Recently Ford motor company had a deal where they'd give you a free lift ticket for the Mammoth ski area if you test drove one of their cars. So before Spring Break, I test drove about ten cars in the towns all around us, acquiring enough free tickets to make our trip feasible.
Since our journey was in the Spring, Tioga pass was closed and we went the southern route taking me past many places I'd never seen, including a noticeably large ranch past Bakersfield, the privately owned Tejon Ranch. A giant sign off of I-5 announced "Tejon Ranch – since 1843." I was curious about the ranch for two reasons, first its obvious size and secondly, the rather old date (for California).
When I Googled Tejon Ranch, I was really surprised by its size. It covers 270,000 acres (or 421.875 square miles)! To give you some kind of reference. This is land area 40.4% of the size of the State of Rhode Island! And the fellow that started Tejon Ranch was none other than yesterday's Person-of-Mystery, Edward F. Beale.
(Edward F. Beale)
Edward Fitzgerald Beale, the son of George Beale (a naval hero from the War of 1812), was himself a sailing master on the Congress, a frigate in Commodore Stockton's squadron and for a time his private secretary. Beale was with Stockton when he met with the Texan Congress before annexation and was also with him when the war with Mexico commenced. Under Stockton's orders, Beale worked as a spy and was later dispatched to help with General Kearny's land operations. Before the Battle of San Pasqual, Beale along with Kit Carson and an Indian Scout, snuck through the Mexican lines to obtain reinforcements.
(Battle of San Pasqual)
Before the war was over, Beale achieved notoriety when he was sent in disguise across the continent to the East Coast, with the first proof of California's gold discovery. Beale would make multiple overland journeys across the continent including being the one to bring California's first Constitution to the nation's capital.
(Beale in Mexican Disguise)
After the war, Beale resigned from the navy and was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, where he was known for his fair policies and his advocacy for the creation of Indian reservations and their self-sufficiency as well as the creation of Fort Tejon, a military post in the area. He also served on the surveying party for the First Transcontinental Railroad.
(Army Barracks at Fort Tejon)
Beale was tasked by President Buchanan to survey and build a wagon road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River. For this task, he created the first Camel Corps in the United States. Portions of Beale's Wagon Road later would become Route 66. Beale was also responsible for widening and deepening a cut used by the Butterfield Overland Mail. Beale's Cut was later a famous passage now near the Newhall Pass.
(Beale Wagon Road Marker)
In 1865 and 1866, Beale purchased old Mexican land grants and acquired the Tejon Ranch mentioned earlier and in 1872 he also purchased Decatur House in Washington, DC, where he became the capital's most famous host. From 1876 to 1877, Beale served as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary. In his final years, he split his time between the Tejon Ranch and Decatur House before dying in 1893.
I was surprised that I had known so little about a man who was so integral in settling California and who was personal friends with the like of Stockton, Fremont, Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill, let alone Presidents Grant and Cleveland.
Today Beale Air Force Base in Northern California is named in his honor.