Asa Merton Russell “Panamint Russ” 

Asa Russell, also known as “Panamint Russ”, was a prospector and mine owner is the Butte Valley Area of Death Valley National Park, California.

Asa Merton Russell "Panamint Russ" in front of the Geologist cabin - Courtesy of Desert Magazine April 1955
Asa Russell “Panamint Russ” in front of the Geologist cabin – Courtesy of Desert Magazine April 1955

Russell started his mining career in the 1930 working in the Butte Valley area of the Panamint Mountains. The miner found gold high up the side of old Manly and began mining operation. Asa Merton Russell first established a camp, known as “Russell’s Camp” for his mining operations and registered several claims in the area from 1933 to 1947. Russell developed the springs nearby into a water source to supply the camp with drinking water, irrigation for trees and even vines of Concord Grapes. A five hundred gallon water tank is added to the system in the late 1950’s or 1960’s

The concord grapes are doing well, too. Twenty-five years ago coming through Riverside, California, I stopped at a nursery and bought a half dozen bare-root size, wrapped them in a newspaper, laid them on the running board with a wet gunny sack and today they are 20 feet of beauty.

Life on the Desert – by Panamint Russ – Desert Magazine, April, 1955

Asa Merton Russell retired from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in May of 1960. This event probably coincided with the previously mentioned 500-gallon water tank and water system expansion. Upon his retirement, Russ moved full time to his “Russell’s Camp” located on the site of the Ten Spot Mill. The miner operated his “Lucky Strike” mine from 1930 to 1974.

References

Courtney Chauncey Julian

Courtney Chauncey Julian
C. C. Julian

Courtney Chauncey Julian, C. C. Julian, was a businessman and shameless promoter who’s business dealings forced him to flee to California for China. He is noteworthy in his dealing in Death Valley National Park for his promotion of the town of Leadfield. After numerous court battles, he fled to Shanghai, China where he is poisoned or committed suicide.

C.C. Julian launched a newspaper blitz promoting his Julian Petroleum Corporation in 1923. The promotional blitz formed the basis for a ponzi scheme for investment into the JPC. The scandal became known as the “Julian Pete Scandal”. By 1927, it is estimated that Julian sold four million dollars in stock, which was stolen from his investors. Others estimate the value of the scheme at over eight million.

Drama followed the man, as he received death threats, however the nature of this threat is never resolved. It was reported by the United Press on Jan 4, 1924, that gun shots are fired threw the windows of his $100,000.00 house in Hollywood.

Perhaps one of his wierdest altercations came with famed film star Charles Chaplin. Just weeks after the shooting, Julian literally bumped into a table where Chaplin was eating at Club Petrouschka in Hollywood. A fight ensured and Chaplin got the better of Julian and knocked him out.

As one would expect from a thief, Julian had assets seized, by Collector of Internal Revenue, of $250,000.00 in cash and securities for failure to file is earnings from 1919-1923. He is able to maintain his house because it is deeded by his wife.

Julian at the Western Lead Mine located in Leadfield, California - Photo Los Angeles Times
Julian at the Western Lead Mine located in Leadfield, California – Photo Los Angeles Times

The end of Julian Petroleum Corporation stated in 1925. Julian sold his interest in the company to Sheridan C. (S.C.) Lewis and Jacob Berman for the sum on $500,000.00. The following year the company merged with California-Eastern Oil Company. An internal audit revealed the company had issued 4,200,000 unauthorized shares of stock. On May 5, 1927, the Los Angeles Stock Exchange halted trading in Julian Petroleum.

In 1931, Julian was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in Oklahoma. He jumped bail and fled to country for Shanghai, China. Courtney Chauncey Julian is found dead of suicide in March, 1934.

"The Last Days of C. C. Julian," Los Angeles Times, 29 Sept. 1935
“The Last Days of C. C. Julian,” Los Angeles Times, 29 Sept. 1935

This town was the brain child of C. C. Julian, who could have sold ice to an Eskimo. He wandered into Titus Canyon with money on his mind. He blasted some tunnels and liberally salted them with lead ore he had brought from Tonopah. Then he sat down and drew up some enticing, maps of the area. He moved the usually dry and never deep Amargosa River miles from its normal bed.

He drew pictures of ships steaming up the river hauling out the bountiful ore from his mines. Then he distributed handbills and lured Eastern promoters into investing money. Miners flocked in at the scent of a big strike and dug their hopeful holes. They built a few shacks. Julian was such a promoter he even conned the U. S. Government into building a post office here. 

Desert Magazine – 1971 – Betty J. Tucker

References

Jackson Lee Davis “Diamondfield Jack”

Jackson Lee “Diamondfield Jack” Davis who was pardoned for murder in Idaho and moved to Nevada where he founded several mining camps. Davis was a hired gun who worked for the cattlemen “protecting” cattle herds and their grazing land from sheep famers.

Jackson Lee "Diamondfield Jack" Davis (12 Aug 1863–2 Jan 1949)
Jackson Lee “Diamondfield Jack” Davis (12 Aug 1863–2 Jan 1949)

In 1895, Davis is hired by the Sparks-Harrell cattle company to keep the sheepherders off of the grazing lands. After an altercation where Davis wounded Bill Tolman in a shooting. Following this incident, he fled south to Nevada to star or of sight. While in Nevada, Davis is known to brad about his exploits.

In February, 1896, Davis returned to Idaho and returned to work for Sparks-Harrell in Idaho. During this time, two sheepherders, Daniel Cummings and John Wilson, are shot and killed. Due to he previous bragging and his being in the area at the time, Davis became a suspect. Davis fled to Arizona and is eventually captured. Upon his capture, he is returned to Idaho, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for of the shooting.

DiamondField Nevada  - 1904 - Paher
DiamondField Nevada – 1904 – Paher

keep the sheep back. Don’t kill but shoot to wound if necessary. Use what measures you think best. If you have to kill, the company will stand behind you – regardless what happens.

While “Diamondfield Jack” is waiting his execution, two other men, James Bower and Jeff Gray, confess to the killing. During their trial, the two men are found not guilty. Regardless, this trial raised doubt as to the trial and Davis is reprieved one day before his scheduled execution.

Following a series of appeals, Davis is again scheduled for execution on July 3rd, 1901. At this point in time, public opinion no longer supported the death penalty. His execution is rescheduled until the Board of Pardons commutes his sentence to life in prisons. Davis is eventually pardoned on December 17th, 1902.

Following his release, Davis moved south into Nevada. In the spring of 1903, when news of promising gold strikes in Goldfield, Davis travelled to the town. After exploring and prospecting he uncovered promising ore ledges on McMahon Ridge northeast of town.

Within weeks of his discovery, prospectors flooded into the area. “Diamondfield Jack”, ever the opportunist plotted a townsite for the location and build a toll road to the new town from Goldfield. In the fall of 1904, the town reached its apex. At that time, it boasted a Post Office, three saloons, restaurants, general stores, schools, church, livery, butcher shop, blacksmith and union hall for the miners, which is impressive for a town just six months old. Public servants such as a sheriff, notary public and lawyer also maintained offices in the new formed district.

Nevada State Historic Marker #251 Text

This historical marker commemorates the lasting notoriety of flamboyant western gunman Jackson Lee Davis (1870-1949), who was better known by the colorful name, “Diamondfield Jack.” As a young man, after unsuccessfully prospecting for diamonds in the nearby hills, Davis was jokingly called “Diamondfield Jack,” a nickname that he carried the rest of his life.

In the late 1890’s, Davis gained a measure of fame as a gunman for the cattle interests, including rancher John Sparks, who would later become a Nevada governor, that were attempting to restrict sheep ranchers from southern Idaho and northeastern Nevada rangelands. Following a sensational trial in 1896, Davis was convicted of murdering two sheepherders. He was sentenced to be hanged, even after others confessed to the murders.

In 1902, Davis was finally pardoned for the crimes. He moved to the central Nevada mining towns of Tonopah and Goldfield, where he became a successful mine operator. He also helped found several mining camps, including one called Diamondfield. In later years, he drifted into obscurity and died in Las Vegas in 1949 after being struck by a car.

Nevada State Historic Marker #251 Summary

Nevada State Historic Marker251
NameDiamondfield Jack Davis
LocationElko County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude41.98471, -114.67209

Resources

Carl Mengel – Panamint Valley Miner

Carl Mengel was a prospector and miner in Panamint Valley, located in Death Valley National Park, California. He lost a leg in a mining accident, and continued to mine. He is the namesake for Mengel Pass in the Panamint Range. His ashes and prosthetic leg are buried on top of Mengel Pass in Death Valley National Park.

Carl Mengel with dog "Whitey at his home in Butte Valley, April 1940. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.
Carl Mengel with dog “Whitey at his home in Butte Valley, April 1940. Photo courtesy of DEVA NM.

Carl Mengel was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1868. After various attempts at mining, farming, and fishing for a living, Mengel moved the Butte Valley region of Death Valley in the early 1900s. He is said to have purchased the Oro Fino Claim in Goler Wash in 1912, and later found even richer deposits there

Mengel was an early prospector in the Butte Valley area and contemporary and friend of such well-known Death Valley personalities as Shorty Harris and Pete Aguereberry. The site is located about one-half mile south of Anvil Spring and commands a grand view over Butte Valley toward the Amargosa Range on the east side of the salt pan.

.In October 1924 Mengel filed on several claims south and west of Anvil Spring: Topah Numbers. 1-4, Topah Extension, and Mah Jongg Numbers. 1-6. He died in 1944 and his ashes were put in a stone cairn atop Mengel Pass approximately fifty feet outside the boundary of Death Valley National Monument.

After his death the claims located by Mengel in Butte Valley underwent numerous resales through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The Topaz (Topah) Extension, Topaz (Topah) No. 1, and part of the Topaz (Topah) Extension claims were later amended and located as the Greater View Springs, Greater View Springs No. 1, and Greater View Springs Millsite, respectively.

References

 Albert Mussey Johnson – Death Valley Ranch Owner

Albert Mussey Johnson
Albert Mussey Johnson

Albert Mussey Johnson (1872 – 1948) was a businessman and investor who received notoriety as the millionaire, who built “Scotty’s Castle” in Death Valley, California. He was born into a Quaker family n Oberlin Ohio and attended Cornell University to study engineering.

Johnson borrowed a sum of $40,000 from his father and invested in some mining operations in Joplin, Missouri. This initial investment returned five hundred percent dur to a zinc boom. Albert travelled across Utah and Colorado, in December if 1899, with his father looking for investment opportunities in power production or mining ventures. While on this trip, the father and son team are involved in a rail accident which kills his fater and leaves Albert bedridden with a broken back.

Johnson eventually recovered from his broken back but he suffered with chronic medical issues and walked with a noticeable limp. This injury caused Johnson to focus his professional efforts in economic investment pursuits. He pursue relationships with his fathers partners and soon built up a career as a vice president of the Arkansas Midland Railroad and later the president of the North American Cold Storage Company.

In 1904, Walter Scott AKA Death Valley Scotty ran into Johnson while Scotty is looking for new investors for his gold mines in Death Valley, California. Scott was a conman who would defraud investors of this infamous gold mines. Despite no return on is investment, Johnson continued to send Scott’s ventures.

Death Valley Scotty and the Johnsons
Death Valley Scotty and the Johnsons

Johnson first visited Death Valley in 1906 to tour Scott’s Gold Mines. The two became embroiled in the Battle of Wingate Pass, where Scott’s brother is shot in the groin. This injury forced a retreat from Death Valley. Johnson did not return to Death Valley for another three years. In 1909, he returned to the valley seeking to visit the mines in which he invested. It is said the dry air was a benefit to Johnson’s health. For whatever the reason, Johnson began purchasing land. Johnson purchased about 1500 acres of land. The Steininger Ranch was the most important parcel. Nestled in a spring-fed verdant valley, this was soon to be the site of the Death Valley Ranch.

Scotty's Castle located in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.
Scotty’s Castle located in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.

In 1922, Johnson started building Scotty’s castle as a vacation home.  When the size and scope of the property was realized, people assumed Scotty used the proceeds for his gold mine to pay for the Ranch.  Scotty, ever the promoter did nothing to correct the record and soon The Johnson’ vacation home.

Due to its remote location, the Death Valley Ranch needed to maintain its own power station and water supply and evaporation cooling system. Despite the conditions, Scotty’s Castle boasts a 1,121 pipe theater organ, fountains, clock tower and a massive unfinished swimming pool.

The stock market crash impacted Johnson’s fortune. He was not able to complete the Death Valley Ranch.

References