Relics of Rattlesnake Canyon

by Van P. Wilkinson – Desert Magazine – July, 1971

Relics lure as many folks into California’s wilderness today as did the precious ores of the 1800s. To get a piece of the action then, the needs were demanding and basic: a weatherproof disposition, an impenetrable faith against stark wilderness, and an inventive craftiness to second-guess nature. Today, it’s a mite simpler: a topographical map, an off-road vehicle, and a slight case of frenzied persistence.

4x4 Rattlesnake Canyon

Rattlesnake Canyon

Rattlesnake Canyon is a handy one-day hunting ground for the slightly-morethan-motivated. Here, you’ll find noteworthy mining remains, a scattering of solder-top-age cans and purple glass, and many short 4WD excursions to seldom visited wild areas.

Historically, the San Bernardino Mountains were prospected and mined over a hundred years before the gold migration to the Mother Lode in 1849.

Indians and Spanish found in the San Bernardinos not only beauty and shelter, but trading commodities such as furs and minerals. Holcomb Valley gold, discovered in the early 1860s, created some new geographical problems peculiar to this northeasterly mountain location. The great Mojave Desert trough of Victor, Apple, Lucerne and Johnson valleys was closer than the southwesterly mountain slopes into the “civilized” basins of San Bernardino, Redlands and Riverside.

While selecting appropriate shipping routes from the Big Bear Lake vicinity, trailblazers and last-chance prospectors joined forces in the 1860s and began serious exploring and mapping of the
canyons east and north down to the desert flatlands.

Like all venturers, these men named areas as often by whim as by rationale. Rattlesnakes are common in high desert canyons leading into the mountains, and there are no less than three canyons and three springs in this region which still bear that viperous name. The Rose Mine
is located in another Rattlesnake Canyon (Burns Canyon to Pioneertown); the Balanced Rock Mine east of the Old Mormon Trail is located near another Rattlesnake Spring (between Apple Valley and Fawnskin).

Once used to haul ore from the wooden chute the old wagon road is now covered with weeds and shouts of the wagon masters are no longer heard.

By 1870, the Black Hawk and Silver Reef Mining Districts had been established just a few miles west of Old Woman Springs. It is safe to assume that the initial digs in our Rattlesnake Canyon were made between I860 and 1880. Generous samples of pre-automation cans and shallow
tunnels marked with hand-hewn primitiveness hint at this.

west toward the Bighorn Mountains (below) are seen the shaft, headframe
and tailings of the mining operation. Photos by Van P. Wilkinson

Getting into Rattlesnake Canyon today is not altogether simple. The westerly entrance, via Old Woman Springs, is through private property and prohibited. On Old Woman Springs Road toward Yucca Valley a set of telephone poles flanks the road on the north side. At one point about three miles east of Old Woman Springs there is a support pole on the south side of the road, where the asphalt curves. At this bend, where a taut cable crosses over the road, is the dirt road leading southwesterly into the Bighorn Mountains.

Gentle, dipping and dusty, this road covers some four miles across the alluvial fan toward the mouth of Rattlesnake Canyon. The trail narrows and winds near two private corrals at Two Hole
Spring. Then, abruptly, the road dives into the rocky, sandy wash of the canyon. From here to the major mining area (some five miles), it’s either high-clearance 2WD with non-slip differential or 4WD. Why? Because the tracks follow the granular riverbed and at times over breadbasket-sized boulders.

You’ll know you’re on the right path when you reach a cattle gate at the canyon mouth. A sign reads, “Close Gate.” Please do so—stray cattle yield lost revenue and irate ranchers.

Not more than 200 yards on up the southwesterly side of the canyon is Rattlesnake Spring, surrounded by a cattle shed and feed supplies. It was in this area that a couple of glaring bulls blocked the path of our truck while protecting a wary herd-Be careful.

The road dodges and cuts along the wide canyon floor for about two miles, narrow and sandy enough in many places to prohibit campers. Great banks of quartz sediment and loose conglomerate choke the canyon’s south side in a few places as the Bighorn Mountain slopes
begin to near the road. The northerly canyon banks show random mineral prospects and dune-buggy scars.

Mica, quartz-veined granite and schist are common ingredients along Rattlesnake Canyon’s steep sides. Multi-colored quartz specimens lay eroded in various sizes, good for rock gardens or the rock tumbler.

Ruins of a miner’s shack

Some three miles from the gate, the canyon walls move in and the road worsens. The tracks bend in several S’s; in this spot, rainfall or flooding would erase the path and trap a vehicle.

Then, the canyon widens at a gentle cluster of desert willows. Up the northeast canyon bank is a narrow 4WD trail leading to several shafts tunnels and collapsed out-buildings of the central
mining activity. One quarter of a mile further up the canyon, another, almost identical trail (but wider) leads in the same direction to a flattened prospector’s shack.

About one quarter of a mile along the canyon the road ends for all but the bravest with a very narrow 4WD vehicle; it is past this “road’s end” about 200 yards that a tunnel strikes west into the canyon wall. Here, in the tailings, is a collector’s “relic’in reward.”

The tailings of the 80-foot tunnel are small, but the abundance of undisturbed cans amidst the debris is amazing. Evidently, those who made it this far in the past were not after relics, just cattle or adventure.

However, the dumps and discards at the area of major activity have been partially investigated. The shafts were probably started in this region before 1900, but have been worked on and off since then—deepened and reinforced. The tunnels at this site are relatively new, and a nearby claim indicates that someone was still investing money in Rattlesnake Canyon as late as 1967.

A steep trail leads south from the flattened prospector’s shack, presumably paralleling the canyon trail to Mound Spring and the Rose Mine region. This is the direction from which explorers came in the 1860s. Another trail, marked on the map, heads southwesterly from
Rattlesnake Canyon up a subsidiary wash toward Granite Peak. Neither of these is for amateurs.

Whether you find in the Bighorn Mountains a chance to test your off-road navigation, or whether you find a relic to add to your collection, there’s one certainty: you’ll be bitten by the lure of Rattlesnake Canyon.



Burying John Lemoigne

John Lemoigne Arrives in Death Valley

The stark, simple beauty of Death Valley has often captured the imagination and the hearts of unwary visitors and held them in its spell for their lifetime. Such an unwitting victim of this desert magic was Jean Francois de Lamoignon, born in February 1857 at Lamoignon, France, and educated in England, Paris, and Germany as a mining engineer. As seems to be the case with all Death Valley folk heroes, controversy and irreconcilable discrepancies surround every aspect of his life in the region. Initial disagreement arises over the date of the tall, white-bearded, genial Frenchman’s arrival in the Death Valley region and the impetus behind his long journey. While some sources suggest that he served as a sailor before coming to America to work in the mines around Darwin in the early 1870s, it has been most commonly assumed that he arrived here around 1882 to 1884 at the behest of Isadore Daunet, who, hearing about the young mining student through mutual friends, suggested that he take over supervision of the new borax works in the southern part of the valley (Eagle Borax Works).

John Lemoigne about 1915

By the time Lemoigne arrived in this country, however, Daunet had taken his own life, depressed by the failure of both his business venture and his recent marriage.

Once in this country, and possibly forced to stay by a lack of money, Lemoigne quickly became Americanized and acculturated, dropping his aristocratic name and donning the garb and life-style of a Death Valley prospector, although never completely losing his distinctive aura of education and intellect. Reportedly meeting some Indians in the Cottonwood area of the Panamint Range and learning from them the location of a silver-lead mine at which they fashioned bullets for their muzzle-loaders, he filed on this property, known as the Bullet Mine, about 1882, although one source stated it was not located until 1887.

Lemoigne covered a lot of territory in his peregrinations throughout the California and Nevada mining districts, prospecting from Barstow, California, east toward Virginia City and Ely, Nevada, and west toward the high Sierra Nevadas. He seems to have had fairly good luck, for his name is connected with several claims in the Death Valley region alone: the Uncle Sam Lode in the Panamint Mining District, located 11 April 1880 (which, as mentioned, would seem to imply that Lemoigne did arrive prior to Daunet’s ill-fated borax venture); the Independence, located on 14 January 1884, and the Alaska, discovered on 24 January 1884, both in the Union Mining District; the Washington, Robespierre, and Lafayette, located 28 April 1885, in the Deep Spring Mining District; and the Egle and Union mines, two relocations on 3 January 1887, and the Bullion, Stare, Hop, and Ouray, discovered 4 February 1889 in the Furnace Creek Mining District. In early 1890 Lemoigne and Richard Decker were involved together in a chloriding operation at the Hemlock Mine near old Panamint City, though five years later he was working his lead mine and talking some of erecting a smelter for his ore near Keeler. By 1896 he had filed location notices for three quartz claims in Cottonwood Canyon.

Lemoigne Properties

It is rather difficult because of the variety of locations given to determine the exact extent of Lemoigne’s holdings. His lead mine, which remained active through the 1950s, was located in present-day Lemoigne Canyon. According to Crampton, Lemoigne’s silver prospect, complete with shack, was located north of Skidoo, and it was this property that actually supported him and paid his bills and grubstakes. This is at variance with Southworth’s assertion that “He [Lemoigne] was known to depend entirely upon his highgrade silver property in Lemoigne Canyon whenever ready funds ran low.” George Pipkin states that Lemoigne opened the “LeMoigne Silver Mine at the extreme north end of the Panamint Mountains in Cottonwood Canyon,” and also discovered lead “in what is known today as LeMoigne Canyon northwest of Emigrant Springs. LeMoigne’s silver mine could have been the ‘Lost Gunsight Lode’. . .” The 1896 location notices indicate that he did have property in Cottonwood Canyon, and, indeed, evidence of mining activity was found here in 1899 where

the ruins of an old log cabin stand near to where considerable work has been done in former years by some prospectors. A large pile of lead ore lies upon the dump. Cuts have been run and shafts sunk.

In 1897 Lemoigne’s property was mentioned as one incentive for construction of a transcontinental route from Kramer Station on the Santa Fe and Pacific line to Randsburg and on to Salt Lake City that would tap the untouched mineral resources in the Panamint Valley area. It would, it was argued, facilitate shipping from the Kennedy Antimony Mine at Wild Rose, the Ubehebe copper mines, and would put within reach “the apparently inexhaustible ‘low-grade’–worth $50 per ton, with lead accounted at 54 per lb and silver at 70 per oz.–argentiferous galena ores of Cottonwood, known as the Lemoigne mines.”

Prospector John Lemoigne

In 1899 Lemoigne found a large body of high-grade lead ore on his property, but was still hindered by transportation problems and hoping for completion of a railroad into the area so that large quantities could be shipped at a profit. The lead mine was producing so well in 1904 that it was reported that Lemoigne had gone to San Francisco to negotiate its sale: “This property is said by experts to be the biggest body of lead ore ever uncovered on the coast.” Reportedly any grade of lead, up as high as 75% even, could be obtained by handsorting, the silver content varying from 15 to 83 ozs. and gold from $5 to $20. The sale was not consummated, however, and perhaps this was the basis for the oft-repeated tale of how old John, reasserting his often-voiced contempt for negotiable paper, turned down several thousand dollars for his mine because he was offered a check instead of cold hard cash.

Lemoigne was reputedly a very simple, honest man with no particular need or desire for life’s luxuries. Money was relatively unimportant and only necessary to finance his long prospecting trips or to grubstake one or another of his friends. Since it appeared that he would be returning periodically to his lead mine, Lemoigne proceeded to erect a stone cabin there. Frank Crampton recalls:

Often I stopped at the lead prospect, almost as often as at the silver prospect Old John worked, alternately with the lead [the mine near Skidoo). In the old stone cabin (house I presume might be better) he passed some of his time particularly when the weather was cold. He had built the stone house soon after he discovered the lead outcrops and realized they were good possibilities of ore. It was winter he told me when the stone house was built and water could be had from a creek bed that flowed some water. In the spring when the water either was insufficient, [sic] after his first winter at the lead prospect he went up the canyon and built himself a shack. In the shack was the shelf of classics, French, German, English, which he dusted every day and often when I remained a few days with him he would read one of them, as I did also.

Lemoigne Castle at Garlic Spring

In addition to the monetary sustenance afforded him by his mine, Old John also thrived on the goodwill of a host of fellow miners in the surrounding desert region, who considered him a gentleman and true friend. Their ready offers of food and friendship were reciprocated by John’s grubstaking offers. Sometimes this generosity brought amazing and unwelcome results.

One of the stranger stories connected with John Lemoigne and that sounds as if it might have enjoyed some slight embellishment at the hands of Frank Crampton, who first reported it, concerns a construction project at Garlic Spring on the old road between Barstow and Death Valley, where Lemoigne was camped around 1914. Two men whom he had grubstaked brought him a contract to sign, having not only located a mine but also attracted a buyer. Firm persuasion was required to secure Lemoigne’s reluctant signature on the necessary instruments, and his worst fears were soon realized when to his acute embarrassment a steady flow of grubstake profits began pouring in. Because of his strong distrust of banking institutions, Old John persuaded the local storekeeper to take charge of these funds, but that individual soon became nervous because of the large sums he was being entrusted with and the proximity of Barstow and its rough-neck railroad men and other strangers who might be tempted to avail themselves of these riches in an ungentlemanly manner.

To remedy the situation the storekeeper’s wife suggested that she be allowed to construct and furnish a large house for John in the area and thereby utilize the money. Consent was reluctantly given the lady, who proceeded to supervise the erection of “Old John’s Castle,” a monstrosity that daily grew more unwieldly and unattractive. What she lacked in expertise in architectural design and construction, she compensated for in flamboyance and general bad taste. The large, two-story square building soon sported turrets, a spire, dormer windows, gables, and a multitude of chimneys. A covered porch surrounded the bright red structure on four sides, and the whole was accented by green-trimmed windows with blue shutters. Dozens of mail order catalogs were perused, resulting in acquisition of heavy oak furniture, a completely furnished library, a huge kitchen with hot and cold water, wallpaper, and fine carpeting. Pre-dating Scotty’s Castle, this structure reportedly displayed none of the latter’s fine attributes, and was considered nothing more than a white elephant by its owner. The only way to forget such a structure is to blow it off the face of the earth, and that is precisely what Old John did one night with the aid of several boxes of dynamite.

Controversy Surrounding Lemoigne’s Death

That incident, if true, was about the only undignified moment in Lemoigne’s life, which came to an end tragically in 1919. In death as in life Lemoigne has been the subject of considerable controversy. Many cannot even agree on the date of his demise, while, as Southworth writes, the number of people who claimed to have found and buried John Lemoigne reads like a Who’s Who of the desert region. Why Old John was heading toward Furnace Creek Ranch, or away from it, is not definitely known, although reportedly he had not been feeling well for some time and was journeying there to seek medical advice. Whatever the reason, he never reached his destination. According to Crampton he and Shorty Harris found the body lying under a mesquite bush about nine miles northwest of Furnace Creek Ranch near Salt Well. Apparently overcome by the heat or a sudden heart attack, Lemoigne had been unable to untie his burros, who perished with him. Proving his personal involvement in the event, Crampton says, are pictures he took of Old John and one of his burros as they lay when found. Reporting the incident at Furnace Creek Ranch, Crampton and Harris returned with Harry Gower, Oscar Denton, Tom Wilson, and a couple of other Indians for the burial, with Gower carving a grave marker.

Death Valley Scotty

According to Harry Gower, however, it was Death Valley Scotty who found Lemoigne eleven miles north of Furnace Creek and returned to the ranch to report it. Upon receiving the message at Ryan, Gower contacted the coroner at Independence and was told to go ahead and bury the body. Arriving at the scene with an Indian companion, Gower found the body partially eaten by coyotes and John’s gold watch hanging in a mesquite bush. Because of the hardness of the ground and the intense heat, the grave was only dug about two feet deep and was quite narrow. Lemoigne was wrapped in a blanket and lowered into the grave, over which a mound was erected and marked with stones and a board. Gower later sent the coroner the watch and a bill for $40 to cover costs of the burial detail. Gower states he was told later that Scotty felt he should have gotten the money, but no words ever passed between the two on the subject. Cower evidently did have some strong feelings about Crampton’s declared part in the whole affair:

The guy who is going to have a tough time getting squared with me is the alleged author who claims to have been associated with Le Moigne, and buried him on the desert. If he gains a bit of notoriety by his statement I have no objection as I got paid for my work. I’m sore because I doubt if he ever had the guts to dig a hole two feet deep in Death Valley in August.

Adding further confusion is Scotty‘s version:

In June 1918, I found him [Lemoigne] stretched out dead. He must have been on his way to Furnace Creek with his burros. I dug a hole and buried him right there by a clump of mesquite. Then I went on to Furnace Creek to give the notice. Cost me twenty dollars for feed for my string of mules. Gower got the ten-dollar fee for burying old John when the work was already done. I got nothing!

In 1922 when Sarah Perkins traveled through Death Valley, she by chance stumbled upon a sun-bleached board set in the sand. Written on it in pencil, she said, were the words “John Lemoign, Died Aug. 1919.” Nearby were the skeletons of two burros and a coffeepot beside a fireplace. This supports Gower’s contention that he buried John in August 1919, and pretty conclusively disputes Southworth’s romantic statement that “in deference to Old John, who always believed his burros were human, each body was buried in a separate grave.”  At the time of his death John Lemoigne’s estate was valued at about $10.00 after all expenses were paid.

Lemoigne gravesite

Lemoigne gravesite location

Later History of the Lemoigne Mine

Because no heirs were known to exist, Beveridge Hunter and Bill Corcoran relocated Lemoigne’s eight mining claims, soon, disposing of the property to a W.J. Loring and associates. Because of the area’s remote location, Hunter and Corcoran realized they would either have to sell the mine outright or enlist the cooperation of someone with the investment capital necessary to turn the property into a paying concern. A Brandon & Co. of Boston had an option on the group, but Brandon was killed before a sale could be consummated. Corcoran and Hunter then managed to interest Harry C. Stemler and Associates of Tonopah, who were in some way connected with the Loring interests, in the property, but they insisted on visiting the mine before making a firm decision. Despite a harrowing experience during the return from the mine, during which Stemler and Corcoran almost died from thirst and exhaustion, the former decided to take a bond on the property. The claims deeded to him in Lemoigne Canyon were the Blossom, Captain, Captain No. 2, Captain No. 3, Hunter, Atlantic, Pacific, and Sunshine.

In August, despite the heat, Corcoran was told to take charge of development work and intended despite the 132-degree temperature to begin a force immediately at three places on the ledge; ore would be hauled to Beatty by tractor across the floor of Death Valley. Incentive to begin operations was provided by an engineer for the Loring interests who declared that the ore in the mine would average 61-1/2% lead for the full length of the three claims, and who also estimated that there was $2,500,000 worth of ore in sight. Development work already consisted of a twenty-five-foot tunnel previously excavated by Hunter and Corcoran and a twenty-five-foot-deep shaft, plus several cuts made to keep track of the vein’s course and of the consistency of its values.

The eight claims acquired by Stimler were later quitclaimed to the Interstate Silver Lead Mines Corporation of Nevada, but by 1923 a W. R. McCrea of Reno and a John J. Reilly, who once leased on the Florence Mine at Goldfield, were developing the property, on which they held a lease with option to buy, and were driving a crosscut tunnel to intersect the rich ledge. In May 1924 it was thought that the main lode was discovered when a rich strike, “bigger than anything before encountered in any of the workings at the mine,” was made on the Birthday Claim west of the old workings.

By June Corcoran had purchased more machinery for the mine and, in addition, all the buildings and pipelines belonging to Carl Suksdorf at Emigrant Spring, with plans underway to make this one of the biggest lead-producing mines in the western United States. A year later John Reilly had organized the Buckhorn Humboldt Mining Company and had purchased the Lemoigne Mine from Corcoran and Hunter for a substantial amount of cash and stock. McCrea became the company’s manager and principal owner and, later, president, after Reilly’s death in March 1925. Immediate plans were made to construct an eight-mile auto truck route to the Trona-Beatty Road in order to facilitate shipping to the smelters. Four leasers were also working on ground near the company property, though by April the number had increased to ten, forcing two trucks to leave every day loaded with shipping ore. Property of the Lemoigne South Extension Mining Company (composed of Messrs. Turner, Burke, McDonald, Clark, and Smith) adjoined the Lemoigne Mine proper and was uncovering ore running up to 80% lead. [

Development was still being steadily pushed by the Buckhorn Humboldt people in the spring of 1926 to uncover the large amount of high-grade ore in sight as well as the vast quantities of low-grade milling ore that seemed to be present. Several lessees were at work, notably on the Miller Lease and the Dollar Bill Matthews ground. By May only four sets of leasers were operating, and the number was evidently reduced to three by June. In 1926 the California Journal of Mines and Geology described the mine as located in the LeMoigne District and still owned by the Buckhorn Humboldt Mining Company. It was under lease to L.P. (?) McCrea, M. L. Miller, and associates of Beatty, Nevada. A twenty-five-foot tunnel had been driven west in the canyon north of the main camp and was intersecting an ore lens from which 150 tons of ore had been shipped running 50% lead and three to five ounces of silver per ton. South of these workings on a ridge above Lemoigne Canyon a 165-foot tunnel had developed a lens from which 100 tons of ore had been shipped averaging 50% lead with five ounces of silver per ton. The ore was being hauled by truck to Beatty at a cost of $18 per ton. Two men were employed at the mine. The property must still have been active in 1928, because in May of that year Margaret Long mentions a road that was washed out and would have to be regraded by the next truck through to Lemoign.”

McCrae and the Buckhorn Humboldt Mining Company continued to hold the Lemoigne Mine from 1937 through 1948, although by 1938 the twelve claims were reported as idle.  Bev Hunter later refiled on the property, subsequently leasing it to W. V. Skinner of Lone Pine, who produced a little ore in 1953. By 1962 Roy Hunter was evidently attempting some sporadic mining activity at the old mine. Total production from the property was said to have a gross value of approximately $38,000, realized from the shipment of over 600 tons of ore containing 30% lead, 7% zinc, and 4 ozs. of silver per ton. During its active lifetime up to 1963, the Lemoigne Mine was developed by about 600 feet of workings taking place on three levels and one sublevel, which were connected by a vertical shaft, and by three stopes. The shaft on the property had been extended to about eighty feet in depth.  Again in 1974 mining activity resumed on the site, and by December 1975 a Harold Pischel was working on a previously unexplored hillside looking for sulfide ore. Material reportedly carrying 14 ozs. of silver per ton was being stockpiled at the adit entrance.

Present Status (1981)

The Lemoigne Mine is located in Lemoigne Canyon, the southernmost canyon of the Cottonwood Mountains, which form the northerly extension of the Panamint Range. The claims, ranging in elevation from 4,950 to 5,700 feet, are reached via a jeep trail, crossing an alluvial fan, that is often subject to severe washing and that trends north off of California State Highway 190 approximately three miles east of the Emigrant Ranger Station. The claim area is reached after about 9-1/2 miles of very rough 4-wheel driving. This writer was unable to personally view the mine because the road into Lemoigne Wash was barely visible following a series of heavy downpours in the area during the early fall of 1978. The site was visited by. the LCS crew in 1975 and the following account of structures found is based on their data and on that collected during an archeological reconnaissance of the area.

Near the junction of the North and South forks of Lemoigne Canyon are the remains of a campsite appearing to date from the 1930s. Only a leveled tent site and assorted debris were found. On up the road at the entrance to the Lemoigne claim the trail forks again into two short smaller canyons, both showing evidence of occupation by man. The southern or left one contains a relatively new corrugated-metal structure with a nearby pit toilet, a metal trailer, and the only structure of real historic significance in the area–the rock cabin built by John Lemoigne in the 1880s. This latter is a partial dugout, carved into the bedrock and lined with wooden cribbing. The front is part stone and part wood, with flattened five-gallon metal cans being used for paneling in some areas. Shelves are built into some of the walls, which tends to verify this as Old John’s home:

When Jean arrived in America, he had with him volumes of the classics in French, English, and German, which he kept on shelves in the stone cabin he built below his lead prospect in a canyon west of Emigrant wash . . . .

The cabin structure itself is intact but filled with garbage and debris. Crampton states that when he visited Lemoigne’s lead property around December 1919 the cabin had already been rifled of everything of value. Beyond these buildings the road leads to an active mine adit surrounded by some five other small adits dating from an earlier period.

The northern canyon fork leads up past the site of at least four leveled habitation sites, about eight feet square, either for tent houses or wooden buildings, set against a cliff and about one-tenth of a mile below a one-chute ore bin. Wooden boards, stove parts, and old bedsprings were found scattered through the area. The ore bin is in a narrow box canyon and at the foot of a rail tramway descending on a very steep incline from a mine tunnel on the ridge above. The tramway was controlled by a gasoline-powered winch still in place at the entrance to the tunnel.

Evaluation and Recommendations

Pete Aguereberry

Pete Aguereberry

The Lemoigne silver-lead-zinc Mine was probably first worked in the late 1880s, though the exact location date was not found by this writer. The mine was only sporadically worked by Lemoigne, who spent most of his forty years in the Death Valley region searching for minerals and performing assessment work for fellow miners. A newspaper article in 1923, in fact, mentioned that Lemoigne had confined his development of the area to shallow surface holes. According to a recent study of the claims, they have been developed through the years by about 1,300 feet of workings. Most ore removed was high-grade, the many low- and medium-grade pockets being considered economically infeasible to mine during the 1920s when the mine saw its highest production rate. According to a 1976 report, the total value of all metals recovered at the Lemoigne Mine, based on January 1976 prices, would be about $116,000.

The historical significance of this site is not based on the volume of ore produced at the mine or on its monetary value. Its importance lies in its early discovery date and especially in its associations with John Lemoigne, considered by many to be the dean of Death Valley prospectors. It is not that Old John is completely forgotten–his lead mine is shown on the USGS Panamint Butte quad at the end of a canyon that also bears his name. His gravesite is marked on the Chloride Cliff quad just south of the Salt Springs jeep trail. (Attempts to locate the site by this writer were unsuccessful, though the wooden cross was still in place in February 1973.) It is simply that he is often overshadowed by the braggadocio of such highly-publicized wanderers of the desert as Death Valley Scotty and Shorty Harris. Leomoigne was a completely different breed, more attune in tastes and life-style to Pete Aguereberry, the other transplanted Frenchman in the valley who, like Old John, stayed to pursue a quiet and uneventful life in the desert they both loved so well.

Lemoigne’s biographer, Frank Crampton, expressed his appraisal of the man this way:

Old John typified the breed of prospectors and old-timers and the Desert Rats who centered on Death Valley. Few, if any, did any prospecting of any consequence in the valley, they were not looking for non-metallics but for gold, silver, lead, copper or one of the other of the lesser metals. Death Valley was not the place where metals were found in paying quantities and the breed knew it . . . . Old John was the best of them all. He had the knowledge of a highly educated man, and the fortitude to accept the fate that had befallen him when he arrived at Death Valley and learned that Daunet was dead. But the greatest of all attributes was that he loved the desert, and Death Valley best of all, and without effort adapted himself to it. Old John Lamoigne [sic] deserves imortality [sic] He was the epitome of them all and represents the best of a breed of men who are no longer.

Grave of John Lemoigne

Because the Lemoigne Mine was the scene of some of the earliest mining activity within the monument and the home of John Lemoigne until his death in 1919, the mine area and the stone cabin that Lemoigne built are considered to be locally significant and eligible for inclusion on the National Register. The leveled tent or house sites and ore bin in the box canyon probably date from the 1920s era of mining activity when the mine was being developed and was shipping ore. Some sort of camp had to have been situated here to house the Buckhorn Humboldt Mining Company employees and the various lessees. Based on the 1975 LCS research notes, these structures are not considered significant.

An interpretive marker near the stone cabin identifying the site would be appropriate. The tent foundations and old ore bin should be mentioned as probable vestiges of early twentieth-century activity in the area. An exhibit at the visitor center might dwell further on Lemoigne’s life, emphasizing his long tenure in the valley, his knowledge of the classics, and his degrees as a mining engineer–traits which set him apart from his desert comrades.

Attempts were made by this writer to determine the extent of mining enterprises in Cottonwood Canyon further north where Lemoigne had filed on some quartz claims in the late 1880s. An arduous all-day hiking trip failed to turn up any signs of such activity. A monument employee, however, stated that about 1976 the remains of two buildings were found at Cottonwood Springs. One corrugated-steel and tin shack contained a wood-burning stove and a set of bedsprings. No evidence of mining was seen in the immediate area, and no prospect sites are shown on the USGS Marble Canyon quad.

from: Death Valley Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining – Vol. I, Linda W. Greene – March 1981

The Renegade Indian

A chapter from Senator Harry Reid’s book, “Searchlight: The Camp That Didn’t Fail

On February 21, 1940, the banner headline in the Las Vegas Review-Journal— BODY OF INDIAN FOUND— recalled for many in the town memories of the first murder the dead Indian had committed, thirty years earlier at Timber Mountain, just a few miles from Searchlight in the McCullough Range.

Cabin, Searchlight, Nevada

Searchlight, Nevada

On a cool fall day in October 1910 Harriett and John Reid were on their way, via horse-drawn wagon, to work at their mine—she manned the horse-operated hoist, he mined the ore. They could see an Indian approaching them, carrying a .30-.30 Winchester rifle and traveling at a
very fast pace. The Reids stopped, as did the Indian, whom they recognized as Queho, an acquaintance who worked at various menial jobs throughout the Searchlight area. They exchanged greetings and after a brief visit went their separate ways. Later, the Reids and everyone else in the area learned that Queho had been hurrying down from Timber Mountain, where he had been cutting wood for J.W. Woodworth, a timber and firewood contractor. Woodworth had refused to pay Queho, who then flew into a rage and beat the man to death with one of the timbers he had cut. This murder was the beginning of an odyssey that took thirty years to play out.

Queho soon struck again, this time near the river in Eldorado Canyon, at the Gold Bug Mine, which was partially owned by Frank Rockefeller, brother of John D. Rockefeller. A short time afterward, Queho admitted to Canyon Charlie, an Indian elder almost a hundred years old, that he had killed the mine’s night watchman, his former employer. The second murder occurred on the route between the Crescent area, where the woodcutter was killed, and the river.

Cottonwood Cove - Colorado River

Cottonwood Cove

Local lawmen, who viewed Queho as little more than an ignorant savage, thought that catching him would be child’s play. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The clever Indian stole a horse from a man named Cox and eluded the law.

A large manhunt was organized to apprehend the Indian outlaw. It was assumed that Queho would be easy to track, since he dragged one leg as a result of an earlier injury. James Babcock, an operator of the Eldorado mine and a lawyer educated in Washington, D.C., led the search party. He was accompanied by a contingent of Las Vegas lawmen, including Ike Alcock, as well as Indian trackers and an Indian agent named DeCrevecoeur. One of the pursuers was overheard remarking that Queho’s chances of living a long and happy life were very slim. The manhunt extended more than 200 miles, ranging from Crescent to Nipton and even coursing toward Pahranagat Valley, nearly 150 miles to the north. The pursuers gave up the search when
supplies ran out and they grew weary. At that point the lawmen began to suspect that maybe this Indian was cunning and smart, not quite the “dumb” savage they had thought.

Queho was subsequently blamed for a number of murders that he did not commit. The first was the murder of James Patterson. The newspaper headline read, MAN KILLED BY QUEHO STILL ALIVE. Patterson hadn’t been killed by the Indian or anyone else—as was evident when he turned up alive and unharmed. But in the course of looking for Patterson, the search party found another man whom Queho had shot.

The press closely followed Queho’s escapades. A reward of $500 was offered for the Indian’s
capture, and Nevada’s only member of Congress announced that the federal government should assist in the capture of this madman.

In March 1911 it was reported that two men on the Arizona side of the river, just below Searchlight, watched Queho beat a white man to death on the opposite side. The prospectors were powerless to help, as they had no way to cross the river; they were also unarmed and feared that Queho was armed and would attack them. By this time fear gripped the entire region.

It was believed that the best method for apprehending Queho was to enlist the Piutes in the
search, which was standard operating procedure at the time. Whites regularly abused and
harassed the Indians, and if an Indian committed a crime, the white community would force the
Indians to produce someone to answer for the crime. To fail in this responsibility meant great distress for the Indians because it led to further harassment by the whites.

In the hills below Searchlight, about five miles from the river, one of the Du Pont heirs to the
chemical fortune of the Eastern United States was encamped. He was an outcast from his famous family. At the urging of voices that only he could hear, he began digging a tunnel through one of the volcanic mountains with a pick and shovel. He started the tunnel in
1896, even before gold was discovered in Searchlight, and eventually extended it nearly 2,000
feet through the solid volcanic rock. Du Pont was always friendly to the Indians who came by his
camp and often shared his provisions with them. But shortly after the murders of Woodworth and the Gold Bug watchman, some of Du Pont’s supplies disappeared, and Queho was said to be the culprit. The newspaper editorialized that the federal government owed a responsibility to the people of Searchlight to intercede in this Indian affair. It wrote: “A good Indian is a dead Indian.”

Most still believed Queho would be caught, that with both Indians and whites on his trail victory was assured. The Las Vegas Age newspaper headlined an article with QUEHO THE BAD INDIAN IS IN A BAD FIX. In a subsequent edition the paper said that civilians and bad whiskey had turned Queho into the killer he was. The paper also observed: “It is very probable
that Mr. Queho’s days are numbered considering those after him.”

The posse was large and well equipped, as all other hunting and tracking parties had been. At this point it was believed that Queho had come back to the river. Alcock wrote to Constable Colton in Searchlight, informing him that he was on the trail of Queho, as he had recently found fresh tracks at Cow Wells, near Searchlight. Queho was also reported to have been seen in the town itself at least once. The posse came up empty-handed.

In 1912 Fred Pine, while hunting near Timber Mountain, came upon Queho, who was armed with his ever-present Winchester. The men exchanged greetings. Pine asked Queho if he would like one of his sandwiches. Queho accepted, and in return offered, Pine one of his dried rats or chipmunks. Pine finally turned to leave, expecting at any moment to be shot in the back, but
nothing happened.

Queho was surely an expert at hunting and fishing. He could eat anything, including tortoises,
chuckawallas, burros, horses, mountain sheep, chipmunks, rats and various birds.

The Queho legend began to grow. Several manhunts were organized—all public, all ending in failure. The Searchlight newspaper ceased publication, so news about the comings and goings of the fugitive was no longer so sensationalized. Though some believed he had been killed by other Indians, occasional sightings were reported. There were even rumors that he had a girlfriend around Searchlight named Indian Mary. Others reported having seen him in Searchlight. Murl Emery told people that he had seen Queho several times. Searchlight residents indicated that some contact was maintained with him over the next twenty-five years.

Eldorado Canyon, Nelson Nevada

Mouth of Eldorado Canyon

Seven years later, in the winter of 1919, the peace of the countryside was again shattered when Maude Douglas was murdered in her home at the Techatticup Mine in Eldorado Canyon. She heard a noise in the dead of night, walked into the kitchen to investigate, and was felled by a shotgun blast. On the floor was spilled cornmeal that the intruder had been trying to take from the cupboard. The trail from the cabin showed tracks of a man with a noticeable limp, like Queho’s.

Techatticup Mine - Nelson, Nevada

Techatticup Mine – Nelson, Nevada

Mrs. Douglas was married and had two children of her own, as well as the responsibility for two other small youngsters, Bertha and Leo Kennedy. Leo, who was only four years old at the time of the murder, later said that Maude had been killed by Arvin Douglas, the man of the house. There is no corroborating evidence to support that claim, especially in view of the uniquely patterned tracks at the Douglas cabin. Bertha also said that she felt responsible, because she
had awakened Mrs. Douglas for a drink of water and if she had not done that, the woman would not have gone into the kitchen.

The overwhelming weight of the evidence pointed to Queho, as confirmed by a coroner’s inquest that was convened after Maude’s death. The coroner determined that she had been shot at close range and that the tracks from the house fit Queho’s.

The murder of Maude Douglas initiated a new era of Queho hunting. During the chase, the
search party found a mountain sheep that Queho had recently slaughtered. They also found two dead miners named Taylor and Hancock, whom he had killed with their own prospector’s pick. The searchers soon learned that Queho traveled at night and holed up during the day. The pursuit ended in futility after three weeks, with the near death of the group’s leader, Frank Wait, from exhaustion.

Wait believed that Queho was hiding in the area where he had killed Woodworth. Knowing that
he was being followed, Queho did not want to attract attention with gunshots, so he killed the two miners with their pick, probably to get a replacement for his worn boots. Sheriff Joe Keate described him as being able to starve a coyote to death and still have plenty of strength to continue. He reportedly knew of places in the desert where depressions worn into the rock stored rainwater for up to a year.

Alcock, a man named Alvord, an Indian trader named Baboon, and ten others made up the search party. Among the group were some Indians, and it was discovered that they were signaling Queho by smoke signal, thus allowing the killer to elude his pursuers.

The reward was increased to $3,000. Individuals and groups found evidence of Queho—a cave
he had stayed in along the Colorado, remains of a mountain sheep and a burro.

For the next few years, another period of quiet prevailed when no recorded murders were known to have been committed by Queho. Nevertheless, no one felt secure. Prospectors and others tried to travel in pairs, one or the other of them always keeping watch at night. Not until 1935 did the next confirmed sighting of Queho take place. A cowboy named Charles Parker had a mare disappear; a week later the horse was found with part of its carcass cut away, obviously for eating. Upon investigating, the cowboy got more than he had bargained for. He was accosted by a scantily clad Indian with long, stringy hair and was robbed, but escaped  unharmed. Searching the same area later, Parker and others found a cave along the river with drying jerky in it. A gunfight ensued and nine shots were fired, with no apparent injury to either of the parties.

As the years passed, Queho was accused of killing as many as twenty-one people. His first murder actually occurred before the Woodworth episode; the victim was his cousin or half brother, an Indian outlaw named Avote. The white community insisted that the Indians
produce someone to pay for Avote’s crimes, and so as a young man, Queho killed his relative at
Cottonwood Island on the river below Searchlight. He also likely killed Bismark, a Las Vegas Indian, but that was a tribal killing and would not usually have been pursued in early Las Vegas. There were allegations of other killings but no actual proof.

Queho outsmarted the best that law enforcement had to offer. His pursuers may have come close on several occasions, but he always evaded him. He was an excellent shot and had a reputation of being extremely brutal.

Finally, in February 1940, Queho’s body was found by three prospectors in a cave about ten
miles below Boulder Dam and 2,000 feet above the river. They also found fuses and blasting caps from the dam at the site. This cave was one of the best hidden and most impregnable hideaways imaginable. It even had a trip wire hooked to a bell to alert him of intruders. Queho had been dead for at least six months.

Some of his old pursuers, not wanting to acknowledge that they had been outsmarted for thirty years, tried to say he had been dead since 1919. Items in the cave from the construction of Boulder Dam quickly disproved their claim—veneer board, used in concrete moldings at the dam, that Queho used for protection from the elements. And there were fuses, which he used for reloading his bullets and shotgun shells. Also discovered in the cave was the badge of the night watchman killed at the Gold Bug Mine. His loaded Winchester rifle and the shotgun with which he likely killed Maude Douglas were in the cave, as well as a fine bow and twelve steel-tipped arrows (probably for fishing in the river), recently minted coins, and papers from some of his victims.

The large number of eyeglasses in the cave probably indicated that he was afflicted with poor eyesight in his later years. At death he was believed to be about sixty years old. He had died in a position of apparent pain, wearing a canvas hat and pants. One of his legs was wrapped with burlap, which indicated that he may have been snake-bitten. A former acquaintance confirmed the identity of the body by the unusual dental feature of double rows of teeth.

Charley Kenyon, one of the prospectors who discovered Queho’s body, later found other
nearby caves that the Indian had used. Queho was also said to have panned a little gold, which he saved in Bull Durham tobacco sacks, then exchanged for food and other supplies. One of the persons who probably had some contact with Queho was the eminent Murl Emery, who always seemed protective of him and also admitted to leaving food for him. Emery was quoted as saying, “Why don’t you let the poor Indian rest?” Emery lived at and operated Nelson’s Landing for many years and was a constant companion of mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner.

Queho remained controversial even after death. Two political enemies and former law enforcement officers, Gene Ward and Frank Wait, both involved in trying to bring the desperado to justice over the years, fought over his skeleton.

Neither won, as James Cashman and the Elks Lodge intervened to pay the funeral home for the costs of interment. The Elks then displayed Queho’s bones at Helldorado (the premier entertainment event in Las Vegas for more than forty years, beginning in the 1930s) as in a carnival attraction.

The bones were stolen from Helldorado Village and found in Bonanza Wash in Las Vegas; Dick
Seneker subsequently acquired them and returned them when James Cashman again offered a reward. The Indian’s remains are now believed to be buried in Cathedral Canyon near Pahrump.

Queho’s name continues to bring forth tales too numerous to confirm. In an oral statement taken in the late 1970s, historian Elbert Edwards of Boulder City gave a rambling account of stories about Queho. Edwards did not rebut the stories of Queho’s murderous binge, attributing a total of seventeen murders to the Indian.

Edwards described one man who was killed with a pick handle before Woodworth was killed at Timber Mountain. He then confirmed the murders of the Gold Bug watchman, Maude Douglas at Nelson, the two St. Thomas miners Hancock and Taylor, and then two unidentified miners. He also described Queho’s murder of a wandering cowboy with his trusty rifle and spoke of five individuals who were killed in a cabin near what is now Boulder Dam—three with a rifle and two with a knife. Edwards’s narrative also related the story of two others, killed in nearby Black Canyon the next day. The authenticity of most of the murders recounted by
Edwards is questionable, but they do reveal the legendary status accorded this Indian desperado.

Black Canyon - Colorado River

Black Canyon – Colorado River

Queho was a killer who outsmarted all who tried to capture him. The story is tragic, not only because of the lives that he took but because even in Searchlight his story illustrates to us how poorly Indians were treated. The first census, in 1900, reported forty-two Indians in Searchlight, obviously in the river area where there was water. They were eventually driven out of Searchlight.

In the summer of 1905 the Searchlight newspaper reported that the Indian village on the outskirts of town had been destroyed by fire. The paper disparagingly remarked: “All bucks and squaws were away.” Indians were granted no respect in Searchlight, and they were harassed and discriminated against in increasingly offensive ways. It is no wonder that Queho’s fellow Indians helped him. Nor is it surprising that he became known among the few Indians of the area as someone who had stood up to the white man.

From: Senator Harry Reid’s book, “Searchlight, The Camp That Didn’t Fail,”
University of Nevada Press.

The Founding of Lucerne Valley

Looking southeast across Lucerne Valley

In the early days, natural springs in what is now Lucerne Valley provided good camping grounds for Indians on their way into the San Bernardino Mountains to gather piñon nuts. The Indians resented white pioneers settling in the territory and committed some violent acts against them. Instead of discouraging the settlers, it caused them to marshall forces and attack the Indians. (Piute, Chemehuevi and Serrano) In Feb.1 1867, a decisive battle at Chimney Rock caused the Indians to retreat and leave the territory to the white pioneers.

Lucerne Valley

Rabbit Lake (dry) & Chimney Rock

In July, 1873, five men, L.D.Wilson, John E.McFee, W.S.Manning, W.P.Morrison and (?)Holmes located the springs known as Rabbit Springs. They laid claim to the springs and 100 surrounding acres (20 acres each) according to a recorded document.

Rabbit Spring – The original downtown Lucerne Valley

In 1884 Peter Davidson operated a Way Station at Rabbit Springs. Travelers could get fresh water, exchange news, rest and/or sleep over. “Uncle Pete” died in 1906. His grave is at Kendall Road and Rabbit Springs Road.

Pete Davidson's grave, Lucerne Valley

Uncle Pete Davidson’s grave (under the pavement beyond the marker)

In 1886, W.W.Brown brought his family to this valley, which was without a name at the time. Brown had the water rights at the Box S. (The Box S ranch is where the drainage ditch now crosses Highway 18) The family stayed at “Uncle Pete’s” until an old abandoned house could be moved onto the Box S property.

Box S Ranch, Lucerne Valley

Box S Ranch

In 1896 Al Swarthout acquired the Box S, intending to raise cattle. There was plenty of water but not much forage. Swarthout and a friend found a place about 15 miles to the east, which had even more water and lots of forage. After one year he gave up the Box S and moved to Old Woman Springs Ranch.

Old Woman Springs Ranch

Old Woman Springs Ranch

In 1897 James Goulding came to the Box S with his wife, Anna, and two small children, Mamie and George. Three more children, Minnie, Jim, and Nellie were born in Lucerne Valley. “Dad” Goulding proved the fertility of our soil with his apple orchard, vegetable garden and alfalfa fields. He also raised cows, horses and other animals. He dug a well which proved to be artesian.

In 1905 a friend suggested to Goulding that this valley should have a name. Because of his success in growing alfalfa (also known as lucerne) he christened this place Lucerne Valley.

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

Dad Goulding is generally acknowledged as the founder of Lucerne Valley.



Adapted from; Mohahve V – A Quick History of Lucerne Valley by Ethel Owen
Mohahve Historical Society

Apple Valley’s Dinosaur Park

Opening Shots

 Apple Valley’s Dinosaur Park – by Myra McGinnis

If you drove north on Central Avenue in Apple Valley, about 3 miles from Highway 18, a strange sight might give you a moment surprise: a group of dinosaurs would appear on the horizon. This meant figures represent the work of Lonnie Coffman, a soft-spoken, wiry, energetic man, who, in the 1960s, began the building of his childhood fantasy a dinosaur park.

With his Midwestern family to board to provide recreational trips and entertainment, Coffman spent much of his childhood in the public library reading about prehistoric animals and dreaming of the park he would someday build for other children to enjoy. According to a former neighbor, Rose McHenry,  he worked from dawn until dark every day on his hobby. He never charged the busloads of schoolchildren that visited the park, climbing over this meant replicas, and listening to the man, usually of few words, expound on the life of the dinosaur.

He had written to Washington to get the exact measurements of Noah’s Ark to add to his collection, when, after 12 years of personal funding, his savings ran out. Coffman appealed to the county for help to continue building his 17 1/2 acre park, but was turned down. He had no other recourse but to give up his dream. According to Mrs. McHenry, Lonnie Coffman left the area about 1982 a heartbroken man, leaving his concrete dinosaurs to the winds and sands of the desert.

Adapted from Mojave V – Mohahve Historical Society
Courtesy the Goble Collection – Valley-wide newspapers

History of the Communistic Colony Llano Del Rio

by A. R. Clifton. A. M. – 1917

One of the most interesting studies of practical Socialism in Southern California is the history of the communistic colony, Llano del Rio, established in the Antelope Valley in 1914. This colony was founded by Job Harriman, a prominent Socialist of this State, and a company of associates who, like himself, were disappointed at the results accomplished by the Socialist party. In their opinion, tangible and measurable benefits to the cause would follow a practical demonstration of the principles of Socialism through community production and distribution, which could not be expected in any other way. In order to test the plan, this group of men began looking for suitable land upon which they could establish a cooperative settlement. After considering various propositions in Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as California, it was decided, everything considered, that a tract in the southern part of the Antelope Valley offered the largest advantages, so negotiations were quietly begun for obtaining control of the land and the water.

The site was located between Palmdale and Victorville — about twenty miles from Palmdale and thirty miles from Victorville, and about fifty miles northeast of ‘Los Angeles. Company literature states : “The property lies for the most part between Rock Creek and Mescal Creek, on the plain below, and running to the base of the mountains that form a magnificent watershed and which are snow capped for several months of the year”.1

It is part of the Angelus Forest Reserve and is in township 5 north, ranges 8, 9 and 10 west, San Bernardino meridian.  The company holdings consisted of ten thousand acres when the colony occupied the tract, much of which was in the wild’ state, covered with chaparral, sage, greasewood, yuccas and junipers. The soil is largely decomposed granite, feldspar and lime of unknown depth. It contains sulfides and oxides of iron, potash, soda, carbonate of lime and magnesia. The essentials of plant life are found there in reasonable abundance.

The lay of the land is ideal ; comparatively little is rough and that part is the foothill section, a portion of which was used for reservoir sites, the fish hatcheries, lime! kilns and stone quarries. From here the land slopes gently, making irrigation an easy matter.

The water supply during the development period of the colony promised to be sufficient to meet all needs, present and future, if properly conserved and distributed. The exclusive right of the flow from Mescal Creek, Jackson’s Lake, and Boulder Creek had been secured and practically all of the flow from Big Rock Creek, through the control of the Big Rock irrigation district. Jackson’s Lake alone in the driest season yields one hundred and fifty miner’s inches and could be increased through the use of reservoirs. There are four good reservoir sites on the property with a total capacity of between thirty thousand and forty thousand acre feet.

The chief engineer in his report of 1915 says: “The area of watersheds adjoining these lands is approximately eighty square miles, which, with the usual forty inches of rainfall per annum, should yield about seventy thousand acre feet of water that could be used if it could all be saved — enough water, with the probable character of crops, to maintain forty thousand to fifty thousand acres of land under cultivation. Enough is known to assure an irrigated area of ten thousand acres or more of any crops, enough to support a population of five thousand souls and have a surplus of product for the open market”.2

The fall of water supplying the colony seemed sufficient, after the installation of power plants, to provide all the electricity for both light and power for many years to come. The water of Jackson’s Lake alone could have been distributed and directed so that there would be three separate drops of five hundred feet each. At the other end of the tract the proper development of the flow of Big Boulder Creek would have provided one of the most valuable power sites in the State of California, and the natural formation of foothill and valley would have made the development work comparatively inexpensive. A dam about two hundred feet in length and one hundred feet high, constructed between the hills on either side of the creek, would have flooded two hundred acres, making an immense amount of water available for irrigation as well as power for the generation of electricity.

The Llano del Rio Company had deeds to over two thousand acres of land, held tax titles to three thousand five hundred acres more, and through members of the colony had control of, three thousand five hundred acres additional, which made a tract of over nine thousand acres in all. Even this acreage did not satisfy the ambitions of the colonists. They planned to secure extensive additions — even up to thirty thousand acres, the amount of land in this irrigation district.

The cultivated land during the season of 1917 consisted of about two thousand acres, distributed as follows: alfalfa, four hundred acres ; orchard, one hundred twenty acres ; nursery, one hundred ; garden, one hundred twenty ; corn, two hundred ; and the balance in grain and general farm crops.

Those in authority at the colony maintained that it was possible for the members to devote their energy to the raising of a large variety as well as large quantities of products. The Vice-President informed me that peas, beans, potatoes, melons and all vegetables grew there abundantly; that of the fruits they would soon be producing pears, apples, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, olives, and figs. These with the products of the dairy, the chicken yards, the rabbitry, the hog ranch and apiary would, according to the plan, not only feed the people of the colony but would enable them to buy in the quantities needed the things they could not produce.

After four weeks of existence, the ninth of May, 1914, closed with five members. They had but a few tools with which to begin work, four horses, one cow and sixteen hogs.

Considering so small a beginning, the growth for the first three years was rather notable. There were, August 1, 1917, about one thousand members with nine hundred residents in the colony. There were one hundred head of horses, one hundred and twenty-five Jersey and Holstein cows and one hundred head of young stock, three hundred hogs, several thousand rabbits and chickens, six hundred eighty stands of bees, one hundred fifty turkeys, thirty-two goats, three trucks, twenty wagons, seven automobiles, a traction engine, a caterpillar engine, leveller, concrete mixer and pipe moulds for the making of cement pipes for the irrigation system, drags, and various other pieces of heavy machinery for clearing and preparing the land for planting on a large scale.

The buildings were largely of a temporary character, due partly to the fact that the site of the residence section was to be changed to ground a little higher, more protected from the wind and nearer the source of water most desirable for domestic purposes. There were tents and adobe houses enough, with the rooms in the club house, to take care of the nine hundred people in Llano at that time, and more were being put up as needed. They had a planing and sash and door mill of sufficient capacity to do all the sawing and milling work for the building operations.

The hen coops and rabbitry were modern in construction and very commodious, and it was intended to increase the capacity rapidly. The cattle barn was constructed of cobblestone, with tin roof, a great improvement over the cheaply constructed barn which I saw on my first visit to the colony in 1915. A fine concrete silo of three hundred ton capacity had recently been constructed, and the plans were well under way for a well-equipped dairy.

The office was small, but it answered the purpose very well. The Llano post office was housed in this building.

The most used and the most popular structure of the colony was the Club House. It consisted of a building fifty by one hundred and fifty feet, containing rooms for single men, the commissary department, the club kitchen and dining room, the barber shop, the colony boarded in the club dirting room. They were charged seventy-five cents a clay for their meals. This room, fifty by sixty feet, was used as the general audience room of the colony. It was here the assembly had its official meeting and where lectures, musical entertainments and parties were held.

The machinery for a steam laundry had been installed, which greatly lightened the housework. A lime kiln of one hundred fifty barrels capacity daily was in operation. An ice plant, a tannery and a shoe factory were to have been established if the plans for the colony had matured.

A printing plant had been established which, though of limited capacity, turned out a large amount of work. It was here the “Western Comrade”, a monthly magazine of thirty-two pages, the “Llano Colonist”, a weekly, and the pamphlets of the colony were published. This office had become the chief California center for the publication and dissemination of socialistic literature.

A well-equipped canning plant which was a valuable asset to the company activities had been installed. Both vegetables and fruits were preserved for the season when they could not be procured fresh. Quantities of fruit were made available by exchanging labor for it. Cleaning, dyeing, and soap-making added their contributions to the Llano industries. The list would not be complete without a mention of the rug-making department. Most excellent work was done — much better than one would think possible in the meager quarters provided. Rugs of beautiful design and good value were produced.

The homes of the people, as would be expected in an enterprise of this kind, were crude — tents and adobe of sun-dried brick, of one or two rooms. They were meagerly furnished for the most part, but sanitary; and no one seemed to be the worse for the pioneer experience. The home planned for the future, however, — the one which according to the contract of the company it was under obligation to build for all members of this cooperative plan, — was to be much more comfortably appointed, and is thus described in the company literature: “The house will be built around a patio or court, turning a blank wall towards the neighbor, against which he in turn constructs his house. Then you look across your own garden at your own windows and neither hear nor see your neighbor, who retires behind a soundproof wall.

When in your garden you can lounge or work at your ease, and if you turn your little children out of doors they will never be out of sight, no matter what room in the house you may be in. There is a living room twenty by twenty-eight feet, a sun-parlor dining room thirty-five by fourteen feet, two bedrooms ten and one- half by twelve and one-half feet, with a bathroom between them. Upstairs there is a flat roof, separated from your neighbor’s by an eight-foot wall with eaves, with two dressing rooms and space for eight beds arranged two by two in separate recesses. These beds only occupy part of the roof at any time, but they can be folded back against the wall, leaving the roof free. So, if desired, twelve people can be accommodated downstairs and up, without any crowding”.8

The proposed construction of these homes indicated a complete system of water works and a sewerage system.

All the products of the colony passed through the commissary department. Here they were weighed, sorted and placed on the market to members of the colony at a price as near cost “as practicable”. It was also agreed by contract that all clothing was to be purchased from the company. Both food and clothing were very plain. All surplus funds were needed in the development work, hence little was left for anything but the bare necessities.

The work of opening up a desert ranch, — planting, sowing, irrigating, harvesting, building and planning, — is strenuous, but there seemed to be a willingness on the part of practically everyone to bear his share of the burdens. Eight hours were the regular day’s work. There were those, however, who worked longer and who were willing to do it, for as several expressed it to me, “We are working for ourselves now. No capitalist who has no interest in us further than that we can increase his wealth, gets the benefit of our extra work. It belongs to us”. There were some, however, who seemed to have no particular desire to put in extra time for the benefit of the community interests.

I was very much interested in the social life and amusements of Llano. In view of the social needs of the community the club house was constructed, which became the natural center of the people. In the large assembly hall, those musically inclined often gathered around the piano to sing, while the rest listened or visited. Here each Saturday night the young people — and many of the older folks, too — gathered for a dance. This was occasionally repeated during the week. One evening when I was present the entertainment consisted of a “suffragette ball”. The girls wore the clothes of their fathers or brothers and the boys borrowed from their sisters or other female members of their families. The whole colony seemed to be present. Those who did not dance appeared happy in the enjoyment of those who did. A jolly good fellowship was everywhere present. The Tuesday night children’s dance was one of the enjoyable social customs of the colony. The young people from the ages of six to fifteen had the floor exclusively to themselves. They were taught, not only the dance steps but the courtesies which belong to the dance floor, in order that they might acquire grace and poise, learn the forms and social customs which characterizes the pleasure and exhilaration which comes from this activity.

Each Sunday evening there was an entertainment of a literary and musical nature. The program consisted of talks or lectures by members or visitors, readings, recitations, home talent plays, concerts or musical numbers by the orchestra, band, the mandolin or guitar organizations, or by individuals or groups who could furnish vocal music. These programs were interesting and instructive and were of greater merit than one not acquainted with the colony conditions would expect to find.

The young men had football, baseball, basket ball, and tennis teams. They had pool and billiard tables and also enjoyed checkers, dominos and chess.

The plans for the new city included tennis courts, running tracks, football grounds, baseball diamonds, golf links and well- equipped playgrounds for children.

There was a woman’s reading circle and an Esperanto club. Notices of the meetings were posted prominently on the bulletin boards of the club house.

Recreation and amusements were given a prominent place in the life of the colonists at Llano. It was their policy to lighten the cares of life by mental and physical activities which afford opportunity for relaxation of mind and body and give zest to the daily duties.

“What would be done with a man who became incapacitated through old age, accident or sickness and was unable to earn anything” ? was a question often asked by colonists, until it was answered at a meeting of the Assembly, July 20, 1915. It was decided by a unanimous vote that all such persons should be cared for by the colony the rest of their lives. While this action might have been rescinded later on, it at least indicated at that time a good degree of “social solidarity”. The policy pursued by the colony in several cases where members were unable to carry their part of the community load proved that the resolution passed at the meeting referred to was not a matter of theory only, but was a part of their practice. They did in this matter just what they promised they would do.

No provision was made in the colony for the building of churches. The company had no intention of constructing any church edifices. There were many denominations represented at Llano, and members held religious meetings in their homes, if they so desired. Later it was expected that halls and auditoriums would be built which could be used for church as well as other purposes. One of the leaders of the colony remarked that they cared little for religion, as such, but were very much interested in every-day Christianity, the proper and just relationship of man to man.

Substantial plans had been made for a good school system m Llano. At the end of the school year, June 30, 1917, there were one hundred twenty-five pupils enrolled. The courses ranged from kindergarten to the second year in the high school, and the work was under the supervision of the County Superintendent. The County course of study formed the basis of the work, and State and County support was received.

Besides this department of education there was maintained what was known as the “Industrial School”, where no County or State requirements were adhered to and for which no County or State support was expected. This school was established at the Junior Colony, where many of the young people lived, worked, studied and grew. The boys did a large amount of the construction work in providing buildings for this center, and the girls cooked and made many of the clothes for the boys as well as for themselves. Here the young people performed the regular duties of industrial, home keeping and agricultural life and learned many practical things in the performance of these duties. Book knowledge was given as the need for it appeared. In this way a motive for learning was given the student.

“The plan is to take up a variety of subjects and teach the practice of, them before the theory is attempted. Thus in the one hundred acres of garden attached to the Industrial School and operated by the boys and girls, they will be taught soil chemistry, botany, horticulture, agriculture, and biology. These sciences will come so naturally to them that they will not be aware that they are being taught. Later when the theory is taken up, it will be thoroughly understood, because the facts have already been inculcated. Time usually wasted by children will be used in absorbing knowledge, yet the children will enjoy it all”.4

“Self-government is also practiced. The boys have their managers of departments, make their own laws, try their own culprits, and acquire a sense of responsibility. They like it, for it is real life. Boys who have seemed to be incorrigible have been transformed into lovable, tractable, good-natured workers. They have received the attention they needed, and have been given an interest in life and healthful means of expanding their superabundant energy”.5 An attempt was being made in this department to eliminate all but the essentials of education and, for Llano del Rio, gave promise of success.

Bonds had been voted for a five thousand dollar school house, which was to take care of the children and of those in some territory not included in the colony. It was organized as any other school district and was under the same general supervision.

The Llano del Rio Company was incorporated under the laws of Nevada. As a corporation its business was transacted the same as that of any other corporation, and it had the advantage of a capital stock consisted of two million shares, the par value of which was one dollar.

The management of affairs in a general way was in the hands of the nine directors, who were elected by the stockholders of the company. They were the legal representatives of the company and as such were responsible to the State through the corporation laws. This board of directors appointed a superintendent of the colony activities, who was directly responsible to that body.

The superintendent, with the sanction of the board of directors, appointed the assistant superintendent and the heads or managers of the various departments, who appointed the department foremen. Assistant foremen were appointed as needed in the different departments. The assistant superintendent and the foremen could be removed at the option of the superintendent and board of directors, the latter body having, of course, power to remove the superintendent. The board of directors could be recalled by a vote of sixty per cent of the stockholders. Thus we see the final authority came back to the stockholders, each having one vote regardless of the amount of stock held.

There were four distinct departments, with a fifth made up of several lines of activity, grouped together for convenience: (1) Farm, (2) Livestock, (3) Industries, (4) Construction, (5) Administration, Architects, Medical, Membership.

The rules and regulations of the managers, before becoming operative, had to be submitted to the board of directors. Managers and superintendent had regular office hours, so they could be easily reached by those who desired to talk over matters with them. In case of trouble or dispute, if adjustment could not be made by the managers or superintendent, the case was presented to the board of directors for final settlement.

The nature of the “contract” and the “Agreement of Employment” is interesting. Leading features included the following :

Each share holder agreed to buy two thousand shares of stock at the par value of one dollar.

Each agreed to pay one thousand dollars in money (cash at time of signing contract, if possible).

Each agreed to pay in labor, one thousand dollars.

Each received a daily wage of four dollars.

The one thousand dollars in labor could be paid by deducting one dollar a day from the four dollars daily wage.

Out of the balance of the three dollars wages the colonist bought his food and clothing from the company store and commissary.

The balance remained to the credit of the individual and could be drawn out in cash from the surplus profits of the colony (if such surplus ever accumulated).

A sum of not more than seventy-five dollars could be drawn each year in cash, which could be spent outside of the colony.

Continuous employment was guaranteed by the company, with provision for annual vacation of two weeks.

No stockholder could’ own more shares than other members.

It was very evident from the conditions of these contracts that all were to be treated alike, regardless of earning ability. The individual was lost sight of in the welfare of the community. All a man could expect — in fact, all he should want, according to the philosophy of the colonists — was the opportunity to earn what he and his family needed to eat and wear, and a place to live in peace and happiness. If he had private property, however, aside from what he had to put into his payments to the colony he was free to take care of it in his own way, but it could not be used in a productive capacity in the colony. He could have pictures, pianos, automobiles, or anything else in the colony which did not interfere with the productive or distributive processes of the colony.

The question was often asked if a single man was not at a disadvantage under this contract. In the first place, such a matter was not supposed to be worthy of consideration with these people. Then, too, if the credits were ever realized on in cash, the members who had made the smallest demands in food and clothing would get the most money.

It is most natural that many difficulties should present themselves in an undertaking of this kind. Some of the troubles of the Llano colony were very similar to those met with by earlier communistic settlements. However, it is probable that some of these difficulties were, as with other colonies, blessings in disguise ; they indirectly contributed, at least, temporary strength to the enterprise.

One of the handicaps to the rapid development of the Llano property and to placing it on a more productive basis was the lack of capital. Land had to be bought, water rights secured and developed, houses built, stock and machinery obtained, offices constructed and an advertising and selling campaign conducted, with very little capital outside of the money derived from memberships. This necessitated a large use of credit and a very frugal use of the resources for even the necessities of life. The common necessity, however, made for community thought and action.

Llano del Rio, like many of the earlier colonies of the country, experienced periods of social unrest and dissatisfaction.

This condition was inevitable unless many applicants were excluded and only people of common ideals, harmonious and select, were permitted to become members. While a more careful and conscientious sifting process might have worked for the ultimate good of the colony, it would have been a hard policy to pursue during the early days when funds and labor were both so much needed in the development work.

The Llano del Rio Company was originally organized under the laws of California and, although later operated under a Nevada charter, it was subject to the laws and regulations governing such corporations in this State and also subject to inspection and super vision by the Commissioner of Corporations. During 1915, com plaint against the management of the colony was made to the Commissioner, which resulted in his appointing Deputy Commissioner H. W. Bowman of Los Angeles to investigate the company affairs generally. Mr. Bowman’s report was submitted to the Commissioner December 31, 1915, and contained material of value in this discussion. This report resulted in the Commissioner of Corporations issuing specific instructions to the company governing the sale of stock, at the time the permit authorizing such sale was made.

Shortly after this thirty-two dissatisfied colonists withdrew from the colony, and in a signed statement presented to the Commissioner of Corporations declared that the colony, organized as a cooperative enterprise, having for its purpose mutual helpfulness, had become a one-man autocracy, an organization dominated absolutely by Mr. Harriman, who ruled arbitrarily and often without a semblance of justice. Although the statement was not specifically made that Mr. Harriman’s management was in his own interests individually, it is an implication that such was the case.

This was followed in a few weeks by a reply to the report of Mr. Bowman and the charges of the colonists who had withdrawn, written by Mr. Harriman.

Mr. Bowman’s report to the Commissioner of Corporations was comprehensive and well arranged. It was submitted in the analytic ‘ style in which attorneys’ briefs are usually submitted. It was written apparently in the spirit of a public official who had discovered a situation which needed, in his opinion, the firm and careful exercise of the law in order to remedy a condition which was producing injustice to a number of citizens of the State.

Mr. Harriman’s answer, on the other hand, was written to justify the conduct of affairs by the company officers. It explained from the official viewpoint the reasons why actions cited in Mr. Bowman’s report as unwise and unjust, were taken. His position was that many of the official acts of himself or the directors of the company, were not only justifiable, but wise, and in the interests of the company as a whole, and, if understood, would be viewed by others in that way.

It is neither necessary nor wise to go into a detailed discussion of this controversy in this paper. It was difficult for each side to appreciate the position of the other, and some injustice probably resulted. However, the final result was no doubt beneficial to the colony and brought about a closer supervision of the company affairs by the Commissioner of Corporations.

The personnel of the colonists is interesting. About twenty-five per cent of the members were Californians and, as might be expected, a majority came from west of the Rocky Mountains — at least sixty to seventy per cent. Recruits came from the South, the Middle West and the East, but they were comparatively few in number. The several occupations of the colonists prior to their coming to Llano are an interesting study. On June 26, 1917, a survey showed that six had been engaged in transportation, fifteen in professional lines, five in the printing trades, ten clerks, eight miners, eighteen workers in manufacturing plants, seventy-three in business lines, thirteen in building trades, and one hundred four farmers.

There were few foreigners in Llano. Nearly all were so far removed from foreign parentage that they would be classed as Americans. Their habits, thought and ideals were formed by American influences.

The character of the members of the colony was above what I expected to find before my visit there. The leaders were wide awake men of affairs, several of whom had had very successful private business experience.

As one conversed with the people one was impressed with the fact that, for the most part, they were men and women of intelligence and common sense. They were not there because they were “down and out” and unequal to the struggle of life. If that had been the case they would have been unable to raise the necessary funds to become members of the colony. They were largely substantial persons who had banded themselves together to attempt to work out a community life that was without a capitalist and where the fruits of toil went where, in their estimation, they belonged, to the laborer.

In the fall of 1917 it was decided by the directors of the company that a change of location of the home or mother colony would be beneficial. It was urged. that progress would be more rapid, and prosperity and ultimate success more sure, if the colony were located in a section of the country with larger agricultural possibilities. The proposal was agreed to by the colonists, and in November, 1917, the company interests, material and spiritual, were largely transferred to Stables, La. Here a tract of sixty thousand acres, well provided with buildings, had been purchased, which was to become the new home, the new center of this communistic enterprise.

Reports from; Stables indicate progress, and those who have watched developments in California will observe with interest the colony career in Louisiana.