Joel F. Hauser

Hauser Geode Beds Discovery

by Barbara Kimball Hauser

The name Joel F. Hauser is widely known among rock and gem collectors. He was active in the lapidary hobby over most of his life, as he started collecting and finishing rocks at a very early age, and is credited with the discovery of the Hauser Beds, the geode fields that bear his name.

This picture made the cover of Gem and Minerals magazine in January of 1954.

Joel was born in Blythe, California, in 1915, near the Colorado River. His father George operated a freight business there, and made weekly trips with his teams of horses and mules across the desert to carry freight from Blythe to the nearest railroad at Niland or Glamis. George later recalled that on those trips, far out among the desolate hills, he had noticed some strange and unusual formations. In certain places the hillsides and even the dirt track that served as a road were covered almost solidly with round, nodular rocks.

When Joel was still a young boy, the family moved to Redlands, where they found a cooler and kinder climate. Along with his younger sister and brother, Joel grew up in Redlands, attending the local schools. He graduated from the University of Redlands in 1935 at the age of 20.

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Joel soon started working and bought his own car, which enabled him to begin serious rock hunting and collecting. Joel’s father, George, happened on some agate geodes someone had given to his son, and was reminded of those interesting round rocks he had seen out on the desert, years before. Together, he and Joel found their way back to that place. Sure enough those strange formations were still there in abundance. They explored and gathered all they could carry of the peculiar knobby rocks.

 

At home, Joel cut the agate nodules on his mud saw. The very first one he cut turned out to be a specimen of exceptional beauty. Later, when he discovered the low percentage of really good agates this particular area produced, he appreciated his extraordinary good luck on this first cut. He polished this geode and displayed it. Even when his collection had become large and very selective, this specimen had a place in it.

 A glimpse of Joel Hauser's private museum.

When Joel discovered what a rich source of material he had found, he returned again and again to this area. The first experiences in these new fields were like a child’s dream of Candyland. Everywhere he looked or stepped, there seemed to be an unending supply of agates for the taking. The land was public domain, unclaimed, unsurveyed, and probably even unexplored. It was many miles from a railroad or highway. (By this time, the railroad had been built through Blythe, and the old track followed by Joel’s father was not maintained as a road.) This was in the early nineteen thirties, and at that time the lapidary hobby was in its infancy in this country. The few people who might pass this way would be unlikely to notice or have an interest in the peculiar agate formations.

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Joel took others with him into this paradise for rock collectors and as they wandered over the vast hills and gullies, new beds of nodules were discovered almost everywhere they went. Some concentrations were small and others were quite extensive. It became apparent that there were distinctive differences in agates from the various localities. Some geodes were lined with lovely amethyst crystals, or clear quartz. Some had striking stains of red coloring; others had yellow that contrasted with the more common blue, gray, white or black, which the majority of the agates showed. Some contained plume and sagenite, and many revealed lovely scenes and interesting markings when they were cut and polished. Some beds were predominantly solid, layered agate, until the rocks were cut open. For the collector, excitement and interest were at a high peak. Who could guess what the next cut might reveal?

On one of his collecting trips, Joel and his brother Howard met a pair of rockhounds from Imperial County, Dr. Warren Fox and Sam Payson. They camped together, and the next day Joel showed his new friends where he had found the geode beds. The men later shared this knowledge with others, telling them that Joel Hauser had shown them where to go. Thus the name of “Hauser” became permanently associated with the area.

 

For three or four years the supply of surface agates was plentiful, but as the number of collectors grew, all the material in sight was eventually carried off. After that it was discovered that many more agates and geodes were buried under the surface, and a little digging would produce a new harvest. As cars were driven over the fragile surface of the desert, they left easy-to-follow tracks for the next explorer. Diggings in the white ash that covered the geode beds were even more eye-catching. The white piles contrasting so sharply with the reddish-brown of the sun baked desert surface stood out on the bare, scrubby hillsides and could be seen for miles. They were like beacons, signaling others to come and dig some more. The rush was on, and in a few more years, the area seemed to have very little of the original surface remaining. The supply of agates buried here however, is seemingly endless.

Sometime during the early years of Joel’s rock-hunting in this area, aJoel Hauser around 1946 rumor was circulating, and came back to Joel’s ears. It seems a couple of fellows were overheard in a café in Blythe. The name Hauser came up relating to the diggings in the area. One fellow bragged to the other, “I’ve met that guy Hauser. He’s an old codger with a long gray beard.” Since Joel was actually in his 20s at the time, he was highly amused.

In 1937 Joel married his former schoolmate, Barbara Kimball, a native of Redlands whom he first met at a high school dance for “Scholarship Society” students. Joel worked at several jobs and furthered his education. In 1945, he was appointed by San Bernardino County to oversee work with their new IBM computer. This was the beginning of his professional career working with the developing field of computer usage in every facet of county government.

Joel and Barbara had four sons born during the 1940s. Life was filled with following and supporting numerous family activities, including serving many years as a Boy Scoutmaster. During this time Joel never faltered in his desire to build his rock collection into the very best he could, with the limited funds he could afford to put into it, and the competing demands on his time. He used his ingenuity and determination to make the most of every opportunity. The family visited dozens of rock-collecting areas in all the western states, and the boys acquired a wealth of knowledge of the wilds of the west. At home, countless evenings found Joel at work in his shop with his saws and polishers.

 The Hauser family at the Hauser Beds in the early 1950s.

Joel’s collection included a wide variety of beautiful stones that lent themselves to polishing and finishing. Although he appreciated crystals and stones that were attractive in themselves, he preferred to work on those which could be enhanced by his own efforts. He developed unique ways of finishing them, which, although they took extra time and effort, produced greater satisfaction in the end product. He worked with various mechanics to build saws and polishing equipment that could handle some of his outsized materials. Joel’s collection grew so large that it became difficult to find room to display it. Eventually he built a hillside home that provided a very large display room.

As word spread about the Hauser collection, many visitors came to view it. A number of organized groups in rock clubs and other hobbies, as well as many individuals from across the country and beyond came to visit.

 

In 1978, after working for 33 years for the county of San Bernardino, Joel decided to retire. He wanted to devote more time to travel, especially to those parts of the world where pretty rocks could be found. He also hoped to have time to work on the huge quantities of uncut rough material he had acquired over the years.

Unfortunately, soon after his retirement, Joel suffered a severe stroke. His dreams of how he had planned to spend his leisure time were shattered. He worked hard with all of his native determination to overcome the handicaps he now had to face. He did recover some ability to cope with his problems, but was never able to produce the superb handiwork in which he had formerly taken such pride. The beautiful display room was still filled with his treasures though, and for many more years, until his death in 1993,  Joel enjoyed sharing them with all the friends and admirers who kept coming to visit.

The road to the Hauser Beds as it looks today.

by Barbara Kimball Hauser

You can still find geodes and agate at the Hauser Beds.

How do you get there? Click Here for more information.

Want more places you can find geodes? Click Here

If you don't have time to look Click Here.

 

 

 
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