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.