Queho Posse Chapter
E Clampus Vitus
Dedicated April 20, 2008 (6013)
Under the misguided auspices of
Noble Grand Humbug
Robin "Kodak" Means
The brethren of the Queho Posse Chapter 1919
Of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus
Again return to Rachel, Nevada
To review the history of the
Groom Mining District
April 18-20, 6013
Keepsake created, compiled, convoluted, convulsed, conducted, and compromised by
XNGH Mark Hall-Patton, DS3, Clamphistorian
The Groom Mining District
A Keepsake created for the Spring Doins of the Queho Posse Chapter 1919 Of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus
To accompany the unveiling of a plaque to honor said district
At the Little A'le'inn, in Rachel, Nevada
April 20, 2008
Under the well-polished dome of
Noble Grand Humbug
Robin "Kodak" Means
Keepsake written and done into print
in the year of the ascendancy by
Clamphistorian Mark Hall-Patton, XNGH, DS3
VMXIII ecv [2008pbc]
In 1864, prospector located silver and lead deposits in the area later known as the Groom Mining District. No effort was made to exploit the finds until 1869, when British investors were enticed into pouring money into the area. The Groom Mine was opened, and the Groom Mining District was created.
The Mine was worked actively for about five years, as approximately $80,000 of British investment was spent. Given the remote area the mine was located in, the lack of water or wood nearby, and the lack of a good ore body, the mine was eventually closed about 1875.
This was not the end of the district, however. With the southern Nevada mining boom of the early twentieth century, prospectors eager to find the next Tonopah, Goldfield, or Rhyolite again visited many outlying mines and mining districts.
The Las Vegas Age of June 13, 1908, first trumpeted the possible reopening of the mines in the district.
"The lead mines of the Groom district are coming to the front. Great bodies of ore are said to exist in the old but unknown territory north of the Indian Spring station."
Indian Spring Station is today the location of Creech Air Force Base, and is still a fairly isolated area of Clark County. In 1908, it was a difficult journey to the station by rail, and extremely difficult from the Groom location. A short article in the August 1, 1908, Las Vegas Age noted a James Kelly had gone to the Groom Mines. He had to carry water and provisions for the month he planned to stay at the mines.
The difficulty of finding water and transportation to and from the site was noted by the writer of the article.
"Water is scarce and prospectors should wait for rain…The road from Indian needs repair. Four horses now haul only a ton over it."
It was obviously an isolated location. No major mining went on during this period, though Kelly noted 50 miners in the vicinity. By April of 1909, the Groom Mining Company hoped to start mining on its silver lead holdings, though this was to not to be a particularly remunerative effort until World War I.
By 1914, automobiles could make the trip to Groom. One such trip, reported in the Age under the title "Desert Trip" said,
"Dr. R. W. Martin and C. P. Ball left Saturday last in one of the J. W. Woodard's Ford cars with a driver and went to Indian Springs, where they were joined by Ira MacFarland. Various portions of the surrounding country were visited during the next two days, including the Groom district about 60 miles north of Indian Springs. He trip of over 300 miles was made quickly and without mishap, the party arriving home Wednesday morning."
The coming of World War I made many marginal operations profitable for a short time, and the Groom District was no exception. In 1914, a Col. Mason owned the Groom Mine, which was the only mine of note in the district, and was working the property. By 1915, the mine had been leased to a Mr. McCormack.
The lease system of mining was a southern Nevada development. It was developed at Austin and Tonopah, but was most successfully used at Goldfield. The lease system worked to bring resources to bear on known claims. A company was incorporated similar to a mining company, but its only resource was a lease, usually from six months to a year, on a known mine. Sometimes stock was issued.
The lease company would pay the owners of the mine from 20% to 25% in royalties, and could expect significant returns if the mine was successful. Over the course of the boom in Goldfield, over 100 lease companies were active operating the mines. Sometimes there would be more than one company working different parts of a claim.
The system was successful in Goldfield because of the geology of the area. Ore deposits, when located, tended to be rich, but played out quickly. Some of the leasers were never successful. In at least one case, the Reilly lease on the Florence mine, the leasers were unsuccessful until the last 90 days of the lease, when they located a rich deposit, and shipped over $900,000 in gold to California.
Unfortunately, the Groom Mining District was not so lucky. There were few leasers in the Groom District. The euphonious Groom Mine was leased by the previously mentioned Mr. MacCormack, and James Kelly, who ran a restaurant in Las Vegas, had four leasers on his claim. MacCormack only held his lease until 1917, when the owners took over the mine again.
Most of the problems, apart from the poor quality of the ore from the mine, which assayed only $10 to $65 a ton, were due to the isolated conditions of the location. In January 1917, rains washed out roads and damaged equipment. Weather again was a problem in March 1917, though in this case it was the level of snow on the ground. Only two carloads of lead-silver ore could be shipped during the week, which was not sufficient to make a profit on the mine.
In May the weather was again a problem. Miners were laid off, because the caterpillar tractor which was used to haul ore from Groom to the railroad siding at Indian Springs had to be sent to Salt lake City for repairs. Though a Packard truck was pressed into service, it could not haul what the Caterpillar could. Nonetheless, it did haul four tons of ore back and forth, making the round trip in 18 hours, rather than the normal 24.
New mines were opened in 1917, in the midst of the World War I mining boom. The Groom South End Mining Company had property adjoining the Groom Mine's property, and the Black Metal Mine, nearby, produced a lead ore called Black Galena.
The need for war metals led to some short-term success. An article in the June 30, 1917 Las Vegas Age noted the cordial nature of the relations between the various owners of the Groom Mine.
"We are informed that the various interests in the property are working together in entire harmony and that the mine will henceforth be developed on a large and permanent scale. The Groom has been very profitable during the past year or two in spite of the distance from the railroad."
The upbeat attitude of this article did not last. While the mines were operating throughout World War I, they produced about $250,000 worth of ore. But 1918 brought a double blow to the district. The end of the war meant that all military contracts would be cancelled into 1919, and, perhaps more importantly, the nearest railroad closed.
This was the Las Vegas and Tonopah, which had a stop at Indian Springs. All of the ore from the Groom district was being shipped overland to Indian Springs, and then loaded onto the LV & T. Unfortunately, the LV & T was without access to the maintenance yards of either the Union Pacific shops in Las Vegas or the Tonopah and Goldfield because of wartime problems with manpower. Coupled with the fact that the line was not making money, and J. Ross Clark, brother of Senator William Clark, with whom he had funded the railroad, decided to stop all operations.
The Groom Mine was among those who protested the closure of the rail line, but their protests, along with those of the marble quarry at Carrara, fell on deaf ears, and the railroad closed.
With this double blow, the cost to ship ore became too high to make money, and by the next year the district was, to all intents and purposes, dead. Some small-scale mining efforts continued into the early 1920s, but none were successful.
The Groom Mine and the Groom Mining District was a part of history.
The name, however, lived on. The mountain range where the mine was located was named the Groom Range, and at its southwestern edge, a dry lakebed was named the Groom Lake. The lake and mountain range was withdrawn from public use during World War II for use as part of the Las Vegas Army Air Field gunnery and bombing range.
Even more notable, with the rise of the Cold War, an area was needed for testing our ever bigger and more sophisticated atomic, hydrogen and thermonuclear bombs. The Nevada Test Site was a good location, and continued to be off limits. The area, which included the Groom Mountains and Groom (Dry) Lake, is still officially part of the Nellis gunnery range.
However, it was the need for an area for testing the U-2 that brought the Groom (Dry) Lake into prominence in the annals of all conspiracy and military historians. Lockheed's engineers decided that the Groom Lake was perfect for testing the U-2 about 1955, and built the first temporary structures at the site.
As they years have gone on, the temporary structures have become a permanent base where many of the cutting edge aircraft developed for our government are first tested. Because of the secrecy of the site, it is also claimed as the site where any random crashed UFOs are taken and reverse engineered. Whether this is the case, I leave for each Clamper to decide on his own.
Many of the then-secret aircraft first tested at the lake are know known as cutting edge designs. These include the U-2 High Altitude Reconnaissance aircraft, the A-12 and SR-71 and all their variants, the F-117 Stealth Fighter, The Tacit Blue Stealth Demonstration aircraft, and various unmanned aerial vehicles, such as the Predators being used in Afghanistan and Iraq today.
None the less, the Groom Mining District and the less-than-successful Groom Mine live on in the annals as the source for the name of the Groom (Dry) Lake, though the site has been know also as Dreamland, Watertown, Paradise Ranch or The Ranch, Home Base, and Homey Airport.
A short bibliography:
Anonymous, Metal and Nonmetal Occurrences in Nevada, Dec. 1, 1932, University of Nevada, Reno
Carlson, Helen S., Nevada Place Names; A Geographical Dictionary, 1975, University of Nevada
Las Vegas Age newspaper, 1908-1924, various articles
Lincoln, Francis Church, Mining Districts and mineral Resources of Nevada, 1923, Nevada Newsletter Publishing Company
Myrick, David F., Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, 1992, University of Nevada Press
Pahor, Stanley W., Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, 1984, Nevada Publications
Return to Queho Posse Home Page