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.
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.
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.