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Leona Valley Schoolhouse about 1920 (courtesy of West Antelope Valley Historical Society)




The Leona Valley Story

Leona Valley, approximately six miles long and two miles wide, is located south of Antelope Valley. The center of the valley is twelve miles from Palmdale and seventeen miles from Lancaster. There are four entrances. On the north is Godde Pass, an extension of 60th Street West, on the south Bouquet Canyon Road, on the east the Elizabeth Lake-Pine Canyon road and on the west San Francisquito Canyon. 


The history of Leona Valley is not a history of politics and wars, but the story of people who love the land, the air, wind and the stars of one small valley. The story parallels the history of California. 


The Indians who lived here for centuries before the white men came were the Kitanemuk tribe, a branch of the Serranos. When Father Garces discovered them in 1776, they lived in communal tule houses. While they were not a war like tribe they often fought with the neighboring tribe, the Allikliks on the Santa Clara River. 

The Explorers

The first Spanish explorers to visit the valley, of whom we have any record, were Father Garces and Pedro Fages who came to California with Gaspar de Portola who later became the first governor of Alta California. In 1776 they traveled up San Francisquito Canyon and camped at Elizabeth Lake. Later Father Garces made his way from the south over Cajon Pass, along the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, along the Pine Canyon Road and up to Tejon Pass. He was the first white man to traverse Leona Valley.

After the trail was blazed, soldiers from the San Fernando Mission came though San Francisquito Canyon to round up runaway Indians and Spanish soldiers who were stationed at the mission.

Before 1800 Stephano Lopez loaded his carretas at San Pedro with goods for the San Fernando Mission and the ranches beyond. His route led through the San Fernando Pass, by Elizabeth Lake and through Tejon Pass to the lower San Joaquin Valley.

In 1831 Ewing Young and his band of fur trappers from the Rocky Mountains came overland to California. They followed the old Indian trail used by Father Garces from Cajon Pass through Leona Valley and thence to Tejon Pass. This road later became a stage road. These were the first Americans of whom we have any record to visit the valley. 

The Cattle Men

In the 1840's Francisco (Chico) Lopez, the son of Stephano Lopez, owned a sheep and cattle ranch seven miles south of Elizabeth Lake, and his cattle roamed all over the Antelope Valley as far as Randsburg. At this time Elizabeth Lake was known as "Laguna de Chico Lopez". He acquired land in Leona Valley, some of which remained in the family until 1913.

Miguel Leonis, for whom the Valley was named, was a Basque sheep herder. He married the daughter of Urbano, an Indian who owned the 1100 acre Rancho El Escorpion near the present town of Calabasas. Soon Leonis owned the ranch and was grazing his sheep and cattle from Calabasas up through Leona Valley where he gained vast holdings. He was killed in 1900 when his team of horses were frightened in San Francisquito Canyon. 

The Settlers

In the 1870's and 1880's permanent settlers began to arrive. Some bought land and some homesteaded. John E. Ritter Sr., came in the spring of 1894 and homesteaded 160 acres. Here he grew his own grapes and built a winery. Later his sons acquired more land and branched out in hay, cattle and bees. Today Ritter Brothers holdings comprise 12,000 acres.

Christian August Eichenhoffer arrived from Germany in 1907 and settled next to the Ritters on what is now known as the Moffet Ranch. Two sons still live in the Valley, Chris and Fritz. In the 1880's four Godde brothers came to California from Germany and settled in Quartz Hill. Max and Fred stayed there. While the Goddes never lived in Leona Valley in the early days, in 1901 Fred Godde bought property here for hay and grain and Godde Pass was named for their family. Fred’s daughter Kate, Mrs. Kline Billet, moved here in 1943 and lived on the old Godde property just east of the school.

In 1901 the property of Miguel Leonis was sold by court order. Coming in at that time were Nichol Rouff who bought the ranch now owned by Juan Arrache; Manual Andrade who settled east of Bouquet Canyon Road; the Beesemeyer family who acquired 240 acres east of Bouquet Canyon Road; Mr. Goytino who bought what is now known as the St. Anthony Ranch.

Mr. Goytino built a small chapel at the ranch house and dedicated it to St. Anthony. Priests would come from Tehachapi, Los Angeles, Ventura or Santa Barbara to say mass. In 1913 the ranch was sold to Frank D. Hall, then later to Arnold Munz, then to Ritter Brothers and is now owned by the Burney Starksens who have made a show place of it.

When Frank D. Hall bought the St. Anthony Ranch he also purchased much of the center of Leona Valley, the aggregate comprising 3,000 acres. Here he had a dairy farm and cattle ranch. In 1924 he decided to subdivide his property and put it in the hands of Phillips and Hambaugh real estate men. They divided it into lots of two and seventeen one hundredths acres and put in streets and water lines. At the time the name was changed from Leonis to Leona Valley. The subdivision was not a complete success and 1928 found Mr. Hall in charge again. His land went into litigation and could not be sold for several years. The return of the land to the market coincided with the growth of the aviation industry in Antelope Valley, bringing many new families to our Valley.

Pie Cherry Ranch

Pie Cherry Ranch is a landmark in Leona Valley. It was originally homesteaded in 1912 and planted to cherries and apples. When the owner died in 1940, Mr. And Mrs. Herman Stellar of Van Nuys bought it. They have built it up to where an average season’s cherry yield will bring in from 25,000 to 30,000 pounds. In the latter part of June and the first weeks of July there is a steady steam of customers, fortified with picnic lunches pouring into the ranch to pick cherries. 

Francis Wrigley Ranch

The center of the valley has been owned by Miguel Leonis, Frank D. Hall and the Ritter Brothers. Four years ago it was bought by Francis Wrigley of Antelope Valley. Today it is a thriving cattle ranch of 600 acres completely fenced. There are three wells, a very nice house and hay barns. It is a pleasure to watch the 150 head of Black Angus cattle grazing on the irrigated pasture. Mr. and Mrs. Huffmire manage the ranch.


There are ten chicken men in the Valley, three of whom are independent, the other seven being under a finance plan. The number of fryers raised by each one runs from 6,500 to 14,000.

Felix and Jane Tissot’s Ceramics

Sixteen years ago Felix and Jane Tissot bought Darrel Hall’s place on Northside drive, where they built a charming house in the French style of Felix’s homeland. Two years ago they started experimenting with ceramics using native rock and clay. Today they not only sell their vases and bowls to Gumps in San Francisco, Bullocks in Los Angeles and Van Keppell Green in Beverly Hills but ship consignments as far away as New York, Honolulu and Cuba. 

Leona Valley Store

THE STORE as it is affectionately called was built in 1924 and has been a community center ever since, being the only store in twelve miles. Most of the credit for its completeness must be given to Ralph Schwartz who, in his seventeen years of ownership, built up the stock of merchandise to suit the needs of the Valley. Mrs. Norma Barnhart is the present owner. 

Leona Valley Mutual Water Company

The water company was formed when Phillips and Hambaugh started the subdivision in 1924. They put in nine miles of pipeline, a 43,000 gallon storage tank and obtained the water from three springs. Later, during the 1930's when the land was in litigation, the water situation was precarious and many times the sixteen families on the line were without water for two or three days at a time.

In 1946 there was a change in officers and a resident manager was put in charge. Since then it has been built up so that, besides the three original springs, there are two wells and 127,000 gallons of water in reserve. There are ninety-five families using the water system at present. 

Leona School

The Leona School was first opened in 1879 in the upper end of Bouquet Canyon. Later it was moved to its present location at the corner of Bouquet Canyon Road and Pine Canyon Road on land donated by Fred Godde. The first school teacher, a Mr. Engham, often walked from the Palmdale station to the Leona School where there were as many as thirty-five pupils with one teacher in the eight grades.

At the present time only kindergarten, first and second grades attend this school, while the older students are taken by bus to Quartz Hill and Westside.

Leona Valley Improvement Association

The Association was founded in October 1949 to promote Leona Valley, its welfare and interests. It has more than succeeded in its aims. Some of its achievements are:

Widening of Godde Pass
Paving of roads
Installation of street name signs
Installation of fire hydrants
The sponsorship of almost all community activities
Establishment of the annual Leona Valley Carnival and Leona Valley Roundup
Installation of road signs publicizing Leona Valley
Cleaning up rubbish along highway roadsides.

Its present project is to complete the raising of funds for the building of a Community Building and playground for the Valley residents and their children.

Leona Valley Woman’s Club

The Woman’s Club was founded in September 1934 as a mothers club to help with the extra needs of the school. Its purpose is to obtain whatever is needed for the children of the Leona School, to sponsor youth activities and to aid physically and financially whenever necessary.

Through bazaars and other projects they have raised the funds to purchase the following items for the school; venetian blinds, motion picture machine and screen, refrigerator and special books. They also give a Christmas party with a tree for the children every year. At present, besides the school projects, they are helping to raise funds for the community building.

4-H Club

The 4-H Club was started in 1944 under the leadership of Mrs. Kate Billet. The leaders at the present time are Mrs. Don Rackett, Mrs. Lotus O’Brien and Mr. Earl Planchon. It has been outstanding in its achievements. In 1953 Betty Rackett was chosen as one of eleven in Los Angeles County for Junior Leadership. Betty and Elaine Ritter were the representatives at the convention at Davis. Elaine Ritter and Pat Zindler won first prize in the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles County and a blue ribbon in the Regional Contest for demonstration work. Johnny Wayne represented Leona Valley at the convention at Davis this fall. The boys and girls have held a roadside cleanup campaign which has contributed much to the beauty of our Valley.

It truly can be said that Leona Valley is rich in history and of greater importance, it holds great promise for the future.


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