OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

February 14, 2002

When Redlands Was
A Hunter's Town
& Tales of Local Nimrods

by Harold M. Hill M.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


This paper is a look back at the sport hunting of Redlands days in the first three decades of the 1900s, as reported in the local newspapers of the time. It particularly describes quail hunting in the vicinity of Redlands and the adjacent San Jacinto Plains, and duck hunting at Baldwin lake in Bear Valley.

The explosion of game birds with the early agricultural development of California is described with accounts of market hunting in that era, particularly with regard to California Quail.

Nimrods of pioneer times who left their names upon geographic locations are recounted. Nimrods of Redlands known to the writer are described.

The social significance of sporting guns is described, and finally there is comment on the changing gun culture of Redlands during the writer's lifetime.

Background of the Author

Harold Hill is a third generation Redlander on both sides of his family. His paternal grandparents, Dr. Merrill Washington and Ella Hill, arrived here in 1887 and his maternal grandparents Peter and Elizabeth Arth, arrived here in 1889. He is understandably interested in local history, both human history and natural history.

Dr. Hill is a graduate of Redlands public schools, the University of Redlands, Stanford University for his medical degree and the University of Michigan for medical specialty training. He returned to Redlands to practice with his father and brother, specializing in internal medicine. He practiced here for thirty seven years, retiring in 1984. He is a fourth generation physician, third generation in Redlands. He has two sons living in Redlands and two daughters, one living in Running Springs, California and the other in Ithaca, New York. He and his wife Marjorie regularly attend the First Baptist Church where they are coordinators of the Questers Sunday School Class. Marjorie is prominent in volunteer, civic organizations.

His avocation is natural history, especially ornithology. He has published several papers in this field and on other natural history subjects. He was one of the founders of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society chapter, and a lecturer on National Audubon Screen Tours. He has been a Commissioner of the San Bernardino County Museum and is presently a member of the Board of Directors of the Museum Association. He also served on the Foundation Board of Redlands Community Hospital. He has been a member of the Redlands City Parks Commission and the citrus committee that manages the City's groves. He was instrumental in organizing and coordinating the planting of Caroline Park. Other interests have include ranch management in connection with the Stillman Berry Ranch in Montana and management of a hunting club for waterfowl in the San Jacinto Valley. He was named "Redlands' Man of the Year" in 1990.

Those of you of a Biblical persuasion will know that Genesis 10, verses 8-9, tell us that Nimrod was “a mighty hunter before the Lord,” as well as a mighty warrior. He was a descendent of Noah of the arc fame and an ancestor of the Hamitic Tribes of northwest Africa, including the ancient Egyptians. In any event a “Nimrod” has come to mean a dedicated and outstanding hunter, in today’s parlance.

This paper has some historical accounts of the hunting in Redlands and environs in the first three decades of the 1900s when local game birds were in great abundance. The opening of the bird hunting season was a major community event, involving most of the able-bodied men and virtually closing up the business community for the day, much as still occurs in parts of the rural Midwest when the deer season opens. It is also an opportunity to recount tales of local pioneer nimrods who left their names upon the land, and some more contemporary ones that I have known. Finally, I have made some observations about our gun culture in my time.

The traditional opening of the fall hunting season in southern California, since it has been regulated by law, has usually been deer season in late August or September, dove the first of September, and quail and duck in mid October. Hunting fever was most prevalent at the beginning of a hunting season, especially when two “openers” occurred simultaneously as often occurs with the seasons for quail and duck, our two most abundant local game birds.

On October 15, 1913, the opening day, the Redlands Review newspaper reported “several hundred quail hunters from Redlands were out bright and early to get a few shots before the quail are frightened back into the hills! The next day’s paper reported, “Hunting most excellent. Before 11 o’clock [hunters] were in with the limit (of probably 25 birds at that time). The most frequent places yesterday were the grain fields of San Timoteo canyon and the flats [i.e. the wash] east of Mentone. Coveys of quail were as common as people at a dog fight, but this condition will not last long as the quail will soon get wise and hike for the hills.”

Quail hunting continued excellent for at least the next few years. On November 1, 1921, the Redlands Facts reported, “The quail season opened this morning and the local nimrods were out in force as usual. The season promised to be the best in years judging by the kills brought in this morning.”

October 16, 1919, Redlands Daily Facts states: “Redlands seems pretty well depopulated today [to take advantage of the season opening on ducks and quail], inquiry revealing many of the heads of establishments as well as clerks have gone after game. Some to Big Bear [and Baldwin Lakes], others to nearby ponds and some out into the Imperial Valley section. The quail season [also] opening today, some went after the smaller birds. To enumerate those who went to Big Bear for ducks would be something like printing an edition of the City Directory, leaving out the feminine portion.” The names of prominent citizens who were successful made good news copy. Two days after the above duck opener the Facts reported “Among the Redlands men who got their share were Walter Weaver, Frank Loge, Fred Gowland, Bert Hatfield, Earl Finch, H. Paine, Walter Johnson,  Mr. And Mrs. Bill Thornquest, Fred Hill, Albert Doell, Wilson Spoor, X. B. and G. B. Bartlett. I remember most of these men, or at least knew of them. They were more contemporary with my father and many of their children I knew as school mates.

Waterfowl were unbelievably numerous in those days and duck hunting very popular, probably reaching its zenith in 1919 and 1920. In the first two days of the 1919 season the Facts reported that an estimated 5, 0000 ducks were bagged in the first two days of the season in Bear Valley. On Baldwin lake there were an estimated 300 hunters with 90 boats and many sunken and shore blinds. The daily limit for ducks then was 15 with 30 in possession for a two day hunt.

The following year, 1920, a less sanguine newspaper reporter, apparently not one of the hunting fraternity, wrote “there are more big fat ducks than ever, it is reported. Bear Valley has the largest crowd ever for opening the season. It was a slaughter, a massacre and more than that! The crowd is the largest eve accommodated in the Valley.”

How does one explain these amazing concentrations of game birds in fairly recent times? It was due to a confluence of several factors. A prolonged wet weather cycle from about 1905 to 1925 over the western states favored reproduction of both the waterfowl and quail. Market hunting for both quail and waterfowl was ever, illegal after about 1915 and daily limits were enforced.. Also important was the continuing extensive farming of grain land.

Historically the California quail was abundant even at the time of the exploration of coastal California in 1786. La Perouse stated that Monterey “the brush country and plains are covered with little crested partridge, which live gregariously in coveys of 300 to 400. They are fat and good flavor.”

In the early agricultural development of California, in the mid 1800s, both the great central valley and coastal southern California valleys were planted mainly to grain, especially wheat. The grain crops, the stubble fields after harvest, and pasture lands with seed-bearing Eurasian grasses and weeds were a food bonanza, causing a population explosion of the quail, dove, and waterfowl.

With the agricultural breaking of the land increasing their food supply, quail often became extremely abundant. They were trapped, netted, and shot by the hundreds for food. They were marketed by the thousands in the 1860 to 1880s, principally in San Francisco, until reduced numbers, and finally legal restriction made market hunting impractical.

In 1881 and 1882 32,000 dozen (384,000) quail were shipped to San Francisco from Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties and brought the market hunters one dollar a dozen. In areas of Southern California where water was scarce late in the year. Bands consisting of thousands of quail congregated around springs and waterholes and were trapped and potshot by the thousands for the market.

A resident of Redlands late in his life was Hall McAlister whom I met on a house call to his home, still present on the northwest corner of Cypress and Center. Years later I ran across an account of his hunting experiences in our area in the 1880s in the California Fish and Game magazine. In his active years he was a business man in San Francisco who was a life-long dedicated gentleman hunter. He came to Colton from San Francisco in the fall to hunt quail and antelope on the San Jacinto plains south of Colton and Riverside. Of hunting here in 1885 he writes: “There were a few springs there and to these the quail came in countless thousands to water, and at each of them we found a brush hut [blind] and a V-shaped [water] trough placed there by the market hunters. Reche (his hunting companion) and I went around and burned up each an every one of these ‘slaughter pens’ and got ourselves somewhat disliked when the news leaked out who had done it!”

McAlister’s hunting companion on these hunting ventures was V. C. Reche, rancher of Reche Canyon in Loma Linda. Reche and his brother at an earlier time had engaged in market hunting quail in the same area. Reche stated that when the Sunset Route of the Southern Pacific Railway started in 1880, many young men in Southern California started hunting quail for the San Francisco market, but that nearly all the quail rotted in sacks before reaching San Francisco, so that the business proved unprofitable – returns did not pay the express charges and cost of the powder and shot. Reche stated that at one time by actual count he picked up 363 quail as a result of eleven pot shots from his old muzzle loader at the spring where we had found the V-shaped trough. This was an average of 33 birds to each shot.

When the quail season opened in September, 1885, McAlister stated, “we had many splendid hunts, but no potting was allowed, wing shooting only. I remember one hunt where we slept at one of these San Jacinto plains springs and in the morning saw the enormous bands of quail coming up for water. It made one’s blood tingle with excitement. The ground for hundreds of yards all around was a moving mass of thousands of running birds. We jumped up with a shout and succeeded in scattering the flocks so that in an hour’s shooting we had bagged 97 quail – all wing shots. We did not move more  than 100 yards from the spring as every rock on the hillside had one to a dozen quail under it.

Thirty years later, about 1915, Leslie Gay of Crafton, a patient of mine, found quail still abundant in the same area, probably the same spring. It is on Poverty Flats just above the present Perris Reservoir. C. J. Tripp, Redlands City Treasurer, called his hunting companions, including Les Gay, for a quail hunting trip to Moreno Valley. On this occasion Harry Beal, affectionately called “Bealie”, the Afro-American stage man was engaged to transport the group in his stage, a large open touring car which was also used to transport duck hunters to Baldwin Lake on occasion.

The flock of quail at the spring in 1915 was estimated at over 1000 birds. Every one shot their limit (perhaps 20 birds at that time). One hunter claimed he shot only cocks, an almost impossible feat in normal circumstances as quail usually flush directly away from the hunter, obscuring any facial markings that distinguish the cocks.

Another prominent quail hunter was Doctor Walter Power who lived adjacent to the Redlands Country Club. In about 1940, long before the restrictions on shooting firearms inside city limits, he hunted quail on the adjacent Redlands golf course. On his last hunt, he shot 12 quail, the legal limit, with 12 shots and retrieved all of them, a considerable feat of marksmanship and retrieving without a dog in the heavy brush. (He described his technique for retrieving downed birds in the brush).

Another Redlander who in about 1960 shot his limit of quail virtually in his backyard was Don Higdon of Redlands Plumbing. He lived on East Sunset Drive with a canyon behind his house running down to Live Oak Canyon which would yield him a limit of quail on occasion. About the same time I was hunting quail in Sand Canyon where Crafton College now stands and also in San Timoteo Canyon. There are still today a few small coveys on Sunset Drive and in Live Oak Canyon where sufficient brush remains, but San Timoteo Canyon is nearly devoid of quail now. However, we usually have two or three pair nesting in Caroline Park since we have enhanced it with native plants.

Let me return to the amazing duck hunting at Baldwin Lake when Redlands was a hunter’s town in the early decades of the 1900s. Southern California has never been considered prime waterfowl country since the large coastal marshes in Orange County were eliminated in the late 1800s, excepting possibly the Salton Sea, which was formed about 1906. However, Baldwin Lake is strategically located on the Pacific flyway, offers abundant duck food at times, is too shallow for recreational use which would disturb the ducks, and there are no other local competing areas for the autumn waves of migrant ducks. Unfortunately, this shallow lake dries up during dry weather cycles as at present, though it is open to controlled public hunting still when the lake reappears.

In addition to the public duck hunting at Baldwin Lake and the Salton Sea, the more affluent dedicated duck hunters belonged to the private Delta Duck Club in Imperial Valley at the south end of the Salton Sea. Leon Atwood Sr. was influential with the Southern Pacific Railroad and obtained a strategic lease at the end of an irrigation canal at the edge of the Sea. Atwood and T. N. Gibson of Redlands built a club house and developed a prestigious and very successful duck club of 20 members selected from the elite of the Redlands and San Bernardino hunting gentry. Unfortunately, it succumbed to vicissitudes of the depression in the 1930s.

Let me tell you about some local nimrods who left their names upon our land. Christobol Slover was a trapper and friend of Kit Carson who settled in Colton on the Colton Cement mountain in 1872. He married a woman from nearby Agua Mansa and pursued his passion for hunting Grizzly Bear. As an old man on his last hunt he went up the left fork of Cajon Pass near the summit where he fired on a large grizzly at short range which attacked him. He was horribly mauled and expired while being carried home on a litter. The Colton Cement mountain, or what little is left of it, still bears the name, Slover Mountain.

Another Grizzly Bear hunter, Bill Holcomb, gave his name to Holcomb Valley near Big Bear Lake. While prospecting for gold he was hunting bear for meat. While tracking a wounded bear by blood stains, he discovered a promising quartz ledge which spawned the gold rush to Holcomb Valley in the 1860s. I’m told he was the grear-grandfather of the recent mayor of San Bernardino, Bob Holcomb.

Hall McAlister’s quail shooting adventures on the San Jacinto plains, recounted earlier in this paper, were in the company of Vital Reche. He with his brother Anthony were ranching in what is now Reche Canyon in Loma Linda. Anthony tried to start a town there that would bear the Reche family name, thinking it would be a gateway to Temecula and San Jacinto to the south with San Bernardino to the north where he had a store. In contrast, it was said of his brother, Vital Reche, known as the hunter, that he wanted only peace and quiet. McAlister described Vital as “a rancher who was one of the best shots, deer tracker and general all-around hunter to be found anywhere.” On a hunt to the huge Santa Margareta Ranch near Oceanside, Reche states “our party of four hunters bagged 14 deer and could have killed double the number.” While the town of Reche did not survive, the family name lives on in Reche Canyon.

The latter day nimrods, the mighty hunters of Redlands that I have known (and some of you will recognize), include Edmond Patterson Jr., Leon Atwood Jr., Waldo Burroughs, Dr. A. B. Lee, and Ethel Hammer. I have included several of them in historical duck hunting articles I have had published in the California Waterfowl Association magazine. These nimrods of Redlands had the time and resources to extensively develop and pursue their hunting skills and passionately enjoy them.

Ed Patterson Jr. grew up in Crafton in the late teens and 20s when Redlands was a hunter’s town. In coming home from school he would defend the chicken yard from marauding hawks and shoot rabbits for the table. As a teenager he began hunting quail and ducks with his father. In addition to his skill and devotion to bird shooting as a youth, he became, as an adult, Redlands premier big game hunter with many trophy heads displayed in his home, including some qualifying for the Boone and Crockett Record Book. He traveled to several northwestern states for trophy deer and elk, to Canada and Alaska for bear, Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goat. He shot the only “Grand Slam” in Big Horn Sheep that I know of, i.e. all four species of North American Big Horn Sheep, ranging from Mexico to British Columbia and Alaska. Safaris to Africa yielded selected big game trophies, including rare antelope species. And eventually there was a trip to Mongolia for another species of Big Horn Sheep and ibex. Pat and I faithfully journeyed to Baja California for a number of years to pursue the wiley quail there.

Leon Atwood Jr. of Yucaipa was a great wing shooter, deer hunter, and collector of Parker shotguns. He made many trips to the Rocky Mountain states for trophy deer, but also hunted them about his Yucaipa ranch. He hunted Big Horn Sheep at his West Yellowstone hunting and fishing lodge. He was also a very dedicated duck hunter participating in several of the local duck clubs and reviving the famous Delta Duck Club which his father had started. On of his adventures in 1921 was arranging for the Southern Pacific. train that passes by the Salton Sea to stop at an abandoned station to drop off and later pick up his hunting party which was shooting several hundred ducks for the annual banquet of the San Bernardino Orange Show. He was the greatest raconteur of my acquaintance and very popular among the hunting fraternity.

Waldo Burroughs, former mayor of Redlands, was a dedicated duck hunter all of his life from boyhood, shooting the reservoirs of Mentone and Crafton to annual trips to Baldwin Lake. I wrote an article published in the California Waterfowl magazine titled “Sixty Years Duck Hunting on Baldwin Lake, the Story of Waldo and His Canoe.” He remodeled a city park canoel for duck hunting on Bear and Baldwin Lakes. He was also a frequent trap (clay pigeon) shooter as was his wife, Michele, who eventually could outshoot him. Waldo finally had to abandon shooting after 70 years when he broke his leg while fly fishing in a trout stream in Montana.

Dr. A. B.; Lee, father of well-known Barry Lee, may have been Redlands most active bird shooter in my boyhood days. As a neighbor growing up with his children, I remember finding out that he purchased his shotgun shells, not by the boxes, but by the cases of twenty-four boxes. I never imagined that anyone could do that much bird shooting. My first experience bird shooting a young boy was a trip to San Timoteo Canyon with my father and Dr. Lee to shoot doves. Since I knew nothing of wing shooting I was told I could “pot” a bird if one lit nearby, which fortunately didn’t happen. Dr. Lee was a hunter for all occasions, shooting dove, quail, ducks and deer. He had several fine guns, including a pair of high grade Parker shotguns which I purchased from him when he was too old to use them. They had been purchased from Gowland Brothers sporting good store in Redlands in the 1920s.

Last, but not least, I should mention Redlands female “mighty hunter” or perhaps I should say “The Diana of Redlands”, Ethel Hammer, the Lion Lady. She and her husband, Ralph Hammer, made safaris to Africa, bringing back giant elephant tusks and numerous trophy heads to inhabit the walls of their stately home on West Highland Avenue opposite San Mateo. On one of their trips to Africa the Hammers brought back two lion cubs, which roamed their yard until too big to handle.

Finally I want to make some brief observations on the changing gun culture in my lifetime. When I was growing up in Redlands in the 20s and 30s, when Redlands was a hunter’s town, Redlands was mainly a rural agricultural area, except a few downtown residences and a few mansions on the south hilltops. Most households had a vegetable garden and often some barnyard poultry for convenience and economy. Nearly every farm or ranch, and most professional households too, had a shotgun and 22 caliber rifle in the closet.

These were not for personal protection, as we locked our doors rarely, if ever, and also always left the car keys in place. The guns were for shooting varmits, hunting, and plinking (target practice shooting at tin cans with a 22 rifle) and also for teaching gun handling and safety to the boys in the family. The “varmits” were the squirrels and rabbits that enjoyed the vegetable and flower gardens, the occasional hawk who might pluck a plump chicken from the barnyard, or possibly a coyote or bobcat. The hunting gentry, whether living in a ranch house or urban residence, would have a high-grade shotgun or two and perhaps a high-power rifle for deer hunting.

The giving of a 22 caliber rifle or perhaps a small bore shotgun to a teenager in a ranch or sport-hunting family, was a rite of passage to manhood. Now the youth was deemed responsible enough to defend the barnyard with his own gun and join the men on hunting adventures. My grandfather, father, and uncles all had the usual guns in the house. My brother was given a small bore shotgun as a teenager so that he could go bird shooting. My affluent uncle from San Francisco gave me a 22 single shot rifle on high school graduation to learn gun handling and target shooting even though I had no thought of hunting at that time.

Guns have been a well-established part of our American culture since pioneer subsistence hunting and militias days at the founding of our country. In the early agricultural times and still on rural farms the gun is a basic tool of the farm for certain activities. In the first three or four decades of the 1900s, when game was still relatively abundant and society became more affluent, sporting guns were a source of pride  With the rise of sport hunting, guns have taken on a social significance far beyond any utilitarian functions, and even become a status symbol. The traditional gun makers of the time generally had four or five grades of guns of increasing workmanship and artistic detail. There is an aphorism that says fine engraving of the metal receiver is the culmination of the gun maker’s art. Gold inlays are not unusual in the highest grade models. The status of a hunter relative to his sporting gun is about the same as judging a man by the car he drives. Increasingly handsome and expensive guns are very comparable to choosing between a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac of General Motors. Those who prefer and can afford old-world craftsmanship and drive a British Rolls Royce, a German Mercedes-Benz or Italian Lamborghini may shoot with a British Holland and Holland ($25,000 to $50,000), a German high grade Merkel or an Italian Perazzi or perhaps a Belgian Browning. One would not go to an exclusive private duck club without an appropriate shotgun. In the case of the Belgian Browning shotguns, the different grades are listed with names that correspond to the ornamental engraving: Grade I with minimal engraving, Pigeon Grade with engraved pigeons, Pointer Grade with Pointer dogs, Diana Grade, and Midas Grade with gold inlays.

My how things have changed when I compare my upbringing with household guns with today when my grandchild’s mother blanches at the thought of my grandson touching a gun or even having a gun in the house, relating all guns to robbers, gangsters and murder.

I would like to justify sport hunting and why it occurs, but that is for another time.

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