Early Mines of Southern Clark Mountain, Northern Mescal Range and Ivanpah Mountains.

Larry M. Vredenburgh


The first recorded mineral discovery in Clark Mountain, Mescal Range and Ivanpah Mountains occurred at the Copper World mine on the southwest slope of Clark Mountain in 1868. Earlier mining occurred in 1863 at Rock Spring in the Providence Mountains, about 10 miles due south of the southern end of Ivanpah Mountains, and it has been presumed that soldiers stationed at Marl Springs, between 1867 and 1868, first worked the small gold deposits here. Although the Copper World mine was first discovered, two mines discovered in 1879, the Mescal and Bullion mines, were worked in the 1880s. The Mescal mine camp, though no more than a handfull of buildings; briefly boasted mail service. The Copper World mine languished until 1898 when it became one of the most significant copper producers in the county. With a large payroll, this camp, known as Rosalie, was also served by the U.S. Mails.


Johnny Moss is credited with discovery of the Copper World mine located on the southwest slope of Clark Mountain. Moss, born in Utica, Iowa in 1839, came to California in 1857, was a Pony Express rider, and in 1861 headed to the new gold discoveries in El Dorado Canyon, due east of Searchlight, Nevada. In 1863, he discovered the fabulously rich Moss gold mine in Mohave County, Arizona. The next year he took the Mojave Chief Irataba to Washington, D. C. to see the white chief, president Abraham Lincoln. During this time of Indian unrest on the Mojave, he signed a treaty with the Piute Indians, which permitted him unrestricted travel and use of their territory. In 1868 a Piute chief brought Moss a piece of metallic copper, and after some searching, Moss found the source. He then headed to San Francisco with samples to interest potential investors. On the strength of his report, the Piute Company was organized April 13, 1869 in San Francisco. Without delay a company sponsored party set out from Visalia to explore the area. Accompanied by mining expert, James H. Crossman, a Massachusetts-born "forty-niner," the party discovered silver in addition to the copper, and staked some 130 claims in the Clark and nearby Yellow Pine District. Another member of the party was William H. Clarke, a Visalia businessman and saloon keeper. The mining district and mountain took their name from Clarke, in time losing the "e." 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 few tons of very high grade ore were extracted from the Copper World and shipped to San Francisco.

After lying idle for about 10 years James H. Boyd investigated opening the mine. In April 1878 he erected a experimental smelter in San Bernardino, in back of Van Dorin and Lehman's wagon shop on Third Street with the intention of moving it to the mine if it proved successful. The absence of any positive news would lead to the conclusion that it was a failure. Boyd, also owner of the Bullion mine, continued to hold the Copper World for nearly twenty years, without apparently any further effort toward development. In 1884 a correspondent from Ivanpah wrote regarding the mine, "...south of Ivanpah, and in Clark's district, are some large copper mines, among which are the Copper World, Nos. 1 and 2. This group of mines would furnish a large amount of freight."

But no one took up the challenge this large copper deposit represented until late in the 1890s. The Mining and Scientific Press reported in January 1897 that eastern capitalists were negotiating for purchase of the mine. At about this time the mine was little more than a prospect, for it had two 50-foot deep shafts and two adits 15 and 75 feet long. According to one doubtful story, it was owned by a Mr. Lawrence, who after drilling a hole for a blast, found red copper oxide, but refrained to shoot the round, fearing a blast would destroy the evidence of mineralization. Little was he to know at that time the riches this mine would produce. September 1898 he sold the mine to the Ivanpah Smelting Company of Los Angeles for $1,100. The company, incorporated with an original stock issue of $250,000, immediately began blocking sufficient ore to justify construction of a smelter. Certain of enough ore to supply a smelter for five years, a crew of 85 under the superintendency of V. C. Reche, sank two wells five miles west of the mine, and in December, 1898 began construction of a fifty-ton smelter that was capable of smelting 50 tons of ore per day. The smelter began operations March 10, 1899, producing six to seven tons of ninety-five percent pure copper matte or bullion daily.

The camp at the wells was known as Valley Wells or Rosalie Wells (or simply Rosalie). The post office at Ivanpah closed and moved here April 24, 1899. In November W.F. Blake visited the mine and pronounced, "The Copper World..is proving to be a veritable bonanza, and a camp is growing there that will eventually be as large as the famous Jerome copper camp." In spite of this there are virtually no contemporary accounts of the camp, although photos show numerous buildings at the mine.

The miners were producing one ton of ore per day, per man, but were limited by the 50-ton per day capacity of the smelter. Twenty-mule teams hauled 35 tons of ore from the mine to the smelter. Altogether there were some 140 mules utilized in the operation. After reduction at the smelter, the nearly pure copper was teamed to the California Eastern Railroad at Manvel, 30 miles southeast. Coal from New Mexico for the smelter and supplies came with the return trip. Three or four times a month a 20-ton car-load of copper matte was shipped to New York for final smelting. Each rail-car of matte was worth $7,000. By late 1899 the Copper World was said to be one of the four largest copper mines in the United States. Up to June 1900 it was reported that 11,000 tons of 13.5% ore had been produced.

As early as July 1899 legal troubles began to surface. At that time W.E. Robinson, formerly vice president and general manager filed suit against J.D. Hanbury, president of the Ivanpah Smelting, to recover payment for services rendered for the period July 18, 1898 to May 2, 1899. One of the issues of the lawsuit involved the company's agreement to pay him a salary of $6,000 yet, he had received just $400. This litigation seriously affected subsequent production. In May 1900 the mine closed, in early June it was again operating, but with ore sufficient to last only six weeks. Work again stopped in July - the men were paid and discharged, and on July 31, the post office closed. Just one month later work briefly resumed. Factors cited for cessation of operations at the time were the high loss of copper in the slag and high cost of smelting.

Transportation to Manvel was very expensive. To cut costs the Ivanpah Smelting Company persuaded the California Eastern Railroad management to extend the line down the steep canyon from Manvel. The Santa Fe Railroad subsidized construction for this extension which began April 1901, and in January 1902, the final spike was driven for the ten mile extension to the present location of Ivanpah siding on the Union Pacific. On April 5, 1902 the Los Angeles Mining Review reported, "A new contractor is building a three-mile extension to the to the California Eastern, beyond the extension built last year by Bright and Crandall. The latest piece of track being laid across a sandy wash to a point where teams freighting to the Copper World and other camps can load without having to pull through a stretch of sand." Except that no copper was being produced from the Copper World. The California Eastern was purchased by Santa Fe on July 1, 1902.

The end of extended rail line was 15 miles from 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.

In January 1902, after the railroad reached the Ivanpah Valley, the mine and smelter resumed operations for at least two months. A new hoist was installed and the smelter was producing 10 tons of copper matte a week. In spite of plans to erect a larger smelter and construct a traction road to Ivanpah the mine operated only briefly. In November 1902, the company, now headed by George H. Sission, was in debt to a Los Angeles bank. Although some copper "bullion" was at hand - it wasn't enough. A sheriff's sale was set for December 15. During 1903 the Ivanpah Smelting Company found itself in new legal entanglements. Apparently former superintendent Reche had filed new mining claims when the Ivanpah Smelting Company let the original ones lapse.

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. Over the intervening years between 1902 and 1906 the smelter had disintegrated, forcing the new owners to haul unprocessed ore rather than copper matte to the railhead at Ivanpah, and there to the Needles Smelter, another enterprise of Godshall's. To help keep costs at a minimum the new owners offered freighters a handsome bonus for hauling ore to the railroad ahead of a set schedule. Although they had plans to erect a new smelter, two miles from the mine, it wasn't constructed.

At Ivanpah, the Santa Fe station, which had been deserted "for some time" burned April, 1908, supposedly by tramps. Four or five adjoining buildings - the entire "town" - also burned. A train ran from Manvel until 1913, rails were finally torn up in 1921

With the high price of copper during World War I, mining resumed. The Cocopah Mining Company, reorganized under the name Ivanpah Mining Company, began operations 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 were re-smelted. This slag averaged from 2 to 10 percent copper.

The copper matte was hauled 25 miles to the Salt Lake Route at Cima 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. Godshall), located on the southwest slope of the Providence Mountains. In 1918 60 men were employed. 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 .04 to .1 ounces of gold per ton. In 1944, 3,743 tons of old tailings were treated, and 1949 copper furnace matte was shipped in a cleanup operation.

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 continued until at least 1981.


The 1869 silver discoveries by the Piute Mining Company on the northeast slope of Clark Mountain, and the subsequent discovery by the McFarlane brothers in Spring 1870 resulted in the formation of the small but lively town of Ivanpah. The mines and mills here thrived, albeit somewhat fitfully, until 1881, when output declined even faster than the price of silver.

There was never sufficient water at Ivanpah for the mules which packed silver ore from the McFarlane brothers mines six miles east to the mills situated at Ivanpah, so Mescal Spring, about eight miles to the south, was utilized to water the mules. At Mescal Spring one evening late in 1879 Mr. Orr laying in his bunk in a rock cabin recognized mineralization in one of the rocks the cabin was constructed. Then he headed up the draw with Morgan and discovered the Mescal Mine. In March 1880 it was reported that the mine was "turning out all that could be desired".

In 1882 the mine, which was interchangeably referred to as the Mescal or Cambria, was sold to William A. McFarlane and Simes A. Barrett. Little is heard from the mine until April 1885 when McFarlane stopped at Calico on his way to San Bernardino long enough to inform the editor of the Calico Print he intended to return to the mine with a small mill. He also reported that they had 100 tons of $100 rock on the dump, and the former operator had milled 100 tons of ore. At this time a modest crew of men had driven a 80 foot long drift.

In May 1885, a number of miners and wood choppers arrived from Providence as activity began to pick up. A month later, the Calico Print 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." In spite of these pronouncements only seven or eight men were employed at the mine.

On Wednesday June 17, 1885, the long idle Ivanpah mill began prcessing ore from the Cambria mine. By the middle of July, the first two bars of silver bullion worth $2,720 were shipped by Well, Fargo and Co.

The most productive period began in January 1886 when McFarlane leased, then sold, the Cambria Mine to a company of Los Angeles businessmen. Under the supervision of McFarlane and Barrett, the company's 20 men drove a second tunnel, 125 feet below the first, installed a 350-yard tramway, and graded a site for a five-stamp mill near Mescal Spring. The mill started up in early December, turning out four bars of bullion weighing 5,000 ounces.

Mescal was a compact well-run camp. A correspondent of the Print considered the mill "a thoroughly substantial one in all its parts. They have a fine assay office, overseen by the painstaking assayer, Mr. L. A. Blackburn. The office is comfortable, and the boarding-house, lodging house, etc., show that they look to the comfort of their men.." A handful of men, several with families, were living in well-built adobes covered with good shingle roofs. "Good" miners were receiving $3.50 a day; "Excellent" board cost $8 a week. Mescal was, a visitor was later told, a camp where wages were good, work was steady and "everybody was happy."

Three adobe structures at the camp were built here by Adolph Nevaras; an assay office, a boarding house, and the superintendent's house. Nevaras also built the assay office for Bidwell at Ivanpah and the Alf's home in Daggett.

Many changes occurred early in 1887, an additional 5-stamp battery was added to the mill April 1887. The 10-stamp mill ran day and night. The Cambria Mill and Mining company also purchased the mines and mill of the Ivanpah Mill and Mining Company. Mail service to the camp began in March. The post office was known as Nantan. A weekly stage, meanwhile was running from Fenner station, on the Santa Fe line, and a store was in business. Mescal was at its peak. But the price of silver was on a decline, from an already-low 97 cents an ounce to 94 cents in 1889. The grade of the ore was also declining, to $20 a ton. One 1890 report stated "a ten-stamp mill is kept running," yet only twelve people lived in the area; and the post office closed that December. Reportedly the Cambria Mine by then had produced $250,000 in gold and silver.

Local cattleman Sidney Yates, just after the turn of the century used the boarding house in association with cattle operations. But a heavy snow collapsed the roof, and the shakes were replaced with sheet iron in 1911. The mill was scrapped in 1914. A short lived revival in 1915 yielded 2,000 ounces of silver and minor gold. The assay office remained in fair condition until a story in a treasure magazine reported that gold coins had been hidden in the adobe walls. Treasure hunters soon demolished the building.

Mescal Mine Footnote

The effect of falling silver prices produced the situation where in early 1893 the price of silver had fallen so low that a silver dollar contained only 40 cents worth of the metal. It would be more profitable to counterfeit silver dollars from pure newly mined silver than to sell the silver.

In an 1895 Los Angeles Times article, which seems to have sprung from the writer's imagination, much like the tabloids at your grocery store checkout counter, two Denver business men, known only as Spencer and Davis, sought to recoup the fortunes they had lost in the depression by counterfeiting silver coins. According to the story, Spencer and Davis bought the Mescal property and built a smelter, brought in a carefully selected crew, and installed counterfeiting machinery at the bottom of a deep shaft. Spencer and Davis soon began taking out each day 20 tons of ore containing a total of 800 ounces of silver, enough to coin one thousand bogus dollars. Tightly packed into hollow bars of silver, the coins were shipped out to cities and fenced.

The silver dollars were excellent imitations. But their accidental discovery in a hollow silver bar led John E. Bennett, a Secret Service agent, on a painstaking hunt for clues. Finally Bennett found his prey in the summer of 1893 and enlisted the aid of a detachment of soldiers. After leaving the railroad, Bennett and a guide finally "turned around a small cone-like hill and there before us, close upon us, was the Mescal camp. It lay on a ridge which made out from the mountain into the valley... Above on the bold side of the high roaring mountain was the mine, its grey dump marking with a light splotch the dark slope..." Buckets suspended on an aerial tramway carried ore from the mine to the smelter. Running down a steep slope, a pipe from the mine fed a pool of delicious water. Visitors were unwelcome, but Bennett contrived to have himself stranded in the camp.

One morning in August, Bennett identified himself as a secret Service agent and ordered Spencer and his crew to surrender. Spencer merely sneered "Pooh, you talk like a fool. I'll have you know, sir, that it will take a better man than you to arrest a whole camp and shut down a mine on such a fool charge at that..."

Spencer had prepared for such an emergency. Just as Bennett's men were about to charge over the hill, Spencer blew a whistle. The mountain inside began to rumble. An explosion blew Bennett and several others off their feet; boulders went flying. One man was fatally injured. Under the rubble, too deep to dig out, were the dies, roller, and counterfeiting press. Taken to Los Angeles for trial, Spencer, Davis, and their smelterman were acquitted for lack of evidence. But they never returned to their old ways.


The history of Bullion mine, namesake of the Bullion Mining District, has been a puzzle to researchers. Wright and others (1953, p. 73) in their compendium of San Bernardino County mines state, "Shipped high grade silver-lead carbonate ore to Wales in 1860's and 1870's via Colorado River." Patchick (1961, 1959) cites the same source: California Mining Bureau geologist, Ireland (1888, p. 499). However, Ireland makes no mention of shipments to Swansea; he reports in part: "Bullion. This mine is situated eight miles south of Seedlow Station on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. The vein on the surface showed gray copper, with 62 percent copper, a little silver, and traces of gold..." It is evident that Seedlow is a typographical error for Ludlow - and today the mine located eight miles south of Ludlow is the Bagdad Chase. Located on the northeast flank of the Bullion Mountains, the Bagdad Chase is the largest source of copper in the county, but is also a significant gold producer. The Bullion mine located south of Mountain Pass, while containing copper, was primarily known as a silver mine in the 1870s. It was not until 1953 that the Bullion mine in the Mescal Range is mentioned to have been worked in the 1860s, at least that this author has found.

As Paul Harvey would say, "Now for the rest of the story..." The Bullion mine is insignificant, but it does seem to have been the first mine worked in the district. It is located less than one-half mile east of the New Trail Mine on the east side of the Ivanpah Mountains. In March, 1879, James H. Boyd, owner of the mine, located a ledge here, that when assayed at Bidwell's mill at Ivanpah, ran $350 per ton in silver. Also in March 1879, Boyd, in an open letter to William Griffin, esq., president of the Workingmen's Club in San Bernardino, advertised for a boy between 15 and 18 years old, to work at the Bullion Mine, driving a burro or jackass, packing water for his mine camp. He offered to pay $30 per month and board, and explained that he now employs an Indian at 75 cents per day. The hyperbole regarding this mine is remarkable. On May 10, 1879 the San Bernardino Weekly Times offered: "The Bullion mine, the Bonanza of the camp, is one of the most promising mines in Southern California. At a depth of 85 feet, two feet of splendid grade milling ore, going up in the hundreds per ton, has been struck. Jesse Taylor's team makes a trip every three days hauling five tons per load." And on October 18, 1879, "Our sister district, Copoweep, where the Bullion mine is located, is an undeveloped district with the exception of the famous Bullion mine, which is one of the foremost mines in the southern country. It is down several hundred feet, with very high grade ore."

In contrast, in 1890, James Crossman, who accompanied the Piute Company to Ivanpah in 1869, simply states, "Bullion District. Lies seven miles southeast of Nantan. It contains a number of promising veins carrying ores of both silver and gold. But little work has as yet been done here."

About 1905 Jim Connolle and a Salt Lake City company mined several carloads or ore. After lying idle for 4 years, in May 1909, George Bergman, an Eldorado Canyon mine owner, leased the mine and posted a $50,000 bond. At that time the mine was owned by the Jim and Pat Monaghan of Victorville and Heber Robinson. At the mine were "fair mine buildings and a whim." It was developed by a half dozen shafts, the deepest being 250 feet with levels every 50 feet that were driven 100 feet through the rock. The Monaghan's continued their interest at least until 1913. There were about 250 tons of lead-copper-silver ore produced from the mine in 1916-1917 but it apparently has not produced any since.


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Ivanpah II

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Bullion Mine

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This paper was published as:

Vredenburgh, Larry M., 1996, Early Mines of Southern Clark Mountain, the Northern Mescal Range and the Ivanpah Mountains, in Robert E. Reynolds and Jennifer Reynolds eds. Punctuated Chaos, in the Northeastern Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly Vol. 43 nos. 1 and 2, pp. 67-72,