An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area
Gold and Iron ore may have been discovered in the Eagle Mountains as early as 1865. Certainly, by 1889 the existence of iron was established without a doubt. Some of the iron ore that was analyzed at that time yielded 64 percent iron, a trace of silver and some samples up to .8 of an ounce of gold per ton. Between 1889 and 1892, there was quite a bit of interest in this area. In 1892 it was reported that “the discovery of rich placers in the dry gulches of that section resulted in a more thorough investigation of its mineral resources and in the finding of some very rich gold-bearing quartz.” With the proceeds of the dry placering, the miners paid for the construction of a “cemented basin . . . to catch rain water that falls during the winter season, with which it is intended to work the placer mines.
Dry placer mining has continued to the present in the Eagle Mountains.
In 1892, about 3 miles southwest of Cottonwood Springs (outside of Joshua Tree National Monument boundary.), the Coyote Mine was established and 2 shafts 20 and 80 feet deep were sunk. (15) L. S. Barnes located claims in the Eagle Mountains, and about the same time William Stevens and Thomas Doffelmeyer located the Iron Chief Mine. Charles Lane of San Francisco purchased the mine in 1897. He installed a small mill on the property which produced about $50,000 worth of gold. The original owners took over the property and installed a fifty-ton cyanide plant when Lane failed to complete payments. They operated the mine and mill until about 1902. Total gold production from the Iron Chief Mine was $150,000. Water for the mine was piped 18 miles from Cottonwood Springs. (16) In 1901 D. J. Dofflemeyer, W. D. Stevens, John McGregor and O. T. Stevens had 19 claims at the Iron Chief patented. In 1909 L. S. Barnes secured an option on these claims and sold them, as well as his own and those of Charles Brown of Mecca, to Henry E. Harriman of the Southern Pacific for a reported $300,000. Thus, the Iron Chief Mine, comprising 187 patented claims, 8 miles long and from 1/4 to 2 miles wide was in the hands of the Southern Pacific, and lay dormant until 1944, when Kaiser Steel acquired the property. (17) In 1945 the property was under option by Riverside Iron and Steel Company of St. Paul, Minnesota and under lease to Mineral Metals Company of Alhambra, California. Thirty men were employed in the process of mining, crushing, and trucking the ore to the railroad, where it was shipped to Wilmington, California for use as ballast on Liberty Ships. Up to 1945, 40,000 tons had been shipped.
In August, 1947, construction began for a new 52 mile railroad line from the Southern Pacific Mainline main line to the mines. This was completed June 23, 1948. In that same month, excavation was started by Kaiser at the Bald Eagle Mine, and the first shipment of ore was made on October 13, 1948. A pelletizing plant started operations on September 22, 1965. Eagle Mountain today is a thriving company-owned community on the flat east of the mines. 18
In the meantime some other mines were opened in the Eagle Mountains. The most notable of these was the Black Eagle Mine. Under option from 1923 until the latter part of 1928, the mine produced about $30,000 from 1,050 tons of ore. The ore yielded a respectable 23 percent lead, 6 percent copper, 16 ounces of silver and 15 Ounces of gold per ton. In 1924, 6 men were working the mine. By 1928, there was a neat little camp here consisting of 3 tents with wooden floors. Water for the camp had to be brought in from Cottonwood Springs. A mill was constructed in the late 1920s, but it was unsuitable, and the mine and mill shut down. Between 1935 and 1940, some $200,000 were produced from the mine. In early 1939, a 100 ton concentration and flotation plant was installed. Operating from July, 1939, to January, 1940, it yielded $53,706 worth of concentrates which were shipped to Midvale, Utah. During this time, 20 men were employed at the mine. Operations were suspended in December, 1940, and all the mine and mill equipment was removed. The property was leased to W. E. Covey of lndio in 1951. He mined 800 tons of ore and installed a small smelter, but it did not work out. 19
Another mine of interest in the Eagle Mountains is the Storm Jade Mine. Barry Storm, the owner, had been hunting lost mines since the 1930s, when in the late 1940s, while looking for Henry Brant's lost gold mine, he stumbled upon a jade deposit. Storm built a tiny cabin for $150 and lived at the mine from 1956 until at least 1967. He was convinced his mines were the source of the Mayan jade. The biggest “nugget” of jade from his mines weighed 450 pounds; he broke it up and sold it in small pieces. 20
© Larry M. Vredenburgh, Gary L. Shumway, Russell D. Hartill