History lives on in
The town of Randsburg in Kern County, Calif.,
might qualify as a "living" ghost town.
Residents number about 150. However, at its peak in 1918,
this mining town located about 40 miles northeast of Mojave had a population of 3,500.
Although small, Randsburg is still one of California's
best known mining towns. Mines in the area are actively being worked, some by large
corporations such as the Rand Mining Company. The Randsburg-Johannesburg-Red Mountain area
also draws many recreational prospectors with metal detectors and dry washers to small
claims held by mining associations.
The rest is history
The story of Randsburg began like many others in California history: In 1895,
three guys literally saw some gold lying on the ground and staked a claim.
By 1900, $3 million in gold had been taken out of
Randsburg's Yellow Aster Mine. It's estimated that $25 million was taken out before the
end of World War II, when the mine closed. (It reopened about 10 years ago.)
Randsburg is thick with good, old timey atmosphere.
There are many historic buildings, including the White
House Saloon, which dates back to the very first years of this century. Some of these
buildings are inhabited by more than ghosts, including the Randsburg General Store, still
serving food and soft drinks at its soda fountain, which dates back at least to the 1930s.
A mine of information
There's also the Randsburg Museum, which has been recently refurbished. A branch
of the Kern County Museum since 1948, the museum in
smallness is proportionate to the town. But
it, also like the town, is loaded with the flavor of the Old West.
Naturally, possessions of gold miners, their tools of the
trade and other utilitarian relics used in the boom town are central to the exhibits
housed within the Randsburg Museum.
Items such as an assortment of milling drills, a frying
pan, an apothecary's pill-rolling device and an old steam engine used operate dentist's
tools are among those on display. A variety of local gems and minerals, some dinosaur
gizzard stones and Indian artifacts such as cooking stones, arrowheads and a buffalo horn
are also there.
Outside, visitors can see more relics, among them a
five-ton steam locomotive used in the Yellow Aster Mine in the 1900s and a 5-Stamp Mill
(which had originally 10 stamps) to crush ore from the mine.
The Randsburg Museum, located at 156 Butte St., is open
weekends and holidays (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day), from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. For further information, call (760) 374-2400.