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Mining History: Desert Fever

Kern County:


Shortly after the town of Claraville was founded in 1861 (some 12 miles southeast of the present site of Havilah) prospectors discovered rich quartz veins 8 to 10 miles east of town. They formed the Eldorado Mining District in 1866, and by 1867, some 30 to 40 claims had been filed. These included the 2 most successful mines in the region: the Burning Moscow and the St. John. The success of these 2 mines brought about the creation of Sageland, which by the spring of 1868 had a saloon and a billiard room, hotel, miner's store, sawmill; two stage lines to Havilah, and an opera house.2

Eight hundred to a thousand people called Sageland their home until the White Pine County, Nevada silver discoveries caused a mass exodus to that district in 1868-1869. At the Burning Moscow, an eight stamp mill averaged 15 tons of ore per day. The St. John had a twelve-stamp mill producing $3,000 to $7,500 a week. Eventually, the St. John was to have 2 mills located near Tunnel Springs working the ore. In 1875, the mine was 720 feet deep with a vein 4 1/2 feet wide at that depth. The St. John Mining Company spent $50,000 erecting a hoisting works and pumps. 3

The St. John survived “White Pine fever” and as long as the St. John remained open, Sageland had hope. John P. Jones and William M. Stewart, senators from Nevada who invested heavily in mining throughout the West, operated the St. John from the mid-1860s until its closure in 1875. A year later little was left of Sageland. In 9 years the St. John had produced $700,000 in gold.4

The San Antonio Mine, located 8 miles southeast of the St. John Mine, was discovered in 1887, bringing a renewal of activity to the district. The St. John was again worked from 1891-1900, and by 1904 the Granite King and Granite Queen mines were mining a quartz vein 4 feet wide for free-milling gold. A small two-stamp mill was located in a wash 1 mile east of the mines, which are located at the intersection of the Kelso Valley-Hoffman Canyon Road with Butterbread Canyon Road. No extensive mining was ever accomplished at the Granite King, and that mine has only a 60-foot shaft and 60 feet of drifts. 5

Notwithstanding the early discovery of the St. John, Burning Moscow, and San Antonio mines, the real activity in the Sageland District came in the 1930s. The Piute Mining Company worked the Burning Moscow Mine in 1933. The St. John also was worked from 1935-1938 during which time miners cyanided the tailings and recovered $5 to $15 in gold per ton.

In the vicinity of The St. John, a number of other mines or prospects were discovered during the 1930s. Upwards of 200 people came from the cities during the Depression to scrape a living out of the shallow veins in this area. One of these depression era mines, the Esperanza, eventually had about a thousand feet of tunnel, and around $26,000 worth of ore was taken out of the hillside. A little to the south, the Dearborn Mine and Henry Ford prospect were located. Near the San Antonio and Granite King, the Great Unknown Mine was developed by J. S. Bishop, followed by the Red Strike, Sidewinder, Lone Star, and Pay Day. To the east of the St. John were the Summit prospect, Plymouth and Gold Peak mines. These mines all had much in common: all were relatively shallow mines, 50 to 100 feet in depth. Indeed, some were nothing more than prospect holes. All were worked by a handful of men trying to and succeeding in recovering the gold values present. All, with the exception of the Kelso Creek Placers near Sageland, were lode mines and prospects containing quartz veins with free-milling gold.6

Many of the miners built small mills near their mine. The Gold Peak had a two-stamp mill and crusher at Dove Springs. The Esperanza had a ball mill, and water was obtained from the mine and a spring through half a mile of 2 and 4-inch pipes. With the exception of the Summit prospect, Skyline and Hub, which were developed in the late 1930s, most of the mines had fallen into inactivity and/or abandonment by the mid 1930s .7

Gold is not the only mineral occurrence in the Sageland District. Chrysotile asbestos in serpentine was discovered in nearby Jawbone Canyon in 1912. The outcroppings are 10 feet wide and 150 feet long. No real production has ever been undertaken.

Antimony, with its price inflated by World War I, was discovered 6 miles west-southwest of Cinco on what is now Antimony Flat. The Amalia and Antimony Consolidated mines were worked during both world wars. 8

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