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 (continued)

i) Sites

(1) Wildrose Canyon Antimony Mine

(a) History

i) Possible Site of Earliest Mine Location in Monument

It has been suggested that the Wildrose Canyon antimony deposit in the Panamint Range was found in 1860. An early discovery date would seem to be supported by a letter from Rose Springs appearing in the Panamint News in 1875 listing mines in the general vicinity: . . . and last, but by no means least, the Old Combination Company's ledges, situated about three miles southeast of here, and discovered by Dr. George some twelve years since, and now placed under the management of A.A. Ringold, who is also one of the pioneers of this and Slate Range District of twelve years ago.

The mines of this company have quite an interesting history. Shortly after their discovery a company was formed and men put on to prospect the ledges; the men were driven out by Indians in the Spring of 1863, and four of the party killed; since then their ledges until now have remained idle. [36]

Chalfant, in speaking of the discovery of the Telescope District in 1860, states that "W.T. Henderson was named as superintendent of the Combination mines." [37] Later in this article he remarks that "the antimony deposit near Wild Rose spring, in the Panamints, was found during this period, if we accept the evidence of a chiseled 'July 4, 1860,' in its tunnel." [38] Wheat, however, states that on Christmas Day, 1860, the party [George expedition of 1860] crossed over into Wild Rose Canyon near the site of the present Death Valley National Monument Summer Headquarters, and on that day discovered a deposit of antimony ore which was appropriately named the "Christmas Gift Lode." This was the first mining claim to be located in the Panamint Range . . . ." [39]

According to information acquired by Richard Lingenfelter, at the University of California at San Diego, a Combination Gold and Silver Mining Company was incorporated on 26 July 1861, controlling over 9,900 feet of claims worth approximately $990,000 in the Telescope District. Dr. George was president of the company, which in 1862 owned the Christmas Gift and other nearby mines.

The first official documented evidence of what might be this mine found by the writer was a notice of location recorded on 8 August 1882 by Frank Beltic and filed on the "Original Antimony Mine in Rose Spg. Mng. Dist. 2-1/2 miles SE of Rose Spg. AKA Inyo Antimony Mine." [40] Also found was a location notice for the Inyo Antimony Mine, giving the same location as above, and filed the same day by Chris Crohn, Paul Pefferle [sic] Frank Betti, and S.D. Woods. [41]

ii) Antimony Mining in the Region

The antimony industry in the United States was still in its nascent stages in the 1880s and was centered completely in the western states. Extensive reduction of antimony ores was taking place in Utah by 1884, and deposits also existed in Nevada. Up to 1892 most of the entire small output of antimonial ore produced in the United States came from California mines. Occurrence in the Death Valley region encompassed southern Esmerelda County, eastern and southeastern Inyo County, and northern San Bernardino County, with the Panamint deposits situated approximately in the middle of this belt. [42] None of the attempts to work these western deposits had so far proved successful.

Throughout the next few years the Wildrose antimony deposit underwent very little active development work, even though by 1887 this metal was quoted at $150 per ton in London. [43] Obviously the site's remote location and the lack of investment capital, coupled with a still undeveloped market, precluded any serious mining operations here. In January 1889 mines in this same general area were relocated and filed on by a William Hannagan (Hannigan or Harrigan) and a Joe Donalson (Danielson). [44]

The extent of mining accomplished by these men is unknown, but that the mines were regarded as potentially lucrative is evidenced by the fact that a year later they were bonded for $3,000 to G.A. Smith, a real estate dealer and mining speculator of Los Angeles, who intended to work the property and possibly build a reduction plant in the vicinity. [45]

Smith's optimism about the mine's future was based in large part on his assumption that a railroad would soon be extended from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, putting the valuable mineral deposits of the Panamint country within easy reach of cheap transportation. But until that longed-for and necessary event took place, he declined to expend money on mine development. [46]

By 1891 antimony mining was showing signs of increased activity and of becoming an established industry. Over near Austin, Nevada, in Lander County, antimony mining was becoming highly profitable by that year. An English syndicate was working some mines in the area and making regular shipments to Liverpool, England, for reduction. The ore was averaging over sixty-five percent antimony per ton, and at the production rate of nearly 100 tons of ore a month from the mines the company was able to declare two dividends. Still, most of the antimony ore needed in the United States came from foreign producers, such as Borneo, the European states, Algeria, Australia, and New South Wales. The major use of antimony during this period was as an ingredient in certain alloys, providing hardness and stiffness, and a lesser use was in medicinal salts. Because of its somewhat restricted applications, the market for the metal was still limited. [47]

By 1893 reduction works for antimony ores had been established in San Francisco and were treating ore from California and Nevada, the latter state having eclipsed the former in production of this metal. That year the total output of antimony was 200 tons, estimated in value at $36,000. Four hundred tons of ore had produced this amount of antimony, of which California supplied fifty. The Wild Rose Mine, comprising eleven claims, was evidently furnishing slight amounts of ore at this time, although lack of capital was still preventing its full development. The deposit on the north side of Wild Rose Canyon was also opened at this time. [48]

iii) Development of the Monarch Combination and Monopoly Mines and the Kennedy Claim

In January 1896 three notices of location were filed by Frank C. Kennedy: one for the Monopoly Mine, two miles from Wild Rose Spring and composed of the former Hillside and Intrinsic mines; a second for the Monarch Mine, 1-1/2 miles from Wild Rose Spring and comprising the former Antimony and Smokeless Powder mines; a third for the Combination Mine, joining the Monarch, about 1-3/4 miles from Wild Rose Spring, and composed of the former Jersey Bell, Lotta, and Helen G. The Kennedy Claim was first located on 1 January 1897. [49]

In 1900 Frank Kennedy's antimony mines in Wild Rose Canyon were bonded to George Montgomery and E.M. Dineen, two Los Angeles men who later, in association with a C.B. Fleming, bought them in anticipation of building a wagon road to Darwin and of erecting a twenty-five ton smelter nearby, enabling production on a large scale. A contract was immediately let to haul the ore, which could be shipped to San Francisco and New York. [50] The first carload of antimony ore shipped by the new owners left Johannesburg in September 1900, with expectations high of a good return and the incentive thus provided to actively push further work. The success of this initial shipment was either not reported or the statement simply not located by this writer, but by the next year, Inyo County was leading in the California production of lead, soda, and antimony ($700 worth). [51]

By November 1901 the four mines of the Wildrose Group were being developed by an eighty-foot-long open cut and four tunnels, all producing-ore reportedly averaging fifty percent antimony. [52] The pattern of ownership of the Wildrose claims is difficult to follow during the early 1900s. In 1902 a forfeiture notice appeared in the Inyo Independent issued by A.W. Eibeshutz and directed toward C.B. Fleming, J.S. Stotler, and E. M. Dineen, referred to as co-owners of the Monarch, Combination, Monopoly, and Kennedy mines in the Wild Rose Mining District. In 1903 the only reference found to the mines suggested that work had been stopped, evidently due to the lack of good transportation facilities. [53] Frank Kennedy is again mentioned in connection with ownership of some Wildrose antimony claims several years later, in partnership with a Jeff Grundy, J.T. Hall, and Miles Sargent. A gold, silver, and lead strike was reported on their antimony property in 1907, causing some mild excitement in the area. Whether this encompassed the subject claims is uncertain, because several mineral properties had by now been filed on in the area by various individuals. [54]

By June 1909 Frank C. Kennedy was understood to be the owner of the "large and entirely undeveloped deposit of valuable antimony ore . . . in Wild Rose Canyon . . . between Keeler and Skidoo. . . ." [55] By this time Kennedy, J.S. Stotler, and A.W. Eibeshutz had already secured a patent on the property, having held the ground through the years by annual assessment work. According to other records found, however, the Monarch, Combination, and Monopoly claims, referred to as the Monopoly Antimonium Group and comprising forty-two acres, were patented on 11 October 1909, in the name of George Montgomery et al (Mineral Patent No. 83128). [56]

The Inyo Register reported in 1914 that J.E. (?) Eibeshutz and Frank Kennedy sold the antimony mines at Wildrose to some capitalists envincing an interest, as earlier parties had, in erecting a smelter and possibly a furnace to process the silver-lead ores found in association with the antimony. [57] Apparently by late fall of 1914 construction of reverberatory, oxidizing, and blast furnaces had finally started in Wildrose Canyon, with a force of fifteen men expected to begin operations by December.: Probably the new operators felt that the impending war would have a healthy effect on the metal market and make the concentration of low-grade deposits practicable. The current owner of the antimony property was L.C. Mott of San Francisco, whose interest in the reduction plant at this time was purely on an experimental basis, to determine if the antimonial matte could be refined to a pure enough state to make the plant economically worthwhile. By January 1915 twenty-two men were working in thirty openings on the property. [58]

By April 1915 from five to ten trucks, each averaging three tons of ore per day, were making daily trips to the railroad depot at Trona. From there ore was shipped to the Merchants' Finance Company smelter near Los Angeles. A six-ton reverberatory furnace about two miles from the mine was still treating the sulphide ore, which was being found in promising quantities and of a commercial grade. [59] The antimony mines shut down temporarily in the fall of 1915, for reasons not disclosed. By May of that year title to the property had been transferred from Mott to the Western Metals Company of Los Angeles. During Mott's ownership hundred of tons of high-grade ore had been shipped, running about fifty to seventy percent antimony. Because prices for the ore were fairly high (49¢/lb.) during that time, some profit accrued. Probably the mine was shut down either because of the wretched condition of the roads over which the trucks had to haul the ore to Trona or because the price of antimony soon dropped to under 30¢/lb. In December, however, the property was again shipping--six tons of ore a day--using Mexican contract labor. Despite its last slowdown, the Wildrose Mine was hailed as the largest individual producer of antimony ore in Inyo County for the year 1915. [60]

In 1917 a description of the Wildrose Mine reported that many of the early open cuts and drift tunnels had either been filled or had caved in, so the extent of workings was almost impossible to estimate. Currently thirty Mexican laborers were hand drilling and picking the open cuts and sorting ore from old dumps on the property. Five 2-1/2-ton auto trucks were hauling the ore, averaging around thirty-five percent antimony, the forty-five miles to Trona for shipment to the company smelter at San Pedro, California. [61] Greatest production from the property seems to have occurred during the years of World War I, during which time Western Metals Company reportedly mined about 4,000 tons of ore containing thirty-five to forty-two percent antimony. Recovery from the nearby smelter was low, however, and actual production was probably less than 1,000 tons. [62] From 1918 to about 1936, activity on the Wildrose Mine property, consisting of the four patented claims plus several held by location, was sporadic. [63]

By 1938 small-scale operations were occasionally attempted at the mine. An E.B. and Margaret Spitzer of Trona screened ore on the Monarch dump and also attempted some mining on the Kennedy Claim. Their Denver Mine (exact location unknown to the writer) in Wild Rose Canyon produced a small amount of antimony ore that was treated at the nearby mill. The property owners, A.C. MacClure (McLure) and A.G. Barnes of Los Angeles, were pondering whether or not to treat the low-grade ore and that on the dumps, while a T. F. Pierson and Associates of Los Angeles were busy locating eleven other claims in the area. [64]

In 1951 the four patented claims (Monarch, Combination, Monopoly, and Kennedy) were owned by James C. Davis of Los Angeles, the Andrew G. Barnes Estate, the A.C. McLure Estate, and Ruth F. Bastanchury. In 1972 when the Monarch, Combination, and Monopoly claims were appraised by mining engineers, Mrs. Bastanchury (then Mrs. Boeckerman) held an undivided 3/4 interest in the property, while Carl D. Dresselhaus and Lawrence J. Rink shared the remaining 1/4 interest, acquired by a tax deed. The property had been briefly leased for a period in 1970. [65]

(b) Present Status

The Monarch, Combination, and Monopoly patented claims, along with several unpatented ones, are located in the Wildrose Mining District on the south side of Wildrose Canyon in the Panamint Mountain Range about 2-1/2 miles southeast of the Wildrose Ranger Station. They are located on and near Antimony Ridge, extending over the ridge into Tuber Canyon, at elevations ranging from 5,500 feet to 6,400 feet. These three claims form an L-shaped parcel of 42.33 acres reached by an unimproved jeep road veering south for roughly a mile off the graveled road that leads west to the ranger station.

When Western Metals Company was working the Wildrose Mine during World War I, the mine workings consisted of several open cuts and narrow tunnels. According to pictures taken at the time, the ore mined high up on the slopes of Antimony Ridge was hauled by burro train to a long ore chute descending down the hillside to a bin. The nearby mining camp consisted of a combination of frame structures and large tents. [66]

The Monarch workings today consist of open cuts, small adits and stopes, and inclined shafts; the Combination Claim contains an adit and open cuts; and the Monopoly shows an open cut and rat holes. The road to the property ends at the main open cut on the Monarch Claim, and from there trails must be taken to the other workings. A dump area nearby contains purple glass fragments and bottles, indicating early activity. There are no structures on the property.

The Kennedy veins, formerly known as the Wildrose Mine, are reached by jeep road on the north side of Wildrose Canyon, about two miles north of the Monarch deposit, and about 1-1/2 miles northeast of the Wildrose Ranger Station. They are located on a small ridge at an elevation of about 5,100 feet. Workings consist of open cuts and small adits. No structures exist here either. [67]

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

Antimony development in the western states was mildly successful, first in Utah and Nevada and then in California. The Wildrose deposits in Death Valley are in a poorly defined district that saw only sporadic activity through the years, full commercial development of the deposits here being hampered by their remoteness, the consequent lack of good transportation facilities, their small size, and an unsteady market. Their highest production level was reached during World War I--about 1,000 tons--while the other antimony deposit within the monument, the Old Dependable in Trail Canyon, produced mostly during 1939 to 1941, but only about 70 tons worth. Several antimony mines have operated in California. In 1915 when the Wildrose Mine was the largest individual producer, there was one other operation in Inyo County (near Bishop), five in Kern County, and one in San Bernardino County. [68] Other deposits in Inyo County were later found in Trail Canyon in the Panamint Range and on the west slope of the Argus Range.

mining prospects
Illustration 125. View of prospects and working area looking northeast, Wildrose Antimonium Group of Mines. Photo by John A. Latschar, 1978.

wooden platform
Illustration 126. Wooden platform site, Wildrose Antimonium Group of Mines. Photo by John A. Latschar, 1978.

Although new uses had been found for antimony during the war years, such as in matchheads and in the smear on matchboxes, the market continued unsteady and the prices paid for ore subject to considerable fluctuation, making only high-grade deposits economically feasible to mine. The threat of overproduction and a consequent lowering of prices prohibited much development of lower-grade deposits such as the Wildrose ones, which contained only a few high-grade pods and pockets. Because the deposits are widely scattered and no single one is large enough to be mined profitably, because low-cost methods of treating such low-grade ore are necessary, and because of the high cost of transportation, the ruggedness of the area, and the lack of a large water supply nearby, the deposits could never be profitably mined at the prevailing market prices, except for small tonnages of high-grade ore that could be handsorted. During the war years, 1915 to 1918, the average price for metallic antimony was 22.06¢/lb., and from 1919 to 1938 it was 9.97¢/lb. Mines in the Wildrose area could only be economically viable if prices ranged between 16-2/3¢ and 33-1/3¢/lb. [69]

The concrete foundations about one-half mile south of the junction of the gravel Wildrose Canyon Road and the dirt road to the mines, which were tentatively proposed by the LCS crew as the remains of the reduction plant built about 1915, were identified by the Wildrose ranger as the ruins of a communications relay building instead, probably of the relay station shown on the USGS 1972 topographic map of Death Valley. Field crews from the Western Archeological Center have located two sets of ruins in Wildrose Canyon not inspected by this writer. One of them sounds as if it might be the ruins of the reduction furnace.

The Wildrose Antimonium Group of Mines consists of four patented properties--the Monarch, Combination, and Monopoly claims on the south side of Wildrose Canyon, and the Kennedy Quartz Claim on the north side. In addition, there are several individual deposits and prospects located near the first group. The Monarch deposit, referred to as the Wildrose antimony Mine, appears to have been the site of the most concentrated mining efforts in the area and contains the most extensive workings. The precise discovery date of the Wildrose Canyon antimony mines is unknown, but on the basis of information acquired during this study, it is the writer's opinion that the first claim formally staked within the boundaries of the present national monument was in the vicinity of the present Wildrose Canyon Antimony Mine. Because of its early discovery date and its association with Dr. S.C. George, who played an instrumental part in the -early exploration and mining history of the Death Valley region during the 1800s, and because it was the more productive of the two areas mined for antimony within the monument, the site is considered eligible for nomination to the National Register as being of local significance.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003