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«Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area DESERT FEVER: An Overview of Mining in the California Desert ...»

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Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

DESERT FEVER:

An Overview of Mining in the California Desert Conservation Area

Contract No. CA·060·CT7·2776

Prepared For:

DESERT PLANNING STAFF

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

3610 Central Avenue, Suite 402 Riverside, California 92506

Prepared By:

Gary L. Shumway Larry Vredenburgh Russell Hartill February, 1980 Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area Copyright © 1980 by Russ Hartill Larry Vredenburgh Gary Shumway Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area Table of Contents PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

IMPERIAL COUNTY

CALIFORNIA'S FIRST SPANISH MINERS

CARGO MUCHACHO MINE

TUMCO MINE

PASADENA MINE

AMERICAN GIRL MINE

CARGO MUCHACHO DISTRICT

SOUTHEASTERN CHOCOLATE MOUNTAINS AREA

Duncan, Trio and Senator Mines

Picacho Mine

California Picacho Mine

PAYMASTER DISTRICT

NON-METALLIC AND STRATEGIC MINERALS

IMPERIAL COUNTY-Looking towards the Future

End Notes

INYO COUNTY

WHITE MOUNTAIN CITY

CERRO GORDO

Freighting at Cerro Gordo

TECOPA

Panamint's Decline

DARWIN

THE LOST GUNSIGHT LEGEND

LOOKOUT

GOLD IN INYO COUNTY

Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

Beveridge

RYAN

Little Mack Mine

BIG FOUR MINE

NON-METALLIC MINERALS

SALINE VALLEY SALT

DARWIN (TALC, ZINC)

LAST CHANCE RANGE (sulphur)

SHOSHONE (PERLITE)

OWLSHEAD MOUNTAINS (EPSOM SALTS)

SEARLES LAKE

END NOTES

Kern County

SAGE LAND MINING DISTRICT

RADEMACHER MINING DISTRICT

EL PASO MINING DISTRICT

COALDALE (1894-1898)

MISCELLANEOUS EL PASO DISTRICT MINES

SALTDALE (KOEHN DRY LAKE)

GYPSITE (KOEHN DRY LAKE)

RANDSBURG DISTRICT

Atolia-Randsburg Tungsten Boom

The California Rand Silver Mine-Randsburg's Silver Boom

Atolia after the Silver Boom

Gold during the Tungsten and Silver Years

MOJAVE DISTRICT

Standard Hill

Soledad Mountain

Middle Butte

Tropico Hill

Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area KRAMER DISTRICT

KERN COUNTY-Looking towards the Future

ENDNOTES

San Bernardino County

BAKER AREA

Stone Hammer Mine

Salt Spring

Avawatz

ARGUS-SLATE RANGE

Anthony Mill Ruins

SOUTHEASTERN SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Whipple Mountains

Copper Basin

Savahia Peak Area

Freeman District

Marengo District

North Sacramento Mountains

Goldbend

Turtle Mountains-Sunrise District

PROVIDENCE MOUNTAINS

Rock Spring

Providence

Providence Mountains (Gold-Iron)

Gold Valley

CLARK MOUNTAIN

Nantan

Rosalie

IVANPAH MOUNTAINS

Vanderbilt

The Garvanza Mine

Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

Hart

EXCHEQUER DISTRICT

Baghdad-Chase Mine

The Orange Blossom Mine

Gold Belt Mine

Clipper Mountains

TWENTYNINE PALMS

DRY LAKE AND VICINITY

ORD MOUNTAINS-FRY MOUNTAINS

End Notes

Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

PREFACE

When I learned through Eric Redd and Paul Clark that the Bureau of Land Management was offering a contract for an overview of mining in the California desert, my own interest in mining in the American West led me to apply for the contract, which I subsequently was awarded. Although growing up in a mining family, working as a miner, and doing both my masters and doctoral research on mining topics, my specific knowledge of mining in the California desert was limited. As I began in earnest to obtain the background information that I would need to fuIfill this contract. I began to have. ' the unsettl ing feeling that I was jumping well-established claims to this scholarly gold mine. This uneasiness on my part grew considerably when I became acquainted with Larry Vredenburgh in the summer of 1978. Struck at once by the depth of his own background, the enthusiasm with which he had pursued his scholarly interest with no monetary inducement and his unselfish willingness to give me without charge the benefit of his research, I decided to invite him to participate in the compilation of this overview, sharing with him both the credit for this work and the stipend being offered by the Bureau of Land Management. Mr.





Vredenburgh gratefully accepted this offer and began immediately to push research and writing on Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which represented his area of responsibility. A short time after this, Russell Hartill, who had just returned from a mission for his church in Chile, and was considering enrolling as a history major at California State University, Fullerton, came to see me at my office. It took only a few minutes to learn of his own background and interest in mining in the California desert, and shortly, Mr. Hartill accepted the same responsibilities (and financial and scholarly credit) for the Imperial, Kern, and lnvo counties that Mr. Vredenburgh had for Riverside and San Bernardino.

I have never regretted my decision to share this opportunity with these two excellent young scholars.

Without exception, our association has been most agreeable and intellectually stimulating, and I am convinced that this study has a depth and quality, thanks to the dedication and background of these two, that it would not have had without them. Because of their primary responsibility for the information contained in this overview, those good things about it must be credited to them. Similarly, because I have ultimate responsibility for this study, and have carefully reviewed, edited and reworked each of the chapters, any defects are mine.

In addition to those individuals who have already been mentioned, several others have made significant contributions to this study. Russ Hartill's parents, William R. and Inza, graciously allowed many a side trip to visit old mining areas durinq family vacations throughout the West. Dr. Ray Allen Billington showed Russ the wonders of the Huntington Library and inspired him with a determination to continue his interest in mining history. Robert K. Hoshide accompanied him on many a "prospecting" trip into the California desert and has expressed his enthusiasm for the publication of their findings. Susan Rodriguez Hartill has continued, as Russ' wife, the interest and assistance she manifested as his fiancee. Tim Allen, Marion Arnote, Clota Bowen, Dixon Chubbuck, Dr. O. N. Cole, Every Darbin, Arda Hanszeal, Hugh Huebner, John Jordan, Cecil Lopez, Germaine Moon, Jack Moore, J. B. Roberts, and Fletcher Tweed, each provided Larry Vredenburgh with significant information on different aspects of San Bernardino and Riverside countv mining history. Stephanie Snair Vredenburgh, first as Larry's fiancee and then as his wife, assisted immeasurably in the first typed draft and critical review of his portion. Eric Ritter of the Bureau of L.and Management Desert Planning Staff has overseen this study from its inception and has been a major factor in its having been an enjoyable undertaking. For graciously allowing us the use of Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area photographs from the California Division of Mines and Geology Library, we wish to thank Angela Brunton, the Librarian. Mr. Chris Brewer, of the Kern County Historical Society, and Mr. Glen Settle, of the Tropico Mine, have also. supplied several Kern County photographs. Bob Ford, Don Havlice, Dorothy Lynn, and Betty Mitson of the California State University, Fullerton, Oral History Program made a major contribution in typesetting this report. Finally, we would like to express appreciation to our wives, who continue to love and sustain us even though they have lived through the countless, lingering crises this study has occasioned.

Gary L. Shumway February 20, 1980 Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

INTRODUCTION

On August 20, 1896, D. A. Blue began walking carefully along the bottom of a gully on the east side of Rand Mountain. Blue had learned of the exciting discovery of the Yellow Aster Mine the previous year, and now of several additional promising locations in this same vicinity in eastern Kern County, California.

Enticed by the allure of gold, Blue noted the fault zone that shimmered through the heat as he began walking up the gully, and remembered with rising interest what he had heard about hydrothermal solutions that at some time in the geological past had boiled up along fault zones, and, if conditions were right, deposited precious metals somewhere in the host rock of the area.

Stopping to break promising looking rocks with his prospector's pick as he went along the bottom of the gully, he suddenly found what he was looking for: a piece of "float." or ore that had washed down from a gold bearing vein somewhere nearby. If this float could be traced back to the vein outcrop, perhaps the deposit could be developed into a paying mine.

As Blue found additional pieces of float, his interest made him forget some of the discomfort of the California desert in August, and he began to sense the heady feeling of being on the verge of discovering great wealth. Carefully tracing the float to its source, Blue found himself standing in front of three parallel quartz veins, ranging in width from 18 inches to 3 ½ feet, in an outcropping of schist. He broke off a piece of quartz with his pick, looked it over briefly, then used his magnifying glass to look more carefully at a couple of promising specks. Enlarged by the glass, the two dots became what he had hoped they were: two small but very real pieces of gold.

With the nation having codified, in the Mining Law of 1872, the common-law assumption that deposits of precious metals belonged no to the federal government but to the discoverer,. Blue knew that he had the right to claim any deposit he discovered and to retain or sell it as he wished, so long as he properly recorded the discovery and performed at least $100 worth of assessment work each year.

Blue staked his claim by establishing rock monuments at the four corners of a 1500 by 600 foot rectangle. A location notice was posted at the point of discovery, indicating the locator, date of location, geographic position, name of the claim, and the specific minerals being claimed. He then legalized his claim by recording it in the San Bernardino County courthouse.

After staking and recording his claim, which he named the Blackhawk, Blue then proceeded to obtain a more accurate sample of the veins for assay. Ten pounds of rock from different parts of the vein were crushed to the size of peas, and poured into the shape of a cone. The cone was quartered and two opposite quarters thrown out. The remaining quarters were further crushed and reduced until each weighed one pound and consisted of fine sand. One of these pound samples was sent to an assayer, while Blue kept the other for future reference. When the assay results came back, Blue learned that this mine would indeed be a paying proposition: at the ten prevailing price of $20.67 an ounce, his ore was worth $6 0 a ton.

With such favorable assay, Blue could depend on financial assistance in developing his claim, and this assistance was soon proffered by a Randsburg businessman, D. C. Kuffel. By the next February, the Desert Fever: An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area location had been expanded to include 17 claims, several shipments had been made which ran from $60 to $120 per ton, and 1,600 tons of milling grade ore had been stockpiled, awaiting the erection of a mill.

The Blackhawk shaft was down 100 feet, with a 150 foot drift at the 60 foot level.

The following year, the Randsburg Railway reached the new town of Johannesburg, linking the area with the outside world, and making the Blackhawk Mine even more profitable.

The years from 1896 to 1903 were the golden years for the Blackhawk Mine. A ten-stamp amalgamation mill was constructed and put into operation during this time. Since ore from the Blackhawk was free milling, the rock needed only to be crushed and the gold caught by amalgamation with mercury. In the amalgamation process, copper plates coated with mercury were set at an angle so that ore pulp from the stamp mill flowed over the plates by gravity in waves. When the free gold came in contact with mercury-coated plates, the gold adhered to it, as mercury's capillary action causes it to be repelled by most substances, but to cling to gold, while sand, sulphides and other materials were carried off by the water. At intervals, the gold was recovered by scraping off the amalgam with a rubber squeegee. The substance was then squeezed through a chamois to expel excess mercury, resulting in a gob of 40 percent gold.

This substance was put into a retort and heated, which drove off the mercury into vapor. A Collection system in the retort allowed the mercury to be recondensed and discharged into a bowl of water. The residue left in the retort was melted in a graphite crucible in a furnace, and fluxes (borax, soda and silica_ were added to help the slag flow, pour and harden correctly. Furnace mill workers poured the gold into a cast iron mold and, after the gold was set, overturned the mold into a bucket of water, where the slag easily separated from the ingot. The amalgamation process was simple and could be performed as infrequently as once a month, so it was never necessary to have more than half a dozen men working at the Blackhawk at any one time. It was, in its early years and throughout its productive life, a small mining operation.



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