History of Mining in the Halloran Hills, Shadow Mountains, and Silurian Hills

Larry M. Vredenburgh


The Halloran Hills, Shadow Mountains and Silurian Hills lie within an area circumscribed by Interstate 15 on the south, State Route 127 on the west, Kingston Wash on the north, and Clark Mountain on the east. As depicted by early maps, this area is devoid of mines, and there are no contemporary reports of mining activity before 1900. As early as the 1870s a road passed through here, running from Soda Lake via Halloran and Francis Springs, to the mining town of Ivanpah, northeast of Clark Mountain. The Solo or Reil Mining District, that was established February 18, 1889, embraces the portion of this area south of a line from Halloran Spring to the north end of Silver Lake. The Solo Mining District extended from the north end of Cronese Lake southwest to Crucero, northeast to Marl Spring, northwest to Halloran Spring, west to the northwest end of Silver Lake then southwest back to Cronese Lake. The mining district was established by miners working properties just a few miles due west of Baker. However there may have been mines near Halloran Spring at this early date. According to a 1908 account the Riggs mine was worked continuously from about 1875, the first discoveries in the Shadow Mountains were made in 1894, and turquoise was found about 6 miles northeast of Halloran Spring in 1896. Gold was discovered near Halloran Spring shortly later and by 1911 the talc mines east of Silver Lake were first worked.


Frank Riggs was born in Michigan in 1845. In 1875 he married Sarah and soon after made the first discovery in the Silurian Hills at the Alta Mine. They had four children. Riggs became somewhat a celebrity with his incredibly rich silver mine, and unorthodox method of shipping ore. A 1908 article by the American Mining Review reported, "When Riggs had found the first ore, instead of seeking to interest capital in his find, as most prospectors would have done, he decided that the mine should be owned by himself alone. The first shipment that Riggs sent out went to San Francisco and the returns enabled him to build a home at the mine, where he has lived since while working the property. Since then shipments have left the Riggs mine consigned to Selby's by express. These enabled Riggs to live well and improve his property." Prior to construction of the California Eastern Railroad in 1893 he brought the ore to Daggett for shipment, but with completion of the California Eastern he brought it to the railhead at Manvel. One 1904 shipment, which wasn't out of the ordinary, was noted by the Los Angeles Mining Review, "Mr. Frank Riggs shipped another small lot of specimen ore to the Selby Smelting and Lead Company, San Francisco, last week - about twelve sacks. The last lots ran something like $10,000 to the ton, and as this lot was again shipped by express it may be supposed that it was of about the same value. It is almost pure silver." To add to the mystique of the mine was his secrecy. The Redlands Citrograph in 1903 reported, "No living man today knows just what Riggs has. Parties who have been at his place have seen a shaft, and down this shaft there is a drift fitted by a heavy massive door. What lies behind this door is a mystery."

Sarah was a full partner in this enterprise. Her role and reward for this spartan life on the Mojave was well described as follows, "Together they do all the work. Their shipments are prepared with great care. After the ore has been mined it is carefully broken and sorted... Riggs and his wife lead a dual existence. About half the year they work their property, Mrs. Riggs working side by side with her husband. Then, after they have made a few shipments they travel. To paraphrase, [the] object is no money to them. They can enjoy their outings secure in the knowledge that the is more where the present comes from." Frank continued to mine here until the death of his wife on April 11, 1914, shortly after her seventieth birthday in February. She was buried in Michigan. Frank, six months younger than his wife was no youngster himself. In June he leased the mine to the Riggs Mining Company, that immediately began shipping ore via the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. It has been stated that before 1914 the mine had produced $100,000 in silver and by 1920 another $100,000 had been produced. The mine was active between 1939 and 1943 when a 1,700 foot crosscut was driven to intersect the vein, and a 1,500 foot tram was constructed.


In early 1894, there was a brief gold rush to the Shadow Mountains, as the Mining and Scientific Press reported, quoting the Vanderbilt Shaft, "Of all the mineral producing districts contiguous to Vanderbilt...none have attracted more attention in mining circles here during the last two months than the Shadow Mountain country." "...'Shadow Mountain,' says a prospector of that section, 'is the poor man's country, for the reason that there is rich rock from the grass roots down. The veins are large and the ore rich, and it is bound to be a good place. There are more men coming in every day now, and very few are going out. Everyone is doing well.'" The Redlands Citrograph noted that several deeds for mining property have been filed. In January, 1895, the Shadow Mountain Mining District is listed with new mining districts of San Bernardino County. However, just a year later the district is summed up by the California Mining Bureau, "The small size of the veins, some of which are faulted, the great distance from supply points, and scarcity of water, have retarded the development of the mines, and the district is practically deserted."

In February, 1895, Mr. Stewart, former owner of the store at Keystone, bought the 5-stamp Shadow Mountain mill, located at Valley Wells, and was soon to start milling ore from the Shadow mines. At the same time, Gus William and Pete Wagner were working their mine here, having shipped 10 tons the Campbell's mill at Vanderbilt. Thirteen years later in 1908, H. Amos Perkins purchased William's mine, and began working a force of 16 men sinking two shafts, and erecting a new mill at Valley Wells. After this report there is no way to correlate the properties which sporadically were mentioned here over the next 10 years. In 1910 E. William Johnson employed with the Golden Eagle Copper Company worked a mine here. Julian Douglas and his brother, natives of New York, had interest in the Black Beauty mine between 1911 and 1914, Julian's arrival in Cima in January 1914 received a note in the Barstow Printer. In May, 1913, Arthur and Scheff Henrie were working their mine, and began shipping small lots of high grade ore containing nearly 3 ounces of gold per ton and a little silver, copper and lead. About a year later the Barstow Printer mentioned Dan Henrie's son Kenneth, had recently come from Salt Lake City "en route to Shadow Mt. where he expects to work their gold mine." D. F. Hewett indicates this mine, known as the Henry or Dan Henry, was first worked as early as 1895.

By the late teens the mines of Shadow Mountains were consolidated by E.D. Foster. Foster located 22 claims, known the Glory Group or Foster Mine. But the original mine names also were used including the Dan Henrie, Gold Hill, Grey Copper, and also the Foster Mine - a copper mine situated in the low hills that form the western part of Shadow Mountains. By 1926 there was a 250 foot adit at the Foster mine and two shafts, 60 and 80 feet deep. Prior to 1937 Foster drilled the property, only to discover the granitic gneiss host rock had been thrust faulted over unconsolidated clay and sand of middle Tertiary age. In the late teens 35 tons of ore was shipped from the Dan Henrie mine, which by 1926 had a 750 foot long adit. The Gold Hill mine, a lead mine, was leased in the late 1930s to Marty Herbst of Los Angeles. A 600 foot deep well was sunk 2 miles from the mine - a 55 foot deep inclined shaft, and simple gravity concentrating mill was erected at the well. Foster died in 1946.


In 1905, G. F. Kunz described the discovery of turquoise in the Halloran Spring area: "Mr. T. C. Bassett had observed in this neighborhood a small hillock where the float rock was seamed and stained with blue. On digging down a few feet, he found a vein of turquoise - a white talcose material inclosing nodules and small masses of the mineral, which at a depth of 20 feet showed fine gem color. Two aboriginal stone hammers were met with, as usual at all the turquoise localities in the southwest, and from this circumstance the location was named the Stone Hammer mine." The first claim, the Gem, was located May 20, 1896, one mile due west of Solomons Knob. Three addition claims were located adjacent to the Gem, August 9, 1896. Reports of these ancient turquoise mines reached San Francisco, and an exploring party was organized by the San Francisco Call, newspaper, with Gustav Eisen, an archeologist from the California Academy of Sciences accompanying the party. They departed in March, 1898 going via rail to Manvel, then to the prospects.

Early operations are vague. In April, 1898 the Mining and Scientific Press noted the greater part had been shipped to Amsterdam, with the largest piece weighing 210 carats. Due to the soft rock, all work was done with pick and shovel. Eventually two companies acquired the mines. One company, the Toltec Mining Company, headed by J.B. Wood of New York purchased three groups of claims in October, 1898. The claim groups were located one mile due west of Solomon's Knob, on Turquoise Mountain and about one and one-half miles due west of Turquoise Mountain. They were known as East Camp, Middle Camp and West Camp. At East Camp, a well was sunk and a boarding house and frame house were constructed. The other company, known as the Himalaya Mining Company, was headed by Lippman Tannenbaum and Benedict Lederer. The Himalaya Claim, located August 7, 1899, adjoined the Toltec Company's claims at West Camp on the south. Tannenbaum purchased four claims in this group in March, 1901. An office/boarding house was located on the millsite claim in the wash just south of the Himalaya Claim. At this same time Woods patented Halloran Spring and Francis Spring as millsite claims.

The turquoise from these operations was shipped to New York. In 1900, an estimated $28,000 worth of turquoise was shipped. In 1904 it was reported, "The Tannenbaum turquoise camp locally known as the Himalaya group..closed last week after a run of seven months. Julius Goldsmidt, the manager and Martin Keane, superintendent started for New York today." There is no mention of mining at these deposits after 1904.


The first evidence of gold mining in the Halloran Spring area is provided by a 1902 miners' map of the desert. This map shows "Hyten's" at the site of James Hyten's Wanderer Mine, and the "Mammoth" just southeast of Halloran Spring.

James Hyten, a resident of San Bernardino, continued to work the mine throughout the years, occasionally leasing it out. By 1930 there were a number of shallow shafts, the deepest being 125 feet. There was also a 20 ton per day capacity mill. With revived interest in the district following the discovery of gold at the Telegraph Mine in 1930, the group of 15 claims were leased to American Hellenic Gold Mining Co., of Las Vegas.

The Telegraph Mine, was discovered November 9, 1930 by A. A. Brown and Ralph Brown of Salina, Utah. One sample showed free gold in calcite and quartz and assayed up to $800 per ton in gold, they returned to Utah and interested Vivian and Robert Burns, who located a large number of claims. O. Perry Riker, of Long Beach, California leased the property from December 1932 to 1935. During this period, 220 tons of ore was milled and milled at the mill at Yucca Grove, three miles northeast of the mine. Also, 990 tons of ore was shipped for smelting. Total production was $35,200. The mine was idle in 1943 and by 1953 all equipment had been removed.


Ten miles northeast of Silver Lake a two-mile long discontinuous outcrop of talc schist has been mined at six locations. The Amos brothers of Silver Lake, made the first shipment of talc from their mine in 1911. At this time G. E. Gould located claims here as did M. E. Stearns who organized the Western White Talc Company. In 1918 Gould sold two claims to the Robert W. Glendenning of the Pacific Coast Talc Company. The Pacific Coast Talc Company built a mill in Los Angeles. The original shaft, known as the Gould, was sunk at a point high on the most extensive talc exposure. In 1925 the shaft was intersected by the Gould tunnel driven east on the talc-bearing zone. By 1934 additional working had been developed. By 1935 85,000 tons of talc had been produced. The Sierra Talc Company purchased the holdings of Pacific Coast Talc Company in 1941, and by 1953 an additional 90,000 tons of talc had been mined.


Hewett, D. F., 1956, Geology of the Ivanpah Quadrangle, California and Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 275.

Mallery, J.C. and Ward J.W., 1877, New Map of the Territory of Arizona, Southern California and parts of Nevada, Utah and Sonora (San Francisco: Britton, Rey and Co.)

Mendenhall, W. C., 1909, Some Desert Watering Places in Southeastern California and southwestern Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 224. p. 56;

Tucker, W. B., 1921, Los Angeles Field Division, San Bernardino County: California Division of Mines Report 17.

Tucker, W. B., 1931, Los Angeles Field Division, San Bernardino County: California Division of Mines Vol. 27, No. 3.

Tucker, W. B., 1943, Los Angeles Field Division, Mineral Resources of San Bernardino County: California Division of Mines Vol. 39, No. 4.

Wright, L. A., Stewart, R. M., Gay, T. E. Jr., Hazenbush, G. C., 1953, Mines and mineral deposits of San Bernardino County, California: California Division of Mines Vol. 49, Nos. 1 & 2.


Barstow Printer: Dec 12, 1910; Feb 3, Apr 28, Aug 4, Sep 1, Sep 22, Oct 6, Oct 27, Dec 1, 1911; Jan 12, Feb 9, Feb 16, 1912; Apr 17, Jun 19, Dec 11, 1914;

Los Angeles Mining Review
: Dec 26, 1903; Apr 30, 1904 p. 8, Apr 18, 1908, p. 15; Jun 26, 1909 p. 20;

Redlands Citrograph: Jun 20, 1903


Redlands Citrograph: May 19, 1894, Feb 22, 1908;

Mining and Scientific Press
: Mar 17, 1894, p. 173; Feb 9, p. 90; Apr 6, 1895, p. 218.

Crawford, J.J., 1896, California Mining Bureau Report 13, p. 328;

Barstow Printer
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Hewett (1956, p. 120, 135)


Strong, M.F. "Mohave Desert Turquoise," Desert Vol. 40, No. 4, p. 32-35 [April, 1977]

Hilton, John W., 1938, "Turquoise on the Mojave," Desert [Sept, 1938] pp. 31-32

Lawbaugh, A. LaVielle, 1951, "Where Turquoise Was Mined by the Ancients," Desert Vol. 14, No. 10, pp. 9-12 [Aug, 1951]

Kunz, G.F., 1905, Gems, jewelers' materials, and ornamental stones of California: California Mining Bureau Bulletin, 37, pp. 107-109

Casebier, D.G., 1988, Guide to the East Mojave Heritage Trail, Ivanpah to Rocky Ridge (Tales of the Mojave Road Publishing Co.: Norco, CA.) pp. 185-191

Los Angeles Mining Review
: Feb 6, 1904, p. 3

Mining and Scientific Press
: Apr 16, 1898, p. 422; Oct 28, 1899, p. 49

Engineering and Mining Journal
: Mar 23, 1901, p. 368.

United States Mineral Surveys 3749, 3892, 3899A, 3899B, 3899, 3991A, 3991B, 3993A, 3993B.


Crossman, J.H., 1889, San Bernardino County, California Mining Bureau Report 9, p. 222-223.

Crowell, A. Russell, 1903, Miners' map of Death Valley the Mojave, Amargosa and Nevada Deserts showing proposed railroads also, elevations, trails, roads, springs, wells, mines, mining camps and mining districts, never before published.

Barstow Printer
: Feb 3, Jun 2, Jun 30, Aug 4, Sep 1, Dec 22, 1911; Jan 12, Jan 19, Feb 2, 1912; Jan 3, 1913, Apr 17, 1914;

Los Angeles Mining Review
: Mar, 19, 1904 p. 9;

American Mining Review
: Jun 26, 1909 p. 20;

Tucker, 1931, p. 320 - 333; Tucker, 1943, p. 462.

Ito, Tomo and George J. Morgan, 1980, The Telegraph gold mine, Halloran Springs Quadrange, San Bernardino County, California, in D.L. Fife and A. R. Brown, eds., Geology and Mineral Wealth of the California Desert, South Coast Geological Society, pp. 336-338.


Wright, L. E., 1953, Geology of the Silver Lake Talc Deposits, San Bernardino County, California: California Division of Mines Special Report 38, 30 p.;

Barstow Printer
: Apr 28, 1911.

This paper was published as:

Vredenburgh, Larry M., 1996, History of Mining in the Halloran Hills, Shadow Mountains, ans Silurian Hills, in Robert E. Reynolds and Jennifer Reynolds eds. Punctuated Chaos, in the Northeastern Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly Vol. 43 nos. 1 and 2, pp. 135-138.

For an excellent treatment of Frank Riggs and mines in the Silurian Hills consult:

Duffield-Stoll, Anne Q. 1996, Mines and Miners of the Silurian Valley, in Robert E. Reynolds and Jennifer Reynolds eds. Punctuated Chaos, in the Northeastern Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly Vol. 43 nos. 1 and 2 pp. 139-142