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

Riverside County

DOS PALMAS (Orocopia Mountains)

Dos Palmas (two Palms) Spring was an important stop on the road to the La Paz gold diggings in Arizona. A correspondent of the San Francisco Alta California stopped at the spring in July, 1862, discovering that some vandal had cut down one of the palms. By noon that hot July day there were about 150 men camped at the spring. The San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin later that month stated that at “Dos Palmos” there at one time was quite a little town, but now it was “nearly cleaned out.” One fellow found an easier way to find gold than digging in the placer mines of Arizona, as in May, 1863, a “white man” had a hut there and sold liquor and grass (feed for horses), the latter of which was “brought from the mountains by Indians.” It should be noted that Herman Ehrenberg, founder of the city of that name, was murdered here in l866.7

Dos Palmas lay on the Bradshaw Trail, and when the railroad pushed its way down from the San Gorgonio Pass, a siding was graced with the name “Dos Palmos.” This point became an important stage terminus for Ehrenberg, Wickenberg, and Prescott. 8

It seems inconceivable that so many men, looking for gold, stopping at a place with such good accommodations, would not be lured into the nearby hills to prospect. In the 1880s and perhaps before, gold prospects were located 18 miles north of Dos Palmas Spring. By 1894, 2 tunnels with nearly 300 feet of underground workings had been driven on the claims, which oddly enough never were mentioned by name. In 1896, 6 miles northeast of Dos Palmas, the Fish Mine owned by A.C. Fish of San Bernardino was active. The owner of the mine was building a two-stamp mill at Canyon Springs, 6 miles from the property. In 1916, it was reported that this mill was standing.10

In 1893, the Free Coinage and Charity mines were located 12 miles northeast of the spring. It was probably these mines which by the late 1890s were consolidated to form the Oro Copia Mine, and at that time a 2 inch pipeline was laid to the mine from Dos Palmas. The Oro Copia mine was tied up in litigation from about 1905 to 1912, but in 1912, the mine hummed with activity. Repairing and refitting of the pipeline in 1912 was carried out by Charles Brown of Mecca. At the spring there were 2 “curbed-up reservoirs 25 by 30 feet and 12 feet deep… the pump stands nearby and is a 3-cylinder Dean…” The pump was operated only 1 day a week to furnish ample water to the mine. At the mine there were 3 tunnels and “all the ore comes out the lower tunnel and is conveyed direct to the mill by a tramway in cars. The mill is a rotary, the equivalent of five stamps, and is fully equipped with a cyanide plant and complete in every respect.” 11

Although the mine was thriving in 1912, operations appear to have ceased shortly thereafter. In 1940, the old mine camp was about demolished. The tool house and blacksmith shop which had survived years of bad weather and vandalism had recently been blown down. The tailings and the foundation of the mill were all that remained. 12

Frank Coffee, who had prospected the Chuckwalla Mountains and surrounding area since about 1885, built a cabin and settled at Dos Palmas sometime after the turn of the century. He located (or relocated and renamed) a mine in the hills north of the spring that he called the Good Enough Mine. Coffee died at the age of 77 in October, 1936. In November, 1940, his cabin was but “charred remains.” 13

The adobe walls of old Dos Palmas stage station had almost disappeared by the winter of 1920, but this was still the camping place of prospectors, as it had been since the 1860s. 14



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