For decades, Myrtle “Myrtie” Webber was one of Lancaster's oldest and most prominent residents. After the death of her first husband in 1908, Myrtie Sullivan moved from Missouri to begin a new life in Lancaster, California. After her arrival, she began working at the Western Hotel where she met George Webber, the Englishman who owned and managed the hotel. The two later married in 1910 and ran the hotel together until he died in 1934.
Between 1908 and 1913, when Myrtie first began working at the Western, it was busy with employees working on the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The aqueduct, stretching from the Owens Valley into the Antelope Valley, helped the town recover from a decade-long drought. To accommodate the numerous workers, tents were erected just west of the hotel. During this time, Myrtie and her staff housed and fed as many as 250 workmen in one day.
In 1918, the Spanish Influenza epidemic reached the Antelope Valley and Myrtie transformed the hotel into a temporary hospital, where she became a volunteer nurse for those in need. Being one of Lancaster's early supporters, she also provided use of the hotel for Chamber of Commerce meetings, and later served on planning committees for the Antelope Valley Alfalfa Festival. Myrtie was one of the thirty founding women who organized the Lancaster Woman's Club in 1922. Due to Myrtie’s inability to leave her work, the club held its first meetings within the Western Hotel.
Myrtie operated and lived within the hotel until the late 1960s. In 1971, old age and poor health forced Myrtie from her home and into Mayflower Gardens convalescent home, where she died in 1978 at the age of 110, making her the Antelope Valley’s oldest citizen.
Photos courtesy of MOAH Collections