34° 38.0395’ N. Lat.
115° 10.5866’ W Long.
From about 1962 to 1967 Helen Mae and Ervin Smith lived in a cabin made of railroad ties near the pass between the Piute Mountains and the Old Woman Mountains, near Weaver’s Well with their six children in what they referred to as “The House on the Hill”. During this time Ervin worked at the Mobil Station in Essex for Eunice Gallanari and Helen worked as a substitute postmaster for Rose Stringham at the Post Office in Fenner and also filled in at the Essex Post Office.
Each day Helen and Erv made the 9-mile commute from the House on the Hill down to Essex to go to work and to take the children to the Essex school. They had a generator alongside the house, but used it mainly only when guests visited. Their water was hauled up in barrels from Essex.
The children – Ervin Jr. ‘Skip’, Donna, Sharon, Sherree, Melinda and Toni remember the mid – 1960s, when they lived here, as “Some of the best times of our lives”. Although the house is no longer there, the site is easily identified by a concrete foundation that once served as the floor.
I have been fortunate to have met four of the family members, interviewed Helen (twice), Melinda and Sharon once each, and toured the site with Sharon and Melinda in 2007.
Ervin Smith passed away in 1985. Helen eventually moved to Needles and I was fortunate to be able to meet her and to hear some of her stories before she passed away in 2008.
In all of the years I have been traveling back roads in the desert I have only seen two rattlesnakes, one in Ward Valley, and this one in Carbonate Gulch. This guy was not making a fuss, but he was ‘prepared’. He was ok with me taking his photo – I used a long telephoto, and he and I went our separate ways.
The Old Woman Mountains were named by the Piute and Chemehuevi Indians who called the mountains “No-mop-wits” which means “old woman”. The name comes from a granite outcrop on a ridge in the southern part of the mountains that resembles the profile of a veiled old woman making her way up the ridge. The rock outcrop is not definitive when viewed from the north, but is conspicuous when viewed from the south, near Colton Wash in the southern part of the range – Joe de Kehoe photo.
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