Just as I thought about a location for this month, I discovered a package of color negatives of the biggest Silver mine in the same area as our trip to Randsburg California had been about the Yellow Aster† Gold mine.† I sent them to the lab and they came back great! So this monthís trip is to the Kelly Silver Mine.† So rich, well Iím getting ahead of myself.
After getting up at three or four OíClock, and doing the final loading of my topographic maps for the expected area, and all the many tools I mentioned last month, I drove over to Larryís house in another part of San Diego.
First order of business, breakfast at a chain restaurant.†† Later, patting my stomach and issuing a discrete belch we strolled out to our separate campers, climbed aboard, checked our Citizen Band radios and pulled out onto the freeway heading North to the Randsburg area again.
As Iíve said before, getting there is half the fun. From San Diego North to San Bernardino and the Cajon Pass, is a two hour drive thru the once farming country, now turned into low cost housing. Once you are over the Pass, you are on true desert.† You never know what youíll see along the desert hiways.† One time we watched a helicopter lowering wooden power poles into holes by the road.
This trip we didnít stop at Kramer Junction, deciding we had enough gasoline to get to our campsite below Randsburg, CA.† After four hours of driving, we arrived at our camp site.† Larry does the picking, as he has a bigger camper and is usually towing an open trailer, with his motorcycle and earlier mine too.† We park to have maximum shade. That is to say, we are at angles to each other, and as the sun sweeps across our site from East to West in a Southerly arc, there is shade provided by one of our camper rigís body, without having to deal with a flapping canvas for shade.
We were joined by members of our local prospecting club, The Southwestern Prospectors and Miners Association, for a tour of the Kelly Mine at Red Mountain; South and East of Randsburg, CA.† After the tour we were going to do some drywashing for gold.† I left my truck at our camp site and Larry drove us, following the group, to the Kelly Mine, where the caretaker met us and gave us an external tour of the site.
Most mine stories have an interesting discovery, this mine being no exception.† My source is the long out of print Mines and Minerals of San Bernardino County.
The discovery leading† to subsequent development was actually made by† Jack Nosser and HampWilliams on April 12, 1919.† Working for Sheriff† J.W. Kelly of Kern county, they were building claim corner markers.† They were resting from their labors in the shade of a large outcrop of rock. Williams believed he saw horn silver in the outcrop,† collected some samples and presented them to Sheriff Kelly who sent them off to an assayer in Bakersfield. The assay found the samples to yield $300 in silver and† 3 ounces of gold per ton.
After setting up a group of† eleven claims, officially known as the California Rand Silver Mining Company, by mid-May 1919,† the first shaft was dug on the discovery vein. Ore was at first removed from a glory hole at the shaft and later from drifts joined to the shaft. By 1920, the ore mined at the number one shaft grossed $1,086,916!
The number two shaft was dug in 1921.† The pictures accompanying this Notebook article were taken by myself and are concerned mainly with the number two shaft. In passing, the 1921 gross output of the mine as well as one lessee was 18,245 tons of ore valued at $3,298,561!† It was also the year a flotation mill was constructed on the property.
By 1924, the number two shaft was completed to a depth of 1600 feet, and then things began to get complicated with connections to leased veins.† The saga comes to an end in the year 1929.
Work was becoming unsafe due to the sandy nature of the ground and because planned work was to continue on the Williams vein, some 1800 feet from the shaft, the only point of exit, the work was ordered stopped by a state mine inspector.
The costs of opening another exit combined with the drop in value of† silver from around $1.00 per ounce in 1923 to as low as 28 cents per ounce in 1929, was too much. The mine was sold, bringing to end the life of an incredible mine.† Occasional leasers tried to make a go of it, but the glory days were over.
At the time we visited the mine in October 1983, all was closed,† locked, and caretakered;
the tattered walls of the mill building rattling in the slight breeze.
Our tour group returned to camp. The humidity was 80%, much too high to drywash. A motorcycle race was in progress too. Larry and I moved our camp across the valley West of the Summit Range where the temperature was 85 F degrees with† 42% humidity and much quieter.
Jerome W. Anderson