Leadfield California

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.

On first sight of Leadfield, my son yelled "Dad, get the tool box.  We need to fix this town!"
On first sight of Leadfield, my son yelled “Dad, get the tool box. We need to fix this town!”

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.

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

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.

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.

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. 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 Map


Skidoo California

Skidoo California was famous in the first decade of the 20th century when gold had been found in Inyo County and the town established in 1905. The towns existence was support by the output and economy driven by the gold mines. Within a decade the town was left deserted abandoned. At this time few structures remain and access to the mines are closed to prevent accidents.

Skidoo, CA 1907
Skidoo California, 1907

Right here on the border line between California and Nevada, just a few miles from arid within speaking distance of Nevada’s big, bonanza gold camps of Goldfield, Rhyolite, Tonopah, California promises to give birth to the most wonderful gold mines America has yet produced . . . . Here the golden goddess is again singing her siren song of enchantment and California is again beckoning to the world with a finger of gold: and the world is listening, and looking, and coming–TO SKIDOO!

Rhyolite Herald, 4 January 1907

Skidoo, originally known as Hoveck, is typical of mining towns, which flourished so long as the mines continued to produce. The small town of Hoveck was named for Matt Hoveck, who managed the Skidoo mine. The town was named Skidoo in 1907. The name Skidoo was derived from the slang phrase “23 Skidoo” which was quite popular at this time.

	Cook's horse-drawn wagon at Death Valley's gold mining camp, Skiddo.
Cook’s horse-drawn wagon at Death Valley’s gold mining camp, Skiddo.

The Skidoo Mine operated from 1906 and 1917. During operation the mine produced about 75,000 ounces of gold, which would have been worth about 1.6 million dollars. The mill in Skidoo was the only desert mill which operated complete using water. The water to power the mill was piped in from Telescope Peak was a feat of engineering and work of this still scars the landscape.

The Skidoo Mine is located 65 miles north of Trona, California, at
6500 ft. elevation. The property was established in 1906; the mill
erected in 190?. The mill burned and was reconstructed in 1913.
Owner: Skidoo Mines Co., Skidoo, CA. C. W. Cross, president, and
Crynski , superintendent .

Two systems of quartz veins occur in a pegmatite granite. The main
vein system strikes M-SE and the other E~W. The veins average from
18″ to 2 ‘ in width, with a maximum of 4’.

The ore is free milling and values average about $15.00 per ton. Ore
is hauled to the mill through tunnels. The mill equipment consists
of: ten 850-lb. stamps, five 1150-lb. stamps and amalgamation tables.
Table tailings run to the cyanide plant and precipitated in zinc boxes.
The mill is operated by water conveyed in an 8″ pipeline 21 miles
from Telescope Peak. The pipe was installed at a cost of over $200,000
35 men were employed at the mine mill. Total production to date over

California State Mining Bureau’s “Report of State Mineralogist,” 1915-16, Report XV:
Rare Air Photograph of Skidoo California Taken from the air in 1923
Rare Air Photograph of Skidoo California Taken from the air in 1923

The remains of the town of Skidoo are located within Death Valley National Monument and Inyo County.

The fifteen-stamp mill built by the Skidoo Mines Company is a rare surviving example of an early 20th-century gravity-feed system for separating gold from its ore.

Skidoo Trail Map


Ballarat California

Ballarat, California - Marriedtofilm at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Malafaya using CommonsHelper.
Ballarat, California

Located in Inyo County, Ballarat California is a ghost town which supposedly has a few residents living their dream within the town. Ballarat is located in the Panamint Mountain range just off the Trona Wilderness Road and sough of highway 190.

As early as 1849, the area served as a watering hole known as Post Office Springs. Prospectors and travelers alike would stop for water in the hot and dry Mojave Desert.

The town of Ballarat was founded in 1897 and named for Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, by an Australian immigrant George Riggins. Ballarat Clifornia was originally founded as a supply point for the mines Panamint Mountains and surrounding area. A blacksmith shop and store supported this efforts.

Within a year of the founding, the towns population stabilized at about 500 residents. Three hotels, seven saloons, a school, jail and morgue all served this outpost along with a post office and Wells Fargo station. The town site featured few natural resources and had to be shipped into the remote location. Adobe bricks were used as the primary building material.

The town was relatively lawless and was mostly filled with hard working miners looking for relaxation and an opportunity to blow off steam. The saloons and a population of prostitutes were supported by Ballarat.

The town began to fail following the closure of the Radcliff Mine in 1903. Despite supporting other mining towns like Harrisberg, as the gold played out, so did the fortunes of Ballarat, which closed the post office in 1917. “Shorty” Harris, along with a few other prospectors continued to live in and around the town site for decades after the closure. The last of these die hard prospectors, “Seldom Seen Slim” died in 1968.

“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California
“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California

Time has taken its tole on the builds of the adobe buildings. Wind and water are literally melting the builds back into the desert.

Today, Ballarat is the subject of a few odd television shows and again made headline with the Ballarat Bandit camped around Ballarat and Death Valley.

Harrisburg California

Harrisburg California is a ghost town is located at 4987 feet above sea level in Inyo County and currently part of Death Valley National Park. Originally, the town was to be know as Harrisberry combining the names of Frank Harris and Pete Aguereberry after the two men discovered gold at the location in 1905.

"Shorty" Harris founder of Harrisburg Ghost Town, photographed in Ballarat.
“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat.

It is reported that “Shorty” Harris met Pete Aguereberry in Furnace Creek in July 1905. During the scorching hot summer months, the two men pared up and set off to do some prospecting in the cooler temperatures of the higher elevations of the Panamint Mountains. Upon reaching a plateau, now Harrisberg Flats, the two men began searching a rock outcropping.

A piece of rock which was chipped off the north side of a long low ledge, upon inspection by the seasoned prospector, was found to contain free gold. There is some question as to which of two men, actually found the initial claim. The two man continued on the Wildrose spring for water, and upon their return divided up the out croppings between them and each staked their claim.

The camp was named “Harrisberry”, which was a combination of their two names. Shorty Harris was emphasized to exploit his notarity and promote the camp for investors. The two men split up and headed down to Ballarat. In Ballarat, Shorty spred the news of his new find. Upon returning to their claim, the newest gold rush in Death Valley was on. Aguereberry had to reclaim his sites by persuasion and force.

Cashier Mill ruin and Pete Aguereberry, 1916. From Dane Coolidge Collection,
Cashier Mill ruin and Pete Aguereberry, 1916. From Dane Coolidge Collection,

By August 1905, Harrisberry was boasting 20 different outfits within 3 miles of the initial strike. The mining ledge found supporting the Wildrose mining district, Emigrant Springs and the the future town of Skidoo.

As was common with gold strikes, growth in Harrisberry was fast. The population of the camp was 300 strong in September and 200 claims. The cooler temperatures further expected to drain the populations of Ballarat, Darwin and nearby Rhyolite and triple the population of Harrisberry. Both Harris and Arguereberry sought outside investors and soon the Cashier Mining Company was formed with capital investment.

A prolific story teller and colorful character, Shorty Harris started referring to his new town has “Harrisburg” while on a trip to Rhyolite. Each retelling of the story further cemented the towns name as Harrisburg. Eventually the mines production faltered and the venture failed. Aguereberry continued to work the area until his death in 1945.

There are no remains of the Harrisburg California town. The site was essentially a tent city.

Greenwater California

In 1904, a copper strike near Greenwater Spring and ensuing rush to profit caused the formation of Greenwater in Inyo County, California. Originally known by two other names, Kunze and Ramsey, the merger of these two small towns led to the formation of Greenwater in 1906.

Greenwater Mining District, CA 1906
Greenwater Mining District, CA 1906

The discovery of gold in Rhyolite triggered a flood of prospecting and brought civilization closer to this remote area of Death Valley. This waver of prospecting found many small mining camps spring into the area and Greenwater was just a town.

Greenwater California 1907
Greenwater California 1907

Greenwater was a short lived venture. The tent city grew to a population of of about 1,000 people. Although the town contained about a dozen saloons, water needed to be transport in and cost $15 / barrel. Despite newspaper promotions at the time and financial backing of investors, the town began to falter in 1907 due to lack of profits.

Greenwater California
Greenwater California

Today, very little remains can be found in Greenwater California. Like many mining towns of its day, the population lived in hastily assembled canvas sided tents. It is easy to imaging, the town literally packing up their tents and moving on the the next great boom.

[mapsmarker marker=”8″]