Queho Posse Chapter
E Clampus Vitus
Sam Colton and the Duplex Mine
Located at the Duplex Mine off US Highway 95, near junction of Nv. Hwy. 164
October 3, 2005
Under the reflected glow of the Twin Moons, and at the somewhat unsteady direction of the noted Noble Grand Humbug
Wanderin' Jim Crowe
The Queho Posse Chapter 1919,
of the Ancient and Honourable Order of
E Clampus Vitus
again visits Searchlight, Nevada,
To seek enlightenment as to the history and tales of
George Frederick Colton
(The Man Who Named Searchlight)
And His Duplex Mine
Upon the occasion of the period
October 21-23, 6010
Or in the vernacular calendar, 2005
George Frederick Colton
(The Man Who Named Searchlight)
And His Duplex Mine
A keepsake created for the Fall 6010 Doins of the Queho Posse Chapter 1919 of E Clampus Vitus
upon their return to Searchlight Nevada after a four year absence, at the direction of
Wanderin' Jim Crowe NGH, and rendered into words and print by
Clamphistorian Mark P. Hall-Patton, XNGH, DS3
With thanks to Mr. Stan Colton.
The small print: It is to be noted that, with the exception of any errors of fact or supposition, elucidation or elocution, all statements, sentences, words, interpretations, interpolations, interactions, intersections, interdimensions (for those still lost from Rachel), and interdenominations represented, presented, printed, placed, or otherwise found within this document, shall be deemed of the utmost authority and absolute accuracy.
Nihil obstat: St Vitus
May it be truly understood as if by the reflected glow of the twin moons.
George Frederick Colton and the Duplex Mine
What's in a name? In the case of Searchlight, Nevada, there are some facts, and some mysteries. Someone had to have named the community, and that person is known. The first to use the name Searchlight was G. F. Colton, a prospector who came to the area in 1897, and whose family is still a part of the community. He located his first claim on May 6, 1897, calling it the Searchlight. The name stuck, and a new mining district and community followed.
George Frederick Colton was born in Provo, Utah, in 1862. His father, Charles E. Colton, served in the Army, rising to the rank of Captain. He traveled through the area we now call Southern Nevada during the Mexican American War, and later became a guide and mail carrier between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles after his discharge from the United States Army. Captain Colton wandered much of the area in what became the Searchlight Mining District, and ran freight overland into and out of Eldorado Canyon, site of the charter doins of the Queho Posse Chapter 1919 of the Ancient and Honourable Order of E Clampus Vitus many years later. He obviously showed great prescience.
Captain Colton later worked on behalf of the Union during the Civil War, helping to prevent the raising of the Confederate flag over Los Angeles. He was credited with naming many springs and sites in Southern Nevada, though the name we are interested in today was the work of his son.
G. F. Colton arrived in the area in 1897. He was a prospector who had most recently been active in the Yuma area. Family tradition has it that he was warned before coming into today's Searchlight area about a renegade Indian who was actively killing whites in the area around Eldorado Canyon. Given the time period, this may have been Ahvote, who was credited with the killing of five people, including Charles Nelson, the namesake of Nelson, Nevada, during his period of deprecations.
Colton was not the only prospector active in the Searchlight area at the time. John C. Swickerd was also actively staking claims in what became the Searchlight Mining District. Swickerd was working on behalf of F. W. Dunn, a mining investor and promoter who had interested Col. C. A. Hopkins in a mine he had an option on near Needles, California.
Unfortunately for Dunn, Hopkins decided to visit the mine site just after his option on the claim had expired, so he had to find other claims to show Hopkins when he arrived. He bankrolled Swickerd to look for sites at the same time Colton was looking.
Colton's effort was the first successful claim. His Searchlight Mine was located and proved up before Swickerd's efforts were successful. Swickerd did, though, eventually locate the claims that became the Quartette Mine, the most successful in the region.
Colton, though, was the first. His Searchlight claim was successful, and brought in the first successful gold mining in the district. The first shipment he made of ore from the new mine yielded 72 ounces of gold to the ton, a very respectable amount. He eventually combined the Searchlight Claim with others, including the IXL, the New Year's Gift, the Fraction and the Spotted Horse, to create the Duplex Mine.
Colton was also the first person to build a dwelling in what became the community of Searchlight. When his claim was successful, the name became well known. When it came time later in 1897 to form a mining district, it was the Searchlight's name that was applied to the district, and the Searchlight Mining District was formed.
The district was formed to aid the miners in recording their claims. The area was part of Lincoln County (Clark not having been formed until 1909), and to record mining claims prospectors had to travel to the county seat, Pioche. As this was a difficult and long journey, it was agreed that claims recorded locally would be recorded in Pioche according to the dates on the local mining district records, rather than when they were finally recorded at the county courthouse.
In 1905, Colton's original house was still occupied by the F. L. Millens, according to The Searchlight, the town's newspaper. Colton, one of the people instrumental in the creation of the town, had made one of his moves to Los Angeles, and returned for a visit. The newspaper quoted him as saying,
"There has been a wonderful change in the town since I first drifted up from Yuma, prospecting. I came here in 1897 and pitched my tent near the present site of the Searchlight Hotel. As the mines are developed, I expect to see Searchlight grow in accordance. This is not only a 'Camp without a Failure', but a camp with a future, and I hear much favorable comment in Los Angeles and in fact where ever I go regarding the coming importance of the Searchlight District."
The Duplex Mine was certainly successful. It was estimated that by 1915 over $500,000 in ore was taken from the mine. It was not, however, the most successful mine in the area. This was the Quartette Mine. When Swickerd located the claims that became the Quartette, he claimed 700 feet in one direction from his monuments, and from 50 to 100 feet in the opposite direction, leaving a small area of about 49 and ½ feet unclaimed between the two monuments.
Colton, wisely, claimed that area, and eventually traded that area to Swickerd for area he needed for his Duplex Mine. Though Swickerd did not believe that the veins would be successful in the long term, Colton did. In Swickerd's view, the veins he located would not continue far because of the geology of the region. It could also be said that it was a rather bold move, for Swickerd had put up signs on his claim that read, "Any sheepherding sons of bitches that I catch digging in these here claims I will work buttonholes in their pock-marked skins." According to the illustrious chronicler of Searchlight history, Harry "Pinky" Reid, "Since Swickerd was always heavily armed, this threats were heeded."
It should be noted that Swickerd was not alone in his view of a possible lack of permanence of the mines in the Searchlight district. Many mining engineers agreed that the mines would never amount to much. The eventual success of the greatest mine in the region, the Quartette, had more to do with the man running the Quartette, Benjamin Macready, than with the engineers. When Macready was told to shut down all operations at the Quartette, he instead told the workers to "Crosscut South", or drive the underground tunnel south, rather than telling them to stop operations as he had been ordered. This lead to the strike that made the Quartette the success it eventually was, producing over $3,500,000 in gold by 1915.
Searchlight as a mining district was organized in July 1898. Colton acted as Recorder when the first group of miners organized the district. It was quickly reported and promoted in the mining newspapers and magazines. The post office was opened on in October 1898, and the boom was on. After the success of Macready's "Crosscut South" message, the town and mining district continued to prosper, reaching a peak in 1907.
After the 1907 boom, the fortunes of Searchlight began to wane, though the town never actually died. Miners continued to work their claims through the depression, but the community was never the going concern it had been in between '07 and about 1915. The impact of World War II was significant, as it was throughout the mining west, because of the requirement to end mining activities for anything except war related materials. Gold was not considered war related.
Colton operated the mine for the first few years of the twentieth century. He then followed his father to California, moving between the Las Angeles area and Searchlight during the next couple of decades. After 1904, Colton followed the lease system popular in Southern Nevada mining in the early twentieth century. When someone was interested in taking a lease on his holdings, he would allow them to do so, for a known period. In 1904 F. P. Swindler took over the operation. When he thought the mine was played out, he turned it back over to Colton, along with all the improvements. Colton knew the mine would still produce, and soon proved he was correct. He also continued to lease the mine to various speculators and mining entrepreneurs.
Colton would often move to California, returning when the latest lease on his holding either ran out or failed to perform up to the standards the leaseholder had expected. He often held out one portion of the claims, the IXL, for which he had great hope, though he never went so far as to actually sell his holdings. He was noted as unwilling to move on the terms of any lease, a character trait that is noted in a 1920s era mining report on the site.
Though the community had waned after it high water point of 1907, the Colton family continued to be involved. In 1909, John Brockman acquired the lease on the mine, though it returned to G. F. Colton after a few years. G. R. Colton, G. F.'s son, took over operation of the mine, and helped incorporate the Duplex Mining and Milling Company in 1915. He leased the mine from his father starting in 1916, running it until his father's death in 1918. After probate, the Duplex Mining and Milling Company continued through various leasers through the 1920s.
After World War II, Searchlight was limping along. The impact of gaming helped in the later 1950s and 1960s, when an airstrip was finally built for the community. In the1960's, Willie Martello was flying in DC-3s and Constellations full of eager gamblers. In 1966, soon after having been named Director of Aviation for Clark County, Earl Taylor found out this was happening. He quickly had the runway tested and just as quickly closed the airport. The airstrip, little more than asphalt on sand, could safely handle only aircraft with a gross weight of under 10,000 pounds, and a Constellation weighs nearly 100,000 pounds empty. Though Martello, whose El Rey Club was the big casino in town, was not pleased, the County Commissioners backed the aviation director, and it was some time before the strip was reopened, for under 10,000 pound aircraft only.
The Colton family was still a part of the community. George Raymond Colton's son, Gordon Colton, took over operations at the mine some time after World War II, and by 1970 was operating a general store, laundromat and trailer park. His son, Stan Colton, currently owns the mine, and is our host for this plaquing.
Now to the name. Searchlight has an unusual name, and it was G. F. Colton who christened his original claim, the Searchlight. Why is somewhat problematic. There are two possible stories, both of which were in circulation by the turn of the twentieth century. One was that Colton, when he told about his claim, was informed that it would take a searchlight to find gold in that country. In another, he lit a match on the side of a box he was carrying, perhaps while hiding from Ahvote, and noticed that it was a "Searchlight" brand of match, and took the name from there.
The Searchlight match was a common one in many mining camps, so this could easily be the case. But it is also quite true that the kind of comment noted in the first version would also have been common among miners, and Colton's reaction would not have been the first to take an insult and repeat it in order to show he was right and the insulter was somewhat in error.
So which is true? We don't know. But however he came up with it, George Frederick Colton named and was instrumental in starting a community that still exists today.
What sayeth the Brethren?
And so Recorded.
Sources consulted for the creation of this keepsake include the following (placed here mainly for the elucidation of the myriad historical researchers among the brethren):
Anonymous, Nevada, The Silver State, Vol. 1, 1970, Western States Historical Publishers
Kirwin, Bob, Reminiscences of Searchlight, in Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Spring, 1976
Labbe, Charles, Rocky Trails of the Past, 1960, C. H. Labbe
Lincoln, Francis Church, Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada, 1923, Nevada Newsletter Publishing House
Oliver, Harry, Desert Rat Scrapbook, Packet 2 of Pouch 6
Reid, Harry, Searchlight, The Camp That Didn't Fail, 1998, University of Nevada Press
The Searchlight, newspaper, 8/13/1905, 9/22/1905, 1/5/1906, 10/5/1906,
The Searchlight Bulletin, newspaper, 2/12/1909
And very special thanks to Jane Overy, for her assistance with the research for this keepsake.
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