Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Wiley's Windlass (Artist's Rendering)
(Pre-) Newhall Pass

Wiley's windlass. Traversing the Newhall Pass (before it was the "Newhall" Pass) was a harrowing experience in the 1850s before the wagon road was improved first by troops under the command of Gen. Phineas Banning, and then by Gen. Edward F. Beale. Henry Clay Wiley, an early entrepreneur, ran a stagecoach stop in the early 1850s comlete with rooms, restaurant and a saloon, and offered to lower wagons over the mountains for a fee. Here, a wagon is shown being lowered into the Santa Clarita Valley with Wiley's rope and pulley system, known as a windlass.

In the 1906 edition of the Historical Society of Southern California Annual Publication, old-timer J. Kuhrts remembers the use of a windlass ("Reminiscences of a Pioneer," pg. 59 ff.):

In 1857, in company with John Searles, I left San Francisco with a big mule team for Slate Range and Los Angeles. The road we took was by the way of San Jose, Pacheco Pass, San Joaquin Plains, Visalia, Lynn's Valley, Green-Horn Mountains, Kern River, Walker's Pass, Indian Wells, across the desert and Borax Lake to Slate Range.

After unloading my teams at the mines, I made my way to Los Angeles. Then I had to make part of the road myself; no team had ever traveled that way before. The road I took was by the way of Bed-rock Cañon, and a place I called El Paso, where I was fortunate enough to find water. From there I went to Cane Springs, Desert Springs, the Sinks of Tehachepi, Oak Creek, Willow Springs, Elizabeth Lake, San Francisquito Cañon, over San Fernando Pass, where it took four yokes of cattle and a windlass to bring my team over the pass into the San Fernando Valley, and thence to Los Angeles [emphasis added].

NOTE: All of the published sources for the concept of "Wiley's" windlass that we've seen trace back to the memoirs of Harris Newmark, whose recollections of Wiley/Lyon's Station seem somewhat anachronistic. We have yet to discover a primary source document naming Wiley in connection with a windlass. While we don't necessarily doubt his involvement, neither can we confirm it. The search continues.

HS9029: 9600 dpi jpeg from printed image.

• Lyon's Station


Wiley's Windlass


Obituary d. 10/25/1898


Bio, HSSC 1898

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