Mining activity in the Clark Mountain Range dates back to the 1860s. It’s likely that prospectors found some color in this desert region, but copper would prove to be the ore to bring prosperity to the area. A man by the name of Johnny Moss is credited with discovering the Copper World mine in 1868, which he wouldn’t have known to look for if a Piute chief hadn’t given him a chunk of metallic copper.
The following year, on April 13, the Piute Company was organized to explore the area. William Clarke, a Visalia businessman and saloonkeeper, was one of the members of the company; the mountain and mining region were named in his honor. The company staked some 130 claims in the region, but never got around to developing their mines. Our good friend, Mr. Rumor, has it that the claims lay dormant for many years and in 1898 were owned by a Mr. Lawrence. He reportedly sold the mines, which included Copper Worlds No.1 and No. 2, to the Ivanpah Smelting Company of Los Angeles for $1,100 in September of 1898. That company had the bankroll to develop the mines and sent a crew of 85 men to commence developing. They dug two wells a few miles west of the mine and began construction of a fifty-ton smelter in December of 1898. Less than half a year later, the smelter was producing six to seven tons of 95% pure copper bullion daily.
The camp that grew up was known as Valley Wells, Rosalie Wells, or simply “Rosalie.” Who was Rosalie? I've yet to discover that intriguing fact. The mines were located up on the side of Clark mountain, with the ore being hauled to the smelter by twenty-mules teams. So busy was the operation that there were two roads between the mines and the smelter; one road for wagons heading to the mines and the other for loaded wagons heading to the smelter. After being processed at the smelter, the nearly pure copper was hauled to the California Eastern Railroad at Manvel, some 30 miles southeast. From there it headed east to New York for final smelting. By the turn of the century, the Copper World was reportedly one of the four largest copper mines in the United States.
<edit> A helpful reader has provided some information on who Rosalie was: “Rosalie was Rosalie Blanchard Robinson, second wife (married 1898) of William Eli Robinson, better known as W. E. Robinson, who was the general manager for the Ivanpah Smelting Company/Copper World Mine, until the President of those companies, J. D. Hanbury, absconded with company funds, stiffed him and all the other workers, and the companies went bankrupt in 1900/1901. “
Rosalie’s most productive years of operation were from 1899 to 1903. Various problems caused the mine to close and reopen several times, but it was again active from 1916 to 1918. The mine was also reportedly reopened during WWII, but closed down for good after the war ended. For a much more in-depth history of the Copper World Mine, click HERE.
There’s not much left to see today of what was once a large mining operation. Desert winds, time, scavengers…they’ve all taken their toll. But there are some interesting remnants, still to be seen. I’m sure I missed some, but here are some of the things I discovered.
This was the first glimpse I had of anything man-made as I drove up towards Rosalie. Some fairly heavy duty foundations, perhaps for some big machinery?
A shot of the large slag pile, the waste product from the smelter.
A couple closer views of the slag pile.
Up above the slag pile are some large cement foundations. Perhaps this is where the blast furnace was located.
Two large cement vats. I doubt these were swimming pools for the workers.
Yet another view of the slag pile. I admit, it intrigued me and I took a lot of pictures of it.
Another cement holding vat of some kind, maybe it was used to mix up some kind of sauce needed for the refining process.
Some of the most interesting artifacts left over from the days when the Copper World mine was active, were several of these wood-framed dugouts carved into the hillsides near the main workings of the smelter. From what I've read, these were actually homes the workers dug into the sides of the ravines, under a hard layer of tufa.
I found two that were holding on to their existence, but just barely. It probably won't be much longer before the weather reduces them to the state of the third one I found, pictured below.
There may have been more of these dugouts, or other interesting places in the area, but that will be an exploration for another trip. The afternoon was getting late and I had at least one more stop I wanted to make on my drive north, before it got too dark. So I moseyed on back to T-Red so I could hit the road.
Near where I had parked, I spotted the crumbling remains of what was once a fairly large adobe building. The adobe bricks are melting back into the ground, but the outline of the building is still visible.
A last look at the pile o' slag. The sun came out from behind the clouds, so I took a parting shot before heading to my next stop, the cave homes of Dublin Gulch.