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

7. Echo Canyon

Although the history of the boom and bust of the Echo Canyon mines and townsites does not differ much from that of the Lee side of the district, as already outlined in the stories of the Lee townsite and the Hayseed Mine, time will be taken to present the histories of several important aspects of Echo Canyon mining.

a. Inyo Gold Mine

1. History

Like the Hayseed Mine to the east, the Inyo Mine on the Echo side of the district represents both the earliest discovery on the west side of the Funeral Range, and also the only mine on that side which ever produced more than an occasional sack of gold. The first locations in Echo Canyon were made by Maroni Hicks and Chet Leavitt in January of 1905. After a brief trip to civilization for supplies, the two men returned to Echo Canyon in March, and made several more locations. By May of 1905, the prospectors had accumulated two groups of locations, consisting of twenty claims, and after staking out all the ground which they thought might be any good, they started to dig a tunnel on one of the claims in June.

Illustration 166. Map of Southeastern portion of Big Dune Area.

During the summer of 1905, as the first movements into the Echo-Lee District began, the Hicks and Leavitt property became one of the most talked about in the region. It appeared that the prospector's dream was about to come true for the two men, as they found capitalists interested in purchasing their locations. In August, nine of their claims were bonded to Tasker L. Oddie for $150,000, and the remainder to Charles Schwab for $100,000. Schwab was to pay the prospectors $5,000 on September 1st, if he decided he wanted the mine. Oddie, in turn, was to pay $5,000 on December 1st and the balance of the money one year later. Although Schwab never paid, and apparently never tried to develop his portion of the mine, Oddie's men went to work at once. Soon they had a shaft 50 feet down in the ground, and were talking of erecting a mill, a wire rope tramway and an electrical power plant for the mine. Oddie also considered cutting a new wagon road to Rhyolite at a cost of $1,500, cutting off thirty-five miles from the present winding road.

But by November, Oddie had let his option expire, due to "a misunderstanding having arisen concerning terms, etc.," and the claims were bonded again, to two Colorado capitalists. The new agreement called for a payment of $10,000 immediately, and another $140,000 during later months. But again, the new purchasers were either not impressed when they began to work, or were not able to raise the $10,000 demanded by Hicks and Leavitt, for their option was soon cancelled.

Finally, in December, a sale was made. L. Holbrook and associates, a group of Utah mining promoters, purchased the entire mine and incorporated the Inyo Gold Mining Company. Maroni Hicks accepted cash for his half of the mine, but Chet Leavitt retained his interests and became the vice president of the new company. The Inyo Gold was incorporated in Utah, with a capitalization of $1,000,000, based upon 1,000,000 shares of stock with a par value of $1 each. The new company owned twenty-one claims, which represented all of the Hicks & Leavitt properties, including those which had formerly been bonded to Charles Schwab. Soon after the incorporation of the new company, development work in the mine began, and in early January of 1906, the property was surveyed. [63]

By the first of February the shaft on the Inyo Mine was down to sixty-five feet, and that depth had been increased to 100 feet by March. At that time, nine men were employed at the mine, under the direction of Chef Leavitt, who was general manager of the company. By the end of April, crosscuts were going out from the W0-foot level of the shaft in the search for ore, and a second shaft was started on another claim. In June, a big strike was made at the mine, as noted by the Rhyolite Herald "The Inyo Gold Mining Company has made the most phenomenal strike in the history of Funeral Range mining and one of the biggest uncoverings since the discovery of Tonopah Assays from the new strike, which was at the bottom of the new shaft at a depth of sixty-five feet, were close to $300 per ton."

Following the news of that strike, which seemed to prove that the Inyo Gold would make the transition from a developing to a producing mine, rumors began to circulate concerning the sale of the property. In August, the Bullfrog Miner reported that the mine had been sold to the Schwab interests for $2,000,000, and the Rhyolite Herald reported that all of the company's stock had been sold for $1 per share to a group of Salt Lake City capitalists. But nothing came of either rumor, and since the mine ceased work during the hot summer months, little was heard from it.

In October the Inyo Gold Mining Company was reorganized, although the changes were mostly internal. L. Holbrook, the principal owner, was still listed as president of the company, but Chet Leavitt lost his position as vice president. Work would be resumed shortly, the company stated, and now that the railroads were reaching Rhyolite, the shipment of medium grade ore from the mine would soon make it a producer. But work progressed more slowly than the company had hoped, and no shipments were made in 1906, although the company had its new shaft down to seventy-three feet by the end of that year, and several crosscuts were started. [64]

But as 1907 opened, work began in earnest on the Inyo Gold. The company ordered a small gas hoist in early January of that year, and by the end of that month reported that it had three shafts exploring for ore at depths of 100, 73 and 30 feet, respectively. In addition, tunnels and crosscuts were being driven, and ore bodies were being found, although the estimated extent and content of the ore finds were not greatly publicized. Chat Leavitt, who was still the mine superintendent, was employing twenty men in February, and a boarding house had been built at the property for their convenience, Plans were also in the works to construct a commissary store, and the company ordered ore cars and tramway tracks to facilitate the removal of ore from the mine.

Towards the end of February, the Rhyolite Herald took time out to describe and assess the Inyo Gold's property. Average values in the various shafts and tunnels, the paper stated, were around $44 to the ton. The ore was free milling, which meant that it could be treated in the simplest manner, and once the Ash Meadows Water company had completed its pipe line into the Lee district, the company was considering the construction of a mill. Water was now hauled from Furnace Creek, a distance of eight miles, at considerable expense to the company. The boarding house at the mine was feeding thirty miners. Since that overcrowded its accommodations, a new boarding house with an eighteen by thirty foot dining room and a fourteen by sixteen foot kitchen was being built. When it was finished the present boarding house would be converted into a rooming house. In addition, the company was building a sixteen by twenty foot commissary for the sale of groceries and mining supplies to the company's employees and other prospectors in the area. "The concensus of opinion, concluded the Herald "is that the Inyo Gold Mining company's property, the original Hicks & Leavitt group, is one of the most likely properties in the new gold fields along the Nevada-California border."

During March and April, work continued steadily, and the local papers faithfully reported the progress made in the company's shafts and tunnels. By mid-April, the company had begun preparations for the construction of a mill, and several loads of lumber were on the ground. The mill was to be built at the mouth of the main tunnel, near the new blacksmith shop. Thirty men were employed at the mine, and most were eating at the recently-completed boarding house, run by Mr. and Mrs. McKnight. By this time a portion of the mine's new hoisting machinery had arrived, and the company announced that it would not ship its high-grade ore, but would rather keep it on the dump until the mill could be built. In response to several inquiries, the papers reported that the Inyo Gold was a closed corporation, so that the company's stock was not being sold on the open market. Several blocks of shares, amounting to no more than 50,000, had been sold by one or more of the original incoporators of the company, but most of those had been bought back by other owners.

Once again, due to the heat of summer, work slacked during the hot months of 1907. Some miners continued to labor in the shafts and tunnels, but not with the pace of previous months, and the papers had little more to report other than the statistical advances of that work. But in September, the company, which was running out of development funds advanced by the owning partners, decided to go public. From its application for a license to sell stock in California, many details of the company's position are available. Fifty-two thousand of the 300,000 shares of treasury stock in the company had already been sold, and the Inyo Gold was now asking permission to sell the rest. The company had an indebtedness of $15,250 and no money in the treasury. The property was equipped with a hoisting whim, a blacksmith shop, a bunk house, and mining tools, and its employment roll had shrunk to seven men. Three hundred and fifty feet worth of shaft work had been done, in addition to 700 feet of tunneling and 75 feet of crosscutting. No ore shipments had been made, but the company claimed to have $650,000 worth of ore in sight. At the time of its application, the Inyo Gold had already been approved for stock sales in Utah.

The Inyo Mine could not have chosen a worse time to go public, for the Panic of 1907 hit the district shortly after the company put its stock up for sale. Had the decision been made six months earlier, the Inyo mine could have taken advantage of the height of the Echo-Lee District boom, when stock in much less worthy mines was selling at fever-inflated prices. Now, in the fall of 1907, mines were closing and very few investors could be found who were willing to risk scarce investment funds in an outlying district. Now, instead of a fat treasury which would have enabled the company to continue its development work on an extensive scale, and to build its mill, the Inyo Gold instead was faced with bankruptcy.

Nevertheless, the company continued operations for a few months. Work was continued during September and October, with a force of between fifteen and twenty miners. But after the middle of October, momentum slowed considerably and very little further work was accomplished for the rest of 1907, although the mine was reported to still be employing a "small force of men" at the end of the year. The Rhyolite Herald denied rumors that the Inyo had closed down completely in December, and went on to lament the general state of mining in Echo canyon. "The properties are among the best in the district and it is much regretted that the companies do not find it consistent to work on a large scale. But the ore is there and when the financial sky is clearer, the properties will show the world what kind of golden lining Echo canyon is made of." [65]

Like so many of the other Echo-Lee District mines, the Inyo Mine had been fatally crippled by the Panic of 1907. Following the onset of the panic, development work virtually ceased throughout the rest of 1907, and 1908 followed suit. No work was done on the mine during that entire year, and the only notices in the papers concerning it were several rumors of sale. The Bullfrog Miner reported that the mine had been sold to Thomas Lockart, president of the Florence Mine in Goldfield, in March, and the Rhyolite Herald reported that L. Holbrook had secured control of a majority interest in the mine during August. But neither of these rumors were borne out, as the Inyo Mine virtually dropped from sight. In July and August, both papers reported that the mine would be reopened soon, complete with a processing mill, and several paragraphs were taken up in discussions of the possibilities of such an event, but they never occurred. In November, Chet Leavitt promised that the mine would soon be heard from, and stated that all the claims of the company would be patented before the year was out. The company had even taken the opportunity for some nation-wide advertising, when the Weekly Advertiser devoted an issue to Nevada mining, but even the effect of a full-page ad was futile, for the depression upon mining was being felt across the entire nation.

During 1909, the situation did not improve at all. The Rhyolite Herald reported in April that Chet Leavitt had sold his interest in the mine, but a later issue noted that the dear was not definite, and it never was. The company did put some ore on display at the American Mining Congress convention in Goldfield that fair, but little else happened on the property. The company's application for a patent on seventeen of its claims--a total of 215 acres--was approved on August 15th, but like so many other mines of the region which had applied for a patent during the boom days, the papers arrived too late to do the company any good. In September, the Bullfrog Miner optimistically noted that the "Inyo property has arrived at the point where plans for a mill are next in order, and the next week printed a rumor that the Inyo mine "will be subject to the biggest leasing deal yet known in Nevada." Salt Lake City promoters, the paper reported, were negotiating for a long term lease and were planning to develop the ground to the extent of constructing a large size treatment plant. On the basis of this rumor, Inyo Gold stock suddenly appeared on the trading boards, for the first time ever, and was sold at the price of 6¢ per share. But like so many others, this deal also feel through, and the Inyo Mine continued to lay idle.

The rumors continued through the following years, as the Rhyolite Herald reported in January of 1910 that the company was again negotiating for the sale of the property, with the potential buyers proposing the installation of reduction facilities. Again, nothing came of the negotiations, The mine, which had not been worked since the fall of 1907, was not mentioned again until January of 1912, when its stockholders met in Utah with the intention of reducing the par value of the company's stock from $1 to 10¢ per share, apparently as an attempt to start another promotional and development campaign. But again nothing happened, and the Inyo mine was finally abandoned. [66]

Thus ended the first phase of the Inyo mine. Its officers had held onto the mine too long, and had made the decision to go public only after they had run out of private development funds, just in time to see the Panic of 1907 ruin their hopes. After 1907, little if any mining was done to what was once seen--probably correctly--as the best and most promising prospect in Echo Canyon.

But unlike the other mines of the Echo-Lee District, the Inyo Gold had a revival. Unfortunately, that revival took place long after Death Valley mining had lost its appeal, and little notice of the subsequent activities at the Inyo Mine reached the local newspapers. Thus although we know that the mine was operated for several years in the 1930s, we have very little day-to-day knowledge of those operations.

After the death of the mine in 1912, the next known reference to it comes in the fall of 1928, when it was sold to Earl B. Gilbert and Daniel Winzelor. Within a few weeks, Gilbert transferred his half of the mine to his wife. Following those transactions, the mine disappears again until 1937, when Mrs. Gilbert leased it to the Inyo Consolidated Mining Company. In August of that year, the Inyo Independent reported that Guy C. Ridell, a mining engineer from New York, had arrived at the Inyo camp to inspect the mines workings. The mine had apparently been operating for several months at the time of this report, for Loren Granger, the manager, was reported in Bishop, buying another load of supplies for the mine.

In March of 1938, the paper reported that the company was still operating, and had installed a ball mill at the mine, The mill was capable of treating twenty-five tons of ore per day, and water for operations was being hauled from Furnace Creek. Since this was costly and unsatisfactory, the company was planning to build a pipe line and pumping station, if operations at the mine continued on a satisfactory basis. The California Journal of Mines & Geology, in October of the same year, reported that the Inyo Consolidated Mine was working on the seventeen patented and five unpatented claims of the property. The principle development was an inclined shaft, 220 feet deep, and the report listed the lengths and depths of various other shafts, tunnels and crosscuts within the mine. At best estimate, by comparing the figures given to those released by the mine in 1907, the Inyo Consolidated had been working the property for less than two years at the time of this report. Ore from the mine, said the Journal was averaging about $25 per ton, and was being processed through the twenty-five ton capacity ball mill. The mill equipment consisted of a fifty ton ore bin, a six by ten jaw crusher, a thirty ton receiving bin, a reciprocating feeder, a three by six ball mill, amalgamation plates, two Simpson tables, and a drag classifier for dewatering. Water was still being hauled from Death Valley, and eight men were employed at the mine and mill.

Inyo Mine complex
Illustration 167. The Inyo Mine complex, ca. 1938, during the active period of the Inyo Consolidated Mining Company. The structure in the middle with the smokestack is the cook house, and the mill complex is shown to its right. The mining area is far above the mill, to the rear of the photographer. Photo courtesy Death Valley National Monument Library, Negative #1100.

But shortly after that report, the Inyo Consolidated ceased operations due to a lack of further funds. Although present tailings at the mill site indicate that a limited amount of ore was treated no production record from this era of the Inyo mine exists. In February of 1939, Mrs. Gilbert again leased the mine, to an unnamed individual, who almost immediately found a rich ore shoot at the bottom of one of the shafts. Before the press coverage of this phenomenom ceased, the lessee had sipped thirty-six tons of ore worth $280 per ton to the smelter, for a gross profit of $10,080, and had hired several miners. But once again, the ore shoot ran out, and the lessee was soon out of business.

But the Inyo died hard. The mine was leased again to two men named Thomsen and Wright in 1940, and they installed a small smelter high on a ridge one-halt mile above the former mill site. There, for a short time, they attempted to smelt some of the high grade ore which they took out of a different portion of the Inyo Mine. Again, no production record is available for this effort, which had ended by 1941. A later mining engineer, who inspected this portion of the property, concluded that the furnace at the little smelter had been fired only once, which indicates that the last two lessees of the Inyo Mine were even less successful than had been their predecessors. This was the last attempt to work the Inyo Mine, although its claims are still privately owned. [67]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Due to the relatively recent date of the last attempts to exploit the Inyo Mine, historic structures at the property are quite extensive. At the mill site are the remains of the ball mill and its supporting machinery, and a complex of living and support buildings. The mill ruins consist of the ore bin and chute, a jaw crusher and the settling plates--the ball mill apparatus itself has been removed. In addition a large metal tank and the old diesel engine which powered the mill still remain. Around the mill is a complex of structures in various degrees of deterioration, including five tent platform sites, some with wooden floors and remnants of canvas, a collapsed wooden frame building, and six standing wood buildings, ranging in size from a twelve by twelve shed to an eighteen by thirty foot cook and dining house. Most of these buildings are quite crude, being constructed of wood plank floors, with unfinished walls and ceilings, but the cookhouse, at least, has a cement floor and was equipped with plumbing. Although it is not possible to be certain, some of these buildings, especially the tent platforms and one old dugout in the midst of this complex undoubtedly date from the 1907 era of mining. But the adaptation and use of different structures and materials during the later period of mining makes a differentiation between the two eras hard to determine.

Above the mill and living area is the main mine complex or the Inyo Mine. Here one may find a stone powder house, another tent platform site, a fairly substantial ore bin, a collapsed wooden building, and a whole array of shaft and tunnel entrances running up and down the hillside. The ore bin has a tramway track leading into one of the adits, and a straight-six gasoline powered engine, adapted from a vehicle of some sort, which was used to hoist the ore Above this group is yet another complex of mine workings, which appears to be older than the first. This area includes another timbered ad-it, a tramway track, a leveled tent site, a small ore bin, and a crude ore chute leading down to a rickety loading bin. Close by is yet an shaft, with a winch left over from the ore hoisting days.

Inyo Mine complex
Illustration 168. The Inyo Mine complex in 1973, as viewed from the lower Echo Canyon road. The mill buildings have been salvaged, although the skeletal remains of the mill are still standing. The cookhouse, which has deteriorated considerably, is seen at the far right, and the ore bin of the main mine complex is seen in the top center of the photo. The complex looked much the same in 1978. Photo courtesy of Bill Fiero, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Inyo Mill remains

Illustrations 169-170. Top: A closer view of the Inyo Mill remains, in 1978. The ball mill originally stood just below the wheels of the jaw crusher, seen in the top of the photo. Bottom: The cookhouse in 1978, showing the general deterioration of the building. Much of the damage is due to natural elements, but portions of the siding lumber has been stripped for use as firewood by the complex's occasional visitors. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Finally, far above the main working area of the mine, in the next ridge to the north, is the site of the 1940 smelter works, sometimes called the Furnace Mine, after its main feature. This complex can only be reached by a long and arduous climb up a twisting mule trail from the upper Echo Canyon road. A stone loading dock is at the bottom of the trail, as well as a crude corral used to tether animals when the owners climbed the hill. Far above is the smelter, perched on the side of the ridge. Machinery here includes the small furnace, with supporting tanks and equipment, connected to a collapsed tunnel entrance by tram tracks. Above the furnace is a deep and timbered incline shaft and a stoped area, evidently the main working area of this complex. Near it, on the very top of the ridge, is a four-cylinder diesel engine used for air compression, and another altered vehicle engine used to drag supplies up the ridge from the upper Echo Canyon road far below, via a cable dragway.

All told, the Inyo Mine complex holds a wealth of artifacts and structures, some of which can be safely dated prior to the 1930s. For this reason, despite the rather unproductive history of the mine during the original boom, it is recommended that the structures and equipment on this site be recognized and protected for their historic values, and the Inyo Mine as a whole will be nominated to the National Register. The site would make a good interpretive complex, since it is not too far from the Furnace Creek road, and is accessible, with a little improvement, to two-wheel drive vehicles. Visitor use of the Inyo Mine site is more frequent than for most of the other areas of the Echo-Lee District. Three nude sunbathers were surprised on the day that this site was examined.

winch drum and engine

view from 'Furnace Mine'
Illustrations 171-172. Top: The winch drum and engine at the upper Inyo Mine complex, aka Furnace Mine. This mechanism was used to drag supplies up the steep side of the ridge from the upper Echo Canyon road below. Bottom: View of the descent from the "Furnace Mine" to the upper Echo Canyon road, with the winching cable still in place. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

view from 'Furnace Mine'

furnace smelter
Illustrations 173-174. Top: General view of the "Furnace Mine," looking down from the vicinty of the winching works. The mine and mill complex are located on the opposite side of the ridge from the upper Echo Canyon road, so that supplies were hauled up one side of the ridge from the road and then lowerd down to the mill site on the opposite side. Bottom: Close-up of the crude furnace smelter. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

b. Schwab Townsite

1. History

in December of 1906, as the Echo-Lee District was beginning to swing into its real boom stage, a new townsite was started on the Echo side of the district to serve the many mines which were beginning to operate in the vicinity. In a fit a grandeur, the townsite was named Schwab, after the well-known steel and mining magnate, who had peripheral interests in the Echo-Lee District, The townsite was promoted by the Schwab Townsite Company, which was incorporated in Nevada on December 31st, and was financed by S. H. Black, J. C. Houtz and J. E. Cram. The company's treasury for promotion and site improvement was $30,000, and was fully paid in advance by the three principles, making Schwab a closed corporation.

Large, full-page ads were placed in the Rhyolite Herald and the Bullfrog Miner on December 28th, announcing the formation of the town, and proudly noting that it was the first town in the Echo-Lee District, which was true by only a few days. "The Price of Lots will Multiply by Five in Ninety Days," warned the ads, and to prove the point, the owners announced that arrangements had already been completed for the establishment of a restaurant, a lodging house, a mercantile store, an assay house and a saloon. In addition, the new wagon road from the Lee side of the district into Echo Canyon was almost finished, and would soon be upgraded into an auto road. Water would be provided to the townsite within thirty days, either by well or by hauling from Furnace Creek, and a stage line and telephone connections would soon arrive. An application had been made for a post office. Fifty lots, said the promoters, had been sold already. Schwab, summed up the ads, was "A Town with an Assured Future," and would "be the scene of the greatest mining excitement in all the history of Nevada."

The next week, as the Bullfrog Miner quaintly noted, "The town of Schwab started for the Nevada desert yesterday from Los Angeles in a box car." The materials for the new canvas city, added Mr. Houtz, would be enough to house several hundred people. Several loads had already gone out, including material for a restaurant, lodging house, store and feed yard, and arrangements had been made for a hardware store and a general merchandise store. By mid-January Black and Cram reported that the new town was flourishing. Demands for lots exceeded expectations, and inquiries had been received from as far away as Boston. Two carloads of townsite materials had arrived, and three more were on their way. The Kimball stage company had plans to put in a stage line, the well diggers had found water at a depth of only five feet, and arrangements for a bakery, a grocery store, a hardware store and another saloon had been made. Eighteen head of horses had been engaged by the town promoters in order to haul all this material from the railroad siding at Rosewell. Streets were being graded, and ample food, horse feed and water was now available to all travelers and prospectors, so they no longer needed to come fully self-sufficient when they entered the Echo Canyon region.

On January 18th, the Rhyolite Herald reported that seventy-seven lots had been sold in Schwab, "many of them being to eastern people who are already familiar with the Lee and Echo Districts through the ads in the local papers." A fourth carload of supplies, containing eight tons, had been delivered to the town, and a fifth, of three tons, was expected shortly. The population of the district surrounding Schwab was estimated to be 400, and twenty-nine men had been counted at the Schwab saloon at one time. Eight lots in the townsite had been sold to the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, and the Rhyolite Herald ruefully wondered if "Tuxedos will soon be fashionable there." The townsite company had ordered a 45-horsepower Apperson auto, which was expected in late January, and which would be put on the run from Rhyolite to the new town. The following week, the Bullfrog Miner reported that an abundance of good water was now available at the townsite, and that many good substantial tent buildings had been erected. The first stage for Schwab had left Rhyolite on January 24th, and the paper surmised that the new town was already "established as the distributing point of that district."

On February 1st, the papers reported that the feed yard was now ready to furnish food and shelter for horses, that the new automobile had arrived and was ready to start service to the town, and that the Kimball Brothers had established a regular stage service to Lee and Schwab, leaving Rhyolite every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. By the beginning of March, the Bullfrog Miner reported that 100 men were employed in the mines surrounding the townsite, such as the Inyo Gold, the Skibo and the Echo Gilt Edge. The Lee-Schwab wagon road, which was too steep in places for autos to negotiate, was being improved, and arrangements had been made to bring in a well drilling machine, in order to improve the water supply. "There are excellent accommodations for both man and beast at Schwab, and one is assured a visit to the new town will not be regretted."

By the end of March, the three-month-old town's population was estimated at 200. The Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company had its poles up and was to begin stringing wire from Lee to Schwab at once. The stage service had been increased to a daily basis, and the auto service also planned to go on a daily schedule soon. But by now Schwab had a greater claim to fame. "One of the most unique wonders of the new West," said the Bullfrog Miner, "is the town of Schwab, Cal., owned and promoted by women." This news was quite unique, and caused many headlines in local papers. "A Mining Camp Built by Ladies," as the Death Valley Chuck-Walla put it, was an unusual sight in the west. Yet when the matter is examined it seems much more natural than extraordinary. The first woman to enter the company was Gertrude Fesler, who had come to Rhyolite from Chicago and opened a brokerage office--Miss Gertrude Fesler, Stocks and Mines Bought and Sold." Fesler had purchased J. C. Houtz's interest in Schwab, and through her dealings with the other two owners, had become acquainted with their wives. A Col. Dunn, who had bought out J. E. Cram, decided that his wife could ably care for his interests in the townsite, leaving him free for other pursuits, and Mrs. Black--Mrs. Dunn's daughter-in-law--had also purchased her husband's share, thus forming the all-female company. Helen H. Black became president of the new Schwab Townsite Company, with Mrs. Dunn as the vice president and Gertrude Fesler acting as secretary, treasurer and chief promoter.

Illustration 175. Advertisement from the Bullfrog Miner, 1 March 1907.

Ownership by ladies such as these meant some unusual changes in a desert mining town, and the Death Valley Chuck-Walla was quick to point them out. "The gamblers were told to get out. Saloon men were frowned at and sporting women were positively refused entrance. Men said that a mining camp could not exist under such restrictions, but Schwab did. The women hastened to secure the postoffice, the first in the district, and everybody in the three towns [Schwab, Lee, California and Lee, Nevada] had to come to Schwab for mail."

In addition to the new postoffice, which was approved and established on April 5th, Schwab also was the home of the Echo Miners Union, organized early in April. By the end of that month, the union counted seventy-five members, who adopted the Rhyolite scale of wages of $4.50 per day. the townsite company donated a lot to the union, and a large tent was erected to be used until funds could be raised for a Miners Union Hall. Several more town lots were sold during April, but Mrs. Black reported that the one big need for the town was a general mercantile store, to enable miners and companies to get supplies close at hand.

But even with all these improvements, Schwab was never a serious rival to Lee, California. The two towns were separated by eight miles and the Funeral Range, and each was the center for approximately the same number of mines. But Lee, California had all the geographic advantages. All supplies and materials reaching Schwab had to come through Lee, so it was only natural that supply houses at Lee dominated the trade of the two towns. In addition, since Lee was much loser to Rhyolite, that town reaped all the advantages of frequent notices in the Rhyolite newspapers, which amounted to free advertising. Reporters and visitors could travel to Lee and back to Rhyolite in one day, but getting in and out of Schwab took longer, so it was only natural for them to concentrate their attention on the closer town. And once the town of Lee had the upper hand, it was quick to build upon the advantage. Miners and prospectors from the Echo District, for example, found that it cost them no more to travel into Lee to obtain their supplies than to purchase them at Schwab, and when this was coupled with the prospect of a night's entertainment in the larger camp, most began to do so. Perhaps the Death Valley Chuck-Walla was right, in that a mining camp suffering from the lack of female entertainment and gambling, and with drinking frowned upon, had too many disadvantages to survive in the mining frontiers of the early 1900s.

For a combination of these causes, the town of Schwab, after its first several months of growth, began to stagnate. It lost the townsite battle to Lee, and when the Panic of 1907 closed many of the mines in the Echo-Lee District, it soon became very apparent that two towns were one too many for the district to support. So many mines clued so quickly in the fall of 1907 that the Echo Miners Union was disbanded in November.

Schwab died a quick and unmourned death, after only a year of life, and was not heard of after 1907. The town had never even reached the stage where a wooden building was raised, so it was relatively simple for the disappointed merchants to pack up their tent stores and head for brighter horizons. [68]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Schwab is not located where most writers of western lore have assumed it to be. According to most accounts, the townsite of Schwab was located directly below the Inyo Mine, in the lower Echo Canyon wash. For this reason, they claimed, no one has ever been-able to definitely find any remains of Schwab, since the 1930s mining activity at the Inyo site erased all vestiges of the former town.

But past historians have been mislead by the contemporary accounts of Schwab, such as the advertisements which placed it only one-half to three-fourths of a mile from the Inyo Mine. Operations at that mine, between 1907 and the 1930s, covered many different areas of the company's 214 acres of claims. In 1907, Schwab was only less than a mile from the Inyo Mine, but from a different portion of the. mine than that operated in the 1930s, where the ball mill and housing ruins now stand.

The best contemporary description or the location of Schwab is from the Rhyolite Herald of 22 February 1907.

The town of Schwab is situated just below the Inyo and Skibo camps at the junction of the wagon roads leading up the east arm of Echo canyon and to Death Valley on the south. In other words, Schwab is located in the north or upper branch of Echo Canyon, astride the main Echo-Lee wagon road, across a small ridge from the present Inyo ruins, and about 1-1/2 miles from those ruins. At this location, evidence of the old townsite may be found.

The remains consist of seven leveled tent sites, some with ow and crude stone retaining walls remaining. More tent sites were once present, but have been erased by high water in the adjacent wash during Death Valley's infrequent but violent flash floods. Two of the tent sites have eroded cellars behind them, about ten feet square and five feet deep. Since an immense pile of broken 1900 to 1910-dated beer bottles is located directly behind one of these tent-cellar sites, it is safe to say that this was the tent saloon, where once twenty-nine men were counted drinking at one time. The townsite covers several hundred feet along the-shallow wash which marks the northern branch of Echo Canyon, and remains are mostly restricted to the west side of that wash On the east side, however, is another tent location, and a shallow, unmarked grave, a lonely monument to one prospector who ended his days during the brief life of Schwab. About 300 yards to the west of the townsite is a crude derrick, the remains of Schwab's well. The well site is dry and completely filled in, but numerous five gallon cans are scattered along the trail from the well to the townsite.

The remains of Schwab are fragile and scant. The site needs to be examined by historical archaeologists and deserves interpretation as one of the west's many short-lived mining camps. It is also in need of some sort of protection to prevent it from disappearing back into the terrain of the canyon's wash. The Schwab townsite will be nominated to the National Register in conjunction with the Inyo Mine complex.

Schwab townsite

Schwab townsite
Illustrations 176-177. Top: View of the Schwab townsite, looking southwest. The Inyon Mine ruins are located on the far side of the ridg in the background. Bottom: A closer view of a portion of the townsite area, showing the very fragile remains of two tent building sites. The tent site on the right has an eroded cellar behind it--or in front of it, according to this view. 1978 photos by John Latschar.


grave site
Illustrations 178-179. Top: A close-up of the cellar seen in the previous photo. Bottom: Unmarked grave site on the east side of the Schwab townsite. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

c. Echo Townsite

Schwab was not the only town started on the Echo side of the district, for in March of 1907 the owners of the Lee Golden Gate Mining Company inaugurated another town on their claims. Called Echo, this town was situated about half way between Schwab and Lee, along the road connecting those two towns, upon a low saddle near the summit of the Funeral Range. The formation of the new townsite was announced on March 22nd, but although the townsite owners put in an application for a postoffice, they seemed content to rely upon the business of the mines in the general vicinity for building their, town, and did not advertise or promote it in the manner of Lee or Schwab.

By the end of April, the townsite had been platted, and lots were on sale to the public. The plat was approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors on May 10th, but the town never caught on. Nothing more is heard of this townsite, which never prospered solely because the mines around it, in the eastern portion of the Echo District, never really got off the ground. The mines in this section, such as the Lee Golden Gate, the Sunnyside, the Echo-Lee, the Jumbo and the Burro, never really got out of the prospecting stage,, and thus never employed a large enough group of miners to support even the smallest of mining camps. Echo townsite disappeared shortly alter it was born, and was never heard of again. [69]

Remains at this site are even more scant than those at Schwab, and probably would not be discovered by anyone who was not particularly looking for a townsite in the general area.

No more than four level tent sites may be found, with the smallest of possible retaining walls. Near these is a pile of debris and tin cans, the size of which would seem to indicate that no more than halt a dozen people lived here for no more than half a year. The townsite scars are very fragile and probably will soon disappear, but the site is far from deserving National Register nomination, unless determined by a historical archaeologist to have archaeological significance.

d. Miscellaneous Echo-Lee District Sites

As might be expected from the history of the Echo-Lee District, the entire southern Funeral Range is dotted with shafts, adits and prospect holes. These may be seen along the Echo-Lee wagon road, from several miles below Schwab all the way to Lee. None of these sites have a significant role to play in the interpretation of the Echo-Lee District, but several will be discussed briefly.

Site 1: About a mile below the Inyo mill site stands the ruins of a cabin, commonly called the Saddle Cabin, for its location near a low saddle cutting the ridge which divides the lower from the upper Echo Canyon roads, This cabin, which measures twenty feet square, was standing in 1973 but has since fallen victim to the elements and collapsed. The cabin had a cement floor and stone foundation walls supporting that floor, and nearby is a crude dugout shelter, probably used as a vehicle cover. Although we cannot be sure, the cabin was probably built and used during the 1930s era of mining at the Inyo Gold, and has been unused since that time. Its general condition and lack of historical significance makes any preservation efforts unwarranted.

Site 2: In upper Echo Canyon, along the old Echo-Lee road, are some ruins which may be traced to an earlier date. Located along the sides of the wash about 3-1/2 miles up the canyon from Schwab townsite, are several old tent platform and building sites. One of the platform sites has little more than a collection of mining debris collected by a previous tourist, and another has the ruins of a wooden platform, measuring sixteen by twenty-four feet, which was used to floor a tent structure. Nearby are the ruins of a collapsed wooden building, measuring about fourteen by twenty-eight feet, and a well-preserved dugout. All these sites were undoubtedly used as living quarters during the Echo-Lee boom period, and the mines at which the inhabitants worked may easily be seen along the sides of the canyon walls. This general area also has a twelve by sixteen foot cabin, which still stands, and is in generally good condition. The cabin is still occupied intermittently by one of the west's desert hermits, who hangs out a welcome sign for all travelers who happen to come his way. None of the structures or ruins on this site are significant or deserve preservation efforts. However, they should not be demolished, reclaimed or naturalized, but rather should be allowed to suffer benign neglect" and the effects of natures forces.

Illustration 180. Map of Southeastern Portion of Big Dune Area.

Echo townsite

ruins of Saddle Cabin
Illustrations 181-182. Top: Echo townsite was located along the main Echo-Lee road, and stretched between the photographer and the vehicle as shown in this picture. The townsite scars are so minute that they will not show up in this general view. Bottom: The ruins of the collapsed Saddle Cabin. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Site 3: High above the previous site is a series of 1907-era mines, at the very top of the Funeral Range. Located at the end of a perilous wagon road which follows the lip of the ridge, this complex has four shafts, most of which are well timbered, and the usual traces of past mining efforts, including a concrete engine mount near one of the shafts, and a crude wooden hoisting frame near another. The road leading up to this complex was improved from a burro trail at some time, and the wagon road is complete with a circle at the upper end, where wagons could turn around, provided they were careful not to fall to the floor of Echo canyon, hundreds of feet below. This site is interesting, but due to the multitude of mines in the area, and the rather inexact descriptions given for most of them in the contemporary newspapers, it is impossible to connect a specific mining company to the site. Visiting it is well worth while for the exciting ride and spectacular view, but it does not deserve preservation efforts. Again, the ruins on this site should not be obliterated, but rather left to the ages.

cabin and remains of wooden tent platform

cabin and remains of wooden tent platform
Illustrations 183-184. The cabin and the remins of the wooden tent platform at Site #2, in Echo Canyon. The air vents of the dugout may be seen behind the platform in the lower photo. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Site #3

acces road and burro trail
Illustrations 185-186. Top: A general view of Site #3, high on a ridge in the Funeral Mountains. The wagon road, which provided access to this site, may be seen in the immediate foreground. Bottom: View of the access road and burro trail leading up to Site #3. The photographer is standing on the wagon road, which may be followed down towards the right side of the picture, while the older burro trail can be seen winding around the ridge to the left. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Sites 4: About a quarter of a mile away, in the next canyon to the north, stands the unappealing remains of a post-World War II mining effort. This site has a decripit wood and paper shack, the remains of a stone-walled building, a leveled tent site, and an untimbered shaft. The shaft has a crude whim, powered by a World War II surplus Dodge Power Wagon, and judging by the condition of the vehicle and winch, has not been used for quite a number of years. The shack, however, was lived in, at least on a temporary basis, as late as 1975, judging by the garbage and magazines strewn about inside. The site lacks significance and deserves no preservation efforts.

Site 5: Towards the Lee side of the district, once one has crossed the summit of the Funeral Range and begun to descent towards the Amargosa Valley, stands another relic of a 1930s-era attempt to revive one of the Lee mines. This site contains a rusty tin shack standing next to an older tent platform site, and was evidently used by some lonely desert hermit who tried to revive one of the several old mines visible in the immediate vicinity. It also lacks historical significance and deserves no preservation efforts.

e. General Echo-Lee District Recommendations

The Echo-Lee District offers Death Valley National Monument one of its greatest potential historic areas. Using the present roads and jeep trails, a four-wheel drive vehicle can easily negotiate the entire distance across the Funeral Range from Schwab to Lee. With periodic grading, normal passenger cars could be offered an exciting and adventurous excursion, similar to the Titus Canyon road experience--and probably at less cost, since maintenance costs for the Echo Canyon road would be less.

mine, Power Wagon, cabin

Illustrations 187-188. Top: General view of the mine, Power Wagon, and cabin at Site #4. Bottom: The wood and tin shack on Site #5. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Starting at the junction of Furnace Creek road and the Echo Canyon jeep trail, the visitor would first travel up through lower Echo Canyon, where the walls of the canyon rise straight up cut of the desert floor in much the same way as does lower Titus Canyon. After passing through the impressive lower canyon, the visitor could then stop at the Inyo Mine and mill complex, then double back to the upper Echo Canyon road and stop at Schwab. Further up the canyon, on the old Schwab-Lee road, a short but arduous hike could be offered to the more energetic visitors, whereby they could view the "Furnace" mine complex. Further up the canyon road is Site #2, with its assorted ruins.

After climbing out of Echo Canyon along the old road, adventurous visitors could then follow the old wagon road along the crest of the ridge to Site #3, and the less adventurous could continue to follow the main road up over the crest of the Funeral Range and down to Lee. Along the way, the townsite of Echo could be seen, before the travelers descended into the Amargosa Valley at the sites of Lee townsite and the Hayseed Mine.

At this point, several options would be available. The route could be retraced back to Furnace Creek, or the visitors could continue on. Turning to the north, they could follow the old Rhyolite-Lee road out towards Rhyolite, crossing the grade of the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad on the way, and return to Death Valley via Daylight Pass. Sidetrips could be made, as desired, to Rhyolite, the Original Bullfrog Mire, the Homestake and Gold King mill ruins, the Chloride Cliff District, or through Titus Canyon. To the south from Lee, the road to Leeland Station on the Tonopah & Tidewater could be followed, and then the visitor could return to Death Valley through Furnace Creek.

Whichever option is followed, a trip such as this would offer the visitor a combination of scenic beauty, spectacular views, an exciting ride, and numerous interpretive possibilities. The interpretation could be carried out either through signing at the sites, a trip booklet available at the visitors center, or a combination of both. Such a visitor experience as this is not available anywhere else in Death Valley National Monument.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003