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A Frontier Spirit

Ezra M. Hamilton (February 22, 1833 - July 4, 1914) was a pioneer best known for his role in the development of Antelope Valley, California. In 1896 he discovered gold in Rosamond and began a successful mining operation that spurred growth in the area. He founded and developed the nearby town of Willow Springs. He was also an inventor, farmer and businessman, served on the Los Angeles City Council, volunteered in the Rogue River Wars, and served two years in the Union Army. He witnessed and recorded a vast number of events from his boyhood in the Illinois Wilderness to his California Heydays, and this site is a record of the historical connections to his life as told primarily through an 842-page biographic manuscript he wrote. Rich in important historical accounts as well as tall tales and reminisces of bygone ways of life, it is an inspiring testament to the frontier spirit he embodied. The manuscript is currently being transcribed and the full text will be available here. Also available will be an archive of photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews, genealogical information, and documentation of the inventions and buildings Ezra left behind.

Leonids Ezra was born in Brown County, Illinois in 1833, the year of "the falling stars." By his father's account, "They came down in torrents, some as drops of rain, lighting up the heavens as light as day...It seemed to him the world was coming to an end." This terrifying and widely witnessed event ignited the scientific study of meteors showers. The 1833 Leonids, as it was later named, is the most intense meteor storm on record.

Such fascinating events abound throughout Ezra's manuscript. He spent his boyhood in Illinois and worked a short time on a riverboat before heading West to seek his fortune in 1853. On his journey West he fell in love with a young woman, but they were prevented from marrying by Ezra's stubborn desire to first make his fortune prospecting in California. He never reveals her identity, but his life is shaped by their relationship: his expedition to visit her in Oregon brought him into the bloody Rogue River Indian Wars. Returning to California, Ezra floundered as a prospector and after seven years his lady friend married another. Devastated, he soon returned to the Midwest. He married Sarah Landson in 1861 and they lived in the Minneapolis area. In July, 1863 he enlisted in the Union Army and served two years. Returning home he worked in carpentry and farming, which led to his first patent for a peat pressing machine in 1867. Tragically, Sarah and their son Charles died that same year. Ezra soon married Harriet Moffett and they would eventually have four sons: Fred, Truman, Eugene and Lester. In 1875 the family moved to Los Angeles. In 1878 and again in 1883 he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. During this time Ezra went into the pottery business, and demand for clay at his East Los Angeles Pottery & Sewer Works was the impetus for acquiring a clay-rich hill on 80 acres near Rosamond. On that hill in 1896 Ezra made the strike that would make him wealthy. There he opened the Lida Mine (later known as Tropico) and with the initial proceeds purchased an additional 160 acres three miles West of the mine. The spot had long been an oasis in Antelope Valley (a watering hole for Indians and travelers) and Ezra would develop it into a resort town. He passed away in Willow Springs on July 4, 1914. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles alongside his wife Harriet and their son Eugene.


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