Jul 26, 2014
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PHOTOS: Canyon Rancher Lewis Haskell Knew Early Beaumont

Graduate of San Timoteo Canyon schoolhouse and Beaumont High was born in the Pass area before Beaumont incorporated in 1912.

When Beaumont city officials earlier this year announced a "name that bridge" contest for the span over the San Timoteo Canyon wash, one of the names already suggested was "Haskell Bridge," to honor a ranching family with local roots that preceded the formation of Riverside County.

Lewis Haskell, 1902-1993, was eventually named one of the first five honorees who will be remembered with plaques on the newly-opened Centennial Memorial Bridge, according to Beaumont officials.

Whether Haskell's name is associated with the bridge or not, some residents of San Timoteo Canyon still remember him.

Roy Whitehead, 67, said Monday he's been in the canyon more than 50 years. He drove his pickup east from his place near the restored San Timoteo Canyon schoolhouse, across the Union Pacific tracks and the wash, then stopped.

"This is where his land started," Whitehead said. "Haskell owned all the land from here to the head of the canyon, all the way to the freeway, on both sides of the road."

He pointed at a fenced-off, run-down, single-story home north of the road.

"This old house, what's left of it. There's still a barn a quarter of a mile up the road from here, but it's all been rebuilt.

"I used to buy hay from Haskell for years there, when we had our animals and such," Whitehead said. "We always used to come out here and load up hay. Nice man, he was.

"Haskell was a good man, but he didn't like developers," Whitehead said. "In his view they destroyed the land, put houses in here, put animals and farmers out, changed the laws and worked what they wanted.

"He felt strongly about it into the '70s. He sold them a section but he didn't want to sell all his property. He was definitely against developers. He wasn't happy with them one bit."

The old house Whitehead pointed out was just west of a Beaumont city limit sign. Overlooking the old property on the Beaumont side was the new Fairway Canyon subdivision.

"My brother and I would come up here and talk with him," Whitehead said. "He loved to talk about the old times. Some said what he got was given to him, but he worked for it. He earned everything he got. He got it at a cheap price but he bought it years and years ago too.

"He loved to talk about the old times, the farms, and what it was all about. For years he done a lot of his work with mules and plows. He wasn't a tractor type, to him that was something new.

"His word was a lot better than any piece of paper. He shook hands on it and that was it."

Dianne Haskell Ecker, 65, of Palos Verdes, granddaughter of Lewis Haskell, said one of Haskell's brothers used to live in the abandoned home west of the Beaumont city line.

"Lewis Haskell was really before his time in terms of soil and water conservation," Ecker said Monday. "He was on the Riverside County Flood Control District board for many years, and the Beaumont Water District board.

"Taking care of the wash was a big part of maintaining the ranch," Ecker said. "You can see places in the wash now where it gets jammed, from uprooted trees and erosion."

Anyone born in San Timoteo Canyon in the early 20th century could talk to old-timers who claimed to remember when the whole region was part of Mexico. California became a state in 1850.

The canyon itself was considered part of several different counties between 1850 and 1893, according to historians. San Timoteo Canyon was first part of San Diego County, then Los Angeles, then San Bernardino, and finally Riverside.

According to family records provided by Ecker and a cultural resources survey of an area in San Timoteo Canyon by Michael K. Lerch, Lewis Haskell's forebears included William Singleton and James Singleton.

In 1870, James Singleton bought the former San Timoteo Rancho, which was eventually estimated at 4,440 acres, according to Lerch. The rancho later became known as the Singleton-Haskell Ranch.

In 1893, Riverside County was created from parts of San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Lewis Haskell was born in 1902 in San Timoteo Canyon when the postal service still referred to the area as Redlands, Ecker said. Beaumont was incorporated as a city 10 years later.

Lewis Haskell graduated from the San Timoteo Canyon school in 1915 and attended Beaumont High, according to documents provided by Ecker.

He was on Beaumont High's basketball team when they earned their first championship in the Riverside County Athletic League, he competed on the school's pennant-winning track team, he played second base on Beaumont High's baseball team, and he was on the tennis team as well, according to the 1919 edition of Live Oak, the Beaumont High School annual.

The 1919 graduating class of Beaumont High was composed of six seniors - three young women and three young men - with Lewis Haskell among them.

Lewis Haskell followed his forebears into dairy ranching. According to Lerch, part of the former San Timoteo Rancho was first developed as a dairy in the 1880s, and it continued as a dairy under the Singletons and Haskells until 1962.

"At its height, the Haskell Ranch raised all the feed for the dairy animals, processed grain and silage, and had a complete milking and dairy products operation," Lerch's survey states.

In 1960, "the Haskell Ranch had a total of 314 dairy cows over a year old, and 9 bulls, in addition to 159 beef cattle," according to Lerch's research.

Lewis Haskell died in 1993, according to Ecker.

Summing up his relevance to local history, Beaumont city officials recently described Lewis Haskell as a man "whose family owned a beloved dairy ranch that provided many local jobs."

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