Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flora Haines Loughead - Mother of Lockheed Corporation

[Loughead gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Flora Haines Loughead (1855-1943) was born in Wisconsin to John Penly and Mary Haines. Loughead was a woman ahead of her time. She was a journalist, married three times, had five children by two husbands, worked her own mining claims, farmed thirty-five acres, wrote many articles, short stories and more than a dozen books. Today, she is probably best remembered as the “Mother of Lockheed Corporation.”

Her first marriage to architect Charles E. Aponnyi ended in divorce after years of physical abuse. The marriage yielded three children, May Hope, Victor Rudolph and John Haines, who died as an infant. In 1886 she married John Loughead (pronounced Lockheed), who adopted the children. Loughead was of Scots-Irish descent, the name indicating that his family lived at the head of a lake. John and Flora had two sons, Malcolm and Allan. Her third husband was David A. Gutierrez, of whom little is known.

In 1902, Flora moved the children, without her husband, to a thirty-five-acre ranch near Alma, California where she raised grapes, prunes and other fruits.

At the turn of the century, making a living on a ranch of this size was difficult, so she began writing feature articles for the San Francisco Chronicle and Sunset magazine. She also embarked on a successful book-writing career, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her novels included The Man Who Was Guilty, The Black Curtain, and The Abandoned Claim--the last one a children's book featuring a girl heroine named "Hope" after her daughter. She also wrote two standard library reference works, The Libraries of California and The Dictionary of Given Names. She had a scientific as well as a domestic bent, writing The Natural Sciences and Quick Cooking, the latter dedicated to "busy housewives."

In 1912, her sons Allan and Malcolm Loughead founded the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company. This company was renamed the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company and located in Santa Barbara, California. In 1926, following the failure of Loughead, Allan Loughead formed the Lockheed Aircraft Company (the spelling was changed to match its phonetic pronunciation) in Hollywood, California. In 1929 Lockheed sold out to Detroit Aircraft Corporation.

In her eighties, Flora returned to mining and she prospected for opals in mines near the Nevada-California border. Living alone, , she supplemented her income by sealing as many as three dozen opals in small, half-round glass paperweights that sold in department stores for up to five dollars each.

This indomitable mother of an aviation family died on January 27, 1943, the apparent victim of heart failure.

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Christopher N. Wentzell said...

This woman was incredible and I wish that I would have been alive in her times to have met her. She engineered a tunnel dug from both sides of the hill at the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine in Virgin Valley, Nevada, to meet in the center and was only a few inches off perfect center. She selected the best ground in the area for gem opals and held 10 mining claim groups at one time. She was fiercely independent and an amazing woman. I am currently writing a history of her involvement with the opal mines in Virgin Valley, Nevada.

denloc said...

My name is Loch Ledford,Flora was my great grandmother and Hope May my grandmother.I was given the name Loch after the Lochkeed name when I was born in 1947. my dad was Allan, named after Floras son Allan and co founder of Lockheed aircraft along with Malcolm and Victor Lougheed. When Flora acquired the mining rights to Sunshine my grandfather on my dads side Leroy Ledford packed up his family my dad brother Oliver and sister Margret moved to the desert within walking or riding distance to the mine. My dad used to take us, my brothers, sisters and mom to the exact place where. He had lived when his dad worked the. Mine. it certainly was in the middle of now where. It near a dry creek bed where they had to dig for water, hunt for food. Hope actually shot coyotes for their. Furs and sold them. Their house was one room tarpapered.structure. Dad said freezing in winter. When we went out there in the early f if ties cellars they built and other stuff like wheels from Leroy's 1909 Pierce Arrow were still there. We did visit the mine several times and as kids loved fossicking for opal chips. The Hodson family ran it then. Next year mid 2013. I am going out there to place my dads ashes in the place he loved. My family moved to Hawaii in the fifties and I have lived in Australia for 40years. I have many stories my dad toldme plus a few photos of their home in Nevada. I have Floras original little hammer pick she used when prospecting along with many of her books and articles she wrote for the San Fran Chronicle where she got one. Of the first news stories after the 1906 earthquake. I hope others can make comments about this remarkable woman. Cheers. Loch.

John Church said...

Hiya Everybody. I now own the Swordfish Claim group (the old Green Fire Mine site) that she lived on and had guests visit in the Virgin Valley Opal Mining District in Humboldt County Nevada, She and Mr Guiterrez started mining here before moving on to the other places written up, most notably the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine about a half mile away from her mine. She fell in love with the high desert and the black precious opal from Nevada. She raised her boys here until she moved over to Cedarville, Or to be the school teacher there for her sons school years. She was known to walk everywhere opals had been found and had found new areas to mine while living here. One of her few friends she allowed to get close to her was Don Dietrich late of Lakeveiw OR who worked for the CCC as the blacksmith and made the hermetically sealed door for the Rainbow Ridge Mine still in place today. He was my mentor and entertained us for hours with stories of the old days in the mining district and his visits to and mining in her Green Fire Mine. (Written up by John Sinkakis in "Gemstones of North America"). He had jars of bright opals from her mine that was flooded by one of the regular desert flash floods commonly occurring in Sagebrush Creek on the Desert Corridor Trail. When her mine was flooded she moved uphill to the present location of Rainbow Ridge. The old homestead at the Green Fire Mine by the springs in Sagebrush Cr made from the native sandstone from here was transported block by block up the hill to be re-erected at the new mine site and is still standing today as the safe room in the middle of the current owners fathers home. Back then it was MC Cattle Company property before opals were mined. She befriended the wildlife and either fell or was kicked by a burro and had a near fatal injury. When she was taken to the hospital, the Fish and Wildlife Service razed her house and mine with a bulldozer to remove it as a place to go. I found the lost mine and reclaimed it as the Swordfish. I will always be in her debt for showing me that having a backbone and ideals is the only way to live ones life.

Unknown said...

Hi to anyone following this.
Flora is my great-grandmother. I am searching for the 20 something ounce opal she took from the area. She loaned it to the forerunner of the Smithsonian who promptly stole it from her. There was a rumor going round that last seen it was being used as a door-stop. It is distinctive in weight as well as having had one or two of the ends sawed off. I think they went into the paperweights they were making for extra cash. I have one of them that sure looks like a big piece of sawed off opal... I could be wrong as I am not a gemologist - in any event, I have her letters she sent to the museum asking for it back... She was stonewalled. Must be worth a fortune today.
Anyway, if anyone checks this I really want to "know" my great-grandmother better.
My dad spent summers working in that mine..
John Allan Lockheed, Jr.
Ashland, OR

Unknown said...

Hi all,
Flora was my great-grandmother. I am searching for the 20 something ounce opal she took from the area. She "loaned" it to a museum that later became part of the Smithsonian. It quickly disappeared, read "stolen". I have her letters asking for it back, and the responses she got back. Through different channels it seems that last seen it was being used as a door-stop.
It is distinctive not only by weight, but it also had one or two of the ends cut off. These went into the paperweights they used to make for extra cash and as presents. I have one with a big piece of sawed off opal in it. My sister thinks she saw it in a display in NY ( before she realized it might be the one I'm looking for).
Anyway, having more family around is great.
John Allan Lockheed Jr.
Ashland, OR

Chris Wentzell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.