Samuelson’s Rocks (Joshua Tree National Park)


 John Samuelson was an area ranch hand and miner in the mid-1920s at the Key’s Ranch. A citizen of Sweden, Samuelson claimed to have spent a majority of his life at sea.

In 1927, Samuelson decided to homestead his own piece of property in Lost Horse Valley, south of Quail Springs. He built his humble shack on top of a small hill, and mined his gold claims. In his spare time Samuelson carved eight political slogans, or rants rather, on the boulders near his home.

After waiting out a year, Samuelson filed for his homestead in 1928. Because of his Swedish citizenship, Samuelson was denied his claim. This prompted Samuelson to sell his mining claims, and relocate with his wife to the Los Angeles area. Samuelson killed two men at a dance hall in Compton a year later.


Samuelson’s Rocks – Joshua Tree National Park

Samuelson’s Rocks – Joshua Tree National Park


 Samuelson was arrested for the murders, but he never served time in prison. He was declared insane, and hospitalized at California’s State Hospital at Mendocino. He escaped a short time later.

In the 1950s, Samuelson resurfaced, working at a logging mill in Washington state. He died at the logging camp from an accident at the mill.

The house that Samuelson built-in Lost Horse Canyon burned down in the 1930s. The eight carved stones are all that remain of his time here. Interesting enough, the rants that he carved in stone 86 years ago are still relevant today.


Samuelson’s Rocks – Joshua Tree National Park

Samuelson’s Rocks – Joshua Tree National Park




About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

1 Comment

  • Hey Jim, did you ever get to hike out to what’s left of John Samuelson’s old cabin? It’s not that far from his philosophical rocks. Neat piece of history to visit if you haven’t already done so.

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