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Mojave Desert History - Pioneer of the Mojave
Part-time Prospector

Peace Treaty Helps Ivanpah Mines

There were some minor successes on the Mojave throughout the 1860s, but with the Indian problems, and the remoteness of the locations sending costs for everything sky high, the industry did not get a permanent foothold until the development of the mines at Ivanpah at the end of the decade. The community of Ivanpah, located on the eastern slope of Clark Mountain in the northeast corner of the county, originated with the mines and remained in existence until the end of the century.

The Ivanpah mines were developed by the Piute Company, which was organized in 1869 by a group of San Francisco investors. The manager of the mines was James H. Crossman, who later wrote a series of informative articles on mining in San Bernardino County for the Mining and Scientific Press.

Crossman writes that in 1868 a prominent prospector named John Moss, with the assistance of a Paiute chief, discovered a major mine in the vicinity of Ivanpah. Moss took ore samples to San Francisco for evaluation, and investors were impressed enough to send an expedition, which included Crossman, to investigate the new find.

However, for the mines to be successful, relations with the Indians would have to be improved. Ivanpah was situated in the territory of the Paiutes, who were stealing livestock and killing travelers whenever they thought they could get away with it.

Fortunately Moss, who was a trustee of the Piute Company, had an affinity for Indians, and with the connections he had made through the Paiute chief, he was able to form a peace treaty with the tribe. He was allowed to travel over their territory unmolested, plus had leeway to hunt their mountain sheep and rabbits and to work the mines.

The treaty continued without problems until one day three German prospectors were killed in the Avawatz Mountains. Moss, who had been elected an honorary chief, sent out runners and built signal fires on prominent peaks to call for a "big eat." At the gathering he asked the Indians why they killed three white men and broke the treaty. The response was that they had not killed any white men, they had only killed some Germans and therefore had not broken their pledges. The problem was easily resolved. Moss simply added the Teutonic race to the Indians' definition of white men, and the prospectors had no further trouble with the Paiutes.

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