Heinrich “Henry” Specht (1878 – 1948) and his family moved to Esperanza in 1885 when his father contracted tuberculosis. In 1887, he attended the first class at the Del Sur School. After the death of his father in 1888, Henry joined his friend Ted Atmore and became a local cowboy, rounding up herds of cattle.
At the age of 21, Henry joined the Army and was sent to the Philippines serving in the cavalry for the Spanish-American War. He may likely have been the Antelope Valley’s only resident to have served in the war voluntarily. After his service in the war, he went to Dunsmuir, where he worked in the logging industry and became a restaurateur.
Specht returned to the Antelope Valley in the early 1900s and built the Corner Saloon in Lancaster, located at the northwest corner of present-day Lancaster Boulevard and Sierra Highway. He ran this saloon until it was destroyed in the devastating fire of 1912.
Specht and his girlfriend, Grace Nicholson, eventually married and homesteaded 320-acres in Happy Valley. They also purchased the Gavin Ranch, located next to Richard Shea’s Castle. Shea hired Grace to cook for his workers, and Specht became the foreman in charge of building the fencing around the castle. After this endeavor, Specht bought a 1,400-acre ranch in Del Sur on Avenue I and 120th Street West where he dry-farmed wheat and barley.
Specht was also one of the founders of the Westside Farmers Association and the Westside Store. In 1946, he retired and bought Ted Atmore’s Voltaire-Fairmont ranch where he and Grace stayed until his death.
Henry reportedly loved recalling his father’s prediction from 1888 that Lancaster would one day become a large city, which it certainly has.
The photo here shows Henry and Grace, c. 1912.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"