Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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C. The Black Mountains (continued)

3. Greenwater District Mines

a. Mines and Mining in Greenwater

During the short and spectacular Greenwater boom, fully seventy-three mining companies were incorporated within the district, and literally scores of smaller mines and prospects were opened Papers have been located for thirty-three of the companies which did incorporate, which show their combined capitalization value to be over $76,000,000. Although the exact capitalization totals of the other forty incorporated companies cannot be determined, the minimum standard capitalization for the time period was $1,000,000 per company, which would give us a total capitalization value of the Greenwater district mines of over $116,000,000. This total, of course, in no way reflects the actual amount of money spent in the district, but it does give some idea of the amazingly vast amounts which investors and promoters hoped to reap from the rich copper ores of Greenwater.

But as we know, the district turned out to be a complete bust, with no ore of consequence ever being mined. None of the seventy-three companies ever entered the production stage of mining, but this is not to say that none of the companies were profitable. Many of the companies which were incorporated for business in Greenwater never actually did any mining at all, nor ever intended to. Indeed, as the Death Valley Chuck-Walla pointed out in several cases, quite a few of the companies did hope to mine the pockets of their gullible investors. The scheme was relatively simple and was quite easy to pull off during the giddy days of the Greenwater boom, for few if any investors in New York or San Francisco could hope to determine which companies were serious and which were fakes. All an unscrupulous operator had to do was incorporate a company with a Greenwater-like name, advertise it as being in the heart of the district or near a well-known mine, and collect the money which started to pour in for stock subscriptions.

The stock, of course, was worthless, since the company either had no and or no intention of mining, but the promoters would have collected their profits and departed the scene long before this fact became evident.

That this scheme was played over and over again in Greenwater is quite apparent, given the fact that thirty of the mines which were incorporated in that district never did any work at all. Undoubtedly, the great majority of these companies were much more interested in mining the pockets of investors than in mining the ground. In the long run these were the only mining companies who made a profit of the Greenwater boom, for no one who invested the stockholders funds in actual mining efforts made any money. Nor should we feel too sorry for the investors. Anyone caught up in a boom spirit such as prevailed in Greenwater cannot be pitied for having his dreams fail, for greed was the primary consideration of investors) just as it was for mining promoters. Indeed, investors lost no more money in fraudulent mining schemes than in honest ones, since Greenwater had no productive ores.

But, of course, not all the Greenwater mines were fakes. Most of the companies did make an honest search for ore, and several, particularly the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company and the Furnace Creek Copper Company, continued that search long beyond the bounds of reasonable doubt. All in all, however, the infant mortality rate for Greenwater mines was shockingly high. Fifty-two of the seventy-three companies did not last longer than six months, and only five companies were in operation longer than one year. The average life expectancy for a Greenwater mining corporation was a dismal four months and three weeks. Since it would be a lengthy task to even outline the histories of these seventy-three companies, representative samples are given instead. Included are the stories of the two major companies in Greenwater, that of a typical company which lasted a brief five months, and that of an outright fraud.


NameDate First MentionedDate Last Mentioned
Furnace Creek Copper Company23 June 190517 March 1909
Furnace Creek Gold Mining Company8 September 19058 September 1905
Greenwater Consolidated Copper Co.4 May 190610 April 1909
Funeral Range Copper Company4 May 190629 March 1907
Greenwater Copper Mining Company1 July 19061 May 1907
Furnace Creek South Extension Mining Company3 August 19061 May 1907
**Greenwater Death Valley Copper Co.10 August 19061 September 1909
Butte & Furnace Creek Copper Mining Company17 August 190617 August 1906
Greenwater Monitor Copper Company17 August 190617 August 1906
Greenwater Calumet Copper Company27 August 190610 March 1909
Clark Copper Company7 September 19061 May 1907
Greenwater Black Jack Copper Mining Company11 September 19061 May 1907
Greenwater Furnace Creek Copper Co.15 September 190615 April 1907
Furnace Creek Consolidated Copper Co.17 September 19061 May 1907
Furnace Creek Extension Copper Mining Company21 September 190615 April 1907
Greenwater Red Boy Copper Mining Company28 September 190624 October 1907
Butte & Greenwater Copper Company12 October 19061 June 1907
Greenwater Hercules Copper Company12 October 190612 October 1906
Greenwater United Copper Company12 October 190612 October 1906
Anaconda Consolidated Copper Company of Greenwater12 October 190612 October 1906
*Boston-Greenwater Copper Company12 October 190612 October 1906
Pittsburgh-Greenwater Copper Company18 October 19061 June 1907
Greenwater Saratoga Copper Company19 October 190624 October 1907
Furnace Valley Copper Company19 October 19061 April 1907
Greenwater Rambler Copper Company23 October 190623 October 1906
Butte Funeral Range Copper Company23 October 19061 January 1907
**United Greenwater Copper Company23 October 190630 December 1908
Greenwater Copper Company23 October 19069 February 1907
Salt Lake & Greenwater Copper Co.26 October 190626 October 1906
Kunze Consolidated Copper Company27 October 190615 February 1907
**Ironclad Greenwater Copper Company3 November 190624 October 1907
Funeral Range Copper Extension Mining Company6 November 19066 November 1906
Greenwater-Furnace Creek Consolidated Copper Company6 November 19066 November 1906
Greenwater Townsite Copper Company15 November 190615 November 1906
Kempland Copper Company16 November 19061 May 1907
South Greenwater Copper Company17 November 190629 June 1907
New York Greenwater Copper Company20 November 190620 November 1906
Original Greenwater Copper & Gold Mining Company22 November 190622 November 1906
Greenwater Bonanza Copper Company24 November 190624 November 1906
Greenwater Iron Mountain Copper Co.30 November 190630 November 1906
Ramsey Consolidated Copper Company30 November 190615 March 1907
North Greenwater Copper Company10 December 190610 December 1906
Greenwater Consolidated Copper Company of Funeral Range11 December 190611 December 1906
Greenwater Pay Copper Company15 December 19061 May 1907
Consolidated Greenwater Copper Mining Company15 December 19061 June 1907
Greenwater Apache Mining Company15 December 190615 December 1906
Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company
(The $25,000,000 holding co.)
15 December 19061 September 1909
Death Valley Copper Glance Mining Company17 December 190617 December 1906
Greenwater Salt Lake Copper Company28 December 190625 January 1907
Greenwater Thrifty Copper Company
(undated incorporation paper in 1906, never mentioned again)
Montana-Furnace Creek Copper Company1 January 19071 May 1907
Greenwater Ibex Copper & Gold Mining Company4 January 19074 January 1907
Greenwater Central Copper Company5 January 190718 February 1909
**Greenwater El Capitan Copper Company1 February 190724 October 1907
East Greenwater Copper Company15 February 190710 March 1909
*Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company15 February 190715 February 1907
Greenwater Bonanza Copper Company24 November 190624 November 1906
Greenwater Iron Mountain Copper Co.30 November 190630 November 1906
Ramsey Consolidated Copper Company30 November 190615 March 1907
North Greenwater Copper Company10 December 190610 December 1906
Greenwater Consolidated Copper Company of Funeral Range11 December 190611 December 1906
Greenwater Pay Copper Company15 December 19061 May 1907
Consolidated Greenwater Copper Mining Company15 December 19061 June 1907
Greenwater Apache Mining Company15 December 190615 December 1906
Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company
(The $25,000,000 holding co.)
15 December 19061 September 1909
Death Valley Copper Glance Mining Company17 December 190617 December 1906
Greenwater Salt Lake Copper Company28 December 190625 January 1907
Greenwater Thrifty Copper Company
(undated incorporation paper in 1906, never mentioned again)
Montana-Furnace Creek Copper Company1 January 19071 May 1907
Greenwater Ibex Copper & Gold Mining Company4 January 19074 January 1907
Greenwater Central Copper Company5 January 190718 February 1909
**Greenwater El Capitan Copper Company1 February 190724 October 1907
East Greenwater Copper Company15 February 190710 March 1909
*Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company15 February 190715 February 1907
*Greenwater Consolidated Mining Co.15 February 190715 February 1907
Consolidated Greenwater Copper Mining Company15 February 19071 June 1907
Copper Oxide Company15 February 190715 February 1907
Copper Sulphide Company15 February 190715 April 1907
Furnace Creek Copper Oxide Company15 February 19071 April 1907
Gladstone Greenwater Copper Development Company15 February 190715 April 1907
Greenwater Bimetallic Copper Company15 February 190729 March 1907
Greenwater Copper Helmet Company15 February 190715 April 1907
Greenwater Ely Consolidated Copper Company15 February 190715 February 1907
Greenwater Superior Copper Mining Company15 February 190715 February 1907
Greenwater Furnace Valley Copper Company15 February 19071 April 1907
Greenwater Vindicator Copper Mining Company1 March 19071 June 1907
Greenwater Chuck-Walla Copper Co.15 March 19071 May 1907
Kingston Range Copper Mines Corporation15 March 190715 March 1907
Salt Lake & Furnace Creek Copper Company29 March 190729 March 1907
Greenwater Copper King Company15 April 19071 May 1907
Kentucky Copper Mining Company1 May 19071 May 1907

* - Companies exposed by the Death Valley Chuck-Walla as frauds.

** - Companies included in the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company merger.

mine site
Illustration 214. The inscription on this 1906 photo simply reads "California and Calumet Mines, Greenwater, Cal." and amply portrays the holdings and improvements of a typical mine during the Greenwater boom--nothing. Photo courtesy Nevada Historical Society.

b. Furnace Creek Copper Company

In the early 1900's, Patrick Patsy Clark of Spokane was one of the best known copper magnates of the United States. As noted before, when two prospectors made their initial copper discoveries in Greenwater, they immediately notified Clark's agents, and Clark became interested in the new district. In May of 1905, Clark visited the virgin Greenwater territory and purchased the claims. By the middle of the next month, he had already opened up a mine, and by the end of June had eight men working in a shaft which was thirty-five feet deep. Clark was the first major operator in the district, and hoped to reap a quick fortune by finding the immense underground copper deposits from which came the rich surface croppings of Greenwater.

By March of 1906, although the copper lode had not been found, Clark had decided that the indications on the ground warranted permanent and extensive exploration and development, and his young mine was upgraded into a mining camp by the arrival of tents, camp supplies, working tools, etc. By this time his working force had been expanded slightly to nine, and the shaft was sixty feet deep. The Greenwater rush was now starting in earnest and numerous prospectors and rival promoters were on the ground. Taking advantage of the initial wave of excitement which was sweeping the mining world, Clark incorporated his company in March, and named it the Furnace Creek Copper Company. The company was formed with a capital stock of$1,250,000 and shares in the company were put on the market at 50¢ each, one half of their par value. Clark offered 125,000 of these shares to the general public, in order to build up development capital, and within three hours every share had been sold. The Mining, World explained the phenomenon by noting that "Mr. Clark's success as a mining operator has been so great, and Butte as well as Spokane people have such confidence in any property that he backs, that they eagerly purchase what stock he has to offer.

With the success of his capitalization, Clark stepped up work at the mine, and by mid-April had fourteen men employed and was sinking two shafts, down to fifty and one hundred feet, respectively. Arrangements were made to purchase a small 15-horsepower gas hoist to speed up the work, and by mid-May, the new hoist had arrived and was installed. By this time, with the Greenwater boom well under way, prices of Furnace Creek Copper, the earliest and best-known mine in the district, were leaping through the roof. One bold investor in New York city purchased an entire block of 100,000 shares at the price of $3.25; 1,500 more were sold in the same city for $4.25 per share; and the price at Los Angeles went even higher to $4.50. These were totally unheard-of prices for stock in a company which had yet to extract or ship a single pound of ore.

With the money roiling in, Clark discarded his 15-horse power hoist and replaced it with a larger 40-horse power model, which would enable him to sink to a depth of nearly 1,000 feet. Clark also began buying up adjacent claims and had soon extended his company's control to an area of approximately 400 acres. Both the Tonopah & Tidewater and the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroads offered to build a spur line to his mire, upon request, and Clark mentioned that he was considering the construction of a 300-ton smelter. But for the time being, these ambitious plans were laid aside until the copper body could be proven. The staff was expanded to sixteen miners, and the shafts went deeper and deeper) reaching the 150-foot point in mid-July. The Bullfrog Miner, suitably impressed by the rapid development of the company, commented in July that the "Furnace Creek Copper company, owned by Patsy Clark, is developing into one of the biggest things of its age known in copper mining."

During the summer of 1906, small pockets of high grade ore were occasionally found in Clark's mine, but no bodies large enough to mine commercially. Still, it was much too soon to expect much, and development continued. By mid-August, the shaft was down to 220 feet, and three shifts were working around the clock in the mine. The shaft had been sunk to 265 feet by early September, the work force increased to eighteen men, and another large hoist was procured. By this time, stock in Clark's company had leveled off somewhat, and was being sold and traded at a steady $4 per share, tour times its par value.

But as the Greenwater boom reached its most violent phase in the fall of 1906, there was no holding down the price of stock, regardless of the lack of any ore yet produced. Furnace Creek Copper stock rose to $4.50 in late September and then up to $5 and $5.25 per share by mid-October. Some of this flurry was caused by prevalent rumors of a consolidation between Clark and his chief competitor in the district, Charles Schwab, but even after that rumor proved false, stock prices remained unrealistically high.

In mid-October, excitement prevailed at the company's headquarters, as copper ore was struck in a crosscut from the 200-foot level of the main shaft. Development was spurred by the discovery, and by the middle of November, in addition to the numerous crosscuts and drifts which the company was sending out from the 100 and 200-foot levels of its shafts, the main working shaft was still going deeper. By the end of 1906, the company had two large hoists working on its shafts, the main one of which was down to 385 Feet, and forty men were employed by the firm. No ore had yet been found, but the company was in tremendous financial shape, and there was plenty of time for development work.

Almost as an afterthought, Clark also entered the townsite business late in 1906, due more to public pressure than desire. Since supplies and accommodations throughout the district were in such shortage at the peak of the boom, miners and prospectors naturally flocked towards Clark's camp, where stores had been established to cater to the needs of the miners he employed. Realizing that the only way to control his camp in the face of the unwanted crowds was to organize a townsite, whether he wanted one or not, Clark entered the townsite battle in October. Shortly thereafter a townsite company was incorporated and by December advertisements were printed in the Rhyolite newspapers, advertising losts for sale from between $250 and $750 apiece. [12]

Furnace Creek Copper Company
Illustration 215. View of the workings of the Furnace Creek Copper Company, ca. December 1906. The rude collection of tents soon afterwards grew into the mining camp of Furnace, which was later moved down the valley when it began to interfer with mining operations. Note the pile of shaft timbers to the left of the hoist, and the water wagon in the center. Photo courtesy Nevada Historical Society.

As 1907 opened, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla reported that Patsy Clark had one shaft down to 300 feet in depth, and others were on the way. In addition, the young townsite of Furnace (sometimes called Clark) was bustling with a store, a restaurant, a hotel and other business firms, and a Post Office had been applied for. Sinking continued rapidly during that month, since the cold weather forced companies working near the surface to shut down, end Clark for once was able to hire all the miners he needed. By the middle of the month the main shaft had broken the 400-foot level. When the growing townsite threatened to interfere with the operation of the mines, it was bodily moved away from the main shaft down the slope to the north, and replatted there. Town lots began to command a premium, especially since the consolidation of Kunze's and Ramsey's townsites made Furnace the only reasonable place to live for miners employed by Clark and other nearby companies. As development continued, and the problem of obtaining supplies for the mine and townsite grew, a road was surveyed to the site, in order to ease deliveries.

During February, work continued on the main shaft, although several other exploratory shafts and cuts were being run. By the middle of that month the main shaft had been sunk to 480 feet, another crosscut was started at the 250-foot level, and the growing town of Furnace counted a population of 500. By March 1st, with the shaft at the 500-foot level, new crosscuts were started and ore was discovered. Although the copper deposits uncovered were not large enought to crow about, they were large enough to mine, and the Furnace Creek Copper Company began sacking its best ore for shipment to the smelter. To get there, the ore had to be hauled over fifty miles across the sandy desert to the Las Vegas & Tonopah station at Amargosa.

By mid-March, the company was still stoping ore for shipment, and the shaft had been continued below the 500-foot level. Only ore which averaged above 12 percent copper, a very high figure, could be profitably shipped. At the end of that month, the company was still assembling a shipment, which indicates that it did not have a great abundance of 12 percent ore. Nevertheless, with the main shaft down to 550 feet, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla felt justified in calling the Furnace Creek Copper Company the very best mine in the entire Greenwater District.

Sometime in April, the first shipment of ore was sent out, which represented the first shipment from the Greenwater District. The shaft was now down to 600 feet, and the Bullfrog Miner reported that 150 men were working in the vicinity of Furnace, most of them for the Furnace Creek Copper Company. In mid-May, the company was still shipping ore, but no returns were received from the smelter until late in that month. Those returns showed that one carload of hand-sorted ore sent cut contained 22.58 percent copper, which was of profitable level, but two other carloads (of approximately twenty tons each) had not yet been heard from.

Despite these shipments, which represented the closest anyone in the Greenwater District had yet come to becoming a real producing mine, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla noted on June 1st that the Furnace Creek Copper Company was not looking good. Formerly one of the best in the district, it was now running out of development funds, in the Chuck-Walla's assessment, and for some reason it had taken its biggest hoist off the main shaft and replaced it with a rather useless 5-horsepower hoist. That hoist could have no hope whatever of raising rock over 600 feet from the bottom of the shaft The magazines' presentments were correct, for shortly after that the mine shut down. The management implied that the shut-down was to avoid the extremely hot weather of the summer months in Greenwater, but everyone knew better, and no one was particularly surprised when the mines were not immediately reopened in the fall.

The company definitely had problems, for it had expended enormous sums in fruitless development work, and now it faced the problem of whether to give up completely, or to continue to look for the elusive green ore. At the annual meeting, held in early October, some of the problems were ironed out, and a picture of the company's financial condition emerged. According to the Bullfrog Miner, the company had experienced some "internal difficulties" which meant that the directors were undecided as to who to blame for past failures. These difficulties are easy to understand when it is pointed out that stock prices in the company had slipped over $4 in less than a year. Stock which was eagerly sought for over $5 less than one year ago had slumped all the way to 20¢ per share by the end of October, 1907. Although the decline of the Greenwater boom and the Panic of 1907 were contributing factors, still the basic reason for the stock slump was the essential fact that after spending thousands of dollars on development work, the company had no ore to mine for future profits.

An analysis of the balance sheets showed that $135,303 had been spent in such work in the past year, including $59,250 for labor and supplies, $1,857 for legal expenses, $4,927 for machinery and plant, $4,409 for buildings and fixtures, $5,181 for surveys and patents, and $9,000 for stable expenses, chiefly water. Exactly 228,600 shares of treasury stock had already been sold, bringing in $131,687. Receipts from ore shipments totaled $2,625.09, and money value of equipment and supplies on hand was placed at $20,536, including timbers, mine and boarding house supplies, gas hoists, wagons, teams, tanks, and office buildings. Over 2,800 feet of work had been done, including eleven shafts totaling 850 feet, one crosscut of 764 feet, six drifts of 652 feet and nine surface cuts of 332 feet, two stopes of 30 feet and one tunnel of 161 feet.

But what really mattered was that the company had only 21,400 shares of treasury stock left to sell, which would raise only $4,280 at present prices. This, coupled with 50,000 shares of personal stock donated to the company by Clark for development purposes and $16,110 remaining in the company's treasury, meant that the Furnace Creek Copper company had left no more than $30,390 to spend in the search for ore. Nevertheless, the company hired eight men and resumed work, announcing that the shaft would be sunk to the 1000-foot level before giving up. With the revival of work, which continued through the rest of 1907, Furnace Creek Copper stock rebounded somewhat, and closed out the year at 25¢ per share. [13]

As the first months of 1908 passed, the Furnace Creek Copper Company continued to work with a "good force of men," as the Clarks were determined to either prove their holdings immensely valuable or demonstrate the utter failure of the property as a producer." Early in March a new 60-horsepower hoisting plant arrived and was installed, and by the beginning of April the main shaft was approaching the 800-toot level. Sinking and lateral exploration continued through April, May and June, and occasional small pockets of copper ore were found. Although all these pockets soon pinched out, the presence of some ore at these depths was just enough to keep the company's hopes alive, and it confirmed that the shaft would he sunk to 1000 feet in depth before giving up.

Work continued through the summer, although the work farce was not large enough for very rapid progress to be made. As August approached, the best assessment of the company was that the development results were encouraging, "but nothing out of the ordinary has been reached." Still the company continued to sink, and steady progress was reported through the fall of 1908, but still without finding any commercial ore bodies.

As 1908 turned into 1909, the work at the Furnace Creek Copper Company became slower and slower, and the company began giving up hope. Finally, in mid-March of 1909, the mine was closed. The Rhyolite Herald sadly announced that the company had "finally given up hope of developing satisfactory ore bodies without going to great depth" and after several years of effort, "work was entirely suspended a few weeks ago." Miners were discharged and soon even the watchman was given his notice. The elusive ore body, which had been followed sporadically down to 200 feet below the surface, had been completely lost at that point, and although the shaft had been sunk below 800 feet, no more ore had been found.

For a few months, the Furnace Creek Copper Company, held on to its property, waiting to see what would happen to the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company's property, whose shaft was below 1,000 feet and still sinking. If that shaft hit the copper ore which everyone in Greenwater had been looking for, there was a possibility that the Furnace Creek Company would be able to resume operations. But such did not come to pass, and the Furnace Creek Copper Mines were abandoned. The entire collection of claims belonging to the company was allowed to lapse, and reverted to county land status in June of 1910, when the company failed to pay $10.51 in Inyo County taxes. [14]

c. Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company

The other major mine in the Greenwater district, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, was also owned and operated by one of the great business magnates of the early twentieth century, Charles Schwab. After making his fortune in steel, Schwab had been attracted to the gold fields of Nevada following the Tonopah and Goldfield booms, and, as we have seen, dabbled constantly in mines in and around the Bullfrog area. When the Greenwater rush began, Schwab, like most major operators in the area, rushed to the site in order to capitalize on what seemed to be the biggest boom of them all.

Schwabs activities are hard to follow during the early days of the boom, since he had several agents in and around the mining towns of Death Valley who bought and sold mining properties on his behalf. For a short time in early 1906, Schwab held an interest in the Funeral Range Copper Company, but it was shortly sold, apparently because he was unable to gain outright control of the company. In July of 1906, Schwab began buying up mining claims in his own right. Schwab paid $180,000 to Arthur Kunze and his partners for a group of sixteen claims, and on August 10, 1906, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company was incorporated. The capitalization was for $3,000,000, one of the largest capitalizations in the district, and Schwab retained majority control of the company, even though his name does not appear as a member of the board of directors. The company by this time held title to 300 acres of ground, and announced that the installation of mining machinery and the inauguration of an extensive development campaign would soon start.

In addition to its mineral holdings in Greenwater, the Schwab company also owned water rights at Ash Meadows, and preliminary plans were announced to install a pumping and power station in that vicinity. Lumber and supplies began to flow into the company's property at Greenwater and work began. According to the usual procedure a limited amount of Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company stock was offered for sale in Rhyolite and other mining towns of the west, and by the end of August, the main shaft of the mine was down to 100 feet in depth, and work was started on two other shafts. The company ordered three gas hoists to facilitate the sinking.

With the organization of a company such as this, with a man of Schwab's reputation behind it, the local newspapers immediately began to follow the progress of the company. The Bullfrog Miner reported in late September that the company was already employing forty miners on its property. In addition, it said, the company had ordered three gas hoists (of 25, 40 and 50-horsepower), which would easily give it the largest hoisting capacity in the district. These first indications of development work were quite promising, and the Inyo Independent reported towards the end of September that the company had "good ore.

Although the Furnace Creek Copper Company was the darling stock of the Greenwater District, Greenwater Death Valley Copper did not do poorly. The attraction of the Schwab name--even though he had never attempted copper mining before--plus the good location and the obvious intent of the company to develop its property extensively, caused the price of its stock to soar upwards, until it was selling for $2 per share in late September, twice its par value. By the end of that month, the three new hoists had arrived at the mine and were being placed above their shafts, two of which were already below the 100-toot level.

The company added a few more claims to its property list in early October, and spurred by this and other mysterious activities, the newspapers soon picked up the smell of something big. Since the biggest thing they could imagine would be a combination of Clark's and Schwab's mines--the two largest in the district--incessant rumors circulated of a merger between the two powerful operators. The rumors caused especially heavy trading of the stocks of both companies in Boston and New York, and the rumors became so proliferant that the papers began to believe themselves. The Inyo Independent reported in mid-October that the merger between the companies was practically final, since the main points affecting it had been settled between Clark and Schwab. When another month passed, however, without any merger announcements, the Bullfrog Miner revised its estimate and reported that difficulties had arisen, which had delayed the consolidation.

In the meantime, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company was working hard, and early in November began taking shipping ore out of one of its shafts. By this time the company had two of its shafts below 100 feet, a third below 50 feet, and had built two comfortable frame offices on its property. Work continued through the rest of 1906, and by early December the two deeper shafts were at the 200-level, and the Greenwater Death Valley Copper company had emerged as one of the largest operations in the district.

Then, on December 15th, the long-anticipated merger took place. Unfortunately, the papers had been speculating about the wrong companies, however, for the Furnace Creek Copper Company had no part in the merger. Instead, a consolidation was announced, of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper, the United Greenwater Copper and several unincorporated mines owned by John Brock and some Philadelphia financiers.

The new merger company was named the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines and Smelting Company, and had a capitalization of $25,000,000, with five million shares worth $5 each. It was easily the largest incorporation that the Death Valley region had ever seen. The new company was a holding corporation, and as such bought up the controlling interests in the companies it took over. The stock distribution in the new company was based upon the amount of stock which had been sold in the older companies, and 68 percent of the merger company's stock went to buy out the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, 18 percent to the United Greenwater, and the rest to the owners of the unincorporated mines. Charles Schwab, it was definitely pointed out, was in control of the holding company, and plans were announced for the erection of a smelter at Ash Meadows, where the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company already had water rights. In addition, the holding company announced that it would build a railroad from the smelter site to the Greenwater mines. A smelting expert was hired for $25,000 per year to supervise the selection of the construction site and the construction of the plant, and hopes were raised that the smelter would be running within a year.

Under the management arrangement of the holding company, however, the subsidiary companies under its control would continue to work on their own, retaining their names, identities and management--subject, of course, to the approval of Schwab and the parent company. Thus the mines continued to explore and develop their own deposits, and the holding company was used for a pooling of resources and capital, which would be necessary in order to finance the capital expenditures which were proposed. [15]

Copper Queen shaft
Illustration 216. an early view of the Copper Queen shaft of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, ca. December 1906. This was the shaft which was ultimately sunk to the depth of over 1400 feet. In this view, however, work has barely startd, and the miners are still using a crude hand whim to raise the rock to the surface. The young town of Kunze may be seen in the background. Photo courtesy Nevada Historical Society.

Copper Queen shaft
Illustration 217. Another view of the same shaft, this one taken below ground, where an intermediate hand whim was being used. The man sitting at the right, with suspenders, notebook and pen in pocket, is undoubtedly the mine superintendent. He may also be seen in the background in the preceeding picture. Photo courtesy Nevada Historical Society.

Under the impetus of the new merger arrangements, and with the Greenwater boom at its very peak, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company opened 1907 in impressive style, increasing its work force to nearly fifty men! Two more gas hoists were added to the property, bringing the total to five hoists pumping away over five separate shafts. Four of the shafts were over 100 feet in depth, and the deepest one had reached 125 feet. By early February the holding company announced that construction plans were completed for its smelter, which would cost $1,500,000 to build, and reaffirmed that a rail line would be constructed between the smelter site and the mines. The Death Valley Chuck-Walla reported that the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company had itself spent over $100,000 since starting work in August of 1906, and now had all five shafts down past the 100-foot point. Labor costs alone were running the company $10,000 a month to pursue its vigorous campaign. The deepest shaft was now down to 140 feet, and an air compressor had been ordered to force air down to the men working below ground.

Early in March the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company added more mines to its holdings, including those of the Greenwater El Capitan Copper company. Construction on the smelter was slated to start within sixty days, and survey work for the railroad spur was started. By the middle of that month, the deepest shaft on the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company's property was near the 300-foot level, and two others were down to 275 and 200 feet. Three shifts were working around the clock, a machine shop had been installed at the central shaft, an assay office was built, and a sawmill was under construction, to facilitate the shaping of timbers for the deep mine shafts.

The rapid exploitation of the company's property continued through April, and the payroll was increased to 75 men. By the 19th of that month the deepest shaft was down 475 feet, and had fairly good copper ore (3%) at the bottom. Sinking kept pace in the other shafts, and towards the end of April, four of the company's five working shafts were below 40:0 feet. As May progressed, crosscuts were run from several of the shafts, as exploratory measures, and by the end of May another small strike was reported at the 485-foot level in one of the shafts. In the meantime the holding company was completing plans for its smelter, and equipment for the, construction of the plant was ordered. The holding company also increased its list of subsidiary mines, until it held title to over 200 claims comprising some 4,000 acres of land. Although the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company was clearly the leading subsidiary within the umbrella group, sinking and exploration was also carried on in numerous of the company's other mines.

More strikes were made in June, and although none were large enough to turn the mine from development into production, all were encouraging as they gave indications of an immense copper body just a little farther below the surface. The Bullfrog Miner reported towards the end of June that six shafts were working at the Greenwater Death Valley property, the deepest of which was now 500 feet. Miners were still scarce in Greenwater, and since contractors refused to work on crosscuts during the graveyard shift, the company was forced to cut back its operation to two daily shifts. "The success of this mine, which would lead to a smelter being built," concluded the Bullfrog Miner, "is most important for the Greenwater district."

Further strikes of small copper deposits were reported in July, and late in that month, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company made a shipment of two carloads (approximately forty tons) of its high-grade ore, which had been taken out of the small strikes during the past months. Following that shipment, the news from the mines decreased, and development slowed down somewhat as Schwab and other operators began to feel the effects of the Panic of 1907. Not until late October was the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company mentioned again, when it was reported that they had added ten more men to the payroll. By now the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company was employing 100 men in its combined operations, and more than half of them were working directly for Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company.

In November, however, three of that company's shafts were closed, in order to economize on development work, and only three shafts were still in operation. An indication of some past troubles was alluded to in the Bullfrog Miner, when it mentioned that the Schwab property was resuming full-scale work. As the year closed out, developments seemed to be increasing once again, as the company let a contract for 500 feet of sinking in its main shaft. The shift from company work to contract work, though, was a ready indication that the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company was beginning to feel the financial pinch. [16]

By the beginning of 1908 the Greenwater boom had busted, and the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company was one of the few still working in the district. Gone were the balmy days when companies were organized for $25,000,000: the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company quietly faded into the background, and no more word of smelter construction or railroad building was heard. Rather, operations were contracted, development was restricted to the most economical means, and the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company tried to save all its previous investments in a desperate search for ore. Happily, the company still had a fat treasury, due to wise management practices and the constant sale of company stock in previous days when prices had been high.

As the new year opened, the main shaft at the property was approaching the 600-foot level, and progress was steady now that work had been concentrated on one shaft. The company reported in March, after two more months of work, that $125,000 was left in its treasury for further development work, and that its shaft was now 740 feet deep. Another contract was let at this time to sink 100 feet further. By the first of April, the shaft was down to 850 feet, by far the deepest of any in the district, and towards the end of April was approaching the magic 1000-foot level, where all the company's experts had predicted the giant copper body would be found As May ended, the shaft was down to 940 feet, and Superintendent Jerry O'Rourke optimistically told the Rhyolite Herald that "they will make a camp of Greenwater yet."

On June 10th the 1000-foot point was finally reached, and true to prediction, ore was struck. The first assays on the copper body ran 5 to 6 percent copper, but no one could yet estimate how extensive the deposit was. This strike, as noted before, caused a minor rush back into the Greenwater District, as prospectors and companies who had let their titles lapse rushed back in to reclaim them. But within a week, the strike had proven to be no more than a small stringer or ore. Still, no one doubted that the presence of this small stringer indicated that there was a large body of copper within the vicinity, and the strike did prove that Greenwater was "not a surface proposition as has so often been claimed.

The company was still confident that ore was in the ground, and stated in late June that in case ore is not struck in the crosscut which has been started from the 1,000-foot level, that the company will sink another 1,000 feet to demonstrate its theory that a body of copper ore exists in the locality. However, it is believed that the present crosscut will uncover commercial copper when it reaches its objective point." As July progressed, the company pursued that objective, via crosscuts from both the 500 and the 1,000-foot levels, and was apparently satisfied enough with the results of the search to finally apply for a patent to its claims. The application listed a total of thirty claims and thirteen fractions, for a total of over 515 acres.

In the meantime, the crosscuts were continued, and although ore assaying 6 percent copper and eleven ounces of silver, for a total worth of $25 per ton, was discovered in the crosscut from the 500-foot level, nothing of importance was found at the deeper 1,000-foot level. Despite this discouraging result, the company kept working. Time and money, however, were beginning to press the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, and the work force was cut back until it was described in late October as a small force of men. Work was resumed in the main shaft in November, and by the end of the year, it had been sunk to nearly 1,100 feet. Small stringers of copper ore were found as the shaft went deeper, but nothing of commercial grade or extent could be found. [17]

After a disappointing 1908, the new year opened on a more promising note for the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company. The drifts continued to find ore, its quality started to improve somewhat, and the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin reported in early January that "the situation in the Greenwater district is very encouraging." The paper again reported towards the middle of January that the company was bringing up buckets or ore, which was starting to appear in bunches, and "every indication points to a monster vein in the property that should soon be tapped." The Mining World picked up on that report, but cautioned that considerable work remains to be done to demonstrate the extent and value of these finds."

But after years of fruitless searching for ore, it was hard to hold down the elation over finding copper, even though its commercial extent was not yet proven. Early in February the Bullfrog Miner reported that the recent discovery of sixty feet of 5 percent copper ore at the 1000-foot point of the shaft had caused the company to become "highly elated" over the discovery, and to push "developments vigorously." "On the proving of the new ore body," remarked the Bullfrog Miner in an understatement, "depends the future of the Greenwater Death Valley mine and practically of the camp of Greenwater.

Hard on the heels of this discovery came another, as ore was finally found in the crosscut from the 1,000-foot level of the shaft, 200 feet out. This body was soon proven to be forty feet in width, which was stilt not enough to warrant commercial production, but much more than enough to warrant further exploration and development. "The find has caused all kinds of excitement around Greenwater," reported the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin, "and all indications point to a big revival in the mining industry." The Bullfrog Miner agreed, and reported that the "camp of Greenwater is on the rise from all indications Parties with holdings there are putting forth more zeal in the development than has been shown for over a year."

With the revival of hopes, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company, which still held control of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, released its annual report for the year ending December 31, 1908. The holding company had a cash balance of $138,136 at the end of that year, which included $49,099 in the treasury of the United Greenwater Copper Company and $87,136 in the treasury of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company. Since the United Greenwater had long ago ceased work, its treasury funds were available for application towards the continuing development work on the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company's mines. The parent company, it was announced, owned or controlled 96 percent of the capital stock of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper, the United Greenwater Copper, and the El Capitan Copper Mining Company. All but the Greenwater Death Valley Coper Company, however, were idle.

Pushing hard upon its discoveries, that company continued its work through March. By the middle of that month, the main shaft was down to 1,220 feet and was going for 1,500, which was now seen as the point of decision. Fifteen men were employed at the mine. Work was temporarily halted in early April, when Fred Kelly, a 39-year old miner, fell to his death in the shaft of the mine, but was soon continued, and in late April and early May, more small copper bodies were found. By the middle of May, with the shaft approaching the 1,300-foot mark, the future of the mine was still indecisive, for although the "usual indications of copper are present . . . . no commercial ore bodies have been encountered."

The Bullfrog Miner reported at this time that the total treasury of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company, based upon its earlier annual report, would be sufficient for more than four more years of development work, based upon the average costs of $2,500 per month at the mine. Such an expenditure would be impractical, however, for everyone agreed that if copper was not found by the 1,500-foot depth, the mine would be abandoned, since copper below that level, no matter how rich, would be very expensive to mine. But the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company and its parent holding company were both in rather good financial shape, and even though ore was not found, the price of stock in both companies began to rise, going from 4¢ to 9¢ per share. The reason for the trading, explained the Rhyolite Herald was the tact that if the company quit work, the remaining treasury funds would be divided among the holders of its outstanding stock, which made that stock worth a few cents per shares. Shareholders, in other words, now hoped that the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company would either find ore quickly, or else close down quickly and distribute the remaining funds.

On July 24th, it looked like the latter would be the option taken. Work was halted at the mine, for the shaft had reached the 1,400-foot level, and the present hoisting plant at the property did not have the capacity to raise rock from any lower down. The superintendent asked for instructions, giving the company the options of purchasing a new hoist for deeper sinking, of crosscutting from the 1400-foot level, or of shutting down the mine. After some thought the company decided to purchase a larger hoist, and while awaiting its arrival, to crosscut at the bottom of the shaft.

But the crosscutting soon proved futile, and for some reason the company reversed its decision, for the new hoist was never ordered. Work gradually slowed down at the mine, and finally, on September 1st, was halted. The work force was laid off. After sinking to a final depth of 1439 feet below the surface, the deepest shaft in the Death Valley region, the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company finally gave up its search for copper ore and abandoned its mine. Greenwater was now totally dead, for this was the last company operating in the district. The Inyo Register printed the obituary for both the mine and the district: "With the cessation of all work at the Greenwater Death Valley mine, the once thriving camps of Greenwater and Furnace Creek, California, have been given over to the reign of the coyotes. There is scarcely a man to be found in the entire district, and locally it is considered extremely doubtful that the Schwab company will ever resume work at the mine, which was once pronounced a bonanza." Ironically, with the cessation of work at Greenwater, shares in the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mines & Smelting Company shot up from 7¢ to 11¢ each, as stockholders anticipated the splitting of the remaining treasury funds.

The stockholders, however, were doomed to disappointment, for the holding company decided to invest the remaining funds in other mining districts rather than dissolve the company, and for the next several years, sporadic reports of the company could be found from gold districts in Nevada and California, where they tried their luck. Unfortunately, the other districts proved no more fruitful than had Greenwater, and the company eventually went broke.

In the meantime, however, the Rhyolite Herald had nothing but praise for the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, for in Greenwater it had done all that could be expected and more to try to prove the benefits of the once highly praised district. The management of the company, said the Herald, had always been honest and above board, and reasonable men could have been expected to give up long before they had. No one should he able to complain about the conduct of its business in the Greenwater District.

Shortly after the mine was closed down, contracts were let to haul the machinery and equipment out of the district for use elsewhere, a job which was expected to take five or six weeks. The cannibalization of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mine was so complete that the timbers were even stripped from the shafts and brought up for use again elsewhere. The company's property was totally abandoned, and in June of 1910 reverted to county control, when the once mighty Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company failed to pay $10.85 in county taxes on its numerous mining claims in the district. [18]

d. Kempland Copper Company

The two companies discussed above were quite unusual, and they do not represent the average Greenwater District mining company. As noted before the average life of a copper company in Greenwater was limited to slightly less than five months, considerably less than that of either the Furnace Creek Copper Company or the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company. For the sake of comparison, therefore, a short narrative of the life and death of a more typical copper company should prove instructive. Such is the Kempland Copper Company, which lasted five and a half months from its first mention in the newspapers to its last.

The origin of the Kempland Copper Company is shrouded in mystery, as is most of those which surfaced in Greenwater, and was undoubtedly the result of a series of mining sales, trades, and consolidations of claims. It was first mentioned on November 16, 1906, when the Bullfrog Miner noted in passing that it was located near the Clark Copper Company and the Greenwater Calument Copper Company. It was again mentioned in December 21st, when the Inyo Independent commented that a tunnel was being driven on its property.

The Death Valley Chuck-Walla alluded to the Kempland property on January 1, 1907, writing that it was located near the townsite of Furnace, in close proximity to the mines mentioned above, as well as the big Furnace Creek Copper Company. From this description, and the fact that the Kempland first appeared during the latter days of the height of Greenwater's boom, it is safe to infer that it was a typical risk" operation. In other words, the grounds owned by the Kempland Copper Company were undoubtedly purchased and mined more for their proximity to the Furnace Creek Copper Company's property than for any mineral content or worth of their own. As mentioned before, this was quite a common practice at the time, and was a practice which was responsible for the proliferation of mines around any big strike. We have seen this same phenomonem at work in Bullfrog, and again in the South Bullfrog and Lee-Echo districts.

Although we have no incorporation papers for the Kempland Copper Company, it was undoubtedly capitalized for $1,000,000 with shares worth $1 each par value, since this was the lowest incorporation ever seen in Greenwater. By mid-February, the company had succeeded in selling enough of these shares to start permanent development work, and the Death Valley Chuck-Walla reported that the company was working on a tunnel, and had a large enough work force to warrant the hiring of a superintendent. The company was steadily developing its ground, and had a good showing of ore.

On March 1st, by which time the company's tunnel was in 100 feet, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla noted that it was owned by J. Ross Clark. Clark was also the owner of the Clark Copper Company, which adjoined the Kempland, and was the brother of William Clark, president of the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad. The company had ore in its tunnel, said the Chuck-Walla and was making plans to ship it as soon as possible. By the middle of the month, although no ore had been shipped, more progress had been made in the tunnel, which was now 200 feet deep into the side of the hill.

By April 1st, the company looked even better. It now owned twenty-two claims northwest of the townsite of Furnace, and was crosscutting on the ore ledge. Full surface equipment had been installed, the copper ore brought up was giving high assays, and plans were still being made to start shipments in the near future. In summary, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla called the Kempland Copper Company One of the best properties in the district. On April 15th, the company was still working on its claims, but no shipments had been made. Later in that month the Bullfrog Miner reported that the company had a small eight-foot ledge of ore which assayed about 7 percent copper, and on May 1st, the Death Valley Chuck-Walla again reported that the company was at work, and was preparing to ship ore.

But that was the last reference ever made to the Kempland Copper Company. Evidently, work ceased soon after May 1st. What had happened? Although we will never know for certain, the demise of the Kempland undoubtedly paralleled that of many other Greenwater mines. With the great number of mines and mining companies around Greenwater, the competition for the investment dollar was intense, and there were not enough dollars to go around. With a rather limited budget, the average company was able to spend what funds it could raise in exploring the ground for several months. When the funds ran out, with the inevitable failure to find any commercial ore, the mine was simply and quietly shut down, and the miners departed to find work in another of Greenwater's concerns. It had been a good gamble to try to find ore next to the bonanza holdings of the big Furnace Creek Copper Company, but the gamble had failed. The investors were out their money, and the directors their time. With the great number of mines in Greenwater, however, and the relative insignificance of the Kempland Copper Company as compared with the giants of the district, no one particularly cared. The death of the mine was certainly not important enough to warrant mention in the papers. [19]

e. Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company

Readers who think that this mining company has already been discussed should look closely at its name, for therein lies its story. This is a far more interesting company than the Kempland Copper, and is one which really illuminates what the Greenwater mining boom was all about. First organized and advertised in February of 1907, the company immediately came under the suspicions of the editors of the Death Valley Chuck-Walla. The Chuck-Walla, they wrote, has been unable to located the properties of the company, which was promoted by the C. M. Sumner Investment Securities company of Denver--a city which had had over fifty years of practice in all sorts of shady mining maneuvers. The company's claims could not be found anywhere in the Greenwater District, wrote the Chuck-Walla and it evidently hoped that the similarity between its name and that of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Company, one of Greenwater's finest, would be sufficient to confuse enough investors to make some money on a non-existent mine.

So far, the story is not particularly unusual, for such is the way the mining game was played in the early twentieth-century west. But the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company would not give up.

It persisted in advertising its advantages, despite its exposure, and even went to the lengths of describing its good copper claims, supposedly located four miles north of Greenwater. The Death Valley Chuck-Walla panned the outfit again and warned its readers that "we cannot find such claims as this company claims exist. We suspect that the concern is doing a wildcat business at the expense of Greenwater's good name and we warn investors to be careful before placing their money into this." As a courtesy and also a warning to others who were thinking of trying to fool potential Greenwater investors, the editors sent a copy of their magazine, including the article damning the company, to its promoters in Denver.The response was amazing. The Sumner investment Company of Denver wrote back to the Death Valley Chuck-Walla admitting that they had never seen their claims, but affirming that they did have two of them, and they were supposed to be good ones. However, they "could not tell where they were, as they themselves did not know. They were seeking information about their property through us," wrote the Chuck-Walla and at the same time "they were advertising stock for sale in their company." Such exposure presented the mining business at its worst, for the Denver company was admittedly advertising stock for sale in a mine which did not exist, on the basis of two copper claims which they had never seen and could not locate.

But the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company was not one to give up easily, and they again wrote to the Death Valley Chuck-Walla Now in regard to the 'Bronze and 'Midkado' claims in Greenwater we are more anxious to know something about them than you are . . . We will therefore greatly appreciate it f you will inform us of what expense will be attached to having some reputable surveyor go out and see whether he can find these claims and if they are property monumented, etc. The Chuck-Walla was so flabbergasted by this request that it printed it verbatim in its magazine. Few wildcat mining companies had the nerve expressed by the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company--to ask the editors of the magazine which was exposing it to the world as liars and cheats to help them find their own mine.

Although there is no denouement to this story, for the claims were never located and the mine never existed, it does serve to tell a point. Undoubtedly, even with the wide and unmistakable exposure of this fraud, the promoters of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company made money.

Even with the bad publicity, there was enough just in the name of the corporation to fool some of the people some of the time. [20]

f. The Greenwater Boom

As a final note, which is perhaps necessary after reciting the history of the Greenwater Death Valley Copper Mining Company, it should be pointed out that the Greenwater district as a whole was not a fake. Inevitably, considering the rapid rise and fall of the district, which has seldom been paralleled elsewhere, modern writers of western lore have begun to look upon California, they could see booming mining camps. None of these camps had yet reached the peak of their booms when Greenwater started, and as a result the boom spirit of the surrounding territory was at its highest ever. Greenwater, in a sense, was the culmination of that spirit, for only after Greenwater had failed did other camps begin to falter. In short, Greenwater came at a time when all of Nevada was booming, and the times were totally--although unrealistically--optimistic.

In short, there was copper ore at Greenwater. Unfortunately, it did not improve with depth, as it was supposed to have done. The boom at Greenwater eclipsed all others seen before, due to the boom spirit of the times, but it was based upon the contemporary belief that the district held untold richs. Although there were more fraudulent mining companies in Greenwater than in any district we have seen, that was more a result of the unbelievable boom spirit which prevailed throughout the country than of any underlying conspiracy within the district. Greenwater was a real and legitimate mining district, and several companies proved that point beyond all doubt by expending enormous sums of money trying to exploit it. Unfortunately, Greenwater did not have sufficient copper ores to turn it into a producing district.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003