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A Rare Interview with Myrtie Webber: Excerpt from “Mirages, Mountains, and Mysteries”

Born in 1867, Myrtle “Myrtie” Webber first came to the city of Lancaster in 1908. She would later become one of the city’s most famous citizens with her management of the Western Hotel, which has now become the Western Hotel Museum. To learn more about Myrtie and her great contributions to the city, please visit the Western Hotel Museum during our new operating hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1- 4 PM (Closed Holidays), located at 557 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster, CA 93534.

Found within MOAH’s collections department is a student research project book, entitled “Mirages, Mountains, and Mysteries: A regional study of the Antelope Valley” which was compiled by a group of one hundred and thirty seventh and eighth grade students from Team II at Park View School in 1972. This text features an interview with Myrtie at the age of 105 when she was the oldest citizen of the Antelope Valley (See Figures 1-4). Myrtie would later pass away in 1978 at the age of 110. This interview with Myrtie provides information regarding her history and the town’s founding. The text of an interview between Myrtie and two students has been dictated below:

Taped Conversation with Myrtle Webber

“What year did I come?” Myrtie Webber replied, “I guess 1905. It must have been because in 1900 I was...I’m...I’m according to the years...I’ve forgotten, but it must have been 1905. I had a son and I brought him with me and then I put him in college up at Rosamond and he finished school. He was in the service and he got injured and he died and he left two little girls. Maybe you knew them, Frances and Charlotte.” We said we didn’t know them. “They went to school here in Lancaster, long time, and of course now Frances has six children. She has eight grandchildren and the other one doesn’t have any of her own. She adopted, and they went to school here...but our school, our best school was at- what's this little town out west here? What’s the name of it? It is a nice little town.” We asked if it was Lake Hughes. She said, “No, I don’t know.” We asked if it was west. Palmdale? Myrtie said, “What do we got connected right on to Lancaster, in fact it was part of Lancaster.” Again we asked if it was Palmdale. “Some- they call it...out west. I can’t remember well enough, I’d know it if I heard it. It isn’t Littlerock, it’s a different direction. It’s right due west exactly.” We asked if it was Gorman. Myrtie said “Quartz Hill.” Quartz Hill? Myrtie replied “Yes, that’s it. That had a few. When you got out and around Quartz Hill and going to Rosamond on your way up you passed quite a few places...just old places, you know, and somebody lived in them, nobody lived in Lancaster.

There was nothing to do out here, there was nothing for a woman to do. So I didn’t know how in the world I was going to stay out here because I wouldn’t have enough to keep myself employed. First I did one little thing and then another, then I got to doing this and that, then I got married. I married Mr. Webber and he had the hotel. There was only three rooms in it. We started to build on to it and started to clean it up. Then things began to go better. From then on we just kept on going and going.”

We asked when the old hotel was built. Myrtie answered “That must have been 1905. It might have been ‘06-1906. Let me see if I can think. It might have been ‘06 or ‘07, I can’t - right off hand- I can’t tell you. It’s been so long since I thought about it, but it must have been ‘06 or ‘07, but anyway, I came once and went back and then came back again- that's when I stayed. It had a kitchen and an office downstairs. It had been a home...some Mexicans’ home years before that, but it was all wrecked. Mr. Webber bought the house to get the ground. The ground consisted from Beech Street clear up past the post office. The ground the post office is on belonged to that building at the time, so it was a valuable piece of ground.

When I came here, I didn’t come to prospect, I came out here sick. I had chills and fever and then I got well. I went back home and then I came right back so I went right out and sold my little house. It was a nice little home but not too big. I sold that and I came right back out here and put it in that old hotel. That old hotel is still mine. Oh, yes, it will be as long as I live.

Then about in ‘07 or along in there. It might have been as late as ‘08 but I don’t think it must have been 1908- that's right 1908...there were no homes here at all but there were tents and cattlemen. The cattlemen decided that this was too nice a town to not have any home or any place to eat or any place to live or anything, so they decided to call a “Lancaster Day”. They called it a “Lancaster Day” and it lasted three days...and my, it was some was some place! All the real estate men in the country came and they all had something to do, something to say, and right from that on it started. People from down below started coming in and looking the country over to see what they could do and what they could start. There was one man... I know his name, but I don’t dare tell it because he’s still got relatives living here, but whether he knows this or not, I don’t know. But, he took- this man I was speaking of- come up as a real estate man and they took and got people to come up from the other towns you know to see the country. They took this one man out by one of them big lakes when we used to have the lakes. Did you ever remember the lakes?” We asked which one. “Both of them.” Myrtie said. “There was two big lakes between here and Rosamond and here and out west.” “They are dry now?” we asked. “Oh they’ve been dry for years. For years they’ve been dry. But then they were all full- so there was a man, and he took, and he was posing as a real estate man, and he took some men out to Rosamond to show them some orange country. He showed them- let me get this right- he showed them these bushes- we used to have some bushes that grew something on them- I forget what it was that grew on them- and then they sold these bushes for orange trees.” “But, they weren’t orange trees?” we asked. “They weren’t orange trees- they weren’t bearing of any kind that was any good, but he sold them. He sold quite a lot of land for orange country. Sometimes it was just one crazy thing after another that happened...things just kept on happening.

But from that one everything thing and another it soon began to pick up and then all of these men that had these jobs this 50 miles out didn’t have any place out here to sleep and they had to come in here to sleep in tents. So, we put up tents every day for I don’t know how long. We used to laugh about what kind of tent we were going to put up today. Some of them were big enough for two people and some of them would of just one and a lot of people came in and put up their own tents. They just got a piece of ground and put up their own tents. We knew they’d keep it because there was no place else to go.

There was no place to eat here- you couldn’t get anything to eat. Then maybe somebody came up from Los Angeles set up little tents and fixed places to feed them so they could get something to eat so they could work. They had to drive 50 miles back and forth and they had to take their lunch with them. They couldn’t get anything to eat out there. They’d take a lunch with them and then they would come back in here for supper. We kept on working at the hotel and adding to it, building it up and adding on rooms. We built a real dining room and had a real nice little hotel, it was nice because it was clean and it hadn’t was a real nice little hotel. We had quite a place and it’s still mine and it will be mine as long as I live. I never did sell it. It’s sold at my death. Yes, it’s sold...but they won’t take possession until after I’m gone...then they take possession.

Then back at that little school I talked about- that had five rooms in it, and three of them was downstairs and two was up...they turned them into places to eat and somebody went in there and cooked and boarded them.”

We asked Myrtie if she remembers antelopes in the valley. She replied, “No, the antelopes were before my day. I’ve seen antelopes, yes, seen lots of them, but they weren't the main staple as they were at one time- but there were a few antelopes left when I came.”

We asked if she remembers the first building on Lancaster Boulevard. Myrtie said, “No, I don’t remember the first building, I suppose I would but I wouldn’t dare say because I...” We asked her about Lancaster when she first came. Myrtie said, “There was no Lancaster, there was a boulevard running through to Los Angeles, north, you know through to Los Angeles and through to Rosamond. Everything went to Rosamond. Rosamond was the town.”

We asked what was in Rosamond that made it so great. She replied, “It was a little town, just a little town. There was some people that lived there. There was gold miners there...there still is, only they’re not working them.” We asked whether they got a lot out of those mines. “Oh, yes,” Myrtie said. “They claim they’re going to open up again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they would.”

We didn’t want to tire Mrs. Webber so we all thanked her and expressed how much we appreciated her talking to us. Myrtie said, “I don’t think I have done much to help too much. I couldn’t give names because as I said I don’t remember them.”

Figure 1: Tent city outside western hotel museum, MOAH Collections.

Figure 2: Myrtie, 4th from left, at a Luncheon MOAH Collections.

Figure 3: Myrtie in carriage, MOAH Collections.

Figure 4: Myrtie with Warren Dorn at Swimming Pool naming ceremony, MOAH Collections.

Figure 5: Drawing of Myrtie Webber by 1972 Park View Student in “Mirages, Mountains, and Mysteries”, MOAH Collections.

Figure 6: Drawing of the Western Hotel Museum by 1972 Park View Student in “Mirages, Mountains, and Mysteries”, MOAH Collections.

Figure 7: “Mirages, Mountains, and Mysteries” front cover, MOAH Collections.


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