Volume IV Issue 3: Fall Edition
Leslie Ide, Editor

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1849-2019: A History to Celebrate

This year’s Encampment celebrates important dates in Death Valley history. The first is the 170th anniversary of the 1849 pioneer wagon train. The second is the 70th anniversary of the Death Valley ‘49ers organization. The third is the 25th anniversary of Death Valley National Monument becoming Death Valley National Park via the Desert Protection Act.

We give thanks to those hardy pioneers who in 1849 ended up in Death Valley after becoming lost. They endured unimaginable hardships and yet persevered. All but one family had to walk out after losing their teams. The Arcane and Bennett families, led by William Manly and John Rogers, were among those to make the long walk out of the valley. As they reached the ridge of the Panamint Mountains and looked back, Sarah Bennett said, “Goodbye Death Valley, goodbye,” thus giving a name to the inhospitable place they had survived.

This year we also celebrate the much-anticipated return of the Twenty Mule Team that symbolizes the borax mining in Death Valley during the 1880s. The Harmony Borax Company was renowned for its use of massive wagons and big teams to haul the borax out of Death Valley. Seeing a long-line skinner at work will be a must-see event at the 2019 Encampment.
20 mule team

From the President's Pen

Pres. HardersThe nights are getting cooler and the leaves on the trees are starting to change colors. Fall has finally arrived and Encampment is right around the corner.

As President of the Death Valley ‘49ers, I want to welcome all to the 70th anniversary celebration. In addition, the park will be celebrating its 25th anniversary as a national park beginning Oct 26.

To help mark these two special anniversaries, the Death Valley Conservancy will be bringing to Furnace Creek their newly constructed borax wagons, built to the original specifications, along with the famous Twenty Mule Team.

Come and enjoy the ‘49ers art show, vendor show, history presentations, contests, live music, and much more. Be sure to look for the membership booth at the entrance to Fiddlers' Campground and purchase your annual membership to support the event. Memberships are our main source of income from which we are able to produce the Encampment and donate to charitable projects in and around Death Valley.

For a detailed schedule of events, click the POCKET SCHEDULE button at the end of this newsletter. Let me say again, welcome and be a part of the Death Valley ‘49ers 70th and the Death Valley National Park's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Dennis Harders, President
(505) 269-1955

'49ers and Friends are Invited to Attend

Death Valley National Park's 25th anniversary celebration begins on Saturday, Oct 26 and ends the following Saturday, Nov 2. Old West Trio will be providing music on the Visitor Center patio on Oct 31 at noon. On Saturday, Nov 2 at 7 a.m., there will be a 5K Fun Run/Walk with Superintendent Mike Reynolds followed by many more activities and the final ceremony in the afternoon.
25th anniversary

Twenty Mule Team Events

We are very excited to have the Twenty Mule Team coming to this year's Encampment. With the appearance of massive wagons and large numbers of mules and horses in harness, there are some special safety considerations to keep in mind for the benefit of humans and animals alike.

What to Expect

The replica borax wagons are scheduled to arrive at the Oasis on Tuesday, Nov 5. On Wednesday and Thursday they will be set up as a static display for public viewing. On Friday and again on Saturday, the Twenty Mule Team will be hitched up to pull the replica borax wagons from the Inn at Death Valley (formerly the Furnace Creek Inn) to the Harmony Borax Works and back. As of this writing, plans are still under review and subject to change.

Safety Notification

The National Park Service asks us to remind you of the following:  
1)  PRACTICE PATIENCE    Expect delays. The roads that enter Highway 190 from Sunset Campground and the Timbisha Shoshone Village, as well as a few other side roads, will be blocked to vehicle traffic for about a half hour on both Friday and Saturday while the team and wagons pass. Please allow for this delay. The entire route for the Twenty Mule Team will take about two hours to complete and will necessitate you driving at a reduced speed should you be passing near them in either direction. 
2)  CONTROL YOUR PETS    Pets need to be under control and on short leashes at all times when near livestock. Dogs can disturb or spook horses and mules. You don’t want to be responsible for upsetting the teams.  
3)  KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE    Please follow directions from the teamsters, our volunteer crowd helpers, and law enforcement while observing the various events. It is your responsibility to keep yourself at a safe distance and not crowd the animals and wagons.
4)  KEEP ROAD SHOULDERS CLEAR    Please park as far off of the road as possible to leave clearance for the horses, mules, and wagons to use the shoulder should it be necessary. If you are able to walk to the event and leave your vehicle in camp, that is even better. 
Thanks for your cooperation. We are all looking forward to this memorable event! 
The Death Valley Conservancy Borax Wagons and Jerry Tindell's 20 Mule Team Hitch

Old Prospectors Seeking New Treasures

Prospectors once came to Death Valley to dig for riches, but it's no secret that America's greatest treasure is her volunteers. Because there are so few bushes to beat around in the desert, let's get straight to the point: The 2019 Encampment needs additional volunteers. Whether you are old or young, muscular or petite, boisterous or demure, cheerful or crusty, there is a place for you to help out at the Encampment. You can make a big difference by donating as little as an hour of your time. Some of the volunteer opportunities are listed below, but these are by no means the only ways you can help.

Stage Crew

We need help assembling the Fiddlers' Stage on Tuesday morning, Nov 5, and breaking it down on Sunday morning, Nov 10. Robert Whipple has heroically headed up this crew in the past, but he is unable to attend this year's Encampment. If you don't mind working with your hands (think giant erector set) this job is for you. Please bring good protective work gloves.

Membership Booth

If you fancy yourself more of a diplomat, one who likes to meet and greet members as they arrive at Encampment, maybe you can donate an hour or two in the membership booth. Volunteers are needed to hand out membership packets, record sales and contact information, and answer questions. Membership booth volunteers are like '49er ambassadors.

MCs and Event Hosts

Perhaps you are good at speaking through a mic and keeping an event moving along? We need volunteers to host two Cowboy Poetry sessions, Joe Doctor’s Liar Contest, and the Wheelbarrow Race. All supplies and PA equipment will be provided, we just need a wagon master (of ceremonies) or two. Volunteers can sign up to host one or more of these events. How about you?

Volunteers' Meeting

An organizational meeting for all volunteers and potential volunteers will be held on Sunday, Nov 3 at 1:00 p.m. in the Fiddlers' Campground at the stage area. Please contact Patty Quintana, Program Manager, at (818) 388-8277 to learn more and leap on board. Let's show our pioneering spirit and each give of our time to make this an Encampment for the record books.

Live Music Every Night

No doubt about it, music is an Encampment tradition. The music at this year's Encampment begins with Steve Hohstadt and friends in Sunset Campground from Oct 20 to Nov 5. The Coyote Howl talent night is Wednesday, Nov 6, where Patty Quintana and friends will provide music on the main stage at the Fiddlers' Campground. From Thursday, Nov 7 to Sunday, Nov 10, Richard Elloyan, Steve Wade, and the Old West Trio will entertain on the main stage. The Messick Family will also join in from Friday evening to Sunday

Membership and Information Booth

Sandy MacLennan and the membership committee are ready to welcome new and returning members. The membership booth will open on Oct 30 and will run daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Family memberships are only $60, which includes two adults and children under 18 years of age. An individual membership is $35. Your membership button is your pass into all events. The booth closes on Saturday, Nov 9 at noon.
membership booth
Remember, memberships are vital to the success of the Encampment. Membership packets will be mailed to lifetime members who are unable to attend. Please be sure to keep us posted on any change of address or personal information by contacting Bev Malley by phone or email, (775) 230-3876 or

From the Green

This year we are having a junior golf putting contest for children 5 to 10 years of age. The contest is scheduled for Thursday, Nov 7 starting at 9:00 a.m. and finishing by 11:00 a.m.

Prizes:kids golf
  • One putt into the cup for a milkshake
  • Two putts into the cup for an ice cream cone
  • Three putts or more for a soft drink
Contest rules:
  1. All contestants must be between 5 to 10 years of age.
  2. Entrance fee is $3.00 and the contestant has three (3) chances to make the first putt. On the third putt the contestant continues until they putt the ball into the cup.
  3. All contestants get to keep their Death Valley '49ers logo golf ball.
  4. Contestants may bring their own putter or use available putters.
  5. Contestants have a max time of five (5) minutes for their three (3) tries.
  6. Contestants must be accompanied by an adult member of the Death Valley '49ers and present a membership badge.
  7. The officials' ruling for all players is final.
  8. Prizes must be redeemed at the ice cream shop near the General Store by the end of business on Sunday, Nov 10, 2019.
Furnace Creek Golf Course

Art Show

New and exciting things are in store for the Encampment art show this year with a change of location. This year's show will be inside at the Oasis Conference Center at the ranch. It is air-conditioned, well-lit, and easily accessed by all. Being inside will eliminate any wind issues that we've experience in the past. There will be a silent auction for the Artists' Composite and there will be Quick Draws, though we will not have an auction this year. We welcome back several returning artists and a few new ones. Hope to see all of you there. 


Contests and Activities

We thank the chairpersons of the various contests and activities for their efforts and expertise in organizing these fun events. All events are open to '49ers wearing 2019 membership buttons. To see how you can participate, click the POCKET SCHEDULE button for times and locations of events, or contact Patty Quintana at (818) 388-8277.

Activity Chairpersons

  • 4 x 4 Drives, Chuck Knight
  • Artists' Exhibit, Mike and Shirley Hyytinen
  • Coyote Howl, Patty Quintana
  • Gold Panning, Ray and Jan Johnson
  • Junior Putting Contest, Dennis Harders
  • History presentations, Marvin Jensen
  • Parade, Barbara Reber
  • Pioneer Costume Contest, Nancy Graves
  • Titus Canyon Drive, Jim Hoke
  • Vendors Show, Wanda Elmore
The following activities are still in need of a volunteer host. Will it be you?
  • Wheelbarrow Contest
  • Joe Doctor’s Liars Contest
  • Cowboy Poetry, 2 events

Snow Skiing at Death Valley?

You read that correctly. Snow skiing. At Death Valley?  snowshoe

Back by popular demand, Steve Hale will present one of his interactive, educational, and entertaining historical character reenactments. This year, Steve will portray the father of California snow skiing, John "Snowshoe" Thompson, with an added twist. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

The California Gold Rush has created a massive western migration to northern California and silver has just been discovered at Virginia City, Nevada. A lively discussion ensues when Ol' Snowshoe meets up with Tom Foster at “Travelin’ Smithy’s Blacksmith Shop" at Furnace Creek. Snowshoe has some explaining to do! 

This Thompson fellow has been gaining notoriety as the so-called “Mailman of the Sierra.” Stories of his heroics saving men in bone-chilling blizzards have been circulating up and down the west coast, not to mention his use of Norwegian “snowshoes” to travel back and forth over the Sierra-Nevada mountains carrying mail to the little snowbound community of Genoa, Nevada. This man is the stuff from which legends are made.

Date/Time: Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Far end of the Fiddlers’ Campground at the pioneer camp (blacksmith demonstration) area. Be sure and bring your chair.
Historical setting: early 1860’s in the southern Sierra-Nevada Mountain region 

President Portraits in a Pickle

As you may remember from the spring newsletter, I was asking for your help in relocating some portraits of past ‘49er presidents that were once displayed in the Furnace Creek Inn. Of the 39 portraits, we’ve happily found homes for 19. We still need help placing the remainder. If you know of, heard of, read something about, or have any information that could help me place these portraits with their "forever" homes, please contact me, Patty Quintana, at or (818) 388-8277.
LEO S. MOORE  1967     CAPT. R.A. GIBSON Undated
THOMAS W. MATHEW  1970     GEO. (PAUL) PALMER   Undated

4x4 Treks - The adventure begins with YOU!

Chuck Knight and Jim Hoke lead you off the beaten path.

The ‘49ers are pleased to have Chuck Knight and Jim Hoke back with us to lead some 4x4 treks. There is so much more of Death Valley to see away from the main highway. To join in these treks, you must be a Death Valley '49ers member and attend the prerequisite mandatory planning meeting on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Sunset Campground next to the handicap accessible restroom facilities. 

At the planning meeting, Chuck and Jim will discuss some very important information about the treks. All treks meet on the shoulder of State Route 190 across from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Each trek is limited to 12 vehicles by NPS regulations.

Encampment History Programs

Visitor Center Theater

The History Committee is again pleased to present a number of programs on the history of Death Valley and the surrounding area. Click the POCKET SCHEDULE button at the end of this newsletter and plan to attend these informative programs. Note that schedules are subject to change.

Presenter: Marvin Jensen

Marv is the History Committee chairman, a Death Valley '49ers past president, photographer, and author.

The History of the Wildrose Station Area
Wildrose Station is located along the Wildrose Road from Panamint Valley into Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells. It was the only way into the park from Trona until Panamint Valley Road was extended to Highway190. The first development at Wildrose was back in 1906 for a short time during the Skidoo mining era. In 1932, it became a place for visitors to stay as there was a store, café, and accommodations. Many of the pictures have never been seen by the public. Tuesday, Nov 5 at 11:00 a.m.

1849 Death Valley Wagon Train: The Jayhawkers and Their Families
This presentation focuses on the 29 men from Galesburg, Illinois, and the four families, Arcane, Bennett, Brier, and Wade. This program pays tribute to those that took part in the wagon train trek 170 years ago. Tuesday, Nov 5 at 1:00 p.m.

Presenter: David Woodruff

David Woodruff will return for his third year to present two excellent programs. David worked for Xanterra for 18 years and is considered the historian of Furnace Creek Ranch. He is a history columnist for the Inyo Register as well as the author of the Visitor’s Guide to Death Valley and the Visitor’s Guide to Inyo County. David has authored several books including Inyo County Sesquicentennial, Eastern California History, and History of Furnace Creek Ranch

Remembering the Beginnings
Using rare photographs and home movies, David takes a reflective and nostalgic look back on the original 1949 Death Valley Encampment. Thursday, Nov 7 at 11:00 a.m.
A Nice Place to Visit
How did a company best known for mining and manufacturing laundry soap products get involved in the tourism business, and in a place with a less than perfectly marketable name? This 45-minute program examines the history of tourism in Death Valley. Thu, Nov 7 at 2:00 p.m.

Presenter: Stan Paher

Stan will present an interesting show on mining and ghost towns in Death Valley and the surrounding area. Stan has published 21 books about mining and Ghost Towns in Nevada and portions of California. One of his most popular books is Nevada Ghost Towns & Desert Atlas. It is well illustrated with over 70 maps. 

Death Valley and Southern Nevada Mining Camps and Ghost Towns
Friday, Nov 8 at 11:00 a.m.

Presenter: Ted Faye

We are pleased to welcome back desert historian and documentary film producer, Ted Faye. His work has been aired on PBS stations throughout the West.

The Twenty Mule Team of Death Valley
Discover the history of the historic Twenty Mule Team from the discovery of borax, when wagons hauled the borax to the marketplace, to the creation of the brand known around the world. Friday, Nov 8 at 12:30 p.m. 

Weird Tales 2: Into Death Valley's Underground
Stories still persist to this day that under the mountains of Death Valley an ancient civilization exists. Ted and his team explore the rumors from the Indians to Charles Manson. This film was the winner of the WorldFest-Houston Gold Award for excellence. Friday, Nov 8 at 3:00 p.m.

History To Go
Ted explores two fascinating stories of the last great gold rush in the wild west. The first tale is Wyatt Earp’s Bar. An avid historian has the bar, but was it Wyatt Earp’s? The second tale is Gold Rush Family. Bill Metscher’s family came to Goldfield to find riches. Did they find it? Saturday, Nov 9 at 10:00 a.m.

Death Valley Aliens (70 minutes)
This is the world premier of Ted’s newest film. Are there tunnels under Area 51 that lead to areas all around the west that transport aliens? Take a trip with Ted and his co-host, Tim France, as they explore some strange areas in the Nevada desert, including Area 51. Saturday, Nov 9 from Noon to 2:00 p.m.

Presenter: Mark Meyers

In 2000, Mark and his wife Amy founded the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue (PVDR). The organization is dedicated to improving the plight of the American donkey. PVDR has since grown into the largest equine rescue organization in the Western Hemisphere.

Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue
burroLearn more about the various PVDR projects, including those in conjunction with the Federal Government. For the past two years PVDR has been working with Death Valley National Park to safely remove wild burros from within the park. In order to accommodate the influx of wild burros into the PVDR system, additional facilities and transportation hubs are being built in both northwest Arizona and central Virginia. Wednesday, Nov 7 at 11:00 a.m.

First Christmas in Death Valley

This is an account by Death Valley pioneer, Juliet Brier, written circa 1910. The introduction is by Marvin Jensen with portions from past president and author George Koenig (Fall 1974 Death Valley ‘49ers newsletter). 


As the Death Valley ‘49ers celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Encampment, we note that it is also the 170th anniversary of why we are here in Death Valley in the first place—the 1849 Death Valley pioneer wagon train. Each year we complain at how the stores display their Christmas items earlier and earlier. But as long as we have to endure such pre-Christmas activity, and because of it, I’d like to take you back 170 years to the first Christmas recorded in Death Valley.

It was in December 1849 when a party of men, women, and children blundered their way across the wastelands of Central Nevada into Death Valley (it had no name to the pioneers at that time). In their desperation, the differences of opinion as to which way to go to get to California and the gold they dreamed of, the various wagon companies had splintered again and again. One of these groups was the Brier family who had started out with the Jayhawkers, but could not keep up with them near what is now Ash Meadows. They now formed a small party of their own that included Rev. James Brier (35), his wife Juliet (36) and their three sons, Christopher Columbus (9), John (6), and Kirk (4), and two other men. They eventually caught back up with the Jayhawkers. They were all bone weary and lost. 

May it be that in a few weeks as you celebrate Christmas, with the food and the glasses of wine or water on the table, you will share a thought of a Christmas past and of Juliet Brier. Now let’s join the Brier family near Death Valley Junction, approaching the Furnace Creek Wash at the entrance to Death Valley...

Brier familyChristmas Story as written by Juliet Brier

We reached the top of the divide between Death Valley and Ash valleys. Oh what a desolate country we looked down into. The next morning we started down. The men said they could see what looked like springs out in the valley. Mr. Brier was always ahead to explore and find water, so I was left with our three boys to help bring up the cattle. We expected to reach the springs in a few hours and the men pushed ahead. I was sick and weary, and the hope of a good camping place was all that kept me up. Poor little Kirk gave out and I carried him on my back. Barely seeing where I was going, until he would say, “Mother I can walk now.” Poor little fellow! He would stumble on a little way over the salty Marsh and sink down, crying, “I can’t go any farther.” Then I would carry him again and soothe as best I could.

Many times I felt I should faint and as my strength departed I would sink on my knees. The boys would ask for water but there was not a drop. Thus we staggered on over salty wastes, trying to keep the company in view and hoping at every step to come to the springs. 

Marli Miller photo
Night came down and we lost all track of those ahead. I would get down on my knees and look in the starlight for the ox tracks and then we would stumble on. There was not a sound and I didn’t know whether we would ever reach camp or not.

About midnight we came around a big rock and there was my husband at a small fire. Is this the camp?” I asked. “No; it’s six miles farther,” he said. I was ready to drop and Kirk was almost unconscious, moaning for a drink. Mr. Brier took him on his back and hastened to camp to save his little life. It was 3 o’clock Christmas morning when we reached the springs. That was a Christmas none of us could ever forget. 

Vendor Presents New Children's Book

book coverJoining the other vendors at the Encampment will be authors Dorota Kluza and Evan Williams. They are delighted to present their new children's book, The Princess and the Valley Man: Luna and Solis's Adventures in Death Valley.
This book is the first in a series featuring America's most breathtaking and beautiful natural environments, our national parks. It is an educational book for children—in a way a type of a guide—using a fictional story to explore the natural wonders of the park. 

Co-author Dorota Kluza was born in Lubin, Poland. She holds two masters degrees in law and is a world traveler, writer, actress, model, and translator. The magic of connecting with nature inspired her to create the tale of “The Princess and the Valley Man.”  

Co-author Evan Williams was born and raised in Tremonton, Utah, and now lives in Los Angeles. He served in the United States Army for nearly nine years and holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. He has worked for the National Park Service as a park ranger at Grand Canyon and Death Valley. His ranger experience and love of adventure inspired him to co-author the tales of “The Princess and the Valley Man.”
Illustrator Małgorzata Barcikowska-Nazarczuk lives in Warsaw, Poland, and holds a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. 

Dining Options During Encampment

Timbisha Shoshone Village

During the Encampment, reasonably priced meals are available weekdays at the Timbisha Community Center. The breakfast buffet is available from 7:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. The lunch menu is available from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The dinner menu is available from 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

The Ranch


The 1849 Buffet serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This will be the location of the traditional Encampment Hootenanny Breakfast ($11 per person) on Friday, Nov 8 from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. From Monday, Nov 4 through Sunday, Nov 10, Xanterra will take 20% off all meals at the 1849 Buffet for '49er members. You must  wear your 2019 badge to receive the discount.

The 19th Hole is an open-air restaurant that offers a variety of food options and looks out to the golf course. Known for its great hamburgers and full bar, this is a casual dining option.

The Last Kind Words Saloon offers more upscale menu options in an old west atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling (760) 786-3335.

The Pool Café is the newest dining option at the Ranch located adjacent to the pool. It features sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, beverages and cocktails.

The Inn

Advanced reservations for the Inn Dining Room are available for Inn guests only. Dining is available to others on a first come, first served basis. 

Breakfast – 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Lunch – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner – 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Oasis Lounge is open from 11:00 a.m to 11:00 p.m. and offers an appetizer menu.

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Death Valley '49ers Incorporated and a non-profit organization is to promote understanding and appreciation of Death Valley and its history.

Thanks to our sponsors!

These organizations and an army of volunteers help make our mission possible. Our event sponsors make it possible to maintain the quality of the Encampment while keeping membership prices affordable. Thank you!
Please visit our sponsors' websites:
Wainwright Dave Engel and the Death Valley Conservancy's new 20 Mule Team water wagon
Click here for 2019 POCKET SCHEDULE
Yep, that's the POCKET SCHEDULE button above. You can print the schedule or save it to your phone or tablet for easy reference.
Copyright © 2019 Death Valley '49ers, Inc., All rights reserved.

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