Treasures of the Valley

Early Memories of La Crescenta

Last week I featured some memories of one of the earliest settlers in the valley, Winifred Bathey. The Bathey family first came to the valley in 1883, applying for land at the top of Briggs Avenue. After a few years of splitting their time between the Crescenta Valley and Los Angeles, they settled into their Goss Canyon-adjacent ranch in about 1886. There were five kids in the Bathey family – Allie, Winfred, Herbert, Roy and Edith. In the 1950s the Ledger interviewed Herbert Bathey and we have the notes from that interview. Here are some excerpts from that interview, with my comments in brackets. The first part describes the route from LA to CV, and the second the route into the valley from Pasadena.

“There were no graded roads north of the San Fernando Road, where the ‘Three Mile House’ was located at Verdugo and San Fernando. There was dust and sand to there, and mud from there on. Over the hills along Verdugo Road was adobe, bottomless when wet, as far as Verdugo Canyon where wild grapes grew in abundance. Quail would feed off the grapes.

“There was a towering sycamore where the grapes covered from top to bottom. [The tree was located where the most southern Glendale College parking lot is on Verdugo, just south of Mountain.] The tree was 70 feet high and covered with trailing grapes. People camped under the tree and it was known as ‘the camping tree.’ The bottom of the branches was 40 feet across and the place was a resting spot for horses. The grapes grew as far north as where El Rito is today. [El Rito Avenue is about two thirds of the way up Verdugo Canyon.]

“Later, the Verdugos [family] rented 200 acres to a group of Chinese who raised vegetables for the entire city of Los Angeles and ran 11 wagons each day to the city and one into the valley.

“Then the road paralleled an old willow fence made by the Spaniards. It was made of willow [branches] laced together [that] later [took] root. Then the road crossed the creek [Verdugo Creek near the Oakmont Golf Course]. There it forked with one trail going to Monte Vista [an old name for Sunland-Tujunga], and the other going to La Cañada [there was no Montrose yet], winding up through the hills and above Indian Springs [where Vons/CVS is]. It was known as ‘Rocky Pass’ and was very rough. [‘Rocky Pass’ is where the United Artists Theater is].

“Coming the other way [from Pasadena], the road crossed the Arroyo Seco on a continuation of Foothill [right about where Devils Gate Dam is]. When the Arroyo was running after a winter rain, it was practically impossible to cross the stream. Herbert remembers his dad driving a four-horse team across the river with a heavy load when the water was so high the wavelets rolled over the horses’ backs.

“There was no Pasadena at all in the old days. Herbert remembers the first store in the village and the coming of the Santa Fe that ‘boomed’ the town. [True, Pasadena was a backwater until the Santa Fe railroad built a line there in 1886/87. Grand resort hotels sprang up that attracted wealthy visitors from the east.]

“The road came to Lanterman’s and then down through Rocky Pass. There were trails leading up through the brushlands later, to the Dunks’, Beckleys’, Hays’ and other places. Hay Canyon had a wagon box for a reservoir.

“The land was gradually cleared of the old high grease brush [chaparral] that covered the valley as crews of whites, [Chinese], [Hispanics] and others cut it for fuel. There was a large wood market on Los Angeles Street between 1st and Aliso.”

It’s wonderful to have these memories left to us today. We can imagine someone carefully taking notes as a very old man dug into his memory for these gems. I have several pages of these notes and notes from other pioneers. Call it plagiarism if you will, but I enjoy putting these memories out there “in their own words.”

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at