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

5. Miscellaneous Black Mountain Properties

Scattered around the southern portion of the Black Mountains on the east side of lower Death Valley are several properties which cannot be logically grouped or discussed as part of any mining district or time period. As such, they are lumped together here and presented for what they are--isolated examples of several more attempts by lone individuals or small groups to wrest wealth from the forbidding terrain of Death Valley.

a. Desert Hound Mine

1. History

The Desert Hound Mine was first discovered in the late summer of 1906, when the Engineering & Mining Journal reported that E. M. Wilkens and Burt Sides had located it high on the summit of the Black Mountains, overlooking Death Valley. The mine was perhaps the most isolated in all of Death Valley, particularly when transportation time to the nearest points of settlement were considered, for the only way in or out was via a five-mile hiker either from Virgin Spring or the Death Valley floor, The closest point of contemporary civilization, Greenwater, was over twenty airline miles and close to thirty road and trail miles away.

Nevertheless, the two men managed to sell their property to an eastern syndicate for $30,000 in cash and 75,000 shares of stock in a new company, which became known as the Keys Mining Company. The company was owned and promoted by F. D. Mellen & Company of Boston, and had sixty-five claims, with both gold and copper values. Bill Keys was the local manager and representative of the company on the ground, and the Desert Hound Mine was commonly known as the Keys Mine.

Illustration 230. Map of Northcentral portion of the Confidence Hills area.

Following its discovery, the Desert Hound Mine underwent a bewildering shift of owners, as each subsequent purchaser found out exactly bow isolated the mine really was, and how costly it would be to operate. Through it all, Bill Keys remained the only stable individual, as he served first one and then another owner as its ground representative and manager. The DuPont Powder Company, in a rare venture into mining, bought the mine from the Boston promoters in early 1907, and announced that development would start soon. DuPont, however, soon found out how expensive it would be to start developments, and as late as July 1907, still had not started work.

The next mention of the Desert Hound is in October of 1907, when Bill Brockington replaced Bill Keys as manager of the property. This time development work was started, under the direct supervision of Brockington, and by the end of October the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin reported that Brockington was ready to ship out two carloads of ore, worth an estimated $20,000. Six men were employed at the mine at this time, and development work continued through the rest of 1907. Late that year, by which time a tunnel had been run in 120 feet and a shaft sunk to seventy feet, a gold strike was reported, but no more shipments were made. Sometime in the fall of 1907, DuPont leased the mine back to a group of Boston promoters, although it took the local newspapers several months to catch up on that change.

In February of 1908, the Inyo Independent reported that Brockington was working eight men on the property. Two assayers had been brought in from Boston, and a complete assaying outfit had been installed at the mine, including a furnace which weighed 600 pounds. Work was necessarily slow, due to the extreme isolation of the mine, but by the end of April, the Rhyolite Herald reported that the miners were beginning to sack high-grade ore for shipment. The Bullfrog Miner reported several weeks later that the assay testing done by the Boston experts had been successful, and the company was planning a big development campaign.

Following that report, however, no more news was heard from the mine until December of 1908, when Brockington told the Rhyolite Herald that the mine "is destined to become the greatest producer in California." A party of Boston promoters of the Key Gold Mining & Milling Company had arrived in Death Valley for a visit to the mine, and reports indicated that the visitors were so pleased with its prospects that they planned to install an aerial tramway near the mire to take the ore down to a proposed mill site.

In January of 1909, the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin reported that a wagon road was being built from Death Valley Junction to the property, in order to facilitate the planned improvements, and the Bullfrog Miner confirmed later that month that plans were being made to construct a small mill on the property. Water was scarce in the vicinity, however, and the fact that the mine was located in an almost inaccessible place made such plans difficult in the extreme to carry out.

Nevertheless, work continued at the Desert Hound, and the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin reported in February that a second mine had been opened at the camp, which was "rapidly coming again to the front." The Rhyolite Herald reported considerable development later that month, with the mine holding an abundance of ore between $80 and $100 per ton. A mill would be required to mine it profitably, however, due to the costs and difficulties or transportation. Little more is heard from the property in 1909. The Bullfrog Miner reported in May that a good force of men were working, and the Rhyolite Herald mentioned in September that between ten and fifteen men were working on a crosscut tunnel and a drift.

No further word was heard from the mine for a year and a half, until April of 1911, when the Rhyolite Herald reported that the Key Gold Mining Company was running a 1,300-foot tunnel to tap its vein, and had recently shipped forty tons of ore to the Needles, California, smelter, worth about $310 per ton. Highlighting the difficulties of the mine, the Herald stated that $60 ore was often dumped out at the mine, since it did not pay to ship to the smelter. Following that report, the Desert Hound was not heard from for another year, until the Inyo Register reported in February of 1912 that the DuPong Powder people were working at the mine. That, however, was the last mention of the mine for quite some time.

After twenty-some years of idleness, the Desert Hound was again reopened in the 1930s, as a small one-man operation. This enterprising miner blazed a pair of nice hiking trails between his property and Virgin Spring Canyon, where a small milling operation was set up at the spring. Judging from the ruins of that mill site, which consists of no more than a small tailings dump and a small concrete engine mount, the milling operation was neither long-lasting nor particularly successful. Sometime in the late 1930s, the mine was finally abandoned for good. [27]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

The Desert Hound is one of the most isolated mines in all of Death Valley, for the only access to the site is either via a relatively pleasant tour-mile hike from the Virgin Spring trailhead, or a rough two-mile hike up from Ashford Mine, on the west side of the mountains. To complicate matters, the Virgin Spring trailhead can only be reached by a determined driver of a four-wheel drive vehicle who knows precisely where he is going, and Ashford Mine can only be reached via a steep one mile hike up Ashford Canyon from the point where the access road is washed out. In other words, not many people will want (or be able) to take the effort to visit the Desert Hound Mine.

Nor should they. The Desert Hound is the most unsightly place in Death Valley. It can best be described as a large garbage pit. Anyone who has lingering doubts about the romanticism of depression-era mining, on a one-man scale, will be totally absolved of such delusions by a visit to the Desert Hound.

The complex consists of several different sites, strung out along the access trail. At the farthest western side, on a ridge overlooking the Ashford Mine and Death Valley, is a former tent community, consisting of nine tent sites and a twelve by twelve stone shelter, with some walls remaining This community was undoubtedly the home of the 1907-1909 era miners. The only remnants of their occupation are the tell-tall rectangular placed stones, which were once used. to keep their tents from blowing off the ridge into Death Valley. One quarter of a mile to the east is the main mine site, which was worked both in the early 1900s and again in the 1930s. The marks of the earlier occupation are mostly obscured by the 1903s era junk, although two tent platform sites are still discernable. In addition, a jumble of rusted and stripped machinery lies in the bottom of a small defile below the mine site, probably the ruins of the 600-pound assaying furnace hauled in during 1908.

Other than that, the rest of this site has been totally demolished by its later occupants. The third Desert Hound site, located about one half miles east of the mine, along the access trail, consists merely of the faint outlines of stone retaining walls around two tent sites.

In summary, there is nothing of particular historic significance at the Desert Hound, although it may yield historical archaeological values. The site dies not warrant interpretation, and should be left in its disorderly state. Due to its remote location, it is extremely doubtful that more than one or two hardy souls will find the site each year.

The mill site at Virgin Spring associated with the 1930s mining at the Desert Hound is neither large nor impressive Total remains there consist of a. small concrete engine mount and an eroded pile of tailings. Whatever milling machinery was used there has long since disappeared, and the site has no particular significance.

tent site

Desert Hound Mine site
Illustrations 231-232. Top: View of the tent sites west of the Desert Hound Mine. The two people in the center and far center of the photo mark the first and last tent sites, which are barely discernable even on the ground. Bottom: The main Desert Hound Mine site, showing a small portion of the junk accumlated by the its last resident. 1978 phots by John Latschar.

b. Ashford Mine and Mill

1. History

In January of 1907, Harold Ashford wandered into the Death Valley region, and attracted by the gold strikes at the Desert Hound Mine, prospected in that vicinity. Within a few months, he discovered that the Keys Gold Mining Company had failed to do the required assessment work on several of its claims, and Ashford relocated them and started to work on his own. It took the Keys Gold Mining Company almost two years to discover that someone else was working their former claims, and when Ashford refused to vacate, the company took him to court In January of 1910, however, the judge found in favor of Ashford and he retained title to his claims. He might have been better off if he had lost.

Harold Ashford and his brother, Henry and Lewis, worked the mine off and on between 1910 and 1914, without spectacular results. Then, in November of 1914, the brothers managed to lease the mine to B. W. McCausland and his son, Ross. The McCauslands started to work on a large scale, and within a year had driven a tunnel 180 feet into the side of the mountain. At the height of their operation, the McCauslands had twenty-eight men employed, had invested over $125,000 in capital improvements, including machinery, trucks and labor costs, and had completed 2,000 feet of total workings. In addition, a mill had been built on the floor of Death Valley, five miles and 3,500 feet below the mine, where the ore from the mine was trucked for preliminary treating. The mill included a jaw-crusher, a ten-foot Lane mill, a Wilfley table and a Diester slime table. The McCauslands were described by the Inyo Register as being wealthy residents of Los Angeles, and in late August they announced that their forty-ton capacity mill was in operation, and they had plans to increase its capacity to 150 tons.

But despite taking out an estimated $100,000 worth of ore, the McCauslands soon discovered that the ores from the mine were not rich enough to justify all this capital expenditure, and they ceased operations in September of 1915. In order to cut their losses, the McCauslands decided not to pay the Ashfords for the year's lease on the mine. The Ashfords took them to court, but never got their money back.

Ashford Mill
Illustration 233. The Ashford Mill, built in late 1914 or early 1915. This photo was marked as being taken in 1942. If the date is correct, then the mill was in remarkable shape at the time, since it was never again used after the McCauslands abandoned their efforts in late 1915. Photo by an unknown photographer, from a box marked "new prints," Death Valley National Monument Library.

Following this fiasco, the mine and mill were idle for some years, until 1926, when it was reported that four men were working. The total footage of workings at the mine, however, had not increased since 1917, which indicates that they were not working very hard. Neither did they work very long, for the mine was soon closed down again. Another long period of idleness followed, until 1935, when the Ashfords once again leased their mine, this time to the Golden Treasure Mines, Inc. That company reopened the mine, and since the old mill was inadequate to treat its ores, shipped their rock out to Shoshone where it was loaded upon the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. The long truck hauls, however, proved very expensive, and after searching for other ways to reduce costs, the company settled down to taking out only the highest grade of ore available. Work on the mine by the Golden Treasure company lasted until sometime in 1938, when they gave up. Total shipments by the Golden Treasure company amounted to no more than $18,000 over a period of two years.

Following the departure of their lessees, the Ashfords began working on their mine again, and in August of 1938 made a 38-ton shipment. By this time the mine was described as comprising twenty-six claims, and had a 320-foot shaft with a crosscut, a 215-foot tunnel, and a 200-foot drift. Equipment at the site included a portable Ingersoll-Rand compressor and various camp buildings. Three men were working, probably the three Ashford brothers.

After working the mine themselves for a short period, the Ashford's leased it again, this time to the Bernard Granville and Associates of Los Angeles. That company immediately went to work, employing ten men, and soon installed a short aerial tramway, to facilitate the task of consolidating the ore from the scattered shafts and tunnels to one central point for trucking down the mountain. Operations continued until sometime in 1941, when the new lessees gave up. No record of any shipments being made by Granville and Associates can be found.

The Ashfords continued to hold title to their mine following the departure of their last lessees, although they apparently never returned to work it themselves. In perhaps the best summary of the spotted history of the Ashford Mine, C. B. Glasscock wrote that it was able to produce just enough gold to keep the Ashfords in groceries and lawsuits for more than a third of a century. [28]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Structures at the Ashford Mine are numerous, although not many of them could be classified as historic. The main mine site itself is situated high on the west side of the Black Mountains, overlooking Death Valley, and the old road to the site has been washed out for many years. Access today is only possible via an arduous hike about one mile from the end of the road up to the mine site. Structures at the main complex consist of one collapsed shack, an outhouse, a large office and cookhouse building, two wooden bunkhouses, a tin shed, a headframe and ore bin, and the tramway towers and terminal. All of these structures date from the 1930-1940 period of mining. Although they present a good picture of a small mining community during that period, they are not of National Register significance, due to their late date and relative lack of contribution to the history of the locale.

Just around the knoll from the main mining site--towards the east--are the ruins of an older mining effort, undoubtedly the remnants of the McCausland's work in the 1910s. Here may be found several older adits and dumps, the ruins of a collapsed shack and half a dozen level sites, the former homes of a small tent community. This site has better integrity than the former, since it was relatively undisturbed in later mining years, but still does not possess historic significance. Benign neglect is recommended for these mine sites, both of which possess potential historical archaeological values.

The ruins of Ashford Mill stand on the floor of Death Valley. Structures here consist of the crumbling walls of a concrete office building, and the ruins of the mill itself. Not much is left of the mill, with the exception of the large concrete foundations and a very limited amount of debris. The ruins of the mill foundation and the office building are rather interesting, and according to local legend, are due to the fact that a double load of cement was shipped to the McCauslands when construction was in progress. Rather than send it back, which would have entrailed further transportation expenses, the extra cement was used in construction of the mill and office building, which largely accounts for their still standing today.

The Ashford Mill is a popular tourist stop, as it stands lust adjacent to the main south Death Valley road. There is a large interpretive sign at the mill, which is substantially incorrect, since it relates a romantic tale of foreign princes and huge sums of money. As none of that is true, it would behoove the Monument staff to replace the sign with a more factual--if boring--account of the mill. Other than that, the only recommendation for the Ashford Mill site is one of benign neglect, for it does not possess National Register significance.

Ashford Mine complex

Ashford Mine complex
Illustrations 234-235. Top: The Ashford Mine, showing the complex used in the 1930s. The cookhouse and office is in the foreground, the bunkhouses are to the right, with the headframe, collapsed tramway terminal and a shed visible in the rear. Bottom: View of the upper Ashford Mine complex, where the 1910s mining efforts of the McCauslands took place. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

office building

foundation ruins
Illustrations 236-237. Top: The office building at the Ashford Mill site. Bottom: Ruins of the foundations of the Ashford Mill. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

c. Confidence Mine and Mill

1. History

The last mine discussed in the chapter is one of the oldest in Death Valley. The Confidence Mine was first discovered sometime around the early 1890s by an Indian woman named Mary Scott, who thought it was a silver mine and neglected it. In 1895, Mary relocated the mine on a grubstake from Frank Cole and Jimmy Ashdown. When samples showed high gold content, Cole and Ashdown sold the mine to George Montgomery for $36,000. In November of 1895, the Inyo Register reported that Montgomery was in town buying mules to use to haul freight and supplies over 100 miles from Daggett, California, to the mine, which had just begun operations. The mine, said the paper, had opened up some fine looking gold ore, running from $15 to $75 per ton, and due to the transportation difficulties, a 30-ton Bryan mill was being built seven miles below the mine, on the floor of Death Valley. The mill engine would run on gasoline, since it was far cheaper to haul in gas than was the effort to collect wood. Mining expenses in the isolated and little-known region were not helped by the price of $100 per head which Montgomery was forced to pay for fourteen large mules.

During the first part of 1896, the new mine was worked vigorously. The Inyo Register reported early that year that the Confidence Mining Company was operating the mine and mill, with the backing of financiers from Salt Lake City, particularly John Q. Cannon. The mill was under construction, and was expected to be completed soon, and a full force of miners and millmen had been hired, although no accommodations had been provided for them. That was not too bad, said the Register, since "as it seldom rains," everyone merely camped in the open air. The Confidence, said the paper, was one of" the most difficult and expensive mines to work in the country, owing to the scarcity of fuel and water principally, but freighting from Daggett [is] equally as arduous a task."

Illustration 238. Map of Eastcentral portion of the Confidence Hills Area and Westcentral portion of the Shoshone Area.

Due more to its uniquely isolated location in unexplored Death Valley than to its size or importance, the Confidence Mine also received attention from a national mining journal. The Mining & Scientific Press, in January of 1896, reported that the mine had three shafts and a tunnel, with the deepest shaft being about 125 feet. The mill would be ready to run by February 1st. Later that month, the Inyo Register reported that the mill was started up and was running well, and twenty-five men were employed by the company.

In May of 1896, the Inyo Register again reported on the mine, with some detail. It had been purchased in partnership by Cannon, Montgomery and a man named Langford, all of whom were also operating mines around Johnnie and Chispa, Nevada. It had two shafts of 150 feet each, connected by a drift. A well had been dug near the mill, from which a China pump raised "about the saltiest water on earth" from a depth of eighty feet. In order to reduce the water for the mill, it was necessary to first pass it through a condenser. The mill consisted of a rock breaker, a Bryan roller mill with a capacity of twenty tons per day, and a few feet of silvered copper plates. Power was supplied by a 20-horsepower gas engine.

Costly as these provisions were, said the report, they were not nearly sophisticated enough to reduce the rebellious ore to buillion, and consequently the mill had been shut down after only a few months of operation. A fairly large tailing pile indicated that a sizeable amount of ore had been run through the mill in its three-month life, before its owners realized their errors. Indeed, the mill had proved so inefficient that local prospectors claimed they could make $5 per day by panning the mill tailings. The company did not even have assaying equipment at the mine or mill, and in short, said the Inyo Register, "one wonders how they can have any idea of "where they are at" in the mining and milling business."

Supplies were hauled into the mine from Daggett, but when the reporter visited the mill in early May, no superintendent or paymaster had been there since January. Twenty men had quit on April 4th, and scattered across the desert to find one of the mine's owners to demand their pay. "The company must have expended forty to fifty thousand dollars in a mill that will [have] to be extensively added to or removed entirely before they can ever get a dollar out of it."

This story of inefficient and bumbling management caught the attention of the Mining & Scientific Press, which reprinted it in its entirity, with the following introduction: "In vast southeastern Inyo there are mines and mining operations which few residents know anything about. And in that region of mountains and deserts it is difficult to describe locations, no existing map showing anything about them. It is also hard to describe some of the mismanagement in their attempts to get money out of the mines."

The Inyo Independent reported in ate July of 1896 that the Confidence Mine and Mill was still closed down, with "no pay day in sight." The mill still stood in Death Valley, but the owners had not been back to it, and "it looks like the result of bad management." In October, the paper again reported that the "Salt Lake company owning the Confidence mine and mill on the east side of Death Valley in the Amargosa mountains have not resumed operations, neither has it paid a dollar of numerous debts.

Confidence Mill
Illustration 239. The Confidence Mill, from a photo taken in 1909. The caption reads "Confidence Cyanide Plant, has stood 15 years on the desert." From "Niter Lands of California," Death Valley National Monument Library, Neg #3090.

The mine remained closed in early 1897, and in February of that year Montogmery sold his half interest in it to Cannon for $81,000--indicating that Cannon, at least, still believed that there was gold in the ground. Two months later, one L. F. J. Wrinkle was reported to have offered Cannon and his associates $100,000 for the mine, plus one fifth of the non-assessable capital stock in a new mining company, and a guarantee that $100,000 worth of work would be done at the property. The Inyo Register, in an understatement, commented that "The figures now offered, considering the isolated location of the property, indicate that a bonanza is believed to exist there."

But that sale came to naught, and the mine and mill lay idle. Further speculation concerning the Confidence property surfaced in 1898, when the Inyo Independent reported a rumor that the Meneva Mining and Milling Company was about to buy the mine from Cannon. Cannon apparently thought so also, for be took the precaution of patenting his claims, but again the deal was not consummated.

Not much was heard from the mine or its owners for the next several years. In 1901, the property changed hands, although it stayed within the Cannon family, and in 1904 the Confidence Mine was listed on the Inyo County delinquent tax rolls, for failure to pay $6.06 in taxes on the patented property. Again a veil of silence fell around the mine, which was not lifted until May of 1907, when the Death Valley Chuck-Walla during an assessment of mining possibilities in that part of the country, mentioned the old Confidence Mine, which had long been idle. With "the renewal of activity in the district in other sections and the opening of new mines," speculated the Chuck-Walla "work will again commence on the Confidence." Later that fall, the Rhyolite Daily Bulletin also mentioned the idle Confidence Mine as one with possibilities, since it had smelting-quality ores.

But despite the optimism of those two mining camp newspapers, the mine was not reopened, even though the Salt Lake organization retained control and title to it. Finally, in May of 1909, the long awaited resumption of work began. The Bullfrog Miner reported that month that the Confidence Mine "which has been idle for several years, has again started work with a good force of men. The development is being backed by Salt Lake Capitalists and unless the extremely hot weather prohibits, will continue during the summer."

The new lessees of the property, the Death Valley Gold Mining Company, worked only sporadically during the summer, due to the intense heat in that portion of Death Valley, but in September operations were stepped up. The Rhyolite Herald reported that W. J. West, the new manager, had taken five sacks of ore from the mine into Salt Lake City for milling tests. The ore was averaging $50 per ton, and the company had three shafts working, down to twenty, seventy and 150 feet, respectively. Apparently the old mill, which was still standing, was deemed inadequate to reduce the ores--not surprising, since it had been inadequate in 1896--and the company was making plans to erect a new mill. As usual, the Rhyolite Herald concluded that the lack of an adequate water supply was the main problem facing the company.

Two weeks later, the Rhyolite Herald confirmed that operations had been resumed on the old Confidence. One Mr. Merritt, who seemed to be heading up the organization, told the paper that he would bring in machinery to the property "as soon as he can conveniently get around to it," and that "if the old Confidence will only do half as well as in the pioneer days it will be all that he will ask." Meanwhile, the men at the mine were sacking the high grade gold ore. The Mining World also confirmed in September that the Death Valley Gold Mining Company was planning to erect a mill in Death Valley, as soon as the Salt Lake ore tests could determine the kind of mill required. The mine, it reported, had a sufficiently large tonnage of ore blocked out to justify the expense of constructing a mill.

One month later, in mid-October, the Rhyolite Herald reported that the Confidence Mine was just completing a shipment to the smelter in Salt Lake City. The ore was regarded as fairly high grade, assaying between $60 and $150 per ton. But after that report, the mine fell idle once again. Apparently the ore tests in Salt Lake City had shown that the ore was too low grade or too hard to process to make its extraction from an extremely isolated corner of Death Valley profitable. In June of 1910, and again in 1911, the property of the Confidence Mining Company appeared on the Inyo County delinquent tax rolls, for the want of $14.11 in county taxes.

Unfortunately, at about this Lime a great desert legend was born, when W. C. Mendenhal I, writing for the Geologic Survey, confused this Confidence Mine with the old "lost" Mormon mine from which the Mormons were traditionally believed to have taken much gold in the 1850s. Mendenhall's mistake, due to the prestige of USGS publications, has been habitually repeated throughout the years, until the truth is hard to separate from the fiction. There is absolutely no evidence that the Confidence Mine in Death Valley is the lost Mormon mine, and there is much evidence to the contrary. The contemporary descriptions of the mine in 1895 and 1896 make absolutely no reference to the Mormons, and indicate quite strongly that Montgomery and his partners were the first men to operate it. Such legends, however, are hard to kill.

In the meantime, R. J. Fairbanks, the enterprising merchant from Greenwater and Shoshone, bought the Confidence Mine and operated it on his own for three years. The difficulties which beset him, as well as previous owners, are best put in his own words.

This was a gold proposition, and in spite of the fact there's gold in there that will run $35,000 to the ton, I operated entirely at a loss. Most of the ore would run about eight dollars to the ton, and I'd have to crack hundreds of tons of the eight-dollar ore trying to get a few pounds of the $35,000 stuff. The financial failure of this venture was due entirely to the utter impossibility of the transportation problem. Everything had to be wagoned in and out from the railroad at Shoshone, and the haul more than ate up the profits After Fairbanks gave up, the Inyo Register printed a rumor in July of 1915 that "It is now practically assured that a new management will soon open" the Confidence Mine. However, that rumor was false, as were those printed by the Mining World in March of 1915. At that time, it was believed that the Corona Mining and Milling Company planned to reopen the mine, and to construct a 100-ton stamp mill on the property. The Mining World went on to repeat the silly tale connecting the Confidence with the lost Mormon mine, and then improved upon that by also stating that the Confidence was the secret source of Death Valley Scotty's wealth. About the only truth to its entire report was the statement that the "workings are in bad shape and have every appearance of having been ruthlessly looted."

Needles to say, the Corona Mining and Milling Company never reopened the Confidence Mine, and it lay idle for several more years. A traveler to the area in 1921 saw no evidence of mining anywhere in the area, and although several desert rats did move into Confidence Wash in the latter years of the 1920s, none of them worked the Confidence Mine. In 1926 the California State Mineralogist reported that the mine was idle and had been for several years, and that the mill had been dismantled. Sometime around 1934, the mine was again operated very briefly, and a small amount of high-grade ore was packed out and shipped to a smelter.

Then, in the fall of 1941, an exhaustive examination of the mine was made on the behalf of some Salt Lake City investors who had become interested in the mine. The inspection of the property showed around 740,000 tons of ore blocked out in previous development work, with an average value of $14 per ton. Although some high-grade ore worth $125 per ton could be found, most of that had already been stripped out by previous operators. Water was available about one and a half miles from the mine, and the examiner believed that enough water could be developed to support a mill. Considerable stoping had already been done by previous miners, as well as the driving of two tunnels, one about 175 feet into the mountainside, and the other about 375 feet. Previous production, according to this report, was claimed to be about $200,000, most of it in the early days of the mine. "If sufficient capital can be secured," wrote the Journal a mill would be built and the property would be brought back into production.

But such was not the case, probably due to the combination of lack of capital and the isolation of the mine, which would have made mining very expensive even in 1941. In any event, mining of gold was forbidden the following year, due to war-time demands, and following the failure of this last effort, the old Confidence Mine was at last left alone. [29]

2. Present Status, Evaluation and Recommendations

Not much remains to mark the efforts of so many people over so many years to exploit an isolated Death Valley mine. At the mine site, approximately six miles up Confidence Wash from the mill, some ruins may be seen. These consist of two prospect holes in the side of the wash, used for living and storage areas by later occupants of the site, and a series of adits and shafts which climb far up the side of the mountain. The main mining complex, towards the top of a very steep ridge, has several stained out areas, and a faint foot path leading from one adit to another. The complex is centered around the ruins of an old ore bin, which was once connected to a crude bucket tramway to lower the ore down to the floor of the wash. Some tramway rails, a crude rocker box, and other paraphernalia from the last periods of mining may be found. Evidence of earlier occupants has been destroyed long ago by later miners.

For several miles up and down Confidence Wash in this area, other traces of very small-scale mining attempts may be found, mostly dating from the Depression years, when numerous down-and-out individuals resorted to living rent-fee in the wilds of Death Valley. The home of one such occupant, fondly known as the "Wind Cave," is located a short distance up the wash from the mine, but it has absolutely no historical significance. All in all, the ruins in Confidence Wash are impressive, but only in the sense of making the viewer wonder what desperate hopes could have led men to believe that they could get rich from this forsaken territory.

The mining area of Confidence Wash is not historically important enough to warrant National Register consideration. Although the lack of access to the site at present denies its interpretive potential, benign neglect is recommended. The area should not be reclimed, cleaned up or naturalized, but rather left to the elements, and left for the enjoyment of what few back country hikers may stumble upon its remains.

Down in Death Valley is the site of the old mill. Not much remains here either, for years of wind and occasional cloudbursts have combined to almost cover the mill site. The mill machinery has long been hauled away for other uses, and the most visible sign of the old mill is a raised earth platform with a thin and crumbling cement floor in the middle. Piles of assorted concrete bits and remains of tanks and pipes are scattered around the area at the whim of the elements, and the old well, where once the saltiest water on earth was found, is almost completely filled with sand.

The Confidence Mill has significance due to its age, but the almost complete destruction of the site by the hands of men and the weather has destroyed its integrity. It will not be nominated to the National Register, but is recommended for historical archaeological study. The location of the mill site also negates its interpretive potential, since the lower east side road has been closed to protect the fragile environment of the rare pup fish at Saratoga Springs. Benign neglect is recommended for the mill site, along with a strong recommendation against any attempts to clean up, reclaim or naturalize the area.

Confidence Mine site

ore bin
Illustrations 240-241. Top: The old Confidence Mine site, showing several adits just above the floor of the wash. The old ore bin, which marks the center of the main mining complex, can barely be seen in the top center of the photo, just below the ridge line. Bottom: The ore bin, from which a crude bucket tramway once descended to the floor of the wash below. 1978 photos by John Latschar.

Confidence Mill
Illustration 242. Ruins of the Confidence Mill, on the floor of Death Valley. The thin concrete slab and the engine mount are the only substantial remains of the old mill. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

d. Bradbury Well

Bradbury Well, located along the Salsberry Pass road opposite Rhodes Springs, was first located and named in the late 1910s or early 1920s. The well is mentioned as a good watering place in 1921, and again in 1922, when Margaret Long described taking off the boards which covered the top of the well, and pulling up a bucket of water. Other than those brief mentions, the well has never been referred to in connection with the early history of Death Valley. [30]

The well site today is still easy to find, due to the tell-tale vegetation which clearly marks every source of water in Death Valley. The well, however, has been filled with sand by the winds of the desert, and only the circle of stones which once marked its site to desert travelers is now visible. The site has no historic significance or interpretive potential, and is recommended for benign neglect.

Bradbury Well
Illustration 243. Bradbury Well, looking north towards the Salsberry Pass road. 1978 photo by John Latschar.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003