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

Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim” – A Ballarat Prospector

Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim"
Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim”

Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim” is the last of the known prospectors who lived in the town of Ballarat located in Death Valley National Park, California.

Seldom Seen Slim, named Charles Ferge, was born in Illinois on October 21st 1881. Slim came to Ballarat sometime between 1913 and 1917 not long after the town was abandoned by the miners seeking their fortunes elsewhere.

Ferge became the last resident of Ballarat and had a reputation as a recluse with a cantankerous side. He survived in one of the harshest landscapes living on his own in his town of Ballarat. It is said that he lived in every remaining building of the ghost town. His focus was mining and he just needed enough money to survive as a desert prospector. Slim only needed enough money to buy necessities of food, tobacco for his pipe, water, gas for his car and clothes.

When the water source in Ballarat dried up due to a dropping water table, Slim would haul water into the town using jugs from other sources miles away. The scarcity of water would only allow the man to bathe a few times per year.

While is is the sole citizen of Ballarat, the town had no running water, no electricity or any other services He became an unofficial curator for the ghost town. Slim would often tell stories to visitors and sell them souvenirs of gold ore.

Seldom Seen Slim died of cancer in 1968 in Trona, California. He is buried on “Boot Hill” in Ballarat and his greave is a popular place to stop.

Me lonely? Hell no! I’m half coyote and half wild burro.

Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim”

References

Skidoo California – Inyo County Ghost Town

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
$1,500,000,

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.

Town Summary

NameSkidoo
LocationInyo County, California
Latitude, Longitude36.4355016, -117.1475604
GNIS1656631
Elevation5689 ft / 1734 m
NewspaperSkidoo News

Skidoo Trail Map

Resouces

Ballarat California – Inyo County Ghost Town

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 main mine, the Radcliffe, produced 15,000 tons or more of ore from 1898 to 1903. From 1927 to 1942 its tailings were cyanided with a reported recovery value of one quarter of a million dollars in gold. 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.

In 1941 the Ballarat Mining and Milling Corporation, a Nevada company, bought property in the Slate and Panamint ranges in San Bernardino and Inyo counties. A Los Angeles company intended to make exhaustive metallurgical tests, paving the way for a projected modern fifty-ton reduction mill south of town to perform custom work. An assay office and metallurgical laboratory were to be part of the complex, and once again Ballarat would see a resurgence of mining activity.

“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.

Ballarat Personalities

Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim"

Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim” – A Ballarat Prospector

Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim" Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim" is the last of the known prospectors who lived in the town of Ballarat located…
Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

Frank Harris was a prospector, desert rat and perhaps the best known character in western mining history. He looked the part, often travelling the desert…
Pete Aguereberry

Pete Aguereberry – A Panamint Valley Miner

Pete Aguereberry was a prospector and miner who operated around Death Valley National Park, for whom Aguereberry is named. Born in the Basque Region of…

References

Harrisburg California – Inyo County Ghost Town

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.

Harrisburg Summary

TownHarrisburg
LocationDeath Valley National Park, California
Also Known asHarrisberry
Latitude, Longitude36.363889, -117.111389
Elevation4,987
Post Office
Population300

Harrisburg Trail Map

Harrisburg Personalities

Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

Frank Harris was a prospector, desert rat and perhaps the best known character in western mining history. He looked the part, often travelling the desert…
Pete Aguereberry

Pete Aguereberry – A Panamint Valley Miner

Pete Aguereberry was a prospector and miner who operated around Death Valley National Park, for whom Aguereberry is named. Born in the Basque Region of…