Ghosts & Gold

Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo The “fat hill” produced silver, lead, and zinc for a century. At its peak, over 1,000 people lived here working in mines as the San Felipe and Union. At the time the smelters were the best there were. Silver was roasted and formed into bullion, sent down the Yellow Grade road by mule team, then shipped across Owens Lake by steamboat. From the lakeside port of Cartago, the bullion was loaded onto Remi Nadeau‘s freighters and hauled into Los Angeles.

The Prophet and a Vision

John Brown senior was prolific in early San Bernardino County history. He was a man of many careers; sailor, soldier, frontiersman, store owner, road builder, and community leader. John Brown was also a Spiritualist and wrote a book about his experiences titled ‘Medium of the Rockies.’

John Brown had a Spirit Guide who would come to him and give him visions of things that were to happen.  Mr. Brown claimed his guide was very accurate in his predictions. He recalls one experience as follows:

One night, in my wild Mountain home, it was about 1843 or 4, dates I have forgotten, my guide came to me and told me: “Tomorrow you will throw a stone and break your riding mule’s hind leg. . . .

Mr. Brown may have been in a dream or meditative state when he had this vision.

. . . My guide took me out into the valley where my mule was standing, about 30 yards distant from us. I picked up a stone, threw it and broke the leg as my guide had said. He then said: “There, see what you have done. Now, you tell all your companions what I have shown you, and let them prevent it if they can.”

Establishing the sanctity of the moment:

At this time I lived in a lodge in Indian style, with two men named Brinks and Burrows, and as usual, I found, on waking, all the men encamped sitting quietly around me; as by this time they had become firm believers in what I could tell them, and no one would leave camp, or turn loose any horses until they consulted the prophet, as they called me, and would then use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them.

I suppose John’s talents and abilities have impressed the men previously since they call him the “prophet.”

And as use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them on this occasion, I requested them to prevent, if possible, breaking the mule’s leg; I told them it would occur about sunset. They then placed a guard over me and declared I should not go out of the lodge that day; and thus they felt sure they had Spirit and Prophet both in their power. And, I assure you, reader, I was just as just desirous as anyone to prevent the act from taking place. But notwithstanding they, on many other occasions, had used the same or similar methods to prevent my sayings coming true and always failed, yet they had the hopes of being successful this time. —

Mr. Brown details how horses were separated into two groups to keep marauders from stealing them all at once.

— I must explain to the reader that in the wild country, in those days, we had one man hired, usually a Mexican, the guard are animals in the daytime when we were not traveling, and bring them up to our camp about sunset, when every man who own horses would take them to some secluded spot and hide them, retaining a few, that would be tied encamped by the foot to a large stake. This was done to prevent the Indians from getting all, in case they came upon us.–

With that being said, Mr. Brown remains in the lodge throughout the day in order to prevent the events of his vision from taking place.

— I remained a prisoner and till nearly sunset, when a you and a cry was raised for all hands could turn out. Here comes the cabaloto! Band the horses, every man take care of his horses! Thus a tumult was raised, to which all were accustomed on occasions of this kind, and I, with all the camp rushed for two separate then drive my horses to their hiding place for the night.

Before Mr. Brown proceeds with the rest of the story he reminds the reader about the prediction and explains that at that moment it was on no one’s mind.

Reader, not a man in that camp remembered one word or thing which had been said or done regarding this mysterious affair. All thought in reference thereto was taken from all, not even myself, who had been a prisoner all day, had the least conceivable idea of breaking my mule’s leg. —

Of course. Perfect.

It so happened that one of Burrows’ mares had foaled a colt that day, to which my mule had become attached. Mr. B. was near his mare looking at the young colt, and as I was driving my horses, the mule, having made friends with the colt and its mother, would run back, which he continued to do as I would try to drive him away; after I had worked in this way for some time, I passed close to where Burrows stood and remarked to him that I would throw a stone at him which I did.

Within all the ruckus and confusion, a moment of clarity–A self-fulfilling prophecy?

And the instant the stone went from my fingers everything flashed upon my mind; I turned my back towards the mule and remarked to Burrows that I had broken my mule’s leg. He said: I reckon not at that distance, which was about 30 yards. I told him I saw the stone go just as I did in the night and I knew the leg was broken. He then said: “I believe you have, for the mule made a jump and now cannot put his foot to the ground.”

The witness speaks:

Mr. Burrows then remarked, “there is something wonderful about this affair–it is certainly mysterious to think that we never can prevent anything from transpiring that you say will.” . .

So says Mr. Burrows of the Prophet, the Medium of the Rockies.

. . . He then called all to come and witness that what I had told them had come true.

No one seems phased over the loss of a good mule.

This Tragic Struggle

Johannesburg cemetery

What histories of tragic struggle with fortune and of defeat there are written in California! How many young men, for whom still fond hearts of sisters or mothers beat lovingly in vain, have fought the battle of life here unsuccesfully, and have died, as men know how to die, in solitude without a murmur or a groan.

— Charles Loring Brace
The New West, 1869

Earp, California

Earp, California is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County in the Sonoran/Mojave Desert transition next to the Colorado River at the California/Arizona state line in Parker Valley.

Welcome to Earp, California
Welcome to Earp, California

Earp, Ca. post office
Earp post office at the eastern end of Highway 62, ZIP 92242.

In 1910 the little town was named Drennan. In 1929 Drennan was renamed Earp in 1929 in honor of the nefarious Old West lawman and entrepreneur Wyatt Earp. Wyatt and Josephine Sarah Marcus, his common-law wife, lived in the area seasonally from about 1906 staking more than 100 claims near the base of the Whipple Mountains.

Vidal, California
Downtown Vidal, California

Wyatt Earp Cabin
Wyatt Earp, the legendary law man, gunfighter, gambler, businessman and miner along with his wife, Josephine, inhabited this “dream-come-true” cottage from 1925 through 1928, winter and spring months, while he worked his “Happy Days” mines in the Whipple Mountains a few miles north of this site. This is the only permanent residence they owned in their long lives.

They bought a small cottage in nearby Vidal and lived there during the fall, winter and spring months of 1925 – 1928, while he worked his “Happy Days” mines in the Whipple Mountains a few miles north. It was the only place they owned the entire time they were married. They spent the winters of his last years working the claims but lived in Los Angeles during the summers, where Wyatt died on January 13, 1929.

Happy Days Mine
Josie & Wyatt and dog at Happy Days mine west of Parker, Az.

Vidal/Parker area map

Tempest in Silver

Tempest in Silver by Stanley Demes
Desert Magazine – Feb. 1967

TODAY’S TRAVELER to Panamint sees a crazy quilt of bare foundations and ramshackle walls. He marvels, too, at the old brick mill which for almost 100 years has challenged decay and oblivion. But it is not what he sees that affects the traveler; it’s what he feels. As he stands on the road looking up Surprise Canyon which nestles unpretentiously on the Western slope of the Panamint Range, about 10 miles south of Telescope Peak, the years roll back. Breezes echo gruff, untutored voices, and there is a raucous clang as the 20-stamp mill’s witchery produces precious silver ingots for shipment to “Frisco,” fabled financial capitol of the 70s. The lizard on the big granite boulder is unimpressed that a bearded miner’s pick lay on this same rock many years ago. And now, one looks vainly on the old dirt road for tracks of heavily-loaded desert burros. They’re gone just like the silver city herself.

The story of Panamint probably began in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock lode. On this date a silver fever began which swept the United States and was especially “fatal” in the Western frontier where curiously every man was a modern day Jason tirelessly searching for his kind of fleece. But after 1859 many frontier men thought of just one thing—to trek the unknown for silver.

Indian George
Indian George

William T. Henderson was such a man. Spurred on by the silver news emanating daily from the Comstock, and from legends of the enormously rich lost Gunsight mine, the bearded prospector coaxed his burro across colorful Death Valley. With him were S. P. George and Indian George. S. P. George was weaned on the old gunsight lore. Indian George had long since discarded the ways of the red man and made the hopes of the white man his own.

These three dreamers in I860 skirted the flaming cliffs on the west side of Panamint Mountain. While Henderson found nothing to satisfy his thirst for silver, there was something about the ancient granite and metamorphic rocks of Panamint escarpment that promised wealth untold. So, he returned. This time with a legendary adventurer named William Alvord, a sourdough named Jackson, and the ever faithful Indian George. Again Henderson’s dreams of wealth were stymied. He left Panamint never to return. Alvord, his partner, was more unfortunate still. In the upper reaches of Surprise Canyon he was bushwacked by Jackson and left for vultures. All these anxious probings for silver into the desolate sunscorched Panamints were futile. Silver wasn’t discovered until late in 1872 when two of the most colorful champions of the silver west, R. E. Jacobs and Bob Stewart, wandered up Surprise Canyon and found a huge fragment of rich silver ore.

The great migration to the silver diggings began. Crude buildings sprang up like mushrooms after a spring rain. The most useful Panamint edifice was, of course, the Surprise Valley Mining and Water Company’s 20-stamp mill. It was finished in a matter of weeks while miners with huge stacks of ore chaffed at the bit. Good mechanics, carpenters, and millwrights got top wages of $6 per day. Most popular, of course, were the saloons and Panamint in those days had some fine ones. Like San Francisco, Panamint had its own Palace Hotel. Its barroom was built by skilled Panamint craftsmen and had a beautiful black walnut top. On the side walls were handsome pictures of voluptuous females in varying states of dishabille. But Dave Neagle, the owner of this splendid saloon, was especially proud of his magnificent mirror. It was 8 x 6 feet with double lamps on each side.

Fred Yager early determined that his “Dexter” saloon was going to surpass Neagle’s. Fred especially wanted the finest mirror in town. So, he sent to San Diego for a beauty. The mirror installed was to be a 7 x 12 foot sparkler. Tragedy struck, however, when an inebriated miner fell on the shimmering reflector just as it was being positioned against the wall. Sheltered in the confines of his Palace, Dave must have smiled at his rival’s sore plight—perhaps murmuring encouragingly that breaking a mirror leads to seven years bad luck.

There were two outstanding architectural omissions in Panamint. There was no jail—criminals had to be taken to Independence for incarceration. Further, though it was sorely needed, Panamint never had a hospital. On several occasions Panamint News editors Carr and later Harris cried out in their columns for a community hospital. Interestingly enough, the two crusading editors were mute concerning the lack of a jail.

Although it was not bruited about as such, the building owned and tastefully decorated by Martha Camp, played a significant role in the development of the new town. In Martha’s care was a bevy of attractive, if overly painted, young ladies whose lives were dedicated to two things: to make money and keep miners content.

It cannot be doubted, however, that Panamint prosperity was due to its mines. The two richest were suitably entitled Jacobs Wonder and Stewarts Wonder. Assays of these two mines showed ore values ranging from $100 to $4,000 per ton, the average being about $400. Stewart, a well known Nevada senator, later joined with another Nevada senator, J. P. Jones, to form Surprise Valley’s biggest mining combine, The Surprise Valley Company. Stewart and Jones had other local interests. They owned the Surprise Valley Water Company and a toll road procured from grizzly Sam Tait which trailed up Surprise Canyon. Charges for ascending this road were quite nominal: $2.00 for a wagon, 4 bits for a horseman, and 2 bits for a miner and burro.

The two editors of the Panamint News, at first Carr and later Harris, were rhapsodic in their faith in Panamint’s ultimate prosperity. Late in 1874 the front page of the news throbbed with excitement. “There is reason to believe, the News stated, that a busy population of from three to four thousand souls will be in Panamint in less than a year,” and later, “When we begin to send out our bullion it will be in such abundance as will cause the outside world to wonder if our mountains are not made of silver.” Harris’ beginning enthusiasm must have haunted him later, for his paper of March 2, 1875 modestly informs us that “there were only 600 people at Panamint.”

Despite the fact that the Havilah Miner proclaimed that Panamint City’s silver yield would one day eclipse the Comstock, capital funneled slowly and sporadically into the silver city. Private persons mostly subsidized Panamints mining activities. Senator Jones’ faith in Panamint was shown by hard cash accumulations of partially developed mines. The Senator’s brother caught the silver virus and plunked down $113,000 for a number of claims in the Panamint district. Stock sales never boomed. One wonders if the wildly energetic silver sun of the Comstock lode were not out to eclipse a potential rival. After all, shares in the Con Virginia were flirting a’la Croesus with the San Francisco stock exchange at the $700 mark. More dramatic was E. P. Raine’s method of seeking money for Panamint. He carted 300 lbs. of rich ore across the Mojave to Los Angeles. He staggered into the Clarendon Hotel and dumped the ore on a billiard table. Unfortunately, hotel patrons were more interested in the fact that Raine bought drinks for all than they were in the welfare of Panamint.

Remi Nadeau

Probably the most popular method of getting freight to Panamint was sending goods via Remi Nadeau’s Cerro Gordo Freighting Company. Remi’s swaggering mule teams made daily trips from San Fernando to the Panamint mines. Remi was ever the epitome of optimism. Although untouched by such 20th Century transportation behemoths as the cross country truck and the jet cargo plane, Remi’s corporate slogan was “all goods marked C. G. F. C. will be forwarded with dispatch.”

But most characteristic of Panamint transportation in the early days was the solitary miner who arrived on foot followed by a heavily-laden burro. Within his hair-matted bosom slumbered the lion’s share of the vigor and courage of frontier America. Courage, however, wasn’t always the answer on the torrid road to  Panamint. Bleached bones of unlucky prospectors sparkled all too frequently in the Mojave sun. When Panamint hearts were at their lightest and silver ore seemed to stretch like a ribbon of wealth to the center of the earth, the people of Panamint, spear headed by their grey-haired champion, Senator Jones, attempted to build a railroad from Shoo Fly (Santa Monica) to Independence. This railroad was to make Panamint the silver empire of the world. Already England was being heralded as an inexhaustible market for Panamint silver. Unfortunately, however, the railroad was to remain a dream railroad. The project clashed with the wishes of the great Southern Pacific quadrumvirate of Stanford, Crocker, Hopkins, and Huntington. The proposed Shoo Fly to Independence railroad won some initial battles—Senator Jones’ Chinese laborers soundly trounced a corps of General Huntington’s forces in the Cajon Pass, but the good Senator lost the decisive battle for his beloved railroad in the hallowed halls of Congress. The Southern Pacific, sans Winchester, had a clear blueprint for winning the West.

Panamint City,1875

Recreation for Panamint’s thrifty merchants and boisterous sourdoughs centered, of course, in the city’s saloons. Whiskey was excellent and surly Jim Bruce dealt in a neat hand of faro. Whether tired miners came into Dave Neagle’s to ogle at pictures of nude ladies, to have a few drinks, or to chat with lovely, but garishly painted young ladies, all present usually had a good
time. Rarely was there serious gun play. Once a Chinese window washer served as target for the six gun of a frolicsome and intoxicated miner, but usually life in a Panamint bar did little to disturb the city’s reputation as an “orderly community.” In their more gentle moments, some men attended the Panamint Masonic Lodge.

For the respectable female, recreational possibilities were severely limited. Legendary is the dance that Miss Delia Donoghue, proprietress of the Wyoming Restaurant, threw in honor of George Washington, the father of her country. To a four piece combo led by learned Professor Martin and paced by the twangs of a soused harpist, doughty men danced with 16 lovely ladies, almost the entire female population of the city.

Panamint certainly wasn’t as wicked as Tombstone, but it had its share of crime. Crime in this petulant silver metropolis ranged from writing threatening letters and petty thievery to infamous murder. The anonymous letters were sent to editor Harris. They criticized his reporting of the murder of Ed Barstow, night watchman for the Panamint News building, by gun fighter and chief undertaker Jim Bruce. This murder took place in Martha Camp’s pleasure house on Maiden Lane. Ed learned that his pal Jim was making time with Sophie Glennon who, demimonde damsel or not, was his girl. He burst into the bedroom firing his six gun blindly. Jim, drawing from his wide experience in such emergencies, sighted his target carefully and pumped two bullets into his erstwhile friend. A sentimental wrapping was given the whole affair when on his death bed Barstow confessed that he was drunk at the time and that his friend was guiltless. More sentiment was piled on when editor Harris used the crime as an excuse for moralizing on the dangers of drink.

A woman figured in one Panamint murder. Sleek Ramon Montenegro resented the words Philip de Rouche used to his comely escort. Montenegro, as lithe as a rattlesnake and with all its speed, knocked down the offender. For revenge, de Rouche later used the butt of his gun to play tattoo on Montenegro’s face. However, the handsome Latin won out in the end. Panamint sreets were a sea of flame for one moment as Montenegro’s gun flashed and killed the Frenchman. Taken to Independence for trial by Deputy Sheriff Ball, Montenegro was tried by a Grand Jury and, although pleading guilty, was acquitted.

Panamint’s most celebrated crime would probably never have been committed if Panamint were a stable community and due process of law an accepted way of righting wrongs in the silver city. A. Ashim was a respected member of the Panamint community. He belonged to the local Masonic Lodge and ran the town’s largest general merchandising business. But like most town males, Ashim had a six gun and had experience using it. So, when Nick Perasich ran off to Darwin leaving behind an unpaid bill of $47.50 at his store, Ashim walked into a Darwin restaurant. There Ashim shot Perasich three times, killing him instantly. The vendetta which resulted was not inferior to Mafia revenge killings of our day. Perasich’s brothers, led by the volatile Elias, pressed to kill Ashim. They almost succeeded. Hiding behind cornstalks along the roadside, they intercepted the stage and fired into it. Ashim escaped, but his mother received a powder burn on her nose.

Panamint stagecoach

But it was those wily ex-New Yorkers, Small and McDonald, who turned Panamint criminology into something resembling a comic opera. From their infamous castle nestled in Wild Rose Canyon, these disheveled silver “knights” rode their sleek chargers into clandestine rendezvous with those jolting fortresses of the West, Wells-Fargo stagecoaches. Once, the wily knaves hunted for a silver mine—and found one. They had no intention of working it. As soon as they could, they unloaded the mine on Senator Stewart. Money received from the sale of the mine could not have come at a more fortuitous moment for the unholy pair. They had been apprehended by Jim Hume, Wells-Fargo investigator, for robbing the Eureka and Palisades stage. Wells-Fargo forgot to press charges when Small and McDonald turned over to them the money received from the Senator for the sale of the mine.

After their close brush with Wells-Fargo, a legend started by twinkle-eyed Senator Stewart says that the desperados kept their eye on Senator Stewart’s progress with his new mine. Alarmed by the undue concern of the bandits with his property, Stewart devised a clever ruse to foil the waiting thieves. He melted ore from the mine into five silver balls weighing over 400 pounds each. When the bandits thought the time was ripe, they opened their saddle bags and
pounced on the mine. Imagine their amazement at the sight of the five huge balls of silver. Legend adds that Stewart was horribly vilified by the disappointed pair for his unsportsmanlike conduct. In this case, however, legend is not correct. Remi Nadeau tells us in his book on California ghost towns that Stewart’s mill fashioned five massive ingots as a precaution against theft.

Bodie ghost town
Bodie

The criminal activities of Small and McDonald were destined to end soon after the robbery on Harris and Rhine’s store in the spring of 1876. Briefly, the brigands made nuisances of themselves around Bodie. A dispute over spoils, however, led to a heated dispute which led to gun play. John Small was not quite as fast on the draw as his partner.

Why did Panamint die? People nowadays think that the silver veins were surface-bound and did not extend to any great depth. This reasoning appears quite cogent; after all, the silver city’s star did rise and set in four short years. A contrary viewpoint, however, was expressed by Professor O. Loew who, late in 1875, was quoted as saying: “Never have I seen a country where there was a greater probability of true fissure veins than that of Panamint. In the Wyoming and Hemlock mines large bodies of ore will be encountered.” But even as Loew spoke, decay burdened the wind. Editor Harris left Panamint for Darwin in 1875; Doc Bicknell followed soon after. Before Harris packed his wagon for Darwin he advanced his notion why Panamint died—the lack of road and rail transportation. Harris genuinely felt that a railroad could have saved the city.

Darwin, Ca.

There was another reason why Panamint became an untimely ghost town. Two hard-bitten prospectors, Baldwin and Wilson, discovered two rich mines in the nearby Coso mountains. The two miners told the people of Panamint that they had the two richest mines in the world. Panamint accepted their words and their enthusiasm as gospel. Immediately a great exodus of wagons trailed down Surprise Canyon headed for the promising capital of the Cosos, Darwin. Unquestionably the discovery of these silver mines in the Cosos provided the coup de grace for the already stricken city as Coso mines were “argentiferous” and did not require milling.

The deluge that swept down Surprise Canyon in 1876 was perhaps the final curtain in this historic drama of the old West. Its rushing waters played around empty shacks and deposited layers of heavy silt on little more than dreams. But there was one person enslaved by the charm of the silver city, Jim Bruce. Long after the mines were closed this formidable faro dealer and gunfighter lived a tranquil if uncertain existence in the city he loved.

Panamint flexed feeble muscles of silver again in 1947. On this date Nathan Elliott, movie press agent, established the American Silver Corporation in a last ditch attempt to wrest silver from long dormant Panamint mines. Elliott spun a sumptuous verbal web that entrapped many of the film Capitol’s finest. Aided by Vice President and Comedian Ben Blue, the silver-tongued promoter succeeded in raising $1,000,000. With this money Panamint mines were deepened. But Elliott’s hopes for a bonanza never materialized. To the wonder and rage of the movie world, the great developer vanished into protective oblivion.

Today Panamint is deserted except for the Thompson sisters who live up Surprise Canyon a few miles north of the old mill. They are old-time residents of the area and their residence, Thompson camp, is a soothing backdrop of green poised against bitter desolation. The Thompson home is encircled by tall trees; a fenced yard secures a well-watered lawn which always has the appearance of being freshly mowed.’ This is due to the wonderful “automatic mower” owned by these ladies, a dusky well-fed burro.

These soft-spoken daughters of the Mojave own a number of mining claims in the area. From time to time they hire miners to sample ores from neighboring hills or to repair rickety scaffolding. Although, the Thompson sisters run a relaxed operation now, their mining activities
would be greatly accelerated by an increase in the price of silver. You can be assured of this not only from what they say, but also from the silvery sparkle that sometimes dances in their eyes.

from:
Tempest in Silver by Stanley Demes – Desert Magazine – February 1967

Death Valley’s Titus Canyon

by Betty J.  Tucker –  Desert Magazine April, 1971
(photos – Walter Feller)

The road and scenery through Titus Canyon in Death Valley produces all the ups and downs of a young love, then steadies out into the young matronly area. Further on, it matures and gains
the stature of sedate old age.

Titus Canyon Road, Death Valley
Titus Canyon Road

That’s a pretty good life span for a mere 25 miles. The only problem is that occasionally heavy rains rip out the road, so be sure and check with the rangers. Trailers cannot be taken on this road and I wouldn’t recommend trucks and campers, although we saw one go through.  At times the high center of the road forces you into some creative driving.We did it in a dune buggy.

The road into Titus Canyon leaves the Beatty Road and crosses the desert between the Bullfrog Hills and the Grapevine Mountains. Then it begins to climb. This road is one way and it is easy to see why. The steep uphill grades and sharp hairpin curves are not conducive to meeting oncoming traffic. There was that thrill of a first young love—the frightening steepness and sheer drop-offs, but still so breathtakingly beautiful that I wasn’t even afraid. The dune buggy has such a short wheelbase it takes the sharpest corners with  ease.

After cresting at Red Pass, elevation 5,250, we dropped down into a beautiful green valley. Here, nestled comfortably in the yellow flowered brittle bush was the ruins of Leadfield.

Leadfield tunnel
He blasted some tunnels and liberally salted them …

This child was the brainchild of C. C. Julian who would’ve sold ice to an Eskimo. He wandered into Titus Canyon with money in mind. He blasted some tunnels and liberally salted them with lead ore he had brought from Tonopah. Then he sat down and drew up some enticing maps of the area. He moved to usually dry and never deep Amargosa River miles from its normal bed.

Leadfield ghost town, Death Valley
Leadfield ghost town

He drew pictures of ships steaming up the river hauling out the bountiful ore from his mines. Then he distributed handbills and lowered Eastern promoters into investing money. Miners flocked in at the scent of a big strike and dug their hopeful holes.  They built a few shacks. Julian was such a promoter he even conned the US government into building a post office here.

Leadfield post office, Death Valley
Leadfield post office

So for six months, August, 1926 to February, 1927, over 300 people lived here and tried to strike it rich. They dug and lost.

What remains of this fiasco is rather amazing to behold. It most certainly looks like the ghost of a prosperous mine.  The false front, cream-colored, corrugated tin post office is still in good shape. There is a built-in wooden desk in some small shelves on the walls. Of the narrow trail there are two more lime green corrugated tin buildings.

Blacksmith's shop - the wooden block for his anvil and coke bin
Blacksmith’s shop – the wooden block for his anvil and coke bin

Near it is the blacksmith’s building. The wooden block that held his anvil is there as is the bin full of coke.  Both of these buildings are lined with asbestos. There are several small holes where the miners tried to find the promised ore, plus a couple of rather large shafts.

2 1/2 miles  below Leadfield is Klare Spring, the major water supply for the town. Miners stood there in frequent baths here and hold water back to camp. Beside this spring you will find Indian petroglyphs.

Klare Springs, Titus Canyon Road
Klare Springs

We sat on a couple of sun warmed rocks and had a snack. The water trickled by any couple of ravens performed a spectacular air ballet for us.  It was an easy to remember that Titus Canyon got its name through a tragedy.

Titus took half of the stock and went to look for more water.

In 1907, Morris Titus, a young mining engineer, and two of his friends, Mullan and Weller, left Rhyolite intending to cross Death Valley and do some prospecting in the Panamints.  They found the waterhole dry that they had hoped to use. They had only 20 gallons of water for themselves, 19 burros and two horses. Eventually they found a hole where they could get a cup bowl every four hours. While Mullan and Weller waited, Titus took half of the stock and went to look for more water. He never came back. Next day Weller took the remaining stock and set out to look for Titus. He, too, disappeared. Mullan  was found a month later and taken to Rhyolite, more dead than alive. As Titus was known to carry large quantities of gold with him, his family instigated an  extensive search.  No sign was ever found of him. Some thought he might have broken through a salt crust and gone into the mire below. Whatever happened, he has a most beautiful monument in having this particular canyon named after him.

~ end ~

Also see:

Leadfield Ghost Town

History of Leadfield

Stovepipe Wells Area Map

Death Valley Ghost Towns

Titus Canyon Geology

Randsburg’s Dancin’ Skeletons

I called in all my Ghost-Writers here at Old Fort Oliver to help on this Ghost Town edition.

As we sat around the fireplace in my combination atom-bomb-shelter and wine cellar, the old timers told many of their Ghost stories, all have a slight flavor of the bottle. I have them scattered throughout this packet, not too close together, it was a big night, “for spirits.”

Old Jake Topper told about the noisy Ghosts he saw and heard up at Randsburg. Says he saw two skeletons dancing on the tin roof of the old Hubbard Printing Shop.

Determined to get a better look, he climbed a ladder to the roof of the White House Saloon next door, as he stepped off the ladder toward them the two skeletons stopped dancing and reached for their shrouds. Jake said it was sure eerie.

White House Saloon - Randsburg ghost town
White House Saloon

“The tall Ghost but his cold bon’y hand on my sleeve and said to me — as if he could see I was scared — don’t ever worry — look at me I would not be here if I had not worried myself to death — I thought I saw a tear in his eye-socket — but it was a moth. Yes sir said the Ghost, I was a newspaper man and I worried and worried, then I got so I worried because I could not remember what I was worried about.”

Right then and there — said Jake — I made up my mind never to worry again. So saying goodby and keeping worry out of my mind I started down off the roof, and by gosh, you know I fell down the last three steps of the ladder and broke my ankle.

—~—

Harry Oliver’s Desert Rat Scrapbook
GHOST-TOWNS WITH GHOSTS

Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

During the great silver boom in the Calicos, a small community grew up around the Bismarck mine in the next canyon east of Calico camp. Together with the miners of the Garfield, Odessa, Occidental and other mines, there were perhaps 40 persons in the area, which was known as East Calico.

While Calico was less than a mile away, by airline, the direct trail was steep and rugged and the road roundabout. The government did not consider the population sufficient for a post office, and the miners didn’t care to hike into Calico for their mail. So they contributed to a fund to pay a boy named Dave Nichols to bring the mail over, by burro, from the mother camp. But Dave found a better job and no one else wanted to be mail man.

Calico ghost town photo
Calico 1884

About that time a man named Stacy, brother of the Stacy who was postmaster at Calico (their first names have variously been given as James, William, Everett and Alwin) opened a store at Bismark. The Stacys had a dog named Dorsey, a big Scotch collie who had come to them for shelter one stormy night. The Bismarck Stacy took the collie’ with him to East Calico.

The true story of Dorsey the Dog Mail Carrier
Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

But Dorsey’s affections were divided, and after a few days at Bismarck, he ran away back to Calico. Postmaster Stacy attached a note to his neck, switched him and sent him back to Bismarck. After a few such runaways, Postmaster Stacy conceived the notion of tying a sack with newspapers in it on Dorsey’s back when he sent him home. Dorsey delivered them successfully, and soon little saddlepacks labeled “U. S. Mail” were made and attached to the dog’s back and a regular mail service set up between the two camps on a thrice-weekly schedule.

Dorsey soon became one of Calico’s most famous characters, but success did not go to his head.

Though he was not a civil service employee and his mail route entirely unofficial, he was faithful in the completion of his appointed rounds. Though the miners enjoyed attempting to lead him astray or tamper with the mail, he managed to elude them, then resume his course.

There is only one instance of possible misuse of his office on record. One Christmas Herman Mellen was living in a cave near Bismarck and his mother sent him a box of candy and sweets. Stacy had tied this box under Dorsey’s neck, and when he arrived at Bismarck the bottom was out and the contents missing. Whether temptation had proven too strong, the goodies had been hijacked or whether the package had broken open, allowing the contents to spill out was never determined.

The famous dog mail carrier continued his route for two years, until a dip in the boom caused the mines of East Calico to close and mail service became unnecessary. When the Stacys left Calico, they gave Dorsey to John S. Doe, wealthy San Francisco man interested in Calico mines, and Dorsey spent the rest of his life in comfort and ease in the Bay City.

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Mining History

Calico Print- Established 1882 by Vincent & Overshiner
Published at Calico Silver Camp
San Bernardino County, California
EDITED BY HAROLD AND LUCILE WEIGHT
Copyright by THE CALICO PRESS

 

The Lost Breyfogle Mine

The most famous lost mine in the Death Valley area is the Lost Breyfogle. There are many versions of the legend, but all agree that somewhere in the bowels of those rugged mountains is a colossal mass of gold, which Jacob Breyfogle found and lost.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - Death Valley
Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Jacob Breyfogle was a prospector who roamed the country around Pioche and Austin, Nevada, with infrequent excursions into the Death Valley area. He traveled alone.

Indian George, Hungry Bill, and Panamint Tom saw Breyfogle several times in the country around Stovepipe Wells, but they could never trace him to his claim. When followed, George said, Breyfogle would step off the trail and completely disappear. Once George told me about trailing him into the Funeral Range. He pointed to the bare mountain. “Him there, me see. Pretty quick—” He paused, puckered his lips. “Whoop—no see.”

Breyfogle left a crude map of his course. All lost mines must have a map. Conspicuous on this map are the Death Valley Buttes which are landmarks. Because he was seen so much here, it was assumed that his operations were in the low foothills. I have seen a rough copy of this map made from the original in possession of “Wildrose” Frank Kennedy’s squaw, Lizzie.

Breyfogle presumably coming from his mine, was accosted near Stovepipe Wells by Panamint Tom, Hungry Bill, and a young buck related to them, known as Johnny. Hungry Bill, from habit, begged for food. Breyfogle refused, explaining that he had but a morsel and several hard days’ journey before him. On his burro he had a small sack of ore. When Breyfogle left, Hungry Bill said, “Him no good.”

Incited by Hungry Bill and possible loot, the Indians followed Breyfogle for three or four days across the range. Hungry Bill stopped en route, sent the younger Indians ahead. At Stump Springs east of Shoshone, Breyfogle was eating his dinner when the Indians sneaked out of the brush and scalped him, took what they wished of his possessions and left him for dead.

Ash Meadows Charlie, a chief of the Indians in that area confided to Herman Jones that he had witnessed this assault. This happened on the Yundt Ranch, or as it is better known, the Manse Ranch. Yundt and Aaron Winters accidentally came upon Breyfogle unconscious on the ground. The scalp wound was fly-blown. They had a mule team and light wagon and hurried to San Bernardino with the wounded man. The ore, a chocolate quartz, was thrown into the wagon.

Resting Springs Ranch - Old Spanish Trail, Mormon Road
Resting Springs

“I saw some of it at Phi Lee’s home, the Resting Spring Ranch,Shorty Harris said. “It was the richest ore I ever saw. Fifty pounds yielded nearly $6000.”

Breyfogle recovered, but thereafter was regarded as slightly “off.” He returned to Austin, Nevada, and the story followed.

Wildrose (Frank) Kennedy, an experienced mining man obtained a copy of Breyfogle’s map and combed the country around the buttes in an effort to locate the mine. Kennedy had the aid of the Indians and was able to obtain, through his squaw Lizzie, such information as Indians had about the going and coming of the elusive Breyfogle.

“Some believe the ore came from around Daylight Springs,” Shorty said, “but old Lizzie’s map had no mark to indicate Daylight Springs. But it does show the buttes and the only buttes in Death Valley are those above Stovepipe Wells.

“Kennedy interested Henry E. Findley, an old time Colorado sheriff and Clarence Nyman, for years a prospector for Coleman and Smith (the Pacific Borax Company). They induced Mat Cullen, a rich Salt Lake mining man, to leave his business and come out. They made three trips into the valley, looking for that gold. It’s there somewhere.”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith
Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

At Austin, Breyfogle was outfitted several times to relocate the property, but when he reached the lower elevation of the valley, he seemed to suffer some aberration which would end the trip. His last grubstaker was not so considerate. He told Breyfogle that if he didn’t find the mine promptly he’d make a sieve of him and was about to do it when a companion named Atchison intervened and saved his life. Shortly afterward, Breyfogle died from the old wound.

Indian George, repeating a story told him by Panamint Tom, once told me that Tom had traced Breyfogle to the mine and after Breyfogle’s death went back and secured some of the ore. Tom guarded his secret. He covered the opening with stone and leaving, walked backwards, obliterating his tracks with a greasewood brush. Later when Tom returned prepared to get the gold he found that a cloudburst had filled the canyon with boulders, gravel and silt, removing every landmark and Breyfogle’s mine was lost again.

“Some day maybe,” George said, “big rain come and wash um out.”

Among the freighters of the early days was John Delameter who believed the Breyfogle was in the lower Panamint. Delameter operated a 20 mule team freighting service between Daggett and points in both Death Valley and Panamint Valley. He told me that he found Breyfogle down in the road about twenty-eight miles south of Ballarat with a wound in his leg. Breyfogle had come into the Panamint from Pioche, Nevada, and said he had been attacked by Indians, his horses stolen, while working on his claim which he located merely with a gesture toward the mountains.

Subsequently Delameter made several vain efforts to locate the property, but like most lost mines it continues to be lost. But for years it was good bait for a grubstake and served both the convincing liar and the honest prospector.

Nearly all old timers had a version of the Lost Breyfogle differing in details but all agreeing on the chocolate quartz and its richness.

That Breyfogle really lost a valuable mine there can be little doubt, but since he is authentically traced from the northern end of Death Valley to the southern, and since the chocolate quartz is found in many places of that area, one who cares to look for it must cover a large territory.

From: Chapter XXII
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by William Caruthers

Charles Vincent Dougherty

– A.K.A. Charles Tom Vincent –

This story was derived from Chapter 5 of Pearl Comfort  Fisher’s “The Mountaineers,” written by Dorothy Evans Noble and edited by George F. Tillitson

Dorothy Evans Noble, former postmistress at Valyermo and wife of geologist Dr. Lee Noble, wrote this memoir of the Serrano Old Man Vincent whose name was given to Vincent Gap and Vincent Saddle. Mrs. Noble wrote that the memory of the man might not be lost. She gave it to the United States Forestry Service (USFS) who graciously accorded Pearl Fisher to include it in her book, “The Mountaineers.”

Restored cabin

Old Man Vincent’s daily newspaper came to our small post office at Valyermo, California, but he never did.   Our nearest neighbor,  Bob Pallett, who had a  cattle ranch adjoining our fruit orchards took his mail to Vincent once a month when he took supplies by horseback to the cabin twelve miles up Big Rock Creek on the slope of North Baldy Mountain (now Mount Baden-Powell).  It was a steep trail from our thirty seven hundred fifty foot altitude to Vincent’s sixty six hundred foot. Bob said he was a sort of hermit who hated all women and most men, chasing visitors off his land with a  rifle and spending all his time mining gold and shooting game. He liked Bob and depended on him, and Bob enjoyed sessions with the old man. We heard stories about Vincent for three years before we ever saw him.

Original cabin – 1999

The first week of April 1914,  brought such frightful news of war in Europe that ranch work seemed futile and we decided on a sudden walking  trip into the mountains to think things over. A geologist, Greg, was visiting us and we three set out on foot to climb Mount Baldy. We took Vincent’s mail with us. It was a long climb up to Vincent  Saddle at the head of Big Rock Creek where we followed a trail high on the slope of the mountain for a mile and looked down on a neat clearing with a small gray cabin shaded by two tremendous spruce trees. We skidded down the hill, slippery with pine needles, and zoomed right to the cabin door which opened with a bang, and Old Man Vincent faced us rifle in hand.

“Who in hell are you?” was his greeting.

He was a sight to remember, a thin old man in blue jeans and a faded blue shirt that barely covered his barrel chest, with piercing blue eyes  that glared from under tufted white eyebrows and a little white beard under an aggressive chin.

Before we could explain he spotted the bundle of mail my husband held out, made a grab for them, yelling “Papers? Good.”

He dashed back into the cabin, slammed the door and slid the bolt inside. We sat down for a while on his woodpile, glad for time to take in the good lines of the cabin with its steep roof and chimney, all in the shade of its sides weathered to a soft gray that blended into the bushes and pine needles around it.  There was water in a moat,  a small ditch that circled the cabin, fed out of a pipe at the back where icy cold water dripped into a barrel. Two small tents nearby and a big meat safe hanging  from a limb of the largest spruce aroused our hope of a friendlier reception later.

Suddenly the door burst open and Vincent charged out, waving  a newspaper and screaming with excitement.

“Say, is it really true, is it war?”

And when we confirmed the awful truth he was wild with joy, not distressed at all.

“Fine, fine, I ain’t died too soon. War’s the stuff I like. Maybe we still got some real men in the world after all. Let ’em fly at it, rip things up, git a little action to stir things up. Shoot, kill, that’s the life.”

Nothing was too good for us from then on. He took us into the cabin  cross-questioning  us as to the number of men killed so far and insisting  on our spending the night with him after we climbed the mountain.  He even went with us part way.

Tired by the long climb we were delighted to find Vincent busy with a pot of savory stew made of jerky (dried venison), onions, potatoes; and one of beans.  He had fixed beds of boughs in the tents for us and set places in the rickety little homemade table by the stove. He let me make the green tea and wash the dishes later while the men talked war. Vincent stretched out on the bunk, Lee and Greg perched on the other and by bedtime  we were  all old buddies,  beginning  a friendship  that lasted as long as the old man lived.

A  loud bellowing of song woke us  the next morning.

Vincent was fixing breakfast to the tune of “If you get there before I do, Tell Old Jack I’m comin’, too,” followed by “Fifteen  men on a dead man’s chest, Yo-ho-ho  and a bottle of rum.” He described the battle of Gettysburg while we ate, claiming that no losses  in Germany  could equal those bloody days.  He was wounded  there and sent back to Conneut,  Ohio, his birthplace.  He was a  member   of Company F, 8th Ohio Infantry and proud of it.  As we left him that day he barked at me,

“Don’t you ever come back here again.” And when I gasped, he added, laughing. “Unless you stay a week here.”

I had heard of his remark to a silly Los Angeles woman who had come to thank him for letting  her use water from his ditch when she camped nearby.  She had minced in and grabbed his hand, saying,

“I do hope I’ll see you in the city sometime.”

His retort was, “I hope I never see you again, Madam.”

So we realized that the ice was broken for us. From then on until his death in l926 Vincent was our close friend and real companion.  We often spent a week or two with him and when we found his birthday was on Christmas Day we formed the habit of having him with us for the day. The first time he came he told us that it was the first Christmas dinner he had not eaten alone in fifty years.

The last Christmas dinner he ate with us when he was feeble, but he polished off two big slabs of his favorite dessert, mince pie liberally  laced with strong, homemade applejack. Bob Pallett asked  him the next day how the pie “set.” Vince’s reply was,

“Swell, you bet. Course all night I thought sixteen jack rabbits was loose in my stomach but it was worth it.”

I had pulled  a boner that day by saying I wished he had brought his glasses along  so he could write in our guest book. He was outraged, said he never needed glasses, that no one ever would who lived outdoors and followed deer tracks instead  of ruining his sight poring over books. Vincent’s  sight was really remarkable for he could  spot a moving object miles away, and also read close up even in his eighties. Stretched out on his bunk of an evening he put a lighted candle on his barrel chest, between the “Los Angeles Times” and his eyes pored over every item. He kept his books under his bed, a few old favorites that he read over and over. A copy of “Life of Napoleon”  and one of “Treasure Island” were read most. A bottle of whiskey flanked them but he drank from it seldom.

Vincent loved to talk and he had a gift of understatement and a pungent way of expressing himself that was masterly. He wasted no words and omitted unnecessary details. His pet subject was the Civil War, particularly the Battle of Gettysburg where he was wounded in July of l863. He and a pal named Lockwood had enlisted as lads and after the war they went home, planning  to set up in business together with their families’ help. This was refused so they set off for good on horseback, heading west. They left in a fury and never communicated with their kin.

The story of that trek was fascinating. They decided to prospect for gold and in Arizona they found rich claims, filed on them, built a shack and set to work. Vincent never would explain why they moved on, just said they had trouble and shoved on for California on horseback. He told of crossing  a river and stopping  to swim in it, leaving their clothes on a bank. They spied an Injun sneak up and make off with their clothes. He waited for us to ask how they got them back, then just said,

“That Injun never stole nothin’ more. I took off after him. I got the clothes.”

They finally reached Los Angeles, a nice little town in l868 but too citified for Vincent. Lockwood settled there, but Vince prospected the mountains for months all over the region, even going to Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada country.  Nothing suited him until he happened on Big Rock Creek on our edge of the Mojave  Desert and rode up its source on the slope of North Baldy Peak, camping on what is now known  as Vincent  Saddle, the divide between Big Rock Creek and the beginning of the San Gabriel  River. His first claim was located away from the slope beyond steep, rocky Mine Gulch,  and he named it Big Horn because he killed a mountain sheep there.  This claim he later sold and it was developed by a mining company into a rich, high grade mine which ultimately  produced many thousands of dollars.

Bighorn Mine

The location at Big Horn did not suit Vincent so  he continued prospecting until he found one that did, a flat wooded place with fine big timber and a spring near enough to provide water after he had dug half a mile of ditches. He had adapted a kitten by that time, a Maltese gray, and he named the new claim he had found Blue Cat. It was near Mine Gulch, about half a mile from the flat place which meant more ditches and trails. Then he tackled building his cabin which stands intact to this day. (By the thirties it had collapsed into ruins but not until after Nancy Templeton did an oil painting of it.  Maxine Taylor did an oil painting of Vincent’s Cabin in the mid l980s. Her painting is reproduced herein.)

He hand-hewed shakes (shingles)  from the trees, built a stone fireplace  in one end, put up the one-room, steep- roofed cabin with just one small window  and a door. He made two bunks, one on each side of the fireplace, two arm chairs and a small table. He said he worked too hard to be lonely for when the cabin was finished he had the mine to timber and later made  a small stamp-mill with a Pelton wheel run by water from his spring.

He had help after a few years when he sold Big Horn and that company built a good trail on the slope above the cabin so a heavy stove was moved up and cement to mix with the rocks for a cabin floor.  Another prospector built a shack away from Vincent’s but “The Nigger” as Vince called him, although his name was Delancey and he wasn’t colored, and Vince fought like cat and dog. But Vincent lived on solitude by choice for forty years, working on his tunnels and ditches, hauling ore back by wheelbarrow to the stamp mill, to refine by running crushed ore over a mercury chute, then sacking the gold to take to the city once a year.

The winters must have been grim at the altitude of sixty six hundred feet, but he had a huge woodpile  at hand, lots of dried venison stored up, beans and canned tomatoes, potatoes and onions laid away by late fall. Summers are lovely and cool there, and nine months of the year hunting  was fine sport; deer and mountain  sheep, quail, rabbits and doves all made good food and he could catch fish in Vincent Creek.

By the time we knew Vincent the cabin had every comfort heart could wish, and Bob Pallett to haul freight from Palmdale once a month he could relax and live the life of Reilly. The big screened meat safe that hung from a spruce tree, out of reach of bears, was full of venison for there was no closed season then and Vince  would  have disregarded if there had been. A picture of McKinley hung over the old man’s bunk and a goldpan  and rifle were fastened to the chimney. Every afternoon when he came in from work he stripped to the buff and threw a potfull of hot water over his strong, rugged body, regardless of company; so we learned to vamoose.  He was strong as an ox, the picture of health, thin and wiry with pink cheeks and snowy white hair. He could and did, walk for miles tracking  a deer and he never fired an unnecessary shot. He loathed the city fellers that banged away regardless, when after game. Once we asked him what sort of winter’s  hunting he had had, and he said,

“Only fair. I missed one shot clean. Took me six shots to get my five deer.”

When he killed he dressed the deer on the spot, packed as much on his back as he could carry home, then made trips back to get the rest. Hunting meant a food supply, not sport, to him.

He was a crank about coffee which must be strong and coal black. When I made the coffee one morning  and asked him if he wanted a second cup, his answer was,

“Well, yes I do, but God it’s weak I don’t see how it gets up the spout.”

His pet comment was “Strong coffee never hurt no one, but weak coffee is pizen.”

He called Postum “Potassium” and was scornful of it, and he always pronounced boulevard “bovelard”  and brooked no correction. He drank what little whiskey he imbibed straight, scorning fancy drinks. Once we took some rare old sherry up for his pleasure and sat  by the fire with cups of it, expecting a nice session of talk. Vincent took one sip out of his cupful, swore, spat it angrily into the flames and threw the whole cupful into the fire.

“God, what truck,” he said. “What’s wrong with whiskey that anyone bothers with this hogwash?”

Even with the Palletts the old man was secretive,  so we sensed some mystery  in his past. The way he kept his cabin window boarded up unless he was inside, his fury when anyone tried to take his picture, his refusal to let anyone else go to his Los Angeles post office for his pension checks, all added up to some secret. We never dared to refer to a penciled name we once found in one of his old books, for it said “Mrs. Charles Vincent” so we supposed it concerned a wife he’d had sometime.  Only once did any relative show up, a cousin from Conneaut brought to him by Lockwood, who insisted on Vincent’s  attending a dinner at her home in Glendale.

Later we wormed the story out of him to our lasting amusement.  He went, they had a swell meal, and then

“Durned if she didn’t get out a big book of postcards, pasted in, and she begun on ‘my trip to Europe’  page by page. I had come by trolley and I happened to see one startin’ down the street, so I said ‘Goodbye, Ma’am, here’s my car’ and I run out and hopped on it.  She won’t see any more of me.”

Socialist colony ruins, Llano, Ca.

He had great scorn  for the developments  in southern California. He referred to the Socialist colony (Llano) that settled on the desert below us as a “nest of vermin” and he fulminated against Pasadena and other fancy  towns.

“This country’s the next to git its lickin'” he once said. “I’ll bet I live to see the Japs amarchin’  up Broadway. I sure would like to see a troop bivouacked on them Pasadena lawns.”

Vincent was hipped on cleanliness and order, kept everything in its appointed place and did his washing regularly. He told me once about some campers who had stayed nearby, and his comment on the woman who cooked was

“Say, that there woman was a caution. You could plant a potato patch on the back of her neck. I often seen dough on her elbow from last week’s bakin’. Water didn’t bother her none.”

Before he dug a moat around the cabin and ran water in it he was bothered by ants, for he bought sugar by the sack, and he told us,

“Ants got all through the sack and I couldn’t sift them out. So I jes hauled it down to the M—– family, it was all right for them, they didn’t notice.”

He stayed at the cabin winters until, when he was eighty three, he carried  a quarter of deer back to the cabin from away up the slope of Mount Baldy and collapsed from the effort, so we had to take him to Los Angeles to our doctor, a heart specialist. He was taken to the hospital and kept there for several months as he had a torn ligament  of one of the arteries to his heart.  We feared he was done for, but he came back in good style and lived for years after that, though he could no longer spend winters at the cabin and moved into a tent house by Big Rock Creek on the Pallett Ranch.

I remember his first Christmas holiday there when he came to the post office to cross question me about a geologist who had spent the holidays working  on our geology.

“Say, Noble,”  said he, “What kind of a dam fool was that feller anyway? I was settin’ by my tent, watching the creek in big flood with the bridge washed out and all, and I heard a big splashin’  and seen this guy wadin’ across in water up to his waist.  Up he came and durn if he didn’t tip his hat and say,

“‘Excuse me, sir, but could I trouble you for a drink of water?'”

At intervals Bob Pallett would call us up to say Vincent had collapsed and we would hurry him to the city to install him in the hospital, expecting each trip to be the last. Not so, he came to time after time, and he would chortle over his fooling the doctors.

“They hung around my bed like crows around a dead horse,” he would say, “Waiting to see me die.”

The nurses took a great shine to the game old man and he was a favorite  there.

“I like that place,” he said. “Best coffee in Los Angeles there.”

Once I visited him there and he introduced me to his pet nurse.  I asked him her name and he said it was “Scenery.” When I looked puzzled, he explained.

“Seems as though  the head nurse complained  because so many  nurses came in to talk, so one day they heard her comin’ down the hall and this nurse, she got excited and run. She tripped over the rug on her way out and, say, some scenery I seen.  That’s  been her name ever since.”

Vincent was a baseball  fan and made yearly  trips to Los Angeles to see the games. He would take with him the small sack of gold he had refined from the “Blue Cat” and “Little Nell”, another mine he had developed and named for his pal Lockwood’s daughter Nell;  would  cash it in and put in a safe deposit box. He had a post office box in the city where his Civil War pension checks came, and he would  cash them, too, and put them in the box. When Bob Pallett fell on hard times and was about to lose his ranch he was astonished to have Vincent produce five thousand dollars in cold cash and present it to him.

On September  8, l926,  our doctor phoned  to say that Vincent  was dead and was to be buried on the thirteenth at Sawtelle, the Veterans Home. He had died in the hospital and had told the doctor his life secret in order to assure his burial in the soldiers’ graveyard.  So the Palletts joined us in the drive to Sawtelle where we went to the chapel, asking for the Vincent funeral.

The Veteran’s Chapel for funerals is divided by a crosswall so that two services can be conducted at the same time, one for Catholics  and one for Protestants; so we made for the Protestant part only to learn that no Vincent funeral was slated for that day but a Dougherty funeral was. We were baffled. A Catholic soldier was slated for the other side.

Then a car raced up and our doctor’s secretary rushed up to tell us  that Vincent’s real name was Dougherty,  so the service went through as scheduled, and we all followed the body which was placed on a double gun carriage with that of the Catholic  soldier and taken to Section 9, Row G, Grave 22, in the lovely green cemetery where hundreds of veterans’ graves lie in neat rows.

Bob Pallett whispered, “You’d sure have to hold Vince down if  he knew he was  on that gun carriage  with a Catholic!”

Then our doctor told us the amazing story Vincent had told him a few days before.  He had used his real name, Charles Vincent Dougherty, until a stay in Arizona in 1866 where he and his partner had found gold and staked out prospects. they planned to stay there as the claims were rich and had built a shack and worked away happily in that wild, deserted country. One evening they found three strange men in the shack.

One said he was the sheriff and was checking up on claims. Vincent and Lockwood didn’t like the looks of these men and decided to spy on them. They left the men talking in the shack and went out pretending to work outdoors, crept up at dusk to overhear them talk.  The three men were laying plans to jump the claims, do away with the partners and take over. Vincent and Lockwood  beat them to it, shot all three in a surprise attack and buried them there and then.

Then they lit out as fast as they could on their horses and fled to the wilder west.  They expected to be followed, not realizing that no law force existed then, so they changed their names and hid out the rest of their lives though no one came after them. Vince chose his middle name, Vincent. Of course they had to abandon their rich claims, but Vince knew he could find others as he did later. That is why he never allowed anyone to take his picture, why he barred the one window in his cabin at night, why he suspected strangers, why he had a mail box in Los Angeles to have Dougherty pension checks come to.

The doctor said he would never forget that talk, the fiery old man blurting out the old, old secret, not one bit repentant; proud of his past.

Mt. Baden-Powell

He was  a  fighter, from his boyhood  days on through Gettysburg and his trip west, and his one desire was to be buried with other fighters  as he is. He was taught to kill in the Civil War; he considered the Arizona killings a matter of self-defense; he loved to show his skill in shooting but never killed an animal except for food. His unending labor made him a veritable  Robinson Crusoe on a mountainside, slaving away day after day to make a comfortable  life for himself. He loved the life he led. His magnificent physique kept him from illness, he was full of high spirits and was entertaining  a companion  as we have ever known. Always kind and generous to the few he liked, all his friends agree Charles Vincent  was a Man.

Courtesy Wrightwood Historical Society
-.-

Massacres at the Amargosa Mine

As the first group of Mormon pioneers made their way across the Mojave in 1849, two of them looking for a water source for their livestock explored a canyon and found streaks of gold in the rock. They moved on to Southern California, purchased supplies and equipment, and immediately returned to develop the prospect.

Amargosa house at Salt Creek
Amargosa House

In 1852 the house was first built to provide a permanent shelter and protection for the operation. The ruins of the 3-room house on the hill aren’t much to look at, but the building more than served its purpose over the 100 years it was in use.

In late October of 1864 three miners named Cook, Plate and Gordon were working the mine and living in the house. A band of Paiute attacked the camp and killed Cook then burned the mill in the canyon below. Plate and Gordon survived the attack and high-tailed it off into the desert. Without water their deaths would be slow and painful. About 20 miles away the two men decided to avoid the agony and killed themselves.

Amargosa mine
View of mine from Amargosa House

December of 1864 (or possibly 1866) another company took over the claims. It wasn’t long until there was another Indian raid in which the mine was attacked. There was the advantage that the Indians had been spotted camped out at a nearby spring, so one of the miners made his way to Marl Springs 45 miles away to ask the military for help. The seven miners remaining had not realized the escape was successfully made and help was on its way. The next morning before dawn they attempted to make a run for it and all were killed.

~ Source – BLM

Mining Partners in a Deadly Quarrel

William Farley Kills Matt Price on the Desert Near Dale City, San Bernardino.

San Francisco Call - February 24, 1898
San Francisco Call – February 24, 1898

SANTA FE DEPOT, San Bernardino, Feb. 23. — The second murder on the desert within two weeks was committed yesterday morning about ten miles north of Dale City, this county, by William Farley. His victim was Matt Price, who is said to have been a partner of Farley in some mining property.

Only meager reports have been received and as the scene of the murder is in such a remote and almost inaccessible spot, being seventy miles from the railroad, it will be some time before the full particulars of the affair will be known. Parties who knew the men are inclined to believe that the murder was the result of a quarrel over a mining claim.

Farley has been placed under arrest and Coroner Keating, Deputy Sheriff McElvan. Assistant District Attorney Rolfe and I Benjamin, a stenographer, left for Dale City tin’s morning to hold an inquest. A. E. Reitz, who came in from Dale City yesterday, leaving there early in the morning, says that when he left the camp all was peaceable and that the principals in the affair seemed to be on good terms.

 

Ice–Five Cents a Rub

Calico,  like most of the Mojave Desert, is hot summer.  An incident  of the summer in the 1880s, while Calico was booming, indicates it was hot enough to send the devil scampering home to cool off.

Calico ghost town
Calico ghost town

The driver of the daily ice wagon was doing a grand business unloading his wares at three dollars a block, and no hagglers.  That is, not until a newcomer, a man who had that day come to work in the mines, rushed out of the boarding house and gasped: “Give me a nickel’s worth of ice.”

The Iceman extended his hand, took the nickel, then stepped back to wait.

” Well?”  the hot, tired, dust covered tenderfoot asked.
” Well?”  the Iceman answered.

The new miner made no move. He stood there and looked blankly from the load of ice to its owner and back again. the Iceman opened his mouth once or twice as if to speak, then snapped his lips together.

” Well?”  the newcomer repeated.
” Well yourself,”  was  the reply.  “Maybe you don’t know it but ice is five cents a rub.   If you don’t hurry, your rub is goin’ to be melted away!”

The tenderfoot hastily took his rub.

 from: Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County — WPA Writers Program

Charles Brown at Greenwater

From “Loafing Along Death Valley Trails” by William Caruthers

Charles Brown General Store - Shoshone, Ca.
Charles Brown General Store – Shoshone, Ca.

The story of Charles Brown and the Shoshone store begins in Greenwater. In the transient hordes of people that poured into that town, there was one who had not come for quick, easy money. On his own since he was 11 when he had gone to work in  a Georgia mine, he only wanted a job. And he got it. In the excited, loose-talking mob, he was conspicuous because he was silent, calm, and unhurried.

There were no law enforcement officers in Greenwater.  The jail was 150 miles away. Every day was a field day for the toughs in the town. Better citizens decided to do something about it. They petitioned George Naylor, Inyo County Sheriff at Independence to appoint or send a deputy to keep some semblance of order.

Naylor sent over a badge and a note that said, “Pin it on some husky youngster, who is unmarried and unafraid and tell him to shoot first.”

The Citizens’ Committee met. ” I know a fellow who answers that description,”  one of them said. ” Steady sort. Built like a panther. Comes from Georgia. Kind slow motion in till he is ready to spring. Name is Brown.”

The badge was pinned on Charles Brown.

Charles & Stella Brown

Greenwater was a port of call for Death Valley Slim, a character of the Western deserts, who normally was a happy-go-lucky likable fellow. Periodically Slim would fill himself with desert “likker”,  his belt with six guns and terrorized the town.

Shortly after Brown assumed the duties of his office, Slim sent word to the deputy that he was on his way to that place for a little frolic. ” Tell him, ”  he coached the messenger, “Sheriffs rile me and he better take a vacation.”

After notifying the merchants and residents who promptly barricaded themselves indoors, the officer found shelter for himself  in Beatty, Nevada.

So Slim only seen empty streets and barge shutters upon arrival.  Since there was nothing to shoot at, he  headed through Dead Mead Canyon for Greenwater.  their he found the main street crowded to his liking and the saloons jammed. He made for the nearest, ordered a drink and, whipping out his gun, began to pop the bottles on the shelves. At first blast, patrons made a break for the exits. At the second, the doors and windows were smashed and when Slim holstered his gun, the place was a wreck.

Messengers were sent for Brown, who was at his cabin a mile away. Brown’s stuck a pistol in his pocket and went down. He found Slim in Waddell’s saloon, the town’s smartest.  their Slim had refused to let the patrons leave with the bartenders cowed, the patrons cornered, Slim was amusing himself by shooting alternately at chandeliers, the feet of customers, and the plump breasts of the nude lady featured in the painting behind the bar.  following Brown at a safe distance, was half of the population, keyed for the massacre.

Brown walked in and said “Hello Slim”. ” Fellows tell me you  are hogging all the fun. Better let me have that  gun, hadn’t you?” “Like hell,” Slim sneered, ” I’ll let you have it right through the guts.”

As he raised his gun for the kill, the panther sprung  and the battle was on.  they fought one over the bar room –  standing up, laying down, rolling over –  first one, then the other on top. Tables toppled, chairs crashed. For half an hour they battled savagely, finally rolling against the bar –  both  mauled and bloody. There, with his strong vice-like  legs  wrapped around Slim’s  and in arm of steel gripping net and shoulder, Brown slipped irons over the bad man’s wrist. ” Get up,”  Brown ordered as he stood aside, breathing hard.

Greenwater, Ca. ghost town site, Death Valley National Park

Slim rose, leaned against the bar. There was fight still in him and seeing a bottle in front of him, he had seized it with manacled hands, started to lift it.

” Slim,”  Brown said calmly , ” if you lift that bottle, you’ll never lift another.”

The bad boy instinctively knew the look that foretells death and Slim’s fingers fell from the  bottle.

Greenwater had no jail. Brown took him to his own cabin. Leaving the manacles on the prisoner, he took off his shoes and locked  him in a closet.  no man, drunk or sober, he reflected, would tackle barefoot the gravel street littered with thousands of broken liquor bottles.  He went to bed.

Waking later, he discovered that Slim had vanished and with him, Brown’s size 12 shoes.  Brown tried Slim’s shoes but couldn’t get his feet into them. There was nothing to do but follow barefoot.

He left a bloodstained trail, but at 2 AM he found Slim in a blacksmith shop, having the handcuffs removed. Brown retrieved his shoes and on the return trip, Slim went barefoot. After hog tying the prisoner, Brown chained  him to the bed and went to sleep.

Thereafter, the bad boys scratched Greenwater off their calling list.

Slim attained fame with  Pancho Villa down in Mexico,  became a good citizen and later went east.

 

Holcomb Valley

Holcomb Valley gold mine
Holcomb Valley

Holcomb Valley, north of Big Bear Lake, was the scene in the biggest gold rush in Southern California history. Actually there were at least three different boom periods in the valley-the early 1860s, the mid-1870s and the 1890s. There has also been considerable mining activity here in the 20th century–including a large mine still operating.

Although the area is named for the leading publicist, William F Holcomb, who found a gold vein in 1861, Mormon miners from San Bernardino worked claims in the area at least six years before that. Their activities were well reported in the Los Angeles Star of the 1850s. They did not want a large rush of people to the area, and they got their way,  until Holcomb’s loud announcements of his discovery.

The main route to the valley was by way of Cajon Pass and across future Victor Valley on what was known as the Van Dusen Road. Thus there was a close tie of the mining area to the Mojave River community. Several early Victor area settlers, including Samuel Rogers and John J Atkinson, were deeply involved in Holcomb Valley before and during their time in the high desert.

Another tie of the Victor Valley to the Holcomb Valley is that the Hitchcock range summer range was at an extensive mountain meadow ranch in Holcomb Valley and the winter range, in Apple Valley. The mountain ranch is still intact in the Boy Scout camp-reservation. They would be open to historical Society assistance preserving the facility. Holcomb Valley is one of the best artifacts in place of the regions mining history. Those who visit the area never forget it

~ Leo Lyman
The Mohahve Muse – Volume 3, Issue 7 – September 2000
Mohahve Historical Society

Cushenbury Canyon

Mining History of Cushenbury Canyon
& its Impact on the Victor Valley

Kaiser Cement, Lucerne Valley, CA.
Mitsubishi Cement Corp.

The gold discovery in Holcomb Valley in 1860 brought a rush of fortune seekers to the Victor Valley including some foreign interests.  The English  family of Del Mar’s had a significant impact on Cushenbury Canyon. Holcomb Valley miners affected California history by participating in their own Civil War actions and may have left treasure in their wake.

World War II ended the golden era and Cushenbury Canyon but initiated another mineral rush. The postwar California population boom brought about the industrial minerals revolution fueled by the construction industry.

Kaiser Cement built a cement plant and Cushenbury Canyon as an indirect result of the decision by an American General during World War II. The facility was modernized in 1982 and Mitsubishi Cement Corp. purchased the plant 1988. Today Mitsubishi Cement Corporation Cushenbury Plant is one of the leading industries in the Victor Valley.

The industrial minerals boom has a direct impact on everyone’s lives here in the US. The industrial minerals mined in the Victor Valley fuel the economy in California. San Bernardino County provides largest source mineral commodities in the US. ” If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined!”  the mining industry provides the “stuff”  to make the “things” we need to continue our lifestyle.

The Mohahve Muse – Volume 4, Issue 3 – March 2001 – Mohahve Historical Society
Leo Lyman – President

Panamint Fever

by Cliff Walker

Panamint City
Panamint City

Blond-haired, whiskered veteran prospector Richard C. Jacobs and partner Bob Stewart were grubstaked by W. L. Kennedy, a Kernville merchant. Most grubstakes failed, but these two men wandered over to Panamint Valley, then up the steep 6,000-foot climb of Surprise Canyon and found several types of silver ore exposed by erosion. They made four claims, formed Panamint Mining District, and elected Bob Stewart as recorder. Samples shown to Kennedy assayed from $125 to $3,000 per ton. By April 1873, there were 80 to 90 claims. The Panamint mining started fairly normally until the search for investors brought in wealthy and influential men: two Nevada U. S. Senators, John P. Jones and William M. Stewart, and ex-49er Trenor W. Park, a New York Wall Street investor, formerly a San Francisco lawyer and current director of Pacific Mail Steamship Company and president of the Panama Railroad that linked the two oceans. Experienced in mining and investing, these successful men encouraged others to rush for quick potential riches.

Panamint Fever had started.

Miners from 29 Palms, Ivanpah, Arizona, Nevada, and  northern California came to Panamint Valley and made the horrid trip up Surprise Canyon to the Panamint Mountains on a road that is still more of a dry waterfall than a road. Miners found a small booming city with sounds of hammering, dragging, and building all over, and sounds on higher hills of dynamite exploding. Anybody who wanted to work had a job at $4 per day, board $7 per week—not bad wages for those days. In March 1874 there were over 700 men who already staked about 150 claims and were still prospecting to find that great silver lode like at Virginia City. Men rented a room or a space on the ground at “Hotel de Bum,” a huge tent. Most slept outside in blankets looking at the stars.

Wagons unloaded supplies at the bottom of Surprise Canyon and pack mules made it up the waterfall road, unloading their gear to tent stores, potential wooden and rock buildings,  or to mines further up the hill. Jacobs hired Chinese laborers to cut down the steep grade over the Slate Range so his 10-stamp mill could be brought easily to Surprise Canyon. Owens Valley businessman Bart McGee sculptured a road up Surprise Canyon, thereby enabling wagons to use the waterfall road (where the grade was 500 feet to the mile). Seven stages a week arrived at the new city by the end of 1874.

Panamint City developed almost a mile of businesses for city amenities. According to mining historian Remi Nadeau, the city had a dozen saloons, a water company, six general stores, three bakeries and restaurants, a livery stable, boot shop, meat market, three barbershops, a newspaper called Panamint News, the Bank of Panamint, and another important town amenity: a log cabin brewery. When Martha Camp, a buxom lady from Nevada, brought her ladies to town, the night life in Panamint became livelier—it became a real city!

As usual, gamblers, criminals, gun fighters, and assuredly con-artists, climbed the hill to Panamint. The town soon needed a jail. As a result of a gambling dispute, a shootout in a saloon in which Kirby, a man from Pioche, shot Bill Norton in the leg and ran away when Norton fired back. The only official in town was town recorder W. C. Smith  who discovered Kirby planned to waylay Norton. Smith got the drop on Kirby and suggested he leave town right away. The town later elected Smith Justice of the Peace. Jim Bruce and Edward Barstow, a night watchman of the town, had an argument in Camp’s house. Barstow, drinking too much, left the business but returned later after he sobered a bit and found Bruce in Martha’s bed and shot it out with Bruce. Barstow died. The town needed a cemetery.

A few years later the boom and fever ended. But the effects on the Mojave Desert was great. San Bernardino County appointed Oro Grande’s Aaron Lane as Superintendent of desert roads, namely the Road to Panamint from the Mojave River to the Inyo County line. Desert “Stations”—ranches like gas stations and motels today—were built and profited, especially with freight from San Bernardino over the Cajon Pass. For example, lumber mills in the San Bernardino Mountains supplied much of Panamint’s lumber. Berdoo merchants out- hustled L.A. businessmen. Despite Panamint’s decline in the late ’70s, mining increased in the Mojave Desert, especially with Barstow’s Waterman Mine and the wonderful Calico Hills discoveries. The Mojave Desert became settled by the end of the 1880s.

Mojave River Valley Museum Newsletter –  October 2012

 

Trapper Andrew Sublette and Salt Springs History

Gold was discovered on December 1, 1849, by Mormons who were led by Jefferson Hunt to take gold seekers and others to southern California over the Old Spanish Trail. Most wagons left Hunt in southern Utah for a short cut to the gold country—ironically, short-cut survivors took up to two months longer to reach Los Angeles. It wasn’t much of a short cut. Those seven wagons that stayed with Hunt camped on the Old Spanish Trail at Salt Creek, near the present Hwy. 127 and Salt Creek Mountains. Some men rode up the Amargosa Spring wash and found gold. The Los Angeles Star dated May 7, 1851, reported the story.

When Hunt’s group arrived in Rancho Chino, owner Col. Isaac Williams sent out his right hand man Davis to examine the gold site. Ben Wilson, later mayor of Los Angeles and ancestor of General George Patton, fitted out another expedition to check on the Salt Springs site. Both expeditions brought back rich specimens and reported a “whole mountain” of gold bearing ore.

But as was the case of desert mining for years to come, there were obstacles to making desert mines pay off: transportation, distance, food and water, machinery to process the gold so that it would be practical to bring the ore to a smelter. Realistically, in the 1850s, miners still thought that in the Sierra Nevada gold country, gold could still be just picked up.

Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.
Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.

One explorer went to San Francisco and shared his enthusiasm for the Salt Springs gold. Investors in June, 1850, sponsored another party to investigate. When they came back in July, they formed the Los Angeles Mining Company and made plans to take possession and work the area.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs

Another of the Los Angeles initial prospectors. Mr. Davis, went to the Sierras to find a supposed Gold Lake. When he returned to Grass Valley, he told Col. Lamb about his trip to “Gold Mountain,” i.e., Salt Springs. Lamb fitted out another exploratory trip, this time led by Davis. Col. Lamb’s group evidently arrived before the Los Angeles company and claimed what he thought were good areas, and sold three-fourth of his interest under the name Desert Mining Company in January 1851. By that spring the two mining companies had three Mexican arrastres (animal powered rock gold crushers) in operation, two for Desert Mining Company and one for Los Angeles Company. The latter company also bought, according to the Star, “a fine engine and machinery on the Amohave (Mojave) River, a little over half way out” —where it became stuck and was temporarily left in the sands of the Mojave River. The assay samples brought into Los Angeles were too few to be conclusive, but varied from 10 cents to many dollars per pound of rock. One of the companies had dug a mine 30’ deep.

Mojave River
Mojave River

Andrew Sublette, famed trapper and mountain man family of brothers, was encouraged to invest in the Desert Mining Company, his great hope to become wealthy. He had became ill gold mining in the Sierras and went to San Jose to recuperate. In a letter to his brother Solomon, March 20, 1851, from Los Angeles, we see his dreams:

“I am concerned with a Company in a gold mine. It is in the rock and very rich. I have been there for six months and will Start out to that place tomorrow [to] take charge and Start some machinery to grind the rock… I have invested all my means (which was but little) in that mine but hope to get it out with interest.”

He was so poor that he borrowed money at 5% to invest and took the job as “chief field man,” (Superintendent). The company did not have enough resources, and President James F. Hibberd tried to obtain additional operating money with more investors and by attaching assessments for the stock owners to pay, or they would forfeit their stocks. For example, on May 7, [1851 ?] the company set an assessment on $2.00 per share.  On June 10 it assessed another $1.00 per share. In August, 1851, the Desert Mining Company failed! Sublette declared insolvency. The partnership of B. D. Wilson and A. Packard dissolved.

Amargosa Mine ruins at Salt Springs
Ruins: Amargosa Mine at Salt Springs

A new mining company Salt Springs Mining Company, was formed. The new President was Benjamin D. Wilson, Albert Packard was Secretary-Treasurer, also partners in a transportation company. Since Andrew Sublette had no money to invest, he continued as chief field man. The company was running again in November 1851.

Always positive it seems, Sublette praised the mine to the Star, and said that Indians had been troublesome, had stolen tools and ruined machinery, but “The workmen were taking out remarkably rich specimens of quartz: on the whole the news is encouraging.”  Sublette sold his holding in St. Louis for $6,000 to pay off bills and invest again in Salt Springs Mining. He wrote to his brother again in March 1852 that he had started mining again with new partners and that prospects were good. He hoped to go back to Missouri and visit again soon. His health has been the best it has been for the last two or three years.

Things were really going well.

Ravine in Cajon Pass
Ravine in Cajon Pass

But that’s not usual for mining in the Mojave Desert. In the next couple months things were typical for desert mining: Two of his men killed in the Cajon Pass, more Indian difficulties, the 220-mile supply line to Los Angeles, the dwindling supply of money, the calling for  stock assessments–all led the Salt Springs Mining Company to try to sell to foreign investors—and that failed, and so did the mining at Salt Springs—for awhile at least.

Sublette, now broke again, went back to his mountain man roots: bear hunting to make some money. He provided some meat for the Los Angeles markets. He was badly wounded, but recovered.

Barracks, Ft. Tejon
Barracks, Ft. Tejon

Because of his freight experience and his friendship with Wilson, Sublette received a contract to provide supplies to the new Indian reservation at Ft. Tejon. He went into partnership with James Thompson. They prospered and even leased the La Brea Ranch. According to his biographer, Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr., Andrew Sublette had quite a resume of occupations: trapper, trader, guide, soldiers, hunter, peace officer, miner—and sometimes with ill-health—he found success as a California Indian Department contractor. Yet, within a few months he was dead at age 40.

Andrew Whitley Sublette’s funeral was in the parlor of the El Dorado Saloon in Los Angeles, and as Major Horace Bell said, “…every gringo in town turned out for the funeral.”

Sublette and his partner, James Thompson, hunted for grizzlies in Malibu Canyon. The two became separated, and when Thompson heard a shot he ran toward it, and found “Sublette locked in hand to hand struggle with the ferocious animal. To one side, partly covered by a cloud of dust stirred up from the contest between man and beast, lay the huddled corpse of the attacker’s mate. Apparently Sublette had slain one of the bears with his rifle, and then before he could reload his weapon, was set upon by another. With knife flashing, his hunting dog, Old Buck, adding his bite to the fray, Andrew finally dispatched his assailant with a mortal thrust. Falling near the crumpled carcass Andrew lay bleeding and dying.”

Thompson got help and took him to the Padilla Building where Dr. Thomas Foster frantically tried to stop the bleeding. The next day Sublette’s trapping, hunting and mining days were over. He was buried at Foothill Cemetery, a dramatic end to a short but glorious life of one of America’s great trappers, Andrew Sublette. Despite his illness, he struggled to the end to make a good living in difficult occupations. His last years added interesting facets to the history of the Mojave Desert.

Salt Springs had another 158 years of history. It continued its up’s and down’s in mining, with scandals where “miners mined the investors,” with a great glory hole, and now this important water hole on the Old Spanish Trail is marked by the BLM with a picnic area, restroom, signs and trails. It is just a hundred yards off Hwy. 127.

Thanks to Emmet for most of this information. I also sourced Andrew Sublette: Rocky Mountain Prince 1813 – 1853, by Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr, at the Huntington Library.

by Cliff Walker – Mojave River Valley Museum

Dolomite Ghost Town

Dolomite ghost town, Owens Valley
Downtown Dolomite

I suppose the good news is, is that I got this photo of a shack in the little ghost town of Dolomite. I suppose the bad news is that I shot it in 2001 with a low resolution camera. Then again, some good news is that I doubled the size of it and cleaned up a few rough spots on it with my fancy software. And I suppose the bad news is, is that for all my efforts, Dolomite isn’t an authentic ghost town. I’m finding out that it was built for a movie set. It is a bit of good news that the movie was Nevada Smith starring Steve McQueen, one of my favorite movies. The bad news is that I won’t e able to reshoot it because of circumstances beyond my control at the moment. That’s good because it was on private property. It could have been worse when I was caught trespassing the first time. The owner chased me down and started giving me hell for being on his property. So it was a good thing I told him I came in a few miles over and followed the base of the mountain shooting some other ruins while I went along. It was another good thing when he laughed at my little truck and said, “I wouldn’t think you could make it through there in that.” I told him I was just taking some pictures. He told me to “Have at it.”

At least I didn’t get shot.

Dolomite ghost town photos

 

Cousin Jack

A Cousin Jack could be a cousin named Jack- But back in the 1800s it could have been a miner of Cornish, English, Irish, or Welsh origin.  Another thing a cousin Jack could have been was a dugout that a miner lived in, roofed over with dirt providing insulation making it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

A cousin Jack in Leadfield ghost town, Death Valley National Park

 

The Wall Street Mill

After Frank Morgan died Bill Keys ended up owning the Wall Street Mill–and I’m pretty sure that sounds exciting; a tin shack wrapped around a stamp mill, pulverizing rock and squeezing mercury from gold amalgam.  What more would anyone want? He would mill ore from his Desert Queen Mine and other holdings as well as for other miners in the area.  He’d charge by the ton of ore, and the mill was one of many little industries that a desert rat like Bill needed to live in the desert. Worth Bagley claimed that Bill trespassed on his property to get to the mill.  Bagley didn’t like Bill a bit.  One day it came to a head and Keys ended up killing Bagley in self defense.  Bagley was connected to the Sheriff’s office as a former deputy, so things turned against Bill in court and he wound up going to prison. Bill fought and appealed but to no avail–he even turned down parole rather than falsely admit guilt. Keys was gifted, of a sturdy sort and he didn’t let the imprisonment tear him down.  His family had to move on though, and in many ways it was the ruination of the Keys dynasty in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.

Wall Street Mill

What I Heard about the Desert Queen Mine

I’ve heard that Jim McHaney got Charlie Martin to get a man named James to sign over the Desert Queen Mine before Charlie shot and killed him.  Charlie went on trial for the murder, but got off on self-defense. Charlie also was pals with the San Bernardino County Sheriff so that may have helped, and it may have helped Charlie Martin become the Chief of Police in San Bernardino once Charlie decided to settle down.  However, that had nothing to do with Jim McHaney and his band of rustlers, thieves and killers running the Desert Queen into the ground after spending the investors’ money.  McHaney ended up using the gold from the mine to counterfeit twenty dollar gold pieces, which after he got caught and sent to prison where he either died there or ended up sweeping streets in Riverside until he did die. Whoever did own the mine after McHaney lost it didn’t pay Bill Keys for working it, and Keys took over the claim for back wages.  There was about four million of  today’s dollars total in gold that came out of the mine over the 60-70 years that it was in operation.  At least that’s what I heard.

The Desert Queen Mine

Llano Del Rio

The problem with the Socialist colony at Llano Del Rio was that it wasn’t by a Rio (river). It was during a wet year that the land was purchased and the wash coming out of Big Rock Creek was flowing with water. It didn’t take but a few years for them to realize that the dried-up desert plain they were living on wasn’t more than what it looked like, a dried-up desert plain. Certainly, there were other reasons the colony failed. Probably politics–individual, internal, external or otherwise. Ain’t it always like that though?

I was driving through the area yesterday in the morning. I had to go westward toward Palmdale for an appointment that was sure to take most of the day. There were road crews widening Highway 138 at the site of the ruins. This and that was barricaded and fenced off and dust and paving and whatnot. I had updated the web page I keep on the place a few days before and noticed I only had low-resolution photos I took in probably 1999. I thought it would be a good idea to stop on my way back and get some shots for a photo update.

My meeting went on about an hour longer than I anticipated and I was running late. The sunset light was great, golden, and a little harsh. I could have got some nice shots if I could avoid getting myself into the long shadows. I must admit, in some spots I drove a little fast, but I’d catch myself and mostly I drove safe. I like to think I’d rather get to where I’m going late, but alive rather than early and dead. Now I know the second half of that makes no sense, but when I think of it the word ‘dead’ is a keyword to me and I slow it down.

The sun had just slipped behind the mountain when I arrived. I grabbed the camera and tripod and hiked a hundred yards or so to the site of the ruins. There was some great ambient light going and I had probably about half an hour of shooting. When the sun slips behind the mountains as it does at this time of year it gives a false sunset. It stays light, but the shadows disappear. For me, the light was perfect. I couldn’t have timed it better.