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Lytle Creek Pioneer Mother Lived In Defiance Of Tragedy

Mourning Burnham Glenn

By

Nicholas R. Cataldo (2001)


Mourning Burnham Glenn

Few tales of courage are more compelling than the quiet, desperate battles often fought by pioneer mothers to help their families survive. Mourning Glenn was one of those brave women, rearing a family of 7 children and suffering the tragic deaths of three sons.

A Kentucky native, Mourning Burnham, was not quite 22 when she married Silas Glenn, who was a year older, in Missouri on June 15, 1836. After spending some time in Texas, they followed the Butterfield Trail to Southern California initially living in El Monte.


Silas Glenn, Sr., and his wife, Morning Glenn. Silas is wearing what appears to be a GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] medal.  Mourning Glenn came to Lytle Creek Canyon in 1865, settling on the old Wixom Ranch
(Photographer unknown, from the Collection of William D. Champion, courtesy of Virginia R. Harshman) Canyon in 1865, settling on the old Wixom Ranch

Around 1865, the Glenns settled on 20 acres of land in the Cajon Pass. Meanwhile, one of their four sons, Jeremiah (Jerry) became acquainted with W.W. Maxey, who owned some property over the mountain ridge near the headwaters of Lytle Creek.

Within a year or so, Silas and his boys bought out Maxey and, eventually, just about all of the lush green bench where the North Fork makes its first bend. Leaving their Cajon Pass property to son-in-law and daughter, James and Ellen Applewhite, the Glenns made their new home in Lytle Creek Canyon.


This family group portrait shows Silas S. and Mourning Dove Glenn with their daughter and son-in-law, Ruth Ellen and James M. Applewhite and their two children. It must have been taken between 1867 and 1870, to allow time for the births of the children after the Applewhite marriage in 1863 and Ellen's appearance in the 1870 census with only one child. As "Ollie" was born in 1864-65 it is apparent that he is the older child.  The second child died in infancy.
(Photographer unknown, from the Collection of Theodore Harper, Jr., courtesy of Virginia R. Harshman)

"Mother" Glenn, as she was affectionately known, was proud of her new home. Surrounded by abundant fruit orchards and enchanting meadow pastures, the Glenn Ranch soon became the garden spot of the canyon. Then tragedy struck.

In August of 1878, Mrs. Glenn was summoned by telegram that her husband, who had been spending time in Tehachapi with Jeremiah, was gravely ill. She brought her paralyzed husband back to San Bernardino, where he died in a hospital on September 13.

Grief stricken, shortly after returning to home more bad news came her way. In November 15 of the same year, Jeremiah was killed in a gunfight with Guadalupe Estrada over business and personal affairs. No doubt, the boiling point in the matter surfaced when Jerry's wife ran off with Estrada's brother. A heated argument led to gun play. Both men fired and both died.

According to Virginia R. Harshman in her book entitled, The Story of Lytle Creek Canyon, the aging widow wasn't getting a whole lot of support in running the ranch from her kids. She may have even taken in boarders to support herself, perhaps offering nursing to consumptives who hoped for a cure in the mountain air.

Sons, John and Silas, Jr., had no desire to help out on the place and left the Glenn Ranch for the small town of Bloomington. The desperate family matriarch then turned to her son-in-law and daughter, James and Ellen Applewhite, for help. The Applewhites, who were living in the desert mining town of Calico, answered her plea and took over the management of the ranch in 1890. Much to the delight of the family's matriarch, the Glenn Ranch soon evolved into a popular mountain retreat with travelers from as far away as Los Angeles. But peace on the home front would not last long.

The Glenn boys, although no longer living at the ranch, still considered it their property. Bitter personality problems and believing that the Applewhites were nothing more than moochers led to a wild family feud on June 24, 1893.

On that day, the Glenn boys [John and Silas Jr.] stormed up to the ranch bent on killing their brother-in-law [James Applewhite] and cousin [Ollie]. The blazing climax, however, found the two brothers [on the ground, one of them dead, shot in the head by a pistol and the other, hit by a shotgun blast, died [two days later]. An inquest held later that month exonerated the Applewhites, (who were a bit quicker on the draw) for shooting in self-defense.

After suffering through one too many tragic moments, Mother Glenn left the Glenn Ranch to live for a while in Kern County. She returned to her Lytle Creek home in 1903 under the care of Ellen Applewhite and died in San Bernardino in December 1905, at the age of 91. 

Click here for the full account of the Glenn-Applewhite Feud

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