Antelope Valley Press - AV Living (Antelope Valley)

Death Valley Scotty

- WRITTEN BY Norma Gurba | Special to the Valley Press

Kentucky-born Walter Edward Perry Scott (18721954), more popularly known as Death Valley Scotty, was a true folk character — prospector, performer and swindler — who always courted publicity. And, of course he had some Antelope Valley connection­s.

As a young man, he ventured to Nevada to join two older brothers. Soon after, he found work as a water boy with a survey party, along the California-Nevada state line, part of which was close to Death Valley. Later, Scotty went to work with the Harmony Borax Works company.

An accomplish­ed horse rider, he also became a performer (rough-rider) for the famous Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. However, this was only seasonal work, so in his spare time, he would return to Death Valley and take on different jobs. Because of his constant associatio­n with the valley, he eventually earned his moniker “Death Valley Scotty.”

Following a disagreeme­nt with Buffalo Bill in 1902, Scotty became a gold prospector. He then fabricated some far-fetching tales about his claim in a remarkable gold mine in Death Valley. He was also able to convince several wealthy businessme­n to invest in his latest “scam.” Although Scotty never struck it rich, his fame grew along with his legendary spending sprees in California and Nevada.

He did, however, retain a lifelong friendship with Chicago insurance magnate Albert Johnson, who invested in Scotty’s

mine. Johnson also purchased property in Death Valley’s Grapevine Canyon and eventually built for almost $2 million, a 25-room Spanish-Moorish residence that became known as Scotty’s Castle — where Scotty resided — and part of the local folklore.

During his many travels to Los Angeles, Scotty, usually driving his big black Packard roadster, liked to stop at A.C. Jacobson’s Red and White Store on Sierra Highway in Rosamond. The store’s manager at this time (1930s) was AV pioneer and historian, the late Glen Settle. He told me how Scotty would purchase all the store’s delicious cakes and cookies to take back to his Native American friends in Death Valley. Glen, at this time, was married to Sue Miller. She and Scotty were both from the same Kentucky area, so during his visits, they held many long discussion­s regarding their former home.

Another Antelope Valley location Scotty would visit was Fred Fehrensen’s Palmdale Community Drug Store. An interestin­g side note about this store; Fred (1891-1975) bought it in April 1925 for $19,000 and was able to pay it off in only two months.

It was located on old Atlantic Street (present day northeast corner of Sierra Highway and East Avenue Q-9). It was a most popular gathering spot in the 1920s for the residents and different businesses. Fred also later owned drug stores in Lancaster and Mojave. In 1940, Fred sold his store to Bill and

The Rosamond Red and White Co-Op Grocery Store that Scotty would visit.

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