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

14. Hungry Bill's Ranch

a) History of Indian Ranching In and Near Death Valley

Indian existence in Death Valley from precontact times through the 1920s was of necessity a transitory lifestyle with settlements and camp locations determined by the seasons. In the winter the Indians retreated toward the valley floor to escape the severe snow and cold of the mountain ranges; in the summer the excessive heat and low water levels forced them once again up into the higher elevations.

The three Shoshone families whose main headquarters from at least the 1880s well into the twentieth century were at Hungry Bill's Ranch, at about 5,000 feet elevation up Johnson Canyon, lived during the winter about fifteen miles south of Furnace Creek in the general vicinity of Eagle Borax Works and Bennetts Well. These families might also have inhabited Butte Valley in earlier days before moving into the mountains in the fall to gather pinyon nuts. [344]

The occurrence of Indians (not always Shoshones) living on small ranches in the Death Valley region and indulging in serious farming activity was noted in several instances in early years. Travelers heading for the goldfields of Lida, Nevada, and Gold Mountain in 1873, and crossing north of Death Valley, found

a little enclosure of less than an acre, near a small spring of water . . . . No house or dwelling of any kind is seen, although this little farm is under a high state of cultivation. The proprietor is always to be seen dilligently [sic] at work upon his property. He is an aged and remarkable sedate-looking old Piute, who is known as "Billy Rogers" . . . . Billy is proud of his success as a farmist, having year sold his surplus (one sack) in Lida for $6. [345]

When Lieutenant Birnie participated in the Wheeler Survey of 1876 he and his companions took the trail leading from Panamint City across the Panamint Range east to Johnson Canyon:

The first portion of the descent to Death Valley by trail was very steep. In the canon through which we passed grass and a short running stream were found, also a small cultivated piece of ground where vegetables were raised with facility by irrigation. [346]

This description must refer to the Hungry Bill Indian camp area. A "Johnson's Ranch" is shown on the Wheeler Atlas Sheet 65D (1875).

In 1891 Frederick Vernon Coville made the following observations while acting as botanist for the Death Valley Expedition. During the trip he had seen about twenty-five Panamint Indians, all living on the west side of the valley:

At the mouth of Hall canon, near Hot springs, at the west foot of the Panamint mountains, and in Johnson canon, on the eastern or Death Valley slope of the same range, the Indians have under crude irrigation and cultivation two or three acres of ground. The crops commonly raised are corn, potatoes, squashes, and watermelons. Of the last they are especially fond, fully as much so as the African, and the desert climate is admirably suited to their growth.

The cultivation of plants, however, furnishes them neither a sure nor an adequate food supply. They occasionally purchase from miners and prospectors bacon and flour. . . . [347]

Peaches and grapes were also reported to have been raised here. [348]

In 1896 two "garden" areas within Death Valley were noted. The first described was in Johnson Canyon:

just over the summit, and southeast of Panamint, was "Johnson's garden" in the flush days of the rise and before the fall of Panamint. Here Indians Pete and George [Hansen?] are cultivating four or five acres of land. With immense labor they have cleared away the surface rocks, building huge walls for fences, and irrigating ditches from the large springs. March 31st alfalfa was four to six inches high: The grapevines hanging over a framework of poles, showed formed grapes in the verdure and the peaches appeared half formed. In their larder was found fine varieties of beans, wheat and corn. On the hillside George has graded away a large space, and has material on hand for a regular house. [349]

The second ranch was at Panamint Tom's place in Anvil Canyon, "where a copious spring of lukewarm water makes a small oasis in the wash, and right among the mineralized mountains. [350]

Panamint Tom's place is mentioned in more detail in an 1897 newspaper article describing the visit of a W. J. Langdon to the Panamint Range, a trip that happened to coincide with a severe thunderstorm:

It struck the ranch of the notorious Indian, Panamint Tom, about 9 o'clock in the morning, and swept everything before it. Tom's orchard of 150 trees was torn up, his garden entirely destroyed, the camp tepees swept away and the ranch wrecked generally. At the time of the occurrence there were eleven Indians on the ranch, but aside from a good drenching they sustained no injuries. The stock was on high ground and escaped the force of the water. [351]

During this same time it was reported that "Panamint George [Hansen] has a fine ranch, supplies the miners with fruit and melons and raises large crops of alfalfa." [352] George's ranch was on the west side of the Panamints at the mouth of Hall Canyon north of Warm Sulphur Springs. He was probably supplying miners and prospectors in the new camp of Ballarat further south as well as those working in the surrounding canyons. Another Indian supplying Ballarat was Indian Joe, who had lived on Peterson Creek in the Argus Mountains before being pushed off the land by John Searles, of Searles Lake borax fame, who started a garden there in 1873, planting fig, apple, and other trees, and grapevines, and building a terraced spot for his gardens. As soon as he left the area, Indian Joe returned and began harvesting the produce himself, ultimately supplying his wares to a Ballarat storeowner, Harry Robinson, for sale to miners. [353]

In 1910 two men, F. J. Busch and Pat Burke, made a trip into southern Inyo County:

From Skibo [near Lee, Ca.] we visited the Furnace Creek ranch, and it is certainly a garden spot at this time of the year. We traveled as far south as Bennett's wells in Death Valley and were escorted from Furnace Creek to what is known as Hungry Bill's ranch by Indian Bob Thompson. Hungry Bill being an Indian, and one that does not understand English, impressed me in several ways; one in particular was the energy he possesses. His place might well be called the western base of Telescope Peak, and here he and his family have lived for perhaps thirty years. He has about fifty fruit trees that bear splendid fruit in July. He raises grapes, potatoes, corn, peas and beans, and the ranch is not of ordinary Indian type. It shows evidence of being kept up. [354]

b) Hungry Bill and His Family

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the 30 June 1927 census of the Paiute, Shoshone, Monache, and Washoe Indians of Bishop Agency, and various applications for enrollment with the Indians of the State of California all provide differing information on names, birth dates, and interrelationships of the various members of Hungry Bill's immediate family. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Hungry Bill was born around 1839, a full-blood Shoshone and son of Pee-pu-wine (mother) who was residing in Inyo County by 1 June 1852. He married a full-blood Shoshone woman, Ce-un-ba-hobe, who was evidently about the same age. According to the BIA Hungry Bill died in 1919 of the flu and his wife passed away three years later. However, their children, on their individual enrollment applications, listed their father as dying in 1918, at age seventy, which would move his birth date back to 1848. Most did not remember the year of their mother's death, although one estimated it at about 1915. [355]

Hungry Bill and his wife had two sons: Tim Billson (aka Tim Hanneberry, Hendeberry, and Handeberry) was variously listed as being born in 1885, on 24 October 1891, or in 1901. He was listed on the 1927 census as living in Ryan, and according to the BIA was still residing in Death Valley in 1940. Little is known about the other son, Johnnie Billson, who reportedly died in 1916. [356]

Two daughters were born to Hungry Bill. Susie's date of birth was either 1880, 1890, or on 28 October 1895. She reputedly married Tom Wilson, also a Shoshone Indian, and was living at Furnace Creek in 1940. According to information Susie provided on her enrollment application, Tom was born 28 October 1872 and was one-half Shoshone. On the 1927 census a Tom Wilson is listed as living in Death Valley, born in 1872, and having a wife, Susie Button, born in 1890, and two daughters, Edna and Edith, both born in 1909. [357]

More confusing are the details on Mabel Billson, Hungry Bill's other daughter. According to the BIA she was born before Susie. Her enrollment application states her birth date as 25 October 1884, although the census gives it as 1894. The BIA records that she went to work at Scotty's Ranch in northern Death Valley, and, on becoming ill there, moved to Beatty, Nevada, where she died in 1934. Never married, she bore three full-blood daughters: Mattie Billson (born 1923); Maggie Billson (born 1924); and Musie Billson (born 1927). Mabel herself, however, stated that she had two children, Mary Bill (born 15 March 1924) and Musey Bill (born 25 October 1926) by Tom Wilson, a full-blood Shoshone Indian, to whom she was never married. A third child, Maggie Bill, she presented as her granddaughter (born 25 October 1922), the illegitimate child of a deceased daughter who was never named and who died around 1925. The grandchild's father was unknown. Maggie had lived with Mabel almost all her life. The census lists Mabel as having a daughter born in 1914. [358]

At the time Steward wrote his treatise on the Basin-Plateau peoples, seventeen Indians were reportedly congregating at Hungry Bill's Ranch in the summertime. These included Panamint Tom, regarded as the "chief," his wife, two sons, and four daughters; Tom's brother Hungry John (Bill), his wife, two sons, and two daughters; Tom's sister, her husband, and one son. [359]

In 1937 T. R. Goodwin, first official superintendent of Death Valley, wrote an article on the Indians of the region, and in so doing attempted to delineate some of the relationships. He stated that nearly all the Death Valley Indians were members of various branches of the Shoshone tribe, with Hungry Bill having been the acknowledged leader for several years. Panamint Tom, Hungry Bill's brother, was also an important power in the tribe. Indian George (1841-1945) of Panamint Valley married a sister of Hungry Bill. He had been born at Surveyor's Well in Death Valley and was buried at his Warm (Sulphur) Spring Ranch in the Panamint Valley. Robert Tomson (Thompson), to whom the allotment at Warm Spring in Death Valley was given, was the son of Panamint Tom. Tom Wilson, who married one of Hungry Bill's daughters, was not full-blood, according to Goodwin, but was born in Darwin in 1872 of a Mexican father and Shoshone mother. Until young manhood he lived with his mother and uncle in Bruce Canyon in the Argus Range. After working in his younger years in the mines around Darwin, he married late in life, moving to Hungry Bill's Ranch, from which he and his family migrated to the Eagle Borax area in the winter. Because he spoke English fluently and was quite familiar with the ways of the whites, he became a sort of liaison between them and the local Indian population, consulting with and advising the latter informally on important matters.

On his 1928 enrollment application, Tom Wilson stated that he was fifty-six years of age, born 28 October 1872. He was of one-half Indian blood, having been born to Manwella Wilson, a full-blood Shoshone born in the Panamint Valley, and her Mexican husband whose name Wilson did not know. Although born at Darwin, Wilson was now living in Death Valley near Death Valley Junction. His first wife, a full-blood named Susie Button, had died in 1918; his second wife, Susie Wilson, was the mother of his son Seeley, born 12 May 1929 at Furnace Creek. Wilson listed his occupation as cowboy. [360]

c) Hungry Bill and Death Valley Mining

In general the Shoshone Indians seemed to enjoy a good reputation among the white population, being considered "invaluable as guides, message carriers, packers, and wood choppers, and nearly all talk plain United States language." [361] Another miner around the same time opined that the Shoshone Indians were "as a general rule . . . good workers, thrifty, industrious and good livers . . . . The Indians all know of valuable mines, and when they find one will cover it up. If a white man will use a little diplomacy and get on the good side of them he can learn where the mines are." [362]

Many if not most of the Death Valley Shoshone would have been privy to the locations of ore outcroppings primarily because of their seasonal migrations. A few such instances of this knowledge were found by this writer, one indicating that an Indian was first responsible for pointing out the Gold Hill mines, and another telling of Panamint Tom's guiding a certain Julius Goldsmith to a rich mine in Pleasant Canyon. [363] it was said that Hungry Bill, as well as other native inhabitants, found gold and silver near Panamint City long before the whites did, and evidently did not have very civil relations with the resulting white influx. [364]

d) Mining in Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon was not only productive as far as ranching was concerned, but also was rich in mineral resources. How many mines were located in the general area before 1900 is not known. This writer found mention of only one, the Nellie Mine, located on 4 March 1897 by T. H. Henbery, probably Tim Billson, Hungry Bill's son, and located on the west slope of the Panamints 1-1/2 miles north from the Indian Ranch in Johnson Canyon. [365] it was not until the early 1900s that serious mining activity by whites occurred, for by then the fabulous discoveries at Skidoo promoted interest again in the Panamint Range, which up to this time had been undergoing only desultory mining exploration. In the summer of 1907 Clarence E. Eddy, "The Poet-Prospector" who had been doing some work in the Panamints in Johnson Canyon, led a party of newspaper men into the area to view his Fairview Group of fourteen free-milling gold, silver, and copper claims, whose ore was assaying from $28 to $31 per ton. He and the Salt Lake City newspaper men who had grubstaked him, headed by Frank I. Sefrit, manager of the Salt Lake Tribune had also secured the water rights to an adjacent stream and spring. Eddy, as the initial discoverer in the area, was completely optimistic about the whole situation, though he was not above acknowledging that sometimes these strikes did not pan out:

I am not certain that I have made a rich discovery--there is often a slip between the cup and the lip--but the prospects look better than anything I have ever yet found . . . . If there is any depth in the discoveries, and every indication is favorable, we have another Greenwater and Skidoo camp over there in the Panamints. [366]

The discovery was said to be located on the opposite side of the mountain from old Panamint at an altitude of 5,000 feet below the east slope of Telescope Peak, and could be reached by wagon road from Rhyolite via Lee or Daylight Springs to Bennetts Well and then by trail up Johnson Canyon for about fifteen miles. This latter part of the route could best be negotiated on horseback, and with more difficulty by wagons. It was encouragingly reported that the country had plenty of water and fuel, with good grazing land available for pack horses and mules; it did not appear to have been worked earlier by whites. In contemplating formation of a new townsite in the area, the name "Shadow Mountain" was decided on, because of a dark area on Telescope Peak's east slope visible in the distance. The claims already located reflected the strong influence of newspaper men in the initial discoveries: Lead, Add, Pick-up, Freak, Thirty, Composing Stick, Linotype, Galley, Proof, Imposing Stone, Chase, Shooting Stick, Mallet, Devil, Press, Bullfrog Miner, and Rhyolite Herald.

That Indians were living in the vicinity is evidenced by the statement that

Eddy left his brother on guard while he was in Rhyolite on the last trip for fear that the Indians in that portion of the country who are inclined to dispute the rights of the white man might destroy his monuments. He will remain in the camp the remainder of the summer. [367]

It was also noted that

The Indians have come to believe that the sentimental mining man is afraid of them. They have small gardens near the springs and frequently visit the poet-prospector's camp and besiege him for bacon, trinkets and "fire water." The prospector in attempting to meet all of their requests is a great portion of the time short on some of the necessaries of life. . . . [underlining added]

In reality they are more dangerous than the average prospector would think at first glance, for the average prospector does not know what fear is. But these Indians have been living over there, many of them, from their childhood, and with the isolation from public highways and nothing but Death Valley as an outlet they have seen but few white men. They have come to think that the few prospectors who have braved the wilds of that section comprise the greater population of the United States. They still have the idea that they might rise up and conquer the world. If they should make this attempt while there is [sic] only one or two unarmed prospectors in the neighborhood, of course, it would be hazardous to them.

They have firearms and other things in their possession that there is a bare possibility that they may have taken from victims in the past. They may have committed some of the murders charged to the privations of Death Valley. They are not too good to do it. They look about as low as any savages I ever saw. But so far as fearing them is concerned, Simpson and I never thought of it. [368]

The exploratory work accomplished by Eddy and his newspaper party encouraged their backers so much that they were completely reoutfitted and sent back into the mountains, in the belief that "the new discoveries in the Panamints will prove the sensation of the summer and . . . that this heretofore unexplored region will develop rich deposits in gold, silver, copper and lead." [369] Parties were also arriving from Greenwater, and it was predicted that "there is work for 100 parties in that field this summer. They have, the utmost faith in it becoming one of the biggest camps in the country, not even excepting the Bullfrog in the course of time." [370]

It was reported that the Indians in the vicinity were actually responsible for the arrival of Greenwater people. Angered by the encroachments of Eddy and his associates, a few Indians went to Greenwater, brought back some white men they knew, and pointed out to them a 20-foot-wide lode supposedly assaying 10,000 ozs. in silver to the ton (later assayed at slightly less!) and located within 100 feet of Eddy's gold- and silver-producing Red Mammoth Claim. The Greenwater people were so enthused they stayed day and night extracting and shipping the ore, which was practically in a natural state, having been crudely "blasted" out by Indians years ago. [371] (This property, known hereafter as the "Indian strike," was later expected to be bonded for $100,000.) Another version of this story is that one member of the tribe was dispatched to Greenwater to get help in legally holding their ground. A Judge L. O. Ray, president of the Rhyolite Mining and Brokerage Company, who was then in town, accompanied the Indian back, along with a Henry Brown and a George Fairbanks, in return for one-fourth interest in the claims. [372]

Within half a mile of Eddy's main discovery some earlier crude mine workings were found on the side of a canyon, consisting of implements, a shallow tunnel, and an old furnace or retort. "They called upon Indians who live in the neighborhood and inquired about the workings and the Indians remarked that they had 'Ketch urn some gold and some silver." [373] On the basis of this promising information, no doubt grudgingly given, the newspaper folk located five more claims--the Lost Inca, Montezuma, Cliff Dweller, Aztec, and Cortes--which assayed $30 to the ton in gold with a small percentage of silver. [374]

By the middle of July 1907 plans, including a post office, were proceeding ahead full steam for the development of the new mining camp, which was being renamed "Panamint." Over 100 claims had now been staked, with prospectors still swarming over the area. Salt Lake interests were the principal backers of the camp, intending to organize two companies, each with a capital of 1-1/2 million dollars; two more companies were due to organize within another month. Businessmen were commencing at once to sell stock, but would wait until fall to begin actual development work:

the numerous ledges of gold discovered . . have given all a full faith in the camp. They maintain that Greenwater, Skidoo and Lee, with all of their indications, are not ahead of the new Panamint. It is also believed that the famous Breyfogle was found and lost in this section, and that the new discovery is within a few miles of "Scotty's" famous mines.

In short, the prospectors and persons interested in the new discoveries are confident that the Panamints will witness the next excitement in Nevada-California mining. [375]

Also in this month a newspaper syndicate purchased the Fairview Group of eight claims, originally discovered by Eddy, but evidently now owned by a Mrs. Nellie Currier and Edward G. Gould, for $10,000 in cash and stock. This was in addition to thirty-seven other claims and water rights purchased for the group by Eddy. The two main mines of the area were reportedly the Greenwater "Indian silver lead strike," showing returns of $30 in gold and silver, and the Lost Inca, operated by the Rhyolite newspaper syndicate, showing much free gold and reportedly "the richest surface showing . . . yet observed in the Panamint country. [376]

Among the main parties heading for the new area to join the Rhyolite Mining Company people, the newspaper men, and the Salt Lake City capitalists, was C. A. Perry, a mining man from Denver and manager of the Golden Chief Mining and Milling Company operating in the South Bullfrog District. [377] A week later the first note of pessimism was creeping into accounts of the district. According to newspaper reports, Paul De Laney, an assistant district attorney at Rhyolite and one of the representatives of the Rhyolite newspaper syndicate, had been sent to the area to scout it, and

Regarding the strike, . . . does not exhibit any marked degree of enthusiasm. He says the early statements about it are somewhat at variance with the facts. [378]

This may be why, when "Slim" Young and James Kane joined the rush to the Panamints, they passed by Eddy's camps and went seven miles further west to the site of old Panamint where they located six claims. This area seemed to promise more good discoveries and Young mentioned that the former mill operators there still owned sixteen patented claims in the vicinity. Bolstering De Laney's opinion about the new Panamint was the Inyo Independent's terse comment: "The strike was a fizzle." It further quotes De Laney as reporting:

The Lost Inca . . . is a fake, pure and simple[.] I do not know whether Eddy knew any better, but he certainly should have known what he was talking about before spread [sic] the wild stories. We sent two men, Le Compte and Simpson, to look after our interests there, and they were evidently carried away by the stories of Eddy and the appearance of the country. There was nothing but lime, but the lime was of different ages, and the various discolorations gave it the appearance of a contact. [379]

The last accounts found concerning the new Panamint mining area mention Eddy as being still involved in prospect work there. He evidently still represented, or thought he did, the Salt Lake interests who owned twenty-seven claims in Johnson Canyon in the name of the Panamint Mining Company.

Eddy, obviously in an attempt to draw attention away from his fiasco in Johnson Canyon, was now gradually turning his thoughts and hopefully those of his detractors to the possibility of locating gold on the floor of Death Valley. In pursuit of this dream he located four claims in the foothills between Johnson Canyon and Wingate Pass--the Leadora and Death Valley Queen groups located on parallel veins a few hundred feet apart. Development consisted of a fifteen-foot shaft on the Leadora, which had exposed ore giving only decent returns. It was expected that the Panamint Mining Company would take over these properties also. [380]

At the same time then that Eddy was pursuing work on the Panamint Mining Company's claims in Johnson Canyon, he was busy advocating his theory that rich gold deposits lay just under the Death Valley floor, brought to. the surface from the bowels of the earth by the action of bubbling thermal springs, and could be easily developed by dredging and placer mining. Eddy and his brother, again backed by Salt Lake capitalists, now became involved in competition with a former partner of Eddy's, E. G. Gould, who was in the employ of certain California parties of dubious reputation, to corroborate this theory

that Death Valley is a huge treasure vat, into which, during the thousands of years gone by, the hot waters from below and the cloudbursts from above have connived to pour the precious minerals, which have gradually settled to layers of hard pan, few or many feet beneath the surface of that uninviting sink. [381]

e) Hungry Bill's Homestead

Probably in an effort to protect his land against further white encroachment, in 1907 Hungry Bill applied for a homestead in Johnson Canyon, which application was processed and subsequently approved by the United States Land Office at Independence on 10 October 1907. According to records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, doubt soon arose over the propriety of placing an Indian on a homestead on unsurveyed public domain lands. The case was therefore referred to the Bureau, which processed the application papers through the superintendent of the Carson School in Stewart, Nevada, to allot 160 acres to Hungry Bill under provisions of the General Allotment Act of 1887. He was selected for Allotment No 122 on 1 May 1908. The next step was to have the land surveyed so a patent could be issued; although the survey was made, Hungry Bill died before a trust patent could be given. Nevertheless, it was issued on 14 July 1927 in the name of Panamint Bill for the NE1/4 of Section 20, T21S, R46E, MDM, California, and then on 28 June 1940 an order was issued showing the heirs of the estate, valued at $1,480, to be his living children and grandchildren. [382] It has been stated by some writers that Hungry Bill received the ranch site for his services as a scout during the Modoc War, but this could not be substantiated by the writer. [383]

It is unclear why the homestead later reverted to the BIA, but in 1953 Hungry Bill's Ranch was purchased by Fred and Leah Rosser from that agency, evidently without NPS knowledge. On learning of the transaction, the Park Service began negotiations for a land exchange with the Rossers, who were agreeable to the idea of selecting some comparable land outside the monument. Hungry Bill's Ranch became Park Service property on 16 August 1954. [384]

f) Present Status of Hungry Bill's Ranch Site

The area designated as Hungry Bill's Ranch on the USGS Telescope Peak quadrangle comprises a series of stone walls, corrals, wooden fences, and building sites stretching for about 1-1/2 miles along either side of a stream flowing down the North Fork of Johnson Canyon. The canyon alternates between very narrow stretches, choked with a dense undergrowth that forces hikers to take to the hillsides, and valley areas varying from one-third to one-half mile in width.

The road into the North Fork of Johnson Canyon ends at a spring about 9-1/2 miles west of the West Side Road. This area also shows signs of habitation and use. Stone walls have been erected alongside the stream, baling wire fencing has been added nearby, and pipes have been laid from the spring to the stream. A burro enclosure stands near the spring, and scattered about are tires, fencing, and tin can debris. On the hillside northwest of the spring area is a reservoir dug out of the earth, measuring twelve by twenty-five feet. It was once enclosed by a fence.

Arrastra pit #1 is located on the south side of the stream a few yards west of the spring area. This particular structure was not found during the 1975 LCS survey. It is small but in good shape, measuring about five feet in diameter. No dragstones remain. Arrastra pit #2, the first one located in 1975, is about one-half mile west of the spring beyond a box canyon entering from the north. It measures about four feet across and contains two dragstones. The holes in them are plainly visible and wire is still wrapped around the smaller stone. The rocks around the edge of the arrastre are well worn, indicating heavy use. In association with this arrastra is a stone-lined flume descending from the hillside above, with its funnel-shaped mouth opening east of the arrastra and measuring about nine feet across. The flume itself is about 1-1/2 feet wide and the walls of the trough opening into the stream are about 3 feet high. Perhaps the water was at one time rechanneled through this ditch. [385] Pieces of metal and wood fragments with holes in them are scattered about the area. Above the arrastra on terraces are two levels of dry masonry walls of local stone, averaging seven feet wide. The lower is two feet high and the upper about 3-1/2 feet high.

Arrastra pit *3 is located about one-half mile further west beyond a serpentine-shaped stone drift fence about seventy-five yards long on the south side of the stream. On either side of the canyon, short stone walls (twenty to fifty feet long) can be seen either shoring up trails or controlling animal movement. These walls tend to divide the canyon into pastures, but are not always continuous stonework, often incorporating natural obstacles in the canyon walls as part of the barrier. The third arrastra is located in a wash on a terraced ledge whose sustaining wall is about three feet high. A gear and miscellaneous metal parts are strewn around, and some timbers (one charred) are present. Pieces of metal were once attached to these timbers, which were hewn out in places to accommodate them. At least one dragstone is present. Fence posts stretch east in a line from the arrastra platform area, while a fence of poles and stovepipes also leads west.

Just west beyond this last arrastra the canyon opens out and holds a stone corral with an adjacent building site on the east. The corral appears to have entrances on the south side. The walls vary from three feet to six feet in height, with periodic dips in them on the south side. The south wall is 75 to 100 feet long, the east side about 25 feet in length, and the north side abuts the canyon wall. Three fig trees have been planted on the north side of the corral. East of here is a level platform area showing evidence of habitation. Metal and glass debris abounds. This may be the location in which Hungry Bill and his kin lived. The writer's feeling is that they divided their time between here and the larger orchard area further west where the canyon opens out again into a wide area originally known as "Swiss Ranch" and built during the Panamint City mining boom.

Illustration 91. Map of Johnson Canyon, showing area of proposed Hungry Bill's Ranch Historic District.

Illustration 92. First arrastra in Johnson Canyon heading west towards Hungry Bill's Ranch. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Illustration 93. Second arrastra found in canyon. Note stone retaining walls visible above dragstone. Stone-lined flume descends hilt to left, outside picture. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

This is a large field of perhaps ten acres enclosed by stone walls about five feet high. Here is the most extensive fencing, about 1,000 feet of walls three feet thick and six feet tall, built of masonry filled with gravel and cobblestones. At the northeast end, part of the wall is circular, about twenty-five to thirty feet in diameter, with walls about five to seven feet high (stone corral?). A wooden gate on the east provides access to the orchard. Just inside the field a tree and a forked branch support a pole from which various houseware items (pots, pans, kettles) once hung. They might have belonged to. some later miner or squatter here, but have long since disappeared. Some metal cable and a gear were found at the east end of the field. Among the trees at the west end much metal debris has been found: an old canteen and a frypan, a wheelbarrow, wagon jack, gears, and white murky glass, thick and bubbly. Apple, pear, fig, and American black walnut trees abound and bear delicious fruit. There is also a grape arbor. Wooden fencing extends further west beyond the arbor and more corral structures. West and north of the stream are more fences (stone and wood) and corrals. The LCS crew found a cellar hole in a grove of dead cottonwood trees near the west end of the field containing small segments of masonry, and leveled building sites to the southwest of the orchard back among the hills, but these were not observed during this writer's field trip.

Southeast of the orchard area is another building site, higher on the hillside. The first structure east of the orchard here is a stone, chevron-shaped windbreak whose wall is four to five feet high and about fifty feet long. It shelters what was probably a small house. All that remains of the latter are two parallel stone walls three feet high and fifteen feet long on either side of a dug-out area containing stove parts. Further southeast about fifty yards are at least three more building levels with stone retaining walls, each about 21 feet high and 25 feet long, barren except for debris. Wire fencing is found here as are glass, metal, and plumbing pipe remains. [386]

Illustration 94. Drift fence, south wall of Johnson Canyon east of Hungry Bill's Ranch. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

mining ruins
Illustration 95. Ruins of third arrastra on north wall of Johnson Canyon east of ranch. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978

g) Evaluation and Recommendations

The masonry walls and building sites in the upper valley of the north fork of Johnson Canyon once comprised a farming enterprise known as "Swiss Ranch," a fruit and nut orchard ten miles from old Panamint City attributed to some Swiss settlers attempting to fill the need for vegetables in that thriving mining camp. Horses and pack animals might also have been boarded here. [387] From information supplied by visitors to the area in 1896 and 1910, however, the writer feels it safe to assume that Hungry Bill and his family also lived and farmed in this area, perhaps erecting some of the simpler fencing found here. Whether or not the Indians actually constructed any of the huge stone walls or irrigation ditches, or whether these were already in existence and simply reused, is conjectural. According to the 1896 report, Indians did build the walls and Indian George was even planning to erect a "regular" house on a cleared space on a nearby hillside. [388]

The smaller valley further east has been referred to as the historic Indian camp of Hungry Bill. In the 1960s when William J. Wallace investigated this site, a large, circular, roofless shelter or windbreak about eight feet high was still standing in perfect condition and full of discarded belongings, such as bundles of basketry, withes, and toys. A large collection of these miscellaneous objects was taken to the visitor center in 1963. [389] The structure was not seen by this writer, so it is possible it has since fallen down.

stone wall
Illustration 96. Stone wall of corral east of Hungry Bill's Ranch. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

stone wall
Illustration 97. Circular stone pen on northeast corner of orchard complex, Hungry Bill's Ranch. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

ranch site
Illustration. 98. Hungry Bill's Ranch site, view to northwest. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

stone wall
Illustration. 99. Stone windbreak, Hungry Bill's just east of Ranch site. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

stone foundation
Illustration. 100. Building site windbreak. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

In addition to significance in the area of early 1870s farming enterprises and its long history as seasonal home to a group of historical Panamint Indians, Johnson Canyon also was the scene of several mining operations. It provided a direct route from Death Valley to Panamint City via Panamint Pass and Frenchmans Canyon, a trail used by miners going between the western and eastern Panamint slopes as well as by the "truck farmers" to transport their goods to Panamint City. Rich mineral strikes made by Clarence Eddy brought many miners and prospectors into the area, which for a while underwent a flurry of mining activity. It is doubtful, however, that the new town of "Panamint" ever prospered.

The entire stretch of ruins in Johnson Canyon is eligible for inclusion on the National Register as being of local significance, and will be incorporated into the Hungry Bill's Ranch Historic District nomination. An interpretive sign should be erected in the vicinity of the ruins providing a history of the area. Information on the ranch should also be provided at the visitor center. The network of stone walls is in good shape at the present time, but their condition should be monitored periodically since this is an important resource. No stabilization or restoration measures are proposed at this time.

Archeological study should be an essential part of further research into this canyon's history. More intensive perusal of the historical literature, notably in newspapers dealing with the Panamint City boom, might turn up more information on the exact nature of the "Swiss Ranch" enterprise and the individuals involved. Study of Hungry Bill's Ranch site and of the artifacts in the visitor center museum should help provide a picture of the lifestyle of these Panamint Indians who were seemingly able to tread the line between retention of their familiar customs and assimilation of white practices. Other remnants of Indian culture have been found in the area: pictographs in black and red of animal and human figures on the walls of a shelter (presumed to have been drawn by historic Indians on their way to Hungry Bill's); and three house sites or walled shelters on the north side of the canyon against the cliff. [390] This writer also noticed some petroglyphs on a rock wall just south of and across the stream from Arrastra pit #3.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003