Cronese vs. Coronise
Figuring out the origin of the Cronese Cat’s name has just about as many theories as a storybook feline has lives. It was believed the natural wonder is either named for early explorer and author Titus Fey Cronise or William H.V. Cronise. In 1870, both were officers of the Piute Mining Company. Early homesteader Elmo Proctor offered another theory. He said “cronese” was the corruption of the Paiute word for “wildcat” and refers to the hanging sand dune above the lake which resembles a resting cat.
Desert Magazine, August 1942
“The Cat on the Hill…Several years ago there were inquiries as to the origin of name Cronese (appearing on most maps as Cronise). I had heard that it was an Indian word meaning wildcat, and that the Indians so named it because of the cat’s image that sits on Cat mountain. But the Automobile club insists it was named after a scientist named Cronise, who wrote about the Mojave in 1880. I have talked with several old desert men who visited the valley in the ’60s and they say it was named Cronese then, which was 20 years before Mr. Cronise’s visit here. A short time ago I had a long visit with a Pahute Indian…I asked him to say “wildcat” in his language. He pronounced it CROdthESE. The dth [sound] is slurred and subdued so that it sounds like an “n,” but if you pronounce it “n” they will correct you. There is no doubt that the Pahutes saw the cat on the hill. (Signed) Elmo Proctor, Yermo, California.”
To complicate things even more, the community and station are spelled with an “e” (Cronese) but the spring, mountains, valley and lakes are spelled with an “i” (Cronise).
The Cronese Cat has other names too. Many know it as “Cat Mountain,” while the lower part is sometimes referred to as “Kitten Dune.” Mother Nature’s artwork looks like the back of a giant cat sitting on its haunches with its ears perked up, perhaps ever-vigilant for a giant mouse in the heart of the mountain.
According to Journal of Geology, “The source of sand is believed to be the adjacent Cronese Lake basins, but the volume of eolian sands in the area may indicate an additional source in the paleolake Mannix basin to the west. The most prominent of the dunes is the Cat Dune, a falling dune that fills a ravine between elevations of 370 and 670m on the east side of the Cronese Mountains. The dune is indurated and its surface is covered by a thin angular gravel talus. At the base of the main dune is a smaller talus-covered falling dune informally named the “Kitten Dune.” (Evans, 1961)
Elmo Proctor built Cronese Station in 1925. When the highway was rerouted in 1934, he moved his family and business two miles to Cronese Cove on the south side of Highway 91, 18 miles west of Baker. It was known as Proctor’s Station and Cafe. Elmo Proctor continued to own and operate it until the 1960s, when Interstate 15 was realigned.
Elmo Proctor’s father was Elon Chrysler Proctor. Nona Proctor was Elmo and Ella Mae Wright Proctor’s oldest daughter. She married Harry Weldon Rosenberg in 1927. Their son, Dr. Harry Rosenberg, wrote Life Along the T & T.
Elmo Proctor is Ethel Rook Messer’s grandfather. Ethel passed away on June 24, 2020. She was the beloved manager of Shoshone Museum whose heart and soul was local history and so much more. I’m honored to have called Ethel my friend.
The Cronise Mountain range is located in the east Mojave Desert, north of Interstate 15, southwest of the town of Baker, California, between Baker and Yermo at coordinates 35.113871°N 116.313909°W.
Citations and Recommended Resources
Mojave Desert Dictionary by Patricia A. Schoffstall, Mojave River Valley Museum, Barstow, California; Second Edition, published 2014.
Pilgrims in the Desert-The Early History of the East Mojave Desert and Baker, California Area; published by the Mojave River Valley Historical Association, 2005.
Journal of Geology 70: Falling and climbing sand dunes in the Cronese (“Cat”) Mountain area, San Bernardino County, California; by James R. Evans, January 1962. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/626798
Desert Magazine; 1942/8: https://archive.org/stream/Desert-Magazine-1942-08/Desert-Magazine-1942-08_djvu.txt
Report of an archaeological reconnaissance in the Mohave sink region by Rogers, Malcolm J., published by the San Diego Museum, 1929.
The Natural Wealth of California by Titus Fey Cronise, published in 1868.