Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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B. Emigrant Wash and Wildrose Canyon (continued)

2. Wild Rose Mining District

a) Early Activity

Referred to from about 1873 to the spring of 1888 as "Rose Springs District, the area loosely bordered by the Panamint Mining District on the south, Townsend Pass on the north, Panamint Valley on the west, and Death Valley on the east, was first opened to easy access from the Panamints by W. L. Hunter and J.L. Porter, who had located some promising claims in the vicinity. [9]

By March 1876 the district was seeing a vast amount of activity. The Inyo Mining Company had bought seven well-defined ledges in the area and had set up headquarters at the North Star Mine (formerly owned by the Nassano Company). The start of operations there and at the Garabaldi (Garibaldi) was only awaiting the arrival of Remi Nadeau's freighting teams bringing needed tools and stores. A townsite was being laid out to house the many miners entering the district over the improved wagon road from Warren Springs in search of work and property:

There are other valuable ledges in the district, and ample room for other companies to invest; and, as spring advances, we will, no doubt, have quite an influx of capital, as there are several parties of prospectors who have been in here at times for a year or more, and who hold ledges of considerable merit, from whom capitalists can purchase a set, or even several sets or groups of. ledges, numbering from three to 10 or 12, and which now lie undeveloped, together with mill sites with sufficient water for milling their ores. The records show that about 165 ledges have been located, and the necessary amount of work performed on the most of them to hold them for the year. [10]

b) First Locations

By 1882 the area was being referred to variously as the "Wild Rose District", and "Rose Spring Mining District," although the former designation was not official until several years later, It was rumored that a silver mill was soon to be erected because of the profitable and immense ledges being struck, and indeed a notice of location was filed on Wild Rose Spring itself for "conducting and carrying on a General Milling and Reduction Works." [11] Property filed on during this period included the Inyo Silver Mine, 113 miles North from Rose Spring and adjoins SE quarter of Virgin Mine"; Blizzard Mine "5-1/2 miles East from Emigrant Spring on right-hand side of trail leading from Mohawk Mine to Blue Bell Mine and is about 8 miles air line north of Telescope Peak"; Valley View Mine "6 miles East of Emigrant Spring on Mineral Hill & lies on right-hand side of trail leading from Springs to Blue Bell Mine & is ca. 2 miles SW of latter"; Argonaut Mine (Nellie Grant), "situated about four and 1 miles South, from the Mouth of Emigrant Canon at what is known as Hunter & Porters rock house near Emigrant Spring & is immediately South of the Jeannetta [Juniata?] Mine and is a relocation of the Uncle Sam Mine"; and the Jeanetta Mine "on the West side of Emigrant Canon about 4-1/2 miles above . . . near Emigrant Spring and is a relocation of the Nellie Grant Mine." [12]

In July 1884 the Mohawk (earlier known as North Star), Blue Bell (aka Garibaldi), and Argonaut (aka Nellie Grant) mines shipped about ten tons of ore to the smelter that yielded over 3,000 oz. of silver bullion. Due to the lack of milling facilities in the Wild Rose area, it was necessary to ship the ore across the Panamint Valley to the ten-stamp plant of the Argus Range Mill and Mining Company in Snow Canyon. This tedious trip was undertaken by the owner of one of these properties who

is a strong believer in this district . . . . The milling test was very satisfactory, coming up to 85 and 90 per cent of the assay value by the most ordinary process, and bullion 75 and 80 fine, carrying a light per cent of copper. This district shows a large amount of high grade ore. Some of the most promising ledges have been considerably developed, giving encouragement that they will make mines of great and permanent value. Natural and good roads lead to these properties and to the wood and water, which are both found ample for mining and milling purposes and are contiguous to the mines. There are hundreds, and I may say thousands of tons of this fine milling ore out and in sight, and no milling facilities near at hand to work it profitably, and the owners, mostly miners, are unable to undertake the erection of reduction works. The climate is very healthy and the finest in the world for continuous mining. [13]

By this time other producing mines in the area are mentioned: the Juniata (possibly the Jeanetta mentioned earlier), contiguous to the Argonaut, and the Virgin six miles south of these and near the Blizzard. Because of the encouraging results at the Snow Canyon Mill, the owners of the latter two were endeavoring to find capital to finance construction of a ten-stamp mill in the area of the mines. [14]

c) Formation of District and Establishment of Boundaries

On 4 April 1888 a formal meeting of local miners was held at Rose Springs for the purpose of organizing a new mining district in light of the fact that all the books and records of the previous district had been lost and no recorder had been active for the last two years. The new entity was to be known as the "Wild Rose Mining District": "The north boundary line shall be Townsends Pass in the Panamint range of Mountains. The western boundry [sic] line shall be Panamint Valley. The Southern boundry line shall be the North line of Panamint District. The Eastern boundry line shall be Death Valley." [15] A later description of the Wild Rose District, whose boundaries were possibly expanded after the strike at Harrisburg, reads:

Beginning at Williams canon to the center of Panamint Valley, thence north to a line running east and west through Cottonwood canon to Surveyors' Wells, thence to Salt Creek, south to Bennett's Wells, and west to place of beginning. The district is adjacent on the south and west to the recently organized South Bullfrog district. [16]

More mines were recorded during this time: the Weehawken (Weehawker?) Mine "about 2-1/2 miles from Coal Kilns in northerly direction and about 7 miles in westerly direction from Death Valley"; Antimony Mine "2-1/2 miles from Rose Springs on south side of road leading to coal kilns and 1/2 mile from summit of mountains leading to Fever [?] Canon"; Consolidation Mine "1-1/2 miles south from North Star Mine and formerly known as Consolidated." [17]

d) Mining Companies and Further Locations

By 1906 several mining companies held interests in the Wild Rose District: the Telescope Peak Mines Syndicate was an Arizona incorporation with a treasury stock of 600,000 shares, owning seven gold and copper claims covering about 140 acres in the Wild Rose District. Offices were maintained in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona; [18] the Panamint Mountain Mines Syndicate, another Arizona incorporation under the same management as the Telescope Peak Company, with a treasury stock also of 600,000 shares, owning sixteen full gold claims covering 320 acres each in the Wild Rose District; [19] the Wild Rose Mining Company, whose interests were represented by W.B. Gray, Dr. U.V. Withee, and W.H. Sanders, and which owned gold, silver, copper, and lead properties with surface values ranging from $9 to $716 (by 1924 the company's property above Wild Rose was proving to be one of the big gold and silver mines in the district under the management of Charles Grundy. Nineteen thousand tons of ore assaying $29 per ton were ready to be mined, and by March the ore was assaying $300 to $500 a ton in silver, with gold and lead present, too); the Rush Company, owning prospects near the Wild Rose, and involved in building a road into the canyon; the Death Valley Gold Mining Company recently incorporated by California capitalists; and the Kawich-Bullfrog Company. The Wild Rose, Rush, Kawich-Bullfrog, and Death Valley Gold Mining Company properties were all stated to be approximately two miles from Harrisburg. [20]

Other mines mentioned at this time, but on which no further information was found, are the Last Hike, Venus and Mars groups of claims located by Tom Knight in the Wild Rose District. [21]

e) Heliograph Dispatches

An interesting technological development related to mining during this time involved the initiation by the Rhyolite Herald of the heliograph method of communication in an attempt to facilitate transmission of the latest news from the surrounding mining districts to its readers:

The latest move is to receive heliograph dispatches from the Funeral and Grapevine ranges, which will be flashed to us from the mountains twenty-five to fifty miles away. Death Valley will signal from the top of Chloride Cliff in the Funeral range, while the California Bullfrog, Doris Montgomery and Breyfogle will flash their news from the Doris camp. Wild Rose district will span Death Valley with a ray of light to the Doris camp and that station will repeat the messages to us.

Who knows but that this wireless telegraph will be the means of saving life? . . . The instruments are now being constructed and as soon as completed and other necessary arrangements made, the signaling will begin. [22]

f) Settlement of Emigrant Spring Brings Need for Road to Keeler

By the summer of 1906 Emigrant Spring(s) was the site of what was projected to be a great mining camp with good ore showings in the surrounding properties that were attracting much investment capital. Thirty men were employed in the area, and there was talk of erecting a twenty-stamp mill. The biggest project under contemplation at this time was construction of a road from Keeler to Emigrant to replace the over-100-mile-long Johannesburg-Emigrant supply route that was costing shippers 4-1/2¢ per pound. The new route would not only reduce this distance by about 45 miles, correspondingly reducing production costs and speeding development, but would also open up a remunerative Owens Valley-Emigrant trade in agricultural products. [23]

A letter from Ballarat in late summer of 1906 declared that results from strikes near Emigrant Spring were still more than satisfactory. Freight teams from Johannesburg were arriving everyday, a pipeline was being built at Skidoo, and there was an influx of mining men from Goldfield and Bullfrog. The two disadvantages seen for the area were its distance from a railroad and the bad reputation the country held for heat and difficulties in mining. [24] By this time the Cashier Mine at Harrisburg, the Sheep Mountain strike, and the Golden Eagle at Skidoo were all in the throes of new development work. [25] By the fall of 1906 the wagon road from Keeler to Emigrant was still not an established fact, although it was being strongly pushed by miners in that section. Darwin Wash was considered to be the most feasible route for the trail, being both cheaper and more direct. [26]

Individual narratives on Harrisburg and Skidoo will follow in later sections. Suffice to say at this point that both were extremely busy at this time, thus ensuring some longevity for the Emigrant (Wild Rose) District. A six-horse stage was running twice a week between Ballarat and Emigrant Spring, where there was a saloon, grocery store, corral, and restaurant. Plans were underway to complete connections on a road from Skidoo to Daylight Springs and then on to Rhyolite. It was justifiably feared by those advocating the Keeler-Emigrant Road that all the potential revenue to be gained in the district could easily be siphoned off to Nevada, and Owens River Valley farmers and merchants would lose out completely:

Get together! Build the wagon road! This means work for Inyo's ranchers and their teams, and when completed will open a market for their produce, where they will not have to submit to extortionate railroad charges. The cost of this road would be trifling compared to the immense advantage to be derived therefrom. The Emigrant-Skidoo-Harrisburg country has arrived and it remains for Inyo's people to profit thereby.

Inyo is now in the limelight from a mining standpoint and it, remains for our County officials and the taxpayers to offer every facility in the shape of good roads and provisions to the host of men who are delving in the mountains and developing the resources of these vast store houses of golden treasures. This will be for the good of the County as a whole. Let no narrow feeling of sectionalism retard the work. [27]

Conditions of life were not easy in the Wild Rose area as shown by an item in December 1906 stating that all work at Skidoo, Harrisburg, and the surrounding country was temporarily stopped because of a heavy snowstorm that had deposited three to four feet of the white stuff in the area. Due to lack of fuel and adequate housing, the only option available to the miners in the section was to leave for lower elevations. In contrast, in August 1908, three or four miles of the Emigrant Wash Road were completely obliterated by a cloudburst, the road being five feet deep in water carrying 50- and 100-pound boulders. [28]

g) More Properties Located Throughout 1940s

By 1907 a few more properties were being recorded: the Combination-Goldfield and Nevada-Tonopah owned by J.H. Allen, Geo. Raycroft, and A.D. Myers; Wild Rose Annex #1, "one mile east from Harrisburg and Joins Wild Rose Group on East," located 1 March 1907 by Weyle and Clewell; Oro Blanco Mine about 3-1/2 miles south of Harrisburg," located 25 March 1907 by Nat Levi, H.L. Culvert, and O.E. Hart; Taylor Mining Claim "2 miles south of Harrisburg and one mile east of narrows on Ballarat Wagon road. Claim is on south side Wood Canyon and joins with Good Dope [Hope?] Mining Claim #2 on west," located 13 April 1907 by 0. Ewing and Wm. Taylor. [29]

Due to the expansion of mining activity and the consequent desperate need for a body of men to adjust and settle the disputes constantly arising over conflicting interests in mining claims and town lots, some important resolutions relative to the location of mining claims in the Wild Rose District were adopted at a meeting of the miners of the Wild Rose District held at Skidoo on 15 April 1907. Besides setting up procedures for marking and recording claims and performing the necessary location work, a motion was adopted to elect a ten-man Arbitration Committee to settle local disputes in the mining community arising over ownership. [30]

In late May 1907 a proposal was mentioned for a turnpike leading from Greenwater via the old Daggett borax road to Furnace Creek Ranch, then to Surveyor's Wells, over Emigrant Pass to Darwin, and connecting there with the road to Independence. The following February roadwork was being pushed between Keeler and Emigrant, with a connection soon to be made to the Wild Rose road. Ten men with two teams were working in the Darwin Wash area. [31] The exact population of the Wild Rose District in the early 1900s is not known. Registration for primaries in 1914 revealed forty-one persons registered in the Emigrant precinct, thirty-nine men and two women. By 1916 there were only twenty-three voters registered there. [32]

In 1923 development and prospecting work were still being carried out in the area, a number of new properties mentioned as being active in the Wild Rose District between 1909 and 1938. Because nothing further is known of them and because rarely is their exact location clear, only brief mention of them will be made:

1. Two Friends Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

2. Silver Star Nos. 1, 2, and 3 and Old Spanish Mine

3. White House and White House Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

4. Snowfall and Snowfall Nos. 1-11 approximately 240 acres, owned by the Golden Glow Mines Corporation of Utah.

5. Veta Grande de Plata Nos. 1-6 at Emigrant Spring.

6. Chesamac Mine six lead and silver claims eighteen miles northeast of Ballarat, development in 1926 consisting of shallow tunnels and open cuts worked by two men.

7. Mother Lode three miles east of Emigrant Spring.

8. Yellow Horse Mine

9. Western Mine Western No. 2, adjoining the Moonlight Mining Company property (in Nemo Canyon?).

10. Extension No. 1 Mine

11. Big King Mine

12. Edna Nos. 1-3.

13. Treasure Hill Mine twelve claims comprising 488 feet of shafts and tunnels in 1938. [33]

One of the more substantial mining companies formed in the district in the late 1920s was the Emigrant Springs Mining and Milling Company started by H.W. Eichbaum and associates in 1929. (More details on this company will be presented in the Skidoo section of this report.) In the 1940s the Skidoo District underwent a revival of mining activity. Both the Skidoo Mine and the nearby Del Norte Group were being actively developed as was the Gold King Mine one mile east of Journigan's Mill. Other mines functioning from this period on were the: Emigrant Mine three lead and silver claims active in the 1940s; Rose Mine four tungsten claims comprising an unsightly deserted camp along the charcoal kilns road, registering no production or mining activity since the mid-1950s; and the Wildrose Mine four silver claims last worked in the late 1950s. [34] Also during the fifties sporadic tungsten exploration was carried out in the vicinity of Skidoo.

h) Historic Wildrose Spring Stage Station

At least one historical resource of the Wild Rose area met its demise in the early 1970s. This was Wildrose Station, once located about mile below Wildrose Spring on the main road through Wildrose Canyon. Its service to the public began as a shady oasis providing a water spot and resting place for prospectors and mule teams, possibly as early as 1878; it then functioned as a stage station on the Ballarat-Skidoo route from about 1908 to 1917. The site consisted then of a wooden station, a corral, and blacksmith shop. After World War I the site saw only intermittent occupancy, but by the early 1930s offered cabins, a small curio shop/store, eating facilities, and gas to tourists. Composed of structures reputedly moved on site from abandoned mining camps about 1932, the camp was deemed unsuitable for modern tourism, and it was recommended that all the buildings except for the nineteenth-century forge site be destroyed. The concessionaires were forced to vacate the premises, which soon fell prey to vandalism and finally destruction. Today only foundations remain, topped by a few picnic tables and a comfort station. According to one author, this was the location of the miners' meeting in 1873 that organized the "Rose Springs Mining District." [35] If true, it may also have hosted the 1888 meeting that created the Wild Rose Mining District.

Emigrant Spring
Illustration 122. Emigrant Spring in Emigrant Canyon, no date. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

Wildrose Station
Illustration 123. Wildrose Station in Wildrose Canyon. These cabins are atop the site of an old stage station serving the Ballarat-Skidoo run. Photo by W.F. Steenbergh, 1964, courtesy of DEVA NM.

Illustration 124. Wagon roads in western Death and Panamint valleys. Plotted by A.M. Strong, county surveyor, July 1907. Note Wildrose Station, where John Callaway (Calloway) operated a cafe at this stage stop between Skidoo and Ballarat. Note also the Indian Ranch on Cottonwood Creek just to the left of Lost Valley (upper arm of Death Valley). This feature will be discussed later in the section on Hunter Ranch. Courtesy of Inyo Co. Recorder, Independence, Ca.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003