An Overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area
San Bernardino County
The Bagdad area lies in the heart of San Bernardino County, roughly bordered on the north by Interstate 40, the east by the Parker Branch of the Santa Fe Railroad and stretching as far west as Ludlow. Mining does not seem to have flourished here until 1898, with the discovery of the Baghdad-Chase Mine, the biggest gold producer in the county. However, gold-copper ore was discovered one year earlier at the Orange Blossom Mine.
About 1898 John Suter, a roadmaster for the Santa Fe, headed into the hills south of Ludlow looking for water. Instead of water, he discovered gold, and by 1900 John Suter and Company employed a dozen men at his mine. In December, 1901, the first ore was shipped to the Randsburg Company mill at Barstow, which yielded excellent returns. Early in 1902 the Baghdad Mining Company acquired the claims and a standard gauge railroad was laid from Ludlow to the mines. By November, Camp Rochester, at the terminus of the Ludlow Southern Railroad, had telephone service, and a contract had been let for construction of “forty cottages of three, four and five rooms.” 221
Between 1904 and 1910, $4,500,000 in gold was mined from the Baghdad area and treated in the mills in Barstow. The Pacific Mines Corporation operated the property for the next 6 years, with the ore milled at Clarkdale, Arizona. The railroad was torn up in the summer of 1935, after laying neglected for many years. However, the mine was active continuously from 1940 until the early 1950s. 222
Although there was a substantial camp at one time, by October, 1971, it had completely vanished. Some of the buildings lay totally collapsed in a heap. In 1971 the Baghdad-Chase Company acquired the property and by 1975 had mined 14,000 tons of ore from an open pit. This ore was trucked to the huge mill at Vanderbilt where it was treated in three months. 223
The Orange Blossom Mine
In 1897 a Chemehuevi Indian named Hikorum discovered ore north of Amboy. Hikorum , “a prominent man among his people, a great hunter of mountain sheep,” was also an excellent prospector. By October, 1900, the Desert Prospecting Exploration and Development Company was incorporated to work the Orange Blossom group of mines. John Denair, division superintendent for the Santa Fe and a resident of Needles, was president of this concern and Judge L. V. Root was secretary. Quite a bit of Orange Blossom stock was sold in Needles to railroad men who followed Denair. 224
In December, 1902, it was reported that work had resumed at the mine, but it was not until 1906 and 1907 that work began in earnest. The first shipment of ore, destined for the Selby smelter at San Francisco, was made in May, 1907. 225
At this same time, the Orange Blossom Extension Mine adjoining the Orange Blossom to the north was active, as was the Lady Lu two miles north of that. However, great confusion occurred in the reporting of developments at the Orange Blossom and Orange Blossom Extension mines, as it appears that at times the name Orange Blossom was used interchangeably for both. Water was piped from Budweiser Springs, owned jointly by both mines, in the late summer of 1907. On May 28, 1908, Mining Science reported “The Orange Blossom property is developing rapidly and the twenty-stamp mill will soon be in operation.” 226
A report a week earlier indicated both the Orange Blossom and the Orange Blossom Extension were installing mills. Later reports make no mention of a mill at the Orange Blossom. In fact the Orange Blossom Extension far outshines the former from 1908 on. In August, 1908, an eight-stamp mill, housed in an impressive structure, was started up at the Orange Blossom Extension. By November the mine was down to 720 feet, and the ore was running from $8 to $10 per ton in gold and from 1 to 1.5 percent copper. At this depth, water was encountered which was pumped to the surface and stored for use in milling the ore.
The mining camp, described as “picturesque,” was located on “an eminence overlooking the valley below.” The Mining Review provided an excellent description of the camp in November, 1908 as follows:
The company constructed a number of fine buildings of Oregon pine and California redwood, including a large nicely furnished office, boarding house, rooming house, two cozy cottages, a stable, and a corral, all of which are painted. The houses, barn and corral are all electrically lighted and water is piped into every building... everything about the camp being in order and clean and neat. The assay office and laboratory is one of the most finely equipped establishments to be found in the West. At Amboy the company has a frame lodging house for the convenience of visitors who come in on the night trains, and also a storage and warehouse building 50 x 100 feet in dimension, where supplies are housed preparatory to haulage to the mine. A Locomobile auto is maintained which makes one or more trips daily between the mine and the railroad, and it is the intention of the management to put on two more seven-passenger autos at an early date.
Just below the mine and mill a short distance, just far enough so that the music of the stamps will be subdued.. .the town of Hodgman will be established about the first of the year. The little city will be called after President James A. Hodgman.... Here, according to plans, a number of neat and cozy cottages will be built for employees of the company having families. The plans also include a big and fine hotel, post office building, large general merchandise store, and other buildings necessary to the opening up of a mining district so prolific in promise as is the Orange Blossom region. Water will be piped into each building in the new town of Hodgman, and the place is to be electrically lighted.” 227
It seems the only thing the camp lacked was that essential of Western life: a saloon.
Work progressed at the mine at least until January, 1909, but the mill had run for only two months. In April, 1909, it was admitted the mill was a failure, and the blame was laid on mismanagement. The company went bankrupt and John Denair became sole owner in November, 1910, when he paid $23,640 that the company owed. In spite of fresh bimonthly rumors to the contrary, the mines remained inactive. In 1942 there was not a building standing, and all of the machinery had been hauled away. 228
Gold Belt Mine
The Great Gold Belt Mine, 14 miles northeast of Amboy, was quite a discovery. When stumbled upon in 1907, the remains of old arrastres were found in the wash, and the previous miners were surmised to have been Indians. 229
The Great Gold Belt Mining Company was organized, and in June, 1909, I. Plummer and William Heath were working 30 men running tunnels for water and sinking a shaft. They had hoped to have a stamp mill running by winter with 100 men employed, but it was not until 1911 that the mill finally was received. In January, 1911 twenty-five men were employed there, and later that month, a new Chilean mill was shipped to the mine. By April 1, the mill in operation. Work continued through the summer but the mill was shut down in September. Some mining continued off and on until 1914. 230
The mine was relocated and renamed the Camp Castle Mine in 1923, and a larger, more modern mill was installed, but in 1930 the property was idle. 231
Some mining was going on in the Clipper Mountains in January, 1913, and when large gold-bearing quartz veins were discovered in 1915, they were subsequently developed by 3 companies; the Clipper Mountain Mining Company, the Gold Reef Mining Company and the Tom Reed Mining Company, operated by the Tom Reed Mining Company of Oatman. These mines were active in 1917 and 1918, when they were attracting considerable interest within the mining community. Both the Clipper Mountain Mine and the Tom Reed Mine in 1917 were in the process of sinking 500 foot shafts in order to explore the extent of the gold ore. Large amounts of water forced the suspension of the operations at the Clipper mountain Mine at 300 feet. The Tom Reed Mine did reach 500 feet, but water was encountered there as well. Just prior to 1920, large pumps were installed, but the mine was forced to suspend operations. About 1920 the Gold Reef Consolidated Mining Company of Los Angeles acquired the interests of the Gold Reef, Clipper Mountain and Tom Reed mines, and the mines were operated for a short time under that name. 232