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John Baxter
Potashin, Richard
Baxter, John
Date Created and/or Issued
Contributing Institution
Eastern California Museum
California Revealed from Eastern California Museum
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Born in 1929 in Lumis, CA. Lived in Lumis, Independence, Big Pine. Tape 1 Side A pp. 1-18 John Baxter's grandfather came to Owens Valley, worked at Cerro Gordo, and homesteaded in Independence in 1874. John was born in Loomis, California, in 1929 and moved to Independence in 1936. He attended schools in Independence and Big Pine and recalls early school facilities, appearance of Independence and surrounding environment. Roads were not paved, making travel slow; later paved roads were narrow. He recalls early hotels and markets. The family purchased property near Big Pine which it still owns and uses for cattle grazing. He discusses the agricultural co-op at FJrt Independence prior to World War II where displaced midwesterners farmed on land leased by the government from the City of Los Angeles. Some co-op families later integrated into town life. He explains razing and stripping of homes on lands bought by the City of Los Angeles. Indians at the Fort had their own school called the Milton School District, with teacher Ada Bell, but eventually came to Independence under unification. Indian women did laundry for town families. Introduction of alcohol had negative effect on Indian life and culture. Tape 1 Side B pp. 18-34 Baxter describes the station at Aberdeen for the narrow gauge railroad. The Baxters leased 3,000 acres from the City of Los Angeles around the intake area for cattle grazing. His father began work for the Department of Water and Power in 1929. His mother was a homemaker; he mentions local women who worked at the courthouse. Prior to civil service, local superintendents at the DWP did all hiring and firing. He discusses relations between DWP employees and other valley residents. The valley's economic climate during the Depression was not bad, except for farmers who lost money in Watterson Inyo County Bank failure. Offers from City to buy property were welcomed by many ranchers who were not wealthy. He discusses mining efforts and methods in Mazourka Canyon; The Whiteside mine held lead deposits which were never found. He worked at Darwin for Anaconda Copper Mining Company, and lived in the camp there. He describes the mining process; products were shipped out through Lone Pine to Mojave. Small schools such as one near the Reward Mine were scattered throughout the Valley, . but were closed when the City bought up farm lands. His brother owns a mine near Aberdeen, but most claims require large investment for road work and the technology needed for conditions, such as faulting, particular to the area. The Levy brothers in Independence grubstaked miners. Tape 2 Side A pp. 34-50 Sheep drives up the valley were common until about twenty years ago when feed dried up and the BLM regulated grazing. Stock driveways were mainly on the west side of t!ie valley; some bridges remain. Most sheepherders were Basque from Bakersfield area. Before 1900, John's grandfather built trail over Shepherd's Pass for cattle to go into summer range in the Kern River area. Indians were used to bring out lost cattle. He recalls early. Bishop area as wet meadowlands. Social life in Owens Valley towns centered around dances, parades, school events. Shopping was mainly in Lone Pine. He describes businesses there. The winter of 1937 was hard with heavy snow and a month of freezing temperatures. He describes efforts to keep water flowing in Bishop when pipelines froze. Women doctors were in Independence and Lone Pine. The War Relocation Center at Manzanar provided some employment to valley residents. He saw camp as a necessary thing for the protection of the Japanese and as precaution against sabotage. Some local people were fearful. His father met a former Japanese neighbor from Loomis at the camp. When barracks were dismantled, local residents bought wood and whole barracks. Carpenters brought rationed nails from camp construction to local residents. He sympathized with Japanese who lost all their property. Tape 2 Side B pp. 50-66 Baxter worked briefly at Natural Soda Products (NSP) at Keeler in conditions of toxic dust. He describes chemical processes in making products from soda ash and boron at Bartlett and Keeler plants. Owens Lake water level rose during 1969 runoff and interfered with soda plant operations. He worked at Anaconda in 1955 and describes large ore deposits and milling operation. Keough's Hot Springs was a social hub and swimming pool. He visited Coso Hot Springs one time. His grandfather hauled ore from Cerro Gordo and took it by barge across Owens Lake to Mojave. He discusses his attitude and those of valley residents towards the Department of Water and Power over several decades. The DWP has made some errors; deep groundwater pumping could have severe effect on the environment. He believes that City ownership of Valley lands has prevented uncontrolled growth. The valley faces problems of few well-paying jobs and a local economy dependent on tourism. Wood camps for the railroads took many trees in the valley which have not grown back. He discusses history of the narrow gauge railroad. His brother Philip shipped out much of the honey from his bee operation on the narrow gauge at Kearsarge.
1/8 inch audio cassette
2 Tapes of 2
Eastern California Museum
The California Revealed Project is supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

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