Murray's Ranch:
Apple Valley's African-American Dude Ranch
Page 14
Decoration


THE LAST VESTIGES OF THE MURRAY RANCH

On one of her trips back East, Pearl's nephew Bill Lewis was in town. He told her that things were not going well in his life, so Pearl invited him, his wife Rose, and their three children out to the ranch. Pearl and Louis had a small house built for themselves and left the main ranch house to Bill and his family. "Now it was a group of city folk on the ranch for sure," Pearl said. She ordered a telephone and outside lights, and the place became more "city-like."

It pleased her when people drove by and pointed at the place, admiring what they had achieved. "So much is there -- the earth where food can be planted, the lovely sunsets, the air, and all that space to wander away and get with God."

Pearl's description is of a veritable desert Shangri-La, yet the Bellsons moved away, and the reason, according to John Barry, was that their paradise was overrun with parasites:

She told people down in Hollywood what a great place it was. She built a swimming pool there and a guest house and said "come up and see me," so they used to come up and see her so much that when she wasn't here they free-loaded her to death. She says she couldn't stand the free-loaders that came up from Hollywood, so she sold it.

In The Raw Pearl she did not seem to think the move was necessarily permanent: "We lived there for nine years, and one day will probably live there again."

Nolie and Callie's five-acre parcel was sold to William Freeman. In an informal interview in 2002, Freeman said he bought the property from the widow Murray in 1970 or 71; he was not exactly sure which year. He said he even got some of her furniture in the transaction, which he still possesses.


Guests leaving Murray's Ranch
Ebony Magazine photo, Feb. 1947
GUESTS WAVE GOODBYE AS THEY LEAVE MURRAY'S DUDE RANCH

Pearl came out to her ranch once in a while, and William talked to her on occasion, although he did not live on the property himself. He rented the Murrays' little cottages to airmen from George Air Force Base. He eventually sold the place, and in the 1980s it was converted into a weight-lifting gymnasium, operated by a powerlifter named Jay McVeigh. Pearl and Louis also disposed of their property.

In 1988 both properties were in the hands of a receiver. At some point the structures on the old Murray Ranch became infested with brown recluse spiders and someone was bitten. The owners of the property, according to Apple Valley Fire Captain Art Bishop, arranged with the Fire Department to have the old buildings, not worth salvaging by then, destroyed in a fire-training exercise. Now when one drives by, the only thing left is Pearl's hardy Arizona trees, and the once prominent ranch has slipped into obscurity.

Decoration END Decoration


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