Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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A. Southern Panamints and West Side Road

1. Panamint Mining District

a) Formation and Establishment of Boundaries

The precursor of the Panamint Mining District was the Telescope District, organized in 1860 by members of the Dr. S.C. George expedition who had penetrated into the Wildrose and Panamint regions. Named for nearby Telescope Peak, this early district was located on a spur of the Panamint Range bordering Death Valley on the west. Although the mines in the area were not heavily worked in the first few years after their discovery, the late 1860s and early 1870s saw some rough beginnings of a mining industry there. An 1872 newspaper article speaks favorably of the richness and extent of the Telescope District mines, which, it states, had been located some three years earlier. The lead, silver, and gold ores were said to be comparable to those of Cerro Gordo, besides being easy to smelt because of the nearby pinyon pines and clay necessary for the reduction process. [1]

On 1 February 1873 four notices were posted in the mountains of the Panamint Range, informing the prospecting community that:

There will be held at the camp of R.C. Jacobs & Co., in Mormon Canyon at the southern end of the Panamint Mountain Range, on February 10, 1873, a miners' meeting, for the purpose of organizing a new mining district, and forming laws to govern the same. All claim owners are respectfully invited to be present at said meeting.

R. C. Jacobs
W.L. Kenneday [Kennedy]
R. Stewart [2]

The meeting was subsequently held as advertised, resulting in the formation of the Panamint Mining District. Boundaries were established as follows:

Commencing in "Windy Canyon" (a point four miles north of Telescope Peak) at a point called Flowery Springs, and running thence in an easterly direction, following the said "Windy Canyon" to the summit of the range; thence down the east side and out to the center of Death Valley; thence southerly to "Mesquit Springs," on the eastern slope of "Slate Range;" thence westerly to the summit of "Centrie Canyon," and down the same to its mouth, continuing the same course westerly to the center of "Slate Range Valley;" thence northerly to a point in "Panamint Valley" ten miles due west from "Flowery Springs;" thence easterly ten miles to the place of beginning." [3]

Laws and regulations were adopted and Robert Stewart elected recorder for a one-year term beginning 10 February 1873. The recorder's office was to be located in Surprise Valley, where most of the principal claims were found.

b) The District's Future Seems Assured

By 30 August 1873 the prospects of the new district still looked favorable:

It is represented by experts, who have visited it for speculative purposes, as being one of the very richest and most prolific districts on the Pacific Slope in silver ores. Some one hundred silver lodes have been discovered and located, which for body and richness stand, at least in the State of California, unrivalled--the lodes running from two to thirty feet in width, and assaying from $200 to $1,200 per ton of ore. [4]

Even allowing for the tendency toward excitability and gross exaggeration common to the average California mining prospector of this era, men of some experience and supposed sound judgement and caution felt that this district had distinct economic possibilities. The best route to the mines was said to be from Havilah by stage to Little Owens Lake, seventy miles away by the Havilah and Independence stage route, and from there by mule trail, "a short two day's ride of fifty-five miles." [5]

Newspaper clippings and journals of the time give some indication of the ensuing fortunes of the Panamint District. In December 1879 some Panamint miners organized the "Breyfogle" District twenty miles north of Panamint. The main lode, of the same name, produced ore assaying from around $500 to almost $4,000. [6] By the year 1881 the Inyo Consolidated Mining Company of New York, which had purchased the Garibaldi and North Star mines in the Rose Springs (Wildrose) District circa 1876, had also purchased the only mill and several promising locations in the Panamint District and were working vigorously with much success, the mines and mill having produced about $60,000 worth of ore already. [7]

c) Mining Activity Spreads in Southern Inyo County

In July 1887 valuable ores were stilt being discovered in the surrounding country, but discouraging to miners was the fact that the rich ore could not be shipped easily or speedily to market. By May 1894 the California mining news correspondent of the Engineering and Mining Journal was projecting 11a decided tendency toward a mining boom in Southern California this year. Never within 10 or 12 years has such general interest been manifested as is shown at present. There are now more new enterprises, and apparently substantial ones, than ever before. . . ." By this time a new district referred to as South Park was springing up around Red Rock and Goler canyons, with lucrative results appearing inevitable. [8] The Redlands Gold Mining Company was in business by the summer of 1894 and was enthusiastically purchasing prospects. It even erected a ten-stamp mill five miles south of Panamint Canyon, which two years later, however, was not producing much. [9] Hampering progress in this more southerly area too was its distance from a railroad and lack of wood and water.

A correspondent of the Pacific Coast Bullion made a trip to Death Valley about this time, and in addition to describing the sights and geologic wonders of the area, reported on the current mining situation. Panamint City, he said, now housed only a watchman guarding the mill and storehouses, leaving itinerant prospectors the run of the town. He went on to explain that lawsuits had closed the mines for awhile, but the litigation was now settled and eighteen claims had been recently patented; unfortunately the current price of silver was too low to work them profitably.

The correspondent remarked that few mines were being worked in the Panamints. Charles Anthony's Defiance Mine near Post Office Spring at Darwin was operating, although no mill existed on the property. The only other mining activity centered around the Redlands Gold Mining Company. Heavy transportation costs were still hindering mining in the mountains contiguous to Death Valley. [10]

The revival of a large-scale mining industry in the Panamint District in the late 1800s evidently centered around Tuber Canyon properties. In April 1897 a Mr. Donahue and others purchased property there for $15,000 preparatory to commencing exploratory work. [11] A correspondent to the Independent wrote from the new town of Ballarat in the Telescope Range in June 1897 that "the future of this camp and district as a gold mining proposition is very bright and assured." [12] The country had a good water supply, plenty of wood available on the nearby summits of the Panamint Range, and fruit could be grown in the mountains. Quail were an abundant food source. [13] Among current activities mentioned was the work in Tuber Canyon, where development and prospecting were pushing ahead vigorously, with considerable San Francisco capital being invested there. [14] The Tuber and Aurora claims were active, while in Jail Canyon the Gem and Burro groups were being worked. In Pleasant Canyon, near the old town of Panamint, the Worldbeater and other Montgomery properties had closed down until a new bigger mill nearer the mines could be bought and installed. Claims in the Mineral Hill and Redlands Canyon areas further south were showing some unrest, with many claims changing hands. The prospecting stage here had passed, and efforts were now being made to further develop those lodes whose extent and richness were becoming evident. A custom mill was sorely needed, although it was being rumored that a three-stamp mill would be moved into the vicinity soon. [15]

Other southern Inyo County mining efforts consisted of "chloriding" operations, notably in Shepherd's, Cottonwood, and Emigrant canyons, where development of the lodes was much hampered by their inaccessibility. Revenue Canyon mines on the western edge of Panamint Valley also harbored rich strikes. [16]

The new town of Ballarat was now the gathering place for Panamint Range miners, prospectors, and the Indian community. The Fourth of July celebration in the year 1897 was replete with "foot races, hammer and stone-throwing, burro and horse racing, giant powder salutes and a grand tug of war, in which every male inhabitant and visitor to the place, Indians included, took part, save one who from his immense size and strength was debarred from either side and officiated as referee." [17] Talks on the significance of the day entertained the visitors from almost every canyon in the evening. A stage and mail line between Ballarat and Garlock was about to commence, consisting of a single round trip weekly, to be increased to tri-weekly when cooler weather came and mining activity resumed. The main portion of the town's business and freight came through Mojave and Garlock (which evidently had the nearest custom mill, 150 miles away) because of lower freight charges and passenger fares from that direction. Although mail communication was desired through Owens Valley and Independence, the residents there were antagonistic toward facilitating this because of the camp's close communication and financial ties to the southern towns. [18]

Also in this year mention was made of construction of a Randsburg Railway from Kramer station on the Santa Fe and Pacific to Randsburg, and a possibility evidently existed of the line being projected to Salt Lake City, thus making another transcontinental route. The Los Angeles trade would be increased tenfold, it was argued, by bringing the line north into the Panamint Valley from Kramer and tapping the Searles borax fields, the Argus and Slate ranges, and all the mining camps in Redlands Canyon, Mineral Hill, Pleasant Canyon, Happy Valley, Surprise, Hall, Jail, and Tuber canyons, and the Wildrose area, not to mention the Argus, Revenue, Snow Canyon, and Modoc mines on the west side of the valley. [19]

By 1897 new placer locations had been found on the east side of the Panamints, panning $30 to $40 per day. The central Panamints were still quiet, Panamint City now containing but two residents, sole witnesses to the steady decay of the town's large stores, saloons, and billiard halls full of furniture. The only operating business was a large, fully-stocked hardware and implement store selling goods to miners at incredibly low prices. Several mills in the vicinity full of machinery were idle. [20]

By April 1898 Ballarat sported a population of nearly four hundred, at least one hundred of whom were gainfully employed. It contained substantial adobe houses and was the outfitting point for the Panamint Range, Snow Canyon, and other nearby districts. Mines were being worked near Willow Spring to the south; the Burro Mine in Jail Canyon had recently been bought, the new owner also purchasing the Redland Company's mill; the South Park mines were producing; and the Tuber Canyon mines were doing well, as were the Mineral Hill properties four miles south of Ballarat. [21]

From 1898 to 1899 freight teams left Johannesburg, sixty miles south of Ballarat in Kern County, for the Argus Range hematite iron-ore deposits, some yielding $8 a ton in gold, and for the Panamint District high-grade silver-lead ore mines. Although Johannesburg was the best outfitting point for a prospector coming to Panamint from the south, Keeler, the closest railroad stop to the Panamint Range, was more accessible for people from the north or from Nevada. [22]

d) Interest in the Panamints Spreads to Nevada

By February 1900 the Panamint District continued strong and reported much activity. Ballarat, in the process of heavy construction, held much commercial importance in the area because of its central location arid accessibility to miners in the adjacent mountains, its good water supply, and its proximity to the railroad. Mines in the Panamints were producing ore that could be easily milled or on which cyanide treatment was effective. Principal mines in the western Panamint Range were still in Tuber, Jail, and Pleasant canyons, and at Mineral Hill. In Tuber Canyon a twenty-five-ton Bryan mill had been erected and in Jail Canyon a three-stamp mill was operating. The Radcliffe Consolidated Gold Mining Company was running a twenty-stamp mill in Pleasant Canyon, and ore was being transported from the property by tramway at low cost. [23]

By 1902 the Inyo Gold Company of Los Angeles, which owned mines in Tuber Canyon, near Panamint, and the Tuber Mine at Ballarat, was shipping in a fifty-ton cyanide plant to wash tailings from the Tuber and also ore from there. This was in addition to a six-stamp mill already on the Tuber Mine property. [24] In the early 1900s the Panamint District began attracting the attention of prospectors from the Goldfield, Nevada, area. [25] Because earlier prospectors had been intent only on silver, it was now thought that vast amounts of gold probably remained. Geologically, the southernmost part of the range seemed to be similar to the Tonopah, Goldfield, and Bullfrog districts, and good opportunities were imagined to exist for those who took the time to look.

Jail Canyon was still the best producer in the Panamints, boasting the Gem Group and rich Burro Mine. In Surprise Canyon, Jack Curran had located some good gold claims near Panamint City. The Radcliffe Group in Pleasant Canyon was still producing, as was the World Beater just above it. Coyote Canyon, between Goler and Redlands, was the location of a great strike showing ore of a high assay value, more than $35, some shoots running up to $125 and $230 per ton. Prospects looked good further south except for a lack of capital. [26] New locations were constantly being made, though, since water and wood were plentiful. Several companies were already operating in the Redlands area and it was thought that summer and fall would bring an influx of desert prospectors.

By autumn the entry of prospectors from the Tonopah, Goldfield, and Bullfrog fields into the Panamint region seemed even more imminent, despite the region's isolation from railroad transportation facilities and roads, which cast doubt on the success of every mining venture. But because remote areas of Nevada were proving to be profitable, new hope was seen for the Panamint area, especially because these prospectors from Nevada were familiar with the problems and frustrations of desert mining. [27]

In the meantime the original Panamint Mine seemed slated for a comeback. An October 1905 newspaper article stated that Jack Curran, the "King of the Panamints," had relocated the old mine, which it reported was at one time bonded for $5,000 to an English syndicate. Some later history of the once-roaring silver camp was presented, although some facts, such as those regarding population figures, are open to question. The article reported that $700,000 was spent developing the old mine (improvements, wages, etc.). Currently remains of the twenty-stamp mill, saloons, and stone warehouses could still be seen. The canyon was deserted, the article continued, when silver, once selling for $1.29, was demonetized, and the lack of good transportation facilities in addition made mining in the area unprofitable. After the camp was deserted, the owners of the mine fell into dissension over some matter. The workmen were not paid, and in retaliation took over possession of the property, which they worked until they received due compensation. After setting fire to some of the buildings, they scattered, and the town was left to the elements. [28]

Several more well-known prospects were appearing in the Panamints at this time in Hall Canyon, such as the Pine Tree Mizpah and the Valley View, and prospecting was becoming a much more organized and systematic business. A party of four men from Goldfield came into the Panamint Range in November 1905 equipped with fourteen burros, an elaborate camp outfit, and a determination to cover as large a territory in as short a time as possible. The head of the party, who also held interests in Colorado mines, stated that in the Panamints he saw the same class of ore as at Leadville, but of higher grade. Colorado investors, he allowed, were very interested in the value of ores that could be found here. [29]

During the early 1900s mining in the Panamint section was booming: mineral resources were good, geological conditions promising, new mining camps were being established nearby at Greenwater, and at Emigrant Spring, Harrisburg, and Skidoo, and Nevada mining men were now investing large sums in the Panamint region. Full forces of men were at work, reminding people of the early days of Tonopah and Goldfield. The new camp of "Panamini," mentioned earlier, was predicted to be one of the most prosperous of western mining camps, with water being piped a mile and a half to supply all needs. [30]

Mining was not easy for men in this region, as evidenced by the statement of a mining engineer in 1906 that the bodies of eight prospectors who had died from heat stroke in the Panamints were brought in during his stay. The average temperature for several days was 116°F., even at midnight, while the thermometer would rise to 135°F. by noontime. In contrast, by the first of March 1907 Skidoo and Ballarat were buried in deep snow. Other problems existed in addition to vagaries of the weather, one group of prospectors reporting a difficulty centering around settlers in the Panamint Valley who staked and restaked mining claims, but never worked them, effectively preventing their exploration by bona fide mining men. [31]

The price of silver in 1907 was holding steady, running around 75¢ in New York, as high as it had been for several years. Locations were still being made at this time around old Panamint City. While another new "Panamint" was in the throes of birth just across the mountains in Johnson Canyon, miners arriving to work there were also crossing over to the old townsite and staking claims in this still-mineral-rich area. The finding of high-grade silver ore was mandatory in order to realize a profit because of transportation problems. One miner locating here reported sixteen patented locations around the old mill site, where a dozen vacant buildings were left from the boom days. [32]

e) Consistent Production Continues into Late 1900s

For the next few years mining continued in southern Inyo County on a profitable scale. At Cerro Gordo, Darwin, and other places on the west side of the Panamints steady ore production was maintained. By 1912 the Panamint Mine had been purchased by Al Meyers of Goldfield-Mohawk fame, the property's productive record having reportedly been two to three million dollars. The mine had been idle since 1893, but rehabilitation work was to commence immediately; the ore was to be shipped to Randsburg, the nearest railroad point, seventy miles away.

A summary of Panamint Range mining activity in the early 1920s appeared in the Inyo Independent Most operations in the section were concentrated on the western slope, except for the Carbonate silver-lead mine on the east edge and small gold mines at Anvil Spring in Butte Valley. The Trona Railroad and American Magnesium Company's monorail system were ameliorating somewhat the transportation and isolation problems that had existed in the area for such a long time.

Producing properties were located in Goler Canyon (Admiral Group, Shurlock, Gold Spur); South Park Canyon (Gibraltar); Hall Canyon (Horn Spoon); Jail Canyon (Gem Group, Burro Mine); and Tuber Canyon (Salvage Mine and mill, Sure Thing Group). The Pleasant Canyon mines (World Beater, Radcliffe, and Anthony mines) were now all idle. The Panamint Mine under Myers's ownership was being resurrected by modern mining and milling equipment. [33] The Panamint Mining Company determined at this time to construct a stone and gravel toll road beginning at Surprise Canyon and climbing east 5-1/2 miles to the old Panamint City site. The purpose of the toll was to get revenue from miners in that area to assist in road maintenance, and as such was a venture similar to the later Eichbaum toll road built further north a few years later. [34]

All along the Panamints refinements in technique were expected to finally make the old silver-lead deposits below the 200-foot level pay. By the early 1930s silver was expected to stabilize at a high market figure, and the mining community eagerly anticipated great things for the Panamint Valley and environs. In the mid-1930s Tuber and Jail canyon mines were operating on a large scale, the development of mines in Pleasant Canyon was being well financed, and Goler Wash, now more accessible, was being explored. No big strikes were made during the late 1920s and early 1930s, but prospectors kept combing the hills and earlier operations kept producing. [35]

Leasers and owners both were working in the Ballarat District by the late 1930s, and the consensus of opinion was that "taken as a whole the Panamint Range, while not spectacular, is a consistent [sic] producer, an estimated 5000 tons having been shipped from there during the present year." [36] The diversified resources of Inyo County were just now starting to be fully realized, and companies such as Sierra Talc and the Pacific Coast Talc Co. were involved in development work in the Darwin district. This somewhat offset losses in lead and silver mining in the area, whose condition was stagnant due to the low market price of these particular metals. Despite this, it was concluded by mining officials in the county that "the mining industry in southern Inyo seems to be thriving at the present time. It has as always many difficulties to contend with, especially in the gold producing districts. The greatest need there is milling facilities closer to the properties. It should be borne in mind that the shortest mine to mill [route] established in the immediate vicinity, (and] a program of more and better improved roads would be the greatest single factor toward increased prosperity of the miner and thereby of our whole county. [37]

Overall, production levels reached now seemed to stabilize due to increased values in market prices, newer machinery, and improved roads and processes. On through the 1940s and 1950s the Darwin District, Tecopa District, and Modoc and Slate Range regions continued to produce steadily. The Panamint mines were leased in 1947-48 by the American Silver Corporation, which performed some work on them. The properties that originally initiated exploratory work in the area--the Alabama, Hemlock, East Hemlock, and High Silver patented claims, and the unpatented East Hemlock and High Silver mill sites--were privately owned, as were the Challenge, Comstock, Eureka, Hudson River, Marvel, Stewart's Wonder, Wyoming, Star, Little Chief, Independence, Ida, and Panamint Central patented claims, and Stewart's Wonder, Challenge, Little Chief, and Wyoming patented mill sites, plus four other unpatented claims, but all were idle. [38] Tungsten was later found on the Stewart's Wonder, Challenge, and other claims in the Panamint mines complex, and soon a strong resurgence of interest in the Panamint Range centered around this strategic mineral. The renewed interest was attributable to some price stability occurring as a result of the federal government's stockpile sales policy and to the absence of tungsten imports from mainland China. [39] Exploration in this new field was short-lived, however, as it proved to be further north on Harrisburg Flats.

f) Impact of Panamint and Other Early Mining Districts on Southern Inyo and Death Valley History

The mining districts west of Death Valley have played an important and productive role in Inyo County's economic and social history, and are worth further study on their own. What is important, and what has hopefully been transmitted in this short chapter, is a realization of the extreme and lasting influences exerted by these early communities and their inhabitants on the later mining progress of southern Inyo County, including especially that of Death Valley. The amount of territory covered by Owens and Panamint valley prospectors, and by businessmen on the lookout for a promising investment, was phenomenal, especially in light of the dearth of transportation facilities available at the time. These peregrinations were the primary means by which men in the Death Valley camps and in the Nevada fields further east were kept apprized of mining conditions in surrounding areas and the methods most successfully used in extracting ore. The exploitation of these western mining districts has been at times energetic, at times frenzied, and always sporadic. By dint of much persistence and experimentation, however, the groundwork was laid here for the more systematic and technologically sound methods that ultimately produced such gratifying results in later mining operations in the southern Panamint, Wildrose, and Ubehebe sections of Death Valley during the next few years.

g) Panamint City

The first boom town of the Panamint Range was Panamint City, in an area first discovered in January 1873 by R.C. Jacobs, W.L. Kennedy, and R.B. Stewart, who located eighty or ninety claims in the vicinity. Two necessities for successful milling operations--timber and water--were plentiful near the site immediately south of Telescope Peak and about 100 miles from Independence.

As word of the strike leaked out, excitement once again prevailed in southern Inyo County. Numerous parties left immediately for the district with wagonloads of tools and provisions. Principal lodes were the Wide West, Gold Hill, Wonder, Wyoming, Marvel, Pinos Altos, Surprise, Challenge, Beauty, Chief, Cannon, Venus, King of Kayorat, Esperanza, Silver Ridge, Garry Owen, Balloon, Panamint, Mina Verde, Blue Belle, Sunset, and Pine Tree. [40] Optimism about affairs at Panamint ran high. An August 1873 edition of the Independent quoted a Lagunita, California, resident who told of the "exceedingly fair ores" being taken out of the district. "Panamint prospects are improving daily," he stated, "I think we have in this camp the most intelligent and liberally inclined miners that perhaps ever got together. [41]

To reach the Panamint Valley and the scene of the new strike, on mules or in wagons, afoot or on burros, one had to branch east from the bullion trail at Lagunita (Little Lake), about fifty-five miles distant, and follow a burro path across the Coso and Argus ranges. Jacobs, realizing that the area's development was dependent upon a good communications system, proceeded to raise funds in Los Angeles by subscription for a more convenient road going south of the mountains via what is now Searles Lake and the north end of the Slate Range. Because the future of the Panamint mines seemed promising enough at this point to warrant such investment, money was quickly raised on the West Coast, many of the businessmen there recalling the lucrative trade the city had established earlier with Cerro Gordo.

By mid-June 1874 the road was completed over the Slate Range where it connected with the Surprise Canyon section. Although this latter road was almost immediately washed out by a cloudburst, it was soon repaired and the entire route ready by mid-August 1874, whereupon Jacobs hurriedly shipped in a ten-stamp reduction mill from San Francisco to process ore from his Wonder Mine.

Earlier, around 18 December 1833, E.P. Raines, a well-known mining man and promoter, in an effort to finance the camp, journeyed to Los Angeles to enlist support for the Panamint District. An article in a Los Angeles paper of 13 December stated:

Messrs. Vanderbilt, Kennedy and Rains arrived here Wednesday from Inyo county with some very rich specimens of silver ore from the Panamint district. The specimens are exhibited at the Clarendon creating quite a little excitement, particularly among those who are unfortunately not interested in the lead. The ore is familiarly known as copper silver glance, but does not contain enough copper or other base metals to prevent it from being easily crushed. The claim is situated about sixty miles south east of Cerro Gordo and was located last January by Mr. Kennedy. It presents the most encouraging prospects and will be developed as soon as the necessary tools and machinery can be procured. It is estimated that the ore will turn out about $1,000 to the ton [42]

Raines did finally succeed in persuading Senator John P. Jones of Nevada, who had already made a fortune in the silver mines of Nevada's Comstock lode, to look into the matter in the spring of 1875; impressed, he in turn interested his fellow senator, William M. Stewart of Nevada, and other capitalists in investing in the Panamint lodes. Together they organized the Panamint Mining Company in 1875 with a capital outlay of $2,000,000. [43]

With the entry of these moguls onto the Panamint mining scene, the attention of the western mining community was safely captured. Jones's and Stewart's Surprise Valley Mill and Water Company became the area's principal business enterprise. Stewart ultimately bought up Jacobs's ten-stamp mill; the Surprise Canyon Toll Road that ran up Surprise Canyon to Panamint, built by Bart McGee and others for $30,000; a site for a twenty-stamp quartz mill; and all principal mines of the area. 44 First-class ore was shipped to England for smelting (an indication of its richness); the rest would be reduced in the projected local mill and furnace. [44]

In November 1874 a wagon road from the Owens Valley through the Coso and Argus ranges to the Panamint Valley was opened, and twice-weekly service was initiated. Later in November a second stage line brought visitors east from Indian Wells, connecting with San Francisco and the West Coast. Stages also were routed from San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

By November 1874 the population of Panamint City was close to 1,000. The main, mile-long, muddy, rutted street was lined with rubbish and tents, about fifty buildings, either frame or stone, and log or rock huts in which the hardy miners huddled for warmth. The town supported many business establishments and the usual number of saloons, all demanding exorbitant prices for goods. The Bank of Panamint was begun, a first indication of stability, and even a newspaper, the tri-weekly Panamint News printed its first issue on 26 November 1874. A cemetery was located a short distance up Sour Dough Canyon.

Senator Stewart soon made known his need for someone to export his ore and bring in machinery essential for the continuing productivity of his mills. Remi Nadeau, the French-Canadian involved in Cerro Gordo freighting, was the logical choice, but too expensive. A San Bernardino freighter was contacted, and he began hauling freight through Cajon Pass and across the Mojave Desert in October 1874, creating as a side effect a vast new business for his hometown. Realizing the profits that were daily being lost, Los Angeles teamsters entered the trade by early November, directing their teams past Indian Wells and on to Panamint. And not surprisingly, soon Remi Nadeau and his Cerro Gordo Freight Company joined in transporting the heavy flow of goods passing between Panamint City and Los Angeles. The latter truly began to share in the prosperity created by the Panamint boom, as lumber, grain, flour, and whiskey passed in large quantities to the growing camp full of thirsty men.

By December 1874, the height of Panamints career, the Surprise Valley Company operated six mines and employed 200 'miners. [45] In the middle of that month Jacobs's ten-stamp mill began production. Population of the camp was now between 1,500 and 2,000 men. A Frenchman, Edmond Leuba, deciding to visit the active town, left Los Angeles around December 1874. He constantly met people on the road going to and from Panamint, attesting to the thriving commercial activity between the two places. Unfortunately he arrived at the mouth of Surprise Canyon at nighttime and had difficulty avoiding the teamsters who were coming down the steep, narrow canyon road even at this time of day. This was a toll road, costing Leuba $3.00 for his two horses and a wagon. Three miles further east the ravine opened out and the lights from many fires were visible in the canyon. Mining blasts sounded every instant. He found a place for his horses in the shelter of a tent and lodging for himself in the dug-out cellar of a restaurant, which he shared with "a dozen figures looking more or less like candidates for the gallows." [46]

Next morning the Frenchman commented on the bright sun and intense heat of the canyon. Panamint camp, he saw, was "composed of about fifty huts made of logs, tents and little houses partly dug out of the rocks." [47] Work there progressed until January when the snow became too deep. At that time many of the miners left camp for warmer regions, and the population dwindled markedly.

old photo of Panamint City
Illustration 6. Upper part of Panamint City, 1875. Photo courtesy of G. William Fiero, UNLV.

Commenting on the quantity of saloons in the town, Leuba next proceeded on a guided tour of the Panamint mines, which he stated

have been very little worked as yet. The deepest shafts are not more than seventy-five feet below the surface and the tunnels showed very little development. But it is in these first workings that they have found the richest ore and that which is easiest to work. Only two mines, so far as I know, have produced good ore to a depth of five hundred to six hundred feet. There is no mill for the reduction of this ore as yet at Panamint. The richest ore is sent to San Francisco at a transportation cost of $80 to $100 a ton, while the second class ore is heaped up at the mouth of the shafts from which it is extracted, awaiting the time when it can be treated here. [48]

Leuba seemed to think the mines were daily diminishing in value, and the reduction processes becoming more and more difficult. He says this condition lasted over into the next year, when Panamint began losing people to Darwin, where lead in the deposits made reduction easier and less costly.

By the spring of 1875 full-scale production in the area was almost a reality, and toward the end of June 1875 the Surprise Valley Company's twenty-stamp mill was started up. Bullion was regularly shipped via the Cerro Gordo Freight Company's mule teams, and work for everyone was plentiful. The economic mainstays of the camp--the Wyoming and Hemlock mines--were producing heavily.

mill and furnace
Illustration 7. Jones's and Stewart's twenty-stamp mill and furnace in old Panamint City. Date unknown, but probably prior to 1877. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

smelter ruins
Illustration 8. Ruins of old Panamint City smelter, date unknown. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

As happens in boom towns, however, the halcyon days could not last, and by the end of 1875 the thriving era of Panamint was coming to a close. As Leuba had noticed, many miners were now heading toward Darwin and the New Coso Mining District, where it was warmer and prospects looked good for employment. The Panamint News even moved there early in November, becoming the Coso Mining News By the spring of 1876 the Wyoming and Hemlock mines were depleted.

This, in addition to other discouraging factors--no new discoveries in the area; the demonetization of silver; setbacks experienced by Jones and Stewart at their silver prospects in the Comstock lode, resulting in depletion of their financial reserves; and the impossibility of realizing a profit on refractory ores whose yield was not commensurate with their recovery cost--caused the Surprise Valley mill and mines to shut down in May 1877. Stories also circulated of "stock jobbing; of grafting and trouble among the grafters; of seizures by stockholders who were not mining men; of fortunes spent in building a mill where a smelter was needed; of consequent failure, disappointment, abandonment and complete depopulation of the once flourishing camp." [49]

h) Personalities

Though the rip-roaring early boom days of Panamint might have ended, the townsite and surrounding area still supported some interesting characters, both male and female. Men such as John P. Jones and William M. Stewart (founders of Panamint City), Jack Curran ("King of the Panamints"), Frank Kennedy ("The Duke of Wild Rose"), January Jones, Clarence Eddy ("The Poet Prospector"), Harry C. Porter ("Hermit of the Range"), Shorty Harris, and Chris Wicht ("Seldom Seen Slim") all made their contributions to the history of mining in the Panamint Range.

The women are not without their share of the limelight, too, however. Notable among them was Mrs. Mary A. Thompson, owner and operator of the Panamint lead mine in 1926. Mrs. Thompson had stirred up some local animosity by not allowing prospectors on certain sections that she considered part of her holdings. She was brought to court over this in Independence where she was convicted and given a suspended sentence. Her affairs did not improve, as seen by a later newspaper report that she was searching for her two children, ages 16 and 20, who, she claimed, had been spirited away by "the lawless element of Death Valley," consisting of "numerous bootleggers who ply their lawless trade far from the seeing eyes of the law." Despite their attempts to steal her mine because she had attempted single-handedly to drive them from the region, she did not intend to give in: "I will fight them until I get my children back and rid Death Valley of them." [50]

In the mid-1930s Mrs. Thompson was still in trouble. Convicted on ten counts of failing to pay wages to laborers, and facing 600 days in jail or a $1,200 fine, she was appealing her case to the superior court at Independence. It must have been quite an interesting court session when, during one afternoon's proceedings, Mrs. Thompson became hysterical and fainted, necessitating an adjournment of court for the day. [51]

A 1969 newspaper article mentions another woman living in the Panamint Range area. In 1935 Panamint Annie (Mary Elizabeth Madison) began her reign as "Queen of Death Valley." A truck driver on the New York to Chicago route, she quit that job and moved to Death Valley to live out her days. Residing in a shack at Beatty, Nevada, she spent her time prospecting and puttering around the junk piles at her home. She was still alive in 1969 at age 58. [52]

Illustration 9. Area of early mining camps west of Death Valley (north half).

Illustration 10. Area of early mining camps west of Death Valley (south half).

i) Sites

The following is an attempt to locate and briefly identify some of the more important mines on the western slope of the Panamint Range. This list is by no means conclusive. An attempt has been made to mention these mines chronologically in order of discovery date. The similarity in name between many of these and other claims within the borders of Death Valley NM makes the task of sorting out relevant material a time-consuming one.

(1) Wonder (of the World?) Mine, Bob Stewart Lode, Mina Verde, and Sunnyside

These mines were among the principal claims filed on by the founders of Panamint City. On 21 June 1873 deeds were submitted by R.C. Jacobs transferring to someone referred to as "Paladio" one-eighth interests in the "Bob Stewart" lode and the Mina Verde, Wonder of the World, and Sunnyside mill sites and timber claims for $1,500 plus other considerations. [53]

In November of the same year notice appeared of the sate by "R.T. [B] Stewart" of a one-half interest in the Wonder Mine for $20,000 to "a San Francisco party by the name of Rains (probably E.P. Raines]." [54] The Wonder Mine was the original find of R.C. Jacobs.

In the Death Valley NM mining office a memo was found with the notation "Scotty's Claim locations." One of these is for a quartz claim "in the Furnace Mountain Mining District," lying on the "Death Valley slope about 40 miles west of Saratoga Springs." Date of discovery was 1 January 1905, the claim to be known as the Death Valley Wonder No. 16 Mine. This would appear to be east of the original Wonder Mine, possibly in the Butte Valley District. [55]

(2) Ino, Jim Davis, Hill Top, Alta, Comstock, Gold Star, World Beater, Big Bill, Elephant, Florence, Gem, General Lee, Gold Note, Golden Terry, Little Till, Lookout, Mammoth, and Summit Mines

By 1897 these claims in Pleasant Canyon were all owned by the South Park Development Company. [56]

(3) Mohawk Lode

This claim was originally filed for record on 18 July 1874 so that a shaft could be sunk and developed for whatever metal it contained. The lode was situated on a hill north of Surprise Canyon and Browns Camp, and was located by C.D. Robinson and R.D. Brown. A second location, filed for record on 8 October 1874 by William Welch and George Ranier[?], locates the claim about 500 feet above the Wonder Mine. [57]

4) Silver Queen Lode

Situated "about 500 yds. SW of the Bullion Lode," this claim was filed for record on 22 August 1874 by C.D. Robinson and John Mantel. [58]

(5) Homestake Lode Home Stake Lode

Two claims by this name appear on the records. The Homestake Lode "situated about 3/4 mile from the mouth of Woodpecker Canon on w. side of the gulch" was filed for record on 7 September 1874 by W.W.(N?) McAllister.

The Home Stake Lode "about 1/4 mile East of Hemlock [Mine]" was filed for record 22 September 1874 by John Kelle and J.B. Durr. [59]

(6) Sheba Lode

This was situated near the summit of the divide between Marvel Canyon and "Canon Gulch," about one-half mile from the divide separating Surprise and "Happy Valley" (Happy) canyons. It was filed for record 8 September 1874 by persons unknown. [60]

(7) Sun Set Mine

A relocation of the Star of Panamint, this claim was filed on 20 October 1874 by Henry Carbery(?), W. McCormick, and W. Scott. [61]

(8) Nellie M Mine

This mine, not to be confused with the Nellie Mine north of Hungry Bill's Ranch in Johnson Canyon, was filed for record on 2 November 1874 by John Small, R.M. McDonell, Charles W. Dale, and L. Rodepouch. It was situated in Woodpecker Canyon on the west side "opposite the third ravine." [62]

(9) Star of the West Mine

Filed for record on 1 December 1874, this mine, located by J.J. Gunn, John Gough, and John Williams, was situated on the west side of Woodpecker Canyon about 200 yards north of the Bismark Mine. [63]

(10) Christmas Lode

"This lode is situated on a hill whose ridge runs nearly eaqual and paralell with Sour Dough Canon, and about one mile from Surprise Valley, said lode is situated between the red formation nearly at the Base of said hill and runs for thirty along crest of the hill Fifteen hundred feet to a white formation at the Northerly line of the lode." It was filed for record 31 December 1874 and claimed by Wellington Hansel Jackel. [64] A North Extension of the Christmas Lode comprised 1,500 feet on the north side of Surprise Canyon filed for record 5 February 1875 by John Fruke, Arthur Bryle, Michael Bryle, and E.H. Boyd. [65]

(11) Christmas Gift Mine and Co. No 1 Mine

To add further confusion, this claim was filed for record on 3 January 1875 by Walter R. Maguire and R.J. McPhee. It was situated "about 300 feet more or less in a North by East direction from the Harrison boarding house. . . ." [66] The No. 1 Mine joined the east end of the Christmas Gift, and was located 5 July 1896 by John Casey, Charles McLeod, and John Curran. [67]

(12) Exchequer Lode

James Dolan, W.W. Kitten, and Thomas Sloan filed this claim about one mile west from the head of Woodpecker Canyon on 25 October 1874. [68]

(13) North Star Mine

Filed for record on 20 January 1875 by M.G. Fitzgerald, A. McGregor, D.J. Sweeny, and M. Holland, ". . . this Ledge to be known as the 'North Star' . . . is situated part on the East side of a ridge running into Narboe Canon & crossing the divide about 1,000 feet West of the Gipsy Bride ledge, between Surprise Valley and Narboe Canon and about 2-1/2 miles in a Northwest direction from the town of Panamint." [69]

(14) Argenta Lode

This claim was filed 27 April 1875, and was located in the center of the west fork of Silver (Sour Dough) Canyon. [70]

(15) Uncle Sam Lode

On 11 April 1880 John Lemoigne filed a claim on the Uncle Sam Lode, situated one mile north of the Torine Mine. [71] (This latter was located 3/4 mile south of the Gambetta Mine and one mile east of a spring in Happy Valley Canyon.) Another Uncle Sam Lode was recorded 17 December 1883 in the Union District about one mile East of the Barns Mill site. [72] In 1931 an application for a patent for an Uncle Sam Lode in the Slate Range Mining District appeared. [73]

(16) Magnet Mine

First mention found of this mine was an 1884 notice that this property in the Telescope Range, south of Panamint, owned by Spear and Thompson, was doing well, much development work having been performed in the past few months. [74] Another report of the mine in 1884 called the Magnet "the only mine in the district [Panamint District] which promises good returns." [75]

(17) Grand View Mine Anaconda Mine

This mine, located rather nebulously "2 miles in northerly direction from spring in Emigrant gulch and about 2 miles in southerly direction from Mineral Hill and about 5 miles in NW direction from Anvil Springs and just south of Buckeye Mine in Panamints," was discovered by W.M. Sturtevant and recorded 11 October 1888. [76] By September 1892 a Grand View Quartz Mine in the Panamint Mining District was owned by the Death Valley Mining Company. The location given of T21S, R45E, would seem to place the mine east of the Panamint City area and north of Gold Hill. [77] This is probably the same mining company owning the lodes in the Gold Hill area. The Death Valley Mining Company, represented by J.H. Cavanaugh, was listed as being delinquent with $23.96 in taxes in 1912. The properties concerned were Lot No. 62, the Anaconda Mine, and Lot No. 63, the Grand View Mine. [78]

In February 1917 the Anaconda Mine (20 acres) and the Grand View Mine (18 acres), owned by John W. Cavanaugh and the Death Valley Mining Company, were offered for sale by the Inyo County tax collector. [79] The two properties were still being advertised a month later. The least amount for which the properties could be purchased was $281.50. [80]

A note in the mining office at Death Valley National Monument stated that the "Anacada (Anaconda?)" quartz and Grand View quartz mines were located near Panamint City in Woodpecker Canyon, "a stones throw away" from the monument boundary. [81]

(18) Willow Spring Mine

This mine, recorded in 1896, was located three miles west of Panamint Toms stone corral. This probably refers to the stone structure up Pleasant Canyon. [82]

(19) Mountain Girl Mine

In 1930 this gold mine was situated at the head of Happy Canyon, about four miles south of the Panamint City townsite. [83]

(20) Black Rock Nos. 1 2 3 and 4

These quartz claims in the Panamint Mining District were deeded in 1922 by J. B. Oven to Mrs. C. Kennedy. [84]

(21) New York Idaho and Dolly Varden Mines

In 1898 a one-third interest in these claims was given by J.F. Ginser to Peter B. Donahoo for $10. [85]

(22) Republican Mine

A mine owned by George Montgomery and associates, it was working steadily and milling high-grade ore in the early 1900s. [86]

(23) Cooper and Mountain Boy Mines

Located near the base of Sentinel Peak, these were owned in the early 1900s by the Gold Crown Company, which intended building reduction works. Much high-grade ore was present. [87]

(24) Valley View Mine

This claim, recorded in 1896, was located on the west side of the Panamint Range, one mile south of Pleasant Canyon and 1-1/3 miles east of Post Office Spring. [88]

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003