Peter Lebeck Chapter
Billy Holcomb Chapter
John P. Squibob Chapter
Queho Posse Chapter
Lost Dutchman Chapter
E Clampus vitus
California City, CA
October 14, 2006
A Short History of the
and surrounding area
prepared for the
Southern Alliance of
E Clampus Vitus
Peter LeBeck #1866 (Host Chapter) Paul Weaver, NGH
Billy Holcomb Chapter 1069, James A. "JJ" Jackson, NGH
Lost Dutchman Chapter 5917+4, Barry "Bearly" Christensen, NGH
Platrix Chapter 2, Abe Hoffman, NGH Queho Posse Chapter 1919
Jeff "Con Man" Hayden, NGH
John P. Squibob Chapter 1853
John Eugenio, NGH
On the occasion of the
SOUTHERN ALLIANCE IV
SIX-CHAPTER JOINT CLAMPOUT
October 13, 14, 15, 2006/6011
Plaque Dedication - Saturday, October 14, 2006.
Junction of Ransdburg-Mojave Road and Twenty-Mule Team Parkway
California City, California
In cooperation with
California City, East Kern Historical Museum Society
Rand Desert Museum
- Table of Contents
The Randsburg-Mojave Road - Steve Born, XNGH................................................................. 2 Rice & Shippee....................................................................................... 2 Coming of the Automobile Age......................................................................... 3 Rand Mining District- Robert Clemensson, Peter LeBeck Chapter................................................ 4 Randsburg and the Rand Mountains..................................................................... 4 Garlock.............................................................................................. 5 Johannesburg......................................................................................... 5 Atolia............................................................................................... 6 Red Mountain......................................................................................... 6 20-Mule Teall! Borax Routes- Mike Johnson, XNGH.............................................................. 7 The "Twenty Mule Team Borax" Road.................................................................... 9 A Short History of Mojave- Mark Hall Patton, XNGH............................................................12 Mojave Spaceport- Steve Born, XNGH...........................................................................13 Bibliography.................................................................................................14 Monumentt Dedication: Randsburg Mojave Road..................................................................15
The six chapters of the Southern Alliance of E Clampus Vitus would like to extend sincere appreciation to Pat Gorden of the East Kern Historical Museum Society, Dr Larry Adams, Mayor and Bill Way, City Manager of California City for their support, cooperation and eagerness to support us in commemorating Western History in this area. Clamper Bart "HAFDOG" Parker, curator of the Rand Desert Museum provided extensive help researching the Randsburg Mojave Road. We also extend thanks to the BLM Rangers of the Ridgecrest Office for helping us arrange our Clampsite for this weekend.
Event Cochairman Steve Born, XNGH, Peter LeBeck Chapter
Event Cochairman Eugene Duncker, XNGH, X-Proctor, Peter LeBeck Chapter
Thanks are due to the officers and members of host chapter. Peter LeBeck #1866 for their continued efforts.
Special thanks to JJ Jackson, NGH of Billy Holcomb Chapter and all of his hardworking officers and members who helped physically organize this huge event.
Thanks to all the officers and members of Lost Dutchman Chapter, Platrix Chapter, Queho Posse and John P. Squibob Chapter who contributed to make this the unbelievably successful event, it has been!
Writers of this Keepsake
Steve Born, XNGH, Peter LeBeck Chapter; editor
Randsburg Mojave Road; Mojave Spaceport.
Bob Clemensson, VNGH-elect, Peter LeBeck Chapter- Rand Mining District.
Mike Johnson, XNGH, Billy Holcomb Chapter- 20-Mule Team Borax routes,
Mark Hall-Patton, XNGH, Queho Posse. History of Mohave; aviation in the area.
Printing by Smitty- He is not responsible for any misteakes!
Those are solely the responsibility of the editor, who did not give Smitty enuf time!1
The Randsburg-Mojave Road
Steve Born, XNGH
In 1876, Charles Crocker, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, drove a golden spike at Lyons Station near Newhall, celebrating the completion of the Southern Pacific route into Los Angeles. This finally linked Los Angeles to the northern portion of the state by rail, and assured its place as a major center of commerce and shipping in Southern California. The line descended from the famous Tehachapi Loop down to Mojave and then continued through the Newhall area to Los Angeles This provided a rail link, not only to Los Angeles, but also to its harbor. By 1884, when Southern Pacific (SP) and the Atlantic & Pacific (A&P) [controlled by Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF)] entered into a "joint trackage" agreement, there was another line connecting Mojave to Needles and the east, by way of Barstow.
In 1895, when major gold strikes drew miners, supplies and business to the Rand Mining region, there were two railroad stations, which served the area- Mojave on the main SP line, and Kramer Junction, thirty-eight miles east of Mojave (two miles west of present day Kramer, at the junction of Highways 58 and 395).
The Koehn-Garlock route already carried stages and freight north of the Rand Mountains from Mojave, and supplied miners in the EI Paso Mountains and Goler. In 1895, service was extended to Randsburg, a total distance of 54 miles. Stages took eight hours or more to make the arduous trip. Garlock (formerly Cow Wells) was of major importance, because it was the only place in the region with sufficient water for a stamp mill to process the Randsburg ore.
By late 1896, rail shipping through Kramer necessitated a Kramer-Randsburg stage and freight runs some thirty miles north to Randsburg. There were soon calls for a railroad to Randsburg. By May 1897, the Randsburg Railway Company was organized; but before track was laid, the A&P ceased to exist and a similar agreement was made with Santa Fe. Things moved fast! By December 1897, the Randsburg RR was completed to Johannesburg. The depot built at Kramer by the Randsburg RR was moved to Boron as part of the Twenty-Mule Team Museum.
Rice & Shippee
As Randsburg became more important, it became economic to pipe in water, not only for the miners, but also for a stamp mill in Johannesburg, There was also enough demand to build a faster, more direct stage road to Randsburg. In late 1896, Rice & Shippee of Mojave decided to build a new road.
The Mojave end of the William Coleman's Twenty Mule Team road provided the western portion of the new, shorter route. The railroad station in Mojave was west of Highway 14, just south of the intersection of the Highway 14 and Mono Street. The old wagon route went northeasterly though present day Mojave airport. Northeast of the airport, you can pick up the old Twenty Mule Team trail and, with a FWD, follow it across Cache Creek to the edge of California City. (If you look at Yahoo Maps, it is extremely easy to see the trace of the old 20-Mule Team trail in the satellite photos, particularly if you take time to compare the satellite photos with historical maps. For this area, Yahoo Maps has far more detailed satellite photos, as of this date. ) From there, it continued straight through present day California City. The portion east of California City is memorialized today as Twenty Mule Team Parkway. This stretch of the road angles northeasterly from California City, a modem reminder of historical times when borax was king and this desert country resounded to the crack of whips, the braying of mules and the two curses of teamsters hauling the borax to Mojave. The wagons and teams are long gone, but the history remains.
In 1896, The Randsburg Mojave Road was built by Rice & Shippee of Mojave to speed stage transportation from the railroad station at Mojave, to the Randsburg area; service commenced on November 22, 1896. The stage left Mojave at 9 o'clock and arrived at Randsburg at 2 o'clock, just five hours after leaving Mojave. This new route was only 36 miles, versus the 54-mile (and eight hour) route through Garlock. The cost of a one-way ticket was three dollars. The Randsburg Mojave road angled north from the 20-Mule Team road, cutting miles and time from the journey. Nearing Randsburg, the road went through the hills to the west of present day Highway 395.2
How did they grade roads in the late nineteenth century California? Over 200 patents are credited to prolific Scottish inventor James Porteous, who founded the oldest continuous business in Fresno in 1874, originally called Fresno Agricultural Works. (Now known as Fresno Ag Hardware) His most famous invention is the Fresno Scraper, a device that moved large quantities of earth when pulled by a team of horses. In 1941 the Fresno Scraper was attached to Caterpillar tractors and renamed "the bulldozer." Undoubtedly, Rice and Shippee contracted crews to build the new road straight across the relatively flat desert, connecting the old Twenty Mule Team road to Randsburg using Fresno scrapers.
Coming of the Automobile Age
Ironically, the Randsburg Mojave Road was built in late 1896, at the very end of the horse drawn era of transportation. By 1915, the automobile had drastically changed things. "When Tungsten first jumped there two automobiles in Randsburg. Today there are 200 to be seen on main streets most any evening. Auto stages running over to Barstow ... (and) Mojave. Miners ... (would) ride out to work and come into town in machines." You could pay your fare on these desert jitneys in coin or tungsten. "Louis Nikrent drove Cactus Kate across the desert from Mojave at 45 miles an hour. Slowing down for only two washes and three sharp turns. Between Saugus and Mojave the road is in perfect condition ... " (Los Angeles Times, APli130, 1915) Kern County surveyed the Randsburg-Mojave Road in 1924 and took possession of it as County Road # 636.3
Rand Mining District-
Robert Clemensson, Peter LeBeck Chapter
Is South Africa in the Mojave Desert of Kern County? No, but the famous South African Rand mine has similar gold ore. When Frederic Moorers, Charles Burcham and John Singleton discovered similar gold ore in 1895, they named it the Rand Mine (later changed to the Yellow Aster Mine).l How did these miners travel to their diggings?
The Randsburg-Mojave Road was a major route from Mojave's railhead and supply base. Roberta Starry in her book Exploring the Ghost Town Desert states: " ... a route traveled in 1898 by ore wagons, stage coaches and spring wagons ... hauling their gold to Mojave for meeting the train or replenishing supplies or on their way out to 'civilization'." 2
Because railroad building was very difficult in the mountainous area around Randsburg, nearby Johannesburg became the major supply and shipping point. In 1897, the Santa Fe Railway completed a spur from Kramer to Johannesburg to get the shipping from the mines. It should be noted that the town of Johannesburg was named after the South African city to keep in the same theme as the Rand mine. 3. Marcia Wynn in her book Desert Bonanza said, "Previous to 1895, the maps carried no mention of such a place as Randsburg". 4 According to the Kern County Surveyor's office, the Randsburg-Mojave Road was finally surveyed and taken into Kern County possession on November 22, 1898. It is County Road # 636.5
The gold mines of the Rand Mining District were many and it is interesting to explore the different mines in this area of Kern County.
Randsburg and the Rand Mountains
The major portion of the Rand mining district (about 50 square miles) lies within Kern County. Located along Kern's eastern border, the district also extends into San Bernardino County for several square miles. Gold was discovered in 1895 with the most prolific producer being the Yellow Aster mine. Very soon, there was a proliferation of mines and claims in the district, which produced gold well past 1910. In fact, even in 2006, the Rand Mining District still has active mining, however, sleepy Randsburg is now famous as a tourist and antique center.6
Because of the lack of an appreciable water source in Randsburg, the ore was hauled to the stamp mills in Garlock for milling. However, later it was more economical to pipe the water in from Garlock to Randsburg and the milling was done where the ore was mined.
The Yellow Aster (Rand mine) is believed to have produced a total yield of 12 million dollars and the other mines in the area produced over 2.5 million dollars. This mining continued until 1918, slacked off, and then started again in the 1930's until World War Two for over 20 million dollars, but is again producing in 2006. (5) As the market price of gold increases, it becomes profitable to operate mines that are more marginal. The district was also known for production of silver and tungsten, as we will soon discover.4
Randsburg is unique because very few typical, early day mining towns in California's southern desert survived the years. Starting out with gold discovery and moving on in later years to discoveries in silver and tungsten has kept Randsburg a populated town. Today, tourism is a big profit center for the town.7 Randsburg had a major hazard that many early mining towns had-FIRE! Randsburg's first recorded fire was on December 2, 1897. This was the first fire in a town without a fire department but it did not amount to much. Less than a month later, a big fire destroyed much of the town. After a short five months, another fire destroyed the town again on May 6, 1898 as reported in the Los Angeles Times. However, a great tribulation happened to Randsburg in 1901-02.
At Christmas time in 1901, smallpox appeared in Randsburg. Dr. Baxter a dentist pulled a tooth of a man (who had just come from Arizona), which had blisters on his face. Dr. Baxter went next door to Dr. Macdonald, MD who quarantined most of the town. Dr. Macdonald fumigated the office, vaccinated the dentist, and notified the medical authorities in Bakersfield. There were big Christmas dances in Randsburg and people were traveling by train everywhere. Before the epidemic was over it was estimated that over 500 cases of smallpox in the vicinity.8
In 1893, before the discovery of gold in Randsburg, placer gold was discovered in the Red Rock Canyon area of the El Paso Mountains. The Reed nugget, for many years considered the largest ever found, was discovered in a gulch off Red Rock Canyon. Droves of miners came to the area but very few became rich. Much of the activity was around the small settlement of Goler in Goler Canyon. (Goler was named after John Goler, an 1849 Death Valley survivor who left is rifle to mark where he found gold, as he struggled to civilization. When gold was discovered in this canyon, it was named after Goler, in the belief that this was his "Lost Gunsight Mine.") Southwest of Goler was a water hole known as Cow Wells by freighters who watered their animals at the waterhole.
In 1895, the discovery of gold at the Yellow Aster mine turned Cow Wells into a desert gold mining center. The lack of water at the Yellow Aster required that the ore be shipped out to be milled. Eugene Garlock hauled an eight-stamp mill from Tehachapi and set it up at Cow Wells. In 1896, the post office was established there and took the name of Garlock. Besides the milling operations in Garlock, the town became a supply center for the Randsburg area with freighter wagons bringing supplies from the railhead at Mojave.
In 1897-98, a railroad spur was completed from Kramer to Johannesburg. This made it possible to ship ore to Barstow where more efficient milling facilities were located. In 1898, the Golden Aster completed its own 30-stamp mill by piping water from the springs in the Garlock area. Because of these new stamp mills, Garlock was a ghost town by 1899.9
Johannesburg, or "Joburg" as everyone called it, was more of a family town than just a mining camp. It was a properly laid out town with water piped to the doors of the homes. Johannesburg's also had the Randsburg Railway that had its terminus there. This railroad was approximately 28 miles long and connected with the Santa Fe line at Kramer. Since the railroad was only about a mile from the Yellow Aster Mine, the mine starting moving large shipments of ore to Barstow.5
The Randsburg Railway was an important factor in Joburg's social structure because visitors came in great numbers. The Randsburg stage met the train in Joburg because the train did not entirely replace the longer stage route between Randsburg and Mojave for years on the Randsburg-Mojave Road.
Joburg also became the staging and freighting center for the mining areas to the east like Searles Lake, Post Office Springs (later Ballarat), Skidoo, Death Valley, and the Slate Mountain Range. Ten and twenty-mule teams were a common sight for years as late as 1911. The town had an active Red Dog Mill for crushing ore, a post office, two general stores, a variety store, billiard and poolrooms, real estate office, two saloons, a music hall, several boarding houses, school, two laundries, two lumber yards, two livery stables, a barber shop and more. Joburg had a telegraph office and a telephone line to Randsburg. However, the town did not have a church! One of the social clubs was the Laurestina Club, which started the "jackrabbit" golf course. This made Johannesburg an "up-to-date town."10
Atolia, dating back to 1905, was California's first tungsten camp. It was located fives miles south of Randsburg at the base of Red Mountain. It had the railroad at its door so tank cars could haul water in. Atolia boomed wildly during World War One and as late as the 1950's was an important source of tungsten. The tungsten boom came in World War One. Tungsten is used as a "hardener" for steel and was in great demand during the war. However, after the boom of the war years the demand lessened when it became more economical to import tungsten from China and other areas.
The name Atolia was the combination of two names belonging to prominent tungsten miners, Atkins and DeGolia. These were the first miners to put up the first tungsten mill around 1907. Tungsten was very valuable, so the miners were watched like the laborers in South African diamond mines. The miners were searched when they came out of the 900-foot shaft for any high-grade tungsten they might steal. By the end of World War One, the price of tungsten dropped and the cream of the tungsten was gone and mining slowed.11
In 1919, another mining boom came to the Rand Mining District. This time SILVER came from a strike near Red Mountain. This silver strike was one of California's richest and largest discoveries up to that time.
Hamp Williams was the son of Wade Hampton Williams. The senior Williams arrived in California in 1849 and discovered some of the richest gold mines in what was later Kern County. The junior Williams started his life as a cattleman, but lost 1,500 head during the drought that ended in 1898. He then turned to prospecting for gold as his father did before him.
In 1900, he discovered the Cowboy Mine near Paris Lorraine on Caliente Creek near Walker Basin. Then he discovered the Gold Peak Mine in the same area. In 1900, he married Estefena Miranda at a ranch below Weldon in the Kern River Valley. He built his house one mile from Caliente. In 1914 Hamp Jr. discovered the Pine Tree Mine northeast of Mojave.6
Coming to the Rand area in 1919, Williams Jr. and Jack Nosser filed on "Big Silver" and named the mine "The Kelly" after another partner. Jo1m Kelley, a former Kern County Sheriff, and Edith Coons, the Kern County Assessor grubstaked the project. Alfred Harrell, owner of the Bakersfield Californian newspaper, bought a quarter of Hamp Williams' interest. Hamp Williams died in his home near Rosamond at the age of 90 in 1961.
The town of Red Mountain was known as one of the wildest, wide-open, boomtowns in mining history. Red Mountain was originally named "Osdick" after Pete Osdick, who pioneered the area from St. Louis in 1903 and lived there or 60 years until his passing in 1963. Red Mountain was a "Lively Twenties" town that provided entertainment for the miners of the Rand mining district, and later, the soldiers at the World War Two Army Air Force base (now Edwards Air Force Base). During Prohibition, people would drive from Los Angeles for the liquor and wide-open prostitution. Rows of cribs (small shacks) where the girls plied their trade can still be seen. Red Mountain was once wild, woolly and rich. Today as you pass by the old buildings on Highway 95, you can almost see and hear the ghosts of the miners and ladies of days gone by.12
20-Mule Team Borax Routes-
Mike Johnson, XNGH
Although gold and silver were the lure that drew men to the desolate Death Valley country in the latter part of the 19th century, the real wealth consisted of more humble minerals that lay underfoot. Over countless centuries, the soluble chemicals that leached out of the surrounding hills were concentrated by evaporation in the flat desert playas and lakebeds. Of all these salts, by far the most valuable was borax, which even then was in demand by jewelers, potters, glassmakers and many others, in addition to its better-known use as a laundry detergent. It was easily obtained from the desert floor, but transportation costs cut heavily into the profits. More efficient methods of transport were sought, eventually leading to the use of the world famous 20-mule team borax wagons.
The first Death Valley borax deposits were recognized in 1873 in the midst of a great borax rush, which saw prospectors scouring every saltpan from eastern Oregon to southern California, although they were not exploited at this time. Borax was selling for as much as $700 dollars a ton, or 35 cents a pound, but the Death Valley deposits were discounted as being too remote to be profitable. The first commercial quantities of borax came from the bed of Searles Lake, near today's Trona, where the Searles brothers, John and Dennis, and two companions filed claims. They formed a mining district and built a processing plant, eventually shipping as much as 2,800 tons of borax a year.
As stated above, the greatest difficulty in the whole scheme was transporting the finished product to market, which at this time was the port of Los Angeles. A freighting company was formed and heavy wagons, some pulled by teams of 20 mules, was put into service for the 250-mile run to San Pedro. Three years later, in 1876, the Southern Pacific Railroad extended its line from Los Angeles to Mojave, and the borax now had to be hauled by wagon only as far as the railhead at Mojave, greatly shortening the route and decreasing costs.
The borax road from Searles Lake followed the route of the present-day Trona Railway to Searles Station, where it forked into a winter and summer route. In the winter months the sand would usually pack solidly enough for the wagons to travel to Garlock and Cantil. In summer, this road was too soft, and the route swung north, past modem-day Ridgecrest, rejoining the other branch at Cantil. The Searles Lake operation shut down in 1896 when it could no longer compete economically with the borax mined at Calico, near Daggett.7
In 1881, the Death Valley borax flats were "rediscovered" by Aaron and Rosie Winters (they of "She bums green, Rosie! We're rich, by God!" fame,) and were duly brought to the attention of William Tell Coleman and Francis Marion Smith, the two men most involved with the production and distribution of American borax.
A mining district was formed, and placer claims amounting to 4,000 acres were filed. Winters then signed his claims over to Coleman for $20,000. Flush from this success, he and two companions expanded their search and found another, somewhat poorer, borax field near Tecopa, filing claims on 3,000 acres. These claims were also sold to Coleman.
The biggest borax find in Death Valley was discovered in 1882 by Winter's neighbor, Phi Lee, beside Furnace Creek Wash. Coleman's and Smith's men could not have failed to see the deposits, but the conventional wisdom of the time was that borates could be found only on the salt flats, and the "experts" promptly dismissed the importance of these deposits. Lee, in his ignorance, tested the salts anyway and found that they "burned green," thereby discovering a new borax ore, calcium borate, which came to be called colemanite. Lee and his brother continued prospecting and found other colemanite deposits to the east, the Biddy Mcf.arthy and Lila C. claims, which would eventually produce more than $30 million worth of borate minerals.
Coleman bought up just about every claim in the Death Valley region except for the Eagle deposit, a small salt bed of about 320 acres owned by Isadore Daunet. Daunet shipped the first borax out of Death Valley in the summer of 1882, across the mountains via Wildrose, on the backs of mules. The quality of the borax was poor and this first effort barely paid expenses, so equipment was brought in to better concentrate the borax before shipping it. Daunet contracted with freighter James McLaughlin to haul the finished product the 100+ miles to the rails at Daggett, a station on the new Atlantic and Pacific line. Daunet's companion, Christian C. Blanch, supervised the breaking of the new road through Wingate Pass to Lone Willow Spring, where it connected with the former road from San Bernardino to Panamint City, built in 1873 to serve the booming camp in the Panamint Mountains. From this junction it ran via Granite Wells and Black's Ranch to the Mojave River. Ed Stiles hauled the first load over this historic route in late 1882 with a twelve-mule team, taking eleven days to reach Daggett. This operation ended with the tragic suicide of Daunet in 1884, a subject too involved to address in this article.8
Meanwhile, Coleman had begun sending mining and refining equipment to the Harmony Borax works in Death Valley and the Amargosa works near Tecopa Hot Springs in the winter of 1882-1883. He also established Greenland Ranch, the desert oasis now known as Furnace Creek Ranch, to grow alfalfa for the stock, and planted orchards and gardens to help feed the men. The Amargosa works, which were smaller, began shipping borax in the summer of 1882, while the Death Valley works shipped its first borax that fall. Borax could be profitably processed at Harmony only eight months out of the year, since the high summer temperatures at the site impeded the crystallization of refined borax. During the rest of the year operations were shifted to Amargosa, where temperatures were marginally cooler and the borax could be refined more efficiently, although the deposits here were too poor to work year round.
Charles Bennett, who had gone into the freighting business after selling his ranch to Aaron Winters, contracted with Coleman in 1883 to haul the borax to Daggett via Saratoga Springs, Cave Spring, Garlic Spring, and Coyote Well. In the fall of that year he began running wagons over a road that had to be "graded" across Devil's Golf Course by sledgehammer-wielding Chinese laborers. That road proved difficult, and Bennett soon found a better way, leaving the road to Daggett at Granite Wells and heading west for Mojave. When the work shifted to Amargosa in the summer, the borax was still hauled to Mojave, traveling along the old Walker cutoff from Saratoga Springs to Granite wells via Owl Hole Spring and Leach Spring. By mid-1884, Bennett had nine eighteen-mule teams at work on the road to Mojave.
The "Twenty Mule Team Borax" Road
When Bennett's contract expired, lower borax prices caused Coleman to try to trim costs by doing his own freighting. Coleman's superintendent was Rudolph Neuschwander, and Neuschwander's foreman was John Perry, a former San Francisco druggist. Perry had been studying the freighting operations, and built five pairs of huge wagons, specifically designed to carry borax, in Mojave. He assembled five teams, each consisting of eighteen mules and two horses, to haul them. Teams of this size, and larger, had previously been used at various times and places throughout the West, but these five teams would be immortalized by the Pacific Coast Borax Company's advertising campaign for "20 Mule Team Borax."
The round hip from Death Valley was about 330 miles, and took twenty days. One team loaded and left the borax works every four days, so rigs were constantly on the road. To avoid the worst of the desert heat, the teams were used on this run only from mid-September to mid-June. The teamsters received their pay in Mojave, where they had an afternoon and a night to entertain themselves before hitting the road again the next morning.
By 1886, the Harmony Borax Mining Company was producing two million pounds of borax a year from its Death Valley and Amargosa operations. In that same year, the company started shipping about the same amount from new beds discovered near Calico. This doubled the supply of American borax without a corresponding increase in demand, and prices inevitably fell. Production was cut back to stabilize prices. This proved effective, but such remedies came too late for Coleman. By this time he had turned over day-to-day operations to his junior partners, whose ill-fated attempts to take over the Pacific canned salmon industry and to comer the American raisin market failed, with drastic financial consequences. Coleman attempted to sell off his Death Valley borax operations to bail the company out, but all such efforts failed, and the Coleman dynasty collapsed in May of 1888.
The Harmony Borax Mining Company promptly ceased operations, never to resume. Francis Marion Smith bought Coleman's borax properties from his creditors in 1890. He consolidated his holdings into the famous Pacific Coast Borax Company and truly became the "Borax King." He commenced operations at his properties at Borate, near the former silver town of Calico, and called two of the twenty-mule team rigs out of retirement to haul borax to the rails at Daggett. Because of the shorter distances involved a single outfit could haul fourteen loads of borax to Daggett in the same time it took for one run from Death Valley to Mojave. As output increased, two new rigs were built to keep up with the demand.
It was during this time that the huge wagons and long-line teams began to receive nationwide attention. Publicity photos were common, and "20-Mule Team" became household words. This operation continued until 1898, when Smith completed the narrow-gauge Borate and Daggett railroad to transport the borax, thus putting the teams out of business for good.
The portion of the old route from the Death Valley country to Mojave is memorialized today as Twenty~ Mule Team Parkway. This stretch of the road angles northeasterly from California City, a modem reminder of historical times when borax was king and this desert country resounded to the crack of whips, the braying of mules and the curses of teamsters hauling the borax to Mojave. The wagons and teams are long gone, but the history remains.
1 William Hample, Historical Site Markers Kern County, page 106-107
2 Roberta Strong, Exploring the Ghost Town Desert, 1973, page 53
3 William Hample, Historical Site Markers Kern County, page 106-107
4 Marcia Wynn, Desert Bonanza, page 6
5 Personal communication, Kern County Surveyor's office.
6 William Hample, Historical Site Markers Kern County, page 106-107
7 Bob Powers, Desert County, 2002, page 38-39
8 William Hample, Historical Site Markers Kern County, page 104-105
9 Bob Powers, Desert County, 2002, page 44
11 Bob Powers, Desert County, 2002, page 45
12 Bob Powers, Desert County, 2002, page 46-47
A Short History of Mojave-
Mark Hall Patton, XNGH
Wagons, Railroads, Airplanes end Spaceships
The community of Mojave exists because of its vital location on transportation routes through the desert. Originally founded by the Southern Pacific railroad as a stop before the Tehachapi Pass, Mojave dates its founding from the first rail service on August 8, 1876.
Many early explorers, including Father Francisco Garces, knew the area. The earliest trail, which passed through the area, was the Midland Trail, located about where Highway 14 passes north of the town.
The new community was a success from the start, serving as both transportation hub and ore transshipment point for the nearby mines. The original railroad, the Southern Pacific, served Mojave to Needles. Part of the reason for the Southern Pacific's interest in the area, was to stop a rival, the Atlantic and Pacific, from building through the area. Unfortunately, this plan was unsuccessful, as the Santa Fe eventually bought the route from the SP in 1898, providing the Santa Fe (now part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe) with a route over the Tehachapi.
With the amount of money lost in the battle over routes, when the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City was being built in the early zo" century, the Santa Fe and the upstart line quickly agreed on a plan to allow the new railroad to use part of the existing Santa Fe track between Daggett and Riverside. It was a popular stopping point for travelers, and was home to the Morrisey Hotel starting in 1876 and later a well-known Harvey House, operated by Fred Harvey in the railroad depot.
Gold was discovered in Goler Canyon in 1893, about 35 miles northeast of Mojave. This brought new interest in the vicinity and the small community. Other local mining locations produced borax, perhaps the best-known local product. Borax was an especially important product in the late 1880s, when the 20-mule teams from Death Valley hauled it to the railhead at Mojave.
Aviation came into the Mojave region in 1933, when a detachment from March Army Air Field set up temporary bombing and gunnery ranges on the bed of today's Rogers Dry Lake, about 20 miles from Mojave. This dry lake bed, and its neighboring Rosamond Dry Lake, were was originally used as a water stop for the railroad, starting in 1876, and were first settled about 1910 by Ralph, Clifford and Effie Corum. The Muroc name came from reversing the letters in their last name, and was the name for the base throughout World War II.
In 1950, the now Air Force base was renamed Edwards Air Force base in honor of test pilot Glen Edwards who was killed testing the Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing. It is one of the best-known test flight centers in the world, and boasts the longest runway in the United States. The Space Shuttle often lands at Edwards.12
Aviation also became a part of the city of Mojave before World War II. With-the opening of the Mojave Naval Air Station in 1942, however, aviation took off. The Naval Air Station became today's Mojave Airport. In the 1970s, the large airport became home to many mothballed aircraft, as changes in airline needs and the effects of deregulation brought hundreds of aircraft to the field in the desert. The inexpensive tie-down rates encouraged the use of the field as a holding site for aircraft, which were being sold by one airline to another. Since not all the aircraft would be sold, new businesses grew around the dismantling of mainly commercial aircraft. Within the last few years, nearly all of the Convair 880 and 990 commercial jets were dismantled at the Mojave airport.
Perhaps the best-known private aviation engineer/inventor to make Mojave his base of operations is Burt Rutan. His Voyager, which made the first non-stop around-the-world flight was developed and took off from the Mojave airport.
Steve Born, XNGH
The Mojave Airport, home of the National Test Pilot School, Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and XCOR Aerospace, is also "America's First Inland Spaceport" having received official licensing by the Federal Aviation Administration for Commercial Space Transportation. A launch-site operator license was granted to the Mojave Airport on June 17, 2004. The paperwork cleared government in-and-out-box procedures just in time.
The civilian Mojave Spaceport was the takeoff and landing point for the record-setting attempt by SpaceShipOne, the first non-governmental rocket ship to successfully fly to the edge of space, earning pilot, Mike Melvill, the first set of FAA issued commercial astronaut wings. Upon touchdown at Mojave and climbing out of the SpaceShipOne's cockpit, Apollo moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, greeted Melvill. Another flight might be needed before committing pilot and hardware to fly back-to-back flights within a two-week period to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize.
Hample, William G, Historical Site Markers Kern County. Kern County Historical Society, Bakersfield, California, U.S.A., 1991.
Powers, Bob. Desert Country. Arthur H. Clark Company, Spokane, Washington. 2002.
Lingenfelter, Richard, Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion, University of California Press, 1986.
Serpico, Phil. A Road to Riches: The Randsburg Railway Company and Mining District. Omni Publications, Palmdale, California. 2004
StmTY, Roberta Martin and Suzanne Knudson. Exploring the Ghost Town Desert, Second Edition. Engler Publications, Woodland Hills, California. 2000.
Starry, Roberta Martin, Gold Gamble. Maturango Museum of Indian Wells Valley, China Lake, CA USA, 1974.
Wynn, Marcia Rittenhouse. Desert Bonanza: the story of Early Randsburg, Mojave Desert Mining Camp. Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California. 1963.
Randsburg Mojave Road
The Randsburg Mojave Road was built by Rice & Shippee of Mojave to speed stage transportation from the Southern Pacific railroad station at Mojave, to the rich gold mines in the Randsburg area; service commenced on November 22, 1898. The stage left Mojave at 9 o'clock and arrived at Randsburg at 2 o'clock, just five hours after leaving Mojave. This new route was only 36 miles, versus the 54-mile (and eight hour) route through Garlock. The cost of a one-way ticket was three dollars.
The route followed the Twenty Mule Team Mojave/Death Valley road (1883-1889) from Mojave to this point, and then angled north; near Randsburg the old road went through the hills to the west of present day Highway 395.
Besides gold, the Rand mining region produced tungsten (essential to World War One hardened steel production) in Atolia. A rich silver strike south of Johannesburg in 1919 gave birth to wild, wooly and rich Osdick (later Red Mountain).
By 1915, the automobile was replacing horse drawn transportation. Stages still ran between Randsburg and Atolia; but auto stages ran to Barstow and Mojave. Locally, miners could ride to work and come back to town in the evening in desert "jitneys".
In 1924, Kern County surveyed the Randsburg-Mojave Road and took possession of it as County Road # 636.
Dedicated on October 14, 2006
Southern Alliance of E Clampus Vitus
Peter LeBeck Chapter, Billy Holcomb Chapter,
Queho Posse, Platrix Chapter,
Lost Dutchman Chapter and John P. Squibob Chapter
In cooperation with
California City, East Kern Historical Museum Society
Rand Desert Museum
Thanks to the plaque erection crew, who came out there last Saturday to construct the monument
Mike Smith (plaque #73)
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