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

6. Echo-Lee Mining District

a. History

In the southern part of the Funeral Range lies another miners! district which boomed during the great Bullfrog years. From the former site of Schwab on the west side of the range, this district paralleled a line drawn east and northeast through Echo Canyon out to Lee, California, on the east side of the mountains, and on across the Nevada state line into the Amargosa Valley. Although this mining district covered portions of both California and Nevada, the greater part lay in California, Since the Death Valley National Monument boundary runs along the state line in this area, this section will deal primarily with that portion of the mining district which lay within California and the Monument boundaries.

The first locations in the area are credited to Old Man Finley, a veteran desert prospector, who traced his connections back to the days of Breyfogle. Finlay had accompanied Breyfogle on several of his futile searches for the Lost Breyfogle mine, and during one of those trips in the late 1800s, noticed and located several gold prospects on the east side of the Funeral Mountains, near the Nevada state line. His locations, however, lay neglected until the impetus of the Bullfrog rush hit the region. Then, accompanied by Richard and Gus Lee, two brothers from another old desert family, Finlay relocated several prospects in November of 1904 and the early months of 1905.

Illustration 141. Southeast portion of Big Dune Area.

At about the same time, other prospectors were beginning to wander into the southern Funeral Range, as the splash caused by the Bullfrog strikes sent ripples flowing out in all directions through southern Nevada and southeastern California. Between January and March of 1905, Chet Leavitt discovered a gold prospect on the western side of the Funerals, in Echo Canyon. When the news of these two strikes hit the booming towns of Bullfrog and Rhyolite, a minor rush to the southern Funeral Range began, as those prospectors who were too late to cash in on the Bullfrog District began to search elsewhere for their gold. Within a short time, more locations were made between Leavitts strike on the west and Finlay's and the Lee brothers' on the east.

By March of 1905, enough prospectors had filtered into the area for a new mining district to be created, and on the 31st of that month, the first movements to establish the Lee Mining District had started. A few months later, in October, a similar condition existed on the west side of the Funerals, and the Echo Mining District was organized. The two districts, which soon merged and became known as the Echo-Wee Mining District, had boundaries which can roughly be described as the Amargosa Valley on the east, the South Bullfrog Mining District on the north, Death Valley on the West, and Furnace Creek wash on the south. By October of 1905, interest in the new district was high, but although the Rhyolite Herald reported that "considerable work" was being done, the boom was still in its beginning stages. [49]

But in 1906 the action began to heat up By the end of January two companies had begun to work on the Lee side of the district and six companies on the Echo side. Preliminary efforts were begun to improve the communications of the district, especially those on the Echo side. Since anyone wishing to reach the Echo District had to travel from Rhyolite west through Daylight Pass, south down the Death Valley floor, and then back east up Echo Canyon, work on a road to cross the Funeral Range from the Lee side of the district over into the Echo side was begun. As time went on, and more and more locations were made along the mountains between the two sides, such work became easier.

By the end of April, 1906, when two more companies had begun operations on the Lee side and two more on the Echo side, the district was beginning to boom. The new railroads coming into Rhyolite kept a dose eye on this new activity, and the Tonopah & Tidewater in particular made it known that their line would hug the east side of the Funerals, in order to be in the best position to capitalize upon the new mines of the Echo-Lee and South Bullfrog districts. The Rhyolite newspapers were also well aware of the amount of business which new mining districts would bring to their town, and several editorials specifically pointed out this tact.

As the summer and tall of 1906 progressed, it became apparent that enough mineral content was present in the southern Funeral Range for the new mining district to be there to stay. By the end of that year, another company had begun work on the Lee side of the range, and six more had begun on the Echo side, making 19 companies in all working in the new, district. As the population swelled, several major problems surfaced, two of the most important of which were the troubles in communication between the mines of this remote region, and the lack of water. The miners banded together to solve both these problems, with subscriptions taken up to drill a well along the road from Rhyolite into the Lee area, and a similar contribution being taken to fund the building of a road all the way from Rhyolite, through Lee, to the Echo Canyon side of the range. By the end of 1906, both projects were underway. [50]

Illustration 142. One of the earliest adverisements for the Echo Canyon mines, which appeared in the Rhyolite Herald of October 12, 1906.

Illustration 143. A later advertisement, which appeared in the Rhyolite Herald of December 21, 1906.


NameDate First MentionedDate Last Mentioned
Hayseed Mining Company5 January 19066 January 1912
Tenderfoot Mine15 January 19069 December 1908
Honeysuckle Mining Company23 February 19063 August 1907
Lee Hidden Treasure Gold Mining Company20 April 19032 December 1911
Bullfrog Echo Mining Company1 October 190615 February 1907
Honeysuckle Extension Mining Company24 January 19073 August 1907
Lea Gold Grotto Mining Company25 January 19076 November 1909
Flapjack Mine1 February 190728 January 1911
Lee Whale Mining Company1 March 190725 May 1909
Lee State Line Gold Mining Company1 March 19078 May 1908
Lee Cold Crest Mining Company15 March 19073 August 1907
Lee Buster Mining Company5 April 190715 November 1907
Daddy Lee Mining Company5 April 190724 May 1907
Georgia Lee Mining Company5 April 190710 December 1908
Nero Mining Company26 April 19078 August 1908
Jumbo Consolidated Mining Company3 May 19078 November 1907
Ducks Mine10 May 190727 April 1912
Hayseed Extension Mining Company8 June 19073 August 1907
Lee Bank Mining Company6 July 19072 December 1908
Utopia Mining Company6 July 190728 December 1907
Gold Shield Mine3 August 190711 January 1908
Peerless Lee Mining Company3 August 19076 December 1907
Pumpkin Mining Company3 August 19072 December 1911
Lee Florence Mining Company24 August 190724 August 1907
Lee Comstock Mining Company14 September 1907January 1908
Chambers Mine2 September 190810 September 1910

(Outside Death Valley National Monument Boundary)

Anna Mine Lee Bonanza Mining Company
Apache Mine Lee Bonanza Extension Mining Company
Blue Grass Mine Lee Consolidated Mining Company
Bullfrog View Mining Company Lee Mines Company
Cala-vada Mining Company Lee Mohawk Mining Company
Calvin Mine Lee Nevada Mining Company
Combination Mining Company Lee Princess Mining Company
Cornucopia Mine Lee Virginia Mining Company
Frisco Mine North End Mining Company
Goldstone Mining Company Swan Hilda Mining Company
Grandee Mine Swan Hilda Annex Mining Company
Greater Nevada Mining Company Skookum Mining Company
Lee Bell Mining Company


NameDate First MentionedDate Last Mentioned
Inyo Gold Mining CompanyJanuary 190527 January 1912
Bradshaw & Paymel Mine15 March 190527 April 1912
Sutter Mine17 November 19051 March 1907
Sunnyside Mining Company5 January 190514 August 1909
Nellie. B. Mine12 January 190626 February 1910
Lee Burro Gold Mining Company12 January 190625 February 1911
Lee Jumbo Gold Mining Company23 March 190617 June 1909
Echo Gilt Edge Mining & Milling Company13 April 19067 June 1912
Echo Canyon Gold Mining Company29 June 19065 October 1907
Mesquite Mine9 November 190617 May 1907
Burro Extension Mining Company30 November 19062 December 1908
Skybo Mining Company19 October 190613 June 1912
Echo-Lee Gold Mining Company21 December 190514 August 1909
Lee Imperial Mining Company21 December 19063 August 1907
Ready Cash Mine4 January 190722 February 1907
Lee Theresa-Clyde Mining Company1 February 190717 May 1907
Gold Top Mine1 February 19071 February 1908
Rosario Mining Company15 February 190711 January 1913
Echo Consolidated Mining Company22 February 19077 November 1908
Pearl Mine1 March 190718 April 1908
Gold Pick Mine1 March 19071 March 1907
Inyo Ventura Mining Company1 March 190712 April 1907
Lee Golden Gate Mining Company22 March 190718 January 1908
North Burro Lee Mining Company19 April 190719 April 1907
Idaho Mine3 August 190715 August 1908
Angelus Mining Company31 August 19078 November 1907
Portland Gold Mining Company12 October 190718 October 1907
Ready Money Mine1 February 19087 March 1908

Early in 1907, the Echo-Lee District emerged into a completely full-fledged mining boom. Between January and April of 1907, ten new mining companies opened operations in the Lee side of the district, and ten additional mines were started on the Echo side. Several towns were platted on both sides of the range, with Lee, California leading the list on the east side and Schwab on the west. In mid-January of 1807, the Rhyolite Herald observing the beginnings of a real boom to the south, noted that the district had been held back in the past by a scarcity of water and difficulties in getting supplies, but that those conditions were now almost a thing of the past. "It is typical of Nevada to astonish the mining world and to offer sensations in mineral products," said the Herald "and it is predicted that the Lee District will not only astonish but will become another sensation of Southern Nevada." Being based in Rhyolite, Nevada, the Herald naturally called the most attention to the Nevada portion of the Echo-Lee District.

The Bullfrog Miner also took note of the genuine rush to the district. Early in February, that paper blazed in its headlines that the "STAMPEDE 5 ON TO LEE," and reported that twenty-five outfits had been counted on the road to Lee in one day. "The rush appears to be on in earnest. The stock brokers of Rhyolite also took a keen interest in the new mines, for every new mining company meant more stock for them to trade and thus more commissions. Although Taylor & Griffiths, one such firm, acknowledged that the less said about the stock market now the better for all hands," they went on to add that the Lee and Echo District mines were doing well. Promotion stocks in the good companies were much in demand, and twenty to forty rigs were seen going into the new district every day.

As the rush continued in February, the Bullfrog Miner began to see visions of wealth and glory for Rhyolite, which could add to the fame from its own mines by becoming a major supply center for outlying districts such as Lee and Echo. While the mines of those districts had not yet been developed to any great degree, the Miner noted that when they were the Lee and Echo districts promise to surpass Goldfield and all others, and as a consequence "RHYOLITE WILL PASS GOLDFIELD," and become the single most important mining center in Nevada. A week later, the Miner was still singing the praises of the new district. "Echo and Lee at present occupy the center of the stage of mining excitement. For months local operators have had their eyes on these funeral range camps . . . and many sagacious Bullfrogs stand in the way of making a mint of money by their timely investments in Lee and Echo Ground."

Taylor & Griffiths, in turn, were only too glad to echo these sentiments. "The Echo-Lee district is the center of the greatest activity seen in this section of the country since the early days of the Bullfrog," they wrote. "We predict that the Echo Lee district will be the sensation of the year in the gold mining camps." In honor of the new district, the Bullfrog Miner published a special sixteen-page Lee-Echo supplement to its regular eight-page paper on March 1, 1907, packed full of descriptions of mines in the district, as well as advertisements for most of them.

Toward the latter part of February, as more and more companies began work, enough wage-earning miners were hired to justify the formation of a union. On February 27th, the Death Valley Miner's Union was organized, and the Rhyolite scale of wages, $4.50 per day for normal underground miners, was adopted. In early April, the miners on the Echo side of the district followed suit, and organized the Echo Miners Union, headquartered at Schwab, the leading mining camp on that side of the range. As the boom continued, the stock brokers reported good business in Lee and Echo stocks, and Taylor & Griffiths reported that the "interest in the Lee district remains unabated.

stock certificate
Illustration 144. Courtesy of the Allan Metscher collection, Central Nevada Historical Society.

Illustration 145. From the Rhyolite Herald, 1 March 1907. As evident from these advertisements, Rhyolite stock brockers and mining promoters were instrumental in promoting the Echo-Lee mines.

Echo-Lee Mine
Illustrations 146-147. Although this is a relatively poor picture, it helps put the Echo-Lee District mining boom into perspective. The shaft in the middle is the main working shaft of the Echo-Lee Mining Company, which was a fully incorporated mining company, owning fifteen claims. Stock in the company at the time of the photo was selling for 15¢ per share. Note the lack of structures around the mine, and the crude hand windlas used to hoist the ore. Such opertaions were very typical of the Echo-Lee District, and each of these isolated mines hoped to strike it rich. The Echo-Lee Mining Company, however, was not one of the lucky ones, and its mine never saw much more activity than what is depicted here. Compare this photo, taken from the Rhyolite Herald of 15 March 1907, with the following advertisement, from the Herald edition of March 1, 1907.

When spring turned into summer, even the heat of the Death Valley climate could not slacken the pace of the boom. Two new companies started work in Echo and nine in Lee. The Inyo Independent reported in late May that eighty men were employed as wage-earners in the mining companies operating in the district, and estimated that another 500 could be found prospecting around the hills, or working their own small mines. Some water had been found in the vicinity of Lee, which alleviated one of the problems of the district, but water still sold for $3.00 per barrel, and much of it was still hauled in from Rhyolite. In mid-July, the Bullfrog Miner reported that eight to ten companies had hoists in place and operating, and more had hoists on order--a prime indication that many companies were passing from the earlier stages of development where hand windlasses and horse whims were used to raise the ore.

But in the fall and winter of 1907, the bloom went off the Echo-Lee boom, a direct result of the Panic of 1907. This financial panic, which hurt all the mining districts of the west, even those proven areas such as Goldfield and Tonopah, arrived at the worst possible time for the young district in the southern Funeral Range. By the end of September 1907, when the effects of the Panic began to make themselves felt in the area, a total of fifty-two mining companies had begun operations in the Echo and Lee Districts--plus another, twenty-five on the Nevada side of the Lee District. Although nine of these companies had failed shortly after they were formed, the Panic caused the demise of numerous more companies. Between August of 907 and the end of the year, a total of thirteen mines went out of business, and no new mines began operations.

The panic had hit just when most of the Echo-Lee mines were beginning to make the transition from the exploration stage into more serious development work. Many mines had proved that they had ore in the ground, which was the purpose of the early stages of exploration, and were just now beginning to start the expensive work of proving the extent of their ore reserves and extracting that ore for shipment or milling. For this purpose, eighteen hoists had been ordered and placed in the district during 1907, and miners had been hired to work the ore deposits. All this was done through funds supplied by stock sales and in a few cases by individual owners of mines. But now, with the panic affecting all segments of western mining, investors and mine owners began to pull in their horns. Small investors were forced to sell off their stock holdings in order to meet loan obligations called in by failing banks, or even to pay for food when their jobs were lost. Larger investors and promoters, most of whom came from Rhyolite and Goldfield, quickly dumped their smaller holdings in the Echo-Lee District in order to protect their larger and much more important investments in Rhyolite and Goldfield, which were their main sources of wealth and support. The Echo-Lee District, at the time when it most needed investor confidence and large treasury funds in order to mine the ore in the ground, suddenly felt itself cut off from all funds whatsoever, and mine after mine was forced to close down for lack of money to pay for labor and supplies.

Some of these mines closed for good, but many were able to weather the panic and resume operation in 1908! But the boom was now definitely over, and investors, once. burned by the Echo-Lee District, were loath to reinvest in those mines--even though they had been burned by circumstances far beyond the control of the mining companies. Consequently, after the fall of 1907, a decided change took place in the Echo-Lee District, as the mines which were left struggled to survive in a much more pessimistic atmosphere than that which had prevailed during the rosy days of the boom during the spring and summer of 1907.

In late December of 1907, reflecting this trend, the Rhyolite Herald noted that only ten companies were actively operating in Lee, although many others were expected to resume once the financial distress had passed. "In ordinary times," wrote the Herald Lee would experience a strong boom, and I predict as money becomes easier, you will see much of it invested in Lee." [51]

During the early months of 1908, the Panic gradually eased its hold upon the district. Only six more companies gave up during that period, and one new company started, although it also failed after only a few months. Several of the old mines, which had closed during the previous fall, were relocated by individual prospectors on midnight of December 31st when the old claims became invalid. But most of these were small, one-man operations, and never amounted to much.

As the district slowly revived, several individuals began to look into one of the major sources of the district's troubles. The Echo-Lee District had no milling facilities of its own, and thus had to transport its ore into Rhyolite for treatment there or elsewhere. This necessitated a large freight expense, which kept mines with low grade ore from becoming paying propositions. Ore of the content, for example, which kept the Keane Wonder Mill operating for years, was present in the Echo-Lee District in smaller quantities, but the expenses of transporting it to Rhyolite made it unprofitable to mine and mill. Thus J. D. Cushman and several other leading mine owners proposed the erection of a custom milling plant for the district, which would be able to treat ore from all the local mines. The idea was a good one, but unfortunately, no one had a combination of money and faith in the district necessary to finance such a project.

In the meantime, more and more of the Echo-Lee mines gave up on developing the mines themselves, and began to turn to the leasing method, a sure indication of hard times. Lessees were not hard to find, for most of the mines had enough promise to put stars in the eyes of desert prospectors, but with the exception of an occasional small sack of high-grade ore, none of the lessees made good. Finally, in May of 1908, one of the final unmistakable signs of the decline of a mining district appeared when the Lee State Line Gold Mining Company's property was put up for sale at a sheriff's auction. The State Line Mine had looked so promising only the previous spring that its claims had been patented. Although such a move made title to its claims absolutely secure, it also made the company's property subject to property taxes from the county, and now the company could not pay those taxes.

Three more mining companies went broke during the summer of 1908, as the trend continued. The Rhyolite Herald reported in mid-June that the camp of Lee was quiet, a far cry from the year before. During the remainder of 1908, five more companies went broke, and even nature took a hand against the district, when a major cloudburst washed out a large part of the road from Lee to Schwab. Several thousand dollars was estimated as being necessary to repair the road, and no one in the district had that kind of money. By the end of 1908, only eighteen companies were left in the entire district, and many of those were only performing the annual assessment work necessary to retain title to their claims, while awaiting better times. [52]

But the Echo-Lee District did not die easily. As 1909 opened, the Rhyolite Herald noted renewed interest in the district, and gave an assessment of the previous years. The panic . . . was probably felt in the Lee district a great deal worse than in most other of Nevada's gold camps . . . during the hard times it was next to impossible to secure sufficient capital to properly develop its mines. Today, mining conditions are decidedly better, and from this time on Lee-Echo will begin to give an account for herself that will surprise the world. The Bullfrog Miner agreed with that assessment, and reported in early February that "Slowly, but surely, conditions are improving at Echo Lee. . . ."

But, unfortunately, such conditions did not improve enough. The trend of 1908 continued through 1909, and during that year, five more companies gave up and abandoned their claims, leaving only thirteen that still retained hope. The Ash Meadows Water Company, which had intended to lay a pipe line into Lee, and had even surveyed such a line the previous year, abandoned its plans to supply the district with water, for a lack of customers. Likewise, the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, which had talked several times of extending a branch line to the district during the balmier days, abandoned its plans, due to a decided lack of freight demand. The Bullfrog Miner, perhaps not understanding the situation as well as it should, wondered in September why there were only twenty-live men working in the entire district, when everyone knew that there was good ground to be had for the picking.

The year 1910 proved no more fortunate. Although only two more companies abandoned their mines that year, the majority of the eleven which were left were reduced to being able to do little more than their annual assessment work. More companies which had patented their claims in prosperous days, such as the Lee Jumbo Gold Mining Company, were forced to miss their tax payments, and saw their property sold at sheriffs auctions. The district died hard, however, and still had enough inhabitants in 1910 to qualify as a poling place for both the primary and general elections of Inyo County. But in 1911, even though a few mining companies struggled on, very little more than assessment work was done. Four more companies gave up that year, leaving seven in token operation, and more fell under the sheriff's hammer. But by 1912, even the most foolhardy had given up, and six more companies folded, leaving only the Rosario Mining Company on the active list--and it gave up in January of 1913.

The Echo-Lee Mining District, after a grand beginning and a boom which was in the best traditions of western mining, had been fatally crippled by the Panic of 1907. Although many of the mines had continued to struggle through the succeeding years, their hopes were futile. Once Rhyolite itself began to show signs of dying around 1910, the final fate of its surrounding districts was almost a foregone conclusion. Although a few sporadic attempts were made in the depression years of the 1930s to revive a few of the mines, those efforts also failed rather quickly, and the Echo-Lee District has been virtually deserted ever since. [53]

b. Lee California

An integral part of every self-respecting mining boom, regardless of size, was the establishment and promotion of a town. The Lee District was no different from any other boom area in this respect, and was actually slower that most in starting a town. But eventually, a group of enterprising individuals decided to cash in on the boom spirit. Starting a town, however, was a little more difficult than it seems. On the surface, all one had to do was to locate and claim a parcel of land, within comfortable distance from the mines which he wanted to serve, and then just stake out lots for sale. But unless the townsite promoter could persuade people to buy his land, he would go broke, and since everyone was living on free land before he came, he needed a powerful incentive. That incentive was business. If the promoter could get the business houses, especially the saloons, boarding houses and restaurants, as well as the grocery and hardware stores, to locate in his town, then his townsite could offer the advantages which would overcome the cost of buying a lot. Thus the town promoters would normally enter into reciprocal agreements with merchants, and would offer them prize locations at cheap prices or even for free. The merchants, who were just as anxious to be the first into a new town, and who wanted locations near the center of the future town, were usually more than happy to enter into this kind of deal.

Such was the case of the Lee District. With the start of the Lee boom, in late 1905 and early 1906, miners and prospectors who came into the area merely pitched their tents wherever they wished, and set up housekeeping--provided, of course, that they were not or anyone's claim. It was not until November of 1905, when the Lee District was first beginning to experience a real boom, that rumors of a new townsite were heard, and sometime during the next month a town was laid out. In early January of 1907, the Lee Townsite & Mining Company was organized to promote this new town of Lee, named after the district and the Lee brothers who were instrumental in opening the district. The townsite was platted, and tents, building materials and supplies were sent in. The company announced that it would be ready to accept inhabitants by January 10th. The town was situated twenty-five miles from Rhyolite, and advertised that it would soon have a telephone connection, a corral and feed yard, a restaurant, rooming house, and, of course, a saloon. The new town was located in Nevada, just east of the California state line, and thus outside of the Death Valley National Monument boundary.

But more than one group of promoters had the same idea, and another townsite was soon started. Interstate rivalry played a part, for the second town, which was situated inside California, was named Lee, California, and was promoted by the Lee Hidden Treasure Mining Company, upon whose property the townsite was platted. As the Bullfrog Miner observed, "it is claimed that a camp is never fairly certain of a good future until it has a townsite fight," and such a fight was now on.

The timing and the location was right for Lee, California, and the town quickly began to grow. Rhyolite merchants established branch stores and other individuals opened up places of business, hoping to capitalize on the new mining boom. By February 8th, the town boasted of a restaurant, a rooming house and a saloon, as well as a general store, and plans for a feed lot, a lumber yard, a grocery, a liquor store, and a general merchandise store were in the works. Twenty-six people had purchased lots towards the middle of town, all under agreement that wooden buildings would have to be erected, and one eighteen by thirty foot frame building and seventeen temporary tent stores and houses were already in the town. The Kimball Brothers of Rhyolite established regular service to Lee, with thrice-weekly stages leaving Rhyolite every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning.


Illustrations 148-149. Ad for Lee, Nevada (top), full-page ad (bottom) from the Bullfrog Miner, 1 March 1907.

By mid-February, the papers reported that both Lee, Nevada and Lee, California were booming. About 150 people were in the two towns already, lumber was coming in by the wagon load, and tent buildings were given to frame structures. F. S. McArthur established a daily auto service between Rhyolite and the two Lee towns, in competition with the Kimball Brothers' stages, and the autos were scheduled to leave Rhyolite at B A.M. each day and Lee at 10 AM. for the return trip. Lee, California, was platted and plans were laid for the establishment of six business blocks, with the residential district surrounding them.

As February moved into March, and the Lee boom went into full swing, the two towns heightened their competition. Newspaper ads were placed, extolling the virtues of each townsite, and much behind the scenes bargaining took place between the two groups of townsite promoters and the merchants coming into the district. By March 1st, Lee, California seemed to be winning the tight, with an estimated population of 100 citizens, although the only real difference between the two towns, as the Death Valley Chuck-Walla pointed out, was that gambling was legal in Nevada and was not in California. Even that, however, made little difference, as no one seemed particularly concerned with controlling gambling in California. Indeed, neither town had any peace officers or county officials appointed as yet, so a certain freedom from restraint was definitely present.

On March 1st, in its special Lee-Echo edition, the Bullfrog Miner described the towns in some detail. Lee, California had forty tents and several frame houses at the time, and included businesses such as two restaurants, two rooming houses, three saloons and a bakery. Water cost $3 per barrel, already down from the $5 of the previous year, and would get cheaper as soon as some new wells were dug. The telephone line into town was expected to be completed within a week. On March 5th, the plat of Lee, California was approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors. The townsite was roughly in the shape of a squat triangle, with a width of five blocks at the base, and a height of five blocks. Provisions were made for the sale of 400 lots.

By the end of March, the Rhyolite Herald predicted that Lee, California would win the townsite battle, as it "seems to have the call." In reality, the mines around Lee, California were showing greater promise than those around Lee, Nevada, which was of primary importance. Between sixty and seventy tents and buildings were in the California town, and additional structures were going up as fast as carpenters could work A new lumber yard was established, and another saloon and a fresh meat market headed the list of new businesses. An ice house was added the next week, making the preservation of meats, produce and drinks much easier for all concerned, and an average of six buildings were started each week during the latter part of March and the first of April.

Then, on April 19th, the fatal blow to the hopes of Lee, Nevada, was struck, S. J. Hernstadt, who was a principal owner of the Hidden Treasure Mining Company as well as a chief promoter of Lee, California, struck pure water at a depth of 120 feet, 3-1/2 miles east of Lee. Since Hernstadt was so closely connected with Lee, California, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that none of his water would find its way to Lee, Nevada. Hernstadt immediately announced plans to lay a pipe line and build a pumping station to bring the water into Lee, California.

Illustration 150. An early advertisement from an enterprising merchant who set up stores in both Lee, Nevaga and Lee, California, until he determined which town would win the townsite fight. From the Bullfrog Miner, 8 March 1907.

By mid-April, the town of Lee had grown magnificently. A post office had been established in the Colorado House, which was already Lee's leading saloon and gentlemen's club. In addition, the town had four restaurants, one meat market, four general stores, three feed yards, four office buildings, four saloons--including one which was built of corrugated iron and measured twenty by forty feet--one dry goods store, one assay office, two lodging houses, one ice house, a miners supply store, one barber shop, one surveying office, one brokerage office, two lumber yards, and a stage station. Not to be left out the Death Valley Miners Union was just beginning to erect a Union Hall, a traditional ingredient of any western mining town.

In addition to all these frame or iron buildings, the downtown business district was literally surrounded by a sea of white tents, the homes of miners and business men recently moved into the district. Lots were selling from $30 to $450 each, depending upon location, and the population was put at 300 men and twenty ladies. According to the Bullfrog Miner, these twenty ladies were "very much contented and happy with this new camp life. . . ." Dances were held "every time a new building is dedicated, which is quite often indeed." [54

But such prosperity was not to go unchallenged. On April 19th, "one of the largest townsite and mining property transactions yet consummated in the history of southern Nevada trading was made, when the L, P. McGarry Brokerage Company of Rhyolite, which we have already met as the operators of the Bullfrog West Extension Mining Company, secured control of the Hayseed Extension Mining Company, the North Bullfrog Lee Mining Company and the Gold Shield Mine. Since, as McGarry announced to the papers, the Lee, California townsite lay in a wash which was unsuitable for a real town, McGarry planned to start a new one, called Lee Addition, upon his new land. The new town was described as being "one of the prettiest" sites in that portion of the country. "The people of the old town," McGarry boldly told the papers, "are moving just as rapidly as they can to get locations, and the new town of Lee [Addition] is a lively rival" to both Lee, California and Lee, Nevada.

Within a week, McGarry's Lee Addition was taking shape, with fifteen to twenty tent sites upon the ground, and a boarding house. But the promotors of Lee, California were not worried, and asked "the Herald to state that the town is just where it always has been, and always will be; in other words, that Lee, Cal., is doing business at the same old stand." Despite its new rival, Lee, California had the upper hand, and continued to grow. The new well did a "land office business," with men lining up to draw water, and the flow was sufficient to satisfy their demands. Preparations were made to put in the pipe line from the well into town, and to build the pumping station. Late in April, realizing that his town was now big enough to require some sort of governmental authority, S. J. Hernstadt submitted a petition with eighty signatures to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, asking that a Justice of the Peace be appointed for Lee.

During May of 1907, with the Echo-Lee boom in its fullest bloom, Lee continued to grow. The Death Valley Miners Union reported a membership of seventy miners, and stepped up construction of its union hall. The telephone exchange was finally completed, which linked Lee to the outside world, and J. P. Nelson announced plans to build a $5,000 hotel. By this time, the Bullfrog Miner reported that Lee, Nevada had "all but given up and moved to California," but the Lee Addition remained as a rival to Lee, California. The two townsites, however, were so close together that the Miner predicted that instead of slugging it out, they would eventually grow together and become one town. A new general store was built, J. E. Saunderson announced plans to open a bank in the fall, the Pacific Express Company moved into town, another saloon opened, and C. E. Kincaid was appointed as Justice of the Peace and deputy tax collector for Lee and its environs.

As May progressed, the rivalry between Lee and Lee Addition continued to keep pace with the district's boom. The plat of Lee Addition was approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors on May 6th. McGarry was even more optimistic concerning his town than the promoters of Lee, California had been, as his plat shows a townsite eight blocks long and five blocks wide, with over 800 lots staked out for sale. One week later the two townsites came to an agreement whereby the water from Hernstadt's well would be shared between the two towns, since there was sufficient for both. On May 17th, the Miners Union at Lee gave an informal dance as a house warming for their "magnificent Hall," a frame structure measuring twenty-eight by sixty feet. The hall was big enough for six sets to dance at one time.

As summer began, and the boom at Lee showed no signs of abating, the Kimball Brothers increased their stage service into town to a daily schedule, and reported that their stages were "loaded down each trip." The stage left Rhyolite at 7:30 each morning and returned about 6 P.M. Recognizing the need for law and order, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors let out bids in late June for the erection of a jail at Lee. Late in that month, the Lee, California citizens also organized themselves for government by the establishment of a Board of Trade. A charter membership was appointed to look after the general welfare of the camp. Like those at Rhyolite and many other mining camps in the west, such a board of trade exceeded its legal authority in assuming the right to govern a town, but no one seemed to complain, given the need for some sort of civic direction.

In late July a two-story, ten room wooden hotel building was completed at Lee, and Hernstadt's well was cased up and the pump put in. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, which was then building into Rhyolite, sent a representative to assess the freight potential of the district, and announced that it would run a spur track into town in the near future, "if conditions justify it." The Rhyolite Herald in conjunction with S. J. Hernstadt, announced that arrangements were almost completed for a paper to be started at Lee, which would be published at the Rhyolite office until a printing plant could be brought into town. Just to complete the requirements of the town, Dr. D. C. Parnsworth moved in towards the end of July, giving the miners and their families the promise of medical attention. As a final note depicting the prosperity of a booming mining camp, on August 17th, the Lee Board of Trade passed a resolution restricting the redlight district to two blocks and warned that the restriction would be rigidly enforced. Lee had arrived. [55]

Illustration 151. A selection of advertisements for various Lee, California businesses, from the Bullfrog Miner, 3 August 1907.

As the fall of 1907 began, the town of Lee, California had reached its height, although its inhabitants did not yet know it. Indeed, signs seemed most promising, especially when the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad came into the vicinity and established a station, known as Leeland, along its main line into Rhyolite. With the tracks now a reality, General Manager John Ryan of the railroad visited Lee to assess the freight situation and left, saying that "little doubt is entertained but that the branch will be built into Lee. A week later, the Ash Meadows Water Company, a corporation formed to pipe water into the booming districts of Lee and Greenwater, finished the survey of its pipeline into Lee. Water would be brought to Lee, the company announced, before the line was built into Greenwater.

In early October, Lee even had its own newspaper, as the Lee Herald a branch publication of the Rhyolite Herald issued its first paper. Although it was only a six-page folio newspaper that was printed at Rhyolite and shipped to Lee, that was enough to establish the prestige of any mining camp. On October 15th, Leeland Station on the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad opened for service. With the railroad now only six miles from camp, freight and transportation costs between Lee and the outside world were cut considerably. But the rail service had a drawback. With the new railroad, stage demand for the Lee-Rhyolite line dropped drastically, and the Kimball Brothers cut back on their operations. Since the Kimball stages had brought the mail into Lee as an optional service, Lee was suddenly left with no regular mail delivery, and it began to pile up in Rhyolite.

By late October and early November, the effects of the Panic of 1907 began to be felt in Lee. As mines began to shut down and miners left to find work elsewhere, the town slowly began to lose its population. Even though Lee was estimated to have 500 citizens in early November of 1907, the decline had started. Nevertheless, the town carried on. A daily stage service between Leeland and Lee was established, with the six miles being covered in one hour In late December a new mail contract was let, and the Leeland stage also began to bring in Lees mail, which made the inhabitants seem much less isolated.

Lee, California

Lee, California

Lee, California

Lee, California
Illustrations 152-153-154-154a. Panoramic view of Lee, California. The center of town is evident on the left, the dump and shafthouse of the Hayseed Mine is in the right corner, and a few tents of Lee Addition are visible in the center distance. Note the number of tents as compared to wooden buildings in town, which indicates that the photo was taken before the peak of Lee's Boom. The wagon road to Rhyolite fades out of the photo towards the left top, as it enters the Amargosa Valley. Bottom photo: Merged view of three preceeding photos. Photo courtesy Nevada Historical Society.

And there were still a few people migrating into Lee, helping to ease the flow of migrants moving out. One such was the town's second doctor, who was described by the Rhyolite Herald "Mrs. Dr. Sellier," as she was called, was lately of Rhyolite, and opened an office in Lee on December 27th. "Dr. Sellier uses electricity in the practice of her profession, and is said to be very successful. She is also a phrenologist, palmist and telphthist [sic], and is endowed with physic and magnetic power to a wonderful degree, and being a thoroughly posted mining expert is able to give advice in matters connected with this industry." Medical help was not always the best in a mining camp. [56]

Storekeepers and other merchants, who depended upon a stead flow of cash to stay solvent, usually left a dying camp sooner than did the miners and prospectors who were willing to live on bacon and beans while digging for gold. Lee was no exception to this rule, During the first half of 1908 most of the town's business establishment sold out, packed up, and departed for other booming camps, to try again. Although there were still eleven mining companies active to some degree in the Echo-Lee District in June of 1908, the town had dwindled to only three stores, a saloon and a restaurant. The camp was described in an understatement as being quiet, although those who were left were expecting "better days when the universal hard times are over."

Many of those stores which had survived closed for the summer season, as the heat caused most of the mining companies to shut down work for several months. The Lee Hotel, for example, was closed sometime in the spring of 1908 and did rot reopen until early December, when its proprietor returned from San Francisco. One of the lumber yards also reopened in early December, as a winter work in the mines called for a limited supply of timbering material. Although the town had dwindled drastically, its post office was still functioning at the end of 1908.

Very little is heard from the town of Lee for the next few years. Mining camp newspapers, such as those at Rhyolite, were much more eager to cover the growth of a new mining town than the death of an old one. It was bad business to give publicity to a mining district which was dying, and the Rhyolite papers soon began to ignore Lee, hoping that its troubles would go away. Thus mentions of the town are few and far between during 1909 and 1910, and it is much more difficult to keep track of the rate of decline. We do know that Lee had at least one store left in October of 1910, as it was used as a polling place in Inyo County's general election that fall.

The next mention of the town is in January of 1911, when a short article describing Lee's social life was printed in the Rhyolite Herald During that month, Mrs. D. C. Brown had given a card party at her home, with eleven guests, and W. H. Lillard, proprietor of Lee's last store, held a party complete with dancing, music and light refreshment. In June of 1911, Lee was again in the newspapers, but this time for less fortunate reasons. The Lee Hidden Treasure Mining Company, the owner of the Lee townsite, was listed in the Inyo County papers on the delinquent tax list. The Hidden Treasure Company, like many others, had patented the land upon which its mine and Lee townsite lay, and was now no longer able to pay its taxes.

Lillard's store was again listed as a polling place or the Inyo County election in the fall of 1911. Lillard, who was one of the last to give up on Lee, told the Rhyolite Herald in January of 1912 that the camp had "never looked better than at present." But it was just wishful thinking, for by this time even the post office had left town, and had been reestablished at Leeland station. Lillard's wishful quote in January of 1912 was the last mention we have of Lee, California. Sometime shortly after that, even an optimist like Lillard found it necessary to pack up and leave a busted desert mining town. Within a few years, all the lumber, metal and other useful materials that could be salvaged from an abandoned town had been hauled away, and the former bustling camp reverted to its original quiet and forlorn state. [57]

c. Hayseed Mining Company

The Hayseed was the first mine located on the Lee side of the Echo-Lee District, and was also the only company on that side of the district which ever produced more than an occasional sack of gold. The first mention of this mine is in November of 1904, when Richard and Gus Lee located what they called the Hayseed and State Line claims. The two prospectors held on to their claims until February of 1906, when they sold them to Campbell, Metson and Brown, of Tonopah, for between $7,500 and $10,000 in cash. Unfortunately, however, the Lee brothers sold their mine more than once--a practice which was not that unusual--for in early March Charles del Bondio brought suit against Richard and Gus to enforce a performance of contract in writing to sell the Hayseed and State Line claims to him. Although the Lee brothers might be forgiven for breach of contract, since neither of them could read or write, the plot thickened in ate March, when they sold the mine again, this time to Russ Sutherland and Hector McKenzie, for $10,000.

Apparently the Lee brothers took their money and ran, leaving the various claimants to their mine to sort out their difficulties among themselves. Naturally, given the complex problems involved, it took almost a year for a solution to be worked out, and mining did not start on the Hayseed and State Line claims until shortly before February of 1907. Once mining did start, however, excellent results were almost immediately obtained. At a depth of twenty-five feet, the Hayseed shaft struck an 18-inch gold vein which assayed from $8,600 to $123,600 per ton. Although there was considerably less than one ton of gold in that streak, it was still a magnificent strike.

With ore in the ground, and the tricky questions of ownership resolved, the Hayseed Mining Company was organized in March of 1907. Sam F. Lindsay was president of the company, and J. P. Nelson served as vice-president and superintendent of the mine. Although details of the ownership compromises were not made public, the fact that none of the previous owners of the mine appeared anywhere in the organization of the new company indicates that all the former claimants had sold out to the new owners. With its problems solved, the Hayseed Company began advertising and promoting stock sales, and since it was the original mine in the district and had a high-grade streak of gold ore, Hayseed stock sold "like hot cakes." Over $56,000 worth of stock was sold at 50¢ per share within two hours after the announcement of the incorporation of the company was made, including $25,000 worth to one Goldfield firm.

Work at the Hayseed property commenced, and within a few weeks, a tunnel had been run into the ledge for a distance of 100 feet. As work and time progressed, the mine looked better and better, and by the middle of March, the price of treasury stock for sale to the general public had been raised to 70¢, an almost unheard of price for a mine which was just starting its exploratory stage of development. That rich ore was present in the mine was made evident by the fact that one of the Hayseed's miners was caught high-grading (stealing ore) from the shaft. By the end of March, Superintendent Nelson had purchased ore sacks to prepare a shipment of the mine's high-grade ore, and a 25-horsepower hoist had been ordered for the 50-foot-deep shaft. More miners were added to the work force, 260 sacks were filled with high-grade ore, and Nelson started to build a 100-ton ore house to store the riches. [58]

Illustration 155. Advertisement for the Hayseed Mining Company and the Lee Burro Mining Company, both of which were owned and operated by the same interests. From the Bullfrog Miner, 15 March 1907.

As spring turned into summer, the sensational nature of the Hayseed Mine continued. Taylor & Griffiths, the Rhyolite stock brokers, announced in early April that the mine would make a carload shipment of $150 ore within a month, and reported that Hayseed stock was selling at 75¢ per share, with a heavy eastern demand. On April 5th, a strike was reported at the mine, with the miners taking out between $1,000 and $1,500 worth of ore in one day. Two hundred seventy-five sacks of ore were filled on the dump, the incline shaft was down to a depth of seventy feet, and the ore house was finished. One week later, on April 12th, Superintendent Nelson announced that the shaft was down to eighty-one feet, and that the company had twelve tons of high grade ore sacked. By the end of that month, Hayseed stock was selling for 53¢ on the local stock exchange, and the heavy demand for the company's stock had enabled it to pile up a balance of $26,384.05 in the John S. Cook bank at Rhyolite.

During May, the framing and foundations for the new gas hoist were prepared at the mine, while a few miners stayed underground and worked with the help of a hand winze. But as the months passed by, and the promised high-grade ore shipment did not take place, investors began to become suspicious, and the price of Hayseed stock on the open market began to slump. Stock which sold for 50¢ on the third of May had slipped to 47¢ by May 10th and to 41¢ by May 31st.

Then, during June, legal problems again arose to plague the company, as Charles del Bondio decided that he was not satisfied with the compromise reached the preceeding spring. The Hayseed owners, after several months of negotiating, settled the matter out of court, in order to get back to mining, and especially to divert the publics' attention away from any possible claims against their property, since such had disasterous effects upon public confidence and stock sales. In the meantime, mining continued, and in late June the Hayseed shaft had reached a depth of 150 feet, and ore was still being sacked for shipment.

During July, encouraging progress was made, as the Hayseed Company decided to push ahead with development work despite the intense heat of the summer. J. P. Nelson reported another ore strike on July 6th, with high grade ore which assayed around $100 per ton, and with the help of the new Fairbanks-Morse gasoline hoist, the shaft was quickly sunk to a depth of 215 feet. By the end of July, the shaft had been pushed even deeper to 300 feet, where it struck a rich body of ore. This new strike, coupled with the resolution of the latest ownership struggle, helped Hayseed stock to rebound, and it rose to 55¢ by the end of the month.

On August 3d, the Bullfrog Miner reported that the Hayseed had finally made its first shipment, but that report turned out to be in error, for no shipment had been made. The shaft, however, was down to 330 feet, which was correctly reported on August 3d, but after that news from the Hayseed mine suddenly became scarce. Superintendent Nelson did report briefly on August 17th that good ore bodies had been found on drifts pushed out from the 100 and 300-foot levels of the shaft, but little other work came from the mine. Investors, made wary by the silence of the company and by the long delay of an ore shipment, started selling off their stock again. By the end of August, Hayseed stock had slumped back down to 43¢ per share.

The picture remained much the same for the rest of the year. Nelson reported once a month to the papers about the progress in the different drifts and crosscuts from the main shaft, but other than affirming that the mine had ore, he refused to release assay figures or give the usual estimates about richness of the mine. This, coupled with the disastrous effects of the Panic of 1907, pushed Hayseed stock completely off the trading boards, and after August, no more trading in Hayseed shares was reported. Although the company was still working on its own in the main shaft, rumors began to spread in mid-October that the Hayseed mine was planning to let leases on other portions of its property. The letting of leases, which always indicated hard times for a mining company, was a bad sign, but once again the management took no steps to confirm or deny the rumors.

Then, inexplicably, without any of the usual prior public knowledge, the Hayseed Company sent out a carload of ore in late October. Although the number of tons sent out was not announced, the ore was estimated to be worth between $150 to $200 to the ton, and the usual carload shipments from other mines averaged between twenty and twenty-five tons. Once again, however, no smelter returns from the ore shipment were announced, which effectively killed any promotional potential of the shipment, and news releases from the mine remained few and far between. On November 16th, in a very brief announcement, the Bullfrog Miner said that the Hayseed was thinking of putting in a mill, but nothing further was mentioned--a highly unusual fact, considering the importance of a mill to the district. Such an event was usually chewed over to the point of tedium by the local newspapers.

During the remainder of 1907, the puzzling situation at the Hayseed Mine continued. The Rhyolite Herald reported on November 22d that the Hayseed Mine was looking good.

Encouraging values, it said, were reported in the crosscuts from both the 100 and the 300-foot level, and the company was employing seven miners. The Bullfrog Miner, in turn, reported in late December that the Hayseed definitely had plenty of shipping and milling ore, and was continuing work. Superintendent Nelson, according to the Miner, said that he could keep a good sized mill running for a long time with the ore already blocked out in the mine. [59]

During the first half of 1908, the situation at the Hayseed Mine stayed much the same. The Bullfrog Miner reported in mid-January that the mine looked better than ever, and had $60 to $100 ore in the drift from the 100-foot level of the shaft, which was now out to 380 feet. The mine, according to another report in late January, was sacking ore from four places in the underground workings. Although the company still retained its mysterious silence concerning its ore holdings, it obviously felt that the mine had a future, for on April 29th, it filed a notice of application for a patent upon the Hayseed and State Line claims, a total of 38 acres.

Only when the company had its annual meeting in June was the public finally given a chance to see what shape it was in. Superintendent Nelson, who presented the annual report to the meeting, announced that 1,700 feet of work had been accomplished during the last year, including sinking the shaft down to the 325-foot level. Over 460 feet of drifting and 150 feet of crosscutting had been done on the 100-toot level of the shaft, and 111 feet of drifting and 108 feet of crosscutting on the 300-foot level. The mine, he reported, had good milling ore on the 100-foot level, but had yet to find any on the 300-foot level. The property was equipped with a 25-horsepower gasoline hoist, an ore house, a blacksmith shop and a horse stable. 67,450 shares of the company's treasury stock had been sold to the general public, leaving the company with a balance of 382,550 shares for possible sale, although the general financial picture at the time made it doubtful that it would be able to sell any more. One shipment of ore had been made, of eighteen tons, which returned $73 to the ton, far less than had been estimated, for a total gross profit of $1,314.

Although Nelson said that the company had $30,000 worth of $15 ore in sight, that was not enough to warrant the erection of a milling plant, without which $15 ore was worthless, due to excessive costs of freighting. The rock on the 300-foot level, he said, was so hard that it rendered hand work too expensive to continue, and the company had no funds to invest in machine drills. All told, the picture painted by Nelson was not very optimistic, and it is no small wonder that the Bullfrog Miner reported that "it was decided at the meeting to let leases provided responsible people can be interested in the matter. An endeavor will also be made to bond the property, and raise funds for a milling plant" But apparently the company either changed its mined, or "responsible" leasees were hard to find, for the company continued to work on its own, using its dwindling supply of money, and had eight men employed in late July.

Shortly afterwards, however, the mine closed, and remained idle for the rest of 1908. J. P. Nelson took a vacation to Colorado, and when be returned in early December he would not say what, if anything, would be done with the Hayseed property. He did tell the Rhyolite Herald though, that he expected "to see a genuine revival" in the Lee District when the panic has passed away for keeps." The Rhyolite Daily Bulletin on December 28th, speculated that something would be done to revive the mine following the company's next meeting, scheduled for January 2, 1909. [60]

During 1909, the Hayseed Company began looking more seriously for a lessee, and for a while it seemed that the company would not have far to look. On January 9th, it was announced that negotiations were under way for J. P. Nelson, the vice-president and general manager of the company and S. J. Hernstadt, the secretary, to lease the mine, with the financial backing of Hernstadt's brother, W. L. Hernstadt of New York. Or February 3rd, S. J. Hernstadt announced that the deal had been completed, and that operations would begin soon, with an inspection of the mine and ore tests being made prior to a decision on whether or not to build a mill. The lessees, said Hernstadt, had an abundance of capital. Ironically, while this deal was being negotiated, the Hayseed patent application was approved by the U.S. Land Office, and a patent was delivered to the company, too late to do it any good.

But evidently W. L. Hernstadt of New York had better things to do with his abundance of capital than finance his brother, for the leasing arrangement tell through. Then in April, the Bullfrog Miner reported that some big stockholders of the Hayseed Company, together with the owners of the Crystal Bullfrog Mill at Gold Center were negotiating for a long term lease on the full holdings of the mine. Their object was to operate the mine and dump and treat the ore at the Crystal Bullfrog Will. Several weeks later, however, the Miner reported that the deal was not yet closed, and it never was. The only other mention of the Hayseed during 1909 was a notice that it had sent an ore specimen to the American Mining Congress Convention at Goldfield, but the specimen did not seem to interest any of the conventioners enough to attract a lessee for the mine. [61]

Finally, in early 1910, the Hayseed Company found the lessee for which it had been looking. On February 19th, Dr. F. H. Harding, of Fosteria, California, obtained a three-year lease on the mine. According to the Rhyolite Herald, which exaggerated somewhat, Harding had ordered a 10-stamp mill and would install it as soon as possible. Development and preparatory work was to start at once. Terms of the lease called for a sliding scale of royalty payments, from 10 percent on $15 ore to 35 percent on ore of $150 value or higher. Harding had the option to purchase any improvements which he made at the mine during the term of his lease, such as a mill or pipe line. He had nothing to lose, beside his time and labor, for his only payment requirements were in the form of royalties. If he found no ore, neither he nor the company got anything.

By the first of March, Harding had started to work on his lease, and by the middle of the month he was preparing the ground for the installation of a mill. Towards the end of April, the Rhyolite Herald reported that Harding was so pleased with the results of the first several months of his work that he had brought his wife and family in to live at Lee. On May 14th, Harding purchased a mill from the defunct American mine near Columbia, Nevada, and started to dismantle it for shipment to Lee. The mill had a capacity of thirty tons per day, and Harding hoped to have it in operation within seventy days, treating the tree milling ores of the Hayseed Mine. The mill had three Nissen-type stamps, and due to the lack of adequate water at the Hayseed Mine, would be installed one mile west of Leeland Station, four miles east of the mine, where there was a well with sufficient water to support the mill.

By the first week of August, Harding had his mill in place and running. The Rhyolite Herald reported on August 13th that the mill had run well during its first ten-day run. The three stamps had been treating about ten tons a day, about half its capacity, and was making a 70-80 percent savings, using amalgamation only The ore from the mine which was being treated averaged around $30 per ton, which would permit a profit, even considering the four-mile wagon haul from the mine to the mill and the shipping charges on the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad to get the bullion to the mint. On September 10th, Harding turned out the first bar of gold bullion from the little mill, but when he brought the gold into Rhyolite, he refused to estimate its value.

One month later, on October 15th, Harding again came into Rhyolite, but this time he had no good news. The little mill, he said, using amalgamation only, would not save enough of the ore content to make a profit on $30 ore. Cyanidation would have to be added to make the mine and mill profitable, but Harding did not have the resources to add a cyanidation plant to his mill. Accordingly, Harding sold his lease to Ed Mellarkey and Hugh Leonard sometime prior to November of 1910, and the Hayseed Leasing Company was formed. The new partners resumed operations at the mine and mill in late November, and in mid-December reported that a twenty-day run at the mill had yielded a gross profit of $607.54 in gold bullion.

But Mellarkey and Leonard soon realized that such returns were not enough to make a go of the mine, and they ceased operations. With both the lessee and the sub-lessee out of business, the Hayseed Mining Company had no funds to pay county taxes upon the mine or mill, and on March 11, 1911, the mill was sold at a sheriff's auction. As related above, Johnnie Cyty purchased the mill for $500 and moved it to his mill site on the Death Valley slope of the northern Funeral Range. In the best traditions of desert mining, the little three-stamp Nissen mill went to work for its third owner. The last notice we have of the Hayseed Mine is in December of 1911, when T. H. and E. M. Francis of New York, together with Ed Bevis of Rhyolite,, inspected the property. Although the Rhyolite Herald reported that they and the Hernstadts were again considering operating the mine, nothing happened. The Hayseed Mine, the largest producer of gold on the Lee side of the Echo-Lee District, was finally abandoned. Sometime during the subsequent years, the hoist and headframe, the ore house and blacksmith shop, and all other items of value were salvaged, and the Hayseed Mine was left to gaze down upon the deserted streets of Lee, California.

During the negotiations which led to the acquisition of the Hayseed property for Death Valley National Monument in the early 1970s, information concerning the mine's previous owner, W. L. Hernstadt, was uncovered. Apparently S. J. Hernstadt had finally convinced his brother, W. L., to take over the mine, although it was too late to do the mine any good. When W. L. Hernstadt died in 1964, 204,792 shares of Hayseed Mining Company stock were found in his estate. The stock, according to his lawyer, had been regarded as Hernstadt as being "worthless many, many years before his death." [62]

d. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

The Lee, California townsite, as L. P. McGarry pointed out seventy years ago, lies along the side of a shallow wash at the very foot of the eastern slope of the Funeral Range. Although not much appears to the first glance when a visitor enters the area, a climb up to the top of a small knoll just west of the townsite brings things into focus. From above, one may observe the outline of the town, with three main streets connected by half a dozen side streets. Almost forty building sites of some degree may be discerned, ranging from leveled spaces which were no more than tent sites, to rock retaining walls surrounding the sites of wooden and iron buildings, and even the sites of two buildings which had basements. In addition, several dugouts were scattered around the fringes of the townsite. The Lee townsite, as it now appears, is one of the largest undisturbed townsite areas in the west. It is an outdoor laboratory for historical archaeology, as well as an excellent site for the interpretation of a traditional boomed and busted mining camp.

Illustration 156. Map of Lee, California and Hayseed Mine.

The townsite, as benefits a mining camp, is surrounded with shafts, adits and dumps, silent signs of the efforts of its citizens to wrest wealth from the earth. The largest of these is the Hayseed Mine, which sits just east and slightly above the townsite. The Hayseed claim of this mine has a large dump, a timbered incline shaft which sinks over 300 feet into the ground, and a three by eight foot concrete engine foundation, where the 25-horsepower hoist used to sit. The State Line claim, also owned by the Hayseed Company, is just to the west of the former claim, between it and the town, and has a smaller dump, with an untimbered shaft and a wooden foundation for its smaller hoisting engine.

To the northeast of Lee, California, nestled right up against the Nevada state line, lies Lee Addition. McGarrys timing in promoting this townsite could hardly have been worse, since he started it just before the Lee boom began to fizzle. Nevertheless, half a dozen tent sites can be found in the vicinity, as well as four stone walls, each measuring about twelve feet square, which were retaining walls for wooden structures. In addition, the main feature which dominates the Lee Addition site is a 75 by 85-foot rectangle, surrounded by two to three foot high stone walls, which probably was used as a feed yard and corral.

The Hayseed Mine, the Lee townsite and Lee Addition will be nominated to the National Register. Although these sites do not contain any imposing physical structures, myriads of smaller remains and ruins possess potential historical archaeological significance and are too valuable to leave unprotected. Although the site is now hard to get to from Death Valley, the old Echo-Lee road, which is now a jeep trail, is passable by four-wheel drive. With little improvement, the road could be used by the majority of the visitors. It that was possible, the park visitor, after a beautiful and exciting ride through Echo Canyon and over the Funeral Range, would have an unparalleled opportunity to see and learn about the life and death of a very typical desert boom camp. Such a trip would rival and perhaps surpass the famous Titus Canyon Road.

About one mile southeast of the Lee townsite is the ruin of a more active claim. Three adits are perched high on the side of the mountain, and below them, in a narrow wash, is a wood and tin cabin, beside the cabin stands a wooden loading platform, used to load the ore from the mine above into trucks which drove up beside the platform. No knowledge of the history of this mine has been found, although a sign on the door o the cabin notes that the claim was relocated in December of 1975, with the permission of the original owners, Mr. Kaylor (sp?) and Mr. Rambo (sp?). This site is relatively modern, and has no historic significance.

Lee, California
Illustration 157. Panorama of Lee, California townsite. The main street of town may be seen traversing the photo from left to right. The road to the left goes to Echo Canyon and the one to the right leads out to Lee Addition and Rhyolite. The center of town was in the approximate center of the photo. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Lee, California

Lee Addition
Illustrations 158-159. Top: View looking norhteast down the main street of Lee, California, towards Nevada. Although not discernable in this photo, the sides of this street are lined with level sites, retaining walls and basements of the former structures. Bottom: View from the opposite direction, taken at Lee Addition and looking back towards the eastern slope of the Furneral Range. Lee, California is nestled at the foot of the range, in the very center of the photo. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

retaining walls

retaining walls
Illustrations 160-161. Views of typical retaining walls at the Lee, California townsite. Some of these walls, such as those at top, probably had little more than a wood, tin, or canvas roof above, while others, such as those at bottom, served as foundations and wind shelters for wooden or tent buildings. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Hayseed dump

Illustrations 162-163. Top: View of the Hayseed dump from above, with the vehicle for size comparision. Lee townsite is located out of the picture to the left. Bottom: The three by eight foot concrete foundation for the hoisting engine on the Hayseed dump. The concrete shell was rather thin and is crumbling, but the steel anchor rods were well driven into the rock below. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

retaining walls

stone wall
Illustrations 164-165. Top: One of the retaining walls at the Lee Addition, formerly used as a foundation for a building. Bottom: View of the large rectangular stone wall at Lee Addition, probably used as a corral and feed yard. The low mountain in the background of both pictures is in Nevada, and is the site of the Nevada mines of the Lee District, as well as the townsite of Lee, Nevada. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003