Keane Wonder Mine – “King of the Desert”

The Keane Wonder Mine is perhaps the most visited gold mining facility in Death Valley National Park in eastern California. Mining operations began in December 0f 1903 by Jack Keane. Keane and his partner Domingo Etcharren while Keane was prospecting in the Chloride Cliffs of the Funeral mountains. The names was originally called “Keane’s Wonder” when gold and silver were found.

Keane Wonder Mine - 1916 - Quartz mill. Mine said to have produced $1,000,000. Closed May 1916 as the developed ore bodies were worked out.
Keane Wonder Mine – 1916 – Quartz mill. Mine said to have produced $1,000,000. Closed May 1916 as the developed ore bodies were worked out.

Trying to raise capital, Keane and Etharren sold options to Joseph DeLamar from New York. Despite modest gold production, DeLamar quite his claims. It was not until 1906 when Homer Wilson and John Campbell bought into the mine that operations really starting producing. Homer Wilson was also involved in founding nearby Chloride City.

1907 saw the full operations in place. Operationally, the mine build a tramway up into the mountains, which was used to haul 70 tons of gold rich ore each day. The tramway climbed into the mountains over 1500 feet in elevation and was over one mile long.

The Keane Wonder mine survived the Panic of 1907. Operationally, the lack of water and high desert heat caused the mine to operated in the cooler air of the desert night. The mine continued until 1912, when it was sold and subsequently closed.

The Keane Wonder Mine was included in the founding of Death Valley National Monument. The popular site was closed to visitors by the NPS in 2008 over fears of collapse of underground tunnels, toxins and the structural stability of the cables used in the tramway. The location was opened to the public again in 2017.

Today, the aerial tramway, stamp mill, storage containers and assorted artifacts litter the grounds.

Resources

Keane Wonder Mine Trail Map

Leadfield California – A Death Valley Ghost Town

Leadfield California is a ghost town located in Inyo County and Death Valley National Park and found on the Titus Canyon Trail. The town boom in 1925 and 1926, however, Leadfield is a town that was started on fraud and deceit.

Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California

According to Legend and an article in Desert Magazine, and shameless promoter C. C. Julian wandered into Titus Canyon and started blasting tunnels. He then discovered lead ore which he purchased and brought down from Tonopah, Nevada. Julian then produced maps and other promotional materials and found investors from the East coast. The town of Leadfield was born and died on the imagination of this one man.

Photograph of an exterior view of the Leadfield Hotel in Death Valley's Titus Canyon, [s.d.]. The hotel is a simple wooden structure with a slanted roof and a rectangular façade. The upper left corner of the façade is missing, revealing the interior of the building. Three large rectangular windows and two doors alternate across the front of the building. There are three people standing on a caved-in porch in front of the hotel. A large rocky mountain rises up behind the hotel. The hotel was part of C. C. Julian's Leadfield boomtown, the hey day of which was in 1925. Photo Credit “University of Southern California. Libraries” and “California Historical Society” as the source. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library.
Photograph of an exterior view of the Leadfield Hotel in Death Valley’s Titus Canyon, [s.d.]. The hotel is a simple wooden structure with a slanted roof and a rectangular façade. The upper left corner of the façade is missing, revealing the interior of the building. Three large rectangular windows and two doors alternate across the front of the building. There are three people standing on a caved-in porch in front of the hotel. A large rocky mountain rises up behind the hotel. The hotel was part of C. C. Julian’s Leadfield boomtown, the hey day of which was in 1925. Photo Credit “University of Southern California. Libraries” and “California Historical Society” as the source. Digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library.

The truth of the tale is not quite as interesting or spectacular. According the the National Park Service, Leadfield ore was first worked in 1905. During the Bullfrog boom, which took place outside of Beatty, prospectors worked the land looking for the next big hit. In the fall of 1905, nine mine sights were identified and claimed by W. H. Seaman and Curtis Durnford. The ore from these sites was assayed in Rhyolite at $40 per ton. The men bought out a local consortium and the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company was incorporated which released promotional material and sold shares for 2.5 cents each.

The mine and its ore did produce, however the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company soon discovered that the expense of hauling the ore to Rhyolite and then the frieght costs to ship the material to smelters further off caused the ore to be not profitable. After six months of operation the Death Valley Colisidated Mining Company disappeared.

C. C. Julian
C. C. Julian

Despite early failures, in March of 1924 three prospectors wandered into the canyon and staked several claims. Ben Chambers, L. Christensen and Frank Metts worked their claims of lead ore for over one year before selling the claims to John Salsberry. Mr. Salsberry saw enough promise to form the Western Lead Mines Company and started to raise capital via stock sales at $0.10 per share. By the end of 1925, the Western Lead Mines Company was working 50 claims in the valley and soon began in invest in infastructure in the form of a compressor plant. A long steep road was constructed for LeadField to the Beatty Highway.

In early 1926, the Western Lead Mines Company build a boarding house and piped in water from a nearby spring. The town of Leadfield was named officially January 30th, 1926. Stock from the Western Lead Mines Company went on sale in January and within a 24 hour period, 40,000 share of stock were sold at $1.57 per share.

In February 1926 it became known to the public that C. C. Julian purchase shares and was now President of Western Lead Mines Company. Almost immediately the California State Corporation Commission began an investigation into the stock sale because a permit was not granted for the stock sale. The promoter went to work, along with several other mine operations, raise interest and money for the town. City plans were filed with Inyo County, however the spectre of investigation loomed.

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

Despite the arrival of a post office, investment into the location, and hundreds of feet of tunnel, C. C. Julian was ordered to cease sale of stock by the California State Corporation Commission. Around the same time, the primary tunnel of the Western Lead Mines Company penetrated to the ledge which experts predicted the highest quality ore. This ore was assayed at 2% and far too low for profit considered freight costs.

"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

Leadfield and the surrounding mines where gone months later. Mr. Julian was blamed despite the facts that he did not start the venture, there was ore at the location, and he invested money and time towards the venture. Once his Leadfield venture faltered, he moved onto to Oklahoma and was caught up in yet another scam. Julian later fled the country for Shanghai in March of 1933 m where he committed suicide in 1923 after several more failed schemes. Julian was buried in a beggers coffin and his funeral was attended by nine people.

Mr. Julian is responsible for the road through Titus Canyon, which many is a favorite route of visitors every year.

Leadfield Sign, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Sign, Death Valley, California

For a detailed history, the NPS offers a great article.

Leadfield Town Summary

NameLeadfield
LocationInyo County, Death Valley, California
Latitude, Longitude36.8466107,-117.0592307
GNIS1658952
Elevation4000 feet
Newspaper Leadfield Chronicle ( 192?-19?? )

Further Reading

Leadfield Map

Resources

Atolia California – San Bernardino County Ghost Town

Atolia is a ghost town and tungsten mine located in the Mojave Desert in northwestern San Bernardino County, California. The town is located just off the scenic 395 highway near Randsberg, California.

Atolia and mine in the Mojave Desert, circa 1908 postcard.
Atolia and mine in the Mojave Desert, circa 1908 postcard.

The town’s named was created from the combination for two mining company officials, Atkins and DeGolia, The site started as a tungsten mine in 1905. The town peaked around the time of World War II, when it is known as the largest producer of tungsten in the world. Despite this honor growth is hindered and the town is overshadowed by towns producing more glamorous metals such as gold and siler. Tungsten is a common component used to harden steel alloys. Prior to World War II, Germany is one of Atolia’s largest customers, when their trade access is severed with the formation of British Blockades.

Not to be outdone, the Germans developed cargo submarines known as U-Boats to run the blockade. On July 9th, 1916 the German U-Boat “Deutschland” arrived in Baltimore, Maryland to be loaded with tungsten from Atolia. The town reached a population of 2,000 people during World War I. Following the great war, demand for tungsten plummeted along with its price. The price dropped caused the tungsten mines for close.

There was a brief resurgence in Atolia during World War II, when demand for hardened steel opened the mines again for a brief moment in time.

Atolia Town Map

Town Summary

NameAtolia California
LocationMojave Desert, San Bernardino County, California
Latitude, Longitude35.3147387,-117.6170878
GNIS1660280
Elevation3,280 Feet
Population2,000
Post Office1906 – 1922, 1927 – 1944

References

The Lucky Day Mine

The Lucky Day Mine is a gold and copper mine located in San Bernardino, California and once owned by Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp is probably to most infamous gun fighter and law man who worked all across the western United States including Alaska.

Wyatt and Josephine Earp in the Lucky Day Mine mining camp near Vidal, California: This is the only confirmed picture of the two of them together.
Wyatt and Josephine Earp in the Lucky Day Mine mining camp near Vidal, California: This is the only confirmed picture of the two of them together.
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Potholes California – Colorado River Streamship Landing

Potholes California is a former gold mining camp and ghost town located in Imperial County, California. The town is located on the western side of the Colorado River near the present day Laguna Dam. The location was first mined by Spanish Miners in 1871. These early workings and miners were lost during the Yuma War, 1850 – 1853.

Potholes California
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