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Mining History: Desert Fever
San Bernardino County

Twentynine Palms Area

The first discoveries in the Twentynine Palms area were made by Dave Gowen and Joseph Voshay. The San Bernardino Guardian on November 29, 1873, gives the account of the discovery of the Blue Jay Mine as follows:

In the month of January last, Dave Gowen and Jo. Voshay, two old and practical miners, of whom it can be justly said, have discovered as many valuable mines in this State and Arizona as any other two men that can be found, and whose word and opinion in regard to mines carry about as much weight as any--were prospecting the country around the Twenty-nine Palms. Mr. Gowen, one day, while passing along a gulch or sand wash, picked up a piece of float rock full of free gold. On returning to camp that night the specimen picked up was shown his partner, Mr. Voshay, who, upon examining it, immediately pronounced it “bully.” The next morning early they both started from the place where the float was found, separating and going in different directions they traced along the hill tops and sides--which we will here remark par parenthesis to the experienced eye of an old miner, indicated that they were filled with mineral. That day a ledge was discovered and the “Gowen” and other claims located. The following day while Mr. G. was up among the hills picking away, he encountered an old Chimehueva [sic.] Indian, who, surmising his purpose there, remarked in broken English, pointing to a separate and distinct range of hills across a plain some twelve or fifteen miles off, “mucha heep.” After some conversation with the Indian, Gowen persuaded him to go and bring him to his camp a piece of the rock. The Indian left and next day returned bringing some beautiful specimens of ore, which, to the quick and experienced eyes of Voshay and Gowen, were indicative of being rich in gold. The following day the two men mounted their animals and “packing” the Indian along as guide, on another, proceeded to the spot where the ore was found. It was some of the ore from the now rich and famous “Blue Jay” ledge. On arriving in town an assay was made of the ore, and it exceeded in richness the most sanguine expectations of its discoverers; a company was soon formed and work commenced on the mine. The present Company is composed of the following named persons, J. R. Frink, David Gowen, N. Noble, Jo. Voshay, H. Partridge and James Grant. 233

The Gowen Mine was located 4 miles southeast of Twentynine Palms over the summit of a range of hills and on the north side of a ridge. The Blue Jay was located 12 miles northeast of Twentynine Palms, about 1 mile east of Mesquite Lake. Numerous other mines were located to the south of the Gowen Mine, in the general vicinity of the Gold Park Camp of 1908. In October, 1873, two arrastres were in operation in the area, but by 1883, and probably a few years earlier, the gold mining at Twentynine Palms had died out. 234

About 1883 Lew Curtis discovered placer gold east of the oasis of Twentynine Palms. This placer deposit lay in the canyons that drained into the northern end of Pinto Basin. At Burt's Dry Lake (later named Dale Dry Lake), John Burt dug a well and built an arrastre to work ore from the hills to the south, the source of the Pinto Basin gold. At this well, the town of Virginia Dale took root and grew to an estimated 1,000 people. The Virginia Dale Mining Company was organized about 1886. Work had been suspended by 1889, but the activity around Virginia Dale stimulated a heightened interest in mining in the area during the late 1880s. Activity continued throughout the early 1890s, but by 1898 there were only 21 miners left in the area. 235

The Supply Mine was worked in the same area from around the turn of the century until about 1917. The discovery and subsequent operation of the mine by the United Greenwater Company was the primary reason for the relocation of the town of Virginia Dale to New Dale. In 1915 there were a total of about 75 people living at New Dale.236

Southeast of Virginia Dale, the Brooklyn and O.K. mines were located in 1890 by John Burt. Burt and F. J. Botsford worked the mines until 1899. The Brooklyn Mining Company was formed in 1901 and was quite active until 1916. A one-inch pipeline was laid from Dale Lake to the mine for milling operations which used about 2,000 gallons of water for every ton of ore treated. Before the pipeline was laid, water was hauled from Cottonwood Springs. 237

Gold Park consisted of a group of mines about 8 miles south of Twnetynine Palms. Gold Park even had a post office during the brief period from January to July, 1908. The Italie Mine was one of the biggest newsmakers here during this time. 238

The Virginia Dale mine was active off and on until 1937. The Carlisle, or Carlyle Mine first worked about the turn of the century, was most active from 1939 to 1941, when a substantial mill was on the property. After World War II, a few of the gold mines in the area were active briefly but the high cost of supplies forced them to close. 239

This might be the end of the story except for a couple of recent discoveries in the area. There had been persistent rumors of a lost Spanish mine in the Gold Park area for as far back as anyone can remember. One version of the story is that the Spanish sunk a shaft and removed a metal rich in what looked like silver ore, but when smelted proved to be something else. The name they gave this mine was the Sick Silver Mine, and they rode off in disgust. In the 1970s a San Bernardino area resident named Hugh Huebner discovered a shaft deliberately filled with boulders, with an old forge nearby. Prospecting and assaying the outcrops, Mr. Huebner found that he had discovered a rich bismuth mine, and in his estimation, the lost Spanish Mine. 240


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