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Mining History: Desert Fever

San Bernardino County:

Marengo District

In the same year of 1863 the Marengo District, to the south of the Freeman District, was described as follows: “This like the Freeman its neighbor, is without an occupant, save its native Indians. I think it has no recorded leads.” Except for some prospecting for niter just after the turn of the century, nothing further developed in the area. 65

The Irataba Mining District, heralded as the “richest copper district on the Colorado,” was probably discovered early in 1863 by soldiers from Fort Mojave. Named after the chief of the Mojave Indians at the time, the district extended from Fort Mojave to the Needles and about 25 miles west of the river. Discovery of the district is also attributed to the Colorado Prospecting and Mining Company, a group of men who spent three months examining country along the Colorado River. In an advertisement, the company listed 12 mines that were located. It is likely that discoveries made by the soldiers from nearby Fort Mojave lead the Colorado prospectors out of Fort Mojave to look for and find good copper ore in mid-August. In November, the Pocahontas Copper and Silver Mining Company was incorporated for $200,000, with most of the same people as directors that headed the Colorado Prospecting and Mining Company. 66

The majority of the mines in the district lay from 2 1/2 to 6 miles from the river, in sight of Fort Mojave. Steamboats ran regularly to the fort and a good road connected the mines with the river. Before the end of the year, Irataba City was established 2 miles below the fort, high on a gravel bluff safe from the river, but where boats could land at all stages of the river. 67

Despite the encouraging developments, only 3 shallow shafts had been sunk at the mines by January, 1864. Within the next year, however, the district was transformed from a drowsing interest to wide-awake excitement, though the center of activity seems to have moved as well. William R. Stiles arrived in Wilmington from the mines and wrote a letter to the Wilmington Journal on May 17, 1865. In his letter he indicated the Irataba District was 20 miles from Fort Mojave, and 6 to 9 miles from the river, a great deal farther than was reported two years earlier. 68

Work began on the Evening Star Mine on November 19, 1864, and by January, five mining companies were at work. On a couple of lodes, workers intended to go to a depth of 50 or 75 feet. Although water was a real problem, as it had to be packed 6 miles from Sacramento Springs. By April the Evening Star, and Long Island companies each had 20 or 30 tons of ore ready to ship, and the Brother Jonathan Company had a 40 foot shaft. 69

In May, the number of active lodes or mines had swelled to 12. The Evening Star now boasted a 60 foot shaft which yielded 12 tons of 50 percent copper ore. This was shipped down the river and to San Francisco. The Long Island had a 25-foot shaft, and its operators too, had shipped 12 tons of ore. Mr. C. C. Nason was the recorder, and lived in the district. There may have been excellent copper ore here, but shipping costs ate up the profits. Operators could not make money on anything that ran less than 30 percent copper. In January, 1866, a few men were still in the district, shipping small, very high grade quantities of ore to a firm on the Bill Williams River. 70

The only other activity in the area took place during World War I in the Dead Mountains, 2 miles west of Fort Mojave. At that time, one of the copper prospects that carried some manganese was mined. In the spring of 1918, a severe rainstorm uncovered several discontinuous bunches of manganese ore, and T. E. Gallagher and J. W. Arrington of Needles removed several hundred pounds of ore. 71

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