Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert
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Heritage of the Upper Mojave Desert


During searches for a red paint pigment at Red Mountain, Jack Nosser and Hamp Williams, on a return trip to Randsburg, discovered an outcropping which looked promising just off the road. Assays made in Bakersfield revealed that it was rich ruby silver. They had been grubstaked by John Kelly and Miss Edith Coons. The famous Kelly mine started operations in 1919, and according to estimates, has produced some $27 million in silver. Silver King, Santa Fe, silver glance, big four and other minds shared this silver structure, which ranks as one of California's richest and largest.

The settlements of Osdick, Hampton and Inn City sprang up close to the "Big Kelly" mine. At Osdick, named after Pete Osdick, Pioneer Mining operator, a post office was established in 1922. The merged communities became known later as Red Mountain.

During the period that the Rand District occupied much of the limelight, far-reaching changes were taking place in other sections of the Upper Mojave Desert,

In 1905, attention had focused again on Searles Lake with the discovery of "trona" crystals. This led to exploratory work. In 1913, the American Trona Corporation was formed to remove potash and other chemicals from the brine underlying the dry lake surface. Completion of the plant in 1916 came in time to relieve the acute shortage of potash in World War I. In 1926, the Corporation's name was changed to the American Potash and Chemical Corporation. The production facilities at Trona have been expanded again and again. From the brine of Searles Lake, potash, borax, soda ash, salt cake, lithium concentrates and other chemicals are produced for agriculture and industry.

Ever since 1913, when colemanite, a borax ore, had been uncovered in the Kramer district, while a well was being drilled for water on a homestead, the Pacific Coast Borax Company (US Borax) had been interested in this area, then, in 1925, drillers working under the supervision of Clarence Rasor brought up borate of soda or "tincal." Then further drilling brought up a new Crystal which broke into needle-like splinters, a new form of borate. This was called "roasorite" in honor of Rasor; also "kernite" after the county in which it was found. Development of the new mine was started. Over the years, the plant has been expanding continuously and with the extensive mining operations from the huge open pit, the US Borax and Chemical Corporation has taken its place as the foremost producer of Borax and derivatives.

On the shores of Searles Lake, another extensive development was taking place. In 1920, F.M. "Borax" Smith, long a dominant figure in the borax world, organized the West End Chemical Company, and engaged in the operation of the large chemical plant which had been installed by the West End Consolidated Mining Company. Located in the community of Westend, which it created, the company has been in continuous operation, processing the brines from the lake to produce soda ash, borax, sodium sulfate, lime and other products used widely in the chemical industry. As a result of research, plant operations have been enlarged many times over the years. In 1956, it was merged with the Stauffer Chemical Company and is now a division of that firm.

By the time the 1930s rolled around, the low price of gold, silver and tungsten at reduced mining of those metals to a sporadic point. However, Borax production continued unabated. Then ribbons of paved roads spread across the desert, creating an era of gas stations and services to accommodate motoring tourists.

Then came the electrifying change in the 1940s. The missile, rocket and space age had arrived! The vast open spaces of this desert were ideally suited for military bases engaged in scientific research, exploration and testing.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
ghost towns - gold mines - parks & public lands: wilderness - native culture - history - geology: natural features - comments

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