Pendleton's early years revisited
By Lance Cpl. Derrick K. Irions
| Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | December 21, 2012
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Like opening a time capsule buried many years ago, parts of Camp Pendleton's history were revealed through the words of the first official base director of natural resources.
William Duncan Taylor recalled past experiences and memories about the preservation of land, wildlife and ecosystems during his 27-year tenure beginning in 1948. He was invited here to provide historical facts to the base historian during an interview.
“Mr. Taylor's memories are important because they give us past context for the present state of our base,” said Faye Jonason, the historian here, who conducted the interview.
The 100-year-old man with a seemingly endless memory told stories of an earlier Pendleton, some dating back to the base's founding days.
In 1948, six years after the base had been established, a young Taylor unknowingly created the position he would later hold; this coming after he was asked to develop a detailed job description for Pendleton’s first grazing and farming manager.
Taylor said his experience with range management and farming policies made him the prime candidate for the complex natural-resources position. He accepted the job and moved his family to Pendleton.
"I had to make my own rules," he said, referring to the difficult task of caring for more than 35,000 sheep and 150 cattle for which he was made responsible.
During his incumbency, Taylor was in charge of leasing land to local farmers and the conservation of livestock occupying Pendleton's mountainous regions, meadows and grasslands.
"I was responsible for the bison," Taylor said. "I got a call one day from the mammal curator down at the (San Diego) zoo. We were friends and he said, 'Hey Bill, we've got a bunch of bison that we don't know what to do with. Is there any way you suppose you could handle a few of them?'”
After getting approval to relocate the bison to Pendleton from Maj. Gen. Herman Poggemeyer, the commanding general of the base at that time, Taylor arranged for the bison to be released in Case Springs, a Camp Pendleton area where more than 100 bison roam today.
Taylor went on to work with local organizations on projects like the nearby Interstate 5 freeway development and registering the Santa Margarita Y Las Flores Ranch House here as a national historic landmark.
“Under his guidance and direction, Camp Pendleton established the Natural Resources Department and led to the Base becoming a recognized leader in the region for its preservation of its resources,” said Jonason.
Taylor said he remembers Pendleton's early days as if they happened yesterday. A recent tour of the base brought him back through the hills and back to areas that once served as farm lands but are now communities used to house Marines and their family members.
“He came to Camp Pendleton early enough in its history to successfully establish procedures that have preserved much of the original landscape,” said Jonason. “It was the good fortune of the base that he was knowledgeable enough to see what was needed and put the needed programs in place. His knowledge about soils and water prevented unnecessary erosions and preserved some of our existing water resources.”