Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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B. The Funeral Range (continued)

5. South Bullfrog Mining District

a. History

With the Keane Wonder strike to the west and the great Bullfrog boom to the east, it is no wonder that the upper Funeral Range was soon overwhelmed with prospectors. Early rushers to the Bullfrog region succeeded in locating ground close to either the Keane Wonder or the Original Bullfrog mines, and as we have seen, some met with success and others with failure. But in this section we are concerned with the later prospectors, who did not arrive in time to obtain "close-in" locations near the two big strikes, and who were thus drawn to the empty area between the Original Bullfrog and the Keane Wonder, known as the upper Funeral Range.

Illustration 125. Map of Northcentral Portion of Chloride Cliff Area.

The rush was such that in August of 1905, less than a year after the Bullfrog strike, there were so many prospectors in the area that they decided to organize a new mining district, designed to bring an element of order into the numerous conflicting claims which had inevitably built up when hundreds of prospectors were looking over a limited amount of choice ground. Thus, on August 18th, the South Bullfrog Mining District was organized. At a meeting at Keane Springs, a few miles north of Chloride Cliff, the miners of the region met and agreed upon several rules and regulations for the establishment of the new district. C. Kyle Smith, who was later to be shot by Johnnie Cyty, was elected recorder of the district, and was thus given responsibility for keeping the claim and assessment books in order, to prevent future legal or physical struggles over mining claims. In addition, the boundaries of the district were laid out, and were roughly described as being from Surveyor Well in Death Valley, east to the Nevada state line, down the state line to the northeast line of the Echo Canyon Mining District, west to Furnace Creek, and then northwest to Surveyor Well. These boundaries included several well known mines, such as the Keane Wonder, the Chloride Cliff and the Big Bell, and unnumbered prospects and infant mines which had been opened in the past year. Recording fees, including district and county charges, were $2 per claim, and the money was used to reimburse Smith for his pains and expenses of keeping books. Due to the extreme crowding of prospectors into the district, the meeting agreed to severely restrict the time allowed for prospectors to improve their claims, giving them only ninety days from the time of location to perform $100 worth of assessment work, compared to the usual year.

As the rush continued through the fall of 1905, the prospects for the district looked extremely good. The Inyo Independent wrote that "this district has a brilliant future," and the Rhyolite Herald in an understatement, said that "this portion of the country is attracting considerable attention of late on account of the excellent showing made by the Keane Wonder, and property in that section is much sought after." By the end of 1905, as the initial flurry of prospecting settled down somewhat, the mining promoters and money men began buying and consolidating claims and forming mining companies to exploit the mineral wealth which everyone was sure lay just under the surface of the ground. The South Bullfrog Mining District, in the popular term of the day, was a "comer." [39]

As 1906 progressed, the South Bullfrog District continued to boom, and mining companies began to incorporate and begin work on their claims. With the advent of actual mining in the area, the local residents and prospectors, most of whom lived at or near their mines, began to take steps to advertise their district, for everyone realized that in order to keep the investment money flowing in, public exposure was necessary. It was also nice, of course, to have a genuine mine, but until anyone knew whether there were any in the district, public advertisement was the next best step. Accordingly, on March 16th, the South Bullfrog Booster's Club was organized, composed of miners from the area, and an advertisement campaign was begun. In addition, the Booster's Club was directed to look into the annoying fact that a new town, located southeast of Rhyolite, was also using the name of South Bullfrog. In order to limit the confusion of potential investors, a committee was appointed to meet with the new townsite agents and. try to persuade them to change their town's name. The meeting was unsuccessful, but since the town of South Bullfrog quickly died, the matter resolved itself.

Illustration 126. Two advertisements, as printed in the Bullfrog Minier, for the young South Bullfrong Mining District. The top appeared on January 12th, and the bottom, on March 9th, 1906.

The Booster's Club also voted to begin work on a new, road from Rhyolite to Chloride Cliff, in order to provide better access to the district for visitors and supply wagons. In the meantime, Richard Willis of Rhyolite started a stage line and burro train between Bullfrog and the town of Keane Springs, which was becoming the heart of the district. The stage line would run twice a week, and the burro train on demand.

Between January and May of 1906, at least nine mining companies incorporated and began work in the district. Numerous 'prospectors were also still hunting for good locations, or else sitting on them, waiting for a higher bid for their potential gold mines. Although the district looked good, the Bullfrog Miner put it back into perspective in late April, when it remarked that with "the exception of the Keane Wonder and the Chloride Cliff mines, but little real active work has been done" in the area.

For the better part of two years, the miners and promoters of the South Bullfrog District plugged along, hoping that sooner or later the one great mine would appear in their midst, which would make everyone's fortune. Unfortunately, exactly the opposite happened. One mine after another looked good, and made plans for shipping ore or for building a mill, only to find out after the shafts and tunnels had bit a little deeper into the mountain, that their ore had pinched out. In addition, the economic troubles of the times plagued the district, for mines were forced to close after the San Francisco disaster of 1906, and more were shut down by the general financial panic of 1907. Without a big mine to pull in the money, the rest of the South Bullfrog mines could hope for little investor support, and few if any of the local promoters were able or willing to develop a mine out of their own pockets.

South Bullfrog District Mining Companies

Company NameDate Work StartedLast Date Mentioned
California Bullfrog Mining Company11 August 190528 August 1909
Trio Mining Company26 January 190630 September 1908
Golden Horn Mining Company26 January 190613 March 1909
DeForest Mining Company9 February 190629 March 1907
Hartford-Montana Mining Company2 March 19064 May 1912
Calvada Gold Mining Company6 April 19066 April 1906
Highland Boy Gold Mining Company7 April 190621 December 1907
Death Valley Golden Buck M.C.13 April 1906July 1907
Inyovada Gold Mining Company26 May 190630 April 1910
Vermont Rose Mining Company3 August 190628 October 1911
Lulu Mac Mining & Milling Company7 September 190620 August 1910
Death Valley Gold Mining & MillingFall 19064 January 1907
War Eagle Mining Company25 January 19078 March 1907
South Bullfrog Mining Company8 March 190730 April 1910
Rising Sun Mining Company29 March 190729 March 1907
Death Valley Exploration & Development Company12 April 190730 December 1908
Kentucky Mining & Milling Company15 June 190715 June 1907
Golden Chief Mining & Milling Company20 July 19072 December 1911
Bullfrog Comstock Mining Company26 September 190726 September 1907
Lee Gold Crest Mining Company11 October 190726 February 1910
Bullfrog Midas Mining Company21 March 190811 April 1908
Utopia Consolidated Mining Company20 February 190914 April 1909
Henrietta Mining Company24 March 190914 April 1909
Minerou Mining Company10 July 190910 July 1909

One after another, the remaining mines closed during 1907 and 1908, although a few continued the struggle through 1909 and 1910, and two lasted even until 1911. But the longer life of the latter mines had more to do with the subbornness of their owners, rather than of any mineral content in the ground, for none of the mines listed in the table above ever produced any gold. With the exception of a very few hopeful miners, the entire South Bullfrog Mining District was deserted by the end of 1910, and an assessment of the district's boom can only be that it was a total failure. The miners left behind little more than numerous pits and holes around the mountainsides, most of which show little signs of anything beyond preliminary development work, and all of which serve to confuse present investigators who try to pick out a few of the more significant mines from the numerous hales in the ground. [40]

It would be interesting, however, to take a quick look at a few of these South Bullfrog mines, in order to detail the life and death of several of the typical efforts which took place.

Illustration 127. From the Bullfrog Miner, 1 June 1906.

Illustration 128. A typical advertisement for a South Bullfrog District mining company. From the Bullfrog Miner, 5 April 1907.

b. Death Valley Lone Star Mine

The first claims of the Lone Star group were located in the summer of 1904, shortly after the Keane Wonder strike had stirred interest in the area. Little is heard of them, however, until December of 1905, when the Death Valley Lone Star Mining Company was organized. The organization was rather typical for the time, with a capital stock of 1,500,000 shares being created, 750,000 of which were designated as treasury shares for sale to the general public. The officers, who kept the rest of the shares to themselves, were headed by S. R. Phail, president, and Victor O'Brien, vice president. The company had six claims, described as being just below the Keane Wonder Mine, and two claims in another part of the district. Stock was immediately offered for sale at 104 per share, and large full-page advertisements appeared in the Rhyolite newspapers. Early in 1906, the company began work on its claims.

advertisement advertisement
Illustrations 129-130. Top and bottom half of a full page advertisement which appeared in the Bullfrog Miner, 9 March 1906.

Small strikes were found from time to time, but nothing good enough to warrant calling the Lone Star a real mine. As the Bullfrog Miner, put it, the developments at the property were "interesting, if not sensational." Four men were employed at the mine in April of 1906, and despite the financial distress caused by the San Francisco earthquake and fire, the company reported that it would- "continue work for an indefinite period.". S. R. Phail, the president, tried all the usual tricks to publicize his mine, such as bringing in specimen ore for display at the Southern Hotel in Rhyolite. But despite these efforts, and the fact that Lone Star stock was listed for sale on the San Francisco, Goldfield and Rhyolite stock exchanges, interest in the mine never developed. The Rhyolite papers never reported any trading activity in Death Valley Lone Star stock, and towards the fall of 1906, work at the mine was stopped, probably due to financial reasons. [41]

Early in 1907, the Rhyolite Herald reported that the Lone Star had excellent ore in its mine, and that the company "expected that work will soon be resumed on the Lone Star." The company held its annual meeting in February,. which resulted in new officers being elected. J. P. Nelson, the new vice president, went out in March to examine the property "with the view of resuming operations." Nothing had been done at the property lately, said the Bullfrog Miner, "due to friction of management." But despite the reorganization, work was not resumed until late in December of 1907, when a force of men and supplies were sent out to the mine. Although the immediate purpose of the men was to perform the necessary annual work to enable the company to retain title to its ground, the company announced that it was "the purpose of the management to continue work with a view to placing the property on a paying basis as soon as possible."

But the hopes were soon demolished. The annual work on the property uncovered no new ore leads, and although the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin announced on January 22nd that the mine "has been amply financed and development will be rushed," work stopped in late January and no further work was done on the mine until November of 1908, when Sam R. Phail returned to the property to perform the annual assessment work. Despite the lack of work on the property for over two years, John A. Moffat & Co., one of Rhyolite's leading stockbrokers, felt able to write in October of 1908 that "We recommend this stock as a good speculative purchase." By the fall of 1908, the South Bullfrog Mining District had numerous stocks for sale which could only be described as "speculative."

Although the mine was dead in all reality by the end of 1907, efforts were made from time to time to revive its prospects. The Death Valley Lone Star Mining Company continued to hold its annual meetings as late as January of 1910, and presumably someone attended. Not until January of 1912 did the Rhyolite Herald feel safe to say that "no work has been started, nor does it appear that any is in contemplation on the Lone Star property." Like many others, the Death Valley Lone Star had not made that important transformation from a promising prospect to an actual mine. The transformation was difficult to make when there was no ore in the ground. The Death Valley Lone Star Mine has no historic significance. [42]

c. Capricorn Mine

As noted above, the Capricorn Mining Company was one of the few South Bullfrog District companies ever to ship any ore from its mine. In this respect it was unusual, but a short description of a marginally productive mine would perhaps be illuminating. The first notice of the Capricorn was in November of 1907, when J. P. Burns, its locator, gave up trying to develop it on his own, and began looking for buyers or lessees. It took him several months, but, in February of 1908 Burns leased a block of his claim to John Anglin and I. Peterson. The two men went to work at once, and soon reported that they had excellent showings.

In the meantime, Burns also continued to mine, and perhaps inspired by the example of his tenants, announced in March that he had found some ore. The luck of the first lessees in turn inspired more miners to try their luck, and by the end of March, Burns had let leases to L. J. Lock and Alfred Jones, another to Captain E. P. Miner and a third to Tom G. Murphy. All the leases were for blocks of land 200 feet square, and Burns continued to work on the unleased portions of his claim, taking out high grade ore for sacking. By mid-April he had an estimated $2,000 worth of ore on the Capricorn dump.

Through the rest of the spring and summer, Burns and his lessees continued to work on their respective portions of the Capricorn mine, and yet another lease was let to the Barton brothers in June. The Bullfrog Miner reported that twenty-five men were working on the combined portions of the Capricorn property in mid-June. In July, Captain Miner, dissatisfied with the ground covered by his lease, entered into a deal with Burns whereby the two men became partners in the development of another section of ground. In late July, they made the first shipment from the property, two tons of silver ore which they estimated to be worth $200 per ton.

When the smelter returns were received several weeks later, their prediction turned out to be remarkably accurate, as the ore was assayed at $195 per ton. The expenses involved, however, pointed out the difficulties which always faced operators of remote desert mines. Freight charges to get the ore to the Goldfield smelter had cost $32.26, smelter charges were $60 arid sampler charges were $50. Considering that the smelter had succeeded in recovering 95 percent of the ore content, Miner and Burns were left with a mere $289.18 profit from their first ore shipment. The men estimated that it would take them two months to assemble another such shipment, which indicates that they were willing to work for a little over $72 each per month. Unionized miners, such as those at the Keane Wonder Mine, earned more than that.

Undaunted, the men began another shaft on the property, in a more promising location, and continued to work. By the middle of August they were again sacking high grade ore for shipment, and on September 9th, a second shipment was made, consisting of 7,200 pounds of ore. This shipment, however, was not as rich as the preceeding one, and settlement with the smelter were made at an assayed value of $167 per ton. If freight, smelter and sample charges had not changed since July, Miner and Burns received a net profit of $224 for their second shipment, to split between themselves.

In October of 1908, since the various leases had proved that there was ore in the Capricorn Mine, Burns finally got his wish, and a group of capitalists financed his mine and incorporated the Capricorn Mining Company. A Mr. San Francisco of Cimarron, Kansas, was named as president of the company, and Captain Miner and J. P. Burns were listed as joint vice-presidents. After the new company was formed, all the previous lessees were denied any extensions of their leases, with the exception of Captain Miner, who continued to act both as a company officer and as a lessee from that company. Advertisements were placed in the local papers, and Capricorn stock went on the market at the initial price of 10 per share.

Illustration 131. "The Chance of a Life Time," from the Rhyolite Herald, 25 November 1908.

Development was initiated by the company, and in November the Rhyolite Herald reported that the company had eleven tons of ore ready for shipment. In order to avoid the high freight charges to Goldfield, Miner decided to ship the ore to a smelter at Needles, California, where he could get a better deal. In late November of 1908, ore teams began hauling the ore into the railhead at Rhyolite. With the mine operating and taking out ore, investors began to be interested, and the local papers, never loath to sing the praises of a local mine, began to boost the Capricorn. "Many people are now aware," said the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin that the South Bullfrog District had one of the "richest silver bearing mines in the United States. Should the quality of ore now being taken out continue with depth," the paper added, the Capricorn would be a "worldbeater." The company, in the meantime, announced that its eastern office, at Cimarron, Kansas, was selling stock as rapidly as it was received, and thanked the Rhyolite Herald for the effectiveness of the only advertisement placed in the state of Nevada. [43]

By late December, the Capricorn shipment had been assembled at Rhyolite, and amounted to a twenty-five ton carload of ore, estimated at $200 per ton. In mid-January of 1909, Captain Miner received returns on the shipment, and the result was not very impressive. His ore had been assayed only at $132.50 per, ton, and after deducting freight and smelter charges, his net profit was only $2,158.18, out of which wages and expenses of mining upon the company account would have to be taken. As a final note for 1908, it is interesting to observe that the Capricorn Mining Company was considering installing a horse-powered whim at its shaft, to replace the crude hand windlass in use up to that time--the company was still in the very early stages of development.

But the company kept on trying. The working staff was increased in early January of 1909, and advertisements for the mine again appeared in the newspapers. J. P. Burns was elected as the new president of the company, replacing Mr. San Francisco, and he immediately announced that a gasoline hoist would be installed by February 1st, at which time the company would start mining in earnest.

But Burns' promise was not carried out, and in March of 1909, Captain Miner was the only man working on the property. The company returned its miners to work in April, but they only remained until May, when once again they were laid off. Miner made another shipment, consisting of eight tons of ore, in early May, but smelter returns were not released to the papers. After several more months of idleness, the executive committee of the Capricorn Company met in late July, and reluctantly approved a decision to borrow money to continue the development work at the mine. But before, that could happen, they changed their minds, ad decided to close down the mine until fall rather than to "sustain liabilities Which would under present financial conditions necessarily would be very burdensome."

But the mine was closed longer than until fall. In October, J. P. Burns returned to Rhyolite and announced that "efforts are being made to resume operations," but the lack of finances made his hope futile. The next notice of the company comes in February of 1910, when an elaborate and quite complicated scheme of financing was announced, whereby the Capricorn would receive money for mining costs in return for a thirty-year bond upon its property. After examining the mine, however, the potential bonding firm, the Granite Securities Company of Los Angeles, decided note to go through with the deal, and the mine lay idle. Finally, in October of 1910, one John J. Barket was given a two-year lease on the entire Capricorn property, but he never made good on his lease, and the Capricorn Mine died a silent death.

Total production of the Capricorn Mine, taking the announced figures at face value, was a little over $5,000. Of this, net profits, once freight and smelter charges were deducted, were around $3,500, from which salaries and supplies must be deducted. Considering the number of years and the number of men working the mine, nobody, obviously, got rich from the Capricorn Mine. Indeed, most men would have earned far more money by spending the equivalent period of time employed as a shift miner in one of Rhyolite's bigger mines. But shift miners never get rich, and some mine owners do, and therein lies the compelling pull of the mining game. The Capricorn Mine has no historic significance. [44]

d. Howard Little Exploration Company

In direct contrast to companies such as the Death Valley Lone Star and the Capricorn, which made legitimate efforts to mine the ores of the Funeral Range, the South Bullfrog Mining District had its share of outright frauds. One such was the Howard Little Exploration Company, which was more unique in that its scheme was detected and publically exposed, then for the mere fact that it was perpetrated.

The company made its first appearance in September of 1908, when J. F. Howell, its promoter, managed to get an article printed in. the Bullfrog Miner. The nature of the article, which was little more than an advertisement, together with the quite obvious fact that the Miner editor had never heard of the company before printing the article and had not seen the property involved, says much for mining camp journalism. At any rate, the Howard Little Exploration Company, according to Howell, had a group of claims eight miles southeast of the Keane Wonder Mine. Work had been progressing at the mine for some time, and the company had a shaft down 104 feet into the ground, and was employing five men. One hundred sacks of high grade ore had been taken out of the mine for future shipment, and the company had ordered a hoisting plant and had begun grading work for the placement of that hoist. The company was headquartered in Boston, and, incidently, had stock for sale.

On the strength of that article, which was much more effective than a paid advertisement would have been, Howell sat back and watched stock subscriptions come in. His game lasted until December of 1908, when the scheme collapsed. All the Boston stockholders were not as easily fooled as Howell had hoped, and a group of them pooled their money to send an attorney and a mining engineer to inspect the mine which they were financing. Upon arrival in: Rhyolite, the two men went out to Howell's mine and found that things were not quite as Howell had said. Instead of a 104-foot deep shaft, they found merely an exploration hole. No one was working at the property, and no one had been working there since last March, before Howell obtained title to the property. No hoist had been ordered, and no grading work had been done for a hoist. In short, the whole thing was a fraud, and Howell had bilked the investors out of about $10,000. His scheme had been simple, for he had been drawing upon the company treasury to pay wages to non-existent miners, and to pay for non-existent lumber and supply bills. Happily for the Boston stockholders, Howell was immediately arrested and put behind bars, and as much of the investors' money as could be, recovered was returned to them.

Howell was unusual, in that his fraud had been detected in time to recover some of the investors' money, and in that he had been put in jail. The Bullfrog Miner, realizing that this was the case, hoped that his imprisonment "will serve as an object lesson" for other con men "that may be lurking mid the sagebrush of these parts." The Miner, also recognizing that it was largely responsible for the success of Howell, printed a long apology.

The Bullfrog Miner confesses to some duplicity in the matter. Howell's story was printed in these columns in the issue of September 19 last, and if the currency given to Howell's report assisted the faker in getting a single cent from the Boston stockholders we are very sorry for it, even though all the statements were qualified as those of Howell and not of the paper.

The Miner has always aimed to keep faith with the public in its mining reports. It enjoys a reputation for conservatism. This reputation is prized highly. It is the purpose to continue to merit the public confidence and good will.

But the Miner is not immune from imposition. No paper is. Howell worked the reporter just as he worked the Bostonians. There was no reason for doubting the correctness of the "dope" given to the scribe, and it was impossible, owing to the great distance to the "mine," to verify Howell's story.

But the damage had been done. Not only were certain Boston stockholders swindled out of their money, but the entire Bullfrog District suffered as well. Frauds such as these gave Nevada mining investments a bad image, particularly those in the area where the fraud was carried out. In addition, the honesty and reliability of the Bullfrog Miner was tarnished, which made its coverage of the rest of the mines in the area that much more suspect. All honest men, from the mine owner to the storekeepers of a district, lost when such a swindle was carried out, and it is no small wonder that feeling ran so high. The Howard Little Mine has no historic significance. [45]

e. Monarch Canyon Mine

1. History

This mine, which is one of the few of the South Bullfrog District mines to have left some physical remnants, is rather frustrating to trace. It was never a large enough operation to be incorporated into a mining company, or to have a common name, and is thus referred to today by its geographic location, in the heart of Monarch Canyon, about two miles southwest of Keane Springs.

First notice of this property was in December of 1905, when A. K. Ishmael, its locator, closed a deal with Frank Durham and a Mr. Gaylord of Los Angeles (probably the same Gaylord who was briefly associated with the Keane Wonder property). Durham and Gaylord obtained a bond and lease on the mine, with an option to purchase it from Ishmael for $20,000. Work began shortly after the deal was closed, and by January of 1906, a tunnel had been extended sixty feet into the mountainside on the Indian claim, the major claim of the group. Work was rather brief, however, and ceased sometime shortly after April of 1906, probably due to the effects of the San Francisco disaster. No further notice of the mine can be found until 1909.

Sometime in the interval between the spring of 1906 and 1909, the mine was sold by Ishmael to the Keane Springs Mining Company, an outfit which never worked the property. Then, in March of 1909, Ishmael procured a 21-year lease on the property from the Keane Springs Company, with the financial backing of Frank P. Raridati. The Indian claim of the mine was described at that time as having a seventy-foot tunnel, which indicates that hardly any work had been done between 1906 and 1909. But preliminary assays showed that the mine had $18 to $20 ore in sight, and three men were sent to start work on the property.

Ishmael took a partner named Richard E. Clapp, and the two men proceeded to develop their mine. Water near the sight was of adequate supply for a small mill, and after two months of digging the men decided that milling tests were in order. They were not thinking of a large mill, since their mine was not large, but rather of putting in a small one in order to save themselves the backbreaking labor of packing out raw ore from the mine to a Rhyolite mill. Among other improvements, Ishmael and Clapp built an assay office at their property, in order to test their ores, but the office burned down only a month after it had been completed. Nevertheless, the men stuck to their mine, and reported. good progress being made in August of 1909. Four men were employed at the site, and two tunnels were being driven, one to a length of sixty-five feet and the other to one hundred feet.

Such a small operation did not deserve much space in the Rhyolite newspapers, but periodic reports were printed, especially in the spring of 1910, when Ishmael and Clapp decided to build a small mill. In May of that year, the two men purchased a small Nissen reduction plant, and the machinery soon began to arrive. The men also bought the Hoffman House swimming pool at Rhyolite, which had closed, and tore it down and used the lumber to house their new milling, plant. By late June, a pipe line from a local spring had been completed to the mill site, and foundations were being laid. Late in August, the mill was completed and began to operate. It was a small one-stamp mill, and combined a concentration and amalgamation process of ore reduction. Cyanidation was not a part of the mill process, but could be added later.

The mill was reported to be running well in mid-September, and in October several small bars of crude bullion were sent to the Selby smelter. No returns were announced. Clapp and Ishmael, in Rhyolite for a periodic supply trip, admitted that there were some minor difficulties with the mill, but stated that on the whole it was running well. But for some reason, the mill was not regularly run after October of 1910.

Between them and April of 1911, the mine and mill were idle, and in April the Rhyolite Herald reported that work on the mine would resume soon, as the property was to be amply financed and the small mill utilized. Such, however, was not the case. The Montana-Hartford Mining Company, another South Bullfrog outfit, used the mill in June to test some of its ore, but that was its only use in all of 1911.

Although I. K. Ishmael gave up and left the country, his former partner, Richard Clapp, was not yet ready to give up. In February of 1912, Clapp reported that the Indian claim was very encouraging, and that developments would continue on the property. In May, Clapp again reported that he had a new ore shoot, and that he was in touch with eastern parties and hoped to start up on a large scale soon. In the meantime, he said, he would continue with steady development work on his own.

But with the demise of the Rhyolite Herald Rhyolite's last newspaper, in June of 1912, we come to an end of our printed detail regarding the mine. Given the general history of other such mines in the area, it is doubtful that Clapp was able to do much more with his property. Physical evidence at the site indicates that if the mine was worked at all after June of 1912, it was not worked extensively, or for a very long duration. [46]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Ishmael's and Clapp's little mill still stands in Monarch Canyon. It consists of a one-stamp Nissen crusher, built by Fairbanks & Morse, with a patent date of November 29, 1904. Most of the machinery and controls of the mill are still extant, including a one cylinder engine, two large wooden flywheels, and miscellaneous controls. The mill is built on a concrete pedestal, with a small wood and tin building around the engine and mill machinery. The structure, however, is largely demolished, due to wind and weather.

Above the mill, which is situated on the floor of the canyon, the rest of the complex rises up the steep side of the canyon wall. An ore bin is directly above the mill, and a long ore chute connects the bin to an ore tipple perched high above the mill site. From the tipple, portions of the old tram track may be followed around a bend to the mine itself, which consists of a tunnel adit and a small stoped area. Other remnants on the site include a collapsed shack near the mine, the foundation for a tent or frame building near the ore tipple, and what appears to be the stone ruins of a powder house near the mill.

mill ruins
Illustration 132. Mill ruins in Monarch Canyon. The ore tipple is out of sight above the ore chute, and the mine is around the corner from the tipple, towards the top center of the photo. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

Illustration 133. Closer view of the mill mechanism. The flywheel which shows prominently was connected to the one stamp of the mill, and was powred by the engine, housed in the small building below. Most of the debris on the ground is portions of the engine house and mill coverings, which have been blown off. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

The road to the mill has been washed down from the side of the canyon wall, but a one-mile hike from the end of the road to mill is not overly strenuous. The site is interesting and useful, as it depicts a small-time mining operation of the early 1900s, and should be exploited for interpretation, either on the site or elsewhere. The site is not of National Register significance. The mill machinery, however, has both historic and interpretive value, due to its rare Nissen-type character. Thus the mill equipment should be protected and preserved, either on the site or in the Monument's museum.

f. King Midas Claim

About half a mile to the east of the Keane Wonder. tramway, as seen on the Chloride Cliff topographic map, is located another aerial tramway which has puzzled visitors for many years. The second tramway, however, is not and has never been connected with the Keane Wonder Mine, and although it was not connected with the South Bullfrog Mining District either, this opportunity will be taken to clear up some of the past confusion.

The King Midas Claim, which covers the ground over which the tramway passes, was located and worked between 1949 and 1955 by Joseph Harris, who at one time called his mine the Keane Wonder Extension. Since Harris' mine was located high on the side of the Funeral Mountains, he constructed an aerial tramway from the mine down to the canyon floor below, in order to extract his ore. The tramway was 3,000 feet in length and descended from an elevation of 2,800 feet at the mine shaft down to 1,700 feet in the canyon floor. The tramway originally consisted of galvanized cables, towers, and a hoisting mechanism. It is still partially in place, but the power cable, tramway buckets and loading facilities are missing. An ore bin at the foot of the tramway is in disrepair. In 1975, Harris estimated that total production from his mine between 1949 and 1955 had been 300 tons of ore, and from all evidence the mine and tramway have been idle since 1955.

Although the King Midas claim appears to have no historic significance, neither the mine site or the upper portions of the tramway were examined for this study. Such an examination must take place before a final recommendation can be made for this site. [47]

g. Keane Springs and Townsite

1. History

As one of the main watering spots of the northern Funeral Range, Keane Springs was always important in the life of the South Bullfrog Mining District. Indeed, the use of the springs predates the district itself, since one Eugene Lander had a claim to the springs as early as 1878, presumably to sell its water to the Franklins who were working on their Chloride Cliff Mine. But Keane Springs saw its peak of activity during the Bullfrog mining boom.

As soon as miners and prospectors began to enter the area, Keane Springs was recognized as a major source of good water. During the summer of 1905, water was packed from the springs to the Chloride Cliff mines; as well as several other small mines in the region. As the boom continued, and more and more prospectors came into the area, the Springs also took upon a commercial and social life as a business and gathering place for the district. As early as February of 1906, S. A. C. Nelson opened the Death Valley Mercantile Company at Keane Springs, undoubtedly in a large tent, and retained C. Kyle Smith, the district recorder, as clerk of the store. In March of 1906 work was started on a wagon road from the springs to Chloride Cliff, some three miles away, and during the same month, the Kimball brothers of Rhyolite established a stage line from Rhyolite to Keane Springs, to serve the passenger and mail needs of the South Bullfrog District.

Illustration 134. Advertisement from the Bullfrog Miner, 20 April 1906.

By mid-April of 1906, the convenient location of the springs, as well as its good flow of water, caused a group of promoters to put their heads together and start the Keane Springs townsite. The town was promoted by the Keane Springs Land Company, and lots were put up for sale. Advertisements appeared in the Rhyolite newspapers, and the town was described as containing a boarding house, a store and a saloon. Since the actual site for the town was located a short distance from the springs, a pipe line was laid directly into the townsite, and all lot purchasers were guaranteed an ample supply of water at their doorsteps. Lots were advertised from $25 to $100 apiece, and a post office was applied for. Total acreage claimed by the townsite company was estimated at between 100 and 120 acres.

By late May, when the townsite was less than a month old, further improvements were noted. The springs were cemented in, in order to prevent pollution, and a pipe line was laid under ground for 500 feet to the center of town, with another 150-foot line being put in to bring water to a reservoir being built. A new road was being cut, which would eliminate much of the roundabout travel through the Funeral Range between Rhyolite and Keane Springs, and in addition to Kimball's stage tine, a regular burro train service was established to supply the needs of the inhabitants. The town at this time was described as having a store, a boarding-house, two offices, a saloon, a corral, a stable. and several tent houses. Surveying for the purpose of obtaining a patent was in progress. Work continued through the summer of 1906, and by September streets had been cleared and more tent houses erected for rent. A new frame office building, the town's first, had been completed, and although the post office was not yet approved, the postal authorities were said to be favorable towards the proposal.

But by the fall of 1906, Keane Springs had already seen its height. Many of the major mines of the region, such as the Keane Wonder and the Chloride Cliff, established their own living camps, and the minor mines never got off the ground. Chloride City became a competitor for the supply center of the district, and Keane Springs slowly declined back into a favorite watering hole, an occasional stopover for travelers and prospectors. The town, like so many of its ilk through the desert mining regions of the west, had died before it was really born.

The subsequent history of Keane Springs is one of the long periods of idleness, followed by short bursts of activity. As noted above, the Keane Wonder Mining Company purchased Keane Springs sometime around 1907, as a hedge against the mill's recurring water problems, and maintained a watchman at the property for several years, in order to protect its potential water source. A couple of prospectors were still living at the springs in 1909 in crude tent houses, but even they were washed out by a destructive cloudburst that fall. In 1910, the springs were developed by the Pennsylvania Mining & Leasing Company, which was attempting to, increase the water supply for its little one-stamp mill below Chloride Cliff, but that effort was short-lived.

Keane Springs pumping station and water tank
Illustration 135. Ca. 1935 photo of the Keane Springs pumping station and water tank, built by the Coen Corporation between 1935 and 1937. The old Keane Springs townsite is across the low hill behind the pump, towards the top right of the picture. Photo courtesy of Death Valley National Monument Library, classification 622.1.

Between 1911 and 1912, W. W. Wilson, who listed his residence as Keane Springs, planted "all kinds of garden vegetables," in an attempt to start a truck garden, probably for sale to the small core of miners left in the area. His effort was also short-lived. Following the departure of Wilson, the springs were relatively undisturbed until the 1935-1937 years, when the Coen Corporation began mining at the Big Bell. In connection with that mining effort, improvements were made at the spring, including the installation of a large pump house and engine, and a galvanized iron holding tank. Pipe was laid from the spring up to Chloride Cliff and then back down to the Big Bell Mine, with the pipe line generally following the Keane Springs-Chloride Cliff trail, and then the cable road from the Cliff down to the mine. After the demise of the Coen Company's efforts in 1937, the equipment was abandoned. [48]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

The most prominent remains in the vicinity of Keane Springs today are the water tank and the ruins of the pumping machinery installed by the Coen Company. The pump was powered by a diesel engine, was manufactured by the Fulton Engine Works of Los Angeles, and has three pumping cylinders. The water tank is approximately ten feet high. Pipes from the pump run in two directions, and may be traced along the road from Keane Springs most of the way up to Chloride Cliff and from there down the side of the cable road to the Big Bell Mine. In the other direction, the pipes can be found leading towards the Keane Springs townsite, which is nestled in a small wash among the low hills of the Funeral range plateau. Much of the potential of the townsite was lost through the flood of 1909, but several level tent platform sites remain, some of which have low retaining walls still standing. No more than seven such sites can be found, indicating the destruction of the flood and the fact that the townsite never prospered. The setting, however, is quite picturesque, and since the townsite can be reached by passenger cars, could prove quite an interpretive attraction. A brief story of the short life of this ill-fated mining camp would make an interesting contrast to the more permanent camps, such as Chloride City, and the real boom towns of the early 1900s, such as Rhyolite.

Although the site is interesting, its brief life and lack of any real contribution to the history or development of the area do not qualify it for National Register consideration.

pump ruins

pump ruins
Illustrations 136-137. Ruins of the Keane Springs pumping machinery in 1978. Bottom: Close-up of the ruins of the pump. 1978 photos by John Latshcar.

Keane Springs townsite

Keane Springs townsite
Illustrations 138-139. Top: The Keane Springs townsite area began about where the road disappears in the middle of the photo. The main living areas appear to have followed the bottom of the shallow wash, which was not particularly good planning in a desert environment with its occasional flash floods. Bottom: A closer view of the same wash, showing one of the larger remaining leveled tent sites. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Funeral Range
Illustration 140. A typical view of the northern Funeral Range, in the vicinity of Keane Springs. The townsite is located to the left of the road, about a half a mile, and the springs are just beyond the low hill in the foreground. The Keane Spirngs-Chloride Cliff trail may be picked out in several places, winding towards the top of the picture. Chloride Cliff itself is located just below the highest range of mountains in the extreme background. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003