The Naming of the Canyon and John H. Whitney

On January 25, 1888, records show (see below) that John H. Whitney bought about 36 acres for cash from the government near the mouth of today's Whitney Canyon. On April 9, 1900, he bought 156 acres next to, and east of, his earlier purchase also for cash from the government. This map from between 1906 and 1910 shows the land that Whitney owned (from "Petroleum in Southern California", by Paul W. Prutzman, Bulletin 63, California State Mining Bureaum, 1913).

In the Twelfth Report of the State Mineralogist for the Two Years Ending September 15, 1894 (p. 354), the canyon is called "Mud Springs Canon", the earliest reference to that name that I can find. Bulletin 63, 1913, of the California State Mining Bureau says "Mud Springs Canyon". Bulletin 753 from 1924 says "Mud Springs Canyon or Whitney Canyon". In 1934, Walling writes of "Whitney (or Mud Springs) Canyon". In 1943, Kew in Bulletin 118 writes only of "Whitney Canyon". Only Whitney Canyon is used after that. Apparently, between 1934 and 1943 the canyon "officially" became Whitney Canyon.

John H. Whitney

John Henry Whitney was born on December 2, 1850, in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

In the U.S. Census of 1880 for the San Fernando Township (see image below), there is a listing for 28-year old John Whitney born about 1851 in Pennsylvania. He has a 23-year old wife Aramenta(?), a 5-year old son Willie, a 3-year old daughter Mabel, and a 26-year old brother William B (along with boarder Frank Horne). His son was born in California, so John must have been in the state by 1875.

Los Angeles Voter Registers (1866-1898) show John, age 28, living in Ravenna as a carpenter in 1879. By 1884 the registers show him in Newhall as a carpenter. On the 1890 and 1896 registers, he is a farmer living in Newhall.

In the Names of the Nineties article from the "Story of our Valley" in the Newhall Signal of 11/11/1954, A.B. Perkins writes:
"John Whitney and his wife were on their Whitney Canyon ranch. His two little girls were victims of diphtheria and lie today in the old Lyon Station cemetery."
A.B. Perkins also writes (in "The History of Eternal Valley from 1769", 1958) that the "Whitneys moved away to become one of the first families to purchase property on Signal Hill in Long Beach". Around 1900, his wife Aramenta either died or they divorced, but the 1910 U.S. Census (see below) has 60 year old John living in Long Beach with his wife of 10 years, 51 year old Jennie E. They are also on the 1920 and 1930 Census in Long Beach. Jennie E. Whitney was born on October 11, 1859, in Austin, Minnesota.

On March 27, 1932, John Whitney died at the age of 81 (California Death Index for 1905-1939). Seven years later, Jennie E. died on September 16, 1939, at the age of 79.

Whitney 1888 homestead patent for 35.32 acres (see the BLM/GLO land patent search page). He bought the land from the federal government. A patent gave him complete ownership of the land.

Whitney 1900 homestead patent for 155.79 acres bought for cash from the federal government

On the plat map I have enclosed the 1888 claim in green and the larger 1900 claim in yellow (see the GeoCommunicator page for plat maps)

On a topo map, I have enclosed the two claims. He pretty much owned all of Whitney Canyon. Oddly, his land in the map at the top of this page does not match any of the land of his claims. I can only guess that he sold all his 1888 and 1900 land and bought the land on the other map.

The following two photos show that 10-year old Mabel died in 1888. Eternal Valley records for that burial Plot 118 only say that both site C and site D (of Plot 118) contain a baby Whitney. That means that there must be two bodies in plot 118, probably the two daughters Mabel and Nettie. There is no other information in the records. An old photo of the original cemetery (see here for that photo) shows that there was a second stone for the other daughter - Nettie O. The fate of Nettie's stone is not known. The cemetery was located almost exactly where Eternal Valley is today, but the graves were all moved to a new location.

This small headstone in the middle of the picture is located in the Garden of Pioneers in the Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall, California. (Photo taken on 9/6/2009.)

Moving closer, you can see how weathered it is, but you can begin to make out some of the words, in particular, the "J.H. & A. Whitney" in the middle. This stone is drenched with water when the sprinklers are on, so, unfortunately, it will eventually be unreadable. Apparently, Mabel's name was misspelled on the stone. (Photo taken on 9/6/2009.)

Mable A.

Daughter of
J.H. & A. Whitney

June 17, 1877
April 18, 1888

Beneath this stone in soft repose
is laid a mother's dearest pride
A flower that scarce had waked to life
and light and beauty ere it died.

Here is the other daughter's headstone from the old photo. It's fate is not known. It is easy to make out Whitney and the Nettie O name. The date kind of looks like she died on April 12, 1884. In "The History of Eternal Valley from 1769" (1958), A.B. Perkins says that Nettie died in 1884. He also says that the eulogy on both gravestones were the same. In addition, Perkins says that Whitney's son Willie died of diphtheria in 1881 and was buried there, but there is no gravesite for him, unless he is one of the baby Whitneys in plot 118. It would seem that the body of one of John Whitney's offspring is missing.

Here we have a comparison of the old Lyon's Station cemetery on the left (1933) and the outline of Eternal Valley Memorial Park on the right (1969). The old cemetery is within the boundary of the new cemetery.

On this 1927 trip to Hawaii, we learn the birthdate of John Whitney and his second wife Jennie.

From the California Death Index (1905-1939) we find both John and Jennie.