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

Riverside County



Over the years the Riverside Mountains have been quite a busy place. In 1911, it was reported about the gold property owned by the Steece Mines Company of Springfield, Massachusetts that, “several years ago considerable ore was shipped from here to the Selby smelter. The ore was trammed to the river then loaded on boats and floated to Yuma where it was transferred to [railroad] cars . . . This company [Steece Mines] has had it about 2 years.” By May, 1911, the company had sunk a shaft to a depth of 350 feet (other reports put the depth at 800 feet). Sinking of the shaft continued all summer with a large force of men expected to be employed by late November, with the arrival of Mr. Steece from the East Coast. Activity continued at least until the winter of l9l3.45

In 1898, the Mc Kesson group of claims were located and soon taken over by the Calzona Mines Company. In 1911, the Calzona property was owned by Dr. Robert Vermilyea of Redlands. At a depth of 50 feet, the miners struck an iron.manganese rich cap rock, known as a gossan. This gossan was void of precious metals, but they continued to sink the shaft, reaching 300 feet and limestone in September, 1911. On the 100 foot level of the shaft, a cross-cut was driven which encountered “the ore body” which “reportedly was running $500 per ton.” The Calzona camp during 1911 was outfitted with an assay office, equipment, and office buildings, including a company store. Water was pumped 5,000 feet from the Colorado River. During the summer, 10 men worked at the mine, during the winter, 30.46

Early in October, 1912, the Calzona mine was purchased by the Republic Smelting Corporation. This company immediately came in with big plans. They put in a wagon road costing several thousands of dollars. Without wasting any time, they surveyed a route from the Santa Fe tracks to the mines for a railroad. This was never constructed. In February, 1914, 4 men were employed mining the property. The Calzona Mines Company continued to operate the former property until 1916. In 1920, the property was sold to the Mountaineer Mining Company of Los Angeles. During 1934, 12 men were employed in construction and mining. An air compressor had been installed, and a twenty-four-ton flotation plant was erected for treatment of the ore. In September, 1935, the mill capacity was increased to 50 tons a day. Twenty-six men were employed, working 2 shifts on the mine and three shifts at the mill. The new mill operated only about a month, treating 1,460 tons of ore. Operations at the mine were suspended in October, 1935, due to low recovery of the gold by flotation. In 1938, it was reported that 15 men were employed at the mine. High-grade ore was being shipped to the Magna Smelting Company.47

The Jackknife Group, known later as the Morning Star Mines was owned in 1911 by Cal Morgan and H. D. Bradley of Calzona. This mine, on the same ledge as the Calzona, adjoins it on the east. The first shipment, consisting of 25 tons of ore, per ton. Water for this mine was pumped 3 miles from the Colorado River. Between 1918 and 1919, an additional 400 tons of ore was shipped from the property, carrying 14 percent copper and $20 in gold per ton. 48



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