The metal also caused a rapid
settlement of the U.S. western territories when in 1849, the California gold rush began.
More than 100,000 people were drawn to this untamed state to search for gold after it was
discovered at Sutter's Mill.
Although there was no gold rush to such proportions to the
Mojave Desert, and specifically to the Antelope Valley, gold mining plays an important
role in local history, from its discovery in 1882 by Ezra Hamilton at what is now Tropico
Hill in Rosamond, through the boom period of gold production in the 1930s, until the
The ancient fascination with gold exists here as it did
all over the world to races of men
On a slow day at his pottery works in Los Angeles, Ezra
Hamilton began panning some of his clay for gold. The red clay, which had come from his
land in Rosamond, yielded some specks of bright metal.
The year was 1882. Gold mining in the Antelope Valley had
Striking it rich
The local list of profitable gold mines from that year on is healthy. Hamilton's
discovery, which he sold to the Big Three Mining and Milling Company, who sold it to
Tropico Mining and Milling Company, and was finally purchased by the Burton Brothers in
the 1920s, was followed by a host of other successful strikes.
The biggest gold producer, however, was the Tropico Mine,
because of the length of time it operated.
Dorene Burton Settle, who presently owns part of the mine
with her husband Glen, explained, "Burton's Tropico is probably the longest in
operation in the area, from about 1882 until 1956. Other mines in the area didn't start up
until the '30s.
Settle's father, the hate H. Clifford Burton, purchased
the Tropico stocks with his brother, the late Cecil Burton. Business picked up, and was
doing well in the '30s, providing jobs during the Depression for about 150 Antelope Valley
men, said Settle.
In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the price
of gold from $20.67 to $35 per ounce, giving the mining industry a boost. For the Tropico,
and all area mines, this was the boom period.
In close proximity
The mines are mostly located between Rosamond and Mojave on four different sets
of rocky hills. These are, from south to north, Tropico Hill, Middle Butte, Soledad
Mountain and Standard Hill.
The list includes the Cactus Queen, from which 230,000
tons of ore yielding a total value exceeding $5 million was produced, according to the
1970 county report of the California Division of Mines and Geology.
The Golden (originally, the Silver) Queen, produced more
than 500,000 tons of ore, yielding over $6 million in gold and silver.
Then there is the Elephant Eagle mine, which put the late
Governor Goodwin J. Knight through the University of Southern California and helped pay
for his 1954 gubernatorial campaign.
The U.S. government closed gold mines from 1942 to 1945 to
free miners so that they could work at mining metals more strategic to the war effort.
After the war, inflation made gold mining at Tropico and everywhere, unprofitable, and in
1956, Burton's Tropico Gold mine ceased production.
After 74 years and 300,000 tons of ore, the Tropico mine
produced about $7 or $8 million.
After Hamilton's discovery of Tropico, W.W. Bowers found gold on March 8, 1894,
on Standard Hill. He called the claim the Exposed Treasure, which produced about $7
Soon, the Karma, Queen Esther, the Whitmore, Elephant,
Echo and Grey Eagle, were discovered and developed.
Harvey and Seely Mudd formed the Mudd Mining Company, and
turned the Cactus Queen into a major producer in the late 1930s. In six years, the, mine
produced its $6 million.
A man named Winkler found the Winkler mine while working
for the Mudd Mining company.
Dorene Settle related the story. "Winkler was doing
prospecting up on the hill (Middle Butte), and he made a pretty good strike. But it was on
the Mudd's property. So he went to them and wanted to lease the land. And they said 'no.'
"And so they had their engineers go in
and gridded the place and took samples all over the place. And they couldn't find it.
"And in the meantime, Winkler died . And he left the
map for his widow. Finally the Mudds went to the widow, and she showed them where the mine
'She sold them the map, then."
The Golden Queen
George Holmes discovered the Golden Queen in 1934, on Soledad Mountain. The mine,
which produced $6 million, was sold for $3.5 million to South African Goldfields
Consolidated, making Holmes and his associates world famous.
Another 1934 discoverer was Jess Knight, who owned the
Elephant Eagle mine on Soledad Mountain. His son, Goodwin Knight, became governor of
Glen Settle, who is an Antelope Valley historian, recalled
an incident involving the late governor: "After he was governor, he came down here
(to Tropico). He was running for election to the senate.
"We were having a mining convention at the mine, and
he was supposed to speak to the miners here at one o'clock. He kind of got carried away.
"He saw a lot of his old friends from Mojave mining
days and he was supposed to be at another function down around Imperial Valley or
somewhere about four. And it was three-thirty and be was still talking here. Everybody was
trying to get him going, and get him back to his plane so he could get down there.
"And he was only interested in talking to all of his
old mining cronies."
Many believe that gold mining in the Antelope Valley isn't
over yet. There are still prospectors on both Soledad Mountain and Standard Hill.
Although there may never be as many miners as there were
in the boom period of the '30s, at least one prospector, like all prospectors, is
Muroc-born Joe Pauley Sr., who is doing work at a mine
near Standard Hill, said he believes the future in gold mining is bright.
"If gold goes up like they predicted (I read that it
might go up to $5,000 an ounce), the Silver Queen, the Cactus, the Tropico, the Heart of
Mojave, the Old Rover, The Standard Hill