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May 6, 1863: Tejon Ranch

May 6, 2013

Rancho La Liebre 01

Rancho La Liebre; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[Today] we left Fort Tejon and crossed through the mountains south, to the Liebre Ranch. The pass is a very picturesque one, 4,256 feet high, with peaks on each side rising several thousand feet higher. The valleys are green, the region beautiful, but all changes on crossing the chain. We passed down a valley, dry and alkaline. Two little salt lakes were dry—the salt and alkali produced by the evaporation covering the ground like a crust of ice. For several miles we followed a line of earthquake cracks which were formed in 1856. The ground had opened for several feet wide, no one knows how deep, and partially closed again. We hear that these cracks extend nearly one hundred miles. In the valley we passed down a woman was killed by her house falling in the earthquake.

The Liebre Ranch belongs to Lieutenant Beale. It is eleven leagues (about eighty square miles), and controls nearly all the water and, consequently, feed, for three times that amount, in fact for a hundred miles east. We had a letter from the owner to his Spanish major-domo (head man in charge), and we were hospitably entertained according to the Mexican fashion.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2013 8:56 am

    I find it curious that less than a decade after the event, Brewer refers to the date of the earthquake as 1856, though he’s almost certainly referring to the M7.9 Fort Tejon Earthquake of January 9, 1857:

  2. William H. Brewer permalink*
    May 6, 2013 9:06 am

    I noticed that discrepancy as well (and thanks for the reminder–I meant to include a link on the 1857 quake, and have now added it). I take it as a reminder that he was getting a lot of information from talking to the locals, and that this information was of varying reliability. I could see someone who lived in a time and place where calendar dates were less important than they are today not being entirely sure whether it happened in January or December.

    (Of course, to a Russian at the time it would have been 1856. But that’s a whole other can of worms…)

  3. Marsha permalink
    May 6, 2013 9:41 am

    I found it interesting that he noted the extent of this geological feature at a time when there weren’t a lot of earth science majors swarming the hills of California searching for major fault lines.

  4. May 6, 2013 10:24 am

    Do we have an idea of where those salt-crusted sag ponds might be?

  5. William H. Brewer permalink*
    May 7, 2013 11:00 am

    Marsha: yes, indeed…although I suppose the 1857 quake made it hard to ignore.

    Andrew: not sure. There’s a sag pond (not dry) along Gorman Post Road, but from his description I’d guess these are further east (where it’s dryer and more alkaline).

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