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

San Bernardino County


In 1868 a Piute Indian brought a piece of metallic copper to Johnny Moss, “a frontiersman and well-known prospector.” After finding the source of the native copper, Moss took some samples to San Francisco to interest investors in developing the find. The Piute Company was organized on April 13, 1869, and without delay a company-sponsored party set out from Visalia to examine the Moss discovery and explore the area. Accompanied by James H. Crossman, a Massachusetts born “forty-niner” who had joined the company as a mining expert, this party discovered silver in addition to the copper, and staked some 130 claims in the Clark and nearby Yellow Pine District. These locations included additional Copper World claims staked on September 24, 1869, around the original Moss discovery of the year before.

Later that year “a number” of experimental shipments, involving a few tons of ore, were extracted and sent from the Copper World to San Francisco. On the east side of Clark Mountain near the silver mines, the Piute Company laid out Ivanpah townsite. This work was the first in the Clark Mountain District, at least in historic times. 113

On the east side of Clark Mountain, 2 1/2 miles from Ivanpah, the Piute Company party found “a curiosity well-calculated to arrest their attention and excite inquiry.” A contemporary source describes this curiosity as follows:

            Into the face of a smooth cliff more than two hundred and fifty feet high, and at a point a hundred feet above the base, have been deeply carved, in Roman letters the letters I.L.D., preceded by the figure of a cross. These letters are all of gigantic size, being not less than sixty feet in length; their magnitude, and the depth to which they have been cut, rendering them clearly visible at a distance of five miles. They were evidently carved many years ago, but by whom, or for what purpose, is unknown; the Indians themselves having no knowledge nor even traditions concerning their origin. That they were the work of Christian men, the figure of the cross would seem to indicate, having most likely been carved by the Catholic missionaries who are known to have penetrated these regions centuries ago in propagating their faith among the native tribes.

            But why so much labor should have been expended by these devout men, or what meaning these letters were intended to convey, are questions for the archaeologist to solve. Disposed to utilize these characters rather than to speculate upon their origin, they have been adopted as the name of a valuable silver-bearing lode in the neighborhood. 114

The silver discoveries at Ivanpah drew immediate attention, and men were soon flocking from “White Pine, Washoe, California and other places.” On June 30, 1870, the Piute Company was reorganized, and incorporated for $5,000,000. Johnny Moss was superintendent, and Crossman (a trustee) was the company representative at the mine. The company hired a rider to bring mail from Camp Cady to the mines. One of the company's principal mines was the Eugene, about 2 miles up the canyon from Ivanpah townsite. At this mine about 50 white men and 50 Indians were employed. In August, 1870, ninety sacks of ore were shipped to San Francisco via Anaheim and Anaheim Landing. 115

On Monday, August 21, a meeting was held in San Bernardino discussing the problem of transportation from the mines to the coast. A route via Morongo Pass, claimed to be 25 to 30 miles shorter, was proposed, and a party of men was going to survey the road. Judge Boren urged the construction of a “railroad or otherwise” to connect San Bernardino with Anaheim. In September, Mr. L. F. Loveland, vice-president of the Piute Company, and David Alexander headed to the Copper World to survey a 40 mile tramway to the Colorado River. Apparently some of the early shipments were made via the Colorado from near Cottonwood Island. Indeed transportation was of great concern for these remote mines, as indicated by a letter to the San Bernardino Guardian in which the Piute Company manager stated, “Should the Districts prove as valuable as we think they will, perhaps we may help matters by building a narrow-gauge railroad for a part or the whole of the distance.” 116

The other great concern was reduction of the ore. Obviously a mill would greatly reduce the transportation costs, since silver bars would be shipped from the mines instead of crude ore, but a mill takes a great amount of capital. Johnny Moss in August, 1870, was in San Francisco making arrangements for the purchase of a reduction mill to be erected in the Clark Mountains. By March, 1871, a furnace was operating, “producing bullion,” and the Searles brothers had gone to the area with intentions of erecting furnaces or mills. However, in September, 1871, mine owners still complained “the great need of this district is a good mill.” There were at least two arrastres set up about 1/2 mile below the springs that supplied Ivanpah as early as July. These arrastres were operated by “Mexicans” who were working some second-class ore from the Eugene Mine. The amalgam was retorted, and the resulting high-grade ore was shipped to San Francisco. 117

Some time in 1871, perhaps as early as July 10, the Piute Company suspended operations after shipping at least 20 tons of ore. The rumor was that they devoted their funds to keeping a large number of men prospecting instead of systematically opening the mines. In any case, the company still had a superintendent, Mr. France, on the property in September. 118

The Piute Mining Company, though short-lived, had a significant impact in terms of the permanent place names of the area. Superintendent France lent his name to France's Spring, now known as Francis Spring, north of Halloran Spring. Also, it is interesting to note that T. I Cronise and William H. V. Cronise were both officers of the company in 1870, probably accounting for the name Cronise Lake. The chief's name of the local Piute tribe at this time was Pachoca, a name transferred to the spring known today as Pachalka on the west side of the mountains. In 1870 a 160 acre townsite named Pachoca was laid out here by the Piute Company. At Mineral Hill, or Alaska Hill where the majority of the silver mines were located, an 8 acre site was named Cave City. According to Burr Belden, one of the major silver mines of the area was located when Tom and Andrew McFarlane and Ed Southwick took refuge in a cave to escape a downpour. Undoubtedly these caves were the city. 119

By August, 1871, the town of Ivanpah was just that, a town consisting of buildings: a hotel, two stores and the office of the Piute Mining Company, with the remainder being small dwellings. Three of the buildings were at least 40 by 60 feet, the largest being the hotel. About 20 Indians were in the camp, employed attending pack trains, and engaged by the miners in work. 120

Even though the Piute Mining Company had ceased to exist by the end of 1871, many of those who had come to the area remained. John McFarlane and his brother had already begun making a paying venture of their mines discovered in the spring of 1870. Their mines included the Beatrice Number 1 and 2 and the monitor. A Mr. Hite and Mr. Chatfield discovered a mine over the hill about 1/2 mile from the Eugene which they first named the Chief of Sinners but later renamed the Lady Bullock. The McFarlane brothers' camp located among dwarf pines near this mine, consisted of a very large tent with bunks and their office. Mr. Thompson of Holcomb Valley had a blacksmith shop nearby. 121

Throughout 1871, the Ivanpah mines were busy shipping ore, with the wagons coming back to the mines full of provisions and groceries. The spring of 1872 was particularly busy with 28,000 pounds of ore going through San Bernardino in the first 15 days of April. 122

The San Bernardino Guardian on August 24, 1872, reported that “some beautiful specimens of gold and silver bricks were exhibited to us this week from the Ivanpah smelting works.” However, there is no further mention of these smelting works. Other than this, 1872 was business as usual, with the mines shipping ore to San Francisco. The Lizzie Bullock (referred to earlier as the Lady Bullock) made $20,000 in profits for its owners in this year. 123

In 1873 Ivanpah finally had a smelter. In March, 1873, material for a furnace left San Bernardino. By April 26, it was erected near the McFarlane camp, but not yet running. While it was eventually made operational, despite continued success at the mines, this smelter doesn't seem to have been a success. In February, 1874, there was plenty of ore in sight at the McFarlane mines, “only awaiting the necessary machinery to transform it into bullion.” By now the McFarlanes had a very comfortable house at the mines to replace the tent they first lived in. 124

Ivanpah was very much alive in September, 1875, when 60 to 80 men were there. The next spring rumors of the pending sale of the McFarlane mines to a New York company surfaced in the San Bernardino Weekly Times , and on April 8, 1876, the mines, machinery, and teams reportedly sold for $200,000. By June 3, three bars of bullion weighing 500 pounds and valued at $5,000 were received in San Bernardino from the mines. 125

On May 27, 1876, it was reported that a new mill at Ivanpah was ready to start up. A June 4 letter gives more information concerning the mill and camp:

            Not an idle man in camp! Such is the expression heard on all sides nowadays. The new ten-stamp mill, just completed by Messrs. Bidwell & Ladd is under full headway at work at the Lizzie Bullock ore but at present it only runs on one-half time, and so the ore is not used up as fast as otherwise would be. The mill of the Ivanpah Company is running along as usual under the management of that prince of good fellows, Wm. A. McFarlane.

Further on, the informant , writing under the pseudonym of Justice, indicates ore from the mines at Tecopa were being milled at the Company's mill. 126

That fall there were 24 registered voters. By comparison, in 1875, when there were at least 80 men in the camp, there were only 7 registered voters, indicating the population may have grown or someone came in and registered the men. 127

More research will probably explain the seemingly anomalous bankruptcy of the Ivanpah Mill and Mining Company in January, 1877, and subsequent sheriff's sale of the property to satisfy about $3,000 in debts. The camp experienced a new boost in 1878, for something warranted the establishment of a post office on June 17, 1878. That “something” probably was the purchase of the McFarlanes' mines by the Ivanpah Consolidated Mine Company. In November, 1879 the Ivanpah Consolidated Mine property changed hands again, now owned by San Francisco investors. Already over half a million dollars in bullion had been shipped and a five-stamp mill was on the site. The smelter apparently was operative to produce the bullion. A month later nearly 11 tons of machinery left San Bernardino for the “Ivanpah Consolidated Company” mines. 128

In the spring of 1880, Ivanpah flourished like it never had. The ten-stamp mill owned by J. A. Bidwell was running ore from his mine, the Lizzie Bullock, which was then leased to A. F. Johnson. The Ivanpah Consolidated Company's mill started up again, and a reduction in milling charges by Superintendent William D. McFarlane stimulated interest by chloriders in some of the abandoned mines. The company employed about 70 men, earning $4 a day, with board costing $8 a week. Robert Hamilton was storekeeper at the company store. 129

This new excitement, in part was fueled by exceedingly rich discoveries at two new mines, the Alley and the Alps. The Alley, discovered by Tom McFarlane and J. B. Alley, had its ore milled at the Ivanpah Consolidated mill. During one day in the last week of March, 1880, the Alps took out over $1,000. The Ivanpah Consolidated was not doing too bad either, having shipped $10,000 worth of bullion during the month of April. A letter from Ivanpah on June 20, indicated $7,000 in bullion left “on the last stage” from the Ivanpah Consolidated mines. 130

“Ivanpah,” states an article in the Colton Semi-Tropic “for three or four days after pay day, was as lively as the camps of ‘49. Everybody had money and consequently nearly everybody was drunk, or trying to get that way. Fights were the order of the day.” At least one of these fights ended in a murder. On April 20, 1880, a letter from Ivanpah told of the murder of D. C. Sargent by A. J. Laswell and Jack Riley, stemming from an argument at a poker game. The two were hauled off and tried in San Bernardino that fall. 131

Bullion continued to arrive in San Bernardino from Mr. Bidwell's mine and the Ivanpah Consolidated on the Ivanpah stage up until March, 1881. However, by April, the prosperity became tarnished. William A. McFarlane arrived in San Bernardino and related the disturbing news that he had been fired and that J. A. Bidwell would take his position as superintendent. Also, for some time no one had received pay. 132

Things continued to get bleaker and bleaker, finally culminating in one of those violent if colorful kinds of events so often associated with mining history. On Monday, May 8, “Mr. E. F. Bean, revenue collector, left for Ivanpah... for the purpose of attaching the property of the Ivanpah Consolidated Mill and Mining Company for a claim of the United States against the company for issuing scrip in imitation of money.”

Bean, arriving on the afternoon of May 16, went to the company office and left his valise. Soon thereafter, as later reported,

he met J. B. Cook, a former employee of the Company, who, knowing the business of the officer, commenced to use threatening language, telling him he was not a U. S. Marshal, and he could not take the property. Mr. Bean told him he was a U. S., officer, and was there under the authority of the government and must discharge his duty. Cook appeared to be reconciled and Bean left him. Bean made inquiry as to the character of Cook, and was assured that his talk was merely bluff.

Next morning Bean served notice on Wm McFarlane, Superintendent, posted his notices and took possession. About 4 o'clock an appraisement was made, Mr. Bidwell being selected by Bean, and Killbride and Brookfield by McFarlane. The appraisers, with Bean, went to John McFarlane, who was at work in the mill and asked him how much quicksilver there was on hand; he at once flew into a passion, was very abusive, and, seizing a hammer, ordered the party from the mill. As they retreated McFarlane followed them, and seizing a double barrel shotgun, which stood handy by, overtook Bean, threatened him using the most abusive language, and applying the most opprobrious epithets, drew his gun on him and threatened to shoot him. Bean being about 12 feet off, sprang forward and thrust the gun away, telling him he was sent there as a U. S. Officer to take the property, and should do it if he lived, if they killed him a force sufficient to take it would be sent, it was useless to resist, etc., and succeeded in pacifying him; McFarlane cooled down, apologized for his rash conduct, and afterwards, at Bean's request blew off steam and shut down the mill.

Cook, Fred Hisom and Bob Poppet were appointed watchmen to protect the property, each to be on 8 hours at a time. About 7 in the evening Bean went to the mill with Hisom, putting him in charge, and relieving Poppet, who preferred to take the watch from 12 to 8. Poppet went to his saloon where Cook sat playing cards. Cook asked who was in charge at the mill, and being told it was Hisom, he immediately started for the mill, saying that d----h should not stay there, he would drive him out. On the way he met Bean and John McFarlane to whom he made the same threats and rushed past them to the mill. Bean followed as closely as possible, and as he entered the mill saw Cook with his revolver drawn on Hisom, the hammer partly raised. He seized the revolver with his right hand and struck Cook with his left. The two then clinched when McFarlane rushed in to assist Cook. Hisom who had drawn his revolver when Cook aimed at him, stepped up and told McFarlane to let Bean alone. McFarlane then stepped back to the door, where his double-barreled shotgun stood ready, seized it, and drew it on Hisom, who was about 15 feet away, and threatened to blow out his brains. Hisom, instead of firing sprang forward, dodged quickly and struck the muzzle of the gun up just as it was discharged, the charge passing over his head. He then rushed heavily against McFarlane, crowding him against the side of the building, and causing him to drop the gun.

McFarlane then clinched Hisom, drew a knife and struck him on the back of the head, cutting a bad gash. The latter, realizing his danger, thrust his revolver under his left arm, pressing it against his antagonist, and fired three shots one of which reached his heart and killed him instantly. McFarlane fell, drawing Hisom down with him.

Cook, who had fallen in his struggle with Bean, seeing McFarlane fall and hearing his groan, surrendered and begged for his life. Other voices were heard outside, and further trouble was feared.

Cook and Bean left the mill, and Hisom, after blowing out the two candles which were burning, went over to Bidwell's mill. Just as they went out Bean slipped and fell, and two shots were fired by unknown parties, one of which passed close to his head. Hisom had the wound on his head dressed by Bidwell, and then gave himself up to Deputy Sheriff James. Cook was also arrested and both parties arrived in town about 10 o'clock on Monday morning. Bean, Bidwell and Jack Cochrane arrived on Sunday.

McFarlane was buried at Ivanpah. Hisom had a hearing before the Superior Court and was at once discharged, it being a clear case of justifiable homicide. Cook's case was continued to June 15th, and he was admitted to bail in the sum of $2,500. H. Brinkmeyer, J. Meyerstein, Smith Haile and Jack Cochrane being his bondsmen. 133

During the week of December 31, 1881, John McFarlane's body was disinterred at Ivanpah and moved to San Bernardino at the request of his widow. 134

On June 3, 1881, the San Bernardino Valley Index published an advertisement for the sale of the Ivanpah Consolidated Mill and Mining Company to satisfy a government claim of $1,471.94. But the company was not going to surrender that easily. In July, the Ivanpah countered with a $50,000 damage suit against the U. S. Government. 135

While the Ivanpah Company was embroiled in turmoil, work continued as usual at the Alley Mine, which shipped four silver bars worth $1,200 that fall. However, after the excitement of 1880, mining at Ivanpah slowed and was overshadowed by Calico and the Bonanza King. 136

During the waning days of Ivanpah in the 1880s, ore was occasionally run at the Bidwell mill from the Lizzie Bullock and Alps mines. In May, 1886, Tom McFarlane was working the Alley, which he had leased, and several men were chloriding (mining) various claims. In 1890 the two miles were still running, but by 1891 life was essentially finished for the silver camp of Ivanpah. Although Bidwell's store and boarding house was open in December, 1892, and two tons of ore were sent to Kingman for milling by William Daily in December, 1893, the crash of silver prices in 1893 sounded a death knell for Ivanpah. The often quoted figures of James Crossman, a man who helped usher in the camp in 1869, are as follows: combined output of the Monitor, Beatrice Number 1 and Beatrice Number 2, $2,500,000; the Lizzie Bullock, $1,200,000; and $100,000 in dividends from the Alley. 137


In the declining years of Ivanpah during the 1880s, there was at least one mine, the Cambria, about 6 miles south of Ivanpah, that brought encouraging news. The Cambria was a gold and silver mine discovered sometime before the spring of 1880 by “Messrs. Morgan and Orr” and was “turning out all that could be desired” that spring. In 1882 the mine was sold to William A. McFarlane. McFarlane and S. A. Barrett, in the year 1885, aggressively began developing the mine. They leased the “Old Ivanpah Consolidated Mill at Ivanpah” that May. During the last week of the month, “a number of miners and woodchoppers” left Providence for the Cambria Mine. 138

The Calico Print, on June 3, announced the “Mescal mining camp has commenced to boom. About 20 pack animals of John Domingo are making daily trips from the Cambria mines to the mill at Ivanpah.” The mill was started up on Wednesday morning June 17, 1885. Seven or eight men were employed at the mine. By the middle of July, the first two bars of bullion worth $2,720 were shipped by Wells, Fargo and Co. 139

In 1886 the property was bonded to a Los Angeles company that erected a ten-stamp mill. They began driving a new tunnel 125 feet below the old one, and a 350-yard rail tram connected the mines with the road below. In 1890 it was reported “a ten-stamp mill is kept running.” But this probably closed down shortly after. Nearby, the townsite of Nantan sprang up and had U. S. Postal service from March, 1887, to December, 1890. A small amount of silver ore was shipped in 1908 and 1909, and a carload in 1915 yielded 2,000 ounces of silver and 3 1/2 ounces of gold. 140


After lying idle for 30 years, the Copper World was reactivated in 1898. The Ivanpah Smelting Company of Los Angeles sank two wells 5 miles from the mine, on a site known variously as Valley Wells or Rosalie Wells (or simply Rosalie). Nearby, in January, 1899, a fifty-ton furnace was erected, and that April there were 85 men employed, with Mr. V. C. Reche as superintendent. 141

A post office was maintained at the Ivanpah camp until April 24, 1899, at which time it was moved to Rosalie. In a sense, mules were the backbone of this mining operation. There were 140 of them there in April. A 20-mule team hauled 35 tons of ore with every trip to the smelter, also, up to 20 tons (a carload) of copper bullion was shipped every 4 days to the California Eastern Railroad at Manvel, 30 miles southeast. Coal from New Mexico for the smelter and supplies came with the return trip.142

Obviously, transportation to and from Manvel cost the owners a great deal of money. To cut these costs, they persuaded the California Eastern Railroad management to extend the line down the steep canyon from Manvel. While the railroad was busy being constructed, operations at the mine ceased, around July, 1900, because of litigation, and the post office of Rosalie was abandoned July 31, 1900. During the year or so of operation, the mine had produced 11,000 tons of ore averaging a respectable 13.5 percent of copper. 143

In the meantime, in 1902, the California Eastern line was extended to the flat Ivanpah Valley, within 15 miles of the Copper World. A settlement named Ivanpah (the second place with that name) sprang up at the end of the line. This new Ivanpah consisted of about 20 to 30 people. 144

When the railroad reached the Ivanpah Valley, the mine and smelter resumed operations for a short time, with 50 tons of ore a day coming out of the mines. However, the operation ceased, blamed on a high loss of copper in the slag. Operations up to this time are reported to have produced $750,000 in copper.   145

Dr. L. D. Godshall acquired the title to the property in 1906, organized the Cocopah Mining Company, and operated the mine from August, 1906, until 1908. Good accommodations were available at the mine for the workers, who during this period put out 3,638 tons of ore averaging about 7 percent copper. The ore was hauled by teams to Ivanpah, and shipped via the California Eastern and Santa Fe Railroads to the Needles smelter, run by Godshall. 146

The Cocopah Mining Company, reorganized under the name Ivanpah Mining Company, resumed operations in May, 1916, and continued steadily until late 1918. In November, 1917, a 100 ton capacity blast furnace for making copper matte opened at Valley Wells. About 100 tons of ore a day were hauled to the smelter by tractor. Also, 13,000 tons of slag from earlier operations was being treated, which averaged from 2 to 10 percent copper.   147

The copper matte was hauled 25 miles to Cima (by 1916 the California Eastern had ceased operations to Ivanpah) and shipped to the smelter at Garfield, Utah. Sulphur, in the form of iron pyrite for the smelter charge, was obtained from Jerome, Arizona, and from the Francis copper mine (another enterprise of Dr. L. D. Godshall), located on the southwest slope of the Providence Mountains. The Francis Mine shipped about 30 tons of copper-lead-silver ore a month to the Valley Wells smelter. When operations were just getting underway in 1916, there were only 6 men employed at the mine, but two years later, 60 men were at work. Operations were suspended in 1918 due to the low price of copper. The average value of the ore for these operations was 4 percent copper, 3 to 5 ounces of silver and 0.04 to 0.1 ounces of gold per ton. In 1944, 3,743 tons of old tailings were treated and in 1949 copper furnace matte was shipped in a cleanup operation. 148

In 1977 Philip Rivera acquired a long-term lease from the Dan Murphy Foundation, the owners of the Copper World. In June, 1977, he commenced mining for “Royal Gem Azurite,” a combination of malachite, azurite, and tenorite. Work continues at the mine today. 149

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