There are hundreds of mines in the IE, most are old and closed, but a few remain open and are producing Gold, Salt, Silver and many different ores and precious metals....But there are two mines out in the vastness of the deserts, that made there owners wealthy, but are now gone, or rather lost in the mist of time, just waiting for someone to find them once again....But where are they?
The Lost Dutch Oven Mine
In 1894, Tom Scofield, a railroad worker, was surveying near the Clipper Mountains northwest of Essex, California when he decided to do a little exploring......As he climbed up a deep gully, he ran across an old abandoned stone house that appeared to have been built years previously.....He checked inside and found old coffee and bacon tins, cans of beans and peaches and other assorted mining tools....Tools for digging.....As he hiked further up the dry wash about nine more miles when he came upon a spring.....The water looked fresh but was bitter to the taste....From there, he followed a trail that led over the hill where he came upon a rock that was as big as a house but split down the center....He found that even though the trail was narrow he could still make his way through it....He stumbled into what appeared to be an old Spanish camp.
Tom found himself standing on a high shelf, surrounded by high walls.....Through other openings in the rock walls, he could see that the "shelf" was sitting high above the ground at about 500 feet......The only way in or out of the little flat was through the split rock.
Scattered about the long deserted camp, Scofield found rusty mining tools, pots, pans, fragments of a bedroll, and an old iron Dutch oven.
Also on the shelf was a mine shaft, in which he found the skeletons of seven burrows.....Next to the shaft was a mine dump that contained numerous stones still containing rich gold quartz......By the time he had finished exploring the campsite, he realized that it was too late to return to his base camp.....Cold and hungry, he bedded down on the shelf planning to leave at daybreak.....In the morning, as he was leaving, he tripped over the Dutch oven and out tumbled a mound of pure gold nuggets.....Shocked, Tom gathered as many nuggets as he could carry and returned to his base camp.....From there he caught a train to Los Angeles, where he spent the next two months in a drunken frenzy, gambling and living the high life.....After squandering all the money he had received from the sale of the gold nuggets, Scofield found himself sober and completely broke.....It would be two years before he was able to make his way back to the Clipper Mountains to search for the "Dutch Oven Mine." ....Try as he might, it seemed to him that everything had changed and he was completely unable to retrace his steps.....he finally gave up the search when he could not even find the same canyon and bitter water as he found two years earlier.
When Scofield was 84, he was interviewed by Walter H. Miller and George Haight in 1936.....Living in an abandoned store in the Mojave Desert outside Danby, California, Scofield was at first hesitant to tell his story.....After having been hounded for four decades by treasure hunters wanting more information about the mine, he had long tired of the story even though he continued to insist that it was true.
Today, the Dutch Oven Mine continues to be lost, or at least no one has ever claimed to have found it.....The Clipper Mountains are located in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California......The range is found just south of Interstate 40 and the Clipper Valley, between the freeway and National Old Trails Highway, northwest of the small community of Essex......The range is home to at least three springs, as well as the Tom Reed Mine.
The Lost Gunsight Mine of Death Valley
In 1849, a group of California bound emigrants were headed out of Utah with a 107 wagons led by Captain Jefferson Hunt.......However, by November, the group disagreed on the most direct route to the gold fields.....Some believed there was a much shorter route across the desert, rather than taking the well known route along the Old Spanish Trail.....Though Hunt warned them that they were "walking into the jaws of hell," several members of the group parted near Enterprise, Utah, believing the shortcut would save them about 20 days of travel.
They would become known as the "Lost 49’ers," who nearly starved on their journey, discovered silver in the process, and give the valley its name.
The splinter group consisted of several smaller parties, who would also disagree on the best way to cross the vast desert.....Before reaching White Sage Flat, the party split once again, with one group hiking over the Panamint Mountains and the other traveling along the floor of the valley.
The two parties met up again at White Sage Flat, where one Jim Martin displayed silver ore that he had found while crossing the mountains......Exhausted, starved, and many of the party near death, the group had little interest in mineral riches, focusing only on survival......After four months of travel across the vast desert lands, the tattered emigrants finally stumbled into Mariposa happily, some were heard to say 'Good-bye, Death Valley.'
During the terrible journey the pioneers had killed their oxen for meat, burned their wagons, and were forced to walk most of the way on what had become a "shortcut to hell."......In the meantime, the party who had stayed with Captain Hunt’s group had already arrived in California.
After settling in Jim Martin, who had lost the sight off his rifle during the journey, took the silver ore to a gunsmith who made it into a new gun sight......The gunsmith couldn't keep a good story a secret, quickly spread the story to everyone in town, touching off one of the west’s great prospecting booms and the legend of the Lost Gunsight Mine.
One of the men who had come out of Death Valley alive, a Mr. Turner, who had been with Martin when he discovered the silver, decided to return to the desert in search of the silver......Failing to find it as he scowled the northern desert for any signs of the mine, he soon came upon a ranch belonging to a Dr. French near Fort Tejon......Telling the doctor the tale, French and Turner mounted a second expedition to search for the silver outcropping in September, 1850.....All they found were Indians on the prowl, and other prospectors searching for lost gold or silver mines.
Though the "Lost Gunsight Mine" was never found, dozens of other prospectors were successful in finding hidden wealth in the Death Valley.
Gary Hall the ghostpainter