Dedicated October 10, 2009 (6014)
A Quick History of
Compiled for the occasion of the Fifth Convocation of the
Consisting of the Queho Posse Chapter 1919, Billy Holcomb Chapter 1069,
Platrix Chapter 2, and
Peter Lebeck Chapter 1866 of
The Ancient and Honorable Order of
E Clampus VitusR
October 9-11, 6014 ecvR
Compiled by the Illustrious, Illustrative, Innovative, Ignoble, and Ignominious
XNGH, DS-3, and Clamphistorian
Queho Posse Chapter 1919
And rendered into print by the
A Short History of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada
Stage Field and Camp Ibis
The history of the today's Cal-Nev-Ari begins with the American response to World War II and the need for specialized training facilities for our troops. Before this, the area was open desert. In 1941, then-Major General George S. Patton, Jr., was tasked with locating a suitable area for a vast training base for armor and infantry. Training was to be geared toward an anticipated North Africa theater of operations, so Patton looked for land in the desert southwest.
He decided on an area which covered a large part of California, Arizona, and a small part of Nevada. The area comprised almost 12 million acres of Mojave and Sonoran Desert, and was named the Desert Training Center initially. It was the largest training camp ever built for military training in the United States. It was renamed the California Arizona Maneuver Area in 1943 and enlarged to include both a Combat Zone and a Communications Zone which, combined, were 250 miles by 350 miles, an incredible 87,500 square miles.
Within the Desert Training Center, eleven camps were eventually established. The largest was Camp Young, named for an Indian Wars era general, Samuel B. M. Young. The others, in no particular order, included Camp Hyder, which was named for a nearby ghost town; Camp Horn; Camp Bouse, named for the now ghost town of Bouse, which in turn was named for George Bouse who started the town; Camp Coxcomb, named for the Coxcomb Mountains (also known as the Granite Mountains); Camp Iron Mountain; Camp Granite; Camp Pilot Knob, all named for the geographical features of the same name; Camp Essex, named for a nearby Santa Fe station and later renamed Camp Clipper for the mountain nearby; and Camp Laguna. The final camp in this list was Camp Ibis, which was named for the Santa Fe station of Ibis, one of the alphabetically named stations on the Santa Fe.
Camp Ibis was the northernmost of the Desert Training Center camps. Most of the area designated for Ibis that was not already Federal land was acquired from the Southern Pacific and the State of California and was located in the Paiute Valley. The area for Ibis eventually reached 10,215.5 acres.
Units that trained at Ibis were the 4th Armored Division, under Major General John Woods, the 9th Armored Division, and the 11th Armored Division, under Major General John Leonard. The camp was opened on November 8, 1942 and closed on April 30, 1944. There was an airfield at the camp headquarters, and according to one source it was built on Patton's orders. He wanted to test the concept of using light liaison aircraft to coordinate motorized infantry and armor on the battlefield. In the Corps of Engineers history of the camp, the airfield is not mentioned, a curious omission.
During World War II, the Army Air Corps, later Army Air Forces, used three standard liaison aircraft. These were the Taylorcraft L - 2, the Aeronca L - 3, and the Piper L - 4. All three were designated "Grasshopper" in military parlance, and were used extensively as forward observation craft. The idea of using aircraft to direct ground troop or armor movements was a new concept in World War II, and not readily accepted.
However, as part of the training at Camp Ibis, an emergency field in the small part of the Piute Valley in Nevada which was controlled by the camp was needed. Similarly to the field at the main Camp Ibis, records do not show the building date of the field, which was named Stage Field. Since the camp was only operational during the war from '42 to '44, however, we can extrapolate the origin of the field within those two years, probably closer to '42.
Patton, a pilot himself, often flew from one camp to another, as a way to easily traverse the huge training area. The small utlying airfield of Stage Field, today's Kidwell Field, may very well have seen him land, though we do not have any specific information of this.
In addition to the training done at the Desert Training Center, research was conducted into the needs of the soldier in desert maneuvers. It was found that men could sweat as much as 2 ½ gallons of water a day, and this needed to be replaced or the soldier was unable to fight the following day. Marching in desert conditions was limited to about 20 to 25 miles a day, though this could be improved by an additional 5 miles if water was replaced. Life in the training area was not considered pleasant by many of the over one million troops who trained here.
The training area was an important part of the United States effort to ready its troops for World War II combat. With changing battlefields, though, the area was not needed as 1944 progressed, and the camps were closed. With the closure of the entire California Arizona Maneuver Area in 1944, areas were declared surplus.
Camp Ibis, and the area it controlled, including the outlying Stage Field, were declared surplus on March 16, 1944. The area of the camp which had been acquired from the state of California or the Santa Fe Railroad was returned, and the rest reverted to the Bureau of Land Management. The area was checked for unexploded ordinance, and cleaned, but as with most training areas, it was not a completely safe area even so.
The camp had a last hoorah in May of 1964, when the California area of the camp was reopened for a major training exercise called Desert Strike. It was a single exercise, and the camp was not otherwise reopened. Interestingly, Desert Strike became the name of a 1996 series of cruise missile attacks on Iraq as well.
As late as 2004 another review of the area of California that had been Camp Ibis was conducted, and further ordinance was found. Further review of the camp site led to some areas in California being posted to warn visitors not to pick up unexploded ordinance. The area is still considered somewhat hazardous to those fools who want to pick up unexploded ordinance from World War II, and is marked to inform folks to not do so.
The Pittman Reclamation Act of 1919 and the creation of Cal-Nev-Ari
Key Pittman (9-19-1872 - 11-10-1940) was a United States Senator from Nevada from 1913 until his death in 1940. He had originally run against George Nixon in 1910, having, according to Senate lore, received the nomination as the result of a bet with prominent Democrats in Nevada on the Jim Jeffries-Jack Johnson prize fight in Reno. He lost to Nixon, but ran for the seat again upon Nixon's death in 1912 and won. His long service provided him with a platform to direct many pieces of legislation through the Senate, including the Pittman Act of 1918, which authorized the federal government to convert 350,000,000 silver dollars into bullion, and buy a like amount of silver at $1.00 per ounce from domestic mines. This was well above the going rate for silver, and over the period 1920 - 1933, this was, in effect, a federal subsidy for sliver mining, and hence his home state.
As important as this Pittman Act was, there was another which affected the founding of Cal-Nev-Ari. This was the Pittman Reclamation Act of 1919, also known as the Pittman Underground Water Act. This act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to designate lands in Nevada where settlers could have the exclusive right to drill for water and try to grow crops. The Act retained the mineral rights for the federal government, though as late as 2004 a case relating to land obtained under this act was heard by the United States Supreme Court.
The question was whether sand and gravel counted as "valuable minerals," and involved the Bedroc, Ltd., Company. The case came through the Ninth Circuit, where it was held that sand and gravel constituted valuable mineral under the act. The Supreme Court, in hearing the case, decided they did not, and reversed the ruling.
According to the wording in the original act, its purpose was to "encourage the reclamation of certain arid lands in the State of Nevada." Under the act, a settler could file on up to 2560 acres with the exclusive right to drill for water for two years. If at the end of two years, the settler could show that at enough water resources had been found to irrigate and grow a crop on at least 20 acres, he or she could receive a patent to one quarter of the tract originally filed on.
Once the patent was granted, the other three quarters of the tract would be open for homesteading under the 1862 Homestead Act. Since the Homestead Act only provided for tracts of 160 acres, the 640 acres you would be granted was a significantly larger tract.
Key Pittman had been interested in providing a mechanism for prospective settlers to take up lands where water was not currently available, and using their own resources rather than the government's, provide water to make the land productive. He reserved any valuable minerals to the federal government because this was to be an agricultural effort, and, as he noted at the time, "it is the policy of Congress, as I see it, not to permit the acquisition of any character of minerals through any agricultural entry."
The success of Pittman's effort was immediate. Prospective landowners filed on over 50,000 acres of land in Clark County alone within the first six months of the act becoming law. By December 1920, 65 permits covering 167,700 acres were issued in one week. The Pittman Act was very important in the development of the State of Nevada.
The Act was in force throughout Nevada into the early 1960s. It was used by many to acquire land which would not have been available to the
public, land that is still in private hands. In a State where over 85% of the State is federally owned and controlled, this was an important option. With the end of World War II, the area around Stage Field had been declared surplus, and returned to the BLM. In 1965, it became the last filing made under the Pittman Reclamation Act of 1919 (it should be noted that the date also shows its value, as it provides an important means to identify a fine Clamper chapter which happens to cover this geographical area).
Everett G. "Slim" Kidwell and the founding of Cal-Nev-Ari
In 1965, "Slim" Kidwell was flying a Bellanca airplane from Minnesota to his fixed base operation at Torrance Airport in California. He noted an abandoned airstrip that he thought was probably in southern Nevada. After he got back to Torrance, he started checking and found out that not only was the airstrip in Nevada, it was available under the Pittman Reclamation Act for acquisition. Since the city of Torrance was planning to close the Torrance Airport in the future, "Slim" filed for the land with the airstrip he had found in Nevada.
Kidwell had a long history of running airports. He had been the lessee of the old Gardena Airport in 1939, and later the FBO (Fixed Base Operation) at the Torrance Airport. Among other sites, he also had one-quarter interest in the Yucca Valley Airport.
Kidwell, an experienced pilot and FAA licensed A & E Mechanic, was also involved in testing aircraft. In 1940, he was the test pilot for the first version of the Interstate S-1 "Cadet", a single engine, high wing monoplane developed for training Civilian Pilot Training Program pilots before World War II. The Civilian Pilot Training Program was a 1939 program to train pilots for the military before they entered the service. Sponsored by U. S. Senator Patrick McCarran from Nevada, it was intended to build up the pool of pilots, which would be necessary when the United States entered World War II.
Nancy Kidwell, nee' Majers, had learned to fly at the Kidwell Aviation Company at Torrance Field. She was working at North American Aviation when she left to work for a start-up company called Wing Aircraft Company, which was building a new airplane called the Derringer. When the prototype aircraft crashed during an unauthorized flight by the test pilot, the company's dreams went downhill. Nance was asked by "Slim" to come to work as Office Manager, which she accepted. They were eventually married.
After locating Stage Field in the Piute Valley in southern Nevada, "Slim" worked to acquire the necessary paperwork through the BLM. A new survey was required, since the last done of the area was in the 1880s, and was somewhat superficial. The survey was completed and after a few months he was granted permission to file on the land under the Pittman Reclamation Act. He and Nancy moved to the site to begin their new operations.
First a well had to be drilled, which came in at about 750'. The site for the well was decided in a meeting between "Slim" and Joe Weimer, the well driller from Searchlight. Joe asked where to dig, and "Slim" scratched an "X" on the ground at his feet saying, "Here." Proving somewhat prescient, water flowed strongly, and offset the need to bring water back to the site from the Colorado River, the closest source before the well. A second well was later completed which brought in water at 650'.
"Slim" and Nancy began life on the Cal-Nev-Ari site in a trailer "Slim" bought from a cattle ranch in Newcastle, Wyoming. With the new water came two issues, one longer term, and one short term. The longer-term issue was what to plant that would grow in the desert soil to as to show the necessary 20 acres of agriculture. After working with University of Nevada agronomists, it turned out that Aravit Barley would probably grow best, and it was ordered.
The short-term issue was that the new well had left a small lake on the property. Being that it was July in southern Nevada, and cattle still roamed freely in the valley, they located the newly formed pond and broke through the fence, helping themselves freely to the water. They ended up overindulging and becoming bloated; lying down all over the area the Kidwells were living. One even blocked the doorway, making it impossible to leave the trailer for a short time. Eventually the Kidwells were able to get out, and drove to Searchlight where they could get to a pay phone and call Carl Weikel, who owned the YKL Ranch and whose cattle were so rudely lying about the property. Carl showed up with a long pointed stick and began poking the cattle in their sides, causing the built-up gas to be expelled. After getting the cattle on their feet, he and his cowboys rounded them up and moved them out of the area. It was quite a difference from living on an airport.
The barley turned out to be the correct crop, and it grew quite well (at one point growing 4" in two weeks). After adventures with sprinkler systems and fence building, all of which was done by the Kidwells themselves, the BLM agreed that they had grown the required 20 acres of crops. They received title to their 640 acres in 1966, and began work on the community they had planned for the future.
Work began on cleaning up the old airstrip. Signs were put up to designate the "Three Corners Airport, Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada, "Slim" Kidwell, Owner/Mgr." and "Cal-Nev-Ari, Population 4, Watch Us Grow". The population at the time included a cat and a dog. A Service Station was built in 1967 to provide service to passing motorists, and plans for a mobile home park were drawn up and submitted to the County. With County approval, financing was the next big step.
Financing was difficult to obtain, but eventually a California lender financed the endeavor. The Mobile Home Park was begun, though not without problems. When concrete was ordered, union pickets appeared because one plumber working on the site was not a union member. Being in such a remote area, the Kidwells did not think this would be an issue, but it did cause some delays. Eventually, the concrete was poured, the pads created, and the Cal-Nev-Ari Mobile Home Park was open for business.
The new community grew slowly, but steadily. On March 16, 1978, the Cal-Nev-Ari Casino opened. Over the years housing has been added as Nancy Kidwell has opened new lands. After "Slim's" death, Nancy has continued to operate the community and airfield with her second husband "Ace."
The Fly-in concept for a community such as Cal-Nev-Ari first became popular after World War II, when many small plane builders thought the next wave of personal transportation would be small aircraft. While communities were built throughout the United States, many were in the desert southwest as land was available and the skies were amenable to flying most of the year.
Clark County Nevada is unusual for having two such communities. In addition to Cal-Nev-Ari there is one in the Sandy Valley on the border of California and Nevada north of Highway 15. It is the Sky Ranch Estates Airport and housing.
Cal-Nev-Ari continues in active service an airfield built during World War II as part of the United States effort to defeat aggressors throughout the world. It is also a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit in America, where a chance sighting from the air can lead through hard work and effort to the creation of a community which continues to grow in the southern Nevada desert. Where water was needed it was found, and today a community lives in the Paiute Valley.
And if there is any confusion about the name, the Kidwell's named the community for its geographical position near the point at which California, Nevada and Arizona touch.
What sayeth the brethren?
The "Desert Flyer" A Community Newspaper, Various issues, Nov. 2006 to present
Las Vegas Age, 11-29-1919; 2-28-1920; 12-4-1920
Barnes, Will C., Arizona Place Names, 1977, University of Arizona Press
Gudde, Erwin, California Place Names; A Geographical Dictionary, 1949, University of California Press
Israel, Fred L., Nevada's Key Pittman, 1963, University of Nebraska Press
Juptner, Joseph P., U. S. Civil Aircraft, Vol. 8, 1980, Aero Publishers
Lynch, John; Kennedy, John; and Wooley, Robert, Patton's Desert Training Center, 1982, Council on America's Military Past
Supreme Court of the United States, Brief for the Respondents in Opposition, Bedroc Limited, LLC, and Western Elite, Inc., vs. United States of America, Et Al., on Petition for a Writ of Certorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
California State Military Department "Historic California Posts," http://www.militarymuseum.org/CAMA.html
Abandoned and Little Known Airfield: California: Southeastern San Bernardino County http://www.airfields-freeman.com/CA/Airfields_CA_SanBernardino_SE.htm
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