L.A. Aqueduct Centennial 2013

Life and Times in Early Owens Valley

Categories: Moments In Eastern Sierra History

In the 1870s, Inyo County had a reputation for being a haven for horse thieves, highwaymen, and other desperados from the southern San Joaquin and points south. It may have been easy for anyone wishing to disappear for a while to do so in this isolated region, but trouble followed many an undesirable character to his new surroundings.

At times, early-day justice was swift, but the Sheriff was not always invited. The Inyo Independent of August 12, 1871 reported that, “A few days ago, three men, supposed to have been guilty of stealing ropes with horses attached, were ornamenting a telegraph pole. It is supposed that they committed suicide.”

In spite of such reports, some citizens remarked that times were relatively dull in the Valley. Editor P. A. Chalfant felt that the Valley was lacking in certain “necessary” facilities when he wrote in the Independent of February 2, 1877 that, “In Inyo County there are nine schoolhouses, one church, five breweries, and 58 saloons. The deplorable lack of the latter,” he wrote, “could be accounted for by the fact that nearly all stores keep liquor for sale.

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