Country Nodes
An Anthropological Evaluation of William Keys' Desert Queen Ranch, Joshua Tree National Monument, California
NPS Logo

Chapter 2:
Pattern and process

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology and culture is present in... sites... (that) are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history (Advisory Council 1974: S800.10[a][1]).

It is my purpose in this chapter to discuss those patterns of social and economic interaction with which Keys' Ranch was associated during various periods of California Desert history and to point to interactions which took place at or around the site. Network analysis is appropriate to a regional perspective that views the ranch not as an isolated entity, but in terms of interaction between occupants of the site and the surrounding area. I have tried to reconstruct the personal networks of Keys and the McHaneys from the first settlement of the ranch to the time of Keys' death, by identifying those individuals linked by direct interactions with the ranch. My description is modeled after the work of ethnographers studying complex modern societies (cf. Barnes 1972; J. Mitchell 1969, 1974; Whitten and Wolfe 1973). I have tried to describe social interactions at the ranch and to suggest how those interactions were related to the patterns of social expansion and contraction in surrounding areas.

Some types of questions relevant to this approach include: How did the existence of the family group shape the experience of those living at the ranch? What were the relationships among members of the family group? How was labor divided among family members? What changes in family relationships occurred with the increase or decrease of its membership; that is, as it proceeded through the domestic cycle (Goody 1958)? How did the family see itself as distinct from other persons or groups? Social interaction at the ranch also involved those people who came to work for Keys (hired help, school teachers, etc.), those who came seeking services (such as shoe and tool repair) and those who came to vacation or to visit.

Meanwhile, Keys and his family were responding to developments outside the ranch. I wanted to document how interactions among family members and others at the ranch were affected by these developments and to describe the nature of the interactions. One way of approaching this description in a consistent way is to focus on exchanges and on the roles associated with statuses characterizing interactions. Did exchanges of goods and services take place? If so, what was the nature of the exchange; that is, what sort of reciprocity was involved? Was Keys providing goods and services without much concern for whether he would be repaid immediately in equivalent monetary terms? Did he stipulate a price which both parties considered equitable? Or did Keys attempt to manipulate the other party in order to get maximum return for minimum effort?

Sahlins (1965) distinguishes several kinds of reciprocal exchange by arranging them along a continuum of expected return for gifts or services. At one end of the continuum is "generalized reciprocity," referring to exchanges in which the giver does not expect immediate return for his gift. This kind of exchange is characteristic of close familial or altruistic sharing and of situations in which wide discrepancies of wealth and status exist between the giver and recipient. Sustained one-way flow of goods and services in the direction of the "have-nots" is acceptable to the "haves." Generalized reciprocal arrangements are reinforced by values which emphasize the moral worth of giving. The exchange is perceived by the giver as "gift," but it is couched in terms of "responsibility" (Sahlins 1965: 162). Generalized exchange is also a way of gaining control over those who receive:

A gift that is not requited in the first place creates something between people; it engenders a continuity in the relation... Secondly, falling under the shadow of indebtedness, the recipient is constrained in his relations to the giver of things. The one who has benefited is held in a peaceful, collaborative, circumspect and responsive position in respect to his benefactor (Sahlins 1965: 162).

I think this sort of exchange characterized Keys' relationships with Bill McHaney, Johnny Lang and the reported draft dodger, as well as with some of the surrounding homesteaders who came to Keys for aid, all of whom will be discussed in this section. Keys was able to reap social prestige from his giving while a subtle debt was being created. Keys gained in stature in proportion to the amount of goods and services he was willing to give to those who "needed it."

A different sort of reciprocity is at the other end of Sahlins' continuum; this is "negative reciprocity," a most impersonal form of exchange, in which both parties try to get the maximum from each other while giving the minimum in return. This rather aggressive form of interaction characterized Keys' early relationships with the National Park Service, with Barker and Shay and with such people as Morgan, to whom he leased the Desert Queen Mine only to repossess it, along with Morgan's improvements.

At the midpoint of Sahlins' continuum is "balanced reciprocity," a relationship characterized by direct exchange between equals within a specified time span. The milling that Keys did for miners during the 1930s is an example of this kind of exchange.

Using this framework, it is possible to suggest questions of general anthropological concern about the rise and decline of Keys Ranch as an interaction node. For example, we can ask whether the interaction patterns represented at the ranch, as reciprocal exchange types, change in response to such variables as the numbers of people with whom Keys and his family could interact, the amounts of goods available for exchange fluctuations in the social value of goods or services, or decreasing amounts of open, unclaimed resources. If predictable changes do occur, we can ask whether they represent classes of phenomena which may occur under similar circumstances elsewhere, providing a basis for further testing and greater anthropological generalization.

The theoretical concerns outlined above have structured my identification of "broad patterns of our history." These patterns are documented in the following history of the ranch and are summarized at the end of this chapter.

Ethnohistorical Treatment of Keys' Ranch and Environs

The following history of Keys' Ranch is divided into five chronological periods. A brief summary of the overt events occurring within each period is presented below; a more detailed interpretive summary concludes the fuller discussion of each period. The first four periods are defined by major socioeconomic shifts, which emphatically affected the region and the ranch. The final period is idiosyncratic to William Keys, comprising the period from his imprisonment to the end of his life.

During the period 1870-1894 what is now Joshua Tree National Monument became increasingly accessible to travelers, with east-west transportation lines bordering it on the north and south. The monument's interior, however, remained relatively isolated. The high valley was used seasonally for cattle grazing and a semi-permanent camp was established in the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area, complete with structures, wells and other improvements. Cattlemen also improved and developed wells, springs, tanks and lakes throughout the monument area. The first mining boom/bust cycle occurred in the 1870s and a mining district eventually was formed within monument boundaries. Two mines that had great impact on the history of Keys' Ranch were discovered by the end of this period and machinery representing large capital investment was brought in to develop them. The Indian population, fluctuating from 0 to 40, was centered at the western end of the Twentynine Palms Oasis and interaction with Anglos was minimal.

The second period (1894-1917) saw two competing communities established. One was associated with the Desert Queen Mine and Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp, the other with Ryan's Ranch and the Lost Horse Mine. Other mining communities were scattered through the monument (at Pinyon Wells, for example), but the most extensive mining was carried on east of the monument in the Gold Park and Virginia Dale areas. Much of the mining apparatus at Keys' ranch today was brought into the area at this time and was later collected by Keys and brought to the ranch.

William Keys arrived at the oasis during this period and soon gained possession of the Desert Queen Mine, Keys' Ranch and Cow Camp. Large cattle companies competed with locals, such as Ryan and Keys, for water rights and grazing lands. Mining became unprofitable during World War I and the region was again isolated as miners withdrew and transportation routes were changed to bypass Twentynine Palms. The Indian population withdrew from the oasis after the Willie Boy tragedy of 1909.

Conflicts between Keys and his competitors for water and grazing were intensified during the period 1918-1929. Keys concentrated on making his ranch into a homestead capable of supporting his growing family. He collected abandoned mining materials and debris of all sorts through out the area, filed on many claims and built several roads. Keys set himself apart from the new community developing at Twentynine Palms. He maintained his relationships with the oldtimers of the area, however, and selectively extended support to the socially marginal people of Twentynine Palms. Keys' Ranch developed as a separate social system, co-existing with that of Twentynine Palms. Each node had its economic bases, separate schools and systems of welfare. By 1929 Twentynine Palms was a semi-viable community, capable of providing rudimentary services and supplies, paid for by pensions or other income sources from the "inside." Keys' Ranch was more economically self-sufficient, due to productive gardening, ranching and extra cash from mining activities.

Dominating the fourth period (1930-1943), of course, was the Great Depression. The impact of hard times on the coast brought people to the desert to take advantage of government lands as homesteaders or to try their hands at gold mining. Twentynine Palms became an active community and basic concomitants of civilization, such as electricity and regular mail service, were introduced. Keys intensified his mining activities and milled for himself and for others at Wall Street. He "took in" people at the ranch and increased agricultural efforts there and nearby. Joshua Tree National Monument was established in the mid-1930s. Eventually, grazing restrictions and drought conditions restricted cattle raising. Keys' hegemony over the area was challenged by the Park Service, the community at Twentynine Palms and, of course, by other cattlemen. The period closed with Keys' conviction for manslaughter in 1943. By this time he had become a figure of envy, by virtue of his properties, a nuisance to the Park Service and a somewhat fearsome enigma to the newcomers at Twentynine Palms.

Five of the last 25 years (1943-1969) of Keys' life, the fifth period considered here, were spent in prison. The shooting incident which sent him to prison centered on Keys' 35-year struggle with competing cattlemen. The incident also highlighted Keys' conflicts with the economic and political interests of businessmen and veterans at Twentynine Palms. He immediately began to rebuild his ranch on his release and to plan for its development as a resort. The entire high desert was developing rapidly and Keys paid lip service to the idea of exploiting the potential tourist market.

Keys remained hostile to the National Park Service, which he saw as infringing upon his rights, for close to 20 years. He became friendly with monument staff a few years before his death; this coincided with his increasing fame and prestige in the new towns of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley. The ranch was visited by film-makers, Marines, Boy Scouts and others. After the death of Mrs. Keys in 1963, Keys allowed several young men to live with him periodically at the ranch in return for help with his dams and with the Wall Street Mill. The residence pattern at the ranch changed from a nuclear family pattern to one of bachelor male residence. Although the ranch was well known, it never fulfilled its potential as a major interaction node in the region.

I. 1870-1894: Initial Settlement, Cattle Grazing and Small Scale Mining

This period set the stage for the social and economic tensions which developed in succeeding periods. Economic events in the central valley and in the foothills of the Sierra and Coast ranges led to the exploration of the high desert for promising grazing lands. Spillovers from mining activity to the north and east led to the exploration of the area's mineral potential and to the establishment of several "mining districts." Mining activity went through a typical boom/bust cycle in the 1870s, but became more established toward the end of the period with discovery of the Desert Queen and Lost Horse mines and with installation of a mill at Pinyon Wells. Cattle grazing, a more consistent process, led to permanent settlement of the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area, at least on a seasonal basis.

It was during this period that what is now Joshua Tree National Monument and vicinity was connected to external population centers by three routes (Map 2). To the south, the Bradshaw Stage Line connected the San Bernardino Valley and the Pacific coast to mining activity on the Colorado River in the 1860s. The Southern Pacific Railroad followed the Bradshaw route to Indio, so that by 1875 the southern part of the region was connected to "the inside" by several railroad stops (Mendenhall 1909). Banning, Whitewater, Garnet and Mecca became important nodes of interaction for the desert's populations (Holmes 1912). North of the monument area the trail through Twentynine Palms eastward to the Colorado River followed Paulino Weaver's route of the early 1850s (Belden 1959c; Security First National Bank 1967). This route branched north from Whitewater and passed Warren's Well before branching off to Quail Springs and the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area. The main route continued directly to Twentynine Palms Oasis and eastward toward Parker. Entry into the region was also possible along a northern route from Old Woman Springs, via the windmill at Pipes Wash to Warren's Well and east into Twentynine Palms. An unusual route from the west, taken by Bill McHaney in 1879, followed the Santa Ana River and Mission Creek, led through the San Bernardino Mountains into Little Morongo Valley and onto the oasis (Schenck and Givens 1952: 95).

Map 2: Routes into vicinity of Keys' Ranch, 1870-94. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The area north and west of Cottonwood Springs was used and developed by cattlemen and miners, whose activities were localized at grazing areas, wells, springs, tanks, natural lakes, mines and mills (see Maps 3 and 4).

Map 3: Grazing areas and cattle drives, 1870-94. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Map 4: Mines and mining activities, 1870-94. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Longhorn cattle were brought into "the area" (?) as early as 1870 from the east (Wanrow 1973) or as late as 1879 (Wm. Keys 1961). Cattle apparently were driven from Arizona up the Coachella Valley or across Chuckawalla Valley, through Cottonwood Springs and westward to Lost Horse, Queen and Pleasant valleys, where they were pastured before being driven down the Morongo Valley for sale in southern California markets. R. Mitchell (1974: 8) notes that the catch basins of these valleys were used for spring grazing during this period. The senior and junior Langs traveled the Coachella route to Lost Horse Valley in 1891 (?). That they were specifically heading for Lost Horse Valley from Deming, New Mexico, indicates that the Joshua Tree region was not as isolated as has been proposed (Levy 1969: 6).

The once immense cattle industry of California was virtually ruined by drought in 1863-64 (Cleland 1941), while demand for beef in the population centers increased. Cattle driven through the Joshua Tree area certainly contributed to economic development in the San Bernardino Valley and coastal areas.

The relative isolation of the region as a whole and the privacy afforded by its high, rock-walled valleys made the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area attractive as a base for illegal traffic in cattle. Information about this era comes from local legend, gleaned primarily from stories told by Bill McHaney, who lived in the region from 1879 until his death in 1937. McHaney himself has been gradually transformed in the writings of later arrivals from a quasi-innocent cattle rustler to a "beloved pioneer," "friend of the Indian" and "father of Gold Park" (Walker 1931: 11; Weight 1975: 2). According to local tradition, cattle stolen in Arizona or California (P. Johnston 1934) or in Mexico (Wm. Keys 1966b) were herded into Pleasant, Queen and Lost Horse valleys, into Cow Camp and into what was then called Hidden Valley (Map 3) (Wm. Keys 1966a). At Cow Camp the cattle were branded or re-branded before being driven to Los Angeles or San Diego to be sold. Horses were purchased and driven back to Arizona, where the process was repeated.

Rumor also has it that the monument area was used in the late nineteenth century by a Mexican bandit group, which raided Mexican settlements (F. Johnston 1975: personal communication).

Romantic as all this might be, it seems clear that the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area was used for holding cattle and that the valleys to the southeast were used for grazing prior to the arrival of C. O. Barker in 1905 or 1906. McHaney is credited with building an adobe barn, bunkhouse and cookhouse at the ranch during this period (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4) and Meyer, who bought cattle rights to the area from McHaney in the 1880s, is reported to have dug a well at Cow Camp (Wm. Keys 1966a).

To the west, the deCrevecours established their ranch, which was sold to Chuck Warren in 1884, in Little Morongo Valley. Warren developed both his ranch and Warren's Well, which became a focal point for cattlemen operating out of Banning and Whitewater in the succeeding period. Trips were made to Twentynine Palms and eastward out of Banning in search of grazing lands (Russell n.d.: 6). Cattlemen from outside the region were becoming increasingly interested in the high valleys of the monument and by 1894 Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp had become a relatively permanent base for the McHaney group.

Twentynine Palms Oasis was occupied by Indians at the western end and by miners at the eastern end. The Indian population varied from approximately 40 to zero and was composed, sometimes concurrently and sometimes separately, of Chemehuevis, Paiutes and Serranos (see Hickman n.d.). According to McHaney, the Indians in the 1880s grew vegetables, kept a few cattle and hunted desert sheep, all of which they sold in small quantities to miners (Schenck and Givens 1952: 89). Overall, the Indian population seems to have interacted minimally with the miners and cattlemen. Clara True, Indian Agent for the "29 Palms Group of Mission Indians," reported that as of 1909 the Indians living at the oasis were remarkably free of tuberculosis and other diseases which usually follow intimate interaction with whites (True 1909).

An early county history (Ingersoll 1904: 161) reports that the "29 Palms (mining) District...came into prominence" in the early 1870s. I could locate only a few of the claims made in the district (Map 4; see O'Neal 1957 and Hickman n.d. for more detailed discussion) and could find no information on mining technology. Analysis of claimants to the mines, however, revealed that a pattern of collective, non-local ownership has been characteristic of the Joshua Tree region since the 1870s. By the 1880s mining had slowed to a standstill in the Twentynine Palms District, but the Dale District to the east experienced a boom. The population of old Dale, about 20 miles east of Twentynine Palms, was sometimes as large as 1000 in the 1880s (Miller 1968: 17). Schenck and Givens write that the region north of the Bradshaw Stage Line was traveled by teamsters seeking mining prospects (1952; 92).

One of the earliest claims is the Jeff Davis, filed in 1865. This mine is "somewhere in the hills above Rattlesnake Canyon" (that is, slightly northeast of Keys' Ranch); a "Mexican-type" smelter was found in the same area in 1870 (Schenck and Givens 1952: 94). The Captain Jencks Mine, which later became William Keys' property, was discovered in 1874. In 1892 Tingman and Holland of Indio organized the "Pinyon Mining District" in the Little San Bernardino Mountains (California Division of Mines 1894: 224). An arrastra was built at Pinyon Wells, where the two-stamp mill now at the Wall Street site also was installed. This stamp mill processed ore from the Homestake, Pinyon Mountain, Dewey and other mines owned by Tingman and Holland. Ore from the Hexahydron, Golden Bee and El Dorado was also milled there. Map 4 shows those mining and milling sites which can be located on the basis of available data.

Two sorts of economic patterns appear to have been operative in the general area of the ranch during this period. First, the growing population centers of the Pacific Coast were reaching further and further into their hinterlands for sources of food. The documentation pertaining to Keys' Ranch provides clues suggesting several optional or overlapping strategies for supplying the needs of the coast: ranging of cattle herds out from the San Bernardino and Banning areas, importation of cattle from Arizona and New Mexico by their owners via pasturage lands in the western part of what is now the monument and importation of cattle by rustlers into "holding areas" around Keys' Ranch, from which they could be moved incognito to the coastal or near-coastal communities for sale. The second major pattern was the expansion of California's mining economy, with the movement of miners from the heartland of the original gold rush into the desert.

During this period the California settlement pattern may be visualized as a number of large coastal or near-coastal nodes, such as San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles, connected by rather densely interconnected pathways, along which information and goods flowed predominantly in a north-south direction. A very few, generally less-used pathways (including the several stagecoach lines and the transcontinental railroad) carried messages and goods to the east. The nodes of population and service provision along these pathways were relatively few and small. The Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp vicinity seems to have been one such node, providing a watersource and grazing area, as well as shelter for men and equipment, along a pathway which served to move food (cattle) into the coastal nodes. It also may have provided a base for some mining activities, but the documentation for this use is even sketchier than that for its use by rustlers or other cattlemen.

We know quite a lot about life in the coastal population centers; newspapers were being published there, residents were writing letters and historians were already at work. The operation of those networks connecting the coastal nodes with sources of food to the east, however, are poorly documented and we have little notion of what went on along their pathways. We have no way of knowing, on the basis of documents studied to date, whether the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area was being used for licit or illicit cattle operations, nor do we know how frequently or intensively it was used. These are important questions because they bear upon how the population of the California coast was being provisioned. The nature and stability of any city's food-procurement system must have a good deal to do with the character of life both in the city and in its hinterland. Moreover, the ways in which the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area was used during this period can be expected to have established patterns of settlement and interaction in the surrounding area which would have affected future growth and development. If, as popular folklore has it, the ranch region was occupied by rustlers who discouraged inquiry into their activities, the major mining settlements and operations would be expected to develop only at a safe distance. On the other hand, if the area was being used as a resting place for herds driven by reputable cattlemen and if the volume of traffic was sufficient one might expect the ranch area to have become a minor population node, offering services to cattlemen and miners alike. While the superficial data available from documentary sources tend to support the former interpretation at the expense of the latter, these data are too limited to permit reliable interpretation.

II. 1894-1917: The Years of Investment—Competition and Conflict Among Cattlemen and Miners

This 23-year period marks the heyday of mining in the region and intensification of competition among cattle companies for the ranges surrounding Keys' Ranch. Increasing interest in the area on the part of large, well-financed "inside" cattle companies affected the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp area directly and will be discussed below. The expansion and contraction of mining are discussed more fully in the overview (Hickman n.d.), since many of those events were irrelevant to what happened at Keys' Ranch.

However, three developments connected with mining during this period determined, to a great extent, the future of Keys' Ranch in the 1920s and '30s. First, the Desert Queen Mine and Lost Horse Mine were developed in the early part of the period. These mines dominated the Keys' Ranch area and new social boundaries were established in an area which previously had been divided only in terms of grazing and water resources. Secondly, William Keys arrived in the area and established a personal network of economic and social relationships which placed him in a favorable position to exploit both natural resources and the capital resources invested by others. Finally, as mining activities came to a virtual halt during World War I the entire area was littered with buildings, machinery, domestic effects and debris of all sorts. The residue of unsuccessful ventures was eventually brought to Keys' Ranch and/or distributed to what became his other properties. Some of Keys' collecting is documented and is discussed in the following subsection.

The legends concerning the discovery of the Desert Queen and Lost Horse mines have often been repeated (P. Johnston 1934; Taylor 1968; Vroman 1953) and are not relevant to this discussion. Interactions set in motion through the development of the mines, however, are important. The principal social groups involved were the Langs, the McHaneys, the Ryans and, tangentially, William Keys.

The McHaneys apparently had informally claimed Lost Horse Valley, Pleasant Valley and Queen Valley, as John Lang Sr. found it necessary to negotiate with Jim McHaney before locating his summer range at Witch Springs, now Lost Horse Well (Wm. Keys 1966a). John Lang Jr. was one of the original owners of the Lost Horse Mine. During his brief ownership (he sold the next year to T. and J. Ryan), Lang deliberately avoided the McHaney area. He took his gold out not along the more direct Quail Springs-Banning route, but down Berdoo Canyon to Indio and/or past Keys' View through Fan Hill Canyon to Thousand Palms (Belden 1959b; see Map 5). The Ryans, however, were able to establish the Lost Horse Mine and Ranch as a separate community, powerful enough not to fear the real or imagined McHaney threat. They sent their ore through Quail Springs to Banning. Capital investment at Lost Horse included a new 10-stamp mill brought from the Colorado River area, five buildings at the mine (Wm. Keys 1966b) and six or more buildings at the ranch (Vroman 1953). The crew numbered about 35 to 40 in the late 1890s (Wm. Keys 1966b). Pinkham, one of the old miners in the area, asserts that "a crew of Mexicans and Indians cut juniper, cedar and pinyon pine from the adjoining hills" (Pinkham in NPS-CCF: Box 2258). I know of no other evidence suggestive of Indian labor in the mines, nor of any specific material referring to Mexican labor. However, the possibility of a multi-ethnic labor force in the mines at the turn of the century cannot simply be discounted and raises interesting anthropological questions (see Hickman in King and Berg 1974).

Map 5: Mining activities, 1894-1917. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The Desert Queen Mine was discovered in 1893-94 by the ill-fated Mr. James (O'Neal 1957: 73). It was developed and owned in 1895-96 by the McHaney brothers, who took between $27,000 (Wm. Keys 1960) and $40,000 (Wm. Keys 1959) in gold from it. Ore was processed at Pinyon Wells and was cashed in at San Bernardino. As the story goes, the McHaney brothers split the money and separated. That year the Zambro Bank gained controlling interest in the Desert Queen. The bank appointed a supervisor and installed a five-stamp mill. According to Keys, ore was milled in the five-stamp, shipped to Palm Springs and from there to a smelter in El Paso, Texas (?) (Wm. Keys 1960).

The property was bought by William Morgan in 1910, the year Keys said he arrived in the area (Wm. Keys 1960). Within a year Keys was working at the mine as "watchman," "guard" or "supervisor," depending on the source. He also functioned as assayer from 1913 to 1917 (Wm. Keys 1960). Morgan, an elderly man, was primarily an absentee owner. Keys simply stayed on when his wages were stopped and eventually was able to convince Morgan's attorneys that he was owed the mine for back wages (Wm. Keys 1960), thereby establishing ownership of what he had been controlling for some years. At the same time, he acquired the right to file on Keys' Ranch and Cow Camp as a homestead, having somehow come to terms with Bill McHaney about this. A shift obviously had occurred in Keys' original status as employee, outsider and newcomer.

Keys remained in close contact with McHaney, caring for him in his old age and helping to transport him between the ranch and Music Valley, where McHaney continued to prospect until his death (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3). In return, McHaney had, in a sense, "given" Keys the homestead. More of McHaney's property, including the Wall Street Mill site and a homestead near Barker Dam, was to become Keys'. Keys similarly acquired John Lang's property. After being fired from the Lost Horse Mine, Lang established himself in Lang Canyon, where he built a mill, a cabin and a well (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). These claims passed to Keys upon Lang's death in 1925.

Keys established himself on the properties of relatively unsuccessful first-comers by two strategies: (1) by maintenance of social relationships with older people, such as Lang and McHaney, which resulted in a sort of "natural" takeover (that is, one which did not necessarily preclude continued use of the properties by their original owners), and (2) by reclamation of abandoned properties and materials.

Much of the accumulated material which has made Keys' Ranch famous was brought to the area during this period. The five-stamp mill (Desert Queen Mill) was bought in 1894 by the McHaneys. Perhaps by the time it was installed it was the property of the Zambro Bank, considering that Jim McHaney milled his ore at Pinyon Well; in any case, it was later cited as a "popular tourist attraction...bringing 100's to Keys Ranch" (Perkins Papers n.d.). This is undoubtedly the same five-stamp mill which processed Desert Queen ore at the ranch site from 1912 to 1914, when Keys was supervisor/assayer (Perkins Papers n.d.). Much of the domestic material now at Keys' Ranch may have come from Pinyon Well. Mines throughout the area installed buildings, ore tracks and carts, trolleys, pumps and pipe lines which eventually would be available for Keys' acquisition and use.

Locations of significant mining activity are shown on Map 5. Lost Horse and Keys' Ranch were separate communities; milling and water resources did not overlap. Mill sites are noted; some of these (Pinyon Well, Stubbe Springs and Twentynine Palms, for example) served a number of mines. By virtue of its central location, Twentynine Palms probably served miners from more remote locations than did the others. Pinyon Well was a community of families, as well as of bachelor miners, a rarity in the desert at the time (James 1906: 484). Miners, for the most part, either were bachelor employees of one of the major mines or were independents who worked their claims on a seasonal basis. Mendenhall (1909: 16) notes that "prospectors and mine workers enter the field each fall to do assessment work on their claims."

Deforestation of the area was a concommittant of increased mining activity. The Lost Horse kept a crew of 10 men cutting fuel in the 1890s (Levy 1969: 15) and in 1906 G. W. James reported that the area around the Brooklyn Mine (see Map 5) in the Dale District was devoid of mesquite, so that miners traveled 12 to 18 miles for fuel (James 1906: 322). Wm. Keys (1966b) said that the area above his lake was deforested to fuel the "five-stamp mill," presumably the one at the ranch. When gasoline replaced steam as a source of energy, it also replaced mesquite as an essential resource; steam continued to be used in some mines long after gasoline was introduced in others, however, because the difficulty of transporting sufficient quantities of gasoline over the poor roads made costs prohibitive. Each mining community was surrounded by a zone of necessary natural resources; when the boundaries of these overlapped, zones of potential intercommunity tension were created (Map 6). With respect to Keys' Ranch, it is expectable that Keys would attempt to maintain the boundary of "his" resource zone and this should be reflected in the archeological record.

Map 6: Zones of tension, 1894-1917. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Transportation during this period was most efficient by team and wagon. Delamare (1912: 35) reports that in 1912 a multi-mule-drawn wagon on a good trail could make about 16 miles per day, while a burro could cover barely half that distance. Map 7 shows projected one-day ranges from Keys' Ranch and other population centers during the period. Although it is clear from Map 6 that there is great overlap between the natural resource zones exploitable, at least on foot, from Keys' Ranch and Twentynine Palms, Map 7 shows that the effective ranges of the two communities were essentially mutually exclusive. On the other hand, both maps indicate great overlap between Keys' Ranch and Ryan Ranch.

Map 7: Effective one-day ranges, 1894-1917. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The Dale boom brought the first regular freight service from Banning to Dale via Twentynine Palms; this continued from 1898 to 1902. An earlier stage line (1895-96) ran from Palm Springs to Garnet, Seven Palms Canyon and Dale (Map 8). Toward the end of the period (1912-16) a new freight route ran from Amboy to Dale, thus avoiding Twentynine Palms (Russell n.d., Chapter 4: 8). All of these routes were abandoned at the beginning of World War I; both mail and freight service were suspended for 15 years.

Map 8: Commercial routes into Keys' Ranch vicinity, 1895-1902. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

A particularly interesting aspect of the events just outlined is that Twentynine Palms as a population center—a major node in local systems of social and economic interaction—had very little to do with the Keys' Ranch area. Twentynine Palms had a population of approximately 35 in 1909, 29 of whom were Indians (Hall 1909; Russell 1946: 3). By 1915 the permanent population had dropped to two, according to J. S. Chase (1919: 149), whose statement is supported by Willis Keys' (1975: Tape 6) recollection that between 1910 and 1915 most people left the area. Francis Keys (n.d.) reported that when she married William and moved to the ranch in 1918, Twentynine Palms "didn't exist;" her view of the "inside" focused on Banning, the nearest shopping center. Twentynine Palms Oasis was used seasonally by cattlemen during this period as a stop on one of the routes to the high desert valleys surrounding Keys' Ranch.

The McHaneys shifted their interest from cattle to mining after the discovery of the Desert Queen (Miller 1968: 47). Jim McHaney left the area after 1896 and Bill sold his cattle rights to George Meyer, while keeping the ranch (Historic Preservation Team 1975: 6). Cow Camp was a relatively open niche, into which Barker, Shay, Talmadge and other cattlemen could expand. Barker and Shay had moved into Cow Camp by 1905-06 (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 6). They put up four wooden houses, a blacksmith shop and a barn, all of which were subsequently removed by Barker and Shay cowboys (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 6). "Barker's House" is noted on a map dated 1909 (JTNM Lands Office) and is plotted here on Map 9. James, the purported discoverer of the Desert Queen Mine, built a cabin near what is now Cow Camp Dam sometime before his death in 1896 (Perkins n.d.). The homestead filed by Keys in 1916-17 included Cow Camp, so that tension immediately developed between Keys and the cowmen. The tension continued until all grazing was eliminated in the monument and Keys was sent to prison following a dispute that his wife and the ex-wife of his adversary, among others, contributed to his long-standing conflicts with big cattle interests (F. Keys 1946; Clark 1948).

Map 9: Livestock watering places, 1894-1917. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Other water sources developed by cattlemen during this period are Twentynine Palms (where Barker and Shay dug a well), Ivanpah, Live Oak, Squaw, Rattlesnake and White tanks, Barker Dam, Willow Holes, Stubbe Springs, Coyote Holes, Quail Springs, Warren's Well, the Pipes, the Windmill and Cottonwood Springs (Map 9; S. King ca. 1955: 23). What is now Wall Street Mill was used by Meyer from 1898 to 1900 (Perkins 1968); Bill McHaney had dug a well there in 1896 and Meyer added a corral (Perkins 1968: 1). The same area was used from 1900 to 1905 by Tulley, who added an arrastra, and Reynolds watered stock there from 1905 to 1911 (Perkins 1968). Reynolds was probably the same man for whom Keys worked in the roundup of 1910 (G. Keys 1962: 12). I have several reports that Keys milled ore from the "Tulley Mine" (Map 10) at Twentynine Palms in 1911.

Many cattlemen had overlapping interests in mining and real estate. C. O. Barker operated the Barker Mine, placed "18 miles north of Dos Palmas" in the California State Minerologist's Report of 1894-96. He also owned property in Banning, in addition to his cattle interests throughout the Joshua Tree area (Holmes et al 1912: 185).

Cattlemen had to compete with miners for water. In 1923 J. S. Brown reported that Pinyon Well was a good source of water for livestock, but that the water "has been taken over by mining interest." Although Cram from the Hayfields was running about 250 head of cattle in the Cottonwood Springs area, he had to compete with the miners who were drawing water from the springs to operate the Iron Chief and Brooklyn mines in 1909 (James 1906: 319; Cole 1938: 42).

The Cottonwood Springs area was generally set apart from Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp. Economic competition may have made the area unattractive to Keys, along with the fact that he could barely establish hegemony over pastures closer to home. For whatever reasons, a boundary did separate the northwest section of what is now the monument from the south central part. According to F. Sabathe, when a death occurred near Cottonwood Springs in 1906 a coroner from Needles was sent for. Had the death occurred near Keys' Ranch, as did Lang's in 1925, the place to seek official help was San Bernardino (Hickman n.d.). What is interesting is that the distance from Cottonwood Springs to San Bernardino is not much greater than that from Keys' Ranch and is certainly less than the distance to Needles; thus we seem to be observing a choice which reflects directional orientation.

Table 2 and Map 10 show properties known to have been discovered, located or developed during 1894-1917 and which were eventually acquired by Keys. The next section describes the gradual acquisition of properties, the development of properties he did not own and the stockpiling of material from abandoned or quasi-abandoned mining operations.

Table 2: Properties located, claimed or worked by others prior to 1917 and subsequently claimed by Keys, excluding Keys' Ranch proper; see Map 10 for locations.

1. Black Eagle Lode
2. Black Warrior Mine
3. Crown Prince Mine
4. Dehydro Lode
5. Gold Coin Mine
6. Gold Standard Mine
7. Gold Tiger Mine
8. Granite Hills Mine
9. Lang Mill Site
10. Pinyon Wells
11. Rampart Lode
12. Yellow Hills Lode
13. Cow Camp
14. Barker Dam
15. Desert Queen Mine
16. Tully Mine

Map 10: Properties located, claimed or worked prior to 1917 and subsequently claimed by Keys, excluding Keys Ranch proper; see Table 3 for identification. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

By the end of this period Keys had begun to build what is now the main ranch house. Construction was begun between 1913 (G. Keys 1962: 12) and 1916-17 (Black 1975b). Materials, especially lumber, were brought from the "Gold Park" and "Tulley" mines (Black 1975b).

III. 1918-1929: The Years of Entrenchment—Cattlemen and Homesteaders, Scavengers and Pensioners

Four general developments characterize socioeconomic behavior during this relatively brief period. The first three are continuations of Keys' activities from the previous period: (1) conflict continued and was intensified between Keys and other cattlemen as Keys invested more of his energies and funds in cattle raising, (2) the ranch property itself was developed and made into a family homestead and (3) Keys collected materials from the entire western half of what is now the monument, while increasing and consolidating his holdings in the area.

Distinguishing this period from the previous one is the withdrawal of the outside capital of the earlier miners, leaving the area in a sort of input void. This void was filled, to some extent, by the earliest homesteaders, who arrived in the early 1920s. Theirs was a different kind of settlement pattern; they were coming to stay year-round and to commit themselves to making a living in the high desert. Twentynine Palms began to grow into a community, with its members creating a system of interaction and norms of behavior which had not existed before. In large part, these patterns could be predicted from other modern American frontier experiences. Most important for this discussion is that the response to community development by someone occupying a niche like Keys' should also be predictable. The history of Twentynine Palms is dealt with in the overview of historical archeology in the area (Hickman 1976); the following discussion simply identifies developments to which Keys is expected to have responded.

Hostilities with the cattlemen continued. Barker and Shay ran from 200 to 400 head of cattle in the Barker Dam area until 1923-24 and between 1925 and 1929 the Talmadge brothers had about 450 head in the same area (Cole 1938). Keys rebuilt the original dam during this period, attempting to establish a claim on the water. The water had been declared public in 1914 (Cole 1938), but Keys maneuvered to control all the lands around it, thus controlling access, and willingly contributed his energies to its improvement (NPS-CCF: Box 2259). The other cattlemen were not impressed with Keys' preemptory rights; there was at least one shooting during this period (in 1927), when Keys avenged himself upon one of Barker's riders (Seeley 1975: 16). Although Cow Camp was part of Keys' homestead, Barker and Shay were using it as late as 1923. There are photographs in the Twentynine Palms library of a Mr. Crawford who worked for Barker at Cow Camp. According to Crawford, Barker's winter headquarters were at Twentynine Palms Oasis and summer headquarters were in Lost Horse Valley and Cow Camp. Seeley, the son of one of Barker's supervisory employees, said that another winter headquarters in the 1920s was Sunfair, now known as the Coyote Wells area (Seeley 1975). Branding took place at Sunfair in 1927 and at this time Barker had six to eight cowboys working in the area of Quail Springs, Stirrup Springs and Queen Valley (Seeley 1975).

Keys established his family during this period, marrying in 1918 and bringing his wife to the ranch. The ranch house was already begun and porches were added; these were later enclosed as children came (Perkins Papers n.d.). Keys built several schools on the ranch site, probably beginning in 1925 or 1926. A ranch hand from the Wall Street Mill was one of the early teachers and Mrs. Keys also taught (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 1). Later, Keys was able to get a county school teacher by recruiting children from nearby homesteads (Black 1975a). It is not clear who these children were or, more importantly, where the homesteads of their parents were.

Keys' Ranch was known at least as far as Banning by 1919, when an article describing "Keys' wonderful desert ranch" was published in the Banning Record. The author was taken with Keys' fruit trees and vines, but he particularly noted the guns that "bristled" over the walls. Perhaps this is author's license or exaggeration, but it may have been Keys' response to the potential violence inherent in the cattle conflict. In any case, it is this sort of report that led to Keys' reputation in Twentynine Palms as a fierce, independent man, and one who was to be left alone.

Keys built several roads at this time. In 1921 he built a road from Barker Dam into what is now called Hidden Valley (Map 11) and used that area to pasture horses (Wm. Keys 1966a). In 1926 he built the road to Keys' View, probably to facilitate working the Hidden Gold Mine (Map 11).

Table 3: Properties claimed, worked or collected from by William Keys; see Map 11 for locations.

1 = Desert Queen Mine
2 = Lang Mill site
3 = Black Eagle Mine
4 = Dehydro Lode
5 = Granite Hills Lode
6 = Gold Tiger Lode
7 = Silver Bell Mine
8 = Black Butte Lode
9 = Yellow Hills Lode
10 = Rampart Lode
11 = Burns Mill site
12 = Stubbe Springs
13 = Pinyon Wells Mill site
14 = Wall Street Mill
15 = Pleasant Valley Quartz claim
16 = Juno claim
17 = Big Chief Mill site
18 = Keys' Mill site
19 = Crown Prince Mine
20 = Snow Cloud Mine
21 = Barker Dam
22 = Gold Park
23 = Gold Coin Mine
24 = Black Warrior Mine
25 = Lang Mine
26 = Pushawalla Canyon
27 = Olson property
28 = Garnet
29 = Hidden Gold Mine
30 = Gold Standard Mine
31 = Capt. Jenck Mine

Map 11: Keys' roads, claims, operations and collecting loci; see Table 3 for identification. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Immediately upon the withdrawal of mining interests, Keys began collecting from abandoned and quasi-abandoned properties (Map 11; Table 3). He brought the Traffic Truck now at the ranch from the Gold Coin Mine in 1916 or 1917 (Ws Keys 1975: Tape 2). The chilean rotary mill came at about the same time (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3) and during this period a stamp mill was brought from the Black Warrior Mine (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 2). In 1926 a visitor reported that "on the site of the Desert Queen Mill (at Keys' Ranch), many pieces of old machinery are sitting around rusting in idleness" (Archer 1926: 37).

Keys operated the Snowcloud Mine (beginning in 1918), the Pinyon Mine (G. Keys 1962: 12; Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3) and the Gold Standard Mine, which he improved with a cabin, reservoir and millsite (F. Keys 1960: 1). It was at this time that he claimed the Black Warrior, the Silver Bell Lode, the Lang Mill site and the Gold Coin (Wm. Keys 1941). The Big Chief, Hansen's Mill and the Pleasant Valley Quartz Lode were claimed during this period or the next. It is important to recognize that this list is merely what has accumulated in my background research and that it should not be considered complete. It is sufficiently extensive, however, to support the notion that during the 1920s Keys expanded his claims and collected from abandoned mining operations. These strategies insured Keys' staying power in the area and he put the advantages gained during this period to use in the Depression and after he returned from prison in 1948.

During this period Keys maintained friendships with the quasi-outlaw oldtimers Bill McHaney and Johnny Lang. Lang died in 1925 (Wm. Keys 1968:16) and, as noted earlier, Keys claimed Lang's property after his death. Lang died, according to Keys, of malnutrition on his way to town to get supplies. Gwen Keys (1962: 12) hints that Lang was given food from Keys' garden. When asked why he had no garden of his own, Lang replied that there seemed to be no need for one, as Bill Keys had such a good one. Keys seems to have created a role in which he provided for the oldtimers of the area and in which he eventually became custodian of the past.

Keys tolerated those who were considered fringe elements of whatever society existed before and after the development of Twentynine Palms. In 1910 he is reported to have saved the oasis from the unwanted attentions of Silvershin, a semi-legendary character reported to have robbed the Twentynine Palms Stage and to have made an uninvited and unwelcome guest of himself. Keys appeared just at the right moment and took Silvershin to the Desert Queen (Russell n.d.: 6). Similarly, it was common knowledge that Ryan had fired Lang for stealing and that McHaney had been involved with a gang of rustlers who had committed at least one murder, that of James, discoverer of the Desert Queen Mine. Bill McHaney became "legitimate" in the eyes of Twentynine Palms more from his friendship with Elizabeth and William Campbell than through his connection with Keys. He remained a lifelong friend of Keys and died at the ranch in 1937 (Fridley 1947: 2).

The fact that neither Keys nor any of the oldest settlers were involved in World War I affected developing social boundaries, since many of the homesteaders of the 1920s, especially the more prestigious of them, such as the Campbells and the Bagleys, were veterans. This group set itself apart from others in subtle ways (Hickman n.d.). Keys, on the other hand, willingly harbored either a deserter or a draft dodger who hid in Jackson's Cave northeast of the ranch (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). Although we may question the specifics of this story, harboring some helpless and marginal character is consistent with other reports of Keys' behavior. A final example is provided by Keys' treatment of the Tucker family. The Tuckers, a mother and her several sons, were known in Twentynine Palms as "one of the outlaw groups" (Malone 1975: 19-20). Malone reports that they would drive recklessly around, ostentatiously armed and with several of their number hanging on running boards of their car, causing as much trouble and attracting as much attention as they could. Keys got along with the Tuckers, hired the boys and had the whole family living at the ranch in either the late 1920s or 1930s (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 5). A taped interview with another early homesteader (Smith 1973) discusses the friction between Mrs. Tucker and others in the community, particularly the Campbells.

By 1929 Twentynine Palms had become a viable community. The Michels came in 1922; Mr. Michels helped build the Gold Park Inn, which was later moved and renamed the Twentynine Palms Inn. Later, following a well-established local tradition, Michels "appropriated" an old mill at the oasis and made a living by milling for others (Michels 1974: 21).

Homesteading, in the traditional sense of subsistence farming, was out of the question for most of the early homesteaders. A few successful gardens were grown, but only after reliable wells were dug and fences were put up to keep out pests. Most people lived on pensions of some sort, on aid from their families on the "inside" or on savings which permitted them to invest in service enterprises. The Bagleys and Benitos had store/gasoline station/repair shops at opposite ends of the growing town. Some men worked as miners when mining picked up again in the 1930s.

Elizabeth Campbell has described the growth of Twentynine Palms as she remembered it. Her husband was a badly injured veteran and they came, in 1925, seeking a healthful climate for him. At that time there were "8 or 9" shacks in the valley (Campbell 1961: 25) and the Campbells camped at the oasis while they selected a homesite. Mrs. Campbell's perceptions of social interactions there are revealing. Their "worst problem" was that "all sorts of people" were constantly dropping in, often drunk and disorderly (Campbell 1961: 27). She was tense about walking in the desert because it was filled with "bootleggers," who found the isolation of the area perfect for their purposes. Once settled at their homesites, she and other homesteaders were besieged with "hateboards" (threatening signs) and by those of the "old gang" who insisted on cutting their fences (Campbell 1961: 70-1). She was aware of the inherent tension between homesteading in general and extensive cattle grazing and expected the resentment of the cattlemen. She perceived that the "biggest problem in the conflict was that the Sheriff was related to the cattlemen," so that the balance of power was tipped away from the homesteaders (Campbell 1961: 74). These ideas also were part of Bill and Frances Keys' thinking (F. Keys 1946: 3) and in this area the Keys and the homesteaders of Twentynine Palms could have found common ground. It is difficult to imagine other points of social or philosophical agreement, however, between Keys, a central figure among the earlier residents, and the veterans in the valley.

By 1929 the Twentynine Palms veterans had built an American Legion post, which served as welfare office, social hall and general organizational center (Belden 1959c), schools had been established (Russell says 1922 was the earliest), a swimming pool had been built by the American Legion and so forth. Keys built his own schools, operated his own welfare system for the needy and did not participate in Twentynine Palms social life; his children swam in the reservoirs that he built. Keys was isolated, but everyone knew who he was. When Frank Bagley met him, a good while after he arrived in Twentynine Palms (an indication of how often Keys visited the oasis), he was frightened because he had heard of Keys (Bagley ca. 1974).

Two different social networks, therefore, were operating simultaneously. Keys' system was closed; its expansion or contraction depended on his own perception of his obligations. The Twentynine Palms system was open, in that it could not limit input into the area, but social groups with their own status positions were developing.

IV. 1930-1943: Boomtown During Hard Times

Important developments during these years include Keys' adaptation to the national economic depression, to the creation of Joshua Tree National Monument and to the influence of World War II in the region. This period closes with Keys' internment in San Quentin in the spring of 1943.

Willis Keys pointed out that, relative to the previous period, "the area was sort of booming when it was supposed to be hard times" (1975: Tape 3). As jobs on the "inside" were eliminated people came into the area as homesteaders. More important from Keys' perspective was the increasing interest in gold mining, which brought in outside capital and labor. This moved Keys to expand his own mining activities. Keys supplemented his income by repairing mining tools for others and by milling ore from surrounding mines. His role as provider for the needy, begun in the previous decade, was enhanced through his willingness and ability to repair shoes, to forge-weld, to loan equipment and in other ways to exchange goods and services (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 1). Many of these activities were centered at the ranch. At the same time, Keys intensified agricultural production at the ranch and in the surrounding area. He and others continued to raise cattle and Keys ran cattle for people on the coast (Clark 1948: 5).

Formation of the monument, together with restrictions on his behavior, colored Keys' perceptions of what socioeconomic processes were affecting his stronghold. Tension between Keys and the Twentynine Palms community increased with what Keys considered to be escalating encroachment on his territory by capitalists, realtors, tourists and vandals.

Two seemingly contradictory strategies were operating at the ranch during this period. Keys was increasing his position contacts with people who came to the ranch or to Wall Street Mill, while extending his economic network through selective trading at Yucca Valley (Clark 1948: 5) and Twentynine Palms (Benito and Benito 1974: 12). At the same time, he defined his own territorial and social boundaries more sharply than in the past, as new boundaries were established by the National Park Service and due to population expansion into the valley.

Keys worked the Hidden Gold, Desert Queen, Black Eagle and Snowcloud mines (Ws. Keys 1975: Tapes 1 and 3) and leased others, such as the Black Warrior (Map 10). According to Willis Keys (1975: Tape 6), Bill Keys collected debris left behind by dispirited lessees and brought it to the ranch. After installing a two-stamp mill at Pushawalla Canyon, Keys moved his ore from the Hidden Gold Mine up the Little San Bernardinos to Keys' View and from there to the ranch via the road he had built in 1921 (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3; see Map 11).

The Desert Queen was developed through the investment of F. B. Morgan in the early 1930s. Morgan built a cookhouse and a bunkhouse and briefly worked the mine. Keys then repossessed it (Morgan 1971), added pumps and worked it sporadically through the Depression (Wm. Keys 1935-37). The mill at Wall Street apparently was installed in 1932 or 1933. The property was first used by O. Booth and his partners, who built the present house there in 1929 and dug a well. Keys bought the property in 1930 and installed the two-stamp mill from the El Dorado, which had been brought into the area in 1892 (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3). In Francis Keys' obituary it was claimed that Keys milled for "50 miners in the area" (Cooper n.d.). This is probably an exaggeration; log pages from "Keys Mining and Milling" at Wall Street show that ore from the Gold Point, Gold Fields of America, Paymaster and Dickey Boy mines was processed from 1935 to 1937 (Wm. Keys 1935-37; see Map 12). This, of course, is fragmentary evidence and Keys probably had a much larger clientele.

It is difficult to quantify mining activity in the Joshua Tree area during this period, either in terms of how important it was economically or in terms of how many people were involved. My research indicates that the mines located on Map 12 and listed in Table 4 were active; the number of crew members is indicated when available.

Table 4: Mines operating between 1930 and 1943; see Map 12 for locations.

Map Ref.Mine Name and Source Crew Size and SourceOther Information

1Hidden Gold
(Willis Keys)

2Black Warrior
(Willis Keys)

3Gold Point
(Keys logbook)
5 in 1935
(Cook 1974: 24)
Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

4Gold Fields of America
(Keys logbook)

Idle 1937 (Cole 1938)

(Keys logbook)

6Gold Crown*
(Benito 1975)
30 in 1937 (Cole 1938)Active until 1936-37 and again in 1938 (NPS)

*"Gold Crown Mining Co." also operated Supply Mine; may be source of confusion.

7O.K. (Benito 1975; Belden 1959a)
Top Nest (Benito 1975)
6 in 1937 (Cole 1938)Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

8Ivanhoe (Benito 1975) 6 in 1937 (NPS Box 2259)Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

9Golden Bee/Dicky Boy/Mabel
(Benito 1975; Keys logbook; Guthrey 1937)

Idle 1937; active 1938
(NPS Box 2259)

10Carlyle (Miller 1968) 30(?)/50 (NPS Box 2259; Thompson 1937)Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

11Gold Park (Miller 1968)
Morton's Mill Site (Moore 1972)

18 Claims (Miller 1968)

3 Claims (Moore 1972)

12Brooklyn (Miller 1968) 15 in 1931, 6(?) in 1937 (Belden 1959a; Cole 1938; Miller 1962)Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

13Supply (Thompson 1937; Guthrey 1937)

14Desert King (Thompson 1937)
Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

15Lost Horse (Thompson 1937)
D.C. (Thompson 1937)
5 or 6 (Thompson 1937)Small mill in 1937 (Thompson 1937); Used cyanide 1931-36 (Miller 1968); Inactive 1938 (Cole 1938)

16Desert Queen (Thompson 1937)
Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

17Jupiter (NPS Box 2259) 10 in 1937 (NPS Box 2259)

18Big Boze (Cole 1938; Guthrey 1937)

19Frank Hill grp. (Ibid)

20Lena (Ibid)

21Lureman (Ibid)

22McKeith (Ibid)

23Star (Ibid)

24Virginia Dale (Ibid)

25Golden Rod grp. (Ibid)3 in 1937-38 (Cole 1938)

26Heeley and Cross (Ibid)

27Meek grp. (Ibid)

28Gold Coin (Ibid)

29Blue Bell (Ibid)

30El Dorado (Ibid)

31Yellow Jacket (Cole 1938; Guthrey 1937)

Desert Star (Ibid)

Iron Chief (Ibid)

Black Eagle (Ibid)20 in 1937 (Cole 1938)Operator from L.A. (Cole 1938)

32Snow Cloud (Ibid)

33Sunrise (Ibid)10 in 1937 (Cole 1938)

Grassy Hills (Ibid)

Rainbow Hole (Ibid)

34Coyote Lode (Ibid)

35Mastodon (Ibid)

36Southern Cross Lode (Ibid)

37Yucca Butte (Ibid)

Jim Reed (Guthrey 1937)

Diane (Ibid)

Mystery (Guthrey 1937)

Mule Shoe (Ibid)

38Gypsey (Belden 1959a)
Idle 1938 (Cole 1938)

Map 12: Mines operating between 1930 and 1943: see Table 4 for identification. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Because the National Park Service was interested in monitoring the amount of mining activity within monument boundaries, National Park Service files in the National Archives contain lists of active and inactive mines in 1937-38. These lists illustrate the sporadic nature of mining in the Joshua Tree area during the Depression. Many of the mines, such as the Lost Horse, Gold Fields of America, Gold Crown and Golden Bee (Table 4), were active only briefly.

Mining activities from 1929 to 1942 were centered on the reworking of established claims rather than on development of new mines. The introduction of cyanide processing made the reworking of mine tailings profitable, especially for miners with little capital (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). Restrictions accompanying the establishment of Joshua Tree National Monument also served to direct attention to previously established claims. Monument status meant that although activity on previously claimed mines could be continued, no new claims could be made in new locations or as extensions of ore bodies then being worked. Mining continued in the monument until 1942, when gold mining was suspended for the duration of the war.

Keys extended his agricultural endeavors into surrounding areas during this period. The ranch garden was moved from the southeast side of the ranch house to higher ground to the south, presumably the site of the parking lot for the Keys' Ranch bicentennial program (Black 1975: personal communication; Ws. Keys 1975; see Map 1), after the dam behind the house was washed away. Hay was planted at Cow Camp and near Barker's Dam (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 5). Hay was imported via Berdoo Canyon (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4) or along the Twentynine Palms Highway (Bagley ca. 1974). Rye, barley and even rice were attempted in Pleasant Valley, using a water trough attached to a pipeline from the El Dorado Mine for irrigation (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). Grass for horses was hand-harvested by the children (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). Fruits and vegetables were grown and preserved at the ranch (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4); surpluses were sold at the settlement in Yucca Valley (Clark 1948: 5).

Keys and his family constituted most of the labor force, but Keys "had a little hired help from time to time" (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 5). Keys hired the Tuckers and apparently had men to help him break horses. Willis Keys was attending high school in Ontario from 1934 to 1939, so that his labor was available to Keys only during the summers and other school holidays (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 5). The population influx, considered as potential labor force, could well have affected Keys' view of what sorts of projects were feasible.

The Keys family network in the area expanded with the arrival of Mrs. Keys' brother, who homesteaded in Covington Flats (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3). The ranch population expanded with the arrival of the Dudleys, former missionaries in Burma, who taught school at the ranch. A reader found at the ranch was written by Mrs. Dudley; it is a primer with a Far Eastern setting, entitled The Happy Children's Reader. Keys remained close to the Dudleys for some time. A letter written to them by Keys while he was in prison forcefully expresses his attachment to them, as well as his concern for the evils of American society, both at home and abroad, during World War II (Wm. Keys 1943).

During this period Keys also thought of broadening his financial base by exploiting the tourist trade. He approached the National Park Service with an idea for a dude ranch in 1937 (NPS-CCF: Box 2259). He built, or in some way acquired, outhouses and cabins intended for tourist use and made signs advertising the ranch, but the signs and the cabins were never used (Ws. Keys 1975).

Some people regularly spent their vacations at Keys' Ranch, however, including the Kelleys. Kelley, an entomologist, was responsible for stocking the lake behind the house with trout (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3). "Kelley's Camp" is inscribed on a stone at the ranch, providing an archeological record of Keys' expanding social network (Camper 1975: personal communication).

It is difficult to get a perspective on grazing activity during this period, but a picture emerges of Keys as a small cattleman relative to Barry (Barker and Shay's successor) or to Stocker and Stacey (Barry's successors). Barry ran about 300 head in the area from 1929 to 1936, before the monument was created (Cole 1938). I have no data on the number of cattle Stocker and Stacey were running from 1936 to 1940, but in 1937 Keys protested Stacey's operations in the monument near Barker Dam. Keys ran only from 20 head (Cole 1938) to 65 or 70 head, a number based on what he thought the area's resources could carry (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4). Keys had corrals at Barker's Dam and at the house (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 4) and he ran cattle for a Mr. Lawrence of Oceanside (Clark 1948: 5). Ryan had 53 head in Lost Horse Valley (Cole 1938).

National Park Service investigators found that "cattle are grazed in and around Lost Horse Valley and around Cottonwood Springs, but 50% of the area could be grazed" (Guthrey 1937), and concluded:

the continued use or future use of the territory for grazing cattle cannot in anyway diminish, modify, injure, or destroy the value of the land for recreational purposes.... It is not believed that the livestock interests should be disturbed (Wilheim 1937).

In 1940, however, the Taylor Grazing Act restricted grazing in the monument and most stockmen were eliminated (Regional Director 1942). In 1940 Keys had about 30 head of cattle in the Covington Flat area (Regional Director NPS 1942). In 1943 it was decided that permits allowing grazing within monument boundaries would be granted to aid the war effort. Keys applied for and was granted a permit, but it was not issued before the Bagley shooting (NPS-CCF: No. 901-01, Part 1). Stocker, who received the first permit, grazed between 80 and 150 head in the monument from 1943 to 1946 (NPS-CCF: 901-01, Part 1).

The general picture of the cattle industry, then, is one of decline brought about by legal restrictions and by drought conditions beginning in 1932 (Wanrow 1973).

Whatever the economic realities, the social implications were important to the Keys family's view of the development of the area. In a letter written to Randall Henderson of Desert Magazine while William Keys was in prison, Mrs. Keys accused the National Park Service (particularly Superintendent Cole) of being in league with Stocker and the San Bernardino Sheriff's Office against her husband (F. Keys 1946: 3). The animosity between the Keys and Cole is also documented in Cole's memos (NPS-CCF, No. 901-01, Part I), particularly at the time of the shooting.

During this period Twentynine Palms acquired the trappings of a real community. In 1928 regular mail service was begun (Benito 1975: 3); in 1934 the highway from Banning was paved; in 1935 the local newspaper, the Desert Trail, was published; in 1936 electricity was provided, and in 1936 Joshua Tree National Monument was established (Jacobs 1941-15). This promoted at least one local industry—tourism.

Although the social structure was rapidly factionalized, with contention expressed in terms of north vs. south, the Four Corners vs. the Plaza, the Bagleyites vs. the Campbellites, etc. (Benito and Benito 1974; Malone 1975; Seeley 1975), the legal system was lax. Hungry homesteaders sometimes poached from the cattlemen without reprisal (Benito and Benito 1974; Paxton 1953).

Licensing systems were minimal; hunting licenses were unnecessary (Paxton 1953: 41) and it was common to license a single auto, no matter how many others one had lying around as "spare parts" or as substitutes for the licensed vehicle (Seeley 1975: 29). Service centers were clustered first at the north end of the town (Bagley's Plaza) and later at the Four Corners a mile away. The Benitos felt it necessary to ask Frank Bagley's permission before they opened their store at Four Corners in 1931 (Benito and Benito 1974: 12). The Four Corners/Smoketree area acquired a garage/grocery and a soda fountain with pinball machines during this period (Benito and Benito 1974; Seeley 1975). Keys traded with the Benitos; whether this represents a strategy of convenience or social selection is, at this point, unclear.

It was difficult to find work in the 1930s:

There is very little work by which a man can make a living, especially if he has a family to support. This is unfortunate for those people who are desperately in need of this type of climate. The veterans are receiving very little help from the government, so each must rely on his own labor to build and maintain his home. Any help that he extends to a neighbor is given with no thought of pay—with only a happy feeling of having been of service (Paxton 1953: 24).

Although idealistic, the spirit of Paxton's last remark appears to have applied somewhat to the Bagleys, the Benitos and Keys, all of whom supplied goods or services on credit (Benito 1975: 9). The Works Progress Administration hired men to work on the highway (Paxton 1953: 14) and some men hired on seasonally in the mines (Spell 1962: 15), as cow hands (Paxton 1953: 40) and in the fruit-packing houses near Colton (Paxton 1953: 29).

Many more people came into the area after the road was paved, but by 1934 160-acre homesteads were available. The five-acre tract act passed in 1938 fostered a new settlement pattern, which took clear shape after World War II (Hickman n.d.)

One early homesteader said that the establishment of the army glider base in 1940 "changed the character of Twentynine Palms" (Benito and Benito 1974: 15), pointing to the bars and entertainment places that were established or that improved their business at the time. The Smoketree Cocktail Parlor, Jay's Cafe and the Josh Cafe livened up the social scene in Twentynine Palms. He also discussed the immensely successful Saturday night dances held near what is now the town of Joshua Tree, noting that Jay's Place was "loaded every Saturday night" (Benito and Benito 1974: 11). There is no indication that the Keys ever attended these social occasions. In this respect, it is interesting to note that in his later years Keys became associated with Joshua Tree to the apparent exclusion of Twentynine Palms, as discussed in the following subsection. The presence of the glider base also touched the ranch. Willis Keys began to modify the Traffic Truck so that it could be used to process sand, since high quality sand was in great demand for use in the base's construction (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 1).

By 1943 Keys' position was envied by early settlers and ranchers and he was feared by homesteaders. He was a nuisance to the National Park Service and an economic threat and a personal enemy to powerful cattlemen and the San Bernardino establishment. His mining properties were threatened; in 1941 he abandoned at least seven claims, kept five under contest and several were declared void (Wm. Keys 1941; Chapman 1944). Keys' claim to Barker Dam also was declared void, which was a blow because of the improvements he had made there. In 1943 he was convicted of killing Worth Bagley and was sentenced to a term in San Quentin. Frank Bagley refused to put up Keys' bail money, in the interest of maintaining friendships on both sides (Bagley ca. 1974). The Keys' bitterness toward the Park Service and toward the Bagleys, Stocker and Stacey is quite apparent in the documents of the next period.

V. 1943—1969: From Prisoner to "Pioneer's Pioneer"

Keys was imprisoned in the spring of 1943 and did not return to his home for more than five years. Mrs. Keys remained at the ranch during part of that time (Ainsworth 1962: 164), but the ranch was abandoned for a year and a half or two years (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 1). Buildings, fences gardens and the like naturally fell into disrepair. The situation was aggravated by wartime demand for scrap metal and by competition for grazing rights within the monument. Wartime conditions, such as gas rationing and labor shortages, made it difficult for park personnel to watch over properties within the monument. Many of the mining properties of the Gold Park and Virginia Dale areas, which were within the 1936 monument boundaries, were looted and vandalized (Miller 1968: 57). Keys Ranch also was vandalized, but to a lesser degree than were many other areas (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 2).

Disputes over grazing rights characterized the period immediately prior to the Bagley shooting, as discussed above. The two prime contestants for the right to graze a limited number of cattle in the monument during World War II were Keys and J. W. Stocker. Keys was offered the first permit, but he refused to sign it because he objected to clauses concerning use of public water sources and the removal of improvements at the expiration of the permit (Chapman 1944: 4). The permit was held open until September of 1943, when it was given to Stocker. By then Keys was in prison.

Mrs. Keys accused Stocker of cutting her fences and of running stock over her orchards. From her point of view, the shooting for which her husband had been imprisoned had been set up by the San Bernardino Sheriff's Office, where Stocker was an undersheriff (F. Keys 1946: 4). Isabelle Clark, former wife of the deceased Worth Bagley, concurred in this opinion and testified to that effect in 1948 (Clark 1948: 6). By 1943 Keys had no cattle and Stocker was running 150 head within monument boundaries; by 1946 Stocker's inventory had dropped to 80 head (NPS-CCF No. 901-01, Report on Grazing of Domestic Stock).

Mrs. Keys continued her objections to monument regulations and accused the park custodian of illegally interfering with Keys' right of access to Barker Dam (Chapman 1944: 1). She complained that park personnel restricted the rights of the miners and homesteaders of the area, while allowing tourists and rowdy adolescents from Twentynine Palms to vandalize the desert. Continued conflict with Twentynine Palms is reflected in her accusation that officials knew who some of the guilty parties were, but that they would not punish them. She also lashed out at the Bagleys:

And one of these boys was none other than the son of Frank Bagley who is so anxious to have the area as a playground for the people of Twentynine Palms (F. Keys 1946: 3).

She was bitter toward real estate and business interests, which she thought wanted to develop Twentynine Palms at the expense of the natural beauty of the desert and, of course, her personal freedom. William Keys also disliked the monument. He told D. Malone:

I figure I must be a communist because I'm so torn about this land up here having been set aside. If I ever get my hands on the people who are responsible I'll kill them (Malone 1975; 17).

According to Willis Keys, conflicts between Keys and the Park Service continued for about 20 years before Keys relented and became friendly with park naturalists because of their love of nature and open country (Ws. Keys 1975: Tape 3).

William Keys revealed a complex attitude toward World War II in a letter written to Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, the former missionaries who had taught school at the ranch. Admittedly influenced by Robert LaFollette, the Progressive leader, Keys decried the aggression of "satin (sic) nations of white christians" against Asians, who were merely defending their economic interests. Pearl Harbor belonged culturally and geographically to Asia and the United States had no rights to it in the first place, according to Keys. In general, the United States government "lacks in spirit and in uplift of humanity" (Wm. Keys 1943: 3). In his view, young girls were encouraged by the government to entertain U.S. soldiers and this often led to prostitution and to jail (Wm. Keys 1943: 1). In some ways, he wrote, Russia was ahead of our government, as the Russians educated streetwomen and provided other opportunities for them. These views were bound to be unpopular with the VFW-dominated population of Twentynine Palms.

Keys was almost 70 when he returned to Keys' Ranch. The war was over and the postwar development of surrounding communities had begun. A five-acre tract law had been passed in 1938, but a decade passed before it took effect. Homesteaders leased their land from the government until they finally were allowed to purchase land outright in 1948. The postwar boom of five-acre settlers has been called a "joyous mass movement...transforming the face of the desert" (Ainsworth 1955: 2). The idea behind the "baby homesteads" was to bring men and the Creator closer together and was viewed by some as a "phenomenon of social release...emblematic of spiritual renaissance" (Ainsworth 1955: 2). Whatever the boom's psychological context may have been, the impact on Keys' Ranch had to do with its bringing more people into the area as visitors. Keys wanted to capitalize on the situation by building a resort at the ranch. He planned to create five small lakes for fishing and recreation by building a string of dams (Ainsworth 1962: 166). Keys apparently labored alone in the late 1940s and 1950s. He traded sand to the military base in exchange for needed materials (Ainsworth 1962: 167).

The towns of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley were being promoted at this time. Yucca Valley in 1946 was billed as the "cream of the desert" by Orange County developers. An advertisement in the Desert Spotlight stressed the beauty and healing properties of the desert, as well as the economic opportunities awaiting those who invested in hotels, motels and other businesses (Anonymous 1946). Joshua Tree was also booming and was the headquarters of Col. E. B. Moore, the leader of the movement to bring veterans to the high desert. Moore helped newcomers locate their claims and created the Desert Map for this purpose (Hickman n.d.). He also spearheaded the movement which made 172,640 acres of former military base property available to homesteaders. By the mid-1950s well-paved roads connected Amboy on Highway 66 with Highway 99 via Twentynine Palms. The old road through Twentynine Palms eventually became known as the "Roadrunner Route" and was used by southern Californians who vacationed in recreation areas on the Colorado River.

As the desert became a popular and accessible recreation area, Keys made the ranch more accessible to the public. His old means of making a living—mining and ranching—had diminished in importance. Economic opportunities lay in exploitation of tourists' incomes. He made signs advertising the ranch, using the fancy lettering he learned in prison. More cottages and outhouses were collected for the use of guests, but most of them were not used.

Some of these buildings were salvaged from production of a film, "The Wild Burro of the West," which featured William Keys (Perkins Papers n.d.). The film was shown on television, but the newspaper clipping describing it has no date. The film was made by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Perkins (Perkins Papers n.d.). I have found no adequate documentation of the film-making venture, but it seems likely that Perkins made the film and sold it to Walt Disney. This could account for the "Disney darkroom" or "Disney building" label commonly attached to one of the buildings at the ranch (see Map 1, Building C). An undated shooting schedule is stapled to one of the walls of the entrance. It also is possible that more than one film was made at or near the ranch. I could find no documentation of filming activities in the NPS-CCF in Washington. I was particularly distressed to find no mention of destruction of pictographs near Barker Dam, an act commonly attributed to a movie company.

Keys continued his mining activities and attended to his gypsum claims in the Palen Mountains, somewhere "north of Desert Center" (Ws. Keys 1975) and "out on Rice Road" (Seeley 1975: 17). He worked these until his death in 1969. In 1957 he leased one of his iron deposits and sold a copper deposit, both of which were within monument boundaries. He was convinced that the mineral wealth of most of the monument had barely been tapped. He would have developed the copper deposit 40 years earlier, but poor transportation over long distances then made it unprofitable (Anonymous 1957: 28). In 1951 he relocated the old Captain Jencks Mine and claimed ownership with his wife and daughter Phyllis. The mine was renamed the Phyllis Silver (Gray 1966).

In 1966 Keys and Michael Perkins rejuvenated the Wall Street Mill. Perkins was a young man, whom I think was the son of one of Keys' old friends from the 1920s and '30s. Perkins lived with Keys on and off for several years, helping him with his dam constructions and collecting historical data about the ranch and surrounding areas (see Perkins Papers). Another young man, Paulo Krucero of Joshua Tree, also lived with Keys sporadically in the late 1960s. Krucero and Perkins corresponded with each other regarding Keys (Perkins Papers n.d.).

In the 1960s Keys was treated as a local historical expert by Park Service personnel and by interested outsiders, such as Mike Perkins and Mrs. Albert Ellis. Mrs. Ellis questioned Keys' about the history of the area in 1961; a Xeroxed copy of Keys' replies to her questions was found in the Perkins Papers (Ellis 1961; Wm. Keys ca. 1961). Keys considered himself a local historian and felt very strongly about what he considered to be misrepresentation of historical data. The Perkins Papers contain a copy of an article on Lost Horse Mine by F. Taylor, which has been lavishly commented upon in what appears to be Keys' handwriting. A note in the Perkins Papers from Krucero to Mike Perkins reported that the "old man" was angry about the Taylor article (Taylor 1968).

Mrs. Keys died in 1963. She and her husband had been joined by her elder sister or some close relative, Genevieve Lawton, who stayed with them in the 1950s. Many of Miss Lawton's personal effects were found at the ranch. They seem to have been stored in the machine shop and are now in storage at monument headquarters.

In 1964 Keys sold his properties to Henry Tubman, who later exchanged them for properties outside monument boundaries. Keys retained the right to live at the ranch until his death (Wm. Keys 1969: 5).

By the times of their deaths, the Keys were viewed as highly respectable. Mrs. Keys was mourned in an obituary as a "beloved pioneer," who had admirably shared the labors and troubles of her husband (G. Keys 1963: 1), and as a "celebrity in her own right" (Cooper n.d.). By 1959 William Keys' notoriety seems to have paled and he is called a "friendly rancher" and "dean of the monument area" in articles written about local history (Belden 1959a). In 1966 Keys was the Parade Supreme Marshall at the 21st Annual Turtle Races in Joshua Tree and was hailed as "a pioneer's pioneer, (who) had traveled these desert valleys and tamed them to his needs" (Garry 1966). At his death, the local newspaper reported that the ranch had become a stopping place for travelers in the high desert and a gathering place for local miners and their families (Anonymous 1969).


Early in the history of non-Indian use of the monument area the Keys' Ranch/Cow Camp vicinity became an important interaction node, although the exact kinds of interaction engaged in remain unclear. Cattle were being grazed in the neighborhood and structures were erected to serve as a base for cattle operations. Determining whether the McHaneys and others at the site were engaged only in balanced reciprocal exchanges with markets on the coast or also in negative reciprocal exchanges with cattle owners in Arizona and elsewhere will require further research. The type of external interaction engaged in presumably affected patterns of exchange with other local groups and individuals; local folklore indicates distinctly negative reciprocal relationships, if any, between the McHaney group and such local miners as John Lang Jr. The folklore is substantiated, to some degree, by Lang's documented route for moving gold out of the mountains.

With the first real mining boom in the general area, at the end of the nineteenth century, Keys' Ranch, Twentynine Palms and Ryan's Ranch became significant activity centers. The mills at Keys' Ranch and Twentynine Palms attracted ore from various local mines, while the mill at Lost Horse specialized in ore from Ryan's mine. The three centers, as well as Gold Park and other mining/milling areas, collected natural resources (especially wood) from broad overlapping areas, creating zones of tension, in which hostile interaction could be expected.

Cattle grazing increased during the same period and became increasingly dominated by large cattle outfits, directed by absentee owners. Keys, who had moved into the area in the meantime, began a series of negative interactions with these interests. At the same time he established a series of generalized reciprocal relationships with such less-than-successful older residents or operators in the area as Morgan, Bill McHaney and Lang. Working for Morgan without pay and offering free and continuous support for McHaney and Lang, Keys gradually acquired de facto management, and later de jure ownership, of their lands, claims and equipment. As the boom collapsed with the advent of World War I, Keys began stockpiling abandoned material at the ranch, thereby developing the basis for the conspicuous display that was to characterize his interactions with some elements of society beyond the ranch in times to come.

The population of the monument area increased rapidly from the late 1920s through the Depression. This new population was distributed in centers of mining activity or scattered in homesteads within or outside what later became the monument. At the same time, Twentynine Palms was developing into a community, with an influential sector (the veterans) representing a world view, or value system, that had not existed in the area before. Twentynine Palms was becoming "town," while other interaction nodes of past periods (e.g., Keys' Ranch) were becoming "the mountains" (Bagley ca. 1974; Campbell 1961). Townspeople pronounced judgments on behavior that earlier would have been ignored, if not accepted. Hostilities between the "rough elements" and the townspeople increased during Prohibition.

This social context influenced Keys' Ranch in several ways. First, opportunities for interactions at the ranch increased, simply because more people were moving through the desert. These interactions could take several characteristic forms. "Balanced reciprocity" probably characterized Keys' relationships with economically independent miners, who wanted their picks sharpened or their ore milled. "Negative reciprocity" was probably typical of Keys' relationships with capitalists, who leased his mines for their own profit; Keys made sure that he profited, by collecting his rents and any materials that unsuccessful lessees left behind. Opportunities also were created for Keys to act in the role of benefactor to his extended family (e.g., his wife's brother) and to social undesirables (e.g., the Tucker family).

There was a certain amount of feedback between what happened at the ranch and what happened at Twentynine Palms. The Tuckers would probably not have come to the area if Twentynine Palms had not existed; if they had not been discriminated against or viewed with hostility by some townspeople they probably would not have been allowed to stay with Keys.

Keys could see that his status as distributor to the poor and as custodian of and collector on the land were being challenged by the services at Twentynine Palms, by the creation of the monument and by the intrusion of those who also collected from abandoned mines. Keys responded in several ways: he brought in the Tuckers, he put up signs warning people off his property and he strengthened his negative image with the people of the town, while extending his contacts on "the inside," both to new co-workers and to new social correspondents. His communication network at this time extended at least from Oceanside to Oregon. As activity at Twentynine Palms increased and as the town expanded its services, Keys' Ranch became more isolated from it. Instead of using the town, Keys seemed to ignore it and to look elsewhere for the help he needed.

By the end of the Depression Keys had thought of making the ranch into a dude ranch. Several buildings were acquired with this in mind and the ranch was organized into more of a community with the arrival of missionaries from Burma and other teachers and with the consequent construction of houses and schools.

In general, the network system of Twentynine Palms increased in density and complexity, while the networks emanating from Keys' Ranch were reduced. His orientation was outward, toward the coast rather than the town, or was focused within the ranch and its nearby valleys as he developed a closed community of his own. Viewed more abstractly, Keys' Ranch and Twentynine Palms both represent nodes of information and services in the same area, with overlapping and, to some extent, interlocking networks of interaction. The position of Keys' Ranch as a node diminished as that of Twentynine Palms expanded and elaborated.

The process of differential growth and development in frontier-like situations, of the replacement of many small and specialized interaction nodes by a few large and generalized ones, is common to the California hinterlands, to the settlement and development of the United States and, of course, to any area settled by groups with varying motivations and lifestyles. We know little about the mechanisms involved, but the remains of less successful nodes—abandoned farmsteads, ranches, ghost towns—are scattered about the landscape and are apparent to the most casual observer. At Keys' Ranch we are presented with the opportunity to trace the physical and social changes in the strategies developed by members of a node whose significance was decreasing while that of a competing community was on the rise.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 04-June-2007