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Mining History: Desert Fever

San Bernardino County:

Rock Spring

Charles Hamilton and Francis B. Austin on March 12, 1863, discovered some rich silver ore about 10 miles west of Rock Spring. This first ledge was known as the Dona Carolina. Later these men, “in company with Messrs. Taylor and Nicholson... discovered Silver Hill, nine miles from Rock Springs.” Thus began recorded mining in the Providence Mountains, but according to legend then current, this was little more than a revival of mining, as “From traditional accounts, these mountains were long supposed to be rich in mineral deposits, but never been explored by Californians until this year. In some places there are yet to be seen traces of old inclines running into the mountain, no doubt workings of the Spaniards many years ago.” 81

The Rock Spring Mining District, established in April, 1863, was thirty square miles and embraced Macedonia Mountain in the north and Silver Hill Mountain on the south. The Government Road essentially split the district. Mister J. J. Downie of San Francisco was recorder, Mr. Hilton of Sacramento was president and the “bylaws and regulations are similar to Virginia laws.” 82

In May, Mr. P. J. Gillford's party was prospecting Silver Hill, and with Hamilton and Austin, several extensive ledges were discovered. Preparations were being made to begin work on the Dona Carolina and on Silver Hill. On July 3, 1863, Thomas Wheeler, Joseph M. English, A. J. Seales and Charley Neal discovered the Macedonia and Blue Ophir ledges. 83

Work progressed rather slowly. In October of that year, the Great Western and the Pride of the Union mines were resuming work after a forced shutdown due to lack of workers. Work also was just beginning on the Dona Carolina, although the Mammoth boasted a “fine tunnel.” Two months later, the Macedonia Silver Mining Company of Buffalo, New York, was sinking a shaft as was the Blue Ophir. On the Wheeler property, an optimistic 3,000-foot tunnel was contracted for. Also in 1863 the townsite of Providence, “a string of stone cabins and tents,” was laid out and briefly prospered. 84

The directory of mining companies with offices in San Francisco, for March, 1864, listed five with interest in Rock Spring: “The Donna ( sic. ) Carolina, Jefferson, Miquadowa, Empire, Mammoth and San Francisco.” The last three appear to have been run by the company. 85

In November the Rock Spring, Macedonian, and Silver Hill are mentioned as three separate districts. Reflecting areas of greatest activity. Evidently work had been progressing on the Blue Ophir Ledge, for it had a 125-foot tunnel, while the Silver Hill District lay essentially undeveloped. A year later, in December, 1865, Mr. Ensign Bennett, superintendent of the Macedonian Mining Company, purchased an “outfit for the mine” in Wilmington and headed out with others to “test its value.” 86

The first rumors of “serious Indian problems” at Rock Spring began in November, 1865. It was not until the next year, however, that the district was abandoned after Moses Little, a miner, was killed by Indians on June 12, 1866, while alone in his cabin. Camp Rock Spring was established December 30, 1866, by the U.S. Army to protect mail carriers on the Government Road. Interestingly, they used two abandoned 25-foot long tunnels driven into the hill near the spring for storage. 87

When the Indians were subdued, activity resumed in the Rock Spring area, after lying idle for years. Now called the Macedonian District, work began sometime in 1871. Around June, 1872, Matt Palen erected an expensive smelting works. Also during the month a team hauled a load of supplies from San Bernardino to the area. In July came this report: “We have heard of many persons who have already left and are preparing to leave for the newly discovered mines in the Providence Mountain.” Enough mining took place to ship 15 tons of ore to San Francisco in September, which grossed $650 a ton. 88

A long time elapsed before the mines in the old Macedonian District were again active. The Macedonia Mine, renamed the Columbia, was apparently active just after the turn of the century, for in January, 1903, the property had been attached to satisfy a $3,700 debt. 89

In December, 1910, C. F. Dayton, general manager of the Columbia Mining Company, was supervising installation of a five-stamp mill at the mine. Mark Neumayer and George Martin, more at home at their mine in Gold Valley, were employed mining on the Columbia early in 1911. By March, the mill was in operation, and the company soon began shipping concentrates. These concentrates reportedly were running $365 per ton. In 1935 and 1936 this property was leased to the Columbia Mines Inc. They rehabilitated the five-stamp mill and added a flotation plant. 90

The Francis Copper Mine, not far from the Columbia, was active in 1917 and 1918 when 307 tons of ore were shipped to the Valley Wells Smelter. In 1931 there was a bunkhouse and a boarding house at the mine. 91



ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
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