Taj Majal of White Crosses
Special thanks to
for the info on The Desert Padre!
Introduction: In March 2006, Heidi sent me a link that detailed not only the accident, but also the life of Father J.J. Crowley. Seems Father JJ was a well-known and charismatic figure in his day. Fr. Crowley was known as the "Desert Padre". He was a naturalist, conservationist, movie producer, storyteller and first priest to celebrate mass on the summit of Mt. Whitney. He struggled to enhance the economic base of the Eastern Sierra in the 1930's, by promoting it as a tourist mecca while ministering to his parishoners. His initial parish covered 30,000 square miles. His northernmost church was in Bishop, 200 miles from its southern counterpart in Barstow, thereby giving his parish the distinction of being in the highest part of the United States (Mt. Whitney) and the lowest (Death Valley). In his first 16 months here he put over 50,000 miles on his model T which he kept ready for any emergency. He ranks at the top of the truly monumental characters of the Eastern Sierras and Owens Valley region. This is evident because despite the 66+ years since his death, his roadside monument continues to be maintained and decorated with fake flowers.
Road: Hwy 395 Northbound side, 1/2 miles south of the Hwy 178 Interchange
Location: 8 miles west of Inyokern, CA
Accident Details: While returning from a publicity trip to San Francisco in Sept. 1940, Fr. Crowley struck a steer that had wandered onto the highway. His car was forced into the path of an oncoming truck, and he was killed instantly.
Victim: Father J.J. Crowley
Date of Accident: September 1940
Inscription: "Father J.J. Crowley"
Description: Damn, white crosses like these make my tireless work worthwhile. This behemoth on the side of Hwy 395 pays tribute to a fallen priest named J.J. Crowley. This beautiful wrought iron cross stands on a multi-tiered earthen platform, and is surrounded by a garden of rock circles. Fake flowers lovingly decorate the cross and its base. The built-in vases could easily accommodate real flowers, but instead, red plastic flowers pay tribute. This cross is literally 6 feet high, and cannot be missed from the highway. If the cross was any bigger, Christ himself could take up residence on it! (Oh boy, here comes the hate mail!) A rock path leads to the monument, and one really gets the feeling that this is almost a sacred altar. Judging from the way this is constructed, I wouldn't be surprised if this cross was here 100 years from now...
Link to Article on "The Desert Padre": "Tales of The Desert Padre: Fr. John J. Crowley '15" from Holy Cross Magazine
More Images: Photo Two - Photo Three - Photo Four - Photo Five
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