Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hidden Valley Discovered--Twice

It was 1936 and Joshua Tree National Monument was about to be established.

But four months before that date, Bill Keys, a long-time resident of the area within the designated Monument, blasted through rock to reveal this entrance to what would be named Hidden Valley.

After passing through this opening, we were greeted with a view of a valley completely surrounded and concealed by large rocks, which is why the valley was so important to the folks who came upon it in the late 1800s.

While wandering among the boulders over a century ago, brothers Charlie and Willie Button found a narrow passage in the rocks that led to this valley.

Now it seems that Charlie had just completed a 16-year prison sentence for double murder, but apparently it had not changed Charlie's criminal ways.

He was soon re-united with an old friend, cattle thief Bill McHaney, and before long they were using the secret valley as a hiding place for cattle that had been stolen in Arizona, re-branded in Hidden Valley, and sold to unsuspecting ranchers in California.

A more positive note is found in the story of William F. Keys, who was born in Russia in 1879. The family moved to Nebraska in 1892. Two years later, when he was fifteen, Bill left home and found work as a miner, a cowboy, and a deputy sheriff.

By 1910, Bill had arrived in the Joshua Tree area and been hired as custodian and assayer of the Desert Queen Mine.

When the once-prosperous mine closed, Bill claimed it and a five-acre mill site for his unpaid wages. In 1917 Keys homesteaded additional acreage adjoining the mill site, and the 160 acres became the Desert Queen Ranch.

It was here that Bill and Frances Mae lived for 60 years, working together to make a life and raise their five children in this remote location.

It was hard to imagine living, maybe surviving is a better word, in the harsh conditions of the desert. And to have done this for 60 years.

Bill died in 1969.

The one-mile trail around Hidden Valley was well-marked, with rocks marking the route.

Larger rocks served as steps where short climbs were necessary.

In contrast to the expanse of desert and mass of boulders are the small niche scenes that capture the components of the desert in somewhat hidden areas.

Our hikes are more accurately labeled walks because we take time to look around to find these small scenes. Several hikers quickly pass us by, their eyes on the trail.

Finally, there is at least one more person of note associated with Joshua Tree--and in a far more important role--Minerva Hoyt, who, in the 1930s, persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to proclaim Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936 to protect the fragile desert environment.

In 1994, Congress remamed the area Joshua Tree National Park.

And there was at least one more part to see.

1 comment:

Patti Messenger said...

Thank you! I found this while searching for information on the McHaney gang, which Charlie and Willie were a part of. This is the most information I've seen about them. Do you know when or where Charlie Button committed the murders and served time?