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Local Cowboys

The Antelope Valley has a long history of cowboy and ranching culture. Cowboys and cattle ranching began in the Antelope Valley as early as the 1840's, becoming more prevalent in the following decade after the gold rush led to a higher demand for beef. The construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Lancaster in 1876 increased the need for local cattle ranching, as well. Early Antelope Valley homesteaders used the demand for livestock to their advantage, using cattle-raising as an economic opportunity among other agricultural pursuits. Cattle ranching was especially important in the region between 1886 and 1910.

Cowboys and farmers sparred with each other over a number of factors, including competition for land and crop damage by livestock; the tension prompted farmers to erect fences to keep cattle out and led ranchers to discourage prospective farmers from settling in the region. By the 1920's the cattle industry had slowed down tremendously in the valley due to a growing population and disputes with sheep herders and alfalfa growers. Eventually, local cattle ranching ceased entirely.

Among the best known local cowboys were Ted Atmore, Emery Kidd, Henry Specht, Harry Butterworth, Rawley Duntley and Forrest Patterson.

Heinrich "Henry" Specht (1878 - 1948) first became a cowboy in 1888 with his friend Ted Atmore, working together to round up local cattle herds. After fighting in the Spanish-American War, he returned to the Antelope Valley and opened up The Corner Saloon on the northwest corner of present-day Lancaster Boulevard and Sierra Highway. He operated this saloon until the disastrous fire of 1912 destroyed his storefront, among several other businesses. He continued various other local business ventures throughout the years, including running a ranch adjacent to Shea's Castle and homesteading 320 acres of land.

Robert "Ted" Atmore Jr. (1873 - 1945) was seen as the leader of the local cowboy ring, owning up to 300 cattle at one point. He is known for being a cowboy consultant to Hollywood, offering insights into the life of a cowboy for its big-screen portrayals. He reportedly died of a heart attack, though some claim he was murdered by one of his many Hollywood connections.

Harry Butterworth (1864 - 1941) first settled in Rosamond, beginning his cattle-ranching ventures. He served as constable of Lancaster from 1898 to 1902, living at the time in a small two-room house on present-day Lancaster Boulevard. Harry also owned a barn near the old railroad depot, where he housed horses and ponies.

Rawley Duntley (1883 - 1962) came to California with his parents as a young child, living in Los Angeles and moving later to the Antelope Valley. In 1910, he purchased land and began his own cattle-ranching endeavors after working in the industry since 1905.

"Gurba, Norma H. Lancaster. Arcadia, 2005.

Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"


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