During the time that we lived in San Telmo, my brother Tom remembers an elderly man driving into the ranch, on his way to the Meling Ranch. He told a tale of being shipwrecked along with a companion, near San Felipe. I believer his companion was a Mexican – at any rate he had some knowledge of Baja. I don’t know what they were doing in a small boat at San Felipe, but when their boat was wrecked, they tried to reach San Felipe on foot, but were attacked by bandits. With food and water nearly exhausted, they determined to set off across the desert and then over the snow capped San Pedro Martir to the valleys on the west side. It seems to me they would not have attempted such an ordeal without knowing that there were ranches and villages on the west, where they could get help.
Their water was gone by the time they reached the first snow, which they melted eagerly. Charles’s shotgun provided them with meat. They made their way to La Grulla, where they stayed for some time. The shotgun provided them with ducks and geese to eat, and they even managed to kill a wild ram goat. They ate the meat and Charles made a pair of much-needed shoes, or moccasins. They eventually descended the west side, arriving at a ranch in the Valladares. I have no idea how long this journey took.
What follows is Charles Justice’s account of the rest of his adventure. Unfortunately I have not been able to find Chapter One of this tale. At the time we talked to him, he said that every few years he returned to Valladares and Socorro to re-visit the places he had been so many years before. Sound familiar?
The Spanish-American War was in 1898 – from April to December, so 1898 had to have been when this all happened.
I have also inserted a prologue to this story that my brother Tom sent me.
I wrote the above about twenty years ago. I forgot to mention that I found Chapter Two in the files taken from Pappa Tom’s office. Later on I found some correspondence between Dorothy and the Justice family, then living in San Diego. I also found a journal that she kept during the early days of San Miguel. She mentions the Justice family, three generations, camping at San Miguel on several occasions. I have not seen it recently, but there was also a picture of the Justices, on the occasion of their 70th anniversary, I think. Maybe 60th.
I sure would like to have Chapter One, but short of finding a descendant of Charles Bailey Justice, that isn’t going to happen. Maybe some very computer-savvy person can make that a project!
Also attached is a Memo from C.B.J to his descendants.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
By Lois J. Thompson
There lives in San Diego a man who passed through Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley in 1898, some years before a single drop of irrigation water had been introduced. Salt was then being mined in the bottom of the dry bed of what today is the Salton Sea. He floated down the Colorado River and out on the Gulf of California in a small boat and spent almost a year among the roving Indians of the placers, never passing through a doorway. Facing all kinds of weather out of doors and drinking only heavily mineralized water, from the mighty scarce water holes of that desert land, transformed him from slender citified youth to rugged manhood. When provisions ran out he existed entirely upon dried turtle meat, Rocky Mountain sheep, antelope meat and fish of the gulf.
In the endeavor to return to civilization by sailing his boat back north to the mouth of the Colorado, he was shipwrecked at San Felipe, losing almost everything, yet he survived to cross some forty miles of desert with little or no food and by extracting life-sustaining nourishment from cactus. With his half-breed companion, he crossed the range of San Pedro Martir Mountains and hiked perhaps 25 miles west over the plateau at elevation 8500 feet to two small lakes. (Most likely La Grulla) Here the fast was broken by a surfeit of wild ducks, eaten semi-raw with only the seed bulbs from wild roses for bread. After an interlude of further struggle, plodding and privation this bedraggled youth arrived alone in Los Angeles wearing moccasins carved by himself from the hide of a tough old wild mountain ram.
Returning to his people in Philadelphia, after a period of three years the call of the wild drew him again westward, when he spent a winter hunting bear and other wild game in Arizona, his last fling before settling down to married life and successful activity in wholesale produce, specializing in potatoes. From Ireland and Scotland he imported thousands of carloads through the ports of Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Me., and Baltimore. With still more than a hundred thousand barrel-sacks of spuds enroute to these ports, a cargo of 14,000 sacks of rotting potatoes to Philadelphia shook him to full realization of the precarious nature of such activity. This produced his third sojourn in California, this time with his family, when he found old friends had pre-empted as pioneers the Great American Dessert which he had previously traversed as a pre-pioneer, and had named it Imperial Valley of California. Having just read Harold Bell Wright’s, "The Winning of Barbara Worth", his sentimental, gregarious nature readily helped this man decide that food, and clothing and shelter were better in California than anywhere else. So, Imperial Valley in 1913 is where his migratory party of 13 souls landed, where he operated successfully in real estate for several years, while also operating five ranches he had bought.
Developing asthma in one of his four children caused removal of the family to Alpine, in the mountains east of San Diego, pronounced by government report to be the finest climate in the U.S.A. Here, this man claims, were spent the three happiest years of married life, operating successfully a fruit ranch, when suddenly a call came to help organize and operate the California Honey Producers Exchange, of which he became General Manger, assembling, selling and shipping most of the honey of the state for three years. This entailed the borrowing and repayment of large sums of money to field the mechanics of selling and distributing the product domestically and abroad. By 1921, this man had left management of the Exchange, moved to San Diego and organized his own company in wholesale honey. Following collapse of the old Exchange, he took over handling the bulk of the honey production of Southern California, shipping hundreds of carloads to eastern markets and abroad. The worldwide crash of 1929, worst in history, found his corporation among it’s thousands of victims, but his experience and training, as well as position in the wholesale honey world, bounced him right back to extensive operations when World War #2 caused a shortage of sugar and all sweets. For 20 years there after he enjoyed a preference in orders running into millions of pounds of nature’s finest "Nectar Of The Gods", honey.
To many it seems odd that this pre-pioneer should be still around, while practically every one of Imperial Valley’s pioneers have gone to their rewards. He, in his 93rd year, and his good wife in her 90th, enjoy good health and keep very active physically and mentally. This old fellow’s name is Charles Bailey Justice, trader, widely know locally as Honey Boy Charlie. He will buy or sell, which ever you prefer. But watch out, for he still has all his natural teeth!
Memo To My Two Dozen Descendants
In all previous efforts to describe the events of my early youth I have failed to mention the primary reason for my ever even thinking about going to California. In 1887, when I was nine years old, my dear mother passed away with tuberculosis, the dreaded scourge of the land in the early day. While cure was little understood, it was known to be contagious, so that of course her four bereft children thereafter lived in constant fear that they were very likely infected.
Some nine years later, on my first job as part time stenographer and general roustabout with a wholesale produce firm in Philadelphia, I was severely exposed to night work as a checker of produce arrivals at the receiving docks. I got what is now known as a strepp throat, but which struck me with holy horror as T.B. By that time Arizona and California `were known as good places for lungers, so that, when a cousin who was a high official of the Illinois Central railroad company offered me a pass to California, I accepted with alacrity. Very soon I was on my way, arriving in Los Angles with $30.00 to my name.
It seemed the town was full of lungers, but the delightful change of climate to the balmy November air of the bungalow city impressed me most favorably and raised my spirits immeasurably. I recall saying to myself "Here’s where I want to live ‘til I die." I lodged at "The Virginia", a rooming house, on what is now Pershing Square, about where the Hotel Baltimore stands today. Before my $30.00 was gone I landed a job as stenographer with American Brokerage Co., where W.E. Howard surely drove a wad of stuff down my shorthand pencil before the outfit went broke in two months, never paying me a dime. But a delightful Irish couple kept faith in me, fed me in their restaurant two poached eggs on toast every morning. That sustained the supposed lunger the fortnight before I answered an add of Earl Fruit Co., for a stenographer.
E.T. Earl, a very forceful, brilliant go-getter, dictated to me half a dozen letters, which I transcribed on a machine right beside him. He looked casually over the letters, then suddenly announced: "You leave your name and address with the clerk, and if we want you we’ll send for you." Just like that.
So, I found myself again outside on the curb. Sheer desperation drove me pretty high; I went back into his office and said: "Look here, mister, maybe I need this job more than you need a stenographer, but I’ll pack a typewriter up here and work for you a month and if I’ve earned anything you pay it to me."
He answered with a smile, "Well, I admire your spirit." That’s all I wanted. If he had never paid me a plugged nickel I would still have been way ahead, because what I picked up sitting at the elbow of that wonderful man became priceless to me in afteryears. As one of the seven stenographers in that most enterprising concern, I also took dictation from Josh Chase, a former great fruit shipper in Florida, and a Mr. Muehlbronner. Night and day, I, the supposed lunger, worked to the point of exhaustion. But I had fulfilled my task and saved $100.00. Surprising how a few dollars tucked away can inspire confidence in youth eager for the out-of-doors and adventure. From Earl himself I had learned that if you know your stuff, and have the guts to believe in yourself, you are good as the next man. It’s all a matter of spirit!
The still-lingering fear of T.B. probably was the deciding factor, when I found another lad seeking improvement in health, who also had the munificent sum of $200.00. We harnessed up a deal with an experienced placer miner who knew there was gold in Baja California, Mexico, to be had for little work and lots of fun out of doors, living off fish of the Gulf and all kinds of wild game. Thus our $300.00 could go a long way for the benefit of both of us. Before the next chapter is finished, the one thing certain is that I forgot all about T.B.; never had it in the first place. Subsequent privation, and even peril, meant nothing; I had acquired the health of vigorous manhood, a priceless possession.
Father, Grandfather and Great-grandfather,
Charles Bailey Justice, San Diego, Calif. Feb 1st 1971
The "Baja California Story"
It was a cold, snowy December day when we left our kind benefactors, the Monarco family of Valladares, and trudged some 18 miles northward to Socorro, where we had heard rumors that work was available at a large gold placer, the workings of one Dane named Johnson. We were put right to work and most thankful to be employed, even at the meager remuneration of 50 cents a day in gold, because the wonderful meals provided by Mrs. Johnson were worth several times as much to we two stranded wanderers. At that time there was a good-sized house and another large building at Socorro, both hard by the small mineralized vale of the placer. When the meal gong was sounded the eight or ten laborers would drop everything, enter the dining room and seat themselves at the table always overloaded with nourishing food. Always, in less than ten minutes, practically all that food had disappeared, consumed ravenously by hard-working yet appreciative mining hands.
The Johnson’s were an extraordinary pair in every respect. Johnson himself must have been a natural-born genius, with Herculean ambition. He had managed to conduct a stream of water from the heights of San Pedro Martir range many miles down to this little valley, where he was able to rig up a sluicing operation with the water. Well do I recall the huge sluicing hose with which the workers manipulated the paydirt over the collecting apparatus. Being myself rather a lightweight, I was set to sweeping bedrock, while my companion and the Indians swung picks and shovel. So, it might be said I became the "man who handled the gold". That work became salvation to me, and it proved of intrinsic value, however slight, in our struggle to get back to civilization. The nights were bitter cold and we had little cover, so we slept in a tunnel with other tramps like ourselves, dogs, and plenty of vermin. I became lousy, and I immediately determined to break away from the whole shebang, at whatever cost. Learning that a north-bound ship was due to call at the Salt Mine at San Quintin, operated by Lower California Development Company, within a couple of weeks, I drew my slight accumulation of earnings, hired a grass-bellied little gray pony and lit out, down Santo Domingo Canyon, westward to the vast plain across which even at some 50 or more miles distant I could see over the flat, my hoped for destination. I do not recall ever dismounting enroute, though I surely must have done so.
Arrived at the office of the L.C.D.CO, at this tiny port. I bought some corn, the first thing, for my faithful beast of burden. Believe it or not, this animal ignored it and wouldn’t eat it, which is some indication of the primitive nature of the land I felt little regret in departing. Next I sent a telegram over the one-wire line between San Quintin and Ensenada to an uncle in Philadelphia, which read: "Shipwrecked Safe Well Please Send Sixty Care LCDCO." Then I bought a dozen eggs for a dime and sat down behind a chicken coop for several days, hopefully and expectantly, yet most anxiously, awaiting the unknown. Finally, the day before the steamer was due to call, the agent came out of my camp and announced that the money had arrived in the bank at Ensenada and for me to "come up and get it". I asked him to let me ride up on the steamer, and suggested he telephone the bank to pay my passage charge and for all three calls out of the $60.00. He refused, the heartless scoundrel, and I have always felt it was because he wanted to, and did, retain my one remaining asset, my watch and chain. So there I was completely stranded again, ---------and very lousy besides.
Meantime, my companion had come down from the mountains the night before. Together we saw the vessel arrive and depart, leaving two forlorn, disheveled tramps behind. To get at that $60.00 we had no recourse but to trudge back to the mountains, where there were both water to drink en-route, and Indian habitations where we might, if lucky, get food and sustenance during our necessarily roundabout hike of about 250 miles. That was an ordeal; I remember one Indian with a flock of goats gave us a whole, big cake of goat cheese and was otherwise most kindly and hospitable to us, but recall little else of that "lousy" and heart-rending trip except crossing an enormous gorge, or canyon, with precipitous sides, both north and south. We had quite a time crossing, down and up, and I have many times since reflected upon the lack of appreciation in this modern age of the many achievements of those who came and passed on before us, including bridges.
Finally, somehow, we made it to El Alamo, where my companion had an acquaintance. And in a day or two more we were in Ensenada, where first thing I bought was a stock of blue ointment which I plastered all over my underwear and my body. Next day I picked 48 lice off, in one "picking".
Enriched with the proceeds at the Ensenada bank, my partner saw me off on the small vessel to Los Angeles, an overnight trip in which I have ever since regretted that I may have left some vermin in my berth. It was not until 13 years later that I learned my partner had returned to Valladares and married the comely Merijilda, daughter who had so charmed both of us with her constant singing of that delightful Spanish song, "La Fresca Rosa." To this day, after 72 years, I still remember the words and the tune to that song, which rang so irresistibly upon our eager ears after the privations we had endured and surmounted in those dreadful days of shipwreck at San Felipe and the following days of climbing the San Pedro Martir mountain range with little or no food or water. While sojourning with them, my precious double-barrel fowling piece had brought our little colony just about all the meat available to us, in the form of rabbits and quail. But they fed us lavishly upon corn, panola, honey from the wild bees, whose stores we robbed, and anything else they possessed. I was glad to recompense them, in some degree at least, by leaving with them when I departed, the gun, reloading outfit, powder and shot and brass shells.
Arrived and returned at last to America at Los Angeles, yours truly did have the foresight to be photographed in his whiskers and bedraggled clothing, including trousers from which the backside had been burned out while we lay under our sail at the San Felipe beach by an ember, plus moccasins carved by himself from the hide of a tough old wild goat ram. Welcomed by old friends, he had to unceremoniously brush them aside while resurrecting his trunk and other effects, and rush to the Hollenbeck Hotel for one after another bath, shampoos, etc., after which those foul duds found solace in the basement furnace.
With no word from me during the many months of my absence in the wild, both family and friends had just about given up hope I would ever return. That telegram must have been a considerable shock. The Spanish-American war had been fought and won during the interim, and I had never even heard about it. Delightedly, I was backed and set up in business in Los Angeles, soliciting consignments of fruits and vegetable to that kind uncle in Philadelphia, (for whom, by the way, I had been named)
After a period of months, I returned to Philadelphia, having in the back of my mind developed some ideas I had picked up while sitting at the elbow of E.T. Earl, of the Earl Fruit Company, of Los Angeles, as his stenographer. Western men had the most modern ideas, else they wouldn’t have moved west. Having seen Earl buy, load and ship 100 carloads of oranges a day, having entered the wholesale business on my own, I was within ten years thereafter shipping 100 carloads a day. Men copy one another, and by using western ideas I was able to outstrip old-fashioned competition along the Atlantic seaboard in the importation and sale of foreign potatoes, especially, as well as the domestic product. We really concentrated in potatoes, importing and reselling to the wholesalers through the ports of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and Portland, Me. Between 1905 and 1912 I judge we bought, sold and distributed more than 22,000 carloads. It was of course a wearing and risky business in perishables, and though quite fortunate and successful for some eight years, it was in late winter of 1912 that an overloaded steamer, the "Haverford", arrived at Philadelphia with some 14,000 barrel-sacks if rotting potatoes, and the steamer "Memphium" arrived with 6600 sacks in Boston in similar condition. What caused the damage was never discerned, but with yet more than 100,000 sacks still afloat in vessels en-route to those four various ports, I, of course, felt I surely must be bankrupt, for I had large loans from several banks and business friends. Fortunately, all the other cargoes arrived in good condition and sold well. So that all told we lost around $14,000.00 only, but just to prove how uncertain life is, that apparent calamity turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of the several I have stumbled over in a long, eventful and thrilling lifetime. It moved me, and my family, to the Golden West in California, for good. We have never regretted it.
One doesn’t have to be brilliant to succeed in life, or even smart, just lucky to be positioned before opportunity, then determined never to give up trying. Privation early in life helps a lot, because it promotes appreciation of such benefits as do come one’s way. An intense curiosity is an asset, broadening one’s potential. It was sheer curiosity and nothing else which induced me to study shorthand, with a neighbor at night, yet that brought my first worthwhile job and not only developed in me an unusual memory, but it became the biggest factor in shaping my whole life thereafter.
Charles Bailey Justice
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