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Mojave River Valley Museum
Mojave Desert History -
Pioneer of the Mojave
Outlaws on the Mojave
Citizens on Desert Left UnprotectedTo add to the concerns of the community during this time was the closure of Fort Tejon and Fort Mojave. It was felt by Aaron Lane and the others who either lived in or traveled in the desert that they had been given up to the mercy of the criminals and the Indians. The desert was now wide open to outlaws, and the Indians had become so bold that they even threatened to take any stock that was not removed from the region.
As a result, in June of 1861 there was a "general stampede" out of the desert by the cattlemen who used the upper Mojave River area for grazing their animals. Palomares removed his stock, as did John Rowland of Los Angeles. Henry Parrish and the Bemis brothers, all San Bernardino stockmen, thought it wise to follow their example and also brought their herds down from the desert.
Articles appeared in the Star calling for military assistance. One correspondent from Cajon Pass felt that one or two companies of soldiers were needed to protect the citizens on the desert. Another writer suggested that rather than concentrating the troops in Los Angeles, it would be expedient to station a force at Las Vegas in order to protect the residents and travelers along the Salt Lake Road.
Shortly following the withdrawal of the troops from the desert -- an action which may or may not have been directly responsible for this incident -- Indians did steal some mules from a desert traveler. John Mayfield, a San Bernardino rancher, was on his way to try his luck in the mines at Potosi, Nevada, and had stopped at the Fish Ponds.
While encamped there, some Indians shot his saddle mule and two horses, and ran off with his other mules. To the misfortune of the Indians, Mayfield had friends waiting for him just down the river at Forks of the Road. One of these friends, E. W. Champlin, also of San Bernardino, later informed the press that after a twelve-day pursuit, the mules were retrieved. The fate of the Indians was not included in the story.
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