Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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A. The Bullfrog Hills (continued)

9. Miscellaneous Bullfrog Hills Properties

This section will cover a number of the less important sites within the Bullfrog Hills area. Some of these properties were identified with the Bullfrog District mining boom, while some are from later years, but for want of a better means of organization, all will be lumped together and discussed here.

a. Happy Hooligan Mine

The Happy Hooligan Mine, situated on the east slope of the Grapevine Mountains, about eleven miles west of Rhyolite, was one of the earlier discoveries within the Bullfrog District. The mine was first located by three prospectors named McMann, Stockton and Wilson in May of 1905. Within a month the rich surface ore brought in by the prospectors led to the sale of their five claims to Curtis Mann and the Gorrill brothers, who incorporated themselves as the Happy Hooligan Mining Company.

Illustration 70. Map of the Grapevine Mountains.

Illustration 71. Map of the Bullfrog Northwest Portion of the Bullfrog Hills.

In July of 1905, a visitor left a description of the month-old workings at the mine site. The mine itself consisted of an open surface cut and a discovery hole, he wrote, where ore values of $22 to the ton had been uncovered. The miners working at the Happy Hooligan lived in a large cave about one-half mile west of the mine, near a spring. The abundance of water and of wood--which was unusual for the Bullfrog District--made the camp a most pleasant place to visit and work. The owners of the Happy Hooligan informed the visitor that they had extensive development plans for the mine, including the erection of a mill at the water source. As usual, the publicity given the Happy Hooligan by this and other visitors soon resulted in the area around the mine becoming covered with location notices. For example, the Bullfrog Apex Mining Company, discussed before, located seven claims in the immediate vicinity of the Happy Hooligan in July of 1905.

Apparently due to the extreme heat of the summer, very little work was done on the Happy Hooligan between July and September of 1905. With the arrival of cooler weather, however, mining began in earnest in October, and ore values uncovered during that fall proved encouraging. The mine announced that ore ranging from $10 to $100 per ton was found in the surface trenches in October, and the following month an exploration shaft was begun. By the end of November, Curtis Mann reported that the ore values persisted with depth, as good ore had been found in the bottom of the new shaft, which was now seventy feet deep. Development was increased, and the company began to cut a wagon road from Rhyolite west to its mine, while Mann enthusiastically predicted that the company would build a stamp mill within six months.

As 1905 closed, indications at the mine continued to be encouraging, according to its owners. W. W. Stockton, the mine superintendent, reported that the ore vein was two feet wide and that the three shifts of miners employed on the property had sunk the inclined shaft to a depth of 120 feet. But F. L. Ransome, the government geologist who visited the Bullfrog District late in 1905, recorded a different impression. The ore vein was rarely more than a few inches in width, he reported, and the future of the Happy Hooligan would depend entirely upon what conditions were uncovered as the shaft went deeper. [88]

In January of 1906 the Happy Hooligan reported that values, were increasing with depth, and that the company had ordered a gas hoist for the property. Curtis Mann made a trip to San Francisco, where he arranged for the sale of Happy Hooligan shares on that city's stock exchange. Work continued through February and March, and the company announced that it would soon be ready to sack its high-grade ore for shipment. Simultaneously, the company opened an advertising campaign, and within three days after its first large ad appeared in the Rhyolite Herald had sold 50,000 shares.

During March, the company began construction of a blacksmith shop and a boarding house on its property, finally letting the miners escape their somewhat primitive accommodations in the cave. The road to the property was finished and the Rhyolite Herald reported that it was suitable for auto travel. Ten men were employed at the mine and the company began construction of an ore bin, in anticipation of the arrival of its hoist. On the 30th of that month, Taylor & Griffiths, one of Rhyolite's leading stock brokerages, wrote that sales of Happy Hooligan stock were satisfactory, with most purchases being made by eastern investors. The present price of 20¢ per share led the brokers to declare that they "recommend the purchase at these figures. We expect to see it go higher." It should be noted, however, that Taylor & Griffiths recommended the purchase of every stock which they discussed in their market report, all of which could coincidently be purchased at their offices.

As April went by the blacksmith shop at the Happy Hooligan was completed, and the company received a supply of 500 ore sacks, in order to prepare its high-grade ore for shipment. The company had started a new working shaft, which was down eighty-five feet, and expected that the arrival of the railroad in a few months would enable the Happy Hooligan to ship the high-grade ore at a profit. Within a month the 500 ore sacks were filled and waiting, despite delays caused by high winds which had blown down the new blacksmith shop. By the end of May, the company had finally located its hoist, which had been lost on a railroad siding during shipment, and began preparing the ground for the installation of it.

Illustration 72. From the Rhyolite Herald, 2 March 1906.

During the hot months of July and August, work was suspended at the mine, although whether this was due to the heat or to the lack of funds is not known. On September 14th, the company's stockholders voted at their annual meeting to resume work at the mine in the "immediate future." The long-delayed hoist was expected at any time, and the company announced that it had plenty of money to pursue development work for a number of months. Investors, however, were somewhat suspicious of the dearth of work at the mine since May, and stock prices began to slip. The high of 20¢ per share which the company had enjoyed in March had fallen to 16¢ by May and slumped further to a low of 9¢ by late September, when work was resumed at the mine.

During the first week of October, the Happy Hooligan reported that the cement foundations for the long-delayed hoist were nearly complete, that the new working shaft was down to 130 feet, and that the company had 500 sacks of ore waiting on its dump--which indicated that the company had not sacked any ore since May, when it had reported 500 sacks ready for shipment. Then, on October 19th, the long-awaited 15-horsepower gasoline hoist finally arrived, and was soon installed. With the new hoist working, sinking was resumed in the shaft, and the mine began to sack more high-grade ore. As these operations picked up during October and November, investors again took heart in the prospects of the company and stock prices started to rise. Shares in the Happy Hooligan sold for 10¢ each in October, and then for as high as 16¢ in early November, before closing that month at 14¢. With some of the money from the stock sales, the Happy Hooligan increased its estate by purchasing twelve adjacent claims, which had been located and briefly worked in previous years by prospectors who had since given up hope. [89]

The Happy Hooligan began to experience financial difficulties in early 1907. Despite the excellent showings which the company reported in its mine, and the fact that it had a carload of high-grade ore ready to ship to the railroad, the mine shut down in January and did not resume operations until April. In the meantime, however, the Happy Hooligan talked a good fight, announcing that grand development plans were being finalized and that the mine had $200,000 worth of ore blocked out.

By this time, the announcements from the Happy Hooligan were becoming somewhat contradictory. In May of 1906, the company had announced that it had 500 sacks of high-grade ore ready for shipment, and in March of 1907 it again stated that 500 sacks were waiting at the mine--despite the fact that the company had announced several times in the interim that more ore was being sacked. Either the company's management was not sure what was going on, or the Happy Hooligan was very clumsily trying to fool the public. Not many people were fooled, however, and Bullfroggers began to ask why the company did not ship its high-grade ore, now that the railroads had arrived in the Bullfrog district. Investors asked these same questions, and prices of Happy Hooligan stock fell from 12¢ in January to 9 on April 5th, when work was finally resumed in the mine.

After over a month of work, things had not changed much. By the end of May, the company still could count only 500 sacks of ore on the dumps, but it did announce that a shipment would soon be made. Contrary to that announcement, however, the mine was then closed, before any shipments were made, which makes one wonder if those 500 sacks of ore ever existed. For the rest of 1907 the Happy Hooligan was idle, and the only work performed at the site for the next three years was the minimum necessary annual assessment work to enable the company to retain title to its claims. In 1911, however, even that was not performed, and the Happy Hooligan property re-entered the public domain of the state of Nevada.

Although the story is not at all clear, the Happy Hooligan had apparently run out of development funds in May of 1907, and before refinancing could be obtained, the Panic of 1907 had wiped out any chance that the company could ever resume operations. As a strange epilogue, stock in the Happy Hooligan remained on the trading boards long after the mine had closed. When work ceased in May of 1907, Happy Hooligan was selling at 3-1/2¢ per share, but instead of dropping completely off the board when the mine closed, the stock hung on for almost another year. Prices slowly slipped from 3¢ to 2¢ and then to 1 per share through the rest of 1907, but not until March of 1908 did the stock finally disappear from the trading boards.

Details regarding the Happy Hooligan mine after its closure in 1907 are sketchy, although it is certain that nothing significant took place on the property during the ensuing decades. Physical evidence indicates that someone lived at the the mine and attempted to work it on a very small scale during the 1930s, and in 1951 the property was actively owned under another name. It is evident, however, that nothing more that surface scratching and prospecting took place during these periods. The mine is idle today and bears every indication of having been so for quite a number of years. [90]

Remains at the Happy Hooligan site are not impressive, and consist mostly of small dumps around shallow adits and shafts. Car parts litter the site, as well as assorted tin and wood debris, most of which seem to have come from a crude sort of reduction attempt in the 1930s era. An abandoned frame and tin shack may be found about one-half mile west of the mine, which is also tremendously littered with car parts and junk. The debris is the sort which one would expect around the home of an unknown desert hermit, who probably took refuge there during the depression, and feebly tried to work the mine. There is nothing at this site which deserves protection, preservation or interpretation.

site of the Happy Hooligan Mine
Illustration 73. Site of the Happy Hooligan Mine, showing the two main dumps. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

Illustration 74. The main well at Currie Well, showing the deteriorated remains of earlier attempts to improve the water source. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

b. Currie Well

Currie Well's claim to fame rests mostly on its use as a desert watering hole for stages and trains traveling between Rhyolite and Goldfield. Located some eleven miles north of Rhyolite, or seven miles north of the Original Bullfrog Mine, the water from this site was first used to supply thirsty horses, mules, teamsters and passengers traveling through the area. The site was claimed in succession by several miners and entrepreneurs, who tried to eke out a living by selling water to travelers and by providing meals for men and forage for animals. There is no indication that these efforts, which lasted intermittently from 1907 to 1909, ever paid off. Sporadic efforts were also made in later years to improve the well site, with no obvious degree of success, and in 1911 two intrepid souls attempted to start a farm garden and alfalfa field. Again, the short life of these operations indicates that they were entirely unsuccessful.

The two brief spurts of real activity which surround the well site came during 1907, when the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad's construction crew made the place a work camp due to its water source, and during 1909, when the owner of the well tried unsuccessfully to improve the water flow in order to pipe it to adjacent mines. These spurts of activity were brief, however, and soon died out. Several short-lived mining companies also briefly tried to develop their claims in the area, but all these efforts died a quick and merciful death. [91]

The area around Currie Well is littered with various types of debris which tell the story of brief and unsuccessful attempts to exploit the water rights. Piles of barbed wire depict the site of an old corral, probably the one used for stage horses during the stop-over. Various piles of junked sheet and tin metal are left behind by those who attempted to control the flow of water from the well, which seemed to prefer seeping out of the ground at unlikely and unwanted spots. The only remains of any note are the ruins of two small beehive furnaces. Some people believe that these crude furnaces mark an attempt to smelt ore from local mines, but it is much more likely that they were used by the railroad construction crews as open-air blacksmith forges. None of these remains are of National Register significance. Until a historical archaeologist can determine more about them, these sites should be treated with benign neglect.

c. Mexican Camp

Mexican Camp, located in the Grapevine Mountains about thirteen miles west of Rhyolite, was the site of a short-term wood cutting operation during the early years of the Bullfrog boom. Located at a small, intermittent spring, the camp was the headquarters of a group of Mexicans (hence the name), who cut timber from the surrounding hills, and hauled it out to Rhyolite via a trail which connected the camp to Titus Canyon. Operations at the camp appeared to be marginally successful, until the arrival of the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad in the Bullfrog District in December of 1906. After that, the Mexicans could no longer compete with the price of lumber brought in by the railroad, and the camp was abandoned. The site of Mexican Camp has apparently remained on USGS maps to this date primarily because no one knew what it was and thus dared not take it off. There is nothing of historic significance at the site today, although it may have historical archaeological potential. [92]

d. Phinney Mine

The Phinney Mine, located about eighteen miles northwest of Rhyolite in the Grapevine Mountains, is the site of a small-scale, two-man mining attempt during the 1930s. The mine was first located by Charles E. and F. C. Phinney of Beatty in 1930, and between then and the end of operations in 1938, the two men managed to ship out approximately fifty tons of ore worth $17 per ton--for a grand total of $850. Not surprisingly, with the advent of better times towards the end of the depression era, the Phinney Mine was abandoned, and Charles Phinney moved to Beatty, where he died in 1952. [93]

Structures at the site include two adits and small dumps associated with them, a small pipe line which funneled water from a spring above the mine down to the work area, and a decrepit twelve- by twenty-foot cabin built on the mine dump. The cabin shows all intentions of plunging off the side of the dump in the near future, due to erosion, and no one should be particularly concerned if it does.

About one-half mile above Phinney Mine' is the site of another small-scale mining attempt, which also appears to date from the depression era. Remains at this site consists of a tent site, an old ore loading dock and a small shaft with a collapsed hoist. No known name can be associated with this mine for certain, and the site has no historical significance. [94]

e. Strozzi Ranch

The Strozzi Ranch site, located two miles southeast of the Phinney Mine, or about sixteen miles northwest of Rhyolite, was the scene of a 1930-era ranching effort in the Grapevine Mountains. The site was homesteaded by Caesar Strozzi around 1931, and was seasonally used between then and 1947. Apparently Strozzi lived at the ranch during the summer months and resided in Beatty during the winter. Since his tax lists show assorted numbers of cattle, goats and chickens throughout these years, he evidently used the ranch as a summer grazing ground, and herded his animals back to Beatty for the winter.

wood and tin shack
Illustration 75. Decrepit wood and tin shack on the dump at Phinney mine, emphasizing its precarious future. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

Strozzi's Ranch
Illustration 76. View of Strozzi's Ranch. The tallest building in the center of the picture is the main living quarters, and support buildings are scattered up and down the small valley. The roof of the dugout is visible to the right of the vehicle. Note the fence posts scattered about. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

The ranch is located just north of Brier Springs, which Strozzi used for a water source, and evidence at the site that he also grew several small crops. A few peach trees, for example, may still be found fighting a desperate battle against the weeds. During the sixteen years that Strozzi utilized the ranch site, he erected several major improvements. Today the visitor may see the remains of a main house constructed of wood and tin, and five shacks, which served as a blacksmith shop, a chicken house, and the like. In addition, two dugouts are on the property, one of which is in fairly good shape. Extensive fragments of fence posts and fencing material indicate efforts which Strozzi took to keep his livestock under control. The National Park Service has added to the scenery of the site through the installation of two port-a-johns for the benefit of picnickers, who cannot reach the site anyway since the access road is completely washed out.

In the absence of more detailed information, the Strozzi ranch seems to be the site of one man's efforts to exploit free grazing rights on a seasonal basis, rather than a year-around residence. The attempt has no historical importance, and the buildings at the ranch do not deserve preservation. Although Strozzi's son is still alive and living in Beatty, he was uncooperative when asked for information by a representative of the National Park Service, which is not an unusual attitude among the local population. [95]

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003