Desert Fever
An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area




Located within the confines of the United States Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, Coso was discovered in March 1860 by Dr. E. Darwin French who was looking for the Lost Gunsight Mine. His Butte Mining and Exploring Company quickly changed it's name to the Coso Gold and Silver Company. A group of prospectors who had been following French's expedition down from Oroville soon arrived, staked their claims, and the Coso Mining District was organized. This second group was led by Dr. Samuel Gregg George. W. I. Henderson, a member of this party discovered and named Telescope Peak, and was among the first white men to view the hot mud springs at Coso.5

Ore found in 1860 by M. H. Farley, a prospector in French's party, assayed over $1,000 per ton in silver and $20 per ton in gold. By June 24, 1860, 500 men had stormed into Coso. In August, mines were being discovered with ore assaying $2,000 or more of silver per ton. This caused a flurry of stock promotion companies trying to raise capital for a district plagued by unfriendly Indians who for many years had visited the healthy hot springs, and probably feared their loss to white miners.6

After several battles with the Indians, and with the stockholding public having lost trust in Coso's riches, the Anglo miners abandoned Coso, leaving it to “Mexicans” who reorganized the district on March 23, 1868. The Coso Range experienced sporadic production during the l890s and again in the 1930s, though no activity approximated the fever of the l860s. However, $17,000 worth of cinnabar (mercury ore) was mined near Coso Hot Springs between 1929 and 1939. At the time of military land withdrawal, the area contained over 100 validated gold, silver, tungsten copper, zinc, and quicksilver mining claims, a rather large reserve of mineral wealth.


A year after the discoveries at Coso, J. S. Broder, Col. L. F. Cralley, the Graves brothers and Dan Wyman (all miners from Aurora, Nevada) came to the east side of the White Mountains seeking placer gold values said to exist there. By 1864 White Mountain City and Roachville (on Cottonwood Creek) both had regularly surveyed town plats. By 1881, the Tarrytown District was located on a mineral belt 6 miles long and 2 miles wide that was 6 miles west of Deep Springs Valley. It was both a silver and gold district. Ore values ran from $75 to $150 per ton. The principal mines of the Tarrytown District were the Heritage, which boasted a 3 1/2 foot wide vein that averaged $124 in silver and $15 in gold per ton, and the Alta, which had a 2 1/2 foot wide vein and 80 tons of ore on it's dump.8

At least 8 mines, among them the California, Indian, Greenly and Cairo, were listed as being in the Deep Springs area. Although it was said that “the development on these claims has been sufficient to show that they will become permanent mines” not much is known about them. It is presumed that they became unprofitable, due to the drop in the price of silver, by 1893. 9

Although little is known about White Mountain City and Roachville, they most likely served as supply centers for prospectors exploring these gold-silver mines and for those working in the White Mountains gold region in southeastern Mono County. As late as 1918 the area experienced some activity with O. F. Shively filing 11 tungsten claims on the north edge of Deep Springs Valley to develop a series of parallel quartz veins in granite up to 4 feet in thickness.10


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© Larry M. Vredenburgh, Gary L. Shumway, Russell D. Hartill