Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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Beginning of Volume I, Part 2

B. Emigrant Wash and Wildrose Canyon (continued)

2. Wild Rose Mining District (continued)

i) Sites (continued)

(5) Christmas (Gift) Mine

(a) History

A Christmas (or Christmas Gift) Mine antimony lode was reportedly discovered by Dr. S.G. George on Christmas Day 1860, during George's unsuccessful second attempt to locate the lost Gunsight lead. [90] Earlier that year he had headed a contingent that joined forces with the New World Mining and Exploration Company from San Francisco, headed by Col. H.P. Russ, and together they had entered Owens Valley. George and a detachment had separated from the main body here and headed east, discovering promising ledges in the rugged Panamints and organizing the Telescope Mining District. Returning to San Francisco, some unscrupulous people involved in these discoveries managed to secure investment capital there that would, they assured, be sunk into development of the Telescope District mines. Instead, most of these con artists left town with the monies; none of the original discoveries were actually placed on the market, nor were any of the companies formed to work. the Telescope mines legitimate.

Late in 1860 the George party made another trip out from Visalia, California, into the Death Valley country, resulting in discovery of a Christmas Gift Mine on December 25. Not having the necessary equipment to work the mine, and because winter was at hand and snow was already falling, the expedition started home. The following year W.T. Henderson and three others began work on a 150-foot tunnel to tap the Christmas ledge, but they were eventually driven out by unfriendly Indians. [91]

It is the writer's opinion, due to personal research findings and discussions with others familiar with mining activity in this section, that the so-called Christmas lode discovered by Dr. George is not the Christmas Mine found on the USGS Emigrant Canyon quad, but is instead what is today known as the Wildrose Canyon Antimony Mine southeast of the Wildrose Ranger Station. On the basis of data procured it appears that the workings found at what is presently labelled the Christmas Mine were first excavated in connection with work in Nemo Canyon in the early 1900s. As mentioned in the Nemo Canyon section, one of the present Christmas Mine sites is a relocation of the Nemo #1 Mine. In 1906 labor was performed in this area by the Christmas Mining Company under E.F. Schooley. Notice was found in 1908 that a Dan McLeod held a two-year lease on the Christmas Gift in the Panamint Range, "probably the oldest known mine in the county," on which he intended to install a twenty-horsepower gasoline hoist. The most recent owner of this property has been the Keystone Canyon Mining Company of Pasadena, California, Ralph E. Pray, president. [92]

In researching the Christmas Mine it is easy to become confused initially by references to the productive and more developed Christmas Gift Mine that was part of the Mackenzie Group (including the Pluto and Lucky Jim) four miles north of Darwin. This was a silver-lead mine being worked at least by 1890 and through 1948. [93]

(b) Present Status

The area designated Christmas Mine on the USGS Emigrant Canyon quad consists of two sites and is reached via dirt road leading east from the Emigrant Canyon Road about 4-1/4 miles south of Emigrant Pass. The mine camp is about 1-3/4 miles east of the Emigrant Canyon Road; the only extant building there is a small wood and corrugated-metal shack. The cabin is posted "Property of Christmas Mining Co." and contains only some bedsprings and chairs. Also on-site are a tin-sided pit toilet and two building sites southwest of the cabin. Nothing remains on them now but piled lumber and an old refrigerator. The burned ruins of a dugout can be found, consisting of a shallow hole filled with metal scraps. Northwest of the privy is a stone masonry support that once carried a portion of the Skidoo pipeline across a wash. The support is fifteen feet long, four feet wide, and two feet high. The pipeline scar is visible continuing on up over the hills to the southwest. Continuing east from the residential area on a four-wheel-drive road one arrives after one-half mile at the scene of some prospecting activity. Not much is left on site. Near the road is the ruin of a collapsed dugout or timbered adit, with beams visible protruding from the rubble. On west, around the top of the hill, are a caved-in stope and the remains of a timbered shaft. Much metal refuse lies around, but there are no building remains.

residential area
Illustration 133. Christmas Mine residential area, view to east-northeast. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

mine shaft
Illustration 134. Caved-in shaft at prospect site due east of residential area. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

pipeline supports
Illustration 135. Masonry support for Skidoo pipeline, near Christmas Mine camp. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

A dirt road south from the residential area leads to a more complex mining operation, the Nemo #1 Mine that was relocated as the Christmas Mine by Ralph Pray in 1974. Remains on site consist of an ore bin, rails, trestle bents, and several small shafts, one of which was framed and timbered with pinyon pine logs, testifying to the longevity of mining operations here. Three of the shafts appeared to have been operated by means of hand winches. In 1975 some prospecting work was still being carried out in the tunnels. [94]

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

A history of mining activities within Nemo Canyon may. be found in an earlier section. Although the spot labelled Christmas Mine on the USGS Emigrant Canyon quad map has been thought of as the site of the first claim staked within the present monument boundaries, it is fairly certain that George's early discovery was actually made further south. Sporadic attempts to work this Christmas Mine all the way up through the 1970s have been made, with its largest production during World War I. Exact output figures have not been found, however. [95]

The remains at both this site and at the. Christmas Mine immediately south are a strong mixture of old and new, and it is difficult to determine which workings were the result of the earliest mining activity. The discovery of rounded pinyon pine log framing in the shaft at the second site indicates that this operation was underway early, with the ore bin and rail system being later additions. This site is not eligible for National Register status due to a lack of importance in Death Valley mining history. Purple glass on the residential site further north suggests an earlier occupancy than indicated by the miner's shack standing there today. Dating the workings at the Christmas Mine prospect site near the cabin is almost impossible because of the lack of physical evidence. These last two sites are not deemed eligible for nomination to the National Register due to a lack of integrity and associative significance. The Skidoo pipeline support near the mine camp will be included within the route of the pipeline on the revised Skidoo Historic District National Register form.

mine shaft
Illustration 136. Shaft lined with pinyon pine logs, Christmas Mine (formerly Nemo #1). Photo courtesy of William Tweed, 1975.

Illustration 137. Open stope at Christmas Mine (formerly Nemo #1). Photo courtesy of William Tweed, 1975.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003