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

Riverside County



In the spring of 1861, nearly a year before his discovery of gold at La Paz, Arizona, Paulino Weaver discovered gold in the Mule Mountains. The location of his discovery was “on the west side of the river, twenty miles southward from this place [La Paz]and in a range of mountains a little below the road coming in.” In July, 1862, a company was preparing to go and “prospect the place.”1

Nothing more is heard from the Mule Mountains until April, 1908, at which time the newly constructed mill at the American Flag Mine was ready to start up on “enough ore…   to keep the mill busy for a year.” In September, 1911, the American Flag Mine resumed operations after shutting down for the summer, and the following spring ore from the Carnation group of mines was being run at the American Flag Mill. The Stanchfield Gold Mining Company operated the Carnation mines. That company hoped to erect a mill themselves to do away with hauling ore to the American Flag Mill, but it probably was never built. L. A. Stanchfield was part owner in the Senate Mine, as it was known in 1914, perhaps one of the Carnation group. Justus Smith owned two mines in the Mule Mountains, the Double Eagle and the Palo Verde, but it appears that no property was active here from 1914 until the l930s. .Justus Smith homesteaded in the nearby Palo Verde Valley, and in the l930s was placer mining at the Chuckwalla Placers. 2

In 1932 , a Palo Verde Valley Times reporter visited the “old mining district,” and wrote this interesting article: One of the historic but little visited places near Blythe, is the old Hodges mining territory about nine miles southwest of Ripley at the base of the Mule Mountains.

A Times reporter made the trip and Investigated the old seven-stamp mill, built possibly forty years ago, before highways or railroads were known in this territory. The old stamp mill is so out of date that some of the connecting rods were built of hardwood. Much ore had been ground there in the early days, judging from the dump pile. Motive power apparently had been by steam engine, and water was hauled for miles.

Near the stamp mill is a four-room stone house, In good condition with the exception of the roof, and the concrete floor is in excellent condition. Dozens of shafts, drifts, and tunnels are found in the Mule Mountains. One interesting hoist near the summit was operated in the early days by burro power. Machinery with heavy castings had been transported in that almost inaccessible location. Heavy machinery was seen in several places, and the visitor cannot help but wonder what an effort it was to bring it in under the highway conditions of those days. Not less than one hundred thousand dollars was spent here sometime at the beginning of the twentieth century to develop the property, judging from the relics found there today.

H. R. Sigfried and his father-in-law Mr. White are following up several good veins, and will ship a car of gold ore from the mines soon, loading at Ripley. They are busy building a road and already have out thirty tons. Their assay returned twenty-two dollars to the ton gross. They were kind enough to conduct Henry Waggoner, Mr. Brisson and myself through the mines. And if you should decide to make the trip, watch out for the shafts!” 3

Other activity during the l930s includes an interesting story of Sam Jackson, a young mining man from Colorado, who installed an electric powered concrete arrastre in a vacant lot in Blythe to work the ore from his mine in the Mule Mountains. 4

The Stanchfield property, renamed the Roosevelt and Rainbow group of mines, and the American Flag Mine were described in detail by state geologists in 1945, but no mention is made as to when the mines were last active. This report does state, however, that ore at the American Flag Mine was milled in a “Gibson mill with a capacity of ten tons with amalgamation and cyanidation.” 5

In 1955 the whole Blythe area was infected with “uranium fever.” In the Mule Mountains several companies made discoveries, and during March, 1955, the Mule Mountains Mineral Company, Inc. employed men to begin mining. 6


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