#10 – Calico Ghost Town: A Historical Adventure


Calico – May/2000

Calico Ghost Town is a fascinating destination that offers a glimpse into the past, specifically the boom-and-bust era of the American West. Here’s a detailed look at what makes Calico Ghost Town a popular attraction:

History of Calico Ghost Town

  • Founding and Boom Era: Calico was founded in 1881 during the California silver rush. At its peak, the town boasted over 500 mines and produced millions of dollars worth of silver ore.
  • Decline: By the mid-1890s, silver prices had plummeted, leading to the decline of mining activities. Calico was largely abandoned by the early 20th century, becoming a true ghost town.

Attractions and Activities

  1. Mine Tours:
    • Maggie Mine: This is one of the few mines in Calico that is safe for tourists to enter. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to learn about the mining techniques and see the remnants of the silver extraction process.
    • Calico Odessa Railroad: A narrow-gauge train ride that offers a scenic tour of the town and the surrounding mining areas, providing insights into the town’s mining history.
  2. Historical Buildings:
    • Lane’s General Store: Restored to its 1880s appearance, this general store offers a variety of souvenirs and historical artifacts.
    • Schoolhouse: A replica of the original schoolhouse where children of miners once studied. It now serves as a museum displaying educational artifacts from the era.
    • Lil’s Saloon: A typical Old West saloon where visitors can enjoy refreshments and imagine the lively atmosphere of Calico during its heyday.
  3. Living History and Reenactments:
    • Gunfight Shows: Regularly scheduled reenactments of gunfights and skirmishes typical of the Wild West, performed by actors in period costumes.
    • Ghost Tours: Evening tours that delve into the spookier side of Calico’s history, sharing ghost stories and legends associated with the town.
  4. Shops and Craft Demonstrations:
    • Blacksmith Shop: Demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing techniques, with the opportunity to purchase handmade metal items.
    • Pottery and Leather Shops: Artisans demonstrate their crafts, offering unique, handmade goods for sale.
  5. Special Events:
    • Calico Days: An annual festival celebrating the town’s history with parades, live music, and old-fashioned games.
    • Ghost Haunt: A Halloween-themed event featuring haunted attractions and spooky activities for all ages.

Natural Surroundings

  • Hiking Trails: Various trails around Calico offer hiking opportunities with views of the desert landscape and remnants of old mining operations.
  • Desert Flora and Fauna: The area is home to unique desert plants and wildlife, complementing the historical attractions.

Visitor Information

  • Accessibility: Calico Ghost Town is easily accessible from major highways and offers ample parking for visitors.
  • Facilities: The site includes picnic areas, restrooms, and camping facilities for those wishing to extend their visit.


  • Educational Value: Calico Ghost Town serves as an important educational resource, teaching visitors about the history of mining, the lifestyle of early settlers, and the economic forces that shaped the American West.
  • Preservation: The town has been designated a California Historical Landmark and is maintained by the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system, ensuring its preservation for future generations.

Calico Ghost Town offers a unique blend of history, entertainment, and education, making it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the rich heritage of the Mojave Desert and the American West.

Cinnabar & Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in the Earth’s crust, and it is extracted from cinnabar ore. The process of obtaining mercury from cinnabar involves several steps:

By H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Cinnabar. (2024, April 11). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnabar
  1. Mining: Mercury is primarily obtained from cinnabar ore, which contains mercury sulfide (HgS). The cinnabar ore is mined from deposits found in the Earth.
  2. Crushing and Grinding: The mined cinnabar ore is crushed and ground to liberate the mercury sulfide from the surrounding rock.
  3. Roasting: The crushed ore is then heated in a furnace to a temperature of about 500 to 600 degrees Celsius (932 to 1112 degrees Fahrenheit) in the presence of oxygen. This process, called roasting, causes the mercury sulfide to decompose into mercury vapor and sulfur dioxide gas: HgS+O2→Hg+SO2
  4. Condensation: The mercury vapor is then cooled and condensed into liquid mercury. This is typically done by passing the vapor through a series of condensers where it cools and changes back into a liquid state.
  5. Purification: The liquid mercury is collected and further purified to remove impurities. This can be done through distillation, where the mercury is heated to vaporize it again and then condensed to obtain pure mercury.

The resulting liquid mercury is then stored in flasks or containers and used for various industrial and scientific applications.

By Bionerd – Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Mercury (element). (2024, May 16). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)

Cinnabar (mercury sulfide, HgS) is toxic. The primary concern with cinnabar is its mercury content. Here are some key points about its toxicity:

  1. Mercury Content: Cinnabar contains mercury, which is a highly toxic element. Mercury can exist in several forms, each with different levels of toxicity and ways of causing harm. The toxicity primarily depends on the form and the route of exposure.
  2. Inhalation Hazards: When cinnabar is heated or processed, it can release mercury vapor. Mercury vapor inhalation is particularly dangerous as it can cause severe neurological and systemic health problems.
  3. Skin Contact and Ingestion: While elemental mercury is less easily absorbed through the skin, compounds like mercury sulfide in cinnabar can be harmful if ingested or if particles are inhaled. Chronic exposure can lead to mercury poisoning, which can affect the kidneys, nervous system, and other organs.
  4. Chronic Exposure: Long-term exposure to mercury, even in small amounts, can lead to mercury poisoning, with symptoms including tremors, memory problems, mood swings, and cognitive impairment.
  5. Environmental Impact: Mercury from cinnabar mining and processing can also contaminate the environment, leading to bioaccumulation in the food chain and affecting wildlife and human health.

Due to these risks, handling cinnabar and processing mercury require strict safety protocols to protect workers and the environment. Proper ventilation, protective equipment, and environmental controls are essential to minimize exposure and prevent mercury poisoning.









Governor Robert Waterman and Mining in the Mojave Desert

Governor Robert Waterman played a significant role in the history of mining in the Mojave Desert. His influence extended beyond his political career, deeply impacting the development of the region’s mining industry.

Early Life and Career

Waterman Ranch

Robert Whitney Waterman was born in Fairfield, New York, on December 15, 1826. He moved to California during the Gold Rush in 1850 and engaged in various business ventures. Eventually, he settled in San Bernardino County and became involved in mining, real estate, and ranching.

Mining Ventures

Waterman Mine

Waterman’s most notable contribution to the Mojave Desert’s mining history was the discovery and development of the Waterman Mine. Here are some key points:

  • Waterman Mine: Robert Waterman discovered the Waterman Mine in 1881, located in the Calico Mountains. The mine became one of the richest silver mines in California, producing substantial amounts of silver ore.
  • Calico Ghost Town: Calico grew rapidly around the mining operations, with Waterman playing a pivotal role in its development. At its peak, Calico had over 500 mines and was one of the most productive silver-mining districts in the state.

Political Career

Waterman’s success in mining bolstered his political career. He served as the 17th Governor of California from September 12, 1887, to January 8, 1891. During his tenure, he continued to support mining interests and infrastructure development in the state.

Contributions to Mining Legislation

As governor, Waterman worked on several initiatives to support the mining industry:

  • Infrastructure Development: Waterman advocated for expanding railroads and transportation networks, which were crucial for transporting ore from remote mining sites in the Mojave Desert to processing facilities and markets.
  • Mining Laws: He supported legislation that protected miners’ rights and promoted fair practices in the industry, ensuring that mining operations could thrive in California.


Governor Robert Waterman’s legacy in the Mojave Desert is still evident today. The Calico Ghost Town, now a historical landmark and tourist attraction, is a testament to his contributions to the mining industry. His efforts helped shape the economic landscape of the Mojave Desert, leaving a lasting impact on the region’s development.


Governor Robert Waterman’s involvement in mining, particularly in the Mojave Desert, was instrumental in the industry’s growth. His discovery of the Waterman Mine and subsequent political support for mining operations contributed significantly to the area’s economic prosperity. His legacy continues to be remembered through historical sites like the Calico Ghost Town.



Historic Journey: The Road to Panamint


Nestled within the rugged landscapes of Eastern California, the Panamint Valley is home to a historical artery that has played a pivotal role in developing the American West—the road to Panamint. Originally trodden by Native Americans and later transformed by the ambitions of silver miners, this route not only facilitated economic booms but also bore witness to the ebbs and flows of fortune. The road to Panamint is a testament to the region’s mining era, epitomizing the broader transportation infrastructure development crucial for westward expansion.

Historical Background

The Panamint Valley, framed by the arid peaks of the Panamint Range, was first utilized by the Shoshone Native Americans, who traversed these harsh landscapes following seasonal migration patterns and trade routes. The discovery of silver in 1872 marked a turning point for the valley. News of silver attracted droves of prospectors, catalyzing the establishment of mining camps and the nascent stages of the road. This road would soon become the lifeline for a burgeoning settlement, later known as Panamint City.

Development of the Road

The transformation from a series of Native trails to a fully functional road was propelled by the mining industry’s explosive growth. As prospectors and entrepreneurs flooded the area, the demand for a reliable transportation route skyrocketed. The road to Panamint was quickly carved out of the valley’s rugged terrain, facilitating the movement of people and ore. During the mid-1870s, Panamint City blossomed into a boomtown, with the road being crucial for transporting silver ore to markets beyond the valley. However, as the mines depleted and profits dwindled, the road witnessed the departure of those who had come seeking fortune, leaving behind ghost towns and tales of a fleeting era.

Significance in Regional History

Beyond its economic contributions, the road to Panamint played a significant role in shaping the regional history of Eastern California. It facilitated the integration of remote areas into the state’s broader economic and cultural fabric. Moreover, it was a stage for several historical events, including conflicts between Native Americans and settlers and among competing mining companies. The road connected Panamint with the outside world and helped establish transportation routes that would later support the growth of other regional industries and settlements.

Preservation and Legacy

Today, the road to Panamint is a shadow of its former self, yet it remains an integral part of the cultural heritage of the American West. Efforts have been undertaken to preserve its historical significance, recognizing the road as a physical pathway and a historical document inscribed upon the landscape. It is featured in historical tours, providing insights into the challenges and triumphs of those who once traveled its length in pursuit of silver and survival. The preservation of this road allows contemporary visitors and historians alike to traverse the same paths miners once did, offering a tangible connection to the past.


The road to Panamint encapsulates the spirit of an era driven by the quest for precious metals and the relentless push toward the West. Its historical importance remains a key narrative in understanding how transportation helped shape the economic and cultural landscapes of the American West. As we reflect on its legacy, the road to Panamint continues to offer valuable lessons on resilience and the transient nature of human endeavors.





The Potash Wars – Wyatt Earp

Trona Potash (Story by S. Wallace Austin, dated January 26, 1929)

Trona, California

Wyatt Earp

The recent death of Wyatt Earp (Wyatt died January 13, 1929) recalls to mind the part he played in the claim jumping expedition to Searles Lake in October 1910.  At the time I was Acting Receiver for the California Trona Company and was in charge of a group of placer mining claims covering some 40,000 acres.  The party had been organized at Los Angeles by Henry E. Lee, an Oakland attorney and probably was the best equipped gang of claim jumpers ever assembled in the west.  It consisted of three complete crews of surveyors, the necessary helpers and laborers and about 20 armed guards or gunmen under the command of Wyatt Berry Stapp.

The party of 44 in number, arrived at Searles Lake in seven touring cars and established a camp at the abandoned town of “Slate Range City” about eight miles southeast of the company’s headquarters.  On the morning following their arrival we saw some of the surveyors across the lake and our foreman road over and ordered them off the property but they paid no attention to his protest an proceeded to do a very thorough job or surveying and staking.

Searles Lake

As I considered it necessary to make some show of force in protecting our claims, I visited the enemy’s camp at sunrise the next day with our whole force of five men who were armed with all the weapons they could collect.  It was a very critical moment when we jumped from our wagon and walked up in front of the mess house where the raiders were assembled for breakfast.  I stood in the center with my boys on either side of me.  There was a shout and men came running from all directions and fearing there might be trouble.  

I started right off to explain to the surveyors present that I had only come over to give notice that I was officially and legally in possession of the claims and that they were trespassers.

S. Wallace Austin & Mary Hunter Austin – 1891

Before I got very far a tall man with iron grey hair and a mustache pushed his way to the front and in a loud voice demanded why I had come into their camp with armed men.  At the same time he grabbed hold of my shotgun held by the boy on my left and attempted to take it away from him.  At this attack upon us I drew an automatic and ordered him to let go.  He did so and then ran to a building nearby saying “I’ll fix you.”  Before he could secure a rifle, however, the cooler headed members of the party surrounded him and calmed him down.  Also, you may be sure every effort was made to prevent a fight, as, in spite of our bold being, we were pretty badly scared.

Just as things seemed to have quieted down,  one of the excited jumpers accidentally discharged a gun.  No one was hurt but, it was a very tense moment for all of us.  Having failed to dislodge the enemy the following day I called for a US Marshall and when he arrive the claim jumpers were all arrested and sent home including “Wyatt Berry Stapp”, none other than the famous Marshall Wyatt Stapp Earp.

San Francisco Call, Volume 108, Number 151, 29 October 1910


United States Marshal, Elliott received a telegram yesterday from Deputy Marshal Fred Burling, in Los Angeles, stating that 24 armed-men had seized the properties of the California Trona Company near Johannesberg. A receiver has been placed in charge of the 40,000 acres of soda claims pending the decision of a suit by the Foreign Mines development company against the Trona Company for $200,000.

Deputy Marshal Burling was sent out to serve papers on certain persons alleged to be interfering with the receiver.

Los Angeles Herald, Volume 33, Number 28, 29 October 1910


Methods Used in Oil Fields Are Applied to Country Held by Borax Outfit

SEARLES, Cal., Oct. 28. — Borax Lake, located in the northwest corner of San Bernardino County, is again the scene of a claim jumping struggle. A party of armed men, thirty-five in number, with automobiles, led by a man named Splat, of Los Angeles, have entered the property of California Trona company and are surveying and locating over the locations of the Trona company which has just finished assessment work costing $25000.

This is the same property on which Charles Davidson of Oakland perished last June while leading a claim jumping expedition for the same property. The property is now in charge of a receiver of the United States court who notified the jumpers to desist. They replied by show of arms and refused. The United States marshal is now on his way to the scene of trouble.

The automobiles are in charge of Chauffeur M, C. Vorney and are numbered 24145, 32783, 36991, 37404 and 29487.

Names of locators are: H. C. Fursman, W. Hull, R. Wagmire, P. Perkins, H. A. Baker, E. Thompson, D. Smith, T. W. Pack. Witness, E. A. Rasor.

The Foreign Mines and Development company has a mortgage of $250,000 on this property. A sale is pending in |the east, said to be on a $1,000,000 basis.

The last two articles are from  the California Digital Newspaper Collection

Carrara – Elizalde

The region’s earlier history includes the town of Carrara, established to support marble quarrying, which began in 1904. Despite initial optimism, the marble’s quality and economic factors led to the quarry and the town’s decline.

The “Elizalde Cement Plant” in Nevada has historical significance. It was established in the early 20th century to supply cement for Hoover Dam construction. The Elizalde Company built the plant and operated when the American Southwest underwent significant industrial and infrastructure development.

After the completion of the Hoover Dam, the demand for cement decreased, leading to the plant’s closure. The remnants of the Elizalde Cement Plant now stand as a testament to the region’s industrial history, attracting historians and enthusiasts interested in the area’s development and the broader story of American industrialization.

The Elizalde Cement Plant, located in Nevada, has a history tied to industrial ambitions and unforeseen setbacks. Incorporated in November 1940 as the Carrara Portland Cement Company, it aimed to produce standard gray and special white cement, utilizing crushed marble from the nearby Carrara quarry.

Incorporated in November 1940 as the Carrara Portland Cement Company, it aimed to produce standard gray and special white cement, utilizing crushed marble from the nearby Carrara quarry. By April 1941, construction was in full swing, with an estimated daily output planned for 80 tons of cement. However, a devastating fire in July 1941 destroyed significant parts of the plant, halting progress. Despite efforts to rebuild and expand, World War II’s fuel rationing ultimately doomed the plant, which never became operational.

By April 1941, construction was in full swing, with an estimated daily output planned for 80 tons of cement. However, a devastating fire in July 1941 destroyed significant parts of the plant, halting progress. Despite efforts to rebuild and expand, World War II’s fuel rationing ultimately doomed the plant, which never became operational.

The Elizalde Cement Plant was supposed to mark a new industrial phase, but it became a relic of unfulfilled industrial aspirations, now an intriguing ruin in the desert landscape.​

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.comhttps://www.nvexpeditions.com/nye/elizalde.php

Silver Queen – Mojave, CA


Call NumberX-61476
CreditDenver Public Library Special Collections, [call number]
TitleSilver Queen Mine Mojave Calif.
Date1934 December 4
SummaryMiners, including Andrew Holmes, inspect a piece of ore in a tunnel of the Silver Queen Mine (a gold mine) near Mojave, California. Two mine cars that read: “R. L. McLaurin Myers Durkee Woods” and “M. Daniels” are nearby.
Format of Original Material1 photoprint ; 17 x 22 cm (7 x 8 1/2 in.)
Digital Version Created FromMax 1980.
Type of MaterialPhotographic prints; Black & white photographs
SubjectDump cars–Arizona–Mojave; Silver Queen Mine (Calif.); Gold mining–Arizona–Mojave; Interiors–Arizona–Mojave; Miners–Arizona–Mojave; Mining–Arizona–Mojave
Contact InformationSubmit questions about research and access to this material here: https://history.denverlibrary.org/contact-us. For questions about reproduction and use of this material visit: https://history.denverlibrary.org/image-pricing-and-sizes.
Digital Reproduction Available for Purchase?Yes
Related MaterialImage File: ZZR710061476
NotesTitle hand-written on back of print. Type-written label attached to back of print reads: “Associated Press Photo” and contains historical information. R7100614761
Corrections and SuggestionsIf you have a question or a correction regarding this resource, please contact us at history@denverlibrary.org

Mines in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Eagle Cliff Mine

Mines in Joshua Tree National Park are remnants of the region’s rich mining history. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area now Joshua Tree National Park saw a mining boom. Prospectors were drawn to this part of the California desert by the promise of gold, silver, copper, and other valuable minerals.

  1. History of Mining in the Area: The mining era in the region began in the 1800s and continued into the early 1900s. Miners established several small mines throughout the area, extracting various minerals. The most sought-after were gold and silver, but there were also operations for copper and other minerals.
  2. Impact on the Landscape: The mining activities left a significant mark on the landscape. You can find old mine shafts, ruins of miner’s cabins, and remnants of mining equipment scattered throughout the park. These historical artifacts provide a glimpse into the harsh conditions miners faced.
  3. Preservation and Safety: Many of these mines are now part of the cultural heritage protected within Joshua Tree National Park. However, they can be dangerous, with unstable shafts and toxic substances. Visitors are generally advised to admire them safely and not enter mine shafts or tunnels.
  4. Popular Mines to Visit: Some of the more well-known mines in the park include the Lost Horse Mine, one of the area’s most productive gold mines, and the Desert Queen Mine. These mines and others are accessible via hiking trails and are popular spots for visitors interested in the area’s history.
  5. Educational and Recreational Opportunities: The park offers educational programs about the area’s mining history, and many visitors enjoy hiking to these historical sites to learn about the past.
  6. Conservation Efforts: The National Park Service works to preserve these historical sites while ensuring visitors’ safety and the natural environment’s protection.

Thus, Joshua Tree National Park is a natural reserve and a historical archive of the American West’s mining era.

Overview of Mining


The Mastodon Mine


The Mastodon Mine in Joshua Tree National Park has history dates back to the early 20th century. In southeastern California, Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for its stunning desert landscapes, unique vegetation, and geological features.

Mastodon Mine

The Mastodon Mine was primarily a gold mine, reflecting the broader gold mining activity of the California Gold Rush era. However, it occurred later than the initial rush of 1849. Mining in this region was fueled by the discovery of gold and the potential for profitable mining operations.

The mine was established in the early 1900s. The Mastodon Mine was not one of the region’s largest or most productive mines during its operational years. Still, it was significant enough to draw workers and contribute to the local mining history. The miners would have used traditional hard-rock mining techniques to extract gold from the quartz veins in the area.

Over the years, the mine changed hands and eventually ceased operations. Like many abandoned mines, it was left with remnants of its mining past, including shafts, tunnels, and debris. These remnants are historical artifacts, providing insight into the mining techniques and life during that period.

In 1994, the area encompassing the Mastodon Mine became part of Joshua Tree National Park, established to protect the region’s unique desert ecosystem and cultural heritage. The National Park Service manages the site, balancing preserving historical resources with protecting the natural environment.

Today, the Mastodon Mine is a point of interest for Joshua Tree National Park visitors. It offers a glimpse into the area’s mining history, with trails leading to the mine site and interpretive signs providing information about its history and impact on the region.

As with many historical sites, the information about the Mastodon Mine is based on historical records, archaeological evidence, and ongoing research. The National Park Service and historians continue to study such sites to understand the region’s past better.

Joshua Tree National Park

Mines & Mills