Government Holes

The tale of the the Old Mojave Road is the story of water, the more important resource in the desert.  Along the Old Mojave Road trail is the Government Holes water stop.  Long abandoned, the site still contains a wind mill, a corral and a few watering holes.  This quiet remote location was even the site of a gunfight.

Government Holes in the central section of the Old Mojave Road.

Government Holes in the central section of the Old Mojave Road.

The story of the American West is the story ongoing and continued conflicts between the Native Americans and settlers and this holds was also true for the Mojave desert.  In 1858 the Mohave tribe attack various wagon trains, which prompted a military response from the U.S. Government. Major William Hoffman and over 600 men were dispatched to the Colorado River which is the  homeland of the Mohave  Tribe.  Major Hoffman demand the Mohave surrender to which the tribe relented.  Major Hoffman next established a post on the eastern bank of the Colorado River which developed into Fort Mojave.  To support this new fort, regular supply wagon trains from Los Angeles were required to travel east through the Mojave Desert until the Civil War.  Improvements to the wagon trail included a water stop which became known as Government Holes.

By the 1870s, steamboats on the Colorado supplied Fort Mojave and the Mojave Road became a highway for miners, prospectors, and ranchers.  In 1883 the Southern Pacific / Atlantic & Pacific Railroad took up the majority of traffic.  Throughout the 1800’s the Mojave was an open range, and cattle and livestock grazing was a source of money and food.  As with many human endeavors, smaller operations consolidate into larger companies.  These companies worked to claim ownership of land and most importantly water rights.

Homesteaders were in conflict with the Cattle Companies, when the homesteaders stake claims on the best grazing territory.  Homesteaders crops were trampled by the cattle, and the cattle companies denied the homesteaders access to water.  The homesteaders responded by taking their portion of beef from the herd.  All of this game to a head when a gun fight broke out between Matt Burts and J. W. “Bill” Robinson on November 8th, 1925.  Both men died in the fight, and may be one of the last of the “old west” gunfights and the plot of a lot of Hollywood movies.

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