Dewitt Canyon Name



John Moore claim (middle left side) on a section of undated claim map at the Huntington Library titled "Rancho San Francisco: parcels beyond southern boundary in sec. 4-11, 14-17, T.3N. R.16W. S.B.M." which can be seen here.



Camulos USGS topo map from 1903



Newhall USGS topo map of 1940 (surveyed in 1925). Today, Little Moore Canyon is Dewitt Canyon and Big Moore Canyon is Wickham Canyon.



In the past, Dewitt (or DeWitt or De Witt) Canyon has sometimes been called Little Moore Canyon. As you can see by the above maps, the 1903 map had Dewitt, but the 1940 map had Little Moore. Today the canyon is called Dewitt, but what about the names?

The first claim filed in Dewitt Canyon (in 1864 or 65) was by John Moore (mentioned by Salvator in "Los Angeles in the Sunny Seventies"). You can see his name on the above map from the Huntington Library. In 1866, Stephen Peckham visited the canyon and stated that "The Moore Claim next east embraces two canons opening into the Pico Canon." (See the 1866 Oil Descriptions of the Other Canyons webpage.) Peckham is actually describing the east and west tributaries of Dewitt Canyon. Kew (USGS Bulletin 753, 1924) states that "wells were sunk in both upper branches of Dewitt Canyon, which are known as Little Moore and Big Moore canyons." Both these tributaries still have evidence of oil activity today.

Some maps (see above) name Dewitt Canyon as Little Moore Canyon and Wickham Canyon as Big Moore Canyon, but I believe this was an error probably caused by Peckham's description. Wickham Canyon does not match the description that Peckham gives of the west canyon. Wickham Canyon contains no road that reaches the anticline axis (which is past the Wickham homesite - see the Wickham Canyon page) and, in fact, it is nearly impossible to hike to the axis.

How the canyon became Dewitt canyon is unknown. In "The Story of our Valley" by A.B. Perkins, he lists five Land Office patent applications for 1870. One of them is by George Gleason, Sanford Lyon, Alexander DeWitt and George J. Clarke. Their company was known as "Lyon Mining Co." and they applied for 1,800 feet on the Lyon Lode, land and water privileges, Township 4N, R12W San Bernardino meridian. Is Alexander DeWitt the Dewitt of Dewitt Canyon? The 1860 census for Yreka in northern California lists an Alexander Dewitt as a miner born about 1829 in New York. The Great Register of Los Angeles County (Voter Registrations 1866-1898) lists an Alex Dewitt. When he registered on February 27, 1867, he was 39 years old, born in New York, living in Soledad, and was a miner by occupation. I think that the canyon is named after Alexander Dewitt.

The Great Register of Los Angeles County (Voter Registrations 1866-1898) lists at least four John Moores, but one stands out as the Moore we are looking for. This John Moore registered on October 3, 1866. He was 26 years old, from Missouri, living in San Fernando, and was a miner by occupation.