Milepost #908

January 24, 2019

By Ken Brafman, Photo from the Rothman Collection

TITLE: SQUINT’S ‘MOONSHINE’ RANCH: This week’s image comes from a real 1920’s photo and represents a colorful period in our mountain’s past. A few miles north of Lake Arrowhead is 80-acre Squint’s Ranch. William ‘Squint’ Worthington (the tall man on the right) was only in his late teens when he started working for the Talmadge Sawmill clearing timber and brush from the bottom of Little Bear Valley, where a dam was being constructed. Some 20 years later the project would become known as Lake Arrowhead. ‘Squint’ worked in prospecting, logging and he was an expert trapper. At the sawmill he discovered that he could supplement his income considerably by supplying his fellow workers with moonshine. In establishing his homestead around 1899, which would later become known as Squint’s Ranch, he realized that the remoteness of his location was the perfect formula for increasing his moonshine operation and output. His stills became legendary in their ability to allude detection by the authorities. Forest Ranger Bert Switzer, for whom Switzer Park in Skyforest is named, may have come closest to finding the stills. For the rest of his life Switzer proudly wore his ranger cap which had earned a bullet hole in it…from his getting a little too close. His operation grew steadily so that when Prohibition hit in 1920 ‘Squint’ was in the position to make a fortune. His customers for ‘White Mule’ whiskey included the Tudor Inn, North Shore Tavern, Chef’s Inn, Saddleback Inn among other hotels and resorts. Worthington died in 1930, willing the ranch to his great grand-nephew who was his only surviving relative. Subsequent owners have included pilots who have made use of the airstrip, which was completed in 1960, as well as the ranch. A couple movies and videos have been filmed at the location over the years. With its proximity to Deep Creek various types of recreation remain popular including hiking, camping, horseback riding and prospecting.

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2 Comments

  1. Anne Wlodarski

    Hello! We have a house up at Arrowhead, only a couple of miles from this ranch. Is anyone still living there? Can people visit it??

    Reply
    1. Ken Brafman

      Hello Anne,
      Thanks for your interest. Yes, Squint’s Ranch is a mysterious place. You read the background. As far as currently, to my knowledge there are no occupants, but that could have changed. But last I heard, the house was not in good repair.
      As I mentioned at the end of the column Squint’s Ranch is one of the hiking routes people use to get to Deep Creek (you’ve probably learned about that place by now). You may also be aware that the Forest Service essentially shut off the area to visitors due to traffic congestion, graffiti, etc. I mention this because there may be limited access to Squint’s Ranch, as well. Here’s a topo map of the Squint’s area. Deep Creek is to the NE.
      https://www.topoquest.com/map.php?lat=34.29459&lon=-117.14438&datum=nad83&zoom=2&map=auto&coord=d&mode=zoomin&size=m&cross=on
      It’s worth exploring when overall conditions allow. It’s usually accessible by AWD, too. I’m giving you a link below to the FS press release, which seems to still be in effect. From it you should be able to navigate to their trail page on Deep Creek. Enjoy your new home! I’m 27 years up here and I have no plans to leave.
      Ken Brafman
      ROWHS Director
      https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sbnf/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD750414

      Reply

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