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Historical Mining Towns of the Eastern Mojave Desert


photo of the Vontrigger mill

Small-scale mining began in the Vontrigger Hills during the 1890s, but larger operations appeared after 1904. One operator, the Pentagon Mining Company, founded a camp about six miles north of Blake (Goffs); it comprised an assay office, bunkhouse, and shafthouse. Nine miles north of Blake was the California Mine. Its owner was Albert H. Cram, a prominent mining-stock promoter in Riverside.

Cram’s promotional activities were somewhat dubious, but he carried out a great deal of development. Organizing the California Gold & Copper Company, Cram sank three deep shafts and installed modern equipment. By the summer of 1906, Cram had 25 men at work. In 1907, he built a large camp, which contained a barn, a well-stocked store, and a reservoir, and laid a nine-mile pipeline to Hackberry Springs. By then, about 40 men were employed. In October, Cram began work on a leaching plant, which turned out 5,400 pounds of copper in 1907.

By June, 1909, the camp had grown to 20 buildings, including the store, a boardinghouse, a rooming house, and cabins. The main shaft had reached 317 feet, and 17,000 gallons of water a day were flowing through the pipeline. Cram also developed an “electro-chemical” system that, he said, could extract gold and copper from the ore. The equipment was housed in a 96x100-foot building.

In 1911, Cram kicked off his final promotional campaign. The electrochemical plant, he claimed, was leaching out copper ore “on a commercial scale.” A fully equipped roller mill, with cyanide tanks, started up about June. Cram visited Goldfield, Nevada, several times to buy additional equipment. In fact, he produced 4,000 pounds of copper that year. The operation probably shut down after 1911.

Meanwhile, a settlement arose two miles away, at Vontrigger, a siding on the California Easter Railway. A post office was established there in May, 1907. In late 1908, Vontrigger consisted of a water tank, a loading platform, and a combination store, post office, and restaurant. A monument made of copper ore greeted travelers. The post office closed in October, 1913. All that remained in 1917 was the side track.

Another camp, also called Vontrigger, grew up at the Getchell Mine, several miles to the west, in the Hackberry Mountains. By May, 1925, the camp contained a store, restaurant, cold-drink resort, and 30 tents, and others were rising “every other day.” A 30-room hotel was reportedly under construction. The work probably was suspended about then.

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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