Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
NPS Logo


A. Southern Panamints and West Side Road (continued)

3. Butte Valley Mining District

a) History

Butte Valley is a beautifully-secluded spot in the southwest corner of Death Valley National Monument. It descends in elevation from about 4,500 feet on its west edge to around 3,800 feet on the eastern side. From near the middle of its brush-covered floor rises the geologic phenomenon that inspired the area's name--a sandstone peak distinguished by striated bands of deep browns, yellow, orange, blue, and gray that rises to an elevation of about 4,770 feet. Several canyons pierce the mountain ranges that surround the valley on all sides, while a variety of dirt roads radiate from near Anvil Spring, a small oasis toward the southern end of the valley, leading to various operating or abandoned mines in the area.

Access to the valley is gained either from Death Valley to the east or from Panamint Valley to the west. Entrance is probably easiest via Warm Spring Canyon, the road here being well maintained because it services active talc mines. It joins the West Side Road about four miles west and north of its junction with the Badwater Road that parallels the east side of Death Valley. From the junction of the Warm Spring-Butte Valley roads the seven or so miles into the heart of Butte Valley are rugged and washed. This area has been inhabited mainly by weekend prospectors during the past few years, and these homes now are deserted most of the time. Anvil Canyon (to the east, but now impassable), Goler Wash (to the south), and Redlands Canyon (to the west) also enter Butte Valley, but weather conditions and lack of maintenance on these roads make them definite four-wheel-drive routes.

Illustration 11. Map of Gold Hill and Butte Valley mining districts.

The region was first entered for serious mining activity as early as the 1870s, when several mines were located and claimed in the vicinity of Gold Hill, a rich mining deposit in the mountains at the north end of Butte Valley. The Gold Hill District was mined through the 1930s. Butte Valley was also combed in connection with early exploration and development in the South Park, Redlands, Coyote, and Goler canyon areas west of Butte Valley and southeast of Ballarat about fifteen miles. Goler Canyon deposits were supposedly located in 1860 by a German prospector by that name. [132] By 1889 the Butte Valley Mining Company had been incorporated, with its principal place of business in Santa Ana, California. The capital stock of $300,000 was divided into an equal number of shares with a par value of $1.00 each. John G. Kimball, D.M. Tomblin, George L. Morgan, and O.R. Scholl were directors of the company. They must have very quickly established a mill in the Goler Canyon area, because a water location notice for the Mysic Millsite, recorded in the Butte Valley Mining District on 7 June 1889 stated that the site, located by Morton, Beckerton, and Taylor, was in "Goller Canyon" 2-1/2 miles east of the Butte Valley Mining Company mill. [133]

A report on the "Goller" Canyon area appeared in the Engineering and Mining Journal in 1892. It stated that two prospectors, J.A. Mack and D.R. Kimball, had just returned from performing assessment work on their group of mines "known in former times as the Goller mines." Gold, silver, and tellurium were said to abound in the area. The two most promising locations were the Queen of Sheba and the Belmont, both found on the south side of Goler Canyon and up a hill at whose base a Mesquite Springs provided a steady water supply. By 1894 this area was yielding good placers, with gold running as high as $10 and sometimes $20 an eighty-pound sack of ore., Men named Hay and Canfield were the principal locators of these deposits. [134]

The promising quartz veins of the Butte Valley area were being singled out for comment as early as 1898 by the Los Angeles Review, which at the same time noted that lack of communication and transportation facilities had so far prevented Butte Valley from becoming "one of the most productive mining regions in the southwest." [135]

A report on the mineral formation of certain areas in the Panamint Range published in the Independent in 1900 mentioned the Anvil Spring area. The ore veins here, it was stated, were not as large as at Gold Hill but could be profitably worked if undertaken by someone in an intelligent manner; water and pinyon pine were abundant for mining and milling purposes. Probing the mining situation further, the article continued:

The section has had a slow but healthy growth. Two obstacles have greatly retarded its progress; one being lack of capital, the owners being unable to develop their properties sufficiently to enable cheap extraction and placing plants for reduction of the ores. The other, lack of cheap transportation, the ores as a general thing not being of sufficient grade to admit of shipping to distant reduction works, in some cases as far as 70 miles, producing difficulties in successful working of the properties which only capital could overcome. But capital is now taking hold, and with the advent of a railroad the whole section will have new life infused into it and become one of the busiest sections of the State and a large producer of the precious metals. [136]

In the late 1800s there was a large amount of activity in the Anvil Spring area centering around gold and silver veins, with as many as thirty men at work at the camp there at one time. A Randsburg, California, man who visited the Butte Valley camp in 1899 was full of optimism as to its future. In addition to extolling the camp's obvious advantages, he noted the recent name change:

The new mining camp, Striped Butte, formerly known as Anvil Springs, is destined to add a comfortable percentage to California's gold output in the near future. The geological conditions are such as to show, with what has already developed, that it will undoubtedly be a permanent camp. . .

Several sales have recently been made and reduction works will soon be installed.

Two routes were suggested for reaching the area, one via Redlands mill seven miles by pack train; the other over Wingate Pass. The Randsburg gentleman further stated that within a month a good wagon road was to be constructed through a canyon (probably Goler) providing almost direct access to Randsburg. He ends his report on the area by noting that

The natural facilities and climatic conditions make this a mot enviable location for a desert mining camp there being a great quantity of water and the mountains are covered with an abundance of pine timber . . . . There are several parties running arrastras on these mines at present. [137]

By the early 1900s the new Anvil Spring District supported at least two full-fledged mining companies. By the 1920s most of the producing mines in the southern Panamint Range were on the western slope, although the gold claims around Anvil Spring were still being worked. [138] In the 1930s the Western Talc Company held two small claims in Anvil Spring Canyon, employing three men in driving a tunnel. [139]

The precise boundaries of the "Butte Valley Mining District" are hard to pinpoint, a certain overlapping of districts having eventually developed in the area. The mines in the region around South Park were considered part of the South Park Mining District, which often extended into the vicinity of Anvil Spring. The Gold Hill mines north of the valley were first recorded as being in the Cleaveland Mining District and later in the Panamint District, the latter often reaching further south into the Anvil Spring area. Mines in Goler Canyon were recorded a being in the Butte Valley Mining District, as was the lush water supply at Warm Spring. An Anvil Spring District was being referred to by the early 1900s.

The following are some of the early locations filed, all of which are in the Butte Valley area, but some of which were listed as being in other mining districts. No further detailed descriptions of them were found. As in the Panamint District, their similarity in name to later claims in neighboring areas can be a source of some confusion.

(1) Warm Springs (Butte Valley Mining District

The locators of this water source, Frank Winters and Stephen Arnold, stated in May 1889 that the spring would be used for milling and mining purposes and was to be developed by ditches, pipes, and flumes. [140]

(2) Mysic Mill Site (Butte Valley Mining District

Located in "Goller" Canyon by Morton, Beckerton, and Taylor, water on this mill site, situated 21/2 miles east of the Butte Valley Mining Co. mill, was to be used for mining, milling, and domestic purposes. It was recorded on 7 June 1889. [141]

(3) Queen of Sheba Quartz Mining Claim

This claim, not to be confused with the later Queen of Sheba Lead Mine near the mouth of Galena Canyon, was located one-half mile south of Mesquite Springs or Pages (Payes) Mill in Goler Canyon. The site of the former abandoned Eclipse Mine, it was located by D.R. Kimball on 2 January 1891. A later Notice of Intention to hold and work this claim was filed in December 1893. A second location notice for the Queen of Sheba was filed by Kimball and J.A. Mack on 23 January 1896 in which it was further stated that the claim was on the south side of Goler Canyon and adjoining a Trinity Mine on its east end. [142]

(4) Golden Eagle Claim (Butte Valley Mining District

This property, similar in name to the Gold Eagle Claim at Skidoo, was recorded as being 1-3/4 miles south of Pages Mill and located on 22 October 1892 by D.R. Kimball and J.A. Mack. [143]

(5) Emigrant Mining Claim

The questionable description of this particular property, situated about 3-1/2 miles west of Anvil Springs in Butte Valley and on North side of Emigrant Canyon, leaves its actual location open to conjecture. Although it would seem to be located in the Redlands Canyon area, the reference to Emigrant Canyon adds a certain element of doubt. The claim was located by D.R. Kimball and J.A. Mack on 9 January 1893. [144]

(6) Hidden Treasure Golden Treasure and Bunker Hill Claims (South Park Mining District

These three claims, located around 1896, were placed about one mile west-southwest of Anvil Spring in Butte Valley, but were recorded as being in the South Park Mining District. [145]

(7) Nutmeg Mine (Panamint Mining District

Registered in the Panamint Mining District, this claim, described as 'running 750 feet in a North Westerly direction 750 feet in a SE direction about 1-1/2 miles from Anvil Spring on east side of Butte Valley and on east slope of Panamint Range about 300 yards north of spring," would appear to be in the Butte Valley area. James Davis, T.H. Heneby, and others filed on the site on 3 July 1896. [146]

Several sites exist in or near Butte Valley of both historical and archeological interest. These include the stone cabin lived in by Carl Mengel at Greater View Spring; the remains of a three-stamp gold mill, a nearby rock shelter, and some cabin sites northwest of Anvil Spring; stone mill ruins at Willow Spring; and many prehistoric sites, including open campsites, rock shelters, and quarries.

b) Sites

(1) Anvil Spring

(a) History

Anvil Spring and Anvil Canyon both acquired their name after Sergeant Neal, a member of the Bendire expedition of 1867, found an anvil, wagon rims, and some old iron scraps near the spring site in Butte Valley. Although it has been postulated by some that these were remains of a blacksmith outfit brought into Death Valley by Asabel Bennett in 1849, it appears that actually they were a later addition to the spring.

Milo Page, writing about some of the first mining locations in Inyo County, explains that in the fall of 1858, as a discharged government teamster, he and some other fellows in the same situation purchased a team and some supplies at Salt Lake City and headed for San Bernardino along an old Mormon route. Shortly after leaving the Kingston Mountain Range the group met a party of four or five Mormons with a six-mule team pulling a wagon heavily loaded with silver-lead bullion that they were transporting to Salt Lake for refining.

When queried as to the location of their find they said that under instructions from Church leaders they had gone out "to see what they could find," and had succeeded in locating a mine of carbonate ore, near which they had erected a crude furnace for smelting. (Page states that in 1874 he saw the remains of the old furnace near Anvil Spring.)

Eight years after the Mormons worked this mine, several men who had heard of their find left San Bernardino under the leadership of one Joseph Clews. Included in their outfit was a large anvil. Near the carbonate mine, "on the west side of a small valley," was a large spring where they camped; upon their departure from the area a few months later, they threw the anvil into the spring, where it was evidently later seen by the Bendire expedition and from which it was retrieved for use by a Judge Hanson in 1880. [147]

The cycle of mining in the Anvil Spring area was characterized by a continuous note of optimism on the extent and richness of veins, regret over the country's inaccessibility, which made the mines unprofitable, and recurring calls for the custom mill that would quickly turn the Anvil Spring District into the new bonanza area of southwest Inyo County.

The first detailed account found specifically mentioning the deposits at Anvil Spring appeared in 1889. It mentioned promising gold and silver discoveries and the fact that further exploration was needed, but admitted that there was no way to profitably handle the ore. Freight charges to the nearest railhead were $60 per ton, plus $8 on to San Francisco. An additional $15 charge for reduction meant that each ton shipped cost $83 total. [148]

By 1899 prospects for the area still seemed promising, for it was reported in the Mining and Scientific Press that certain Los Angeles parties who had just bought some property at Anvil Spring for $4,000 were planning to erect a mill there within a month. By April of that year at least twenty-five men lived at a chlorider's camp near the spring. This number had risen to thirty by May. [149]

No reduction facilities had been erected in the area by 1900, although a mill was still contemplated and the mines were still producing well. [150] Two months later a letter appeared in the Inyo Independent from a gentleman who had just "struck it rich" at an Anvil Spring mine. Its overwhelming enthusiasm and probably overly-optimistic predictions are typical of the type of information that must be weighed carefully by modern researchers in order to ascertain a true picture of the actual conditions in a mining district. The miner involved is Dick Chilson, who located a claim at Anvil Spring that was owned co-equally with a J.B. Bushard of Ocean View, California. Chilson sent the following letter to his partner, painting a vivid picture of their new-found bonanza:

Ballarat, Inyo County, 3-18-'00

John Bushard, Esq. Dear Sir--I have just put off a blast and took out 800 pounds of ore. It is worth fifty cents a pound. We took out two nuggets this morning, weighing about 200 pounds apiece, and George and I can't get them out of the shaft. You can see the gold and silver in them. They are pure metal. We have taken out about 3000 worth of ore this week. We have a carload of pure metal. You can send a team out; we can keep it hauling ore all the time. We have enough in sight to keep us at work for a year. The ledge is eight feet wide and God knows how much wider, and there is lots of good ore at the bottom of the shaft.

The boys think the ledge is 25 feet wide, and some think the whole hilt is metal. We can't go down any deeper till you come out and get some lumber to put up a hoist, for the richest gold is at the bottom of the shaft and I am anxious to sink down. [151]

A stamp mill is again mentioned as a possibility for the area's future the next month: "Messrs. Bowshard & Son, owners of the Anvil Springs mines, have gone 'inside' to get a stamp mill" for their lead property. [152] What held up acquisition of a mill is unknown, but there seems to have suddenly been a hiatus in mining activity here. A 1903 account reports that no work had been done in the area, which was still only accessible by trail, until recently, and now the Anvil Springs Mining Company had eight claims staked and was preparing to erect a mill. The report hints at formation of another Los Angeles-backed company to work the district. Most of the exploration mentioned is still referred to as preliminary. [153]

Evidently no mill had yet been erected by 1904, or if it had, it was not being run, for in that year both an Under-Sheriff and Sheriff had journeyed from Independence to Anvil Spring to serve some attachment papers on business connected with a suit against the Anvil Springs Mining Company. They reported that George Montgomery's mill at the Worldbeater Mine (located in Pleasant Canyon) was the only operative mill in the district, although five had been erected in this general vicinity and near Ballarat. [154] In 1905 a group of mines lying fifteen miles southeast of Ballarat (which could place them in the Anvil Springs District) were bonded to eastern parties for $250,000, and other properties were also changing hands as new richer strikes were made. [155]

A couple of months later a more detailed description of the Anvil Spring camp appeared. It mentioned that the spring was situated only about six miles from the Redlands mill, so it is possible that ore from the camp was processed there during those years that the area was without a means of reduction. The strength of the district lay in the presence of many medium-sized veins from one to six feet wide, which, despite their size, were long and appeared permanent. Amalgamation could not be used on the ores (ruling out use of the arrastra at Arrastre Spring), which had to be roasted and then subjected to a cyanide process. Isolation was still a problem at this time, reducing the profitability of mining efforts.

Nevertheless, more than a half dozen mines are mentioned as being in operation. These included the Ducummon, owned by Joe Goseline, having a forty-foot shaft containing ore averaging over $50 per ton; the. Midnight Belle, with a hundred-foot shaft and $60 ore; and the Ferris, Goseline, Grey, and Thurman claims, all showing good veins and all with shafts, which were necessary because "the mines are located in a rolling country." This would suggest that the mines had been dug among the foothills to the west of the flat plateau area around Anvil Spring.

The article states that the average assay of ores from the district was between $40 to $50 a ton, with some samples assaying slightly higher, into the hundreds of dollars. These values, although they would be considered high-grade in a district near milling facilities, were too low-grade to mine economically here because they had to be shipped such a distance. Another cry went out for a large custom mill that "could undoubtedly be kept running continuously from a half dozen of the principal mines of the camp." Ending on a note of optimism, the author prophesied that "with abundant wood and water, high grade milling ore, and a delightful climate, Anvil Springs is destined to attract attention in time." [156]

By the next month two of the companies in the district, the Concord and Anvil, were preparing to start work on their respective claims. Once again the properties had "good showings of ore that warrant the erection of reduction plants, and it is predicted that these properties will develop into large producers." [157]

Anvil Spring was also turning into a camping spot for those prospectors, many from the Ballarat area and some from as far away as Cripple Creek, Colorado, who were headed for the porphyry country south of Goler Canyon and east of Anvil Spring on the Death Valley slopes. It had recently been discovered that this southern section of the Panamints contained volcanic formations similar to those in which Tonopah, Bullfrog, and Goldfield were located. These porphyry veins appeared richer, than those occurring in the more common granite, slate, quartzite, or limestone formations. As a result, much location work was being done at this time south and east of Anvil Spring. [158]

Optimism over the deposits in the Panamint Range region near the head of Goler Canyon continued into the next year, prompted primarily by the investment of Eastern capital in the region, forecasting continuing and substantial development work. In 1908 activity still centered around Anvil Spring, drawing miners from as far away as Rhyolite. Two men from there, Charles Shepherd and Joe Murphy, reported a total of forty-two gold and silver claims in the vicinity of the spring. [159]

The grand visions of the future never materialized, and by the 1920s activity in the area was only sporadic during the revival of mining that was taking place throughout the rest of the Panamints. Most producing mines at this time were on the western slope of the Panamints, with only the Carbonate silver-lead mine and minor gold operations at Anvil Spring producing on the Death Valley side. [160] Some new mining locations were being made, but only on a small scale. The Mah Jongg Nos. 1-6 and Topah Nos. 1-4, for example, were originally located in October 1924 by Carl Mengel. These and several other claims in the area managed by the Topah Mining Company, Limited, were offered for sale in 1931 by the Inyo County Sheriff. They were all stated to be in the South Park Mining District, and all went through later relocation and resale proceedings from the 1940s to the 1970s. [161]

A story relating what was probably a typical mining experience appeared in Desert Magazine in 1968. It concerned two prospectors, Ernie Huhn (later connected with mining activities in Warm Spring and Anvil canyons) and Asa M. Russell, who came to Butte Valley in 1925 to see what the area had to offer. They entered via Anvil Spring Canyon and set up camp at Carl Mengel's old stone cabin at Greater View Spring. From this central point they scouted the surrounding hills, eventually searching over Manly Peak to the west. On the southwest slope of this mountain they discovered a rich vein of free-milling gold ore, panning, they estimated, $15,000 a ton, which of course would have made them rich men. Neglecting to mark the site of the discovery, however, they were unable to relocate it by the time they were ready to work the lode three weeks later. [162] The perennial advice to all antique hunters seems applicable here in a somewhat revised form: the time to work a mine is when you find it. How many disappointments in Death Valley might have been avoided if men had not attempted to rely solely on their memories.

The Anvil Springs Mining Company, in the 1920s, owned the Golden Star-Apex Group of lode mining claims, registered in the South Park Mining District, on the east slope of the Panamints. It consisted of five full mining claims: the Golden Star #1-#3, Apex, and Lucky Strike. Adjacent to these was the Ready Cash-Sunrise Group, consisting of nine full mining claims and a fraction: the Summit, California Gold and California Gold #1, Lone Pine, Sunrise, Sunrise #1-#2, Ready Cash, Ready Cash #1, and Nipper (fraction). This latter group was evidently owned by private individuals, F.W. Gray of Los Angeles being one of the early owners of the Nipper fraction.

The overall outlook on mines in this area was still slightly hopeful, for according to Archie Burnett, a mining engineer retained by the Anvil Springs Mining Company, "pannings of the vein on the surface [of the Nipper fraction] show gold in an amount to be easily made commercial." [163] Burnett pointed out that the ore could be treated by simple amalgamation, and that the building of a five-stamp mill was certainly justified by the extent and amount of gold-bearing ore exposed. The mill could also perform custom work for leasers on outlying claims, with provision being made to add another five stamps as the full extent of ore reserves was established. Amalgamation plates and concentrating tables could also be constructed as required. Transportation facilities were certainly not ideal, but no particular difficulties existed other than distance --fifty miles to the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad at Shoshone. Another important asset of the valley was that the ground was easily mined, making power drilling unnecessary and thus reducing the amount of investment capital needed.

Margaret Long, who made several trips into the Death Valley country, reports visiting the mine and cabin of someone named "Earnest" (Ernie Huh,,?) in the late 1920s, "just across Butte Valley from Telescope Peak." The gentleman, a graduate of the University of Washington, alternately lived there and at Shoshone. [164]

The same Asa Russell mentioned earlier evidently found that rich ledge he and Huhn lost, or else another one just as good, for he returned to Butte Valley around 1930, built a stone cabin at the foot of Manly Peak, and started to tunnel by hand into the Good Faith Mine on the slope of the mountain, performing assessment work on his various claims only two weeks out of every year. [165] This was probably the last serious mining done in the area, for by the 1960s only remains were left of the several mining claims in the Anvil Spring vicinity. The only work performed was annual assessment duties, carried out mostly by absentee owners on weekends. The most current workings at Anvil Spring are those encompassed in the Anvil Spring #1-#3 unpatented claims, covering the hills and open stretches bordering the spring.

(b) Present Status

(1) Anvil Spring and "Geologists Cabin

The Anvil Springs Claim includes the spring itself, the stone cabin immediately north of it, and an old three-stamp mill located in the northwest corner of the claim area.

The stone cabin, known familiarly over the years as the "Geologist's Cabin," is a distinctive landmark in the Butte Valley area. It is not particularly old, however, having been built by Asa Russell (Panamint Russ) when he first started work on his nearby claim. In his article cited earlier concerning his mining ventures in the region, he makes the statement that "my cabins are [at] the base of 7200-foot Manly Peak in the Panamint Mountains, Death Valley, California. I started building them in 1930, the same year I found the gold high up the side of old Manly and began my mining operation. . . ." [166] A picture accompanying the article shows him leaning against a wall near the front entrance of what is, unmistakably, the "Geologist's Cabin." What other structures he refers to is unknown, for no other foundations are visible in the immediate vicinity. (Perhaps he is referring to cabins at his Big Blue #1 Mine also, mentioned later in this section.)

Russell himself has somewhat clouded the early history of this cabin by stating in his article on his prospecting activities in Butte Valley in 1925 that "at Anvil Springs there was a stone house and plenty of water." He further remarks that Carl Mengel, an early German prospector in the vicinity, had also stayed in the cabin at one time. Later he states: "We located the spring and the stone house and set up camp. We were never able to find out who built the house, but it was built to last. It dated back to the early 1880s and was as good as ever." [167]

Because of Russell's later statement that he built the cabin at Anvil Spring in 1930, and because, in a 1929 photo of Anvil Spring by Margaret Long, the "Geologist's Cabin" does not appear, the obvious conclusion is that Russell was simply confusing Anvil Spring with Greater View Spring one-half mile further south, where indeed there is a spring and also an old stone structure possibly built as early as the 1860s or 1870s. This would seem to be proved by the picture of the cabin in which Russell and Huhn camped, which accompanies the article, which definitely is the Mengel cabin at Greater View Spring. Further confusion is provided by the map in the article, which shows Huhn and Russell's location at what is today known as "Russell Camp," another one-quarter mile or so south of Greater View Spring. This particular complex, however, was also built by Russell when he returned to mine in Butte Valley in the 1930s.

Russell developed Anvil Spring by containing it within a rock-lined cistern and covering it with a wooden trap door. An overflow pipe attracts the ever-present burro population, as attested to by the number of tracks visible. Russell had planted concord grapes near the spring and reportedly experienced good success with them.

Illustration 26. North and east elevations of "Geologist's Cabin" at Anvil Spring in Butte Valley. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Illustration 27. West and south elevations of "Geologist's Cabin." Note remains of small stone oven on terraced area. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

interior of cabin
Illustration 28. Interior along north wall of "Geologist's Cabin" in Butte Valley. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

interior of cabin
Illustration 29. Interior view toward south wall of "Geologist's Cabin." Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

The stone cabin has most recently been lived in by a group of six retirees working the Anvil Spring claims. The one-room stone and masonry structure is solidly built with a green composition-paper roof that has been partially ripped off by vandals within the past year. The floor is cement and the wooden roof framing allows for storage space underneath the roof on the interior. Inside the cabin are a gas stove, an empty refrigerator, and shelves stocked with canned goods, some appearing to have been recently added. Two tables (one for eating and one for working) and some chairs are found inside. On the south wall is a built-in fireplace with a round mirror positioned on the mantel. A wooden door (covered by kitchen shelves on the interior) is situated at the north end of the east elevation, and a large window has been placed on the south end. There are also a window on the north elevation, two windows (one on either side of the fireplace) on the south elevation, and two doors (the southernmost one boarded up) on the west elevation.

A small stone oven on the outside terraced area west of the cabin has been vandalized and broken up. This may or may not have been part of the original complex. An outhouse and trash dump lie several yards north of the cabin. The house is wired for electricity, but no signs of a generator were found.

(ii) Butte Valley Stamp Mill and Environs

In the northwest corner of the Anvil Springs Claim are the ruins of a three-stamp mill backing against a small cliff. In front (north) of the stamps are some concrete machinery pilings and foundations, while the wooden framework of the mill itself climbs up the cliff immediately south. The stamp casing is still intact and bears the words "Baker Iron Works--Los Angeles." Metal flashing remains in the chute leading to the stamps from the hill above. Some timbers of the mill were originally painted boxcar-red, and some are green--obviously having been cannibalized from elsewhere. On top of the hill behind the wooden framework are some stone foundations and a concrete platform area.

stamp mill
Illustration 30. Butte Valley Stamp Mill. Wooden ore bin is to left of picture. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

foundation of stamp mill
Illustration 31. Concrete foundations of Butte Valley Stamp Mill. Photo by John A. Latschar, 1978.

stamp casing
Illustration 32. Stamp casing, Butte Valley Mill. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

water reservoir
Illustration 33. Cement-lined water reservoir, Butte Valley. Photo by John A. Latschar, 1978.

trailer at mine site
Illustration 34. Big Blue #1 Mine of Asa M. Russell in Butte Valley one mile west of Anvil Spring, 1962. Photo by Park Ranger Warren H. Hill, courtesy of DEVA NM.

tent site
Illustration 35. House or tent site in vicinity of Butte Valley Stamp Mill. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

This mill probably serviced the vertical shaft located just south of the concrete platform area. This untimbered excavation with gently sloping sides is at least 100 feet deep. Between the stamp mill and a reservoir several yards southwest of it, a road leads on southwest up a small arroyo to an adit and what appear to be the foundations of two structures or tent sites. A door stoop still remains in front of one of them. This is the location of the Big Blue #1 Mine of Asa Russell, about one mile west of Anvil Spring.

Approximately 200 yards southwest of the mill ruin is a shallow, cement-lined water reservoir with stone reinforcing along the walls. The area has recently been fenced with barbed wire connected to pipe fence posts in an effort to keep burros from walking on the concrete pad. Pipes lead northwest from the reservoir to a small 3 x 2-1/2-foot stone-lined holding pond alongside the road leading west toward "Robber's Roost" and other mine sites.

About fifty yards due north of the large reservoir, and just north of the road, are at least three leveled house or tent sites supported by shallow stone retaining walls. This road leading west from the stamp mill and reservoir ends in a sort of cul-de-sac containing a rock shelter and several mines and prospects. It passes, on the south, a claim marker in the form of a large rock with the words "NW/SE Corner" painted on it. A nearby claim post identifies this as the Majong #6, one claim of twenty acres, owners John Matarazzo and John Persico of Downey, California. Nearby to the west is a filled-in prospect hole.

Remnants of at least five other mining ventures are found on down this road to the west and on trails taking off from the loop the road forms. Two of the undertakings are simply prospect holes, one only about thirty feet deep and the other one having caved in so that no estimate of its actual length is possible. It did, however, have a stone wall built partially across the entrance. These two excavations are located on a road taking off to the southwest from the cave house, which dominates the center of this small valley. Referred to variously as "Robber's Roost" or "Outlaw Cave," this shelter is formed by the overhang of a huge boulder resting on other large rocks and on the hillside itself. The eastern entrance once was protected by a dry-laid masonry wall with a doorway. Although this wall has crumbled somewhat, in earlier times it completely closed in the east facade, effectively sheltering the occupants from the elements. Early views of the site show a high, sturdy dry-stone wall and a stove outside the entrance. [168] At the present time a campfire exists to the southeast in front of the stone wall, and another is found to the north just inside the front entrance. Although tales circulate about such caves being the hideout of robbers or highwaymen, it is more likely that this refuge harbored a desert prospector working nearby claims.

West and up the slope from the rock house is an adit with a cement door frame and wooden door. The tunnel inside connects with a partially caved-in shaft coming down about fifty feet vertically from the hillside above. This tunnel, used as living quarters for a miner in fairly recent times, contained an old iron stove, a rug, bunk, table, shelves, assorted implements, and pyrex dishes. According to the monument photo file this is an old lead mine that in 1962, when its picture was taken, had been inactive for years. According to a 1978 mineral report in the monument files, this is the Mah Jongg No. 6 mining claim. [169]

Further north of this tunnel and shaft are another connecting pair of excavations on the hillside. The sides of the untimbered adit are very crumbly and the collapsed shaft above is only about twenty feet deep.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

i) Anvil Spring and "Geologist's Cabin

The stone cabin at Anvil Spring, because of its prominent location on the hillside, has long been a familiar landmark to prospectors and tourists alike who venture into Butte Valley in search of fortune or merely a day's adventure. The lone tree at the spring and the inviting shade of the cabin have attracted picnickers for years, many of whom abused the privilege offered by this oasis, necessitating a padlock on the cabin door.

Illustration 36. Cave house west of Butte Valley Stamp Mill. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

mine site
Illustration 37. Old lead mine, 3/4 mile WNW of Anvil Spring, Butte Valley, 1962. Inactive for many years. Photo by Park Ranger Warren H. Hill, courtesy of DEVA NM.

Although the structure is aesthetically appealing, it is not historically significant in Death Valley mining history. Built in the 1930s, it provided a home base for Asa Russell while he conducted periodic mining work on the slope of Manly Peak. Russell is one of the familiar names associated with mining in Butte Valley, but he evidently did not venture much outside that area. His association with the cabin is not important enough to warrant its nomination to the National Register. Possibly the cabin could be utilized as a backcountry shelter for monument rangers patrolling Butte Valley.

ii) Butte Valley Stamp Mill and Environs

The three-stamp mill situated about 3/8 of a mile northwest of Anvil Spring is of definite historical interest and significance. Current popular guidebooks to the area prolong the story that this gold mill was built by Carl Mengel around 1898, after he had purchased the construction materials in Los Angeles (reportedly salvaging timbers from construction of the old Third Street tunnel) and hauled them through Goler Wash by mule team. [170] This writer has not yet seen any primary documentation to support this statement.

As mentioned earlier, several statements have been found referring to the fact that various mining concerns operating in Butte Valley were contemplating erection of some sort of reduction works as early as 1899. By 1900 Messrs. Bowshard & Son, owners of the Anvil Spring mines, were reported to "have gone 'inside" to get a stamp mill. The Anvil Springs Mining Company, which operated some lode claims in Butte Valley in the 1920s, hired a mining engineer, Archie Burnett, to examine the Golden Star-Apex and Ready Cash-Sunrise Group of mining claims near Anvil Spring. In speaking of the Ready Cash Group, whose principal workings were on the Nipper Claim, 1-1/2 miles west of Anvil Spring, the engineer said that they had been worked considerably in 1896, and the ore shipped to the nearest custom mill at Garlock, 150 miles west, for processing. In that year one shipment of five tons to that distant point netted $120 per ton. In 1912, Burnett says, about twelve tons off the dump were milled and produced $380 in gold bullion. In order to determine projected values, he inspected current tailings "produced from ore from the property which was milled in a small 3 stamp mill nearby. . . . The mill referred to is a small 3 stamp mill erected some 15 years ago [ca. 19131, and whatever the plans of its sponsors may have been, it is quite obvious that little, if any, intelligent effort was made to develop the property itself. [171]

This statement that the mill was built around the first decade of the twentieth century (though it is doubtful that it was the Anvil Springs Mining Company that built it because the report indicates that the Nipper Claim was not owned by them but was merely adjacent to their holdings) is much more plausible than the more romantic explanation that Mengel hauled the materials in from Los Angeles via Goler Wash on muleback prior to 1900. Puzzling, however, are the initials and date "REW Feb 1937" scratched on one of the concrete foundations. Possibly the original mill was added on to by miners or other interested parties in the late 1930s, during which time there was still mining activity in the area, or this may just be graffiti.

The mill itself is unusual in that it held three stamps instead of the usual two or five. Remaining vestiges consist of concrete foundations and machinery pilings and the heavy cast steel housing for the stamps, none of which remain. (As will be mentioned again later, some old mining relics are exhibited at Russell Camp near the front entrance of the house. One of the items is a stamp. Whether or not it came from this mill is uncertain, but the possibility exists.) Although the mill is not sufficiently outstanding in Death Valley mining history to meet the criteria of eligibility for the National Register, and in addition lacks some integrity of design due to the loss of its stamps and other miscellaneous machinery, it should not be destroyed. No stabilization measures appear necessary. The deep vertical shaft on the level above should be capped in some manner to prevent accidents--the current situation is very dangerous for people and animals. Dumps and ground refuse in the general vicinity of the mill offer potential for historical archeology fieldwork. Examination of objects here might help determine more conclusively the time span during which the mill operated.

The reservoir southwest of the mill appears to be a 1930s or 1940s addition, built to implement the mining activity going on in the adits and prospects further west and south. No mention of its construction was found. Neither the reservoir nor the small holding tank (?) west of it are historically significant. The construction period of the stone house or tent foundations north of the reservoir is unknown. Possibly they date from mining activity around the turn of the century; further exploratory work by archeologists might reveal artifacts that would more precisely establish their age. They do not intrude on the visual scene and should be left to benign neglect.

The rock shelter further west is an item of historical, architectural, and archeological interest. Seeking shelter or work space in natural cavities found in the rock cliffs and hillsides in Death Valley has been a custom of the native peoples since prehistoric times. This practice was also followed by prospectors, for rock and cave shelters provided a convenient and instant haven that could be made relatively airtight simply by the addition of a stone entrance wall with a door. [172] The Butte Valley cave house is a particularly good example of latter-day use of such a natural shelter, though through recent camping and recreational use it has lost some of its integrity--the front wall has crumbled and the old stove that used to be located by the front door has been appropriated. Its large size and picturesque setting, in addition to its probably apocryphal reputation as a robber's hideout, make it an interesting resource.

The adits and prospect holes in the surrounding area are not viewed as historically significant. Although some of them were probably originally worked in connection with the earliest mining activity in the area, they have been so thoroughly tested and explored throughout the past forty or fifty years that their original associated artifacts have been removed and even their original appearance has undergone alteration. (Some of these adits might have provided ore for the three-stamp mill if it performed custom work.) The possible tent or house sites located along the road leading off southwest from the stamp mill toward the Big Blue #1 Mine could be examined further by historical archeologists to determine if any estimate can be made of the site's earliest occupation period. Many archeological sites exist in Butte Valley, and it is the writer's understanding that the entire area is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as an archeological district. Before any measures are taken to remove any historical structures or to restore the land to its natural state, archeologists should be consulted to make sure no important sites are disturbed.

(2) Greater View Spring

(a) History

Not much data on early settlement at Greater View Spring was found prior to its mention in connection with Carl Mengel, an early prospector in the Butte Valley area and contemporary and friend of such well-known Death Valley personalities as Shorty Harris and Pete Aguereberry. The site is located about one-half mile south of Anvil Spring and commands a grand view over Butte Valley toward the Amargosa Range on the east side of the salt pan.

Carl Mengel was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1868, and after various attempts at mining, farming, and fishing for a living, by at least the early 1900s had entered the Butte Valley region of Death Valley, presumably by way of Goler Wash. He is said to have purchased the Oro Fino Claim in Goler Wash in 1912, and later found even richer deposits there. [173]

In October 1924 Mengel filed on several claims south and west of Anvil Spring: Topah Nos. 1-4, Topah Extension, and Mah Jongg Nos. 1-6. He died in 1944 and his ashes were put in a stone cairn atop Mengel Pass approximately fifty feet outside the boundary of Death Valley National Monument.

After his death the claims located by Mengel in Butte Valley underwent numerous resales through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The Topaz (Topah) Extension, Topaz (Topah) No. 1, and part of the Topaz (Topah) Extension claims were later amended and located as the Greater View Springs, Greater View Springs No. 1, and Greater View Springs Millsite, respectively, in 1962 when Clinton and Stella Anderson were granted the property by Asa Russell. Work carried out by the couple on these gold, silver, lead, and mercury claims has consisted mainly of small pits, open cuts, and a small adit, mostly on the Greater View Springs Claim. [174]

Stella and Clinton Anderson lived on the homestead, prospecting in the surrounding hills together until Clinton died in 1973. According to a newspaper article featuring Mrs. Anderson's unique lifestyle, she continued to live there, and was later joined by her young grandson Bobby. With no electricity, plumbing, car, or telephone, their contact with the outside world was limited to an occasional ride into town, hitched with a nearby miner, to stock up on provisions. A windmill was once employed to furnish electricity, but it broke down. Mrs. Anderson obviously enjoyed most of her days spent here, feeling that the natural advantages of the Butte Valley area, "the fresh, clean air, the good water, the peace of mind of being out of the hubbub of the city--all these things make you forget the other things you don't have." [175] Although appearing to be over seventy years of age in 1976, Mrs. Anderson spent most of her time in prospecting forays into the neighboring hills, tracing promising veins. Hers was the universal attitude of all miners toward their lot in life--"My claim's not too productive right now, but you never can tell. . ." [176] Mrs. Anderson was not living at Greater View Spring when this writer conducted a site survey of the area, although she reportedly did visit there occasionally from her home in Trona.

(b) Present Status

The Greater View Spring complex consists of a stone cabin (main living quarters), an adjacent frame and tin structure and a trailer also utilized as housing, a workshop, a privy, a garden area, and some miscellaneous foundations. The stone cabin that both Carl Mengel and Stella Anderson lived in has a corrugated-metal roof and a small tin-covered addition (somewhat modified from the original) on the west elevation. The east wall above the eave line is constructed of vertical wood planking, whereas on the west side the corresponding area is covered with corrugated metal. The structure's north elevation abuts the hillside so that the roof edge drains into a ditch dug east-west along the hillside. The interior of the cabin contains a bed, an old chair, a table, canned goods, a sink, a combination oven-fireplace fashioned from a tin drum, a four-burner gas stove, and a refrigerator. The cement floor is covered by a rug, and the rough rock walls on the north are plastered.

Carl Mengel and dog
Illustration 38. Carl Mengel with dog "Whitey at his home in Butte Valley, April 1940. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

Illustration 39. East elevation of Mengel cabin at Anderson Camp in Butte Valley. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

West of the cabin is a corrugated-metal equipment shelter, some miscellaneous lumber and appliances, and what appear to be some stone foundations. A spring is also located here. East of this main cabin is another structure used as living quarters that is sided with corrugated metal except again between the eave line and gables, where vertical wood planking is used. Inside are a stove and a closet still containing men's shirts. East of this cabin is a cement foundation on which a clothesline has been erected. East beyond this, near the entrance gate to the complex, is what seems to be a fenced-in garden area where some attempt at terracing has been made and a small arrastra-like fountain or watering system added. According to one writer, Mengel grew fruit trees on the site and also cultivated a rose garden. [177] On the south side of the road leading into the property are a two-room rectangular wooden house trailer used as living quarters, and containing a bed, stove, and sink; a wooden cabin with a metal roof and siding used as a workshop; and a wood privy. The generating system for the complex is further up on a hill northwest of the residences.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The main importance of Greater View Spring lies in its association with Carl Mengel, one of the lesser-known names in the Death Valley region. Mengel was not strikingly different from other miners except that he was a quiet, dignified individual and stayed longer in one place than most people in that profession. Because of this he left his imprint on Butte Valley. The oldest structure at Greater View Spring appears to be the main stone house. Its exact date of construction and the name of its builder are not known. According to Stella Anderson, the sturdy stone cabin was built by Mormon settlers in 1869. L. Burr Belden states that Mengel "built a rock house and then a second cabin alongside just so he could be hospitable and accommodate visitors." [178]

Although it is difficult to determine who might be correct on this question, a remark of Asa Russell in his article describing his stay at Greater View Spring tends to support Mrs. Anderson's statement. Here Russell quotes his partner Ernie Huhn, who, in speaking of the cabin where they intended to stay in Butte Valley (and which was confirmed earlier in this report as Mengel's stone house), said that "Carl Mengel, who has only one leg, says he came through there with his burros--stayed at the stone house and says the area looks like good gold country to him." [179] This tends to suggest that Mengel did not build the cabin himself but found it there by the early 1900s.

view of camp
Illustration 40. Panoramic view of Anderson Camp at Greater View Spring, former home of Carl Mengel in Butte Valley. Photos taken by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

The exact dates of erection of the other outbuildings are also conjectural. Possibly Belden was correct in saying that Mengel added the guest cabin east of the stone house, for the corner of a structure in this location appears in a 1940 picture of Mengel and his dog (Illus. 38). The other items (trailers, workshop, etc.) were added in more recent years either by Asa Russell or the Andersons. Unfortunately no important information was gleaned from perusal of the location descriptions found of the mining claims covering Greater View Spring. No statement was found of any structures standing on the property when Mengel first filed on it in 1924. Data on existing buildings is scanty up to 1961 when it is mentioned that the Topaz Extension included three springs, a stone house, and a cabin. By April 1962 the Topaz Extension (renamed Greater View Springs) supported a stone house, a guest house, fourteen trees, three springs above the houses, and one spring below. The Greater View Springs Millsite contained a stone house in the center of the claim, a small wooden guest house, a garage, four springs, fifteen trees, a wire fence, and a gate. [180]

If Stella Anderson's mining claims are determined to be invalid, the main stone residence at least should be kept. The additional guest cabin east of the stone house, the trailer, workshop/garage, and privy are all later additions that have no historical significance. The possibility exists that the main stone cabin was built long before Carl Mengel entered the Butte Valley area. Whether Mormons had anything to do with its construction has not yet been confirmed, although there is information to the effect that some of these people had visited the Anvil Spring area by at least 1858 and had worked a mine and operated a smelting furnace there. [181]

The uncertainty of the cabin's origin, but the possibility of its erection prior to 1900, and its use as a home by Carl Mengel, are enough to warrant its protection. On the basis of documentary data on the structure found to date, the building does not meet the criteria for eligibility to the National Register. Its connection with Mengel is not significant, its appearance is not architecturally outstanding, and in addition it has undergone loss of integrity through minor structural changes even since its occupation by Mengel--the small screened porch on the west elevation, for instance, has been slightly enlarged and sided with metal, probably to keep out intruders and vandals. The interior construction of the cabin is interesting because the house abuts the hillside on its north elevation, the interior wall here being rock roughly plastered over. In this respect the structure is almost a partial dugout. (Inquiries should be made of the present owner as to whether any of Mengel's personal possessions or any interesting artifacts related to him are still in the area that could be used for interpretive purposes.) An adaptive use might be made of this building as a backcountry camping facility for monument rangers on patrol.

(3) Russell Camp

(a) History

The site appearing on the 1950 Manly Peak quadrangle as Russell Camp is located about one-quarter mile south of Greater View Spring. Asa Merton Russell, a prospector in the Butte Valley area for several years first established the camp in the early 1930s. After retiring from the Los Angeles Water and Power Company in May 1960 he took up permanent residence in the valley in the fall. This was after he had constructed the stone house at Anvil Spring, and was probably an attempt to establish a more permanent location in the valley in a more protected spot.

The cabin, shed, and burro corral complex are located on the Ten Spot Millsite, originally called the Last Chance Claim when it was filed in 1930. A location certificate covering the five-acre Ten Spot Millsite, encompassing a spring, the cabins, and all the miscellaneous equipment on site, was formally filed on 1 July 1940. The mill site was said to be 1-1/2 miles south of Anvil Spring, with its northerly side lines joining the southerly side lines of the Greater View Springs Claim. [182]

One of the first claims Russell filed on was the Lucky Strike Quartz Mining Claim on 11 March 1931. Part of the Butte Valley road toward Russell Camp intersects the northwest corner of this claim, which is about mile northeast of the Ten Spot Millsite. This property was relocated on 9 July 1933. [183]

camp structures
Illustration 41. Complex of structures at Russell Camp in Butte Valley. Note some mining-related structures back on hillside at east end. Photos by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Asa Russell also registered several other claims in the area: the Nipper Quartz Mining Claim, located 9 July 1933; the Nipper No. 1 Quartz Mining Claim, located 9 July 1933; the Ready Cash Lode Mining Claim, located 20 July 1947 and relocated 11 March 1974; the Big Blue Quartz Mining Claim, located 9 July 1933 and relocated 11 March 1974; and the Ten Spot Lode Mining Claim, located 1 July 1940. [184]

(b) Present Status

The Ten Spot Millsite, originally used as a residence by Asa Russell, has been lived in most recently by a Steven Penner, one of the claimants of the unpatented Lucky Strike Lode Claim and the Ten Spot Millsite Claim. During the on-site survey made by this writer in September 1978 no one appeared to be living at the complex, which consists of two cabins, some sheds, a burro pen and barn, and some mining-related structures.

mining equipment
Illustration 42. Display of old mining equipment at Russell Camp in Butte Valley. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Some primitive mining equipment is on display at the entrance gate near the main house. This cabin is built of vertical wood planking and is covered with a metal roof. The cabin adjacent on the east is also of wood planking with metal siding. A metal shed east of this second cabin showed evidence of having been used as a workshop to test ore samples as well as being used to store mining equipment, such as a sluice box. Bird and snake cages are attached to the north exterior shed wall.

Sporadic mining activity has been carried on in the area by both Russell and Penner, the latter most recently working on the Lucky Strike Claim. In January 1978 an ore bin of corrugated sheet metal on wooden supports, containing some ore, was found on the property. No equipment for the crushing, grinding, or separating commonly associated with active milling sites was found. [185] The Lucky Strike workings consist of several prospect pits, the deepest about ten to fifteen feet and four to five feet in diameter. Production from this site has evidently been low, for no records of any have been found. [186]

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

None of the structures located on the Ten Spot Millsite claim are historically significant. They have been built since the 1930s, and some as recently as 1958. The spring supplying the cabin and trees was developed in 1929 by Russell, and the 500-gallon water tank connected with the extensive water system from the spring to the cabins and elsewhere around camp was added in either the late 1950s or early 1960s. [187] An attempt should be made to acquire the mining relics on exhibit at the camp for the monument's visitor center.

The camp here has always posed a problem, for other people have been encouraged to move into the area by Russell's presence there. Most unsettling to monument authorities, for example, was a notice that appeared in the classified advertising section of the July 1960 issue of Desert Magazine

Prospector retired, with 10 partly developed gold and silver claims and millsite in Panamint Mountains, wants contact with someone interested in prospecting, writing or painting. Should be free and self sustaining. Scenic spot, ideal for health condition. Elevation 4500 ft. good water and cabins.

A.M. Russell
Shoshone, Calif.

The tendency of more and more retirees to establish homes in the Death Valley area under the pretext of mining has been a major problem in the past that hopefully will be resolved by the validity tests conducted by the National Park Service.

(4) Willow Spring

(a) History

Several watering spots known as "Willow Springs" exist in Death Valley arid the surrounding area, several of which are mentioned in connection with early mining activity. Two that were west of Death Valley should be noted: a "Willow Spring" on which water rights were filed around 1874 was located "1-1/4 mites down in canon from Town of Panamint"; [188] another "Willow Springs," the scene of a fair bit of mining work by 1898, was located in the southern end of Panamint Valley and was projected as a possible new townsite when the Utah and Pacific Railroad was extended through to the coast from Utah. The latter, because of its proximity to the Goode Springs District lead ores and to the high-grade Argus Range hematite iron ores, seemed the natural place for a smelter. Among the several mines in the area only one is specifically mentioned by name--the Bowman. This spring is possibly the one known as "Lone Willow Spring" on the east slope of the Slate Range just north of the narrow pass at the south end of Panamint Valley, within a mile or two of Early Spring. [189] The Willow Spring near Gold Valley in the Black Mountains was the scene of some mining enterprises during the Greenwater era, and is discussed in a later section.

No information prior to 1934 was found by this writer relative to the location of claims or construction of buildings at or near the Willow Spring site in the southeast corner of Butte Valley. In 1934 a "Cabin and pipe line and the mining claim [on] which the cabin stands or [is] built on," located at the head of Anvil Canyon in the Panamint Mountains, was sold by Charles Brown, Attorney for Ruth Nellan, to Wallace Todd. The property formerly belonged to M.E. (Bud) Nellan, deceased. [190]

In 1961a quitclaim deed was filed between Wallace Todd and James H. Barker concerning "That placer mining claim (containing twenty acres more or less) known as the Willow Spring Claim, which surrounds Willow-Spring at the head of Anvil Canyon adjoining Butte Valley, in the South Park Mining District . . . . at the center of which claim is a stone cabin. The said claim is the one bought by Wallace Todd in 1934 from Senator Charles Brown, Administrator of the Estate of Bud Nellans [sic], the original locator. . . ." [191] The assumption would be that "Bud" Nellan originally located this claim sometime in the 1920s.

The placer mining claim at Willow Spring was quitclaimed to the Public Domain by Mrs. Barker following this transaction, according to another miner, Ralph Pray. The Death Valley mining office, however, states that Arlene Barker held the ground through another mill site location under the name of Willow Spring for several years. Eventually she and the Keystone Canyon Mining Company, Inc., on 4 August 1973, in order to secure water and site rights for the Silver Butte Lode Mining Claim, filed as co-locators on five acres of nonmineral land to be known as the Willow Spring Millsite and located "in the southwest portion of Death Valley National Monument, at the western terminus of Anvil Spring Canyon. . . ." [192]

190. Bill of Sate, Chas. Brown, Attorney for Ruth Nellan, to Wallace Todd. Dated 25 September 1934, recorded 22 September 1941, Deed Books, Inyo Co., Vol. 53, pp. 363-64.

By 1975, according to correspondence between the monument and the Keystone Canyon Mining Company, the latter had determined that the copper, lead, silver, and gold veins of its Silver Butte Claim in Butte Valley were too sporadic and too low in concentration to warrant further development of the property. They did want to retain the Willow Spring Millsite as a water source. In this same letter the company requested a permit allowing them to burn and dismantle the structures at Willow Spring. [193] A Special Use Permit was granted from 10 April 1975 through 1 October 1976 for "burning and dismantling the cabin and debris. . ." [194] By June of that year the Willow Spring cabin had been razed. All timber was burned, leaving only the masonry walls and sheet metal from the roof. [195] By November 1976 the Keystone Canyon Mining Company reported that a three-man crew had demolished the standing rock walls on the site, all metallic remains (beds, doors, screens, barrels, etc.) had been removed from the area, and the Willow Spring Millsite had been remonumented. [196]

(b) Present Status

Two areas showing historic ruins exist in the Willow Spring area, only one of which was visited by this writer in September 1978 due to limitations of time and fuel. The second site was visited during the Cultural Resources Survey of Death Valley National Monument performed in 1975 by Western Regional Office personnel.

A cement wellhead currently surrounds the Willow Spring source, and on a hill immediately to the west is a modern burro corral. A dismanteled water pipe system leads east from the spring about 200 yards to a masonry water-tank platform located on the hillside above a house site. The structure here was the one the Keystone Canyon Mining Company demolished in 1976. The house was still partially standing when the LCS survey was made, but had already been razed by fire. The walls were solid stone masonry with cement mortar. The house appeared to have had two levels with wood framing. Miscellaneous metal debris, such as bedsprings, drums, screens, etc., twisted by the fire, were still on site near the cabin. These were later removed and the standing rock walls demolished by NPS request at the end of 1976. Much glass, metal (nails and hinges), china, and other household debris remains scattered around the area. A few hundred yards east of the house site and at the edge of the wash bordering the site on the south, a masonry-lined two-compartment cistern was built under a rock overhang.

cabin ruins
Illustration 43. Cabin ruins at Willow Spring, 1975. Photo courtesy of William Tweed.

cabin ruins
Illustration 44. Cabin ruins at Willow Spring, 1978. Water pipe in foreground leads to high rock on which a water tank once stood. Photo by Linda W. Greene.

Illustration 45. Masonry-lined cistern built under rock overhang between cabin and mill sites, Willow Spring. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Illustration 46. Mill foundations east of Willow Spring and east of cabin ruins. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

What appear to be the ruins of a small stamp mill are located about 1/4 mile east of the house site. All that remains are three foundation levels of dry-masonry walling, each level measuring about twenty feet by eight feet. Some metal debris is scattered around, and immediately in front of the lowest foundation wall some pipes stick up through the ground. No purple glass was seen on the site.

About 1/4 mile further east from the mill ruins and on the north side of the road are two building sites not visited by this writer. According to the 1975 LCS survey there are two building sites here, one with a concrete floor and an adjacent site consisting only of a small leveled spot. At the prospect site shown on the USGS Manly Peak quadrangle about 1/4 mile southeast of these building sites, and 1-2 mile east of Willow Spring, no structures remain. A building site along the road leading south from the Anvil Spring Canyon Road contained much 1920s period and later debris. The road to the mine (the Silver Butte?) ends at a masonry retaining wall, possibly the foundations of a loading area, in the canyon below two mine tunnels and a dump a short walk up the hill. The adit mouth is braced with wooden timbers. Several 1920s-1930s car wrecks were also found in the area.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

The exact age of the various mill ruins and house sites in the Willow Spring vicinity and further east is hard to determine. The earliest document found pertaining to the Willow Spring Millsite is a 1934 bill of sale, but it suggests that the site might originally have been worked in the 1920s. No information could be found on who built the house or lived in it, although possibly it was the fellow referred to in the early bill of sale as the "original locator" of the claim, Bud Nellan. According to Bill Tweed and Henry Law, who visited the other sites in the area during the LCS survey, assorted garbage on the site of the two building foundations northeast of the mill ruin suggests a 1930s or later occupancy period. At the mine site southeast of this location, various parts of 1920s autos were found. The stamp mill is probably the most significant ruin and raises the most intriguing questions. It is unfortunate that more information has not come to light on this structure. No mention of a mill in this vicinity was found, although as previously cited, references exist to a Butte Valley Mining Company mill in "Goller Canyon" in 1889 and to a Pages (or Payes) Mill in Goler Canyon around the early 1890s. These mill ruins might date from at least the early 1900s or late 1890s, since there is no mention of a mill being constructed later during mining activities in the area from the 1930s on, which time period is fairly well documented, or having any connection with the claimants of the Willow Spring Millsite from the mid-1930s on (the bill of sale in 1934 mentions only a cabin and pipeline on the property). It is recommended that the stamp mill foundations not be disturbed, but be treated with a policy of benign neglect. Stabilization is not necessary, nor is reconstruction feasible primarily because of lack of data.

None of the Willow Spring ruins meet the criteria for eligibility to the National Register. The paucity of data found on them to date would seem to indicate a lack of importance in the area. The LCS crew determined that the Willow Spring remains did not hold potential for further historical or archeological investigation or evaluation. It is suggested by the available documentary evidence and from on-site observations that this part of Butte Valley was mined most actively during the 1920s and 1930s, although initial discoveries might have been made during the early 1900s when the Anvil Spring Mining District was at its peak.

(5) Squaw Spring

(a) History

No early historical data was found on the shanty located at Squaw Spring. The area has not been mentioned in connection with any early mining activity.

Illustration 47. Squaw Spring cabin. Photo courtesy of William Tweed, 1975.

(b) Present Status

Squaw Spring, last visited by NPS esearch personnel in December 1975, is reached via a rough jeep trail 6-1/2 to 7 miles east and south from the building sites in the Willow Spring area. The difficulty posed by condition of the road, whose surface has been even further deteriorated by rains since 1975, and limitations of time and fuel precluded this writer's reaching the cabin site. In 1975 remains consisted of a two-room wood frame house of poor quality and light construction, fashioned mainly of panels from wooden orange crates covered with tarpaper and having chickenwire screens. The cabin stands very near Squaw Spring in a cottonwood grove also harboring exotic plant species such as oleanders and watercress. On the edge of the grove and on a hill above the cabin and spring is a windmill made out of a Studebaker frame. No well is visible beneath it, so it is surmised that it drove an electric generator.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

No documentary data was found on this structure. The LCS crew referred to it as a "HoovervilIe Shanty," and suggested that it was lived in by a squatter during the Great Depression. The site contains some items of historical interest and possible interpretive value. Its isolated situation and the unfavorable condition of its access road suggest that there has been little vandalism to the site through the years. Lack of data on the cabin precludes according it any associative significance with either people or mining events in Death Valley. As a possible exemplification of a 1920s Depression-era lifestyle in an isolated desert region, the cabin should be left to benign neglect.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003