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History of Ash Meadows

History Cover PageAsh Meadows has attracted human inhabitants for thousands of years.  Native Americans were here first, followed by pioneers and gunslingers in the 1800's, farmers in the 1960's, and then it almost became a mini-city in the 1980's.     

EARLY HISTORY 

The Native Americans settled around spring pools and meadows.  They lived off the land by tending to corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, wildlife and groves of mesquite trees cultivating the nutritious seed pods.  They traveled to the mountains to hunt, gather pinon pine nuts and exchange news with friends and relatives.  Their connection to the land was strong and for the Southern Paiute and Timbisha Shoshone tribes a connection to this land remains strong today. 

THE WILD WILD WEST 

Living amongst the Southern Paiute and Timbisha Shoshone peoples was one of the first pioneers to live in Ash Meadows, Jack Longstreet.  He built the cabin made of stone in 1896, near a spring that still bears his name.  This was a man of mystery who went by the name of Jack Longstreet but whose real identity remains a mystery to this day.  The only clues to his past were his southern drawl and ability to read and write reasonably well; unusual for most folks at that time.  The top of his ear was sliced off which was a sign of a horse thief.  

He made his living as a prospector, rancher, saloon keeper, trail-blazer and hired gun. The notches in his gun symbolized each man he had killed, including his brother-in-law.  It has been written that this powerful broad-shouldered man with the sparkling blue eyes was feared by many but found companionship and respect with the Native American tribes.  The Longstreet Spring and Cabin are one of the highlights of the refuge.   To learn more about the wild west and Jack Longstreet we suggest a book by Sally Zanjani called Jack Longstreet; Last of the Desert Frontiersmen. Click here to learn more about Jack Longstreet.

Another colorful character was Shotgun Kitty; a mail-ordered bride from Philadelphia.  She always carried a shot-gun and according to most....never missed a shot! Click here to learn more about Shotgun Kitty Tubbs. 

ASH MEADOWS GOES COMMERCIAL 

In the 1950's the Ash Meadows Sky Ranch was established; a legal brothel complete with a swimming pool and runway for small planes.  It closes in the 1970's.  In the 1960's a rancher drains the Carson Slough, a large marshy area, for the purpose of mining peat.  He then sells the land to Spring Meadows Inc., who bulldozes sand dunes into the peat bottoms and prepares the land for crops.  During the 1960's and 1970's more land was bulldozed, winding streams were turned into concrete ditches and reservoirs were built for large-scale farming and ranching operations.  In 1980, plans were made for a new city with 34,000 homes, hotels, airports, shopping and more. 

THE LONG ROAD TO BECOMING A REFUGE 

It all begins in 1952 when President Truman declares Devils Hole, and the rare Devils Hole pupfish, part of Death Valley National Monument.  In 1963 the Devils Hole pupfish was officially listed as endangered and was on the very first official listing of endangered species.  In 1970, the Warm Springs pupfish was added to the list (click here to learn more about the endangered species act).  

Due to declining water levels the Department of Justice filed a complaint and pumping from major wells was stopped.  When  water levels continued to decline the Supreme Court ruling limits ground water pumping in 1976.   Spring Meadows Incorporated sells water rights and land to Preferred Equities Incorporated in 1980 and they plan to a mini-city.  That is when the Nature Conservancy began and successfully negotiated to purchase the land which was finally purchased by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. 

Ash Meadows officially became a refuge in 1984.  Restoration efforts began, and continue today, restoring the area to a healthy ecosystem for native plants and animals.   

Last Updated: Dec 06, 2012
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