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Mining History: Desert Fever

San Bernardino County:

OLD WOMAN MOUNTAINS

In one tongue or another, the Old Woman Mountains have been known as such for centuries. The Chemehuevi Indians called the range No-mop-wits , literally meaning “old woman,” a name derived from a tall rock that resembles the form of an old woman. 206

About March of 1873, Mr. S. C. Hammer discovered a ledge “situated between the Old Woman Mountain and the Colorado,” while employed on a surveying expedition for the 35th Parallel Railroad. However, it was not until 1889 that real interest in the mountain range appeared in the newspapers. During that year the Redlands Citrograph boomed the discoveries there, beginning with its April 27 announcement of the discovery of “the richest mineral deposits in the world. The ore on the surface is so abundant that it would keep smelting works such as those at Argo, Colorado, busy for fifty years.” Superlatives had subsided slightly by August 10, but the newspaper was still assuring its readers that the deposit was “the largest body of low grade carbonates in the world.” 207

The Scanlon Mining District which sprang up was named after Pete Scanlon who, after a tip from the local Indians, discovered a spring, probably in the canyon on the west side of the range that also bears his name. The ore deposit in the Old Womans was silver and gold bearing limestone, and since it was refractory (only treatable by smelters), clamor for a smelter began to be heard. In the summer of 1889, Captain Bethune, one of the property owners, arrived in Redlands to escape the hot weather and pronounced, “Our mining prospects are grand and… we must have a smelter at Needles.” Despite the high hopes of the year before, in 1890 the Scanlon or Old Woman District was described as being “so little developed as hardly to merit... mention.” 208

Although it was primarily silver that caused the excitement in the late 1880s, it was gold that continued activity through the next two decades. In November, 1893, and April, 1894, shipments of gold ore were received at the Kingman smelter from Danby, which was the shipping point for the Winton mine. This mine, located 7 miles northeast of Danby, was active in 1895 and may have been the source of the shipments a year earlier. Ore was packed from the mine 1,000 feet down the mountain by burros to a two-stamp mill. Water was obtained from a neighboring canyon, 1/4 mile to the south. 208

Close by this mine, the Wheel of Fortune Mine was discovered about 1897. While little is heard about this mine for several years, Walter G. Pinkett, a Danby saloon owner, owned the mine in March, 1911, and had a “force of men” working on a 60 foot shaft on the property. In December, 1913, Pinkett and 3 men lived on the property. At that time, there was a bunkhouse and a blacksmith shop on the property. The next spring they planned to begin development work. 210

Carbonate Gulch, in 1895 on the west side of the range, was the site of the Courtwright and McDonald gold mines. Even at that early date, there was a 200 foot tunnel and a 100 foot shaft. In March, 1911, Duke McDonald, in partnership with Jack McClush, were planning soon to ship lead-zinc ore from their mine in this canyon. The next glimpse we have of the canyon is in the spring of 1919. At that time the camp of the Yellow Metal Mining Company was deserted, and there was pipe from a spring “found by going up Carbonate Gulch to the first large branch gulch entering from the north in the vicinity of the mining prospects.” 211

Milo James Smith was born in Ravenswood, West Virginia, September 10, 1858. In 1897, at age 39 he came to California and was well rewarded with an exceptional discovery of silver in the Old Woman Mountains. Nothing more is directly heard about this discovery, but M. J. Smith remained interested in silver in the Old Woman Mountains. 212

The Silver Wave Mine, high on the west side of the range in Scanlon Canyon, was first worked prior to 1890, but was inactive until late 1899 when it was purchased by Smith for $150. He did considerable work on the property, but failed to find any ore. Ready to give up, he was persuaded to drive a drift in another direction. With that action, he hit what he was looking for. Shortly after, Mr. D. Jackson, representing Mr. A. P. Morrison, who had interest in Colorado mines, secured a bond on the property for $35,000. Between the purchase and March, 1902, $12,000 had been expended in development. A five-stamp, steam-powered mill was erected and running about March 10, 1902, and 18 men were employed on the property. In 1909 the mine camp, which was near a spring, was in ruins, and the mill appears to have been dismantled. 213

On the southwest end of the range the Black Metal Mine was first located before 1896. In 1902, when the Silver Wave was so busy, the Black Metal was relocated. M. J. Smith and George B. Parks of Barstow owned the Black Metal Mine in 1910 and were arranging to lease it to C. H. Scheu, a Los Angeles mining man, for $30,000. In September Scheu and Parks visited the property, but the deal apparently fell through.214

Smith and Parks, in February, 1911, dissolved their partnership in the Black Metal and other property they owned. Parks became owner of the Black Metal and the Desert Butte Group near Kilbeck Siding. In March, 1911, he was preparing to move to the mine. He purchased a “fine span of mules” from Seymore Alf, of Barstow, to haul ore from the Black Metal and Desert Butte Group. That April, finally ready, George Parks and his wife left for the mines with a “carload of goods and supplies.” About the time they arrived, news came of another strike at the adjoining mine of Joe Holbrook and Ernest Morrison. Parks was busy during the next two months, and he was ready to ship 20 tons of ore. The shipment was made and grossed $27 a ton. In August he was ready to ship another 20 tons of ore, yet in November, 1911, Parks and his wife left the Black Metal. She was probably suffering from a bad case of cabin fever and he, looking for a better return for his time and money, went into general contracting, leaving mining to others. 215

The Grass Roots Mine, which was adjacent to the Black Metal, was discovered about 1889 by Scott Price. He sank a small shaft and took out some high-grade ore, but seeing he would be unable to work the mine because of the distance to transportation, he filled up the shaft. After the Parker branch of the Santa Fe was built, Price, in partnership with Bert Day, began working the mine. In March, 1911, the shaft was down to 60 feet, and Day went into Parker to secure a team to haul supplies between Milligan and the mine camp. In April, twenty tons of ore were shipped. In June the Garner brothers of San Bernardino purchased the interest of Day. Sinking of the shaft was resumed that August, but was halted when tragedy struck in October. Harry Nelson, employed sinking a 25 foot shaft, was killed when it caved in on him. Two men set to work to remove the tons of rock on Nelson, but when they found him, he was dead. Apparently operations stopped until September, 1912, when, with Fred Schmickle, Scott Price resumed operations. There was plenty of water nearby and they expected, in February, 1913, to put in a large mill, but nothing further is heard about the mine. 216

The Warwick Mine, owned by Mr. A. W. Warwick of Martinez, Arizona was also active nearby in late 1898. By January, 1900, he had completed a ten-stamp mill at the mine. The Stemwinder Mine was “doing well” in January, 1900, but it was not until 1905 that this mine, located 20 miles south of Danby (perhaps in Carbonate Gulch), began to draw attention. During that year, the Stemwinder Mining and Development Company, capitalized for a quarter of a million dollars, was developing the mine. In September, 1911, a brief note indicated that the owners were waiting for cooler weather before mining.

Poker Flat is a locality in the Old Woman Mountains, whose identity has been lost to time. In 1911 some mining was being carried on there, and in February, 1911, Sam Houston was overhauling his stamp mill. On the Consolidated Mining Company claims at Poker Flat, owned by Walter G. Hopkins, a new strike was made in March, 1911. 217

Elsewhere in 1911, the Lucky Jim Mine, on the southeast side of the range, was located by P. W. Daton. The property was purchased by the Maricopa-Queen Oil Company, and by June, 1913, a camp known from old maps as Wilhelm was established here, with water piped from a natural tank about 3 miles southwest. In 1914, the camp consisted of bunkhouses, a boarding house, and a barn. In 1930 there were 3 men employed working the mine, and the camp was reported to have consisted of 3 cabins and a blacksmith shop. Between 1911 and 1930, some $53,000 worth of silver was produced from here, probably the bulk of that in the teens. 218

During World War II, two tungsten mines on the west side of the range, the Hidden Value and the Howe, were active. At the Howe a small mill was erected in 1952. 219



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