Monday, January 6, 2014

Following in "Shorty" Harris' Footsteps (Part 2)

 ("Echo Canyon in Death Valley's Funeral Mountains." All photos in this post (c) Jim Fagan, 2013-2014.)

I thought I'd take a short break from the gold in Baja California series and bring you a bit more from desert explorer, history buff, and photographer Jim Fagan as he documents the footsteps of single-blanket jackass prospectors. Some of these individuals were legendary figures like "Shorty" Harris while some were "lesser knowns" who simply faded into the desert twilight.

Now I'll turn things over to Jim Fagan:

"Water was the Limiting Factor"

"In January 1905 two prospectors, Maroni Hicks and Chet Leavitt discovered gold-bearing quartz veins in Echo Canyon, located in the Funeral Mountains of southeastern California's Death Valley. In the following months they staked 20 claims on promising ground and then sold their claims to the newly created Inyo Gold Mining Company. Maroni, like most other single blanket jackass prospectors took his cash and moved on, but Leavitt maintained a half interest in the newly found Inyo Mine and took a vice presidency in the company."

("Two of many test shafts, often only a few yards deep, that dot the walls on the way up to  Echo Canyon.")

"Within the next two years two shafts and several crosscuts had been developed at the mine, which was giving up gold ore valued from a low of $44.00 per ton all the way up to $300.00. Ore from the Inyo Mine was free milling for the most part but like most of the Death Valley region, water was the limiting factor in milling operations. At its peak, the Inyo Mine employed as many 30 miners until the powers-at-be ran out of operating capital. This fact, coupled with a scarcity of investors during the Financial Panic of 1907 led the Inyo Mine owners into bankruptcy and the project was abandoned in December of that year."

"One of the More Picturesque Ghost Towns"

"Somewhere around 1935 or 1936 a company calling itself the Inyo Consolidated Mining Company leased the old claims and installed a 25-ton ball mill and small amalgamation/concentration plant. The plant was fueled by water hauled from Furnace Creek. The operators of the Inyo Mine were getting along averaging $25.00 per ton of gold ore until financial constraints shut down operations in 1938. In 1939 a new lessee at the Inyo Mine found high-grade ore at the bottom of one of the old shafts and shipped 36 tons at $280.00 per ton. This strike petered out quickly though, though, and following one last attempt the mine was closed down for good with the advent of World War II in 1941."

 ("The remains of the mill and amalgamation/concentration plant.")

"The Inyo Mine site is one of the more picturesque ghost towns in Death Valley and has withstood the ravages of time and tourism fairly well. It's reachable via a 9.5 mile four-wheel drive road that's nearly as picturesque as the site itself."


 ("The mill itself was removed but its supporting structures remain, including the diesel engine that powered it.")

I'll have more from Jim on the Inyo Mine in a subsequent post. Again, I'd like to thank him for sharing his research and photographs with the rest of us and for following along in "Shorty's" footsteps.

(c) Jim Fagan (for Bedrock Dreams) and Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2014

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com

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