“Death Valley” Scotty, whose full name was Walter E. Scott, was a colorful and legendary figure associated with Death Valley, a desert valley located in Eastern California. Scotty gained fame in the early 20th century for his claims of owning a gold mine in Death Valley and for his flamboyant personality.

Scotty’s story is closely tied to his relationship with wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson. In the early 1900s, Scotty convinced Johnson to invest in his supposed gold mine, even though there was little evidence to support the existence of significant gold deposits. Despite the skepticism of others, Johnson continued to finance Scotty’s ventures, and the two became unlikely friends.

With his charismatic and theatrical personality, Scotty became a well-known character, and his antics and stories helped attract attention to Death Valley. He was known for his cowboy attire, tall tales, and his ability to charm people.

Scotty’s gold mine claims were largely exaggerated, and there is little evidence that he ever discovered a significant amount of gold. The financial arrangement between Scotty and Johnson remained a subject of speculation and mystery.

After Johnson died in 1948, it was revealed that much of the financing had come from Johnson himself, and Scotty had not been as successful in the mining business as he claimed. Despite the deceptive aspects of his story, Scotty remained a beloved figure in Death Valley folklore, and his former home, Scotty’s Castle, is a popular tourist attraction in Death Valley National Park.

The legacy of “Death Valley” Scotty is a mix of fact and fiction, blending the mystique of the Old West with a touch of showmanship and exaggeration.

Leadfield – Summary

Leadfield, located in Titus Canyon, was promoted by a man who could have sold ice to an Eskimo. He blasted some tunnels and liberally salted them with lead ore and drew up some enticing maps of the area, which lured Eastern promoters into investing money.

The true story of Leadfield is somewhat different from the usual tale of a stock swindle and a dying town.

During the early days of the Bullfrog boom, W. H. Seaman and Curtis Durnford staked nine lead and copper claims in Titus Canyon and came into Rhyolite with ore samples that assayed as high as $40 to the ton. The Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company was incorporated and immediately began a development and promotional campaign.

The Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company ceased operations in 1906 after realizing that the long and arduous trip between its mine and Rhyolite made the shipment of its ore absolutely unprofitable.

In 1924, three prospectors staked out numerous claims on some lead deposits in Titus Canyon. A local promoter named John Salsberry purchased twelve claims from the three prospectors and formed the Western Lead Mines Company.

The young camp was entering the boom stage, and by January 30th, half a dozen mining companies were in operation. The stock of Western Lead Mines Company soared to $1.57 per share.

Eastern California, and especially Inyo County, was long overdue for a mining boom. With the backing of a successful and skilled promoter, Leadfield seemed assured of obtaining the necessary financial support to take it from a prospecting boom camp into a producing mine town.

The Inyo Independent greeted Julian with a glowing description of his character and abilities, but a different endorsement would be printed in later years.

The boom was now on in earnest, with the Western Lead Company employing 140 men and the Titus Canyon Road being completed. The Western Lead Mine produced 8% to 30% lead and seven ounces of silver per ton.

The California State Corporation Commission was not so impressed with the company and raised the righteous indignation of local folk. The local attitude was well summed up by the Owens Valley Herald: “The Commission is using its every endeavor to try and prejudice the people against this latest promotion of Julian’s.”

The paper pointed out that Julian was not trying to swindle anyone and that he had publicly invited any reputable mining engineer worldwide to visit the Leadfield District. The paper concluded that the future of Leadfield seemed very bright.

Julian was not the only promoter singing the praises of the Leadfield District, for numerous other companies were also trying to cash in on the boom. The Western Lead Mines Company, Julian’s pet, led the pack, with one of its tunnels six hundred feet inside the mountain.

The town of Leadfield was trying to keep pace with the boom and announced that a large hotel would soon be built. On March 15th, the first of Julian’s promotional excursions pulled into Beatty, and 340 passengers were served a sumptuous outdoor feast by the proprietor of the local Ole’s Inn.

Lieutenant-Governor Gover of Nevada gave the keynote speech, and Julian gave a speech praising Julian for overcoming the numerous obstacles that modern governmental bureaucracies put in a man’s path. The trip was a big success, and Western Lead stock advanced 25 on the San Francisco market the next day.

Western Lead stock had soared to $3.30 a share by the end of March, and several ore-buying and smelting concerns sent representatives to the district to discuss reduction and smelting rates.

Leadfield continued to develop in the months following the great train excursion. New mining companies opened for business, and the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad replied that definite plans for a railroad spur into Leadfield had not been made as the present business does not warrant its construction.

The townsite of Leadfield was officially surveyed on April 30th, and the town’s plat was submitted to Inyo County officials for approval. The town was platted on land donated by the Western Lead Company.

The State of California was breathing hard upon Julian’s neck, and the Corporation Commission hauled a brokerage company into court for selling Western Lead stock without a state permit. Expert witnesses testified that the Western Lead Mine was a quite legitimate proposition.

The continued investigations by the state of California hurt the sales of Western Lead stock, and another factor began to take a toll. Julian’s credibility began to shrink, and the company never recovered from the panic that set in.

Julian bought into the New Roads Mining Company, which gave him control of the two largest mines of Leadfield and announced plans to construct a large milling plant at Leadfield.

As summer approached, the Leadfield boom showed no signs of peaking. The California Corporation Commission ordered that sales of Julian’s personal stock in the Western Lead Mines must immediately cease on the Los Angeles stock exchange due to evidence introduced at a hearing.

Despite the heavy blow to Julian’s financial fortunes, developments at Leadfield proceeded, and the Mining Journal printed a long, detailed report on the Leadfield District in July, which helped to restore public confidence.

The mines agreed with the independent experts and continued to work, and the Boundary Cone Mining Company ordered a new 25-horsepower hoist and headframe and increased its workforce to twelve miners.

In late July, the Western Lead Mining Company brought a $350,000 damage suit against the Los Angeles Times and the California Corporation Commission. Still, the suit was quickly thrown out of court for insufficient cause. In August, a new mining company, the Pacific Lead Mines No. 2, was incorporated.

During September and October, drilling and tunneling continued in Leadfield’s mines, but in late October, two events took place that spelled the end of Leadfield. The main tunnel of the Western Lead Mine finally penetrated the ledge but found almost nothing.

At almost the same time, the California Corporation Commission dealt Julian another blow when it halted stock sales in the Julian Merger Mines, Inc. Julian’s empire fell apart. The other mines slowly closed, one after the other, and Leadfield became a ghost town in a matter of months.

The failure of a mining district led to a flurry of lawsuits. In February of 1927, the Western Lead Company removed its heavy machinery and the pipeline to a mine that the company owned in Arizona.

Julian went on to organize the Julian Oil and Royalties Company and was indicted for fraud, but jumped bail and committed suicide.

Leadfield was a ghost town created by C. C. Julian. Still, the existence of lead ore in the district had been known as far back as the Bullfrog boom days of 1905, and the California Corporation Commission allowed companies other than Julian’s to sell their stock.

Julian did not start the Leadfield boom and had plenty of help in supporting the boom once it had started. The citizens of Inyo County, California, and Nye County, Nevada, also supported the mines.

The collapse of Julian’s financial structure came at the worst possible time for Leadfield. Although it seems doubtful that Leadfield had enough ore to support more than a small mining company or two, indications are that without the sudden panic of the fall of 1926, that mine or two could have survived.

The Titus Canyon Road, an engineering marvel, was built by Julian and cost an estimated $60,000 to build. Without Julian, the road would not have been finished, and today presents one of the most spectacular routes in Death Valley National Park.

Ecosystems of Death Valley

Death Valley, located in California, is home to a unique and diverse range of ecosystems. Despite its harsh and extreme conditions, this national park supports a surprising variety of plant and animal life. The following are some of the key ecosystems found within Death Valley.

1. Desert Scrub: The dominant ecosystem in Death Valley is the desert scrub, characterized by sparse vegetation and rocky landscapes. Plants such as creosote bushes, desert holly, and Joshua trees have adapted to survive in arid conditions. These plants have deep root systems and waxy leaves to conserve water.

2. Salt Flats: Death Valley is famous for its vast salt flats, known as playas. These white, barren expanses are created by water evaporation, leaving behind mineral deposits. Certain organisms, such as salt-tolerant algae and brine flies, can survive in this environment despite harsh conditions.

3. Badlands: Death Valley’s rugged badlands are formed by erosion, resulting in unique formations of clay-rich soil and sedimentary rocks. The lack of vegetation allows intricate geological formations. These areas are home to reptiles, rodents, and insects that have adapted to extreme temperatures and water scarcity.

4. Oasis: Death Valley surprises visitors with small oases. These are areas where underground water reaches the surface, creating a lush and vibrant habitat. Palm, cottonwood, and various bird species can be found in these isolated pockets of life.

5. Mountains: Death Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, which provide a contrasting ecosystem to the desert below. These higher elevations offer cooler temperatures and more precipitation, allowing for the growth of coniferous forests. Pinyon pines, junipers, and bristlecone pines thrive in the mountains, providing shelter for various wildlife.

6. Springs and Waterways: Death Valley is home to several natural springs and waterways despite the desert environment. These water sources attract diverse animals, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and reptiles. The presence of water also supports vegetation growth, such as willows and cattails.

Each of these ecosystems within Death Valley contributes to the region’s overall biodiversity and ecological balance. The park’s extreme conditions have fostered the development of unique adaptations among its plant and animal inhabitants. Exploring these diverse ecosystems is a captivating experience that highlights the resilience of life in the face of adversity.

China Ranch

China Ranch is a small oasis nestled near the vast expanse of Death Valley in California. Located just a few miles from the eastern entrance of the national park, it offers a unique and picturesque destination for visitors to explore.

The ranch is renowned for its date farm, which spans over 1,200 acres and produces delicious dates. Dating back to the late 1800s, the farm has operated for several generations and continues to thrive today. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about dates’ history, cultivation, processing, and even sample delectable products.

In addition to the date farm, China Ranch boasts scenic hiking trails that wind through stunning landscapes, such as narrow canyons and towering cliffs. The trails offer breathtaking views of the surrounding desert and provide opportunities to spot unique plant and animal species adapted to the harsh environment.

For those seeking a peaceful retreat, China Ranch offers cozy accommodations in the form of rustic cottages and a charming bed and breakfast. Visitors can relax in the tranquil atmosphere, surrounded by lush gardens and the soothing sounds of nature.

One of the highlights of a visit to China Ranch is exploring the Amargosa River, a rare water source in the arid region. The river meanders through the ranch, providing a refreshing respite from the desert heat. Visitors can enjoy leisurely walks along the riverbanks or birdwatching.

China Ranch is not only a place of natural beauty but also a cultural treasure. The ranch is steeped in history, with remnants of its past visible in the form of old buildings and artifacts. It offers a glimpse into the lives of the early settlers who sought refuge in this secluded oasis.

In conclusion, China Ranch in Death Valley is a hidden gem that offers a unique experience for nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and those seeking a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Its stunning landscapes, delicious dates, and rich history make it a destination worth exploring.

Death Valley Vintage Photos

C.C. Pierce

Getting Used to the Wind

Death Valley was having one of its periodic wind storms when the tourists drove up in front of Inferno store to have their gas tank filled.

Hard Rock Shorty was seated on the bench under the lean-to porch with his hat pulled down to his ears to keep it from blowing away.

Desert wind storm
Desert wind storm

“Have many of these wind storms?” one of the dudes asked.

“Shucks, man, this ain’t no wind storm. Jest a little breeze like we have nearly every day. You have to go up in Windy Pass in the Panamints to find out what a real wind is like.

“Three-four years ago I wuz up there doin’ some prospectin’. Got together a little pile o’ wood an’ finally got the coffee to boilin’. Then I set it on a rock to cool while I fried the eggs.

“About that time one of them blasts o’ wind come along and blowed the fire right out from under the fryin’ pan. Blowed ‘er away all in one heap so I kept after it tryin’ to keep that fryin’ pan over the fire to git my supper cooked.

“I usually like my eggs over easy, but by the time 1 got one side done I wuz all tired out so I let ‘er go at that. Had to walk four miles back to the coffee pot.”

from; Desert Magazine – December 1953

Shorty’s Grubstake

Shorty Harris in Ballarat
Shorty Harris in Ballarat

Once I asked Shorty Harris how he obtained his grubstakes. “Grubstakes,” he answered, “like gold, are where you find them. Once I was broke in Pioche, Nev., and couldn’t find a grubstake anywhere. Somebody told me that a woman on a ranch a few miles out wanted a man for a few days’ work. I hoofed it out under a broiling sun, but when I got there, the lady said she had no job. I reckon she saw my disappointment and when her cat came up and began to mew, she told me the cat had an even dozen kittens and she would give me a dollar if I would take ’em down the road and kill ’em.

“‘It’s a deal,’ I said. She got ’em in a sack and I started back to town. I intended to lug ’em a few miles away and turn ’em loose because I haven’t got the heart to kill anything.

“A dozen kittens makes quite a load and I had to sit down pretty often to rest. A fellow in a two-horse wagon came along and offered me a ride. I picked up the sack and climbed in.

“‘Cats, eh?’ the fellow said. ‘They ought to bring a good price. I was in Colorado once. Rats and mice were taking the town. I had a cat.  She would have a litter every three months. I had no trouble selling them cats for ten dollars apiece. Beat a gold mine.’

Prospector with grubstake essentials

“There were plenty rats in Pioche and that sack of kittens went like hotcakes. One fellow didn’t have any money and offered me a goat. I knew a fellow who wanted a goat. He lived on the same lot as I did. His name was Pete Swain.

“Pete was all lit up when I offered him the goat for fifty dollars. He peeled the money off his roll and took the goat into his shack. A few days later Pete came to his door and called me over and shoved a fifty-dollar note into my hands. ‘I just wanted you to see what that goat’s doing,’ he said.

“I looked inside. The goat was pulling the cork out of a bottle of liquor with his teeth.

“‘That goat’s drunk as a boiled owl,’ Pete said. ‘If I ever needed any proof that there’s something in this idea of the transmigration of souls, that goat gives it. He’s Jimmy, my old sidekick, who, I figgered, was dead and buried.’

“‘Now listen,’ I said. ‘Do you mean to tell me you actually believe that goat is your old pal, whom you drank with and played with and saw buried with your own eyes, right up there on the hill?’

“‘Exactly,’ Pete shouted, and he peeled off another fifty and gave it to me. So, you see, a grubstake, like gold, is where you find it.”


Loafing Along Death Valley Trails
A Personal Narrative of People and Places
Author: William Caruthers

 Shorty Harris

Hazards of Helen

A few miles east of Shoshone is Chicago Valley, which began in a startling swindle and ended in fame and fortune for one defrauded victim.

A convincing crook from the Windy City found government land open to entry and called it Chicago Valley. It was a desolate area; the only living thing to be seen was an occasional coyote skulking across or a vulture flying over. The promoter needed no capital other than a good front, glib tongue, and the ability to lie without the flicker of a lash.

A few weeks later, Chicago widows with meager endowments, scrub women with savings, and some who coughed too much from long hours in sweatshops began to receive beautifully illustrated pamphlets that described a tropical Eden with lush fields, cooling lakes, and more to the point, riches almost overnight. For $100, anyone concerned would be located.

Soon people began to swing off The Goose, as the dinky train serving Shoshone was called, and head for Chicago Valley. Among the victims was a widow named Holmes with a family of attractive, intelligent children. One of these was a vivacious, beautiful teenager named Helen.

The Holmes were handicapped because of tuberculosis in the family. This, in fact, had induced the widow to invest her savings.

Herman Jones used to ride by the Holmes’ place en route to the Pahrump Ranch on hunting trips and owning several burros; he thought the Holmes’ children would like to have one. Taking the donkey over, he told Helen, “You can use him to work the ranch too. Better and faster than a hoe….” He brought a harness and a cultivator, and showed her how to use the implement.

It was inevitable that investors in Chicago Valley would lose their time, labor, and money.

Thus when Helen Holmes returned the burro to Herman one day, Herman was not surprised when she told him she was on her way to Los Angeles to look for a job.

“But what can you do?”

“I wish I knew. I can get a job washing dishes or waiting on tables.”

Shortly afterward, he heard from her—just a little note saying she was a hello girl on a switchboard. “Knew she’d land on her feet,” Herman grinned, and having a bottle handy, he gurgled a toast to Helen. He had to tell the news, of course, and with each telling, he produced the bottle.

So he was in a pleasant mood when somebody suggested a spot of poker. To mention poker in Shoshone is to have a game, and in a little while, Dad Fairbanks, Dan Modine, deputy sheriff Herman, and two or three others were shuffling chips over in the Mesquite Club.

Herman had the luck and quit with $700. “Fellows,” he said as he folded his money, “take a last look at this roll. You won’t see it again.”

“Oh, you’ll be back,” Fairbanks said.

But Herman didn’t come back. Instead, he went to Los Angeles, and found Helen at the switchboard. She confided excitedly that she had a chance to get into the movies as soon as she could get some nice clothes.

“Fine,” Herman said. “When can I see you?” He made a date for dinner, had a few more drinks and when he met her he had a comfortable binge and a grand idea. “… Listen, Helen. You wouldn’t get mad at a fool like me if I meant well, would you?”

“Why Herman—you know I wouldn’t,” she laughed.

“I’m a little likkered and it’s kinda personal….”

“But you’re a gentleman, Herman—drunk or sober….”

“I’ve been thinking of this picture business. I nicked Dad Fairbanks in a poker game. You know how I am. Lose it all one way or another. You take it and buy what you need, and it’ll do us both some good.”

The refusal was quick. “It’s sweet of you, Herman, but not that. I just couldn’t.”

“You can borrow it, can’t you … so I won’t drink it up?”

The argument won, and soon theatergoers all over the world were clutching their palms as they watched the hair-raising escapes from death that pictured “The Perils of Pauline”—the serial that made Helen Holmes one of the immortals of the silent films. She died at 58 on July 8, 1950.

Geology of Death Valley


View of Death Valley from Chloride Cliff

Death Valley National Park is known for its extreme temperatures, vast desert landscapes, and unique geological features. Located in Eastern California, this national park is a treasure trove for geology enthusiasts.

Formation and Tectonic Activity:

Death Valley’s geological history dates back millions of years. The valley is part of the larger Basin and Range Province, characterized by its numerous mountain ranges and elongated valleys. The formation of Death Valley can be attributed to the complex interplay of tectonic forces.

Faults and Uplift:

One of the key geological features of Death Valley is the presence of faults. Numerous faults, including the prominent Death Valley Fault Zone, crisscross the region. These faults have played a significant role in shaping the landscape, creating dramatic uplifts and sinkholes.

Playa and Salt Flats:

Death Valley is home to several unique geological features, including expansive salt flats and playa. The salt flats, such as the mesmerizing Badwater Basin, are formed when water dissolves minerals from the mountains and then evaporates, leaving behind a thick crust of salt. These salt flats provide a surreal and otherworldly experience for visitors.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes:

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes offer a striking contrast to the arid landscape of Death Valley. These dunes are formed by the accumulation of wind-blown sand over thousands of years. The shifting dunes create stunning desert scenery and are a popular destination for photographers and nature enthusiasts.

Geological Time and Fossils:

Death Valley is a geological time capsule, preserving a rich fossil record that spans millions of years. Fossils of ancient marine life, plants, and animals have been discovered, providing invaluable insights into the region’s past. These fossils tell the story of a time when Death Valley was submerged under a vast inland sea.

Volcanic Features:

Volcanic activity has also left its mark on Death Valley’s geology. The park is home to several cinder cones, lava flows, and volcanic craters. Ubehebe Crater, a massive volcanic crater, is a testament to the violent eruptions that occurred in the region thousands of years ago.


Death Valley National Park is a geologist’s paradise, offering a glimpse into the dynamic forces that have shaped our planet. From the towering mountain ranges to the vast salt flats and mesmerizing sand dunes, the geology of Death Valley is a testament to nature’s immense power and beauty. Exploring this unique landscape is a humbling experience that allows us to appreciate the Earth’s geological history and its ongoing processes of change and transformation.

(c)Walter Feller


from Chapter XXV – Ballarat. Ghost TownLoafing Along Death Valley Trails by William Carruthers

A familiar figure throughout Death Valley country was Johnny-Behind-the-Gun—small and wiry and as much a part of the land as the lizard. His moniker was acquired from his habit of settling disputes without cluttering up the courts. Johnny, whose name was Cyte, accounted for three or four sizable fortunes. Having sold a claim for $35,000 he once bought a saloon and gambling hall in Rhyolite, forswearing prospecting forever.

Johnny advertised his whiskey by drinking it and the squareness of his game, by sitting in it. One night the gentleman opposite was overwhelmed with luck and his pockets bulged with $30,000 of Johnny’s money. Having lost his last chip, Johnny said, “I’ll put up dis place. Ve play vun hand and quit.”

Johnny lost. He got up, reached for his hat. “Vell, my lucky friend, I’ll take a last drink mit you.” He tossed the liquor, lighted a cigar. “Goodnight, chentlemen,” he said. “I go find me anudder mine.”

Johnny had several claims near the Keane Wonder in the Funeral Mountains, held by a sufferance not uncommon among old timers, who respected a notice regardless of legal formalities.

Senator William M. Stewart, Nevada mining magnate, had employed Kyle Smith, a young mining engineer to go into the locality and see what he could find. Smith, a capable and likable chap, in working over the districts, located several claims open for filing by reason of Johnny’s failure to do his assessment work.

It is not altogether clear what happened between Johnny and Smith, but Smith’s body was found after it had lain in the desert sun all day. There being no witnesses the only fact produced by sheriff and coroner was that Smith was dead. Johnny went free. Other escapades with Johnny-Behind-the-Gun occurred with such frequency that he was finally removed from the desert for awhile as the guest of the state.

In a deal with Tom Kelly, Johnny was hesitant about signing some papers according to an understanding. His trigger quickness was explained to Kelly who was not impressed. He went to Johnny and asked him to sign up. Johnny refused. Kelly said calmly, “Johnny, do you see that telephone pole?”

“Yes, I see. Vot about?”

“If you don’t sign, you’re going to climb it.” Johnny signed. He put his gun away when he acquired a lodging house at Beatty, where he died in 1944.