been recently adjudged insane by an Orange County Superior Court and sent to a mental hospital in Norwalk where he died three years later.

Collie's mug shot at Folsom Stte Prison, 19 August 1940.
Orange County, then, decided to try Collie for the murder of George Walker and, on 29 July 1937 he pled guilty for that crime.  Collie stated that there was a fight over spilled liquor as the men were on a drinking binge and that he grabbed a tree root to pummel Walker over the head.  He dragged the unconscious man into the abandoned shack and set it afire "and Walker burned to death," according to a San Bernardino Sun piece.  The paper also reported that "Collie smiled as he walked out of the courtroom, because he believed his plea of guilty had saved him from a sentence to be hanged."

Collie's listing in the Folsom Descriptive Register, 19 August 1940
Collie was returned to San Quentin with two life sentences to serve, though, in 1940, he was transferred to the state prison at Folsom.  He remained there quietly for sixteen years, until, suddenly, in late September 1956, he was back in the papers again.  Submitting his own handwritten writ of habeus corpus to the California Supreme Court, the 76-year old lifer wrote
I ask that the court set aside the commutation and that the death penalty be invoked to give me a more merciful and humane death by hanging, as provided by the original sentence . . . I am old, infirm, ready for death, and tired of this mockery of justice . . . I want freedom from this living death.
However, the court had previously stated that it had no authority to countermand Governor Rolph's 1934 order and, in this instance, returned Collie's writ without comment.  Three-and-a-half years later, on 31 March 1960, Collie finally died at Folsom, undoubtedly being, at 81 years of age, one of its oldest inmates.  He was interred at the Masonic Lawn Cemetery, just south of Sacramento's downtown.


From the Amarillo (Texas) Globe Times, 11 October 1956.
Canyons are often the place for all kinds of secret acts--lovers' rendezvous, testing out the limits of how fast a car can go, dumping unwanted trash and, on occasion, horrible crimes, among others.  With this latter, the Collie murder of George Walker 85 years ago stands out as one of the more unusual aspects of Carbon Canyon's fascinating history.