Press "Enter" to skip to content
The Hanson girls Ruth, Ester and Marion frequently made use of the reservoir as a swimming pool. Circa 1921. | Courtesy Photo

Homesteader shares memories of life on the Hanson Ranch Part 1

Vivian Hanson VanDevender will celebrate her 94th birthday on June 14.

The early pioneer homesteaders transformed the dry desert land of sagebrush and sand into farmland producing lush crops. The high quality fruits and vegetables were transported by the wagon loads to nearby desert communities.

Vivian shared some of her childhood memories of growing up in this valley with The News Review this week.

“My earliest recollections of the Hanson’s involvement, with their ranch in the Indian Wells Valley, were as a young child, probably about the age of four. We did not take many trips away from our home in Pasadena so it was really a big deal to visit the desert. I seemed to have a love for the desert and the wide open spaces even at that age.

My Grandparents (Mother’s side) had traded (even-across the board) a grain milling business in Pasadena for 320 acres of land in the Indian Wells Valley.

I entered the picture in 1928. The Hanson Ranch was leased to the Hank Schuette family, another early homesteader family. The Navy took over the ranch and property in 1943. The family received $1.00 per acre for unimproved land and $5.00 for improved.

The Vernon Carr family, the second homesteader in the valley, were unable to recover all of their farm equipment from the base property before the Navy’s stated deadline. Some of the relics of the Carr ranch can still be found inside the base fence.

The trip to Pasadena took more than three hours in those days. Our early trips to the desert, in a Model T, started about 4:00 a.m. with a stop in a park near Saugas for breakfast that Mother had packed. This usually consisted of fried egg and little green onion sandwiches were excellent, especially if you were hungry. This gave the car’s radiator and engine time to cool off; the dirt road Highway 6 (now Highway 14) started shortly after leaving Mojave.

We would stop in Inyokern to visit the Elmer and Elsie Washmuth family at their garage/lunch counter/hotel. Then a visit to Vernon and Annabel Carr, then we would go back to our own ranch.

We would frequently visit the Hank Schuettes family, also early homesteaders, who lived closer to the mountains.

Vivian Hanson VanDevender
Vivian Hanson VanDevender riding through the neighborhood on her trike. | Courtesy Photo

On the Hansen family ranch we raised barley, alfalfa, vegetables, watermelons and Thompson Seedless grapes which were hauled by a team and wagon and later on by Model T to Randsburg, Johannasburg, Red Mountain and sometimes to Trona. The vegetables were large and when the delicious watermelons were ripe there was competition from the coyotes. Dad would sleep in the watermelon field armed with flashlight, shotgun and dog. If the coyote’s howls or bark sounded far away, they would be right there. There were delicious wild grapes and berries that grew in Grapevine Canyon, occasionally the family would be invited to go and pick berries.

Dad liked to watch my three sisters Ester, Ruth and Marion walk to the reservoir followed by the geese. Their ranch was one of two, in the valley, that were concrete. The Hansen ranch was used by workmen, to cool off, during the construction of the base. The other cement reservoir was located at the Stair Chicken Ranch, also a early homesteader family. That reservoir was used by China Lake sailors as their swimming pool. The Stair Ranch was later named, Sanquist Spa by the Navy. It was a popular location for dances and socials.

Apparently there were two wells on the Hanson Ranch. One was shallow and had a windmill and the other was deeper and ran with a generator. The water ran into a sand box and then into the reservoir. The well was 272 feet deep but the water came within 22 feet of the top, and could pump about 80 inches of water per hour. They had a 35 horsepower gas engine for pumping and threw a stream of water about 8 inches thick. The pump had a tendency to stall. When it started to choke and stall Mother would run to the pump and kick it then it would run fine.

On the visits to the ranch, I loved to walk all over the desert, especially in the spring time when the flowers were so thick…”

This story will be continued in June 24, 2022 edition of The News Review.

Read Part 2 of “Homesteader shares memories of life on the Hanson Ranch”