A Brief Sketch of the Mining History of the Western Mojave Desert
and Southern Sierra Nevada (1991)
By Larry M. Vredenburgh
MINING IN THE ANTELOPE VALLEY AND
WESTERN MOJAVE DESERT
THE FIRST GOLD DISCOVERY IN CALIFORNIA
ANTELOPE AND DEATH VALLEYS
RAVENNA, SOLEDAD, ACTON, MOUNT
BORATES AND TRONA
EL PASO MOUNTAINS
MINING IN THE SOUTHERN SIERRA NEVADA
PETERSBURG - GREENHORN CREEK
KERNVILLE - COVE DISTRICT
MINING IN THE TEHACHAPI MOUNTAINS
Note: For more information on this area follow this link.
THE FIRST GOLD DISCOVERY IN CALIFORNIA (Not Really!)
Though often referred to as the first discovery of gold in California (be sure to read Wordon's article HERE as well), the 1842 discovery of gold in the creeks and washes north of the Mission San Fernando near the present location of Santa Clarita postdates the initial discovery by some 61 years (see my article HERE). The Placerita Canyon State and County Parks commemorate the gold discovery made by Francisco Lopez, Domingo Bermudez and Manuel Cota. Placer mining eventually was conducted throughout the area, the canyons which were worked include Santa Feliciano (or Felicia), Palomas, Haskell, Mint, Texas, San Francisquito and Pico. On March 9, 1842, Lopez, Bermudez and Cota found gold in Placerita Canyon at the eastern boundary of Rancho San Francisco while pulling wild onions for a after-siesta snack. This discovery sparked California's first gold rush.
Immediately after, on April 4, 1842, Lopez petitioned Governor Alvarado at Santa Barbara for mining title to the land. However, the site was within the Rancho, and title was not granted. The first gold produced was sent by Lopez to the Governor, who had it fashioned into earrings for his wife. Ygnacio Del Valle, owner of the Rancho, was required by the city council of the Pueblo of Los Angeles to request authority to collect charges for the miner's use of his firewood, water and forage. He received that authority on May 3rd.
In June, Del Valle reported that due to a shortage of water the number of miners had dropped to 50 from 100, but most miners were making more than a dollar a day. Over $60,000 was extracted in 1842 and 1843, some gold being shipped to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. The diggings were actively worked at least until 1845, however, Mojave Indian raiders are reported to have driven miners from the canyon.
With the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill and the excitement of the Kern River rush in 1855, the area attracted new interest.
The placer mining activity was dependent primarily on rainfall; it suffered during drought and expanded during floods, not only from the increased water in rivers and creeks, but from landslides which exposed unworked gravels. Elaborate attempts to construct water ditches were made and limited attempts at hydraulic mining were also made but failed due to lack of water. In 1875, with completion of the Southern Pacific, Chinese laborers fanned out to work the deposits. Dry placer mining was first conducted around the turn-of-the century. Intermittent mining was conducted up through the turn-of the century and during the 1930s.
Gold Mining at Castaic and northeast
Francisco Lopez, co-discoverer of gold at Placerita Canyon, is also credited with discovery of gold in Santa Feliciano Canyon, a branch of Piru Creek and a tributary of the Santa Clara River, situated about 12 miles northwest of Newhall. This location may have even eclipsed the Placerita Canyon diggings, for it is referred to as "the great center of activity" shortly after its discovery in 1843. In 1854 Francisco Garcia reportedly made an end-of-season clean-up of $65,000. Mining drifted eastward down Palomas Canyon and regarded Jose Espinosa with a $1,900 nugget found at the junction of Palomas and Sheep Creek Canyons in the early 1850s. The area became known as the Las Palomas Mining District. W. M. Jenkins who settled here around 1862, was very active in mining in the area. The Mining and Scientific Press on October 1, 1881 reported that Jenkins was planning to construct a 14 mile water ditch from Sespe and Adanis Creeks to the Santa Feliciana placer mines at the cost of $100,000. This same reference gave an exaggerated production of the mines at $6 million. The fate of these plans is unknown.
THE ANTELOPE VALLEY - THE DEATH VALLEY CONNECTION
Gold seekers seemed to be continuously passing through the Antelope Valley on their way somewhere else. Perhaps the most noted gold seekers, were the members of the Bennett-Arcan wagon train which entered Death Valley during the winter of 1849-1850 searching for a short cut to California's gold fields. William Lewis Manly and John Haney Rogers hiked 270 miles from Death Valley to Rancho San Francisco to find horses and food for the nearly starving party stranded in the valley. Eventually the single men, Rogers and Manly led Asabel and Sarah Bennett with their children George, Melissa and Martha; and John and Abigail Arcan and their son Charlie out of Death Valley. The party crossed the El Paso Mountains through Last Chance Canyon, continued south through today's site of California City, east of Rosamond Dry Lake, then down Soledad Canyon. They arrived at Rancho San Francisco March 7, 1850.
During the Kern River rush of 1854-1855 gold seekers from Los Angeles continued north through San Francisquito Canyon, Willow Springs and Tehachapi. A few years later in 1860 men rushed to the placer diggings at Monoville just north of Mono Lake.
However, the silver mines at Cerro Gordo and Coso (Darwin) in Inyo County were to have an important impact on the Antelope Valley. Discovered in 1865, the first wagon of silver bullion arrived in Los Angeles in June 1868 for shipment to San Francisco. Regular shipment began arriving in December 1868. By the summer of 1872 the Southern Pacific had extended rails down the San Joaquin Valley to Tipton 50 miles north of Bakersfield. Julius Chester, the leading citizen of Bakersfield had secured the contract for hauling bullion, after James Brady had failed to keep up with the output of the smelters. Although recently improved, the mountain road was no match for rains during the winter of 1872-1873. Numerous other misfortunes befell Chester, and unable to complete the contract, the business returned to Nadeau who had the contract before Brady. Remi Nadeau, along with mine owners Victor Beaudry and Mortimer Belshaw established the Cerro Gordo Freighting Company. The mine owners extensively improved the road. Eventually eighty teams of three wagons each pulled by sixteen mules hauled bars of silver bullion from the smelter at the shore of Owens Lake to the port at San Pedro. Each round trip took eight to nine weeks. Between Cerro Gordo and Los Angeles a dozen stations were established at regular intervals, a day's haul which varied from 13 to 20 miles. Through the Antelope Valley the Stations were at Forks of the Road, Willow Springs, Cow Holes, Barrel Springs, and through Soledad Canyon there were stations at Mill Station and Mud Springs.
This arrangement continued until April 1875 when Nadeau shifted the bullion route over Tehachapi pass to join the newly constructed railroad at Caliente. In late July 1875 rails finally reached Mojave, four miles south of the bullion station Forks of the Road. In no time the railroad was delivering passenger cars loaded with passengers who transferred into Concord coaches bound for Los Angeles or Lone Pine. The teams of bullion, not only from Cerro Gordo but also from Panamint and Darwin (Coso) soon were connected here The Bonanza King Mine located far out in the east Mojave Desert had it's mill delivered in July 1882 from Mojave.
BORATES AND TRONA
It's ironic that the largest borate mine in the world today is just a stone's throw from the terminus of the famed Death Valley borax wagon route.
Cottonball borax was discovered in Death Valley in 1881 by Aaron and Rosie Winters, who promptly sold the claims for the astronomical price of $20,000 to William T. Coleman. Coleman between 1883 and 1890 hauled some 20 million ponds of borax, 165 miles from Death Valley to the nearest railhead - Mojave. This was all hauled by teams of 20 mules in large wagons which themselves weighed nearly four tons with a water tank weighing almost five tons. In 1889 operations moved to underground mines in the east Calico Mountains and moved again in 1907 to Death Valley Junction. In 1913 Dr. John Suckow was drilling a water well on his homestead thirty miles east of Mojave when he struck colemanite-borax ore. The Pacific Coast Borax Company then operating near Death Valley Junction acquired the property and began sinking drill holes to explore the extent of the borax mineralization. The ore body, it was determined, covered hundreds of acres. A mine shaft was sunk and production began in 1927. Thirty years later in January 1956 modern open pit mining methods began.
Ten years prior to commencement of borax operation in Death Valley, John and Dennis Searles began recovering borax from the dry lake that now bears their name. The Searles first explored the area in 1862 during the gold rush to the Coso and Slate Ranges. In 1872 John saw F. M. "Borax" Smith's operation at Teel's Marsh , Nevada. This visit reminded him of the crystals covering the lake bed tucked in between the Slate and Argus Ranges. John and Dennis hurried back, staked mining claims and began producing borax. In 1873 they produced some $200,000 worth, all hauled by mule 250 miles to San Pedro through the Antelope Valley. By 1876 the Southern Pacific reached Mojave but that still left 80 miles to be spanned by mule team. The operation continuously operated until 1898 when it was purchased by Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Company. He shut down the operation to reduce the supply and raise the price of borax. In September 1913, construction of the Trona railroad was begun by the American Trona Corporation from Searles Station. The Southern Pacific had constructed a line to the Owens Valley in 1907-1910. The refining plant at Trona was completed in 1916. Today North American Chemical company produces potash, borax, soda ash, sodium sulfate, boric acid and trona and salt. Products form these chemicals include fertilizer and kraft paper.
At the turn-of the century borates were mined in two additional localities in the general vicinity.
Prior to 1898 prospectors had known of a "calcite" occurrence west of Frazier Mountain in northern Ventura County. One prospector, named McLaren, who had settled in the area, recognized colemanite specimens on display in Los Angeles in 1898 as identical with "calcite" he had seen while prospecting. At once he set out with a party of friends to locate claims.
McLaren's discovery evolved into the Frazier mine, which soon began production. A second important mine, the Columbus, was located shortly afterward, and began production in 1902. Stauffer Chemical Company and Thomas Thorkildsen and Company purchased most of the stock and began hauling high-grade, hand-sorted ore by teams to the railroad at Lancaster, where it was shipped by rail to refining plants in Chicago and San Francisco. About 100 tons a month was produced. By 1902, ore was hauled by traction engine to the railroad in Bakersfield. Production ceased at both mines in 1907 with a drop in the price of boric acid. The Russell Mine, situated between the Frazier and Columbus, was active briefly during 1912-1914. The 1910-1911 Ventura County Directory listed 14 men associated with the mines, 7 ranchers, 3 farmers, a teacher, a Forest Ranger who also worked as the county clerk, a postmaster, and a Chinese Cook, Jee Wow. The postoffice was known as Stauffer, however the maps show the settlement as Giffin.
In November 1907 colemanite was
discovered about 10 miles northeast of Newhall, five miles north of Lang
in Tick Canyon. The claims, were purchased by the Sterling Borax
Company. Work began immediately and by 1908 shipments had been made to
refineries in San Francisco, Chicago and New Bighton, Pennsylvania. The
ore was shipped unrefined, although a calcining plant was constructed
within a couple years of commencement of operations. By 1913 a rail line
from the mines and ore bins were constructed at Lang. By 1918, the
deposit was nearly exhausted, and by 1922 all remaining reserves were
removed. The plant was dismantled in 1926.
PETERSBURG - GREENHORN CREEK
In 1851 gold was first discovered on Greenhorn Creek near the Kern River by a exploration party sent out by John C. Fremont. This discovery led to the first Kern River gold rush. Prospectors spread out finding rich placer gold yielding as much as $50 per pan and several lode deposits. The town of Petersburgh, an important overnight stop and supply point near the summit of Greenhorn Mountain overlooking Keyesville about 1858. By 1858 two 6-stamp mills, and three arrastras were operation; and in 1866 a 20-stamp steam powered mill was operating. Mining declined by 1890.
After discovery of placer gold in the Kern River in the spring of 1854 a stampede of miners began to the area. By January 1855 the area was swarming with miners. But, even before this rush, in 1852, Richard Keys a half-Cherokee '49er discovered lode gold. Soon afterward Captain Maltby discovered the nearby Mammoth mine. The first stamp mill was hauled though Visalia from San Francisco and erected on the river in 1856. In 1858 there were five water driven mills with 22 stamps. However, the floods of 1861 - 1862 destroyed them all. The town of Keyesville supported about 50 to 60 people and boasted eight houses, a saloon and crude hotel. A 20-stamp mill was erected in 1865 on the Kern River, but the mill proved inefficient and only ran a short time. Mines in Keyesville were idle until a 1897 revival. During this time a 5-stamp mill was erected at the Keyes mine and a 10-stamp mill at the Mammoth. Both mines were intermittently active until about World War II. The Keyes mine produced a total of $450,000, the Mammoth about $500,000.
KERNVILLE - COVE DISTRICT
In 1861 gold was discovered about 6 miles up-river from Keyesville by Lovely Rodgers when he picked up a rock, was impressed by its weight and found it full of gold. By tracing this float, he discovered the Big Blue vein located about two miles northeast of the present location of Wofford Heights. By 1863 the camp of Quartzburg was laid out. In 1864 the residents renamed the later camp Kernville.
After Rodgers' discovery, more than 20 claims were staked out and worked by individuals who easily recovered gold from high-grade, near-surface ore bodies. In 1868, Judge J. Warren Sumner consolidated several claims and successfully worked them. Senator John P. Jones of Nevada in 1875 - 1876 consolidated all the water and mining rights in the district. His company erected new mills, and Cornish pumps to dewater the Sumner Shaft. The mines were active until November 1883 when a fire raced through the underground workings burning the pumps and mine timbers. There were several attempts to reactivate the mines. A new mill was erected in 1934 and the Big Blue mine was continuously worked from 1936 to 1943. It is estimated that mines of the Cove district yielded as much as $8 million in gold.
During the Kern River Rush of 1854, prospectors began to explore the creeks and streams surrounding the Tehachapi Valley. Gold was discovered in the mountains south of Tehachapi during this time. The gravels weren't as rich as some of those found along the Kern River, but $8 to $10 per day was an excellent wage back then. In the Spring of 1858 one rich pocket yielded four miners $100 in one day. Most of the placer mining was limited to Grizzly and Water Canyons. However, Peter Green, on Christmas day in 1856 found placer gold in Mormon Gulch just northeast of town.
In the 1870s John Hendrickson hydraulic mined a gravel deposit on the southside of Grizzly Canyon not far from Water Canyon. In 1933 this deposit was again mined. E. R. Pierce and others invested $30,000 digging ditches, a reservoir and lying pipes to again hydraulic the gravel. The Surprise Placer gold mine owned by Henry Seeger and located south of Tehachapi at the base of the Mountains (near the end of today's Tucker Road) was patented by the U.S. Government in 1893.
The Pine Tree mine located within the Grizzly Canyon watershed, was undoubtedly discovered by placer miners looking for the source of placer gold they were recovering. The California Mining Bureau in 1915 indicated that the mine was first worked in 1876. Mining Bureau geologist W. A. Goodyear in 1888 visited the mine and found it idle. About 1896 the mine was reactivated, at that time eight men were employed. Ore was milled in a Huntington mill, which resembles an arrastra. It was reactivated in 1907. By 1915 the mine had produced about $250,000 in gold. Tungsten was produced from the mine during 1942-1943.
The lime industry in Kern County began in 1877 with operation of a small kiln in Antelope Canyon. John Nordbo's operation here furnished lime for local use. On October 28 ,1878 the Summit Mining District was established encompassing the mountains surrounding Tehachapi. By 1888 there were 12 kilns in operation or under construction in the mountains surrounding Tehachapi. By 1894 lime was being shipped to points throughout Southern California.
The portland cement industry in Kern County began when the City of Los Angeles constructed the plant at Monolith in 1909 to manufacture cement for construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct. Initially limestone was mined from a quarry south of Tehachapi, east of Antelope Canyon, trammed down the mountain to a 5-mile long narrow-gauge railroad that brought the rock to the plant. After land title conflicts were resolved, limestone quarry operations moved to the deposit 2 miles northwest of the plant. The railroad was dismantled and re-routed to the new quarry. After completion of the aqueduct, the plant only operated intermittently until 1920. At that time the operation was acquired by the Monolith Portland Cement Company. It has been in continuous operation since that time.
In 1916 Jess Hicks discovered mercury ore while prospecting on John Cuddeback's land a short distance north of the Tehachapi Loop. Hicks approached John's brother Bill and they established a company to work the deposit. Reportedly, shortly after its opening December 1916, the mine was producing 150 pounds of mercury a day. The property was leased intermittently to other companies sine that time making improvements to the mill. The mine was active from 1916-20, 1929-31 and 1936 -40. It produced about $150,000 worth of mercury.
CLARAVILLE(aka THE MT. SINAI DISTRICT, TICKNOR BASIN, EAST PIUTE MTS.)
Placer gold was discovered in Ticknor Basin, high in the Piute Mountains, by a party of prospectors in June 1861. But easily worked lodes paying as much as $300 per ton attracted attention. By 1864 the camp of Kelsoe began to take shape. Later the camp's name was changed to Claraville in honor of the first white girl born in the camp: Clara Munckton. By 1867 Claraville consisted of about twelve houses, a store, blacksmith shop and hotel. By June 1869 the community was deserted.
Activity of the St. John mine, discovered in 1860, began to draw attention by mid 1867. The town of Sageland situated about 4 miles to the north served this mine, as well as the Burning Moscow situated 5 miles west of Sageland, the Gold Hill situated on Gold Peak 4 miles south, and the Esperanza about 3 miles southwest of the St. John. The St. John was the leading mine of the district, and the first to install a mill. A 12-stamp mill was erected at Tunnel Springs October 1867. The Gold Hill mining Company moved a 10-stamp mill from Havilah to the same location, beginning operation May 1868.
During this time the camp consisted of a boarding house, hotel and bar, two saloons and a store. There was stage service to Havilah, Kernville and Los Angeles.
Although the St John and Gold Hill mills were idle in the fall of 1868, at the same time owners of the Esperanza mine moved the Wolfskill 5-stamp mill from Caliente (Agua Caliente) to the mine in March 1869. It was operated at least until May 1869.
The St. John was briefly revived between 1872 and 1875, and again briefly in the thirties. Shortly after the turn of the century the old tailings were treated with cyanide to recover gold. About $700,000 in gold was produced at the mine.
RAVENNA, SOLEDAD, ACTON, MOUNT GLEASON
Discovery of an incredibly rich copper deposit in 1861 at a location about one-half mile south of Acton railroad station lead to a mining boom promoted by Manuela Ravenna. Ravenna of Los Angeles, incorporated the Soledad Mining Company. The influx of prospectors led to lode gold discoveries. The Mexicans who worked these mines kept their existence quiet for a while but in 1862 a gold rush began. A number of mining companies were organized to work the mines but by summer 1863 only a few remained. Mining languished until 1868. During late 1868 for the next year the population again swelled perhaps to as many as 300 men. A dozen or more arrastras were working. More significantly some men with mining experience and connections became interested in the District. There were three main mines, the Eureka, Saratoga, and a mine owned by Polk and Kable. A five stamp mill was erected by Polk and Kable by November 1868 and enlarged to 10 stamps by May 1869. It treated ore primarily from George Gleason and George Clark's Eureka mine which boasted a 5 stamp mill erected in November 1868. This mill was moved in April, 1874 to the new mines in Panamint.
This activity, centered about 6 miles south of Acton on the north slope of Mount Gleason, briefly revived in 1890. In the meantime mining activity shifted to an area about 4 miles northwest of Acton. Activity began around 1877 at the Red Rover and New York (Governor) mines. A rich vein was discovered in 1892 at the Red Rover. This mine operated intermittently until 1940 and produced about $550,000 in gold. The New York mine first worked in the 1880s was operated between 1895 and 1932 by Henry Gage the governor of California. In 1932 Francis Gage, Henry's son reopened it and renamed it the Governor. The mine yielded more than $1.5 million in gold by its closure in 1942.
Soledad Mountain, Standard Hill, Middle Butte and Tropico hill, four small mountains situated between Mojave and Rosemond are the remnants of volcanic intrusions which have yielded about $23 million dollars worth of gold prior to World War II. The 1894 gold discovery by George Bowers on Standard Hill led to prospecting and other discoveries. On Soledad Mountain the Queen Esther was also discovered in 1894, the Elephant in 1896, and the Karma in 1896. On Tropico Hill Ezra Hamilton in 1896 discovered rich gold ore. In 1904 five mines were operating, The Queen Esther, Exposed Treasure, Karma, Echo and on Tropico Hill the Lida, later known as the Tropico. The Tropico had a 5 stamp mill, the others the equivalent of a 20 stamp mill or better. The Echo and Queen Esther both were idled about 1906. In 1916 the Exposed Treasure was sold in a sheriff's sale to satisfy claims for back wages.
The 1933 discovery of gold by George Holes on the Silver Queen vein adjacent to the Echo spurred renewed interest in the district. In 1934 gold was discovered on Middle Butte establishing the Cactus Queen mine as one of the premier producers in the district. Many old mines were reactivated during this time. The Tropico mine in addition custom milled ore from other mines. At one time receiving ore from over 160 other mines. The years 1934 to 1942 were the most productive for the district.
EL PASO MOUNTAINS
John Goller was one of the survivors of that ill-fated party of immigrants who tried to cross Death Valley in 1849. Goller and a partner came upon gold nuggets on their struggle across the desert to safety. After reaching Los Angeles and establishing a wagon shop, Goller periodically returned to the desert to search for his lost "mine." In 1893 when placer gold was discovered in the normally dry washes which drain the El Paso Mountains, not surprisingly the miners named one of them Goler Gulch after the famous long-lost "mine" of John Goller.
The first mining conducted in the El Paso Mountain took place on Laurel Mountain, just east of the El Paso Peaks. A mining camp named El Paso City was established near the mines, probably at El Paso Well, now known as Willow Spring Well. Lode gold, silver and copper ore was discovered here in the spring of 1863. A shipment of gold ore was made to San Francisco in April, 1863. Mining activity dwindled rapidly after August, 1864 when Mr. Yarborough, superintendent of the Yarborough Gold and Silver Mining Company, was murdered at Mesquite Springs, located south of the range. The Yarborough Gold and Silver Mining Company was developing the Manzanillo and Ophir claims located on Laurel Mountain.
During the winter of 1893-1894 placer gold was discovered in Goler Gulch, in the El Paso Mountains. Eventually nearly 3,000 acres was worked by dry washers. Within two years more than a half-million dollars worth of gold nuggets and dust were recovered. Several large nuggets, up to 57 ounces, were taken out. After the discovery of this district placer gold was discovered in Last Chance and Red Rock Canyons, in the El Paso Mountains, and in the Summit District just to the southeast. Placer gold mining in the El Paso Mountains continues today.
The gold discoveries in the El Paso Mountains in 1893 set off a series of new mineral discoveries which reverberated through the northwestern Mojave desert for nearly a decade. In the spring of 1895 three placer miners, Charles A. Burcham, John Singleton and Fred Mooers, who had been working the Summit Dry Diggings decided to try their luck at it one last time before giving up. They returned to a dry wash, in the Rand Mountains from which Mooers had panned some color a year earlier. While prospecting, Singleton, formerly a hard-rock miner, broke off a specimen of fabulously rich rock from which the Yellow Aster mine was born. Thinking of the success of mining in South Africa, called their claim the "Rand" and their tent city at the foot of the mountain "Rand Camp." As time went on, they decided to distinguish the name of their mine, calling it the Yellow Aster, after a pulp novel that Mooers was reading at the time.
Their discovery touched off a flood of prospectors. Prospectors fanned out over the hills, a tent town was thrown up - - the boom was on. By the end of 1895 there were thirteen buildings, most of them canvas. During the next year the population had swollen to 1,500.
Reduction of the ores from the Yellow Aster and other mines discovered in the Rand Mountains initially proved difficult due to the lack of available water. For this reason Garlock, situated at a location with an unusually high water table was the first site of ore reduction mills. In the Fall of 1895 an 8-stamp mill was moved from Tehachapi to Garlock, another was moved from Mt. Gleason near Acton. In early 1896 Charley Koehn erected a mill at Kane Springs. Eventually there were 4 mills at Garlock, one at Mesquite Spring and one at Kane Spring. But their usefulness was short-lived. One factor leading to the demise of the mills at Garlock was the Randsburg Railroad. The Railroad was completed to Johannesburg on January 5, 1898. A Short time later, in June 1898 a 50-stamp mill was completed in Barstow and rock was hauled from the Yellow Aster mine to the mill at Barstow. At this time the Yellow Aster Company had constructed a water pipe-line from Garlock to Randsburg and had a 30 stamp mill located at the mine operational February 1899. At this time the Barstow mill closed down. In March 1901 the Yellow Aster added a 100 stamp-mill to the existing 30 stamp battery.
But the years 1902-1903 proved to be especially difficult. Labor unrest first surfaced on October 1, 1902 during a short miner's strike, to protest the firing of some men. However on June 10, 1903 a strike spread from the Yellow Aster to eventually affect nearly every mine in the district. Prior to the strike 300 men were working in the mines, by September 1, when strike-breakers from Missouri began working at the Yellow Aster, only 35 were working. The workers were striking for a raise of 50 cents per day. The strike pitted the Randsburg Miners Union against the Desert Mine Operators Association created by John Singleton president of the Yellow Aster Mine. By October 1, two hundred men were again at work at the Yellow Aster, the mill having resumed operations September 23. Few of the former workers were rehired.
By 1904 there were 15 miles of underground workings at the Yellow Aster mine alone. At Johannesburg there were three 10-stamp mills.
Large scale mining continued until 1918, and was active in the 1930s and early 1940s. Fifteen other mines each produced over $100,000 in gold from the district, the Yellow Aster is credited with $12 million, the Butte $2 million and the Sunshine $1.06 million. Total estimated production up until 1940 is $40 million.
ATOLIA - TUNGSTEN MINING
During the labor strike of 1903 Charles Taylor and Tom McCarthy went prospecting and discovered the tungsten deposits 4 miles south of Johannesburg. Placer scheelite (calcium tungstate) had long bedeviled dry placer gold miners. Scheelite, being heavy was concentrated along with the gold.
On October 21, 1905 the Mining and Scientific Press noted that T. McCarthy and C. S. Taylor received returns from a carload of tungsten ore which they shipped to Germany recently. It netted $8,000 after paying freight and all other expenses."
In February 1906 E. B De Golia and a Mr. Atkins purchased Thomas McCarthy and M. C. Curran's claims for $114,000 with $27,000 cash down. Since September 1905 McCarthy and Curran had shipped three carloads of ore to Germany and sunk a shaft to 50 feet on a 3 foot wide vein. De Golia and Atkins organized the Papoose Mining Company. Initially De Golia and Atkins shipped the low-grade ore to the idle Barstow mill but by March 1907 they constructed the first tungsten mill, however water for the mill had to be hauled in railroad tank cars 45 miles from Hinkley. Up until this time hand sorting was the only concentrating method used. At this time the railroad constructed a spur and the place began to be called Atolia, a contraction of Atkins' and De Golia's names
On January 25, 1916 the mill was destroyed by fire, a loss of about $109,000 to the Atkins, Kroll and Company, but by March the mill had been reconstructed.
The heyday was the years 1916 to 1918 when Atolia boasted a payroll of out $60,000 per month. During that period nearly $10 million was produced. The mines at Atolia produced more tungsten than any other mine in the world during this period.
In 1916 the town of Atolia boasted four restaurants, three general stores, a drug store, two stationary stores, two shoemakers, one hotel, three rooming houses and several lodging tents, four pool rooms, four barber shops, an ice cream parlor, picture show, garage, three butcher shops, a newspaper, and new school house for 60 pupils.
Most of the production during World War I was from lode deposits. Minor tungsten continued to produced up until World War II. Beginning in April 1942, the Hoefling Brothers of Sacramento began preliminary sampling and mapping of the placer deposits. Production began in April 1943. The Atolia Tung-Sun Placer Mining Company began placer scheelite in Baltic Gulch in May 1942. (For more on Atolia go here)
RED MOUNTAIN - SILVER BONANZA
W. Hampton Williams and Jack Nosser prospected for some time on a grubstake furnished by Miss Edith Coons, Kern County Assessor, and John K. Kelly. Kelly had mined at Randsburg years before, but later served as Kern County Sheriff for several terms. Nosser and Williams began sinking the K C N (K for Kelly, C for Coons and N for Nosser) shaft situated north of Atolia, on the hill between Randsburg and the soon to be established town of Red Mountain, with Nosser doing most of the mining, and until the shaft reached a depth of 40 feet Williams hand hoisted the broken rock. At that time they borrowed a small gasoline hoist from one of the nearby tungsten mines. After the tungsten boom had gone bust, Kelly received a letter from Los Angeles inquiring about hematite deposits suitable for paint pigment. On April 12, 1919, Kelly persuaded Williams and Nosser to go across the valley, east of the K C N claims and stake some claims that he thought might contain hematite.
After staking the claims Nosser headed back, ahead of Williams. On the side of a hill about a half mile east of the K C N claims and 30 feet from a well-traveled road Williams found Nosser sitting on a pile of rock evidently blasted loose by some prospector. Jack handed Williams a piece and wondered what it was. Williams at once recognized it as hornsilver. The samples they had sent to Los Angeles for assay returned 280 and 360 ounces of silver per ton. In addition, the samples contained about three ounces of gold per ton. It was found that the outcrop was situated on the Juanita claim of a Mr. McCormick, who had recently died. The claim was purchased from his son for $15,000. Work began of a block of ore measuring 22 by 18 feet and seventy feet deep. Every pound from this pit was shipped to the smelter. The mine that followed became known as the Kelly silver mine.
To encourage prospecting of the ground the company leased small blocks of claims. Edward T. Grady, who had worked with the owners since the beginning, took a lease and sank a shaft through 260 feet of barren schist. At that point Grady struck high-grade ore.
Production continued until 1929 when the price of silver dropped from $1 per ounce to as low as 28 cents. At that time the mine was sold. Total production is estimated at about $12 million.
SALT RECOVERY - KOEHN DRY LAKE
Between 1909 and 1913, sixty saline placer mining claims were located on Kohen Dry lake and subsequently leased to Thomas Thorkildsen and Thomas Rosenberger. The leases were transferred to the Consolidated Salt Company in March 1922, and in June 1933 they were transferred to the Long Beach Salt Company.
Between 1916 and 1918 an additional one hundred-eleven claims were located for the Fremont Salt Company. Each 20 acre claim was located by a different individual, signed up by the Fremont Salt Company's hired promoters. The promoters found people willing to sign mining claim location notices for the company and then lease their claim to the company for a period of 40 years. In the return the "locators" were to receive stock with par value of $5,000 or 5,000 shares at $1 per share. The promoters received $2.50 for each person they succeeded getting . In November 1927 these claims were transferred to the Long Beach Salt Company. Around 1945 the General Land Office began investigating the fraudulent location of these claims but never proceeded to contest.
Both the Fremont Salt Company and the Consolidated Salt Company recovered salt from Koehn Dry Lake. The Fremont Salt Company successful produced salt for about 3 years, with several carloads shipped to the Peacock Ice Cream Company of Bakersfield. About 1921 the Leslie Salt Company purchased the operation. As early as 1916 the Consolidated Salt Company had constructed a four-story mill, and had constructed a narrow-gauge railroad from the evaporation ponds to the mill. After the properties were acquired by the Long Beach Salt Company the Fremont plant was dismantled.
The Long Beach Salt Company had been actively recovering salt opposite Terminal Island between Wilmington and Long Beach from World War I until 1946, when oil field operations encroached on the evaporation ponds. At that time they moved their plant from Long Beach to Saltdale.
Finally, in July, 1933 the Long Beach Salt Company located an additional 36 placer mining claims, for potential gold values. Apparently the lakebed clays did contain some gold, and there was some prospecting for gold. However, in latter years the Long Beach Salt Company recovered salt from these claims. These 36 mining claims proved to be the downfall of the Long Beach Salt Company operations. For in 1920, Congress passed the Mineral Leasing Act, removing salt from the mining laws.
In 1971 the Bureau of Land Management began proceedings against the Long Beach Salt Company for producing salt, a leasable mineral, from mining claims. In 1975 the Interior Board of Land Appeals found in favor of the Bureau, and the operations ceased.
NEENACH MARBLE QUARRIES
On the southeast slope of the Tehachapi Mountains a prominent outcrop of marble was the site of two quarries. At one quarry situated on the east side of Pescado Creek, pink sugary marble was mines prior to 1900 and used in building construction in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Another quarry, located about 1,000 feet northeast of Cluff ranch was used for rip-rap during aqueduct construction.
PALMDALE GYPSUM MINING
Two companies produced gypsum from the Palmdale area, the Fire Pulp Plaster Company and the Alpine Plaster Company. The Alpine Plaster Company began mining gypsum in 1892, about a half mile southwest of Palmdale on the south side of Anaverde Valley. The deposit, encompassing about 240 acres, consisted of gypsite beds two to ten feet thick, mined by open cuts. The material was used for plaster of paris, wall-plaster, and as a soil amendment. Prior to 1901 the rock was shipped to Los Angeles where it was crushed, ground and calcined. After that time a plant was constructed in Palmdale. The Fire Pulp Plaster Company also operated a plant in mill in Palmdale. Operations were curtailed in 1915.
BISSELL MAGNESITE DEPOSIT
Magnesite, a mineral consisting of magnesium oxide, prior to the development of the process of extracting magnesium from seawater, was the primary source of refractory bricks for lining blast furnaces. Since 1945 most magnesium compounds have been recovered from seawater. The deposit located at Bissell siding about 10 miles southeast of Mojave was discovered in 1907 by B. M. Denison and others of Tehachapi. Operations began in 1910 with the sinking of a 100 foot shaft with 550 feet of drifts to mine the bedded deposit by underground methods. This proved too costly. In early 1914 the Rex Plaster Company employed twenty men and 12 teams of horses pulling scrapers to produce 45 tons per day. After stripping six feet of unconsolidated sand and gravel the magnesite layer was exposed and mined by hand. The deposit has been idle since 1923.
NEENACH AREA GOLD MINES
Gold was reportedly produced from the hills south of Neenach as early as 1899, but nothing more is known.
In 1903 the Los Angeles Mining Review published a detailed story about the Eldorado and Last Chance placer mining claims, situated about 14 miles west of Lancaster, probably a couple of miles northeast of Elizabeth Lake. This relatively large-scale operation utilized horse drawn scrapers to mine the gravel. Water from near-by springs fed the washing and screening plant, then the fine material was amalgamated in an Huntington mill. In spite of encouraging assays, nothing more is known regarding this operation.
In 1933 W. J. Rogers discovered high-grade lode gold south of Neenach. His discovery coincided with the rich gold strike at the Silver Queen mine near Mojave. Stories in the mining publications to link the two discoveries led to a small gold rush to the area. Many claims were staked and hundreds of prospect pits were dug. The Rogers and Gentry mine was the first developed and the most productive, yielding as much as $200,000 between 1935 and 1938. During 1934 The Mining Journal reported that ore was being shipped daily to the Burton Brothers mill. A recent 87 ton lot had yielded $7,285. Rogers, having staked most of the ground leased out claims to operators. The Russell and Myler lease, situated southeast of the Rogers and Gentry mine is credited with an excess of $50,000 in production.
According to a 1913 story the Cow Boy mine was discovered in the "early days" by Indians and yielded some of the richest gold bearing rock "ever shipped from the area." This story does not disagree with the November 12, 1921 Mining and Scientific Press account of the discovery of the Kelly silver mine at Red Mountain. W. Hampton Williams, or "Hamp," the man who recognized the hand specimen of hornsilver at Red Mountain is also credited with the discovery of the Cowboy mine. "Hamp" was said to have been half Piute Indian. As mentioned earlier, the Wolfskill 5-stamp mill was moved from Agua Caliente to the St. John mine in March 1869. Possibly the mill served the Cowboy mine.
However it wasn't until the 1890s with the discovery of rich silver ore at the Amalie Mine by C. Moore that the area drew attention. In March 1894 W. E. Rodgers of the Amalie Mining Company purchased the mine and began sinking shafts, driving drifts and before a year had passed erected a 20 ton per day mill. The ore carried silver chloride and free gold, and was reported to contain ruby silver and native silver. The gold and silver ore here as almost everywhere in the district, was combined with sulfide minerals. The most effective separation can only be accomplished by smelting. Therefore the ore had to be shipped to smelters for refining. In January 1895 the Amalie was the only active mine in the district, but within a year perhaps a dozen other mines were being worked. At the Amalie a boarding house, store, blacksmith shop, and barn had been erected. A Post Office had opened, and a stage to Caliente ran three times a week. But the mine soon fell into litigation and little more was heard until from the area until May 1900. At that time the Cow Boy Mine was shipping ore to smelters from the Zada and Gold Peak claims situated in Studhorse Canyon. The mine was worked steadily through 1906 employing from 12 to 40 men, and shipping 10 to 15 tons per day. A new mill was erected in July 1906 however its performance was disappointing. The Cow Boy reported to have produced about $100,000 prior to 1905, and $200,000 prior to 1913.
To the west of Studhorse Canyon, at the Zenda mine a mill was erected March 1906 which also treated rock from the Cow Boy mine dump. In March 1909 the Zenda erected a new mill and a new cyanide circuit was added in 1910. The Zenda was purchased in 1922, the new owners installed a 150 ton per day mill and within four years produced about $650,000 in gold and silver.
The Barbarossa mine situated about one mile northwest of the Amalie was active between 1903 and 1904 when 2,000 tons of ore was mined, and milled at the Amalie mill. Total production is estimated at $60,000. The Amalie is reported to have produced $600,000 in gold and silver.
The First Gold Discovery in California
Adams, 1988; Robinson 1973, Perkins, 1958
The Antelope Valley- The Death Valley Connection
Johnson and Johnson, 1987, Nadeau, 1965a, Likes and Day, 1973
Borates and Trona
Anonymous (1969); Myrick (1963); Belden and Walker (1962); Gay and Hoffman, 1954; Hildebrand, 1982.
Petersburg- Greenhorn Creek- Keyesville
Brown (1915), Hensher and Peskin (1980), Clark (1970), Gudde (1975); Nadeau, 1965b
Barras (1976), Troxel and Morton (1962), Goodyear (1888), Mining Reporter 8/7/07
Claraville - Sageland
Hensher (1980), Vredenburgh, Shumway, Hartill (1981), Mining and Scientific Press 10/12/1867, 10/19/1867, 2/8/1868, 5/9/1868, 5/23/1868, 10/10/1868, 5/22/1869,
Ravenna, Soledad, Acton, Mount Gleason
Mining and Scientific Press, Adams, 1988; Robinson, 1973; Perkins, 1958
Hensher, 1991; Miller, 1976; Troxel and Morton, 1962
El Paso Mountains
Wynn, 1949; Vredenburgh, 1982
Wynn, 1949; Myrick, 1963; Clark, 1970; Engineering and Mining Journal; Mining and Scientific Press; Hubbard, 1960; Greene, 1897; Kurutz, 1992
Atolia - Tungsten Mining
Huttl, 1943; Wright L. A., 1953, Muter, 1944
Red Mountain-Silver Bonanza
Clarke, 1953; Parsons, 1921, Wray, 1921 p. 783.
Salt Recovery - Koehn Dry Lake
Bureau of Land Management: Official Records file R4367; Troxel and Morton, 1962
Neenach Marble Quarries
Palmdale Gypsum Mining
Gay and Hoffman, 1954, p. 526, 670; Mining and Scientific Press June 8, 1901, Los Angeles Mining Review.
Bissell Magnesite Deposit
Bradley, 1925; Mojave Press 12/24/14, 12/17/15. 10/5/15, 2/4/10; Troxel and Morton, 1962, p. 237
Neenach Area Gold Mines
Gay and Hoffman, 1954 p. 467, The Mining Journal 4/15/1934 p. 12; Simpson, 1934
Engineering and Mining Journal,Mining and Scientific Press, Watts, 1892; Troxel and Morton, 1962
Anonymous, 1969, The Story of Borax, (U.S. Borax: Los Angeles) 48 p.
Adams, Meryl, 1988, Heritage Happenings, Our Pioneers in Acton, Agua Dulce, Antelope Valley and Elsewhere, U.S. A. (Kimberly Press)
Barras, Judy, 1976, The Long Road to Tehachapi (Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce) 231 p.
Belden, L. Burr, Walker Ardis Manly, 1962, Searles Lake Borax 1862-1962 (Death Valley '49ers) 38 p.
Bradley, Walter W., 1925, Magnesite in California: California Mining Bureau Bulletin 79.
Brown, G. Chester, 1915, Kern County, California Mining Bureau Report 14 p.45-97.
Clark, W. B., 1970, Gold Districts of California:California Division of Mines and Geology: Bulletin 193, 183 p.
Clarke, Dwight L, 1953, The Big Silver - California's Greatest Silver Mine, California Historical Society Quarterly, March 1953, Vol XXXII, No. 1, p. 1 - 41
Evans, James R., Vredenburgh, Larry M., 1982, Colemanite deposits near Stauffer, Ventura County, California in Geology and mineral wealth of the California Transverse Ranges: South Coast Geology Society Annual Symposium and Guidebook 10.
Gay, Thomas E., Hoffman Samuel R., 1954, Mines and mineral Deposits of Los Angeles County, California: California Division of Mines Report Vol 50 No. 3 and 4, p. 467-709
Goodyear W. A., 1888, Kern County, California Mining Bureau Vol. 8. p. 309-324.
Greene, Charles L., 1897, The California Rand a reminder of the days of '49, mining on the desert: Overland Monthly Vol 29. p. 546- 561.
Gudde, Erwin G., 1975, Gold Camps of California (University of California Press: Berkeley, CA) 467 p.
Hensher, Alan, 1991, Ghost Towns of the Mojave Desert (California Classics Books: Los Angeles, CA) 63 p.
Hensher, Alan and Jack Peskin, 1980, Ghost Towns of the Kern and Eastern Sierra, A concise Guide, (Alan Hensher: Los Angeles) 32 p.
Hildebrand, George E., 1982, Borax Pioneer, Francis Marion Smith, (Howell-North Books: La Jolla, CA) 318 p.
Hubbard, Paul B., 1960, Garlock Memories (Hubbard Printing: Ridgecrest)
Huttl, John B., 1943, Spud Patch Tungsten Placer Proves Commercial Venture: Engineering and Mining Journal Vol 144 No.12 (Dec. 1943) p. 94-96.
Johnson, Leroy and Jean, 1987, Escape from Death Valley, As told by William Lewis Manly and other '49ers (University of Nevada Press: Reno, Las Vegas) 213 p.
Kurutz, Gary F., 1992, A pictorial view of Randsburg's Yellow-Aster mine: California State Library Foundation Bulletin No. 39.
Likes, Robert C., Day, Glenn R., 1973, From this Mountain-Cerro Gordo (Sierra Media:Bishop, CA) 88 p.
Miller, Ronald Dean and Peggy Jean, 1976, Mines of the Mojave (La Siesta Press:Glendale,CA) 71 p.
Myrick, David F., 1963, Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California Vol. 2 (Howell-North Books: Berkeley, CA) p 455- 930..
Muter, A. F., 1944, Placer Scheelite: Mining Congress Journal (August, 1944) p. 36- 37.
Nadeau, Remi,1965a, City-Makers (Trans-Anglo Books: Los Angeles, CA) 168 p.
Nadeau, Remi, 1965b, Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California (Ward Ritche Press: Los Angeles) 278 p.
Parsons, Arthur B., 1921, The California Rand Silver Mine -I: Mining and Scientific Press October 12, 1921 p. 667-675.
Perkins Arthur B., 1958, Mining Camps of the Soledad, Part I, The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly Vol XL No. 2 p. 149-127
Robinson, John W., 1973, Mines of the San Gabriels (La Siesta Press:Glendale, CA) 72 p.
Simpson, Edward C., 1934, Geology and mineral deposits of the Elizabeth Lake Quadrangle, California Division of mines Vol 30 No. 4 p. 371-415.
Troxel, Bennie W., and Morton Paul K., 1962, Mines and mineral Resources of Kern County, California: California Division of Mines and Geology County Report 1, 370 p.
Tucker, W. B., 1920, Kern County: California Division of Mines, Vol. 17 p. 313.
Tucker, W. B., 1929, Kern County: California Division of Mines Vol. 25 p. 20-81.
Vredenburgh, Larry M., Shumway, Gary L., and Hartill Russell D., 1981, Desert Fever, (Living West:Canoga Park, CA) 323 p.
Vredenburgh, Larry M., 1982, Geology and Mineral Resources of the El Paso Mountains GEM Resource Area, California: U.S. Bureau of Land Management unpublished administrative report.
Watts, W. L.., 1892, Kern County: California Mining Bureau Report 11.
Wiese, John H., 1950, Geology and Mineral Resources of the Neenach Quadrangle, California: California Division of Mines Bulletin 153, 53 p.
Wray, John C., 1921, The Rand Silver Zone: Mining and Oil Bulletin Dec., 1921.
Wright, Lauren A., and others, 1953, Mines and Mineral Deposits of San Bernardino County, California: California Division of Mines Vol. 49 Nos. 1 and 2.
Wynn Marcia R., 1949, Desert Bonanza,
Story of Early Randsburg mojave Desert Mining Camp (M.W. Samelson:Culver
City, CA) 260 p.