Vanderbilt California

A metal headframe marks a vertical shaft in the mining district outside of Vanderbilt California.
A metal headframe marks a vertical shaft in the mining district outside of Vanderbilt California.

Located in the New York Mountains, Vanderbilt California was an short lived gold mining town which lasted just a few short years, from 1891 to 1895. The mining district is found in the northeastern section of San Bernardino County, right at the California and Nevada Border and almost within sight of Primm, Nevada.

Old Plumbing remains in the town of Vanderbilt, CA
Old Plumbing remains in the town of Vanderbilt, CA

Gold was discovered in the New York Mountains, in January 1891 by a Piute Indian named Robert Black. Soon after, the news of the strike traveled quickly and there were several mines in operation, including the Gold Bronze, the Sagmore and the Boomerang. The district was named for the the Vanderbilt Family, in the hopes the gold strike would prove as rich as the Vanderbilt Fortune. A small camp was built to support the operation and with additional gold veins found in the fall of 1892, word got out and the rush started.

Two years later, in 1893, the small mining camp has attracted 150 people and boasted two stores, one saloon, three restaurants, stable, lodging house, a blacksmith shop and about 50 tents. The post office was added in February of 1893 and a Justice of the Peace, W. A. Nash was appointed. A weekly newspaper, the Shaft was soon published. A railway line and water works were planned, but never completed.

A horizontal mine shaft in Vanderbilt
A horizontal mine shaft in Vanderbilt

A population of about 400 was found in the small town in 1894. In addition of adding more buildings and saw more saloons and businesses followed to service the town. Two ten-stamp mills were constructed at the two large mine sites, however the service was short lived. Almost as soon as the mills were built, the mines struck water and the ore changed and made it such that the mines could not recover gold. The town died with the gold production in 1895. 1895 also saw work on the railroad to Vanderbilt ceased. The school closed in 1898 and the Post office closed in 1910.

Exploring the ghost town of Vanderbilt, CA
Exploring the ghost town of Vanderbilt, CA

Perhaps the towns biggest modern claim to fame was one of its famous citizens. Virgil Earp, older brother of Wyatt Earp and survivor of the infamous gunfight at the O. K. Coral, owned and operated a two story building which was served as saloon and hotel in the small town of Vanderbilt. It should be known that there were a lot of Earp Brothers, and there was a lot of migration during this period as populations moved quickly from town to town looking for fortune and opportunity.

Virgil Earp 1843 -1905
Virgil Earp 1843 -1905

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Further Reading

Desert Fever – An overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

The Historical Mining Towns of the Eastern Mojave Desert

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