Picture of the Corwins
Elmore and Harriet Corwin
and The Corwin Ranch

By Richard D. Thompson



Late in 1949 Allen Smith became the editor and publisher of the local newspaper, the Apple Valley News. The majority of his subscribers were people who had recently bought property from Newt Bass and Bernard Westlund in their Apple Valley Ranchos development, then finishing its third year of business.

Most of the buyers were newcomers to the High Desert, mainly from other Southern California locales, and they started peppering Smith with questions about the history of the Apple Valley area. Smith considered himself somewhat of an old-timer, but was lacking in his knowledge of local history.

He approached Harriet Corwin, who had settled on the desert in 1909 with her husband Elmore. Smith had stayed at the Corwins' health ranch in 1935, and he recalled Elmore, who had since passed away, as being quite the valley promoter. "I received my first sales talk on Apple Valley from the old Civil War vet," he stated.

Harriet, who had all her faculties despite her 90 years of age, agreed to do the interview. Smith ran the story with a photograph of Harriet standing in front of the pool at the Apple Valley Inn, opened only the year before, the photo contrasting the pioneer settler with the modern facility.

Picture of Elmore Corwin Picture of Harriet Corwin
Pictures courtesy of Betty Halbe

During the course of her reminiscences, Harriet mentioned her former neighbor Louvinda Nation, and Allen Smith arranged a meeting between the three of them. Unlike Harriet, whose story was rather matter-of-fact, Louvinda had a bee in her bonnet, and it had been buzzing in there for over 40 years.

She and her husband John came to Apple Valley in 1908, settling several miles northeast of the Mojave River. Shortly after they moved in, D. W. (Duncan) McPherson dropped by to invite them to a Fourth of July picnic. "We older settlers want to welcome you newer settlers to Apple Valley," McPherson said, and thought it would be a good time to get acquainted with everyone.

Louvinda still bristled at the recollection 42 years later. Newer settlers, indeed! These people had settled only two years earlier along the Mojave River, she fumed, and she was an original pioneer, too. She added that she and John located their homestead about the same time as Ed Dennison and John Olsen, two well-known Apple Valley pioneers.

Of course the Nations accepted the invitation and had a great time. Louvinda then went on to name the guests, a roll call of many, perhaps most, of Apple Valley's first families. Frank Fletcher, along with his family, brought a wagon over to drive the Nations to the picnic, and they traveled with George Holbrook, the Norines and the Ingrams. They arrived at MacPherson's ranch where they joined the families of William Foster, Walt Phillips, John Carroll and Harry Carden. A hearty dinner including barbecued pig and homemade ice cream was served to the "two groups," as Louvinda phrased it, apparently referring to the river dwellers as one group and everybody else as another.

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