Who Is William S. Hart?

Charlotte Brown

As most of you know, our district is named  The William S. Hart district. He may sound like a random person, but William S. Hart actually has a rich legacy, intertwined with our city of Santa Clarita, specifically Newhal. William Surrey Hart (yes, that is his middle name) was a famous western movie actor, starring in over 80 movies in his time! Sadly, only around 40% of students know who he is, and those who do only vaguely know of him. A large misconception is that he is the founder of our school, but he goes far beyond that, he has heavily influenced our district, donated large sums of money to many organizations, and left us with many amazing movies.


Hart was born on December 6th, 1864 to Nicholas and Rosenna Hart, his loving parents. Nicholas Hart had a dream of creating a flower mill (exciting, I know) so he and his family moved all across the country to pursue this. Subsequently, William S. Hart lived a pioneer lifestyle, giving him heavy appreciation for the wild west, and Native Americans. Later, he was deeply fascinated by theater that he saw in his travels.


 He began acting in 1888, around his 20s. His first stage appearance was in Romeo and Juliet. For a very long time, he stuck with plays, and had many iconic roles in plays such as Man In The Iron Mask, which is what skyrocketed his fame. His first dip into the genre that he is most well known for, the western genre, was in 1905 when he starred in The Squaw Man. After this, he almost exclusively acted in western plays such as The Virginian (1907) and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. This truly made him the western star we know him as today. In 1913, Hart noticed the terrible and inaccurate ways life in the west was portrayed in Hollywood. So, he started acting in movies instead of plays. From there, as they say, the rest is history


Though he had a late start to movies, starting when he was 80 years old, his popularity quickly took off. In a few short years, he was a western hero. Hart has acted in a total of 87 movies in his life span, creating masterpieces such as “Tumbleweeds” a 1925 silent western film, “The Return of Draw Egan”, his best selling film of all time, and plenty more. He also made the famous movie “Two Gun Bill” which was the highest grossing western film of its time. During one of the heights in his career, he made 60 movies in an 11 year span! He made many characters that were more closely accurate to the real Wild West. While they may have been boring to the untrained eye, they were the closest thing to the west from Hart’s childhood. He drew the attention of many well known celebrities, including president Woodrow Wilson, who was president at the time. He even wrote his own autobiography titled “My Life East and West”. In 1925, he retired from acting and settled in our town Newhall. He has a large home called “La Loma de los Vientos”


On June 23rd, 1946, William S Hart peacefully passed away in Newhall. Other than his wonderful films, he left a great legacy of kindness, and determination. He gave much of his land and money to countless charities and organizations to further help his home of Newhall. After he donated so much to the local school district, it was named “The William S. Hart District”. In his testament, he wrote the famous words “When I was making pictures, the people gave me their nickels, dimes, and quarters. When I am gone, I want them to have my home.” With this, his 10,000 square foot Spanish colonial home became a museum, dedicated to his life. Legend has it that he and his sister, whom he moved in with, haunt his museum. People have heard strange noises, and even the scent of early morning coffee through some parts of the day. Even though his spirit doesn’t live on, the spirit he put into his movies and all the charity he did will live on.