1941 picture postcard of Vasquez Rocks — No. 159 in Union Oil Company's Natural Color Scenes of the West postcard series.
The back of the postcard reads, "Vasquez Rocks, California, are named for the notorious bandit
who used this location as his hideout. Vasquez was found guilty and hung in 1875. This picturesque
scenery may be enjoyed on Highway 6, 55 miles north of Los Angeles."
Vasquez Rocks, now a county park, are located in the northeastern Santa Clarita Valley area of Agua Dulce,
off of State Route 14 (Escondido Canyon Road exit). They derive their name from 19th-century outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez.
Millions of years before Vasquez, the rocks were thrust up from the ocean floor by earthquakes and volcanic forces.
Over time the upheaval was so great that the rocks actually moved up and over: What is now the top surface, once was the bottom.
Some 3,500 years ago, and lasting until the early 1800s, the rocks were an important crossroads of north-south and east-west trading routes.
The area was first occupied by ancestors of the Chumash and later by the Tataviam Indians (related linguistically to the Shoshone), who arrived around AD 450.
Tataviam spiritual leaders practiced a form of shamanism and left paintings on the rocks to depict visions inspired by their incantations
Among the paintings are volcanos, suns, human shapes, lizards and other creatures.
Sometime in 1871 Tiburcio Vasquez, the so-called "Scourge of California," stared using the craggy rocks as a hideout.
Vasquez was born April 10, 1835* in Monterey. By 20 he was rustling cattle and robbing freight wagons.
It is reported that Vasquez would occasionally ride into Newhall and steal horses while holed up at Vasquez Rocks.
His exploits, which took him the length of California and rivaled those of the more famous Joaquin Murietta (California's first real outlaw),
reached a peak in 1873 when Vasquez and his men raided the town of Tres Pinos, killing three, then ransacked the town of Kingston, tying up its residents.
With an $8,000 price on his head, Vasquez was captured May 14, 1874 at the ranch of a friend, the prominent Southland freighter "Greek" George Allen
(today Allen's ranch is the Hollywood Bowl).
Behind bars in Los Angeles, Vasquez provided clothes for use in a stage play about his life, then was transported to San Jose where he was convicted of
murderng an innkeeper during the Tres Pinos "outrage." He was hanged at 1:35 p.m. March 19, 1875.
His last word was "Pronto."
* Not August 11. See Boessenecker 2010:13.
LW2042: Online photo only.