1913, 14, 15
by Elsie Lenton Corwin

Captain Loomis was a very unusual person, “every inch the man”, tall, strong and now snowwhite haired. Whatever he tried he learned to do well. As well as having once been captain of, the Los Angeles Police force, he had also been miner, teamster, cowboy, owner of a sawmill, manager of Evergreen Cemetary, with which his wife Grace had helped him. He had built the first crematorium, laid out Inglewood and other cemetaries, was a contractor and many other things. Being the resourceful and courageous man that he was, he became skilled in each job that he undertook and everyone called the Captain “Lucky”.

However, the mountains kept calling and fina11y, his family all grown, at the age of fifty, the Captain decided to listen to that persistant call and go live in the mountains the rest of his life to work his mining claims. His wife, a small blue eyed, dainty little woman, being faithful and courageous too, agreed to his plan.

Now in the early days anyone could claim government land, land which did not, of course, belong to someone else, and by living on it at least six months of the year and improving it could claim it for his own. This is called “homesteading” and this is exactly what the Loomis family did. They, Captain and Mother, Hazel and Orval, Ruth and Todd and Anna and three grandchildren moved to the green, stream divided canyon down in the valley between Mt. Wilson and Mt. Pacific on the north fork of' Alder Creek. The place was then a tree and brush covered wilderness, twenty five miles from Mt. Wilson and twenty miles from Acton on the desert side of' Mt. Pacific. This was in 1913 – a long time ago !

They all lived in tents" using Old Tom Clarke ‘s tepee shaped hunter's cabin, then on the place, to store all their equipment and supplies. Now building a house in this country with no roads to bring in supplies, was quite a job! First they staked off a sight 20 x 40 feet on the west stream bank. The first log, cut from Alder trees growing along the stream, was laid on September 13, 1913. This was to be the Loomis family home for forty-one years. But no one then even dreamed that it would become the Lodge for the Alhambra Girl Scout Camp! How could anyone have even guessed at that time that this would be the destiny of their newly started home?

But to get back to my story, as Mother Loomis told me about it when we sat under the big apple tree one summer day reminiscing, the hillsides and stream banks were searched for the right sized rocks which were laboriously drug and carried in to build the foundation and the lower part of the lodge walls just as you see them to-day.

From the middle fork of Alder Creek fine trees were chosen and cut for logs to make lumber for the frame work. Captain Loomis had built a very complete sawmill, remember he had once owned one. It was where the Arrastra is now and was run by water power, using a Pelton or water wheel, which he built. Here the rafters and steeting and shingles were cut. You can still see some of this lumber in the lodge partitions and closets. Of course such things as windows doors, nails, cement and tools had to come in over the trail. One couldn’t just order a truck load of lumber all cut to proper size in the year 1913 in that remote place. The road wasn't even built until 1931 – 18 years later when Norman Ross drove the first car, a chevrolet into the ranch. I keep getting ahead of my story.

Most of the supplies came from Acton and were packed on mules and horses to the top of Mt. Rountop by George and Bill Blum, whose family had homesteaded a ranch on that side of the mountains. The Loomises met them at the top with their own string of burros, reloaded everything, and brought it downtrail home. Each part of the trip took a full day. We can drive the distance now in about twenty minutes.

Well all the skills that the Captain had once learned certainly helped him out in this new adventure. "Everyone helped”, Hazel and Orval told me, remembering not only the hard work, but also the sense of acheivement. Finally the roof' was on and late in October the house was finished. After getting all their furniture packed in and finishing the inside the family moved into their new home which was to be the center of life on the Loomis ranch for many years to come - indeed still is!

Another part of making a new home was getting the land ready for planting. Ground on both sides of the stream bed was cleared of rocks and brush and trees. This sounds easy just to tell it, but it was actually an almost killing job, using hand tools, axes, mattocks and brush hooks - all hand labor-no tractors or buldozers. How would you like that kind of a job? We thought it was hard work just clearing unit spots - it was too!

When all this was finally done, a garden was planted and watered and weeded by Mother Loomis and her three daughters, Hazel, Ruth and Anna. Potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, beans, corn and alfalfa, for the horses and burros, was planted. The first trees were planted in the lower orchard (more were added in the upper orchard many years later in 1944) Heavy rains that year provided plenty of water and all the vegetables, of course, were of' tremendous size and wonderful quality.

Oh, but that was a wonderful fall! The land cleared! The house ready! And plenty of food! In fact the family decided to have a house warming, sort of' a Thanksgiving celebration. So they invited everyone, friends and family, who as close enough to ride in, to come for dinner. According to accounts of that party, the Captains eyes still glowed with emotion as he told about it years later. He said, "That was a day I'll never forget. Mind you we worked mighty hard and the hauling in of all the furniture and that heavy stove and the like had taken us weeks.”

Well, for this great celebration, Mother Loomis unpacked her fine linen and her best silver and crystal and china and she and the girls had cooked and cooked. There was so much delicious food set out on the pretty tables that everyone ate and ate so much that they were literally stuffed. It truly was a wonderful thanksgiving dinner!

It wasn’t until two years later, after the first United States rangers came in to the place to check the fire, that a party of government surveyors rode in and spent days measuring the boundaries to see how much land could really be claimed for the Loomis ranch. After much red tape, numerous letters and reports back and forth to

Washington, it was finally decided that the ranch could claim eighty acres. The Government was no longer very anxious to [grant?] homesteads. At first the Captain was disappointed that [?] more, but then he sensibly decided, "There was no sense in having more than one could use.” So in 1915 a deed was granted by the United States government for the homesteaded land, signed by Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States!

If you are wondering why this is important, it is because this was the very last piece of land to have a homestead granted in the Angeles Crest Forest. So I guess Captain Loomis was lucky again! Maybe they felt like having another Thanksgiving when they found out for sure that they could really keep the land that they had worked so hard for. Wouldn't it have been terrible to have lost it after all that work?

And actually, I guess we wouldn't even be camping here now if it hadn't been for all the planning and hard work of the Loomis family and the fact that they loved children so much. For this, Mother Loomis told me, was the wish of Captain Loomis - that his ranch be used by young people when the family no longer needed it. So we too are lucky like the Captain was. I wish he could see all of' you here now. Maybe he can - who knows?

[Source: The True Loomis Stories by Elsie Lenton Corwin, Wandalee Thompson Collection (2006.38.1)]