Early in the nineteenth century, Heart Bar Ranch was the name of a large southern California cattle business that operated from the San Bernardino Mountains, near Big Bear. Old Woman Springs became the winter headquarters and was transformed into a high desert oasis. Cattleman Albert Swarthout and right-hand man, Charlie Reche, improved the springs and planted alfalfa and an orchard. Twice a year the cattle were herded between the desert range surrounding Old Woman Springs and the summer pastures at Big Meadows in the mountains. These cattle drives, through rugged canyons and up and down steep mountain slopes, were perilous for both man and beast. Old Woman Springs Ranch quickly acquired a special place in the history of this part of the Mojave Desert. The story about how this frequently used water source was named in the 1850's when a surveying party led by Colonel Henry Washington encountered Native American women there is fairly well known. Today, the ranch is still visible from Old Woman Springs Road (State Route 247) to travelers on their way to Yucca Valley or Victorville. Swarthout first homesteaded at Old Woman Springs in 1907. He and his family lived there, off and on for almost forty years. During this time, their way of life began to change as the region became more settled. Martha Coutant's book, Heart Bar Ranch and Johnson Valley Neighbors, is a history of this period in California. In this book you will find the stories of the individuals, couples and families who came to visit or work and live in the Mojave Desert-cattlemen and cowboys, wives, children and homesteaders.