Last month the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society sponsored an event celebrating the 100th Anniversary Rededication of the Stoddard-Waite Monument in the Cajon Pass.

This white obelisk near the truck scales along the 15 Freeway south of Highway 138 on property owned by the San Bernardino County Museum Association, was built to honor the pioneers who came to Southern California in the 1800s. On one side of the monument is the inscription "Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail, erected by the Pioneer Society of San Bernardino, 1912." On another side, etched on a brass plate, is the inscription "Sheldon Stoddard and Sydney P. Waite came over this trail in 1849 and helped erect this monument in 1912."

(Nick Cataldo)

Attending last month's festivities were about 50 people, including a group of individuals who had special cause for celebration. This assemblage consisted of descendants of the two men whose names are emblazoned on the monument.

In December 1849 a group of hardy pioneers arrived at this site -- for centuries a Serrano Indian settlement known as Amuscopiabit and during pioneer times as "the Willows" -- with a wagon train traveling from Salt Lake City. The group became famous as the "Death Valley 49ers." Among them were 19-year-old Sheldon Stoddard and 12-year-old Sydney Waite who were traveling with their parents. They all rested at the Willows, after entering the Cajon Pass by way of Coyote Canyon.

This narrow, twisting gorge had been heavily used for pack trains of mules between Santa Fe and Los Angeles during the 1830s and into the 1940s.

By the late 1840s, emigrant parties traveling by wagon departing from Salt Lake rolled slowly down the Cajon. One such caravan was the Jefferson Hunt party who were bound for the gold fields of Northern California.

Stoddard-Waite Monument rededication ceremony, held on 05/18/13 at the Stoddard Waite Monument in the Cajon Pass. In the car, all relatives of the Stoddard
Stoddard-Waite Monument rededication ceremony, held on 05/18/13 at the Stoddard Waite Monument in the Cajon Pass. In the car, all relatives of the Stoddard Family. Front seat L to R: Nancy Armstrong Bob Sleppy. Rear seat L to R: Ginger Urquhart, Donna Fees, Debbie Mcfadden. (Mark Landis)

Many of the wagons had to be dismantled and dragged over the rocky streambed that runs through the narrow Coyote Canyon. Two of the individuals who helped get the wagons through were Stoddard and Waite.

The Stoddard-Waite Monument was erected by the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers, aka Pioneer Society, in December 1912, but for various reasons the dedication was held off until May 18, 1913.

The location was chosen so that "modern-day" motorists traveling along the Santa Fe-Grand Canyon-Needles Highway -- later known as the National Old Trails Road -- could easily pull over and contemplate the history of the trails and roads serving the area.

The 1913 dedication was carefully planned by Secretary John Brown Jr. and conducted by President Silas Cox.

Transportation was arranged in automobiles for elderly participants and a caravan starting at John Brown's residence at Sixth and D streets in San Bernardino drove to the site.

A surprising number of pioneer survivors -- including Sheldon Stoddard and Sidney Waite -- were present.

As part of the program, those two men, along with R.T. Roberds, Mary Crandall, Jane Smithson and George Miller, gave their recollections of the route. Pablo Belarde was the earliest of them all, having arrived from New Mexico by pack mule in 1844.

After Mary Harris uncovered folds of American flags from the monument, Reverend Mark B. Shaw delivered the invocation, De La Montaigne Woodward, Henry M. Willis, Judge Benjamin F. Bledsoe, W.J. Curtis and Joseph E. Rich gave addresses and there was plenty of singing. After the ceremony there was a basket picnic and all had a great time.

One hundred years later to the day, the Stoddard-Waite Monument Rededication of May 18, 2013, also was a rousing success.

The activities began at 9 a.m. at the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society's Heritage House at Eighth and D streets in San Bernardino, when President Steve Shaw welcomed everyone and presented a slide show featuring the old "Pioneer Society," followed by a special gift to descendants of Stoddard and Waite.

After everyone convoyed up to the Stoddard-Waite Monument in the Cajon Pass, San Bernardino County Museum Association caretaker Mike Hartless talked about the Indian village followed by my own historical overview of the Willows.

Then, in honor of those pioneers who arrived more than a century and a half ago, descendants of Stoddard, Waite, and other families proudly talked about their ancestors who helped turn the Cajon Pass into an important gateway into Southern California.

Contact Nick Cataldo at yankeenut@excite.com.