Decicated October 14, 2012 (6017)
At the somewhat desultory urging of
Noble Grand Humbug
Vince "Luddite" Zaremski
The Queho posse will plaque the site of
Aka the Taylor's Well or Keystone Mine Mill
On October 14, 6017
and provide the assembled redshirts with an overview
of the fascinating, intriguing, uplifting, extracting, explosive, and involved history of the Mesquite/Sandy
As assembled by
Mark "The Expert" Hall-Patton
XNGH, DS-3, Clamphistorian and Scribe of St. Vitus
Rendered into print by
Originally known as Mesquite Valley, the area was first known in the early 1850s, when a short-cut, known as the Kingston Cutoff, for the Old Spanish Trail was blazed through the valley. Discovered by Salt Lake City merchants John and Enoch Reese, the Kingston Cutoff saved about forty miles for freighters and travelers over the Spanish Trail. It was not necessarily an easy route, though. Solomon N. Carvalho, the daguerreotypist with John Charles Fremont on his fifth expedition west, noted that they took Reese's short-cut which branched off from the main trail about five miles south of Mountain Pass, eventually coming to Kingston Spring in California. Carvalho described this part of the trail saying,
We traveled over most uncomfortable roads, the soil instead of sand as heretofore, is an impalpable white powder, very much like pulverized limestone, sown with large rocks; my eyes, although protected with a veil and goggles, suffered very much the whole way. The old road was south south east, this cutoff lead south south west. It is said, by this route, forty miles of travel is saved, and you escape the salt and bitter springs.
The country is an extensive barren waste, we continued on it until midnight, finding not a blade of grass.
Interestingly, Cavalho also noted that the party met Thomas "Pegleg" Smith on the trail here, who he described as a "weather-beaten old chap" who was prospecting in the area. Carvalho was apparently unaware the Smith had been one of the Chaguanosos, the organized horse thieves who had used the Spanish Trail in the late 1830s and early 1840s to run horses stolen from California missions and ranchos to Santa Fe for sale. Pegleg was well aware of the original route, having run many horses over it just a few years before. Howevger, with the mileage saved by the Kingston Cutoff, it was apparently used for a few years. It was abandoned soon after this, along with much of the Old Spanish Trail, as new routes were found, though on Custer's Map of 1861 the route was shown as a mail route.
The Kingston Cutoff took its name from the Kingston Spring in California. When Pegleg met Carvalho and the Fremont party in 1854, he told them the name of the spring, though not who it was named for. The name has been used ever since, and has also been applied to the Kingston road, mine, town, range, and peak.
The area was first settled by Miguel Navares in 1876. He started a small salt processing plant, selling his product to the miners working in the Ivanpah mines. The next settlers appear to have been miners prospecting along the Spring Mountain range. The first major mine in the area, the Shenandoah Mine, was located in 1883 by Jonas Taylor. A few years later, Taylor located the Keystone which began production in 1888, and went on to be one of the major producers in the valley.
The Keystone had good ore, but was quite a distance from the nearest rail line, which meant the ore had to be quite rich to be worth mining. An important point about any mine was the cost of transportation was often the defining issue when deciding whether the mine was of any value. In the case of the Keystone, it was a long-term but intermittent producer, often because of the distance to rail lines. In the early years, ore was shipped to mills in the Ivanpah area, quite a few miles away over open desert. Given that, when assayed in 1892, ore from the Keystone was found to assay at $1,000 a ton, it was worth shipping it.
However, it would be much more feasible to build a nearer mill, which could process the ore and then ship the metal to markets. Because most mines are located in mountainous areas, mills were normally located a distance away on flat ground, close to a water source if possible. In the Mesquite Valley, this described Taylor's Well, a spring located by Taylor. In 1894, the Keystone Mill was built nearby.
A few years earlier, in 1889, Oliver Rose brought his family to the valley, settling at a spring site. While his goats did not do well, he was able to start the first general store, selling to the miners at the various sites throughout the area. He abandoned his family about ten years later, but by that time the town of Sandy had been developed at the Keystone Mill. The Keystone Mill was a 10 stamp mill, and was built in 1893. It was the first mill to be built in the Yellow Pine Mining District, which covered the Spring Mountains on both the Mesquite Valley and Goodsprings sides.
Sandy got a post office in 1896, with Birdie Gann as the first postmaster, to be replaced by Sam Yount later that first year. Sandy was not the first post office in the valley, though. That honor goes to the Keystone which had a post office at the mine site. It operated from 1893 until 1897. Where the Sandy name originated is not clear today, but it eventually was applied to the entire valley on the Nevada side. Most likely the name derived from a description of the valley, though how it was any more or less sandy than any other valley in the area is unclear to this writer.
In 1900, the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey came through the vally again resurveying the oblique line between Nevada and California. In its report it described Sandy.
Sandy post-office is 1 3/8 miles northeast among the sand hills. A large quartz mill, the keystone, was erected here three years ago, which is not in use now; but there are copper mines in operation a few miles northeast of Sandy. The water here is good, being raised from a well by means of a windmill, though the quantity is limited.
A few years later in 1903, Francis Marion "Borax" Smith made his mark in the valley on the California side of the line, when he had a traction road built down the length of the valley. Smith was planning to use three steam powered traction engines to replace the twenty-mule team wagons to haul borax from Death Valley to the railroad. Unfortunately, the traction engines proved unstable, and one actually blew up, causing to project to be abandoned. The other two engines went on to have interesting careers.
One, Old Dinah, eventually was rescued from an ignoble end on the Beatty Keene mine road by Harry Gower and placed on display at Death Valley, in the Furnace Creek area. It can still be seen today. The other was sold to the Techatticup Mine in Eldorado Canyon in Nevada, where it proved unable to make its way up from the river and was abandoned at the water's edge. Some years later, P. A. "Pop" Simon bought the mine, acquired the traction engine, and eventually had it moved to Jean, Nevada, where it sat outside his roadside business, Pop's Oasis. After the Oasis was replaced by the Nevada Landing in 1990, the engine was eventually moved and loaned to Dr. Lonnie Hammargren. Today, the engine sits in the backyard of his somewhat overstuffed homes, basically buried under the middle house, but still visible if you know where to look.
Sandy was not an overnight success, but through the efforts of John McClanahan, who ran the store/saloon combination, the town existed for a few years. He had begun his business in 1894, and continued to work it in addition to running the blacksmith shop, boarding house and corral. That same year, there are reports of a cemetery having been created at Sandy, though whether it is the same cemetery which is located today near the original town site is by no means clear. McClanahan was the driving force behind the town throughout most of its existence serving, among other roles, as postmaster twice, first from 1898 to 1901, and again from 1902-1909. During the latter period, the fortunes of the small town waned, as the Keystone went through intermittent closures. In 1906 the Sandy Voting precinct only listed 11 registered voters, the second smallest in Lincoln County.
There were short bursts of activity, however. In November 1908, the Las Vegas Age noted that
In the Sandy Valley a number of California farmers have located homesteads and are shipping in household goods and farming machinery preparatory to a permanent residence. It is their intention to irrigate the land by artesian wells, or by pumping, if artesian water is not secured. A drilling outfit, capable of boring 1500 feet is now being hauled in from Ivanpah. The land in the valley is of exceptional fertility. The prospects for artesian water are good and there is practically an unlimited amount of water within 15 to 40 feet of the surface, which can be pumped, should the supply of artesian water prove inadequate. A thriving farming community will be an additional inducement for either the San Pedro or Santa Fe railroad to build into the valley.
A month later, the Age noted the drill was down 130 feet, and had struck the strongest flow of water at 40 feet. Ongoing glowing reports in the Age noted the arrival of other settlers, including a nurseryman named Richmond from Fullerton, California, who was planning to build a nursery to supply the new settlers.
In early 1909, John McClanahan died in Los Angeles. Though this was noted in the papers, and his passing was mourned, it was not immediately clear what this would mean for the small town. April 16, 1909, saw the auction of the McClanahan properties. At the same time, an orchard was being planted by John J. Donnelly, and growth appeared to be continuing. The Sandy Glee Club was forming, other orchards were being planted, and as a final nod toward stability, the first church service in the valley was held Tuesday, June 1, 1909. It was led by a clergyman from Santa Ana, California, whose name was not recorded in the Age. However, the Age did note that he was looking for land in the Sandy-Mesquite Valley. Sandy was even expecting to have a school district and begin classes by November of 1909.
It was during the first years of the twentieth century that the name change took hold. Mesquite was the original name for the valley, but the Sandy name became well known, and even the newspaper would run columns under a Sandy/Mesquite header. Eventually, the differentiation became more identified with the state line running down the valley, as we know it today.
By June 19, 1909, the Age noted Sandy was still a going concern. In fact,
Sandy is progressing in the right direction. The saloon is gone. The fixtures are being taken out and the room will be used in the future for socials and other public gatherings. These changes will make quite a good impression on the new arrivals who are constantly coming in and we hope that the good work will continue.
This was a surprisingly positive way to note the end of one of the main businesses in the small community.
1910 started strong for the little community. The Mesquite Valley Development Company was organized by valley landowners who lived in Fullerton, Anaheim, and Pasadena, California. They planned to drill for artesian wells, the earlier effort not being successful. The president of the company, E. S. Richman, was also the owner of the Orange County (California) Nursery Company. A report in the June 4, 1910, Las Vegas Age claimed the nursery was planning to plant 6,000 fruit trees, 300 eucalyptus trees, and 30 acres in alfalfa.
The same article, however, noted that
Sandy is a little sick just now, but we look for the opening of the Salt Lake RR for through traffic again and the artesian water cure to put the old-timer in shape again.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. The death of John McClanahan in Los Angeles in 1909, and the subsequent lack of success in finding water, was indeed the death knell for the small town. By the end of 1910, the announcement was made that the post office of Sandy was going to change its name to Ripley. In the announcement, it was noted that the Sandy name had been in use for fifty years.
The mill, however continued to stand for many years, and its ruins still stand today. Over the years, a number of other firms leased the site, and reprocessed the tailings left from the earliest mining. The richness of the ore can be seen in the fact that at least four later owners, reprocessing the same tailings from the mill site, were able to make money on their investment
In 1908, one incident was reported which, quite literally, reverberated throughout the valley. A teamster hauling goods to Sandy noticed a ten-pound container of blasting powder fell off his wagon and burst in the road. Since he could not pick it up, he spread the powder out, and went on his way. After being out in the desert sun for a few days, the powder became quite unstable, and when Jim McCormack came along and hit that stretch of road, the friction of his wheels set the powder off, blowing the front off his wagon and he and his passenger flying. McClanahan, from Sandy, saw the explosion, and hurried to the site, finding McCormack and his passenger in bad shape. He loaded them on his wagon, and got them to help. McClanahan reported later that all he could get from McCormack for much of the trip was "The damn road blew up!"
When the Sandy post office was moved to Ripley, John Cryer became postmaster, a position he held throughout the six years the post office existed. Ripley was a rival town to one laid out around the Boss mine, though neither one ever amounted to much. Many "paper" communities were laid out at this time, with developers trying to sell as many lots as possible before the purchasers discovered there was no "there there." Ripley, though, at least had a couple of buildings, where Boss is remembered as having no more than one tent at any time.
There was even an attempt by the Age to transfer the new name to the valley itself, but references to Ripley Valley failed to catch on, and Sandy/Mesquite continued to be the valley names. In 1913, the California side of the state line running through the valley was resurveyed by the federal government, which led to land again being available. In a May 10, 1913, Age article, the noted
Ripley, like the famous city by the Pacific, boasts a shoe string strip. This is brought about by the late resurvey, between the old state line and the new, so that those individuals who are partial to the famous southern California ozone can get the genuine article right here in this lusty county, where opportunities for the farmer, miner, capitalist and the hustler are very much in evidence.
Articles continued for a few years more talking about new efforts to find artesian, or any other type, water, but none were ever very successful. The next great excitement came in 1914 when in January a rich find of gold ore was discovered, and later in September, rich platinum ore was found in the Boss mine. A second location, named the Oro Amigo Platina mine, was located, and the great platinum rush was on.
In 1916, the post office was again moved and renamed Platina, which was another town developed around the Boss Platinum Mine. This town was actually laid out in 1914 by Peter Buol and associates. The Boss property was owned by Sam Yount, George Fayle, Fred Hale, O. J. Fisk and Harsha White, among others. A plat map was filed with the county that same year on patented ground which had been purchased from John Cryer, the postmaster of Ripley. It was quite the typical boomtown, being heavily promoted. Over 200 people came to see the new town in February 1915, and lots were sold until the Los Angeles Realty Board denounced the project, and sales were stopped. The stop became a pause, when sales began again a week later. One enterprising man named Yates built and ran the Broadway Department Store until the end of the year. However, the town did not thrive.
An auto-stage from Jean was started in 1915, and reports that the railroad would be building a spur to the town site were widespread, but it was not to be.
Platina kept the post office though, and by 1920 descriptions of the town noted a store, post office, and seven houses. The post office had actually closed two years earlier, in 1918, and residents had to get their mail in Goodsprings. Water still came from the well at the site of Sandy. There were other towns promoted in the valley including Mandolin, which at most consisted of only one tent, and Boss, reported to be another one tent town located about a half mile from the Boss mine.
Most residents had left the valley by 1918. A few years later, enough new residents had settled to create the Bartine School District. It lasted a few years, and became the Spring Mountain District in 1927. By 1929, there was no record of the school in operation in a description of the valley. There are reports of two earlier schools, the one in 1909-1910 in Sandy previously mentioned, and another in 1918, presumably in Platina, but they had long since closed.
The final early community was Kingston, developed in 1924. A post office was established, as was a school. The community was to be an agricultural one, and some residents hung on until the late 1930s trying to work the land. Kingston lost its post office in 1938, and the town ended. Even though located on the California side of the valley, it is still a part of the history of the area, and was the last time for many years that residents got their mail in the valley.
Today the community boasts a general store, pizza parlor, bar, and various amenities of home, including an area known as an "airpark," or fly-in community. Airparks are subdivisions developed starting in the 1950s and consist of homes built around a runway, so that you can fly right in to where you live.
In Sandy Valley, the airpark is officially the Sky Ranch Estates, located around the Sky Ranch Estates Airport. For those who are curious, the runway for the airport is located east of both the current state line and the Von Schmidt state line, putting it well into Nevada. A BLM runway is built between the current state boundary and Allexey's earlier work, on land which was found to be in Nevada not California, after the 1890 resurvey of the valley. Today, Sandy Valley is an unincorporated town in Clark County, though it abuts the Nevada-California.
Area businesses include ranches, some ongoing mining, a dude ranch, animal shelters. Many residents commute into Henderson or Las Vegas, but enjoy the open space and small town lifestyle of the valley. The Sandy Valley School was opened in 1982, and the Sandy Valley Community Center before 1985, which became part of the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department in 1986.
Sandy Valley had a population of just over 2,000 in the 2010 census. It has been an important part of the mining heritage of southern Nevada, and continues to be an active community today.
For Further Reading:
Various articles, Las Vegas Age, 1906-1924
Carvalho, Solomon N., Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West with Colonel Fremont's Las Expedition, 1860, Derby and Jackson
Crampton, C. Gregory, & Madsen, Steven K., In Search of the Spanish Trail; Santa Fe to Los Angeles, 1829 - 1848, 1994, Gibbs-Smith
Hafen, LeRoy and Ann, Old Spanish Trail; Santa Fe to Los Angeles, 1954, Arthur H. Clark Company
Lewis, Georgia, The Way It Was; Diary of a Pioneer Las Vegas Woman, 1979, Las Vegas Sun
Lincoln, Francis Church, Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada, 1923, Nevada Newsletter Publishing Company
Lingenfelter, Richard, Death Valley & the Amargosa; A Land of Illusion, 1986, University of California Press
Lyman, Leo, and Reese, Larry, The Arduous Road: Salt Lake to Los Angeles, The Most Difficult Wagon Road in American History, 2001, Lyman Historical Research and Publishing Company
Murbarger, Nell, Ghosts of the Glory Trail, 1956, Desert Magazine Press
Myrick, David F., Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California; Volume II: The Southern Roads, 1992, University of Nevada Press
Pahor, Stanley, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, 1970, Nevada Publications
Patera, Alan, Goodspings, Nevada, 1999, Western Places
Robinson, John W., Gateways to Southern California, 2005, The Big Santa Anita Historical Society
Sinclair, C. H., Oblique Boundary Line Between California and Nevada; Appendix No. 3 - Report for 1900, 1901, GPO
Thompson, David, The Mohave Desert Region California; A Geographic, Geologic, and Hydrologic Reconnaissance, 1929, GPO
United States Department of the Interior, Draft National Historic Trail Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment, 2000, USDI/NPS
Warren, Elizabeth von Till, and Roske, Ralph, Cultural Resources of the California Desert, 1776-1980; Historic Trails and Wagon Roads, 1981, BLM, California Office
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