Here is an excerpt from one of the many stories to be found at the
minningcollect discussion group. You can join this group by going to
Mining Collect an Email information sharing exchange.
You will be able to exchange information with a lot of fellow enthusiast from
around the world. This group also coordinates get togethers all over the
The following is a
story by one of the more involved and colorful members, Bob Schroth. This is a
background story on an up an coming outing to the mines of Calico
California on Saturday March 31, and Sunday April 1. We will be going to some
mine sites and having a camp out .
Since The big Calico Adventure is coming up pretty soon, I thought I would
post a little more information on the Calico area.
Once a rip roaring silver mining camp, Calico boasts an
colorful history. The Calico Mts. were named by the first settlers who saw
the muted colors of women's dress material in the hues of the landscape.
there are several other stories of how Calico got it's name but after you see
the area you will know why this one is probably true. Long before the miners,
the Mojave Indians made there homes in this harsh environment, subsisting on
corn, beans, and melons and an occasional meal of jackrabbit or ground
Anthropological studies have found evidence of
inter-tribal commerce in
the form of shell artifacts from the channel-islands and robes of rabbit skin
from the Paiutes to the North. It is possible that these Indians traded
turquoise for imported goods. A few early turquoise mines and quarries are
scattered around the area. One of these mines in located close to the (Old
Government Road) or the Mojave Trail as it is called now. Many ancient stone
tools and the shells of desert tortoise were found in a small 30 ft long and
12 ft deep pit mine.
The Calico Early man Archaeological Site off Interstate
15 on Minneola
Road was discovered by Dr Louis Leakey in 1964. A vast case of early stone
tools was uncovered, many of which were used last about 20,000 years ago.
This is one of the oldest sites in north America. I have visited this site a
few times. While I am not a professional in this area, I am not convinced
that everything they are claiming to be hand tooled by early man really has
been. But who am I???
The first European to traverse the region was a
Spaniard named Alarcon
in 1540. Fray Francisco Garces, seeking a route to the San Gabriel Mission,
passed through in 1776. Later, hardy settlers put down roots in this
inhospitabl region. Among them was Tom Meacham. Meacham, searching for a
horse stolen by Indians, came across a bluff colored as if by latent
minerals. Sent by his father Frank Meacham found ore that assayed at a
profitable concentration of silver.
It was enough to prompt formation of a company of local
citizens to hire
Franks brother Charley to probe deeper into the site. Charley spotted a
promising location and climbed a cliff, and knocked off a fragment of rock.
He was intrigued by what he saw it was found to contain nuggets of pure
silver. The result of this discovery was the Silver king Mine. The first car
load of silver was valued at $400-500 a ton. At the time $80 dollars a ton
was enough to turn a profit.
Calico had no stamp mill to crush the ore, the nearest
was at Orogrande,
40 miles away. At first the high-grade was sacked and drug down hill to be
carted to Orogrande. Soon the large tramway and huge ore bins and a large
stampmill were put in place.
Calico was soon invaded by fortune seekers.
Accommodation's consisted of
tents, burrows in hillsides, and adobe cabins. when spaces along Main Street
were filled, newcomers built wooden walkways across gullies and created
dugout suburbs among the rocks. At it's peak Calico boasted of a population
of 4000. They could slacken their thirst at one of 22 saloons. For a mining
camp the settlement was unusually orderly. Few killing took place. As Calico
matured, rigors of desert life were alleviated in many small ways. When the
rail line was extended to Calico from Dagget, fancier merchandise became
available. Among the new amenities was ice, used by a very enterprising young
lady with condensed milk to make Ice Cream. she made a modest fortune in the
On two occasions fire ravaged the town. After the
second blaze, fire
prevention ordinance mandated that every third building on main Street be
constructed from adobe. Several of these fragile structures were damaged by
the many recent earthquakes in this area. One centered directly under the
town site. During this time many of the sound and solid rock mines collapsed
and many areas that we have explored are lost to us.
Calico was not destined to last as with most mining
camps. On the
national scene, business interests campaigned for the Gold Standard, which
entailed scarce money and tight credit. Farmers and laborers stood for free
coinage or silver, which meant abundant money and easy credit. At the
Democratic National Convention in 1896 William Jennings Bryan ("...you
not crucify mankind on a cross of gold...") was nominated for president.
After a hard fought campaign he was defeated by William McKinley and the
Goldbugs (as they were know at the time) The price of silver dropped from
$1.31 an ounce to 63cts, and Calico heyday was over. the silver content of
the ore sank to uneconomic levels. Calico breathed it's last in 1907.
In 1950 Walter Knott, of Berry Farm fame, bought the
refurbished the 5 extant building, and recreated the rest. He operated this
as a theme park for 16 years and then presented it to San Bernardino County
for conversion to a regional park.
I know many of you have heard us talking about this area for
several reasons for this are: it is fairly close to many of us desert and
underground mine explorers and there are so many mines in this area that even
now, new areas are being found and uncovered. With mine collapse and closures
our underground exploring days are becoming limited. While buying mining
artifacts is fun, finding them in place is a thrill only compared to finding
a small cache of treasure. seeing the hardships of the underground life has
to be seen to understand and appreciated. I started my collecting hobby by
exploring the underground and hiking in the hills of this area. I have been
thinking about asking the mangers of the town if we could have one of our
upcoming Mining Collector shows there. Large Hotels are found in Barstow...
humm maybe a possibility? Any thought's on this would be helpful.
Anyway a thought. If you can make the trip out please do, I believe that the
first day will be easy walk in mines trips, and the second day a bit more
I hope to see you there,