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

4. Greenwater Suburbs

Just as the great Bullfrog boom spilled out into the surrounding territory and caused secondary booms at locations such as Skidoo, Echo-Lee and Greenwater, the Greenwater boom also had a ripple effect, and caused several smaller rushes into the surrounding territory. Like Bullfrog, the first mad scramble to the Greenwater area soon filled up all the available ground for miles around the heart of the district, and late-arriving prospectors began to drift farther afield in the search for ore. Several mining districts were thus discovered, such as East Greenwater and South Greenwater, alluded to in previous chapters. In addition, three minor areas within Death Valley National Monument were opened and explored in this fashion, and they will be the subject of this chapter.

a. Willow Creek and Gold Valley

1. History

The Willow Creek and Gold Valley area, located about ten miles south of Greenwater--about fifteen miles by road--was the scene of a Greenwater boom in miniature. Indeed, the story of the mines and settlements in that area is so similar to that of Greenwater, although on a considerably smaller scale, that we need not take too much time to examine it.

Not surprisingly, considering the great problem of water in the Greenwater District, the first mention of Willow Creek is not one of a great mineral location, but the discovery of water. In August of 1906, just as the Greenwater boom was swinging into its height, several prospectors who had wandered down to the south reported the discovery of a good spring of fresh water, which they estimated was capable of supplying three to four thousand people. That news immediately attracted more prospectors to the area, for Willow Creek was one of the few good water sources in the southern Death Valley area. if they were not able to find copper or gold in the vicinity, at least the prospectors would be assured that they would not die of dehydration.

Illustration 218. Map of the Southern portion of the Funeral Peak area.

With the Greenwater boom at its peak, and a good water source handy, Willow Creek was soon swarming with prospectors, and within a very short time copper was located in the vicinity of the spring. By the end of August, a camp had been established at the spring, and several locations had been staked out. Although most prospectors agreed that Willow Creek's copper was not as good as Greenwater's, still the Bullfrog Miner proclaimed that "Willow Creek Is the Latest."

The boom spirit which had thrust Greenwater to the top in such a short time spilled over into the Willow Creek area, and soon a minor boom was well under way. By the end of September enough prospectors were in the area to warrant the establishment of a freight line from Kingston, the newest station on the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. Some of Rhyolite's leading mining promoters had already moved into the new territory, including Senator T. L. Oddie, who secured a fairly large group of copper claims Chet Leavitt, who we have met before in the Lee-Echo District, also moved quickly into Willow Creek. In addition to staking out numerous claims, Leavitt announced the formation of a townsite company, to promote his new town of Copper Basin. Willow Creek's first mining company, the Greenwater Pasadena Copper Mining Company, was incorporated in September and soon had six men working on several of its forty claims. The Bullfrog Miner reported that it "is understood that some very high grade copper ore was uncovered, and that there was quite a rush from Greenwater to the scene of the discovery.

During October of 1906, Oddie started work on his property, and paid $30,000 to extend his holdings. On the 4th of that month, he incorporated the Greenwater Arcturus Copper Company, with a capitalization of $3,000,000. Within a few weeks, Oddie had plenty of competition in the area, as the Greenwater Willow Creek Copper Company was incorporated for $2,000,000 on November 12th, and the Greenwater Baltic Copper Mining Company was incorporated for $1,000,000 on November 14th. A slight idea of the frantic activity which accompanied the opening of this subsidiary area may be gained from noting that one man purchased five copper claims for $25,000, and the Greenwater Baltic obtained its four claims near the headwaters of Willow Creek for the price of $75,000.

The excitement over these new copper strikes and the ensuing rush into the district caused the inevitable battle over townsite locations. On November 16th, the townsite of Willow Creek was organized, near Willow Spring and next to the property of Oddie's Greenwater Arcturus Copper Company.

Surveyors were immediately put to work laying out a pipe line from the spring to the new townsite, and a pump was ordered. The new townsite was promoted by E. E. Mattison, and he placed advertisements in the Rhyolite newspapers, promising prospective citizens an "ample water supply" and telephone and telegraph connections immediately. Lots were put on sale from $150 to $250 each. In this case, the townsite battle was an extremely short one, for with the opening of the Willow Creek townsite, we hear no more of Chet Leavitt's townsite of Copper Basin, which apparently folded overnight. The life of his townsite--if it ever existed on the ground--was so brief that we cannot place its location definitely, although it was not very far away from the new townsite of Willow Creek.

The mild Willow Creek copper boom continued through the rest of 1906, paralleling the Greenwater boom in miniature, On November 30th, the Busch brothers of Rhyolite announced the organization of the Greenwater Amalgamated Copper Company, which had fifteen claims in the district, and sales of other claims continued. One enterprising prospector managed to unload fifteen claims for $30,000 in cash, merely due to their close proximity to Senator Oddie's Greenwater Arcturus properties.

Other claims were bought, sold and traded, and several of the incorporated mining companies, such as the Greenwater Pasadena and the Greenwater Amalgamated Copper, started to work. By the end of 1906, the report that Willow Creek "is going to make a flourishing camp." Already, the young townsite had three stores, two lodging houses and three saloons. [21]

During the winter, the rush into the Willow Creek area subsided, for the initial copper boom was over. The various companies settled down to look for ore, and since it was now obvious that the copper belt in the Willow Creek area was rather small, the amount of prospecting in the vicinity tailed off. The Greenwater Arcturus, Senator Oddie's company, worked steadily through the first several months of 1907, while the other companies worked more sporadically. The Greenwater Amalgamated Copper Company, for example, ceased work after barely a month of operation, and was never heard of again, while the Greenwater Willow Creek Copper Company never even began work at all.

Although the rush to the area had definitely subsided, several more mining companies were organized. The Greenwater Clinton Copper Mining Company, which held eight claims, was incorporated for $1,500,000 on March 1st, and announced that work would start shortly on its property. Interestingly, the Greenwater Clinton also revealed that it had some gold values mixed in with its copper claims. Likewise, on March 8th, the incorporation of the Nevada Greenwater Mining, Milling and Smelting Company was announced. Finally, on March 15th, the incorporation of the Greenwater Guggenheim Copper Company was announced, with a capitalization of $1,500,000--and absolutely no connection to the famous Guggenheim family. The Death Valley Chuck-Walla however, immediately denounced the last company as an outright fraud, since the three claims it claimed to have in Willow Creek did not exist. Unlike other companies we have seen, the Greenwater Guggenheim ceased advertising its non-existent mine shortly after its exposure, and was not heard of again.

By the end of March, with the Greenwater Pasadena, the Greenwater Arcturus, the Greenwater Baltic and the Greenwater Clinton mining companies hard at work, a local resident felt safe in boasting that the Willow Creek section would prove up the richest copper mines around Greenwater." As April passed and May began, the district settled down, with its companies looking for the copper deposits, and Willow Creek looked every bit the picture of a small suburb of Greenwater. Then, on May 10th, the picture suddenly changed, when the Greenwater Baltic Mining Company discovered a high grade silver-lead streak on its property.

Illustration 219. A typical Willow Creek mining advertisement, from the Death Valley Chuck-Walla, 1 April 1907.

Copper was one thing, but silver was quite definitely another, and the Willow Creek rush began all over again. Within a week after the strike on the Baltic was announced, the Bullfrog Miner proclaimed that a "Wild Rush Is On to Willow Creek. Numerous new locations were made and several more silver strikes announced, and another wave of prospectors rolled over the country, looking for the silver indications which had previously been ignored in the initial rush for copper ground. The Greenwater Copperhead Company was formed, with silver-lead indications on its claims, and numerous smaller silver mines were opened. The Bullfrog Miner reported that the keenest interest is being shown in Greenwater over the events of the past few days in Willow Creek, and rigs and outfits are now at a premium." To help those rushing into the district, volunteers began working on a wagon road to improve access to the camp. The Willow Creek Townsite Company was ready for another boom, for its plat of Willow Creek had just been approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors. The new camp had thirty-one blocks surveyed and marked and just over 300 lots for sale.

As the new rush continued, the Bullfrog Miner wrote in mid-May that WILLOW CREEK STILL ON THE BOOM. THE NEW CAMP 15 ASSUMING CITY PROPORTIONS. Telegraph and telephone lines would be there soon, the paper said, and a water company had been organized to pipe water from Willow Springs up to the townsite. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, taking note of the amount of freight which was now going into the re-booming area, included Willow Creek as one of the freighting points on its new timetable, with teams connecting the townsite with Tecopa Station.

Illustration 220. Advertisement from the Bullfrog Miner, 24 May 1907.

The new rush also caused the older copper companies of the district to re-evaluate their holdings, and new assays were run on their ore, looking for indications of silver or gold which had been ignored before. By the end of May, with both the new and old companies working, the Willow Creek District looked extremely prosperous and full of promise for the future. The Greenwater Baltic, said the Bullfrog Miner, was the best property in the area, and had gold and silver on its claims, in addition to copper. The Nevada Greenwater looked second best, but its shaft was only down to twenty-seven feet below ground. In addition, the Greenwater Arcturus, the Greenwater Clinton, and the Greenwater Copperhead were all working and looking good. The Arcturus, in particular, was evidently serious about its mining efforts, since it had ordered a 50-horsepower hoist for its property. A petition was being circulated in the area for a new Post Office, and a movement was underfoot to use the pure water of Willow Creek to start a brewery. In summary, although the Bullfrog Miner noted that the Willow Creek excitement was taking many people away from Greenwater, it cautioned that there were "no deep workings in the camp" as of yet, and more time was needed to demonstrate the permanency of the Willow Creek ores.

If nothing else, Willow Creek was definitely an up and down mining area. At the same time that the new gold and silver finds were causing a new rush to the territory, some of the older copper mines were beginning to close down, since the rich surface copper streaks pinched out with depth, just as they did at Greenwater. Thus, the Greenwater Pasadena Copper Mining Company ceased work in late May and the Greenwater Copperhead Company in early June. But the Greenwater Baltic, the Greenwater Arcturus, the Nevada Greenwater and the Greenwater Clinton continued to work, as most of them discovered enough traces of gold or silver on their properties to warrant further development work.

The Willow Creek townsite was also described in mid-summer as looking very prosperous, and was conceeded to be a sure winner, since it "lies in a natural basin and is the one available location in that section to house and home a mining and business population." It was described on June 1st as being a "considerable-sized" community. At the same time, the Greenwater Clinton was called the best mine in the district, but it was being pushed by the Greenwater Baltic. "More miners are wanted at once," for the latter property, said the Bullfrog Miner, "and will be put to work as fast as they can be obtained." [22]

Then, on June 22d, the Willow Creek area suddenly boomed all over again, when Harry Rasmey and O. B. Clover made a surface strike of gold about four miles southeast of Willow Spring. The strike had gold which assayed at $200 per ton, and the Bullfrog Miner predicted that the "discovery will give still another boom to the Willow Creek section . . ." The paper was absolutely right, for once again prospectors and promoters poured into the region to look at the ground around the new strike, and the game was started all over again. Ramsey and Clover claimed--as had many others over the years--to have finally found the "Real and only Breyfogle" mine. Several more gold strikes were made within a short period of time, and suddenly the Willow Creek area was transformed from a copper mining camp to a gold camp. With the new promise of riches, the opinion was soon forthcoming that the Willow Creek area would "undoubtedly distance Greenwater in a short time."

After the dust had settled somewhat, the papers were able to begin to assess the new situation. A new mining company--the Willow Creek Greenwater Copper Mines Company--had been formed, and its bad timing in incorporating a copper company for $2,500,000 when all everyone else cared about was gold is reflected in the fact that it never went to work. The Bullfrog Miner remarked in late July that "Considerable excitement has been caused at Willow Creek by the late strike of gold in paying quantities in the Clover property in that section. Details are lacking at this time, but according to brief communication received the outlook is encouraging. The Inyo Register was not so cautious in its assessment, writing that the "Latest reports from the scene of the new strike in the Willow Creek district, situated in the Funeral Range, about 12 miles south of Greenwater, indicates that the surface showing is the richest ever discovered in this desert region, if not in the world.


NameDate First
Date Last
Greenwater Pasadena Copper Mining Company28 September 190624 May 1907
Greenwater Arcturus Copper Company4 October 19065 October 1907
Greenwater Willow Creek Copper Company12 November 190612 November 1906
Greenwater Baltic Copper Mining Company14 November 19061 January 1910
Greenwater Amalgamated Copper Company30 November 190621 December 1906
Greenwater Clinton Copper Mining Company15 February 19074 January 1908
Nevada Greenwater Mining, Milling & Smelting Company8 March 19075 October 1907
*Greenwater-Guggenheim Copper Company15 March 190715 March 1907
Greenwater Copperhead Company10 May 19078 June 1907
Willow Creek Greenwater Copper Mines Company8 July 19078 July 1907
Sunset Gold Mining Company28 September 190722 November 1907
Willow Creek Gold Mining Company11 October 19078 July 1908
Willow Creek Combination Mining & Milling Company22 November 190722 November 1907
- denounced as a fraud by the Death Valley Chuck-Walla

Although that seemed a bit premature, the Bullfrog Miner soon joined the band wagon and dropped its caution, headlining that "WILLOW CREEK WILL BE A SECOND GOLDFIELD." The new rush, which soon resulted in numerous small mines being opened up, also reintroduced the townsite battle to the area. Early in April the Goldsworthy brothers, who were responsible for one of the bigger gold strikes, announced the formation of Gold Valley townsite. These brothers did not think small, and when the plat of their townsite was approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, it showed an immense camp of ninety-six blocks, with over 1,200 lots surveyed and ready for sale.

Willow Creek was now definitely booming, and just to prove the point the miners of the area pulled out of Greenwater and organized a district of their own. As August continued, more gold strikes were reported, and two wise prospectors, taking advantage of the new rush fever, sold their gold claims for $50,000. "Willow Creek is going in the near future to make one of the biggest camps in the southern country," stated one operator to the Bullfrog Miner, and the prediction seemed borne cut, when Ramsey and Glover uncovered a pocket of $500 Gold ore at the 17-foot point of their shaft. The rush to the new gold section of the district threatened to entirely eclipse the older copper section, and the Greenwater Arcturus closed down on October 5th, as did the Nevada Greenwater Mining, Milling and Smelting Company. In the meantime, the new gold section was booming and the Gold Valley townsite was described as having a general store and a saloon, with more business slated to come in soon. "According to all reports," said the Bullfrog Miner, "Willow Creek is attracting as much or more attention than any of the other Southern camps. It seems to have set Greenwater in the shade a degree or so, and it is stated that several firms are preparing to move from Greenwater to the new camp."

By the end of that month, it was quite clear that gold had replaced copper in the Willow Creek District, "not because they don't have copper," said the Bullfrog Miner, "but because copper is down to 15¢ a pound and gold is $248 a pound." The paper counted fourteen gold strikes in the district, and noted that most of the miners and prospectors, wary of the boom and bust cycle of the Greenwater mining companies, were attempting to work their properties without outside financing. It was undoubtedly a wise move, for in addition to the Greenwater bust, which was beginning to become quite apparent. the Panic of 1907 was also making itself felt in the western mining regions, and investment dollars for new districts and unproven mines was almost impossible to attract.

Despite these problems, several new gold mining companies were incorporated in the fall of 1907, including the Sunset Gold Mining Company, in late September, the Willow Creek Gold Mining Company (capitalized for $1,000,000) in mid-October and the Willow Creek Combination Mining and Milling Company (capitalization $1,000,000) in late November. The effects of the panic were drastically shown in the case of the latter company, for it was utterly unable to attract investment dollars, and never succeeded in going to work.

But in the meantime, the miners forged ahead with what means they had available, and the new gold district looked good, considering the times. The new town of Gold Valley added a lodging house and a barber shop to its list of businesses in October, and the Bullfrog Miner called it "a considerable mining settlement." Fully half a dozen good-looking gold mines were being opened late that month, and the Miner reported eight new strikes being made in the district. "The surface showings are surely great," the paper continued, "and if they continue Willow Creek will be shipping ore in three months if not sooner." All in all, a local resident confidently predicted "a prosperous winter" for everyone.

Frank Reber, editor of the Greenwater Times stated in early November that only the collapse of the Greenwater District and the effects of the Panic of 1907 kept Willow Creek from really booming. "If it were any other time than now you would see one of the greatest stampedes into Willow in history, but it is hard to interest people the way conditions are at this time." The Bullfrog Miner, early in November, also stated that "No mining camp of recent times has shown so many and such rich ore discoveries as Willow Creek can now show for so short a history." Fully thirty-five gold strikes and twenty or more silver-lead strikes were on record, and a long list of properties were working--although the great majority of them were small one or two-man operations, which would take quite a while to turn into producing mines.

Since the lack of a friendly financial atmosphere kept the great majority of these mines from incorporating and using investors' dollars to develop their properties, the district as a whole turned to the easing system, whereby the owner would rent his property to anyone who was willing to work it, in return for some combination of cash rent or a percentage of the ore taken out of the mine. Leasing work, as compared to the more extensive work which was possible through full-scale development, was slow and tedious, and as the district settled down in the late fall of 1907, there was not much to report. The Rhyolite Daily Bulletin noted in late November that "While the financial depression has affected Willow Creek to a certain extent, the showing is such that work will be continued on a large number of properties." The reversal to older and small-time methods of mining was highlighted by the use of an arrastra in the district, from which some miners were said to be making as much as $50 per day.

Late in December, the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin again assessed the camp, and reported "mining matters very encouraging at that camp, and while quiet at present, in sympathy with the general financial conditions, the district is developing into a good camp." In accordance with the abatement of the rush, and the lack of capital to develop the mines, the new town of Gold Valley was not growing very fast, although it had succeed in eclipsing the townsite of Willow Creek. The Rhyolite Herald reported late in-December that accommodations at Gold Valley were limited to ten or twelve tents, a store and a saloon. But still, more than half a dozen gold mines were still operating, although at a rather slow pace. [23]

As 1908 began, the copper section of Willow Creek, which had been responsible for opening the district originally, was entirely dead, and the only copper companies still operating were those which had subsequently discovered gold or silver on their property. The Greenwater Baltic, for example, was still working its mine, but was looking solely for gold and was no longer interested in copper. The Greenwater Clinton Copper Mining Company, however, which had found traces of gold on its property in addition to its copper, closed down early in January of 1908, as its gold deposits were not sufficient to warrant any further work. In addition to the Baltic, the only other incorporated company at work in the district was the Willow Creek Gold Mining Company, although several non-incorporated mines were still hard at work.

All in all, as the new year started, the district looked about as good as it could, considering the nationwide depression which was following on the heels of the panic. One of the lessees in the district was about ready to begin shipping out his high-grade gold ore, and none of the new gold locations made the previous fall had been allowed to lapse. One of the district's operators stoutly maintained to the Rhyolite Herald in late January that Willow Creek is going to be the banner camp of the section when it gets a little more attention and money. The panic has set it back, but . . . the goods are there." Showings were so good on the property of the Willow Creek Gold Mining Company that its owners began talking about adding a dozen more men to the payroll and of building a 15-stamp mill for the mine.

But development work was necessarily slow, and the Inyo Register was still reporting in mid-February that "If at depth the same values hold as now appear upon the surface and from shallow workings, the coming few months will witness another prosperous camp in the Funeral range . . . Indeed, as February drew to a close, Willow Creek got a shot in the arm from the rapid collapse of its giant neighbor to the north, Greenwater. The Rhyolite Daily Bulletin reported that "what buildings are remaining in Greenwater are being torn down and moved to Gold Valley, the Willow Creek town," and many Greenwater merchants, before giving up entirely on the Death Valley region, decided to give Willow Creek a try. Alkali Bill, for example, who could no longer find passengers for his Death Valley Chug Line, opened service into Gold Valley, although it is doubtful that he was able to find many passengers willing to pay the $100 which he had charged during the glory days of Greenwater. With the influx of Greenwater migrants, Gold Valley experienced some growth, and by the end of March was described as having a population of seventy, with about twenty tent and frame buildings under construction.

With its new prosperity, the citizens of the town applied for a Post Office, and the Gold Valley Mercantile Company finished and moved into its new building. Then, in late May, the event which the district had long awaited took place, when one of the biggest lessees in the district made the first shipment of ore. Although accounts vary, approximately twenty-five tons of ore was shipped out, at an estimated worth of around $300 per ton. But despite this shipment, which gave the first indications that Willow Creek was turning into a producer, the Bullfrog Miner sadly noted that "Very little outside interest . . . is being manifest in the district." But the paper was sure that "when times get better Willow Creek is going to make a noise like velocity."

Unfortunately, however, times did not get better, and following that one shipment of ore, the Willow Creek District started to decline. No more news was heard from the area between July and December of 1908, and the mines began to close down. The Willow Creek Gold Mining Company, for example, ceased operations early in July, and most of the independent operators were forced to follow its example. Once again, the isolation of the Death Valley mining districts was taking its toll, for the expense of mining, transportation and living in a desolate region made the mining of all but the highest grades of ore impractical. The Rhyolite Herald however, was not quite ready to give up on the district, and reported in December that several tons of shipping ore had been taken out of the Greenwater Baltic during the fall of 1908, and that numerous outfits were going back into the district to perform their annual assessment work necessary to retain title to their claims. "Everyone interested seems optimistic regarding the future."

But although most prospectors retained their titles through 1909, and the Greenwater Baltic even performed its annual work in order to retain its property through 1910, the Willow Creek District was dead--the victim of hard times, isolation, and too little ore. Most of the miners left the area during the fall of 1908 and the rest early in 1909. Their spirits were not broken, however, by the failure of one more mining district, as evidenced by Jack Robichau, who left Willow Creek early in January of 1909, on his way to the new boom district in Alberta, Canada. [24]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Not much is left to picture the short life of the Willow Creek District, for none of the mines were ever developed enough to even warrant the installation of a gas hoist, and neither of the two townsites ever boasted any substantial buildings. The mines, particularly the gold mines around the site of Gold Valley, are clearly visible from the tell-tale dumps spilling down the mountainsides, but none of the workings are very extensive. Gold Valley townsite itself can be picked out of the valley floor, due to the visible remnants of tent sites, building sites, and scattered debris and garbage around the area.

To the west, around the site of Willow Creek townsite, even less is left. One substantial stone platform, which once housed the only real building in the district, can still be seen, as well as several tentsites, and a small accumulation of mining debris. The Willow Creek townsite, incidently, has long been confused as a millsite, but there is no evidence of any kind of mill ever being erected in the district. The spring, as many in the Death Valley area, was used as a water source for many years after the demise of the mining district by the desert rats who did not have enough sense to quit looking for gold in Death Valley, and therefore has a small amount of Depression-era garbage associated with it.

There is nothing, however, within this district which warrants National Register nomination, although the area does have potential historical archaeological values. The remote and beautiful scenery of the Willow Creek and Gold Valley area would make a very interesting trip for Monument visitors. The story of the mm-rush to the area should be interpreted, either at the site, or at the Visitors Center.

Gold Valley townsite

stone foundations
Illustrations 221-222. Top: View of Gold Valley townsite, looking northwest towards the road leading into Willow Creek. The pole in the center marks the approximate center of the old townsite. Bottom: One of the larger stone foundations at the old Willow Creek townsite, which supported a tent and frame business in days gone by. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

b. Rhodes Springs

1. History

Even farther to the south of Greenwater was another of its subsidiary mining areas, loosely known as Rhodes Springs. In this area, approximately twenty miles south of Greenwater, and over thirty miles by road, was one of those isolated Death Valley mines which had been discovered in the late nineteenth century and was reopened under the impetus of the mining booms which swept the Death Valley region in the early 1900s.

Illustration 223. Map of Northcentral portion of Confidence Hills area.

The first notice of Rhodes Springs was in 1886, when the Mining & Scientific Press reported that A. G. Rhodes and his partner had located some good prospects in southeast Death Valley. The mine which the two men had discovered was several miles from the spring itself--which was named by Rhodes. Due to the total lack of transportation facilities in the entire region in that time period, Rhodes was forced to haul supplies into his mine all the way from Daggett, California, and to haul his ore back out across the same forbidding desert. Nevertheless, Rhodes did bring 1,200 pounds of silver ore into Daggett in May of 1886, which netted him almost $800. Despite this absymally small return for a large investment of labor and time, Rhodes declared that he would return to his mine after the hot weather of summer had passed. But on the return trip both Rhodes and several prospective purchasers of his mine were lost, and were presumed to have perished in the desert.

The mine was rediscovered in December of 1905 by three prospectors who were wandering far afield in south Death Valley, looking for potential unstaked ground. The three men reported finding Rhodes' original location notices, which were still legible, as well as an old trail leading to the mine, and an old windlass and a wooden bucket. The dump of the old mine, in addition, contained about two tons of silver ore, which the prospectors claimed was very valuable. Late in December, the re-locators of Rhodes' mine brought in a mining engineer, who examined the dump and recommended that the mine be reopened.

As usual, the discovery led to a number of other prospectors coming into the area, but this time not much was found. It was September of 1906 before any more valuable ground was located in the area, and during the following month several other mines were opened. The activity, although not very extensive, was enough to make the Mining World call Rhodes Springs a camp, and by the end of 1906, about five mines were being opened up by various groups of men. J. Irving Crowell, a Rhyolite investor, led the pack with the incorporation of the Bonanza Greenwater Copper Company, which had smatterings of copper, silver, lead and gold on its property in the vicinity of the springs.

Operations in this vicinity were never very impressive, but were carried out on a shoe-string basis for several years. One of the more promising locations in the district was bonded for $100,000 in May of 1907, and the Bonanza Greenwater Company had enough ore to start sacking it the following month. That ore would be shipped, according to the Bullfrog Miner, as soon as a wagon road into the mine was finished. Since this area was closer to the railroad line than was Greenwater, transportation costs were not quite so prohibitive, and the Bonanza Greenwater estimated that the total cost of mining and freighting its ore would be about $28 per ton. Since they estimated their high-grade ore at around $100 per ton, a good profit could be made on their deposits. Work was eased by the fact that the ore being mined was all exposed on the edge of a dyke, which made the operation a strip mine-type affair.

The Bonanza Greenwater had twelve men working on stripping its ore in mid-June, and Irving Crowell, its owner, predicted that the amount of ore which could be simply dug off the top of the ground was worth $100,000. To back up his statement, he made a twenty-ton shipment of the ore to a smelter in Salt Lake City late in June. The ore returned just over $90 per ton, which after deducting $20 per ton for freight and shipping, left Crowell with $1,400 to pay for his supplies, labor and profit. Crowell's success, although marginal, was enough to inspire other prospectors to scour the area for similar deposits, and the Bullfrog Miner reported in late June that "All the ground has been located for miles and then one or top of another in desperate attempts to get as near the discovery as possible."

Although not many people found similar deposits, one group of prospectors felt that they had enough promising ground to form the Copper Basin Mining Company in September of 1907. But that effort was shortly proven futile, and the company folded after little more than a month's operation. In the meantime, the Bonanza Greenwater Company continued to mine its ore through the rest of 1907, and towards the end of the year reported that the access road to its mine had been completed at a reported cost of $6,000. With the new road easing the transportation difficulties considerably, said Crowell, his company would soon become a regular shipper of ore.

After that bold declaration, however, Crowell and the Bonanza Greenwater Copper Mining Company disappeared from view forever. Although we have no way of knowing for certain, it would appear that one more mining company had felt the effects of the decline of the Greenwater area boom, as well as the Panic of 1907. Probably, Crowell had stripped off all the easily-mined ore from the surface in his first shipment, and soon found that costs of supplies and transportation, as well as the lack of investor confidence, made it impossible to purchase the necessary tools and equipment to start underground mining.

In March of 1908 another strike was made in the vicinity of Rhodes Springs by three prospectors named Thomas McMurry, W. P. Graham and Lewis Rice. Again, the initial discovery was rather sensational, with bunches of ore on the surface which assayed $25,000 per ton in gold. The strike caused the usual sensation, and other prospectors converged on the area, but within two months it was proved to everyone's satisfaction that the men had merely made a lucky discovery of an isolated high-grade pocket of ore. Unfortunately, there was considerably less than one ton of the extremely rich stuff. After one group of miners ran a tunnel 100 feet into the side of the mountain and another sunk a shaft about seventy feet deep, everyone gave up and left the district. Rhodes Springs and its vicinity, which had seen the effects of a very outer ripple of the tremendous splash caused by the Greenwater boom, never amounted to much, and was soon deserted except for the faint footsteps of an occasional prospector who came back to make sure that the hidden bonanza had not been overlooked. [25]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

The Rhodes Springs area today bears absolutely no trace of these brief and minor efforts to mine the surrounding hills--which is not at all surprising considering the limited time and effort which went into those mines. Instead, the site bears the marks of much later development, including a nondescript miner's shack which has been built and added on to between the 1930s and the 1960s and the ruins of a small milling effort. These were originally built by a miner who worked a small claim in the hills during the 1930s, and erected the buildings which are still visible. Based upon the remaining evidence, the mill at this site was a cone-crushing type, and was not used for very long, for there is little evidence of tailings in the area. There is a substantial concrete water holding tank built above the mill, which is all that is still intact today. Below the small mill site, which is built on the side of a little hill, extensive collections of wood and metal debris can be found. Between the mill and the living shack are ruins of several more sheds, including a pump-house, all dating from the post-depression era. All in all, this site can best be summed up as a small-scale effort by a one or two man team, which never amounted to much. None of the remains possess historical or architectural significance. After historical archaeological clearance, the site should be cleaned up. Any artifacts useful for interpretation should be collected, leaving the concrete and wooden ruins of the little mill to the efforts of time.

mining ruins

mill foundation ruins
Illustrations 224-225. Top: Ruins of the main cone-crushing element of the Rhodes Springs mill, which measures eight feet in diameter. Bottom: The ruins of the mill foundations at Rhodes Sprigns, with the water tank in the upper right corner of the photo. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

pump house ruins

Illustrations 226-227. Top: Ruins of the pump-house at the Rhodes Springs camp. Bottom: The living shack at Rhodes Springs, with numerous signs on the door predicting death and disaster to anyone who enters. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

c. Virgin Springs

1. History

An even smaller and still less important mining effort took place in the confines of Virgin Spring Canyon during the early 1900s. Like Willow Creek and Rhodes Springs, the discovery of ore in Virgin Springs Canyon was a direct offshoot of the Greenwater boom. When a lonely prospector found surface croppings of 30 percent copper in the area in the fall of 1906, the South Furnace Creek Copper Company was soon organized, with a capitalization of $1,250,000. Stock was put on sale for 25¢ per share, and due more to the name of the company than to any knowledge of its property, enough shares were sold for mining to start. The company owned nine claims, and towards the end of 1905 had employed six miners to start a shaft on one of them. The work was disappointing, however, and after a brief life of two months, the mine was abandoned and the company folded.

The Virgin Spring area was not molested again until the spring of 1908, when another short-lived strike was m ado. This time, gold was discovered, as a result of the little gold boom in nearby Willow Creek. Before the flurry died down, several claims had been optioned for a reported $60,000. Like the earlier strike, however, this one soon proved worthless, and the mine was quickly abandoned. [26]

The Virgin Spring area has been deserted ever since, with the exception of a small milling operation which was connected with the Desert Hound Mine, which will be discussed later.

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

There are, however, some historic structures in Virgin Spring canyon, which are a result of one of the two short-lived strikes in the area. On the west side of the wash which travels down the center of the canyon, about one mile north of Virgin Spring, stand the ruins of four stone structures and one tent site, which were used as living quarters, probably by the employees of the South Furnace Creek Copper Company.

Several of these stone buildings are only ten to twelve feet in length, with walls which have crumbled down to only two feet in height. The fourth, however, is much more imposing, being some twelve by twenty feet in size, with well-laid stone walls six feet high--probably near their original height. This structure is built into the side of a large rock, which has protected it from the elements, and is complete with a doorway, a wooden window frame, and a large stone chimney. Although the site is very interesting, and gives a good picture of isolated living in a Death Valley mining camp, it does not warrant nomination to the National Register. It does deserve being left intact, but that should not be difficult, since it is extremely doubtful that many will ever visit the site. The access road has been completely washed out for years, and will probably never be replaced. The site can only be found by someone with patience, a strong four-wheel drive vehicle, and a knowledge of its precise location. The mining around the area was not important enough to warrant interpretation, either on the site or elsewhere.

stone ruins

Illustrations 228-229. Top: One of the smaller stone ruins at the Virgin Spring Camp site. Bottom: The larger ruin, showing the doorway in the front, window at the right and chimney at the left. This is one of the largest stone structure ruins within Death Valley, but it is completely inaccessible. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003