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

5. Wingate Wash

a) History

(1) Location and Derivation of Name

Wingate Wash flows from the Amargosa River across the southwest corner of Death Valley National Monument southeast of Butte Valley. The pass itself is a break in the mountain range that forms the western wall of Death Valley, the Panamints stretching northward and the Brown and Quail mountains veering to the southeast. From the west the road into Death Valley through Wingate Wash turns east about two miles north of Layton Canyon. A low-gear, short, and relatively abrupt slope leads to the broad pass, which is about five miles wide, ten miles long, and about eleven miles outside the present monument boundary. Since World War II the west side of Wingate Pass, located on the Naval Ordnance Test Station Range, has been open to travel only by special permission. [198] Today the road leading into Death Valley over Wingate Pass intersects the Warm Spring Canyon road from the south near the Panamint Mine site at the mouth of Warm Spring Canyon.

It has been surmised that either Lieutenant Bendire, when crossing the Panamint Mountains through this pass on his 1867 expedition, named it to honor Major Benjamin Wingate, who died in 1862 of wounds received during the Battle of Valverde, New Mexico, or that it is a modification of "Wind Gate" or "Windy Gap," names bestowed by twenty-mule-team drivers to characterize the strong gusts they had to battle as they came through the pass. [199]

Illustration 48. Map of Wingate Wash Area.

Illustration 49. Devil's Golf Course Road, pre-1930s. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

(2) Chloride Cliff Trail

After the discovery of silver at Chloride Cliff circa 1873 and the start of limited mining operations there, a road was needed to carry the ore south to a transportation center. As a consequence, a road used for only a few years was built heading south, across the salt flats, and along the west side of the valley into the area of present-day Barstow via Wingate Pass, a route that became one of Death Valley's first major connections with "civilization."

(3) Twenty-Mule-Team Borax Route

By the early 1880s the Harmony Borax Works, located about two miles above the mouth of Furnace Creek Wash, needed a new borax freight line from their deposits in the valley to the Southern Pacific railhead at Mojave. A dependable low-cost route was needed, and luckily William T. Coleman was able to utilize part of the old Chloride City trail over Wingate Pass--all that was needed was a good connection from the east side of the valley to the west and a general overhaul of the whole road.

The general 165-mile course followed by the twenty-mule teams was from Mojave northeast past Castle Butte and Cuddeback Dry Lake to Blackwater Well, a water stop. At or near present-day Granite Wells, about seven miles northeast of Blackwater, the route joined the old San Bernardino & Daggett to Postoffice Springs & Panamint City freight road. This was followed twenty-six miles to Lone Willow Spring, another water hole. Six miles north of Lone Willow, the road took off east from the old freight road through Wingate Pass, up Long Valley along Wingate Wash to the lower end of Death Valley, and then up the west side of the salt pan to the Devil's Golf Course road, which cut east to the borax works below the mouth of Furnace Creek. [200]

Illustration 50. Borax routes in the Death Valley region:

heavy solid line--Harmony Borax Works to Mojave
broken line--Amargosa-Daggett route
square dots--Searles Lake-Mojave route
light dots--oldest route, between Eagle Borax Works and Daggett
light solid line--Borate-Daggett run

Taken from 100 Years of U.S Borax, p. 40.

Numerous obstacles were involved in building and traversing this route. The major problem involved construction of that part of the road connecting the west side of the valley to the east side where the borax works were located. Because drinkable water could not be found east of the salt pan below Furnace Creek, it was necessary to cross over and travel down the west side toward Mesquite Wells. None of the options available for the route of this connecting road were very promising. Most of the acrid slushy marsh was too soft and wet to support the weight of the borax wagons, which would sink hopelessly into the mire. Of necessity, then, the road had to be constructed across the jagged salt crust which had formed over part of the marsh and where, as described as early as 1892,

there was scarce a level square inch on the whole bed, for the salt crust had, probably through the influences of heat and moisture from below, been torn and twisted and thrown up into the most jagged peaks, pyramids, and cris-crossed ridges imaginable. They were not high--none, perhaps, more than four feet--but there was not even level space for a man's foot between them. [201]

By means of sledgehammers a graded path six feet wide was constructed across an eight-mile-wide bridge of solid salt. [202]

Once the road was completely built, however, many hazards stilt existed. The name "Windy Gap" reportedly was given by the borax mule-team drivers to the pass because of the breezes that seemed to be constantly circulating. (Gudde's less colorful suggestion is that the name "Windy Gap" was recorded by Wheeler on his atlas sheet 65 due to a misreading of Lt. Bendire's notes.) [203]

In addition to wind problems, the gap was known as

the bed of torrents that come pouring down after a cloud-burst on the mountain top. Volumes of water, in foaming waves twenty feet high, are said to be common enough, and others much higher are told about by the white Arabs. When a wave has passed, boulders are found scattered in all directions, gullies are cut out, and at the best only a bed of yielding sand is found for the wheels to roll over. Worse yet, this bed of sand rises on an average grade of one hundred feet to the mile for forty miles, while the grade for short distances is four times as much. [204]

Although use of the road was discontinued by the borax teams around 1888, it was still frequented by miners and prospectors and some monument visitors, most of the latter preferring the easier Saratoga Spring route. The pass came into more and more disuse as modern highways penetrated the new national monument in the 1930s. In 1936 a twenty-mule team that had been used in the "pageant of transportation" that crossed the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was shipped by train to Mojave, harnessed to freight wagons, and driven north to the site of Harmony Borax Works over the old road and Wingate Pass, which had been newly reconditioned for the occasion by CCC personnel. [205]

(4) Mining Activity

Even after the end of the freight route through Wingate Pass, interest in the area did not lessen. During the early 1900s the enthusiasm that was' raging anew for the prospects of the Panamint Range region was reaching here also, for a "Ballarat Letter" of 1905 mentioned that many well-known prospectors had left Ballarat for "Wind Gate Pass" and a several weeks prospecting jaunt, the party containing Shorty Harris among others. [206] There evidently was gold to be found there, for in 1907 word reached Rhyolite that a very rich strike had just been made in the vicinity of the pass, and men were flocking to the area. [207]

In 1908 mention was made of several prospecting outfits in the valley, both from neighboring towns such as Rhyolite and from "outside." According to Clarence E. Eddy, referred to as the "poet-prospector," and a well-known personality of the region who had located several placer claims in the vicinity of Bennett's Well, a group from California was planning to relocate some quartz claims in Wingate Wash. [208] Some ore from the Prize Group in Wingate Pass, assayed at this time, showed a gold content of $37.03. The mine was owned by Mike Lane, Tom McNulty, Shorty Harris, and Roy Newton. Some earlier samples from this group had assayed $157.40 and $58.70. [209] Another group of claims must have been staked by the same men, for in the next month they were reported as owning the Gold Links Group. Average results from the bottom of the twenty-five-foot shaft on the property returned $10 in gold, 4 ozs. in silver, and 64% lead. Some samples had assayed as high as $500. [210]

In June of 1908 an article appeared on discoveries made by Shorty Harris in the Hidden Springs area, ten miles southeast of Wingate Pass. Although Harris was displaying great optimism for the future of the area, others were skeptical of the find's potential, stating that the samples seen were not unlike those that could be found at several points within Death Valley. Due to a lack of water, little development had been carried out so far. The site was pronounced accessible by wagon road from Panamint or Goldfield or by way of Daggett or Barstow. [211] Although the showing of these claims appeared good, the values discovered at depth were not as high as surface showings. A week after the Rhyolite Herald's optimistic article on the location, Harris and Lane had returned to Rhyolite, disappointed in their prospects in Wingate Pass. [212] Their bad luck discouraged neither other prospectors, a couple of whom (Ernest Mattison [Death Valley Slim] and Bill Keys) mined for lead ore in the pass, nor themselves, for by 1910 Shorty was sinking a shaft on a thirty-foot gold-bearing dyke there. Tom McNulty, Roy Newton, and Mike Lane had an interest in this mine, also, which by the next month was down fifty feet and exposing $20 ore. [213]

But the big bonanza for the Wingate Pass area was yet to be discovered, and was actually going to revolve around the discovery of new mineral types that had never before been considered valuable by miners in Death Valley. It was only fitting that Shorty Harris should be the one to inaugurate this new era of mining activity. While on a two-month prospecting trip near his gold claims in the Wingate Pass section, Shorty spied some likely-looking rock and chipped out some samples of what everyone in the party declared to be tungsten. The spot was located twelve miles from Hidden Springs, the only water source around. [214] Despite Shorty's firm belief that because of his find his financial worries would soon be at an end, the future of this part of the valley (and of Shorty) did not lie in the development of this discovery.

(5) Epsom Salts Monorail

By 1918 deposits of mineral salts of commercial value (Epsom salts or magnesium sulphate, used chiefly in medicine) were being explored by Thomas Wright and some interested investors in the hills to the south of Long Valley. A temporary mining camp to work the deposits was established in Crystal Hills Wash in the Brown Mountain area, the drawback being that the camp could only be supplied by truck over a sixty-three-mile tortuously-rough road. During the postwar depression, while mining activity here stopped, Wright and his associates attempted to figure out another method of access to the site. The major factor to consider in the mining of these salts was that a cheap form of transportation was needed in order to make it economically feasible to extract the ore. The prospective operators decided that construction work (mainly grading operations) for a narrow-gauge railroad would be impractical and prohibitively expensive. The only answer seemed to be a twenty-eight-mile-long monorail system connecting with the Trona Railroad and the Southern Pacific at Searles, making a direct connection with Los Angeles. [215]

On the west side of Searles Lake, about six miles south of Trona, a new station named Magnesium Siding (Magnesia) was erected by the Trona Railroad. The American Magnesium Company of Los Angeles, with Thomas Wright as president, began construction of its monorail from this point. It then crossed eight miles of the salt lake, entered Layton Canyon up a 7.5% grade to Layton Pass, whose summit is 3,500 feet above sea level and about 200 yards' wide. The track then proceeded through Wingate Pass up the wash to a fork about 7-1/2 miles east. Here the monorail route turned south to the low Crystal Hilts, among which, about four miles from the road fork, are the Epsom salt deposits. Reportedly, grades of up to ten and twelve percent had to be overcome.

The estimated cost of the entire system was around $7,000 a mile in the mountain passes and $5,000 per mite on the flat stretches. The Douglas fir construction consisted of

A central "riding beam," six inches by eight inches in size, . . . supported on a series of A-frames or bents spaced eight feet apart, the central posts of which carried most of the load. The running rail, of standard T-section design and variously reported as being of 50-, 65-, 70- and 80-pounds to the yard, was centered on top of the "riding beam." To the diagonal legs of the A-frames, horizontal crosspieces were affixed extending several inches beyond the legs on either side to enable two-inch by eight-inch side rails to be attached to their ends, parallel to the running rail, to serve as sway stabilizers. Each A-frame was spiked to a broad wooden sill for a base, and the sills were sunk into the ground several inches wherever practical for additional stability. Above ground the structure was laced with supplemental diagonal bracing wherever necessary as a stiffener. [216]

Illustration 51. Route of Epson salts monorail.

From Desert Magazine (January 1963), p. 13.

The machinery used on this unique system was of great interest in itself. The basic unit was a rectangular steel frame mounted on two double-flanged wheels, one at either end. Steel supports angling downward parallel to the slope of the A frames were affixed on either side to balance the unit on the rail atop the riding beam. Platforms were added to these steel supports on a horizontal plane just above ground level and loads were stacked on these, balancing each other like saddlebags. [217] The train carriages glided along the single rail attached to a heavy timber running along the top of a series of four-foot-high A frames set ten or twelve feet apart, maintaining their equilibrium by pressing with roller bearings against the guiding rails. The first engine used, which utilized a battery-powered electric motor, was unable to produce sufficient power to haul up grades. The construction of the basic engine was similar to that for the cars:

The homemade, double-flanged, two-wheel-in-line locomotives were powered with rebuilt Dodge engines and kept in an upright position by rollers running to 2 x 6 guides spiked to the sides of the 'A' frames a foot or so above the ground. The balanced load was carried in saddle-bag-like compartments on either side of the locomotive or in similarly designed two-wheel-in-line cars. [218]

To provide more power, Fordson-motored tractor/engines built into a steel frame were introduced, averaging seven miles to the gallon of distillate. They were supposedly capable of pulling fifteen to twenty-five tons at eight miles per hour on the upgrade and ten to fifteen miles per hour on the flat stretches. According to Thompson the engines developed only enough power to pull three loaded cars. Myrick says each locomotive could handle only one or two trailers, depending on their load. Lee says the cars only carried three tons a trip. [219] Permissive maximum speed for the monorail was set at thirty-five miles per hour, though most trains held to thirty on the flatlands (which was still harmful to the track). Each locomotive was restricted to a maximum payload of approximately 3,400 pounds; trailer carloads were permitted up to 8,500 pounds. [220]

Illustration 52. Epsom salts monorail. Train is just east of Layton Pass in Slate Range. Photo taken in 1924 or 1925. Photo by James Boyles, courtesy of DEVA NM.

By the fall of 1923, only about sixteen miles of the system had been built, but work on the last twelve miles was fast progressing. Hopes were that a ton of ore could be hauled to the railroad for less than $1.00. [221] The system was finally finished in 1924. Immediately after its inauguration the project had appeared successful for several reasons: no bridges were necessary over rivers or roads; little grading was required because the trestle height could be varied to conform to dips and hills; the equipment, because of its design, ran well despite the varying grades and curves; costs of construction, equipment, and operation were low; and the open trestlework seemed at first to eliminate drainage problems. The American Magnesium Corporation was now one of the two companies producing magnesium in the United States after the war. Germany, which had previously controlled the trade, was expected to try and recover her former position in this regard. [222] This system was also heralded as the godsend that would resolve the problems that had afflicted mining operations along the Panamint and Argus ranges for many years, namely isolation and the need for a cheap form of transportation that would make further prospecting and thorough development of the big lead-silver deposits in the region economically profitable in the future. [223]

The Epsom salts in these deposits south of Death Valley had, according to some, originally "blanketed the surface in a layer from two feet to twelve feet in depth, and portions of it . . . were 100 per cent pure . . . ." According to others the purity of the deposit was low, only around fifteen percent. [224] The purer material was scraped off the surface and the less pure material dug out of the ground. The ore was sacked, sent by monorail to Magnesium Siding, and then via Trona and the Southern Pacific Railroad to a small refinery in Wilmington, California, for processing. It turned out that the high-quality ore was limited in quantity; most of the material could not be scraped up in the large quantities needed without the inclusion of much sand, debris, and other salts. This situation was a serious drawback to the economics of the operation, and it was soon determined that cheaper and purer salts could be found elsewhere.

Illustration 53. Monorail in Wingate Pass, 1935. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

monorail supports
Illustration 54. Supports of old monorail line near top of Wingate Pass. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

In addition, the desert heat was having detrimental effects on the flimsy trestle construction. Despite efforts to improve the system by adding a heavier locomotive with a Buda engine (whose weight caused the Searles Lake trestle to break and tip), and before the introduction of a new more powerful gas-electric engine permitting longer trains and enabling bigger payloads, sun and heat had splintered and warped the green timbers and loosened nails, screws, and bolts. Occasional flooding on portions of the route, the tack of sufficient ore to keep the refinery running at capacity, and a complicated legal situation hampered operations so much that the salt mine was shut down in 1926. In the late 1930s the single rail was scrapped and the riding beam and other horizontal timbers were removed, leaving only a line of A-frames across the countryside. [225]

When Bourke Lee visited the old Epsom salts camp at Crystal Springs, probably in the 1930s, there were still five frame buildings and one stone house grouped near the monorail terminal, complete with cookstoves and pinups on the bunkhouse walls. An interesting sidelight on this whole venture is that Death Valley Scotty, true to form, took entire credit for the enterprise. "Thar's the monorail," he remarked.

I told a feller in Los Angeles thirty years or more ago about an epsom salts deposit. He raised thousands to build this monorail over the mountains to Trona. When they opened it they nearly mobbed me when I told them they would lose it all. Theda Bara and Griffith lost their wads. [226]

(6) Development of Manganese and Lead Silver Deposits

The Wingate Wash area has also contributed in a small way to the national supply of manganese, a hard and brittle grayish-white metallic element resembling iron, although the ore bodies found there on the average are small and low grade. Because of this they are only profitably mined during those times when other sources are cut off, such as during wartime. The following illustration is presented to demonstrate the contribution of Death Valley in this field: in 1954 the total U.S. consumption of manganese was 1,740,648 tons. California's total production from 170 mines during a sixty-seven-year period, from 1887 to 1954, was only about 240,000 tons. The southeastern desert area of the state produced about 80,000 tons of this total, and the New Deal mine specifically, in the southern Owlshead Mountains, five miles west of the southwestern corner of the monument, produced about 15,000 tons of this, mainly during World Wars I and 11. [227]

Information found indicates that a small amount of manganese ore was shipped from one property in Wingate Wash in 1943. (A plat of a group of mining claims near Wingate Pass, owned by Frank W. Orr, Roy Huntley Chapin, and Arthur R. Cassidy, dated 12 November 1940, was found by the writer in the Inyo County Courthouse records. The group consisted of the Manganite Nos. 1-3 claims, and might be the ones referred to here. [228] But it is the Manganite Group in the southern end of Death Valley that has been responsible for most of the manganese production from within the monument. In 1951 the group consisted of six unpatented claims (Reward Nos. 1-3, Good Hope Nos. 1-2, and Reward) in T21N, R2E, SBM, Secs. 28 and 33; Reserves were then estimated at about 40,000 tons of ore with a manganese content of 6.18 to 11.1%. Development work consisted only of a few surface cuts, and activity was sporadic. Total production is estimated at around 1,000 tons. [229] As will be noted later, this group underwent several relocations as a lead-silver mine. The Wingate Wash (Black Dream) Manganese Deposit, whose location is given as about seven miles west of West Side Road in Death Valley alongside the Wingate Wash road in T20N, R1 or 2E, SBM, was idle in 1951. It consisted of eleven unpatented claims owned by Roy C. Troeger. Development comprised a series of open cuts; production by lessees had not exceeded forty tons. [230]

Lead-silver deposits also were discovered in the Wingate Wash area. In 1923 a lead mine owned by Messrs. Gray, Warnock, and Wicht, six miles north of Wingate Pass, was mentioned as having a carload of good grade ore ready to ship, and the extent of the deposit looked promising. [231] In 1960 a Death Valley lead mine, located two miles east of the Wingate Wash Manganese Deposit, was mentioned on a list of mining claims within the monument. [232] The Manganite Group reported on earlier evidently was later referred to as the Canam Mine. Although small deposits of manganese had been mined here during World War II, in 1964 the operators, Canam Mines, Inc., discovered lead and silver ore. [233] By the time several pits were opened in 1969 this property was referred to as the DV Group, encompassing some former Pymco lode claims, and consisted of thirty-three lode mining claims in T21N, R2E, SBM, Secs. 28, 29, and 33. Development through the 1970s resulted in excavation of a pit 150 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 15 feet deep dug on one of the claims. The claimant, Charles Sweet, indicated that in May 1969 about 15 tons of rock from this large pit were shipped to a smelter at Selby, California; the total return was $726.81. In the mid- to late-1970s several shallow holes were drilled and claimants hand-sorted several tons of high-grade rock that was stockpiled awaiting shipment. By 1978 about 9,000 tons of material had been removed from the large pit. [234]

(7) "Battle" of Wingate Pass

Probably the most publicized event in the Wingate Pass area concerns one of Death Valley Scotty's most infamous hoaxes, referred to as the "Battle" of Wingate Pass. Conceived as a last-ditch effort to discourage further investigations by a mining engineer who was insisting on actually seeing Scotty's bonanza gold mine before recommending that his employers invest any money in it, the attack turned out to have almost fatal consequences for one of Scotty's brothers, put Scott himself in and out of jail several times during the ensuing months, and ultimately, six years after the incident, resulted in his confessing in a Los Angeles courtroom to long-term and full-scale fraud and deceit. (The most concise version of this tale appears in Hank Johnston, Death Valley Scotty: "Fastest Con in the West" and serves as the basis for the following account.)

The escapade had its beginnings in February 1906 when a New England mining promoter, A.Y. Pearl, whom Scott had met in New York, interested some bankers and businessmen in investing in Scott's supposedly rich mining properties in Death Valley. Before committing any money, however, the Easterners insisted that Daniel E. Owen, a respected Boston mining engineer who happened to be in Nevada at this time, personally inspect the property and give his opinion of its worth.

Arrangements were accordingly made with all the parties involved, and by February 1906 Owen, Pearl, and Scott were in Daggett preparing for the journey into Death Valley. Other members of the expedition were: Albert M. Johnson, president of the National Life Insurance Company of Chicago (soon to become Scotty's long-term benefactor), who had recently arrived from the East and, intrigued by the stories of Scotty's untold wealth, asked to accompany the party; Bill and Warner Scott, brothers of Death Valley Scotty; Bill Keys, a half-breed Cherokee Indian who had prospected with Scott in the Death Valley region for several years, who had found the Desert Hound Mine in the southern Black Mountains, and who several years later, after the "ambush" incident, moved to a ranch in what is now Joshua Tree National Monument; A.W. DeLyle St. Clair, a Los Angeles miner; and Jack Brody, a local desert character.

The entire trip, if carried out as planned, had the potential of proving extremely embarrassing for Scott, who, after all, did not have a mine to show in order to consummate this lucrative transaction. Desperate for a solution, he turned to his friend Billy Keys and persuaded him to let him show Owen the Desert Hound instead. Although not as large as Scott had reported his bonanza to be, at least the Hound was there on the ground for Owen to see. Papers of agreement were drawn up to the effect that Scott and Keys would split the proceeds from the mine sale.

Later, fearful that Owen would reject this mine as being too small a producer to warrant investment by his employers, Scott devised a scheme that he hoped might succeed in scaring Owen away from the area and dampening his enthusiasm for penetrating into the Death Valley region as far as the mine. A shootout would be staged and hopefully be authentic enough to disrupt Owen's intended mission.

Starting out on 23 February 1906 with two wagons fully loaded with provisions, extra animal feed and fresh water, and a string of extra mules and horses, plus a liberal supply of whiskey, the party journeyed on to camp the next evening at Granite Wells. On Sunday, 25 February, the caravan pushed on twenty-six miles toward Lone Willow Spring, site of their next camp. In the morning Scott directed his brother Bill to stay at the spring with the extra animals and told Bill Keys and Jack Brody to proceed on ahead and look for any danger. After giving these two a reasonable head start, the rest of the party began the trek toward Wingate Pass and, surmounting that obstacle, proceeded on down the wash into the south end of Death Valley. Toward dusk that evening, as the party was trying to decide where to camp, shots were heard and a lone rider appeared from the north. He turned out to be an ex-deputy sheriff from Goldfield, Nevada, who excitedly reported that he had just been fired on from ambush and his pack train stampeded.

Receiving Scott's assurances that he could fight off any outlaws, the party warily resumed its journey. A little further up the road beyond Dry Lake, near the site of the earlier shooting, Scotty suddenly drew his rifle and fired two shots. Startled, the mules pulling Warner Scott and Daniel Owen in the lead wagon began to buck, the force tipping Owen over backwards; a sudden shot from behind a stone breastwork on a cliff to the south hit Warner in the groin. It was at this point that Scotty made the fatal blunder that, in the recalling, forced Owen to doubt the authenticity of the ambush. Upon realizing that his brother had been seriously wounded, Scotty, nonplussed, galloped away toward the "ambushers" yelling at them to stop shooting.

Establishing camp quickly, an attempt was made to close Warner's wounds. In the morning the party headed the wagons quickly back toward Bill Scott and Lone Willow Spring, and eventually toward Daggett, leaving their provisions behind by the side of the road. Keys and Brody never did rejoin the group. Reaching Daggett on 1 March, the group put Warner on a train for Los Angeles; Scotty hurriedly took off for Seattle where he was about to star in a play, "Scotty, King of the Desert Mine." Johnson left immediately for Chicago and, due to some fast legal work by his lawyer, was not involved in any of the ensuing litigations.

The incident struck the fancy of Los Angeles newspapermen, who, however, were hard put to locate the principals involved or determine the true facts of the case. Pearl circulated a good story of fighting off four outlaws, but Owen, disaffirming this tale, and evidently convinced that Scott had meant to kill him, reported the true facts to the San Bernardino County sheriff and later to the press. Two weeks later warrants were issued for the arrest of Walter Scott, Bill Keys, and Jack Brody on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. In an attempt to determine the identify of the party's attackers, the San Bernardino County sheriff, John Ralphs, and an undersheriff entered the Death Valley country to find Keys and Brody. Although these two managed to elude the law this time, the provisions that had been hurriedly left at the scene of the attack by the Scott party were found at Scotty's Camp Holdout; other incriminating evidence took the form of a statement by Jack Hartigan, the Nevada lawman who had also been shot at, that he had backtracked and seen Keys running from the scene after Scott's plea to stop shooting.

Publicity given to Scotty and the incident was becoming unfavorable, many people now deciding it was time to show Scotty up for the fraud and liar he was believed to be Scotty, working in his play out of town while loudly condemning these attacks on his character and reputation, continued to propogate the story of a bona fide attack by outlaws who were after his life and his valuable claims. Sarcastic poems and invective cartoons began to appear in the Los Angeles Evening News his primary accuser, which had earlier asked in an editorial, "What is the truth about this desert freak? He has ceased to be a joke. People are getting shot and action must be taken. . . . " [235]

In the midst of all this attendant publicity that for a while brought full houses to his play, Scotty was arrested around 24 March by order of the San Bernardino sheriff; he was released later that night on a writ of habeas corpus, his bail of $500 having been raised by Walter Campbell of the Grand Opera House. Seemingly true to the profile presented in the News commenting that "He [Scott] occupies the cheapest room in the Hotel Portland, drinks nickel beer, and leaves no tips!," [236] after release from jail this time Scotty asked the crowd in attendance "to have a drink. Every body had visions of wine and popping of corks, but Scotty announced it was a case of steam beer or nothing." [237]

Scotty was arrested again two days later and again released on bail, and then on 7 April 1906 Scott pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Out again on $2,000 bail, more bad luck was awaiting him in the form of a $152,000 damage suit filed by his brother Warner, now out of the hospital, in Los Angeles Superior Court against Walter and Bill Scott, Bill Keys, A.Y. Pearl, and a "John Doe." Three days later Keys was arrested at Ballarat, and, also pleading not guilty to the two charges against him, was summarily slapped in jail. Luckily for Scotty, Keys kept silent on the whole matter.

On 13 April, for the fourth time in under three weeks, Scotty was arrested; this time A.Y. Pearl and Bill Scott were also taken into custody. All ended up in the San Bernardino County jail. Out again through habeas corpus proceedings the next day, Scott rejoined his acting troupe. Then, on 27 April, only four days before the preliminary hearing on the case was to start, all charges were dismissed by the San Bernardino County Justice at the request of the District Attorney. To the disappointment of many of Scott's detractors, but true to the luck that seemed to always rescue him from tight places, a jurisdictional problem had arisen over the fact that the scene of the shooting was actually in Inyo County, which alone had jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Because Inyo County authorities seemed loathe to proceed, all prisoners were released from custody and the final act of the long, drawn-out affair seemed over.

One newspaper article published soon after Scotty's death (besides stating erroneously that one of the "outlaws" in the fracas had been Bill Scott) charged that Scotty himself moved the surveyor's post marking the Inyo-San Bernardino County line. [238] This seems to be borne out by Scotty's own version of the whole affair, which of course pursues the theory that outlaws were trying to get title to his "claims" by permanently removing him from the scene. After several supposed attempts on his life (this most recent encounter not the only one that had taken place in Wingate Pass) from which he always recovered.

Our gang, including my brother Warner, who was working for me and spying for the other crowd, came into Death Valley through San Bernardino County. The two 'frictions' met in Wingate Pass. They thought we was the Apache gang. Somebody began to shoot.

I said to Johnson, 'Get back where the bullets are thickest.' That was in the ammunition wagon.

I knew something was wrong. When I hollered, 'Quit shooting!' things quieted down. The other gang disappeared. We look around and find Warner has been shot in the leg. The same bullet has gone around and lodged in his shoulder. Johnson took eighteen stitches in it. We hauled Warner a hundred miles to a doctor. Had him in a buckboard. Made it in ten hours.

At this time I had a show troop. While it's playing in San Francisco, I am arrested. I get out on a two-thousand-dollar bond.

Later I was re-arrested, and this time the bond is five thousand, but between the two arrests, I've had time to get things fixed. You remember, the fight took place in San Bernardino County, and i don't want to be tried there.

I decide I'll move the county boundary monument. When I was a boy, I'd been roustabout for the crew. that surveyed that part of the country, so I know it like a book. I go back and move the pile of rock six miles over into San Bernardino County. That puts the shooting into Inyo County.

The trial starts in San Bernardino. I say, 'If you investigate, I think you'll find this affair occurred in Inyo and that this court has no jurisdiction.' The trial stopped. They investigated. Sure enough, they found the boundary marker. According to the way the line ran, the battle occurred over the line in Inyo County.

Inyo County wasn't interested. The case was dismissed. [239]

The true nature of the whole affair was later revealed by Bill Keys who admitted before his death that he and a companion (possibly the teamster Jack Brody, although according to Keys it was an Indian named Bob Belt) had faked the ambush at Scotty's behest. The shooting of Warner had been accidental, his partner being too drunk to aim his gun properly.[240]

Warner Scott dropped his damage suit against his brother on condition that he assume the medical bill of over $1,000 owed to a Dr. C.W. Lawton of Los Angeles. Scott agreed and then promptly left the city. Lawton obtained a judgement against Scotty, but the latter proceeded to ignore it, having no tangible assets anyway.

During the next few years, Scott still had some associations with Wingate Pass, a notice being found that in 1908 he interested Al D. Meyers of Goldfield and a couple of associates in a strike made there. Notwithstanding Scott's earlier famous experience, the men outfitted in Barstow and accompanied him to inspect the property. There is no evidence that they encountered any difficulties, though nothing further was heard of the outcome of the proposition. Bill Keys was also mining for lead ore in Wingate Pass in 1908, in partnership with Death Valley Slim. [241]

Six years after the Wingate Pass incident, however, on 20 June 1912, the past caught up with Walter Scott, and in a rather spectacular trial in a Los Angeles courtroom, Scotty was forced to acknowledge a multitude of sins. In order to secure his release from jail where he had been confined for contempt of court for not paying the doctor's bill for his brother Warner's medical care, Scotty was forced to confess to the shams involved in the ambush in Wingate Pass, in the big rolls of money he always carried (which he confessed were "upholstered with $1 bills"), and in the reports concerning the vast amounts of money he was reputed to have received from the Death Valley Scotty Gold Mining and Development Company. He had, he continued, never located a mine or owned one, and was completely at the mercy of mining promoters and schemers who profited from the advertising his various stunts provided for them. Exposed as a fraud and a cheat, Scott was returned to jail pending further investigation by the District Attorney's office--a long-awaited and seemingly conclusive finale to the strange affair known as the "Battle" of Wingate Pass. [242]

b) Present Status

The Wingate Wash road was not traveled nor was the Wingate Pass summit scaled either during the List of Classified Structures Survey in 1975 or by this writer during field work in 1978. The distances involved were too great and time too limited for such an excursion. Observations on physical remains in these areas, then, are based on secondhand information.

(1) Epsom Salts Monorail

According to Bourke Lee, by about 1930 al that remained at the Epsom salts camp terminal in the Crystal Hills Wash were five frame buildings and one stone house, with iron cots and cookstoves still to be found in some of the buildings. [243] A picture in the monument files (Illus. 54), unfortunately bearing no date but certainly taken after the late 1930s and after the single rail and other horizontal timbers had been taken up for scrap, shows a few A-frame supports left near the top of Wingate Pass, most of which had toppled over and resembled small piles of kindling marking the route. Whether many of these timbers still remain is conjectural, for some have probably been carried off to fuel desert campfires.

(2) DV Group of Silver-Lead Lode Mining Claims

According to the mineral report for this group of claims, the only improvement on site is a six-foot by eight-foot lean-to open on three sides. [244]

(3) Wingate Pass "Battle" Site

The only physical evidence marking this spot was in the form of five stone breastworks erected by Bill Keys and his fellow "outlaw" to give credence to Walter Scott's story that several men were involved in this attempt on his life. In 1910 Shorty Harris, returning from a long prospecting trip to his claims in the Wingate Pass area, and no doubt seeing these mounds, spoke of the "row of counterfeit graves--mounds of rocks arranged as grave coverings where no graves exist." [245]

In 1941 Walter Scott and a New York Sun reporter journeyed over the Wingate Wash road. One of the sights they mentioned seeing twelve miles up in the Wingate Pass saddle was the rock breastworks from behind which Scotty's brother had been shot thirty-five years earlier. Hank Johnston, during the research for his book on Walter Scott, visited the "battle" site about one mile inside the present monument boundary and just north of Dry Lake. Much to his surprise the five stone "forts" were still standing on top of the escarpment south of the road. The chances are good that these structures still remain.

c) Evaluation and Recommendations

(1) Epsom Salts Monorail

It is unfortunate that no section of the route of this historical transportation system extended into the monument boundaries so that some protection could have been afforded it over the years. Although its construction was loosely based on that of a similar railway erected on the north shore of San Francisco Bay in 1876, the idea of building such a system from Searles Lake over Layton and Wingate passes to Crystal Spring was a novel and inventive (although ultimately unsuccessful) approach for the times to the problems faced in getting food, supplies, and ore bags between a railhead and a remote desert mining camp.

It is doubtful that many of the wooden A-frame supports for the track are still extant. In the writer's opinion, however, the route of the Epsom salts monorail (and any ruins associated with it) would be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as being of the Second Order of Significance because of its impact on the technological and industrial history of the area. Numerous improvements to the system in regard to engine and car designs and the size and form of the attached bins used to haul the supplies were made over its short lifetime of approximately three years. These revisions provide interesting insights into the peculiar technological problems involved in running the line over desert terrain. Such a nomination, could not be made, however, until a close survey was made of the entire route to ascertain what if anything remains of the railroad.

(2) DV Group of Silver-Lead Lode Mining Claims

From information available there do not appear to be any structures of historical significance on this site, which is of fairly modern vintage.

(3) Wingate Pass "Battle" Site

The Wingate Pass Battle" Site, actually located quite a ways north of the pass itself, is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as being of local significance. The "battle" itself was simply another farce perpetrated by Death Valley Scotty, who nevertheless, by means of such antics, probably did more to publicize the Death Valley region than any other man in its history. Although the purpose of the whole escapade on Scotty's part was to save face and protect his reputation for owning a valuable mine, the ultimate consequences turned out to be much more far-reaching than anyone could have thought at the time. The caustic and unfavorable publicity engendered by the affair on the West Coast showed clearly that some people were becoming offended by Scotty's heavy-handed jokes and publicity-grabbing pranks and were beginning to see through to the basic deceit inherent in many of his schemes. It seems people ultimately do tire of being hoodwinked. The culmination of the event in 1912, which Scotty survived and which he ignored by continuing to insist later that he had been ambushed by outlaws, resulted in his public unveiling as a fraud and continual liar. The site of the ambush should be designated by an interpretive marker that briefly outlines the story of the "battle" and indicates the rock "forts" (if still extant) on the cliffside above the road.

(4) Twenty-Mule-Team Borax Route

The route followed west out of Death Valley by freighters from Chloride Cliff and later by the twenty-mule-team borax wagons hauling ore from the Harmony Borax Works to the railhead at Mojave is eligible for inclusion on the National Register. It is considered by the writer to be of national level of significance both because it was one of the earliest transportation routes in the region and because of its association with the famous twenty-mule teams of Death Valley, which later came to be considered part of our national heritage. The 165-mile stretch between the Harmony Borax Works and Mojave began at the plant, crossed the salt pan via the Devil's Golf Course south of Greenland (Furnace Creek Ranch) to the west side of the valley, proceeded down past the site of the deserted Eagle Borax Works, skirting the eastern edge of the Panamints, to Bennetts Well, the first potable water, twenty-six miles away. Mesquite Well (now Gravel Well) lay five miles further south. It was then fifty-three miles to Lone Willow Spring, twenty-six to Granite Wells, six to Blackwater, and a final fifty waterless miles to Mojave. Ten days (averaging seventeen miles per day) were required to make this journey, necessitating ten overnight stops, half of them dry. Water needs were filled by caches of large (500- or 1,200-gallon) iron tanks on wheels that were towed by the teams to the camps from nearby springs and back again for refilling. Stores of hay and grain were also left at these stops. Teams returning north filled the feed boxes and emptied them on the haul south. Sometimes ten outfits at a time maneuvered along the road.

Although this comprises the most famous use of the Wingate Pass road, it was traversed earlier by a man named Ed Stiles who hauled borax from the Eagle Borax Works to Daggett with a twelve-mule team. When this outfit was sold to the Amargosa Works he accompanied it, and along with Superintendent W.S. Perry subsequently formed the twenty-mule teams pulling the enormous handbuilt wagons with seven-foot-high rear wheels. A complete outfit consisted of two wagons carrying ten tons each and dragging a water tank wagon behind. Stiles probably also drove the first caravan between Harmony and Mojave.

For six years (1883-88) the Harmony-Mojave run was made without a breakdown, resulting in about fifteen million pounds of borax being hauled out of the Death Valley region. It was only the discovery of colemanite at Borate nearer the railroad at Daggett, coupled with the collapse of Coleman's financial empire, that ended this operation. The twenty-mule team became the nationally-known romantic trademark of the Death Valley borax industry, and is still used on U.S. Borax products today. It symbolized one of the most ingenious, colorful, and courageous experiments ever attempted in the history of early western transportation. Despite often overpowering heat, lack of adequate water and food, and over 100 miles of grueling desert terrain, the mule teams introduced American borax to the world market and made its production in the Death Valley region the important industry it still is today and its use in American homes an every-day event. A vigorous public relations campaign that captured the public imagination kept the teams in the public eye long after their practical use was over. From 1904 to 1950 they made a series of promotional and ceremonial appearances beginning with the St. Louis World's Fair and including participation in Woodrow Wilson's inaugural in 1917 and several grand tours of the country. [246]

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003