Visit Date: October 6, 2015
So the first thing to say about the Death Valley Mine is, it's not located in Death Valley.
A man by the name of J.L. Bright discovered the Death Valley Mine in 1906, why he chose that name is anyone's guess, as the location was some 70 miles from Death Valley.
With the prospect of gold or silver, it wasn't long before a mining camp known as Dawson sprung up nearby. Named after the directors of the Death Valley Milling and Mining Company of Denver (who had bought the property from Bright shortly after his discovery), the inhabitants of Dawson worked not only at the DVM, but at other mines in the area as well.
As early as July of 1906, ore was being hauled by horse-drawn wagons to the railhead at Cima, where it was transferred to the Salt Lake Railroad and California Eastern, thence to a smelter at Needles, Cal. The rich lead-silver-gold ore was producing up to 634 ounces of silver and .48 ounces of gold per ton, so basically, the Death Valley Mine was a Silver Mine.
By November of 1907, seventy-five men were reportedly working in the area and the mines were jumping. Ownership changed hands and the property became known as the Death Valley-Arcalvada Consolidated Mines Company.
Work continued for a spell, then litigation ensued over ownership and the mine was idle for a number of years. A new owner appeared on the scene in 1915 and the mine was once again active. The peak years of production were from 1917 to 1921 and it may have operated up until 1927, at which time a fire destroyed the mill and underground workings. After the 1930s, work seems to have ceased.
A lot of the equipment left on the grounds today was a result of mine reactivation during the 1950s. How much did the Death Valley Mine produce over its lifetime? The total figure is unknown, but records show that some $131,000 were produced up until 1927, with $93,000 of that coming before 1915. And those amounts are calculated at the prices of gold and silver of the time period, roughly $20/ounce and $.60/ounce respectively. That would make the total production worth around $3.5 million dollars in today's market.
I had the opportunity to visit the Death Valley Mine, after a few minor detours and wrong turns on wash-board dirt roads, and I must say it was definitely worth the adventure getting there. I'm glad I didn't give up in my search.
There are several intact buildings, the largest being a six-room, two-story residence. Another small home is located nearby, as well as numerous outbuildings that served as workshops, livestock pens, storage areas and who knows what all. And lots of mining equipment. Did I mention lots of mining equipment? Mine shafts are also in the immediate area, some boarded, some fenced, but all dangerous to approach. Stay out, stay alive. The DVM is one of the best ghost camps that I've visited to date. Follow the photos below and I'll show you what I found.
The main residence is an impressive building. I especially liked the row of large Joshua Trees neatly placed to form a fence in front of the home. They must have been transplanted there when they were much younger, and whoever did so, knew what he was doing. Joshua Trees are extremely difficult to relocate.
Walking into the front room, it's readily apparent that this must have been the main residence/office quarters of whoever was in charge. Large rooms, built-ins, solid doors. The home was well made.
Going out what was once the back door, it appears that an addition was made on the back of the house, creating this small mud room. Heading out the next door, steps lead down into what appears to have been a storage room of sorts.
Back in the house, I decided to check out the upstairs. The stairs are narrow and steep.
Looking out the front door, time to head out and see what's behind the house.
There's the roof of the mostly underground storage room, and a side view showing its window.
The backside of the main residence building.
Several outbuildings are located behind the house, along with areas that were at one time fenced-in, maybe animal pens or a chicken coop.
A 'three-seater.' Just a bit too up close and personal for me to even imagine.
A workshop, lots of shelves and workspace. You pretty much had to be able to fix things when they broke down, living so far away from town.
I think part of this building must have been either a garage, or a place where they worked on their vehicles, as the building still strongly smelled of oil.
Coyote melon vines growing up a lattice on the back of the home. They are NOT safe to eat.
An outdoor bathtub.
Heading over to investigate the next building, I stopped to take this picture of the main home's backyard. I would love to see what it looked like back in the days when this place was active.
Three openings, three mine shafts? Or do they all lead to the same shaft or tunnel down below?
I circled around the back of the next house, made my way through some small tailing piles and scattered debris and what may have been a collapsed outhouse to take this shot. There's the main residence off to the right. It would be interesting to know if those lines still brought power to the area.
After poking around the second home a bit, it was time to hike up the road to the next building, which wasn't in such great shape.
This building is located very close to what appears to be one of the main workings of the DVM. You can see the tailings in the background and in the foreground. Maybe this was a mill of some kind.
A different view of the same building. Cement vats, pipes, and a big hopper thing out back.
Click on any of these images to enlarge them for better viewing.
I saw something poking up over the top of the tailings piles, so I climbed up to see what it was and found this conveyor belt that heads down into another mine shaft. And yet another building off in the distance.
The view from the other side of the pit. Look at all the Joshua Trees, they are thick in this area.
Was this building another residence, or a workshop of some kind? I think it was probably a home for someone.
Maybe someone was going to build a fireplace, or brick oven. There were several bed frames out back, which makes me believe this was a bunkhouse.
Looking out towards the conveyor belt mine.
The cool stuff kept coming. This metal headframe sits atop a pretty deep shaft. There's all kinds of equipment nearby. A hoist, the engine to run it, a large tank, a blower to either send air down into the mine or suck bad air out, I'm not sure which.
I think an owl presently resides down in the shaft, as I heard some hooting. Either an owl, or the ghosts of some long deceased miners....
There is a lot of "desert gold" scattered about the grounds of the DVM. Rusty cans, rusty appliances, rusty nails, rusty rust. Broken glass, china and who knows what all else. It would have been easy to spend the entire day here poking around.
Heading back towards the main residence, I took a couple more pictures along the way.
I like this view, as it shows most of the property around the mines. I'm not sure where the original "Dawson" camp was located, perhaps on another visit I'll try to locate that spot. I'm sure there must be evidence of where it once was, or maybe it was just all around this area.
I hope no one was inside when this tipped over, that would have been unpleasant...
Almost back to my truck, I spotted this beautiful Joshua Tree with a small fence around it, so stopped to investigate. It is the final resting place of Joseph Lee Strawn who either owned or was in charge of the Death Valley Mine around 1912-1914. A blurb from the April 5th edition of the Barstow Printer stated, "Mrs. Strawn helped Lee do work on the D. V. mine, running the hoist and dumping buckets while he mined." And apparently, Strawn was responsible for digging the cellar, May 3rd, 1912: "Lee Strawn has completed a large cellar; has gathered ripe tomatoes from vines 8 ft. high, which he took into the house last fall-has had some tomatoes all winter." I love the news items found in old newspapers. Strawn was born in Kansas in 1875 and died here in California in 1954. What a great spot to be laid to rest.
What an awesome place to visit. But the day was half gone and I still had other places to find and miles to drive, so I paid my respects to Mr. Strawn, climbed into T Red and commenced driving, in search of Rosalie.
Please take a few minutes to watch this video I made of my visit to the Death Valley Mine. If you're so inclined, feel free to like, leave a comment and/or subscribe to my Youtube channel.
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