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Mining History: Desert Fever

San Bernardino County:

The Orange Blossom Mine

In 1897 a Chemehuevi Indian named Hikorum discovered ore north of Amboy. Hikorum , “a prominent man among his people, a great hunter of mountain sheep,” was also an excellent prospector. By October, 1900, the Desert Prospecting Exploration and Development Company was incorporated to work the Orange Blossom group of mines. John Denair, division superintendent for the Santa Fe and a resident of Needles, was president of this concern and Judge L. V. Root was secretary. Quite a bit of Orange Blossom stock was sold in Needles to railroad men who followed Denair. 224

In December, 1902, it was reported that work had resumed at the mine, but it was not until 1906 and 1907 that work began in earnest. The first shipment of ore, destined for the Selby smelter at San Francisco, was made in May, 1907. 225

At this same time, the Orange Blossom Extension Mine adjoining the Orange Blossom to the north was active, as was the Lady Lu two miles north of that. However, great confusion occurred in the reporting of developments at the Orange Blossom and Orange Blossom Extension mines, as it appears that at times the name Orange Blossom was used interchangeably for both. Water was piped from Budweiser Springs, owned jointly by both mines, in the late summer of 1907. On May 28, 1908, Mining Science reported “The Orange Blossom property is developing rapidly and the twenty-stamp mill will soon be in operation.” 226

A report a week earlier indicated both the Orange Blossom and the Orange Blossom Extension were installing mills. Later reports make no mention of a mill at the Orange Blossom. In fact the Orange Blossom Extension far outshines the former from 1908 on. In August, 1908, an eight-stamp mill, housed in an impressive structure, was started up at the Orange Blossom Extension. By November the mine was down to 720 feet, and the ore was running from $8 to $10 per ton in gold and from 1 to 1.5 percent copper. At this depth, water was encountered which was pumped to the surface and stored for use in milling the ore.

The mining camp, described as “picturesque,” was located on “an eminence overlooking the valley below.” The Mining Review provided an excellent description of the camp in November, 1908 as follows:

The company constructed a number of fine buildings of Oregon pine and California redwood, including a large nicely furnished office, boarding house, rooming house, two cozy cottages, a stable, and a corral, all of which are painted. The houses, barn and corral are all electrically lighted and water is piped into every building... everything about the camp being in order and clean and neat. The assay office and laboratory is one of the most finely equipped establishments to be found in the West. At Amboy the company has a frame lodging house for the convenience of visitors who come in on the night trains, and also a storage and warehouse building 50 x 100 feet in dimension, where supplies are housed preparatory to haulage to the mine. A Locomobile auto is maintained which makes one or more trips daily between the mine and the railroad, and it is the intention of the management to put on two more seven-passenger autos at an early date.

Just below the mine and mill a short distance, just far enough so that the music of the stamps will be subdued.. .the town of Hodgman will be established about the first of the year. The little city will be called after President James A. Hodgman.... Here, according to plans, a number of neat and cozy cottages will be built for employees of the company having families. The plans also include a big and fine hotel, post office building, large general merchandise store, and other buildings necessary to the opening up of a mining district so prolific in promise as is the Orange Blossom region. Water will be piped into each building in the new town of Hodgman, and the place is to be electrically lighted.” 227

It seems the only thing the camp lacked was that essential of Western life: a saloon.

Work progressed at the mine at least until January, 1909, but the mill had run for only two months. In April, 1909, it was admitted the mill was a failure, and the blame was laid on mismanagement. The company went bankrupt and John Denair became sole owner in November, 1910, when he paid $23,640 that the company owed. In spite of fresh bimonthly rumors to the contrary, the mines remained inactive. In 1942 there was not a building standing, and all of the machinery had been hauled away. 228

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