San Bernardino county’s largest sprawling range and grazing empire figures in the news this month with announcement that Cattleman Jim Stocker has sold his ranch and cattle to Thomas F. Hamilton doing business as Hamilton Ranch for a reported price of $250,000.
The former sheriff, one of the last of the cowboy law officers, deeded all of his ranch holdings to Hamilton, including 904 head of cattle, of which six are bulls. They all bear the famous Hip-O and IS brands, long associated with the cattle industry at Big Bear.
Stocker’s cattle roamed over an area stretching from his Big Bear ranch at Erwin Lake eastward to Pioneertown. More than 4000 acres were involved in the sale, some 2000 owned outright by Stocker and the remainder consisting of government grazing leases.
Way stations along the line of Stocker’s former holdings are a roll call of historic points in the county–Antelope valley, Smart’s ranch, China gardens, the Pipes, the Windmill and Reche’s Well.
This vast cattle domain was first established in 1868, when Gus Knight Sr. visited the valley and figured the lush meadows of the valley would be excellent for cattle ranching. Other names, synonymous with the growth of the cattle industry in the valley, include Gus Knight Jr., John Metcalf, Jim Smart, Frank Rathbun and the Talmadge Bros., tracing the Stocker cattle interests. The Shay Brothers and C. O. Barker also had vast ranch holdings here, which have been merged with the others Hitchcocks have had their cattle interests centered in Holcomb Valley and the Las Flores ranch in Lucerne and Apple Valley.
Winter range of the Stacker outfit a few years ago included open grazing lands in Morongo, Yucca and Joshua Tree areas, as well as The Pipes. But as the Joshua Tree Monument was established, cattle were forbidden open grazing there, and in recent years the phenomenal development of Morongo, Yucca and Joshua Tree more curtailment of winter grazing.
As a result the historic Hip-O trail over which cattle have been
driven from Big Beer t0 the desert and back each fall and spring was abandoned two years ago, and cattle are trucked to winter pasturage in Imperial Valley and Arizona. The old HiP-O trail now echoes to the roar of automobiles and jeeps, as it has been developed into a short route from Baldwin Lake past Rose Mine to Pioneertown.
Stocker is well-known throughout the county as well as at Big Bear, having been a deputy sheriff, undersheriff and then sheriff.
In ill health for the past few months, Stacker had virtually retired from active ranch life. He is now en route with his wife, Vera f0r a Vacation Will to Alaska.
Hamilton is adding St0cker‘s land to his own holdings in Lucerne Valley and east of Big Bear. The purchaser also owns a north shore estate at Lake Arrowhead and is widely recognized as an aircraft propeller designer.