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

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 France on Oct. 18, 1874, Jean Pierre “Pete” Aguereberry sailed to America with his fater in 1890.

Pete Aguereberry
Pete Aguereberry

Aguereberry struggled to learn the English while working an assortment of odd jobs to make a living. He worked as a handball player, sheepherder, cattle driver, milk truck driver, ice delivery man, ranch hand, and stage driver. A a stage driver he found his was to Goldfield, Nevada around 1902.

A few years later, he and fellow miner Frank “Shorty” Harris struck gold at Harrisburg Flats, 55 miles southeast of Lone Pine on July 1, 1905. Aguereberry worked the the northern edge of a ledge, while Harris worked the southern side. Within a month, over 20 different groups were working the area which later became Harrisburg. Aguereberry transformed that claim into the Eureka Mine, which he worked until his death on Nov. 23, 1945 at Tecopa Hot Springs at age 72.

Aguereberry is perhaps best known for the road he built to Aguereberry Point so visitors could enjoy its spectacular view of Death Valley.

Though he wished to be buried at the point in Death Valley, government officials, citing the 1933 monument status of Death Valley, denied his final request. Augereberry’s remains were buried in Lone Pine. A plaque in Lone Pine, California honors the life and memory of Pete Augereberry. Pete is remembered amount friends as a modest, hardworking, honorable man and a true legend of Death Valley.

References

Bullfrog Nevada – Nye County Ghost Town

One of the few remaining structures in Bullfrog, Nevada - Photo by James L Rathbun
One of the few remaining structures in Bullfrog, Nevada – Photo by James L Rathbun

Located at the northern end of Amargosa Desert, Bullfrog is a ghost town in Nye County, Nevada. The Bullfrog mine was discovered on  August 9, 1904 by Frank “Shorty” Harris and Eddie Cross. This discovery lead to many new townsites being platted out in the following seven months. It is said that Ed sold his interest in the claim for $125,000. Shorty Harris claimed to have discovered that he sold him claim during a 6 day celebration. Claims where made for miles surrounding the original mines.

Main Street in Bullfrog Nevada - 1905
Main Street in Bullfrog Nevada – 1905
Frank "Shorty" Harris
Frank “Shorty” Harris

The name Bullfrog was chosen either because Eddie Cross was fond of singing ‘O, the bulldog on the bank and the bullfrog in the pool…’ or due to the ore rich gold ore sample was green and frog-shaped.

Regardless, Bullfrog was the towns name and quickly grew to a population of 1,000. The town supported post offices, newspapers, telephones, hotels, saloons and all of the common businesses which appeared in these dusty destinations in the desert. Advertisements from Los Angeles promoted the town as a new metropolis in Nevada and “The Greatest Gold Camp in the World”.

The formation of the town of Rhyolite led to a brief and wild race for commercial viability and supremacy. By 1906, Rhyolite succeeded and businesses in Bullfrog either closed or moved up to Rhyolite on wagons. Despite this blow, Bullfrog continued on for another three years before its inevitable collapse in 1909.

Bullfrog (eights months old) has post office, express, telegraph and telephone facilities, a $20,000 hotel, a $50,000 water system, a thoroughly equipped pavilion, one of the best equipped banks in the state, an electric light plant in process of construction, a newspaper, population of 1,000

1905 Advertisement – The Los Angeles-Bullfrog Realty & Investment Co.

Today, the town site has little to show of its past. Again, it is superseded to its neighbor up the valley. A small cemetery still exists to mark the lives of those who lived and died there.

Town Summary

NameBullfrog Nevada
LocationNye County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude36.890278, -116.833611
Elevation3,580 Feet
Population1,000
Post Office1905 – 1909
NewspaperBullfrog Miner Mar 31, 1905 – Sept 25, 1909

Bullfrog Nevada Trail Map

Bullfrog 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…

References

Goldbelt Springs

A discovery by the famous prospector “Shorty Harris“, led to the founding on the Goldbelt Springs mining district off Hunter Mountain Road in Death Valley National Park, California. The earliest known occupants of this area were a seven member family Saline Valley Panamint Indians who, despite the higher elevation, would winter in the area.

A sorting screen at the Calmet Mine in the Goldbelt Springs Mining District, Death Valley National Park, California
A sorting screen at the Calmet Mine in the Goldbelt Springs Mining District, Death Valley National Park, California

Gold was discovered in the area, just a few miles away by Frank “Shorty” Harris in the later half of 1904. Following “Shorty”, miners migrated into the area utilizing a route from Ubehebe via Willow Springs. Soon, small claims were staked out on the northwest slope of Hunter Mountain. Harris, L.P. McGarry, E.G. Padgett (Pegot or Paggett), Joseph Simpson, and W.D. Frey were among the first credited with strikes. In January, 1902 the Gold Belt Mining District was established and recorded.

A sign clearly marks the Calmet Mine
A sign clearly marks the Calmet Mine

Initially the site looked good for mining development. There was a water source and fuel to facilitate mining operations. High grade gold ore with small silver veins was discovered on four foot ledges prompted optimism in the sight. The ore was assayed at $8 – $176 or $38 to $240 in gold depending upon the source. On this news, plans for a town were starting to be developed.

A completely flattened structure at Goldbelt Springs, Death Valley, California
A completely flattened structure at Goldbelt Springs, Death Valley, California

In February of 1905, enough capital was available from investors from San Francisco to allowed expanded exploration of the area. Not much is available of this exploration, however by the fall of 1905 and exploration was abandoned. It could be inferred that the ore quantity and quality was not sufficient to justify the expense to those investors.

Regardless, smaller operations continued in the area of Goldbelt Sprints, from 1905 to 1910 including operations by Annetta Rittenhouse of Los Angeles, H.W. Eichbaum of Venice, L.P. McGarry of Pioneer, and W.S. Ball of Rhyolite.

More Ruins near the old mining camp
More Ruins near the old mining camp

In 1916, “Shorty” Harris again road into the area near Hunter Mountain. World War I had increased the price of tungsten. Harris pulling from his previous exploration probably knew of the mineral, and soon found a tungsten mine. By March, he had produce several hundred pounds of tungsten ore worth some $1500.00.

An abandoned truck silently waits for its owner to return in Goldbelt Springs.
An abandoned truck silently waits for its owner to return in Goldbelt Springs.

Throughout the 1940s and 1960’s various small operations were mining the area. This would include mines called Calmet and also nearby Quackenbush. The site today has smaller ruins. A truck and mine are still visible and an ore sorting platform is standing at the Calmet location. The wooden structures are completely flattened by time and the elements.

An old mine tunnel
An old mine tunnel

Mine Summary

NameGoldbelt Springs
LocationHunter Mountain, Death Valley National Park, California
Latitude, Longitude
ProductionGold, Silver, Copper, Tungsten, Talc
Year Productive1904 –
Continue Reading →

Rhyolite Nevada – Nye County Ghost Town

Rhyolite is a ghost town location just outside of the Eastern edge of Death Valley National monument in Nye country, Nevada.  Founded in 1904 by Frank “Shorty” Harris when he discovered quartz with load of “Free Gold”, Rhyolite started as a gold mining camp in the surrounding Bullfrog mining district. As with many discovery’s during this time period, news quickly circulated and the Bullfrog mining district was formed.

Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun
Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun
Cook Bank Building, Rhyolite Nevada, Photo marked 1908 and "Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society"
Cook Bank Building, Rhyolite Nevada, Photo marked 1908 and “Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society”

Assays of $3000 per ton were reported by the mining press of the day, and the fall and winter saw many people converge on the area despite the weather conditions. Tonopah and Goldfield saw hundreds head south in the spring of 1905, and the migration caused “a string of dust a hundred miles long”.

It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.
It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.

The townsite of Rhyolite was found in a draw close to the most important mines in February, 1905. To start, the town was a mining camp with tents and canvas walled building. Fuel shortages caused the populous to burn sage brush and greasewood as fuel for their stoves to cook and keep warm. Food and fuel were teamed into the area on daily stages and water was bought over from Beatty for $5 per barrel.

A train caboose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada - Photo by James L Rathbun
A train caboose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada – Photo by James L Rathbun

However, as was common with gold rush towns, Rhyolite quickly developed all of the modern amenities of day, including newspapers, schools, hospitals and electrical power. Six thousand people called the town home in 1907. Luxuries unimaginable just two years before include, hotel rooms with private baths, and opera house, dozens of saloons, four banks, and a butcher shop were brought to the town by three different trains.

The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 - 1911
The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 – 1911

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and a financial panic of 1907 dried up capital investment which doomed the town along with many others in the region. Rhyolite ceased to be and closed in 1911.  

Today, several building shells still exist, along with the infamous Bottle House, and outdoor museum.  The town is accessible via paved roads, which ruins the “ghosttown” effect and detracts a bit from the location.  In spite of this, it is easily accessible and worth a stop when you are in the area.

“The Last Supper” and other art pieces hold court just outside of Rhyolite

Rhyolite is a wonderful place to visit when you are running Titus Canyon and Leadfield trail.

Rhyolite Town Summary

NameRhyolite
LocationNye County
NewspaperRhyolite Herald May 25, 1905-Apr 26, 1907; Oct 11, 1907-June 22, 1912; Mar 1909 Special Ed
Rhyolite Daily Bulletin Sept 23, 1907 – May 31, 1909
Death Valley Prospector Nov – Dec 1907

Rhyolite Map

Rhyolite Points of Interest

Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun

Cook Bank Building

The Cook Bank Building is the most iconic image and popular images of the Rhyolite ghost town, in Nye County, Nevada. When John S. Cook…
Overbury Building, Rhylote, Nevada. - Photograph by James L Rathbun

Overbury Building

The Overbury building is a general office building built by John Overbury, in Rhyolite, Nye County Nevada in 1906. The building was one of two…
Porter Brothers store front in Phyolite, Nevada - Photo by James L Rathbun

Porter Brothers Store

The Porter Brothers store is a ruined storefront on the main street in the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada. The Porter Brothers were…
Rhyolite Train Depot is located at the north end of town in Rhyolite, Nye County, Nevada. - Photo by James L Rathbun

Rhyolite Train Depot

The town of Rhyolite boasted three train services using the Rhyolite Train Depot which is completed in June, 1908. The depot services the Las Vegas…

Rhyolite 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…
James Crysanthus Phelan

James Crysanthus Phelan – Rhyolite Shopkeeper

James Crysanthus Phelan James Crysanthus Phelan was a business man and early pioneer of the desert southwest, who like many others followed the boom towns…
John S Cook overseeing bars of gold bullion. Photo Goldfield Historical Society

John S Cook

John S Cook overseeing bars of gold bullion. Photo Goldfield Historical Society John S Cook is the founder and builder of the Cook Bank Building…
Walter Scott (1872 - 1954)

Walter Edward Perry Scott – “Death Valley Scotty”

Walter Edward Perry Scott  (September 20, 1872 – January 5, 1954), also known as "Death Valley Scotty", was a miner, prospector and conman who operated…

Resources