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History of Littlerock

2nd May 2023 in

This is from an old website:

The site was created in the early days of the internet and there are no margins and the text is all in bold. I just wanted to have it easier to read so I copied it here. The creator of the page is likely "Moldy Marvin" and the site belongs to the Littlerock Town Council. I don't know Marvin's real name and I have not asked him or the town council for permission to copy the page. If the existence of this page is not desired, please contact me and I'll remove it immediately. That said, I have done quite a bit of editing and spell-checking, so this text is edited from the original.

The History of Littlerock California is somewhat hard to find with only a book or two that have been published. There is information out there in cyberspace but it is somewhat hard to find and can take many hours of searching. We put together a compilation of sorts from all of the information we could dig up and have included an appendix of links at the end for your reference and review.

The Popular Short Story goes something like this

Founded in 1893, Littlerock is an agricultural town with approximately 12,600 residents, located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. Known today for its orchards, fruit stands, and antique stores, and dubbed "The Fruit Basket of the Antelope Valley," Littlerock is the Valley's largest unincorporated community. The area's original inhabitants were groups of Piute Indians until the first non-native settler moved there during the mid-1860s and stayed until he was killed by a grizzly bear in 1886. In the early 1890s, the town's core population began with a group of settlers who planted almond and pear trees, started a blacksmith shop as the first business, and called the community first Alpine Springs Colony and then Tierra Bonita before changing its name to Littlerock in 1893-the same year that the first post office opened.

Development milestones continued into the early twentieth century with the 1913 opening of the first schoolhouse and the 1914 founding of the first library. Littlerock Dam - now considered a historical architectural structure - was completed in 1924 to provide water to irrigate the town's orchards and today also provides recreational amenities such as boating, fishing, and camping.

Well now, can't say that's much information for a town that has been around for over 100 years! So this is what I came up with.

Sinclair House ca. 1920s, photo by Jenny Kane

The Long Version

The first non-native settlement on Littlerock Creek is believed to be that of the Santiago Garcia family, descended from Mexican and native Californian ancestors. The head of the family was Santiago García, who was born circa 1833. He built an adobe that stood on a bench on the north side of Littlerock Creek approximately one-half mile to the east of where the creek turned from north to east at where the San Andreas fault system forced water to the surface, a cienega. Cienega means "swamp" or "drowned land", and was referred to as the "Garcia Cienega".

The exact date of the construction of the adobe is not known, but most likely dates from the mining booms of the 1860s. In 1870 Garcia was settled at the cienega, as indicated by the 1870 U.S. Decennial Census, as well as by local oral tradition. He was listed in that document as a farmer by occupation, with a net worth estimated at $450. He had apparently constructed a head gate on Littlerock Creek adjacent to his property, as indicated on a sketch map dating from the 1890s (Lownes n.d.). This indicates that he was engaging in crop irrigation.

His family consisted of himself, his wife Catarina (30), and his children Sanon (18), Eufracia (12), Isidoro (10), Octavia  (3), and Elasio (8 months), he also had two boarders, Gregorio Campos, (35), who worked on the farm, and Manuel Feliz, (26), listed as a miner by occupation. It is possible that the copper mining claims worked earlier in the decade may still have been in operation, or the miner resident at the Garcia cienega may have had other jobs in the area.

Santiago Garcia was killed in 1873 by a grizzly bear in what was later named Santiago Canyon, according to folklore by the testimony of one of his descendants. He had wounded a grizzly in the canyon and had gone back to the area the next day to finish the animal off when he entered tall brush and was attacked. Family testimony indicates that a wagon was brought to take him down Soledad Canyon to Los Angeles. Local oral tradition, however, states that he was buried in Littlerock Creek Canyon somewhere near the site of the later dam. Garcia's family moved away from the area after his death. The Garcia adobe, however, remained.

 It is also said that the Garcia adobe served as a stop for stage and wagon traffic on what was later called the "Old Fort Tejon Road", which ran up the lower course of Littlerock Creek Canyon.

From the Book "Images of Palmdale"
(c) 2010 by Norma H. Gurba / Nicholas J. West

Our local folklore also talks about a highway robbery man by the name of "Llargo" who held up a stagecoach on its way to San Francisco in the Littlerock cienega vicinity. It's also said that Llargo took up residence in Garcia adobe at the cienega, for how long, who knows. But the adobe itself was believed to be still standing in the 30s.

Alpine Springs & Terra Bonita

The area had been mined and it's said that the first settlers had sheep, and it could also be farmed. So there was a big interest in diverting water from Littlerock Creek.

After the initial settlement of the Garcia Cienega, a second attempt was made to divert water from Littlerock Creek by a pair of promoters named Bent and Rowan, circa 1885, who installed a head gate on the creek just below the Garcia head gate. In the late 1880s, the Alpine Springs Land and Water Company was formed by the Cole Brothers, Charles, Zack, and Nathan, and Charles Cole's son, engineer Burt Cole. They had developed plans to found a colony at the mouth of Littlerock Creek Canyon.

They had originally set up a horse farm in the area but became intrigued by the potential for establishing orchards there. The Coles then proceeded to convince land buyers and homesteaders in the lower Littlerock Creek area to petition Los Angeles County to form a Wright Act Irrigation District. This was accomplished in 1892. A similar district had been formed on Big Rock Creek with a view to water diversion there. In circa 1893, the Coles involved the firm of Palmer and Chapin of Chicago in promoting the Tierra Bonita Colony on the east bank of Littlerock Creek. This agricultural colony was laid out in the vicinity of the northern 'suburbs' of the modern town of Littlerock. The Littlerock Creek Irrigation District was to maintain a head gate on Littlerock Creek and a supply ditch on the east bank of the creek that would provide irrigation water to this colony. At this time the first efforts were being made among settlers in the Littlerock area to develop pear production. Figs and almonds had been tried first, and then prunes and apricots, but pears would prove to be a success.

Side Notes

From the Book "Images of Palmdale"
(c) 2010 by Norma H. Gurba-Kleit / Nicholas J. West

Below is text copied from a classified ad that I found in the Chicago Tribune Nov 30, 1897:
Organizers of the Littlerock Irrigation district he and his associates Nathan Cole and Messrs Plainer and Chapin of this city have been the successful builders of the Tierra Bonita colonies the largest solidly planted orchard under a single management In California Mr Billings

Here is another Ad that I found from a real-estate ad that was placed in the Los Angeles Daily Times on Oct 27, 1895 - Lovely building lot on E Ninth St. In Hlscoek & Smith's second price $260 to $320 $10 down $10 per month. Apply on tract or to CA SMITH The Tierra Bonita Colonies owned and managed by Palmer & Chapin 136 S Broadway Los Angeles California.

Another Short Story

In the 1890's a settlement was started that was to become the foundation of Littlerock. The settlers planted 2000 acres of almond trees and started a blacksmith shop as the first business, and called the community first Alpine Springs Colony and then Tierra Bonita before changing its name to Littlerock in 1893 - the same year that the first post office opened. The trees were early bloomers, and the sometimes unpredictable cold weather destroyed most of the crop. A few of the settlers had also planted pear trees, but these thrived and lived on to start the legend of the pear belt. A few almonds can be found today, but most have been cut for firewood. In 1901 the first ton of pears was shipped to the Mott Market in Los Angeles for $40 per ton F.O.B. Palmdale.

The first business in Littlerock was a blacksmith shop opened in 1890. The area at that time was called Alpine Springs Colony. In 1892 it was changed to Tierra Bonita Colonies by Nathan Cole. As the owner of record of the Littlerock town site and a developer, Palmer and Chapin of Chicago by promoting the early Tierra Bonita Colony on the east bank of Littlerock Creek. 1893 the town became Littlerock and the first post office was established. The first general store was opened in 1894 but failed after the first year because there were so few
people living in the area.

Packing Pears

MIRACLE PEARS In the picture to the right, two young agricultural workers are packing pears in Littlerock. They are Beverly Balmer, foreground, and Hulda Hamm working in the Bones & Son packinghouse, Littlerock, where packers were promised 25 cents for each "wormy" pear, but found only two in 27 tons of fruit. Photo dated August 24, 1946. From the Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library
Continued Long Version

A school was started in a shed in 1911, with the first schoolhouse opening on March 13, 1913. The one-room school served until 1923 when two rooms were added. Keppel Union School District was formed in 1922.

In 1914 the first library was formed in the old stone house still standing on 77th St. East and Pearblossom Hwy. The county supplied 222 books. In its first year of operation, the library lent books out 577 times to a total of 47 cardholders. The library moved to its present location on 80th St. in 1999 and lends up to 25,500 books annually.

Pear picking in Littlerock during the 1920s Development milestones continued into the early twentieth century.

Littlerock Dam was designed by noted dam architect John S. Eastwood, and was built in 1924 to supply irrigation water for agricultural use to the Palmdale area. The dam is an Eastwood cement multiple arch buttress dam and is one of several built in the Western U.S. It is considered an historical architectural monument. At the time of completion, it was considered the highest reinforced concrete multiple-arch dam in the world with a capacity of 4,200-acre feet of water. Due to the somewhat controversial nature of the design of Littlerock Dam, the State of California in 1932 determined that the structure was unsafe in its then-present condition. Renovations were ordered and by 1940 re-construction of Littlerock Dam was considered once again complete. In 1966 the Littlerock Dam went underwent further improvements because the State Division of Safety of Dams studies indicated that the dam would not withstand a major earthquake. Littlerock Dam is considered a historical architectural monument. It is located in the Angeles National Forest adjacent to Littlerock and serves as a recreational facility for off-road vehicles, fishing, boating, equestrian trails, and camping. This is a popular retreat and can be enjoyed year-round.

The Littlerock Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1949 after serving many years as the Antelope Valley Landowners Association. In 1950 three members of the newly formed Chamber went to Sacramento and made such an impressive appeal that they received funding to build the bridge over Littlerock Creek on the west side of town. The Chamber continues to serve the needs of the local businesses as well as hosting various community events for the residents.

Littlerock is the largest unincorporated community in the Antelope Valley and is known as "The Fruit Basket of the Antelope Valley." The town is a series of orchards and homes and the highway is lined with fruit stands, U-pick orchards, and small businesses that serve the needs of local residents as well as the high volume of tourist traffic. Littlerock has 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school to serve not only local children but the surrounding areas of Pearblossom, Juniper Hills, and Lake Los Angeles. A junior college is now being planned for the area as well. There are two county-operated parks to serve the needs of the community. Littlerock has numerous churches of many denominations.

Littlerock Town Council Meetings are held from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm every 2nd Thursday of the Month at the Littlerock High School Community Center, 10833 East Ave. R, Littlerock, CA 93543

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