Survey number:      Owner:      Date of discovery:
"Water for horses cost ten cents a bucket and water for men-- well, men don't drink water in that town." - D. A. Hufford

Johannesburg Milling and Water Co. Office in Johannesburg 1898 -- McPherson

J. D. Browne filed an application in the office of Surveyor-General on the 24thday of June, 1896 to purchase a school section which consisted of the east one-half of sec. 36, and on November 9, 1896, a certificate of purchase, No. 13,687, was issued to him.  Browne, who was obviously just a front man, afterward transferred the certificate of purchase to the Johannesburg Milling and Water Company.  After the company had proceeded to make improvements, other parties began to question the title, and made application to the Surveyor-General’s office to purchase the land.  The Surveyor-General referred the matter for adjudication to the Superior Judge of Kern County, J. W. Mahon, and the cause came up for trial, resulting in a complete vindication for the Johannesburg Company on all points.  The court found that the company owned the land and was entitled to receive a patent after September 25, 1897.

These same parties owned the Rigg Well, about three miles north east of town, and were developing water under the name of Mountain View Water Company.  They intended to raise the water to a reservoir at the wells in order to get sufficient fall and pressure to run it into the new town.  .  It will be furnished to the people of Johannesburg for 75 cents per barrel.  The capacity of the two wells, the Skillings and Riggs was about the same, neither furnishing enough for mill purposes without further development.

They installed a pipe line the three miles to Johannesburg, and on January 24, 1897 water was let into the pipes and furnished to the residents of Johannesburg for one and a half cents per gallon. While they claimed to have enough water to supply a town of ten thousand, they still did not have sufficient water to run a ten stamp mill. (It should be noted that the current water system has been rated by the engineers to be sufficient to provide water to seven hundred households of an average occupancy of 3.7 persons per household or 2,590 people.)

In February of 1897 a change took place in the town site management at Johannesburg, Mr. Hanson, who had been in charge of the sale of lots for the company, retired and left for his home in Ontario this morning.  Messrs. Easton, Eldridge, & Co., took charge and control of the town site and everything connected with it.  The Johannesburg Milling and Water Company was to continue all other improvements, such as developing water, digging reservoirs, erecting mills, etc.

On March  1,  1897 it was reported that the Johannesburg Company had received a new drilling outfit, engine and derrick.  It required twenty head of horses to haul it from the railroad, and it was taken out to the wells.

The Johannesburg Town Company completed boring a new well on April 22 1897, and put in a pump the next day, capable of lifting 500 feet.  The new well was 250 feet deep, seven inches diameter, and had 170 feet of water estimated at a two-inch constant flow.  Work was to begin on another well nearby, and upon completion the company expected to have water sufficient to begin the erection of a ten-stamp mill near the town. The company proposed to dig a number of wells a little distance from each other so as to have plenty of water.

By May 14, 1897 the new well at Johannesburg struck water at 125 feet, it being located on higher ground.  The new well was down 275 feet, by May 29.  The bore was nine and one-half inches, the water having being struck at a depth of 122 feet, and was soon afterward rising to a depth of 108 feet.  A test was made with the baler, and fifteen gallons per minute was thrown out for two hours, the water falling to 118 and remaining steadily at that point indicating that the well was good for at least two inches steady flow and perhaps much more if  a thorough test could be made.

They now had enough water in the three wells to warrant them to consider propositions for the erection stamp mills near the town, and parties had been negotiating for water to run a small mill on the east end of the Alameda Mine. In August of 1897 the Los Angeles Herald reported that “August 29, 1897:  “THE RAND MINERS FIND THEIR CLAIMS IN GOOD DEMAND. Outside Capital Seeking Investment and Prospectors Continue to Find Rich Rock. Special Correspondence to The Herald. JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 27—The Rand mining district is just waking up to the fact that a boom is in progress. It came so gradually and steadily that it was upon us before we realized It, but is none the less welcome. Outside capital is coming in looking for .investment, mining properties are changing hands, claims are being developed and night shifts have been put to work in at least a dozen mines during the past three weeks. The boom methods of a year ago are things of the past and the people have settled, down to legitimate, practical mining. The prospect for a stamp or rotary mill being erected here at once is good.  R. Richie of Johnson & Richie, Los Angeles, was in this section, this week, with Geo. H. Curtis, vice-president of the Johannesburg Milling and Water Company, and visited the principal mines in the district. Mr. Richie left for Los Angeles last evening taking samples of ore with him and expects to return next week and begin the erection of a mill. This firm is well known, having built mills in nearly every mining section on the coast.” – The company had, however, under contemplation the erection of a ten-stamp mill by another party on the north border of the town site. By September of 1897 construction had started on a 10 stamp mill by the Johannesburg Sampling Works.

January 06, 1898: “Mrs. J. H. Howell and son left Tuesday for Randsburg, where they will Join Mr. Howell, who is engineer of the Johannesburg Water company.” –The Herald

At some point another management change was made as it was reported in the May 9, 1898 edition of the Los Angeles Herald that: “Francis Qua, recent manager for the Townsite Company, left with his family for Los Angeles on Monday evening. Both Mr. and Mrs. Qua made many friends while here who were sorry to see them leave the desert.” It was also reported in the same edition that:  “George H. Curtis, vice-president and secretary of the Johannesburg Milling and Water company, returned last Saturday and took charge of the company’s affairs at this place. A trench has been dug and the pipe is on the ground to complete that company’s water system to Randsburg.”–

In September of 1898 it was reported in the Los Angeles Herald that:  “The shaft of one of the Johannesburg Water company’s engines broke a few days ago. The company’s customers are being supplied the same as usual, the engine at another well being in use.”

January 06, 1898: “Mrs. J. H. Howell and son left Tuesday for Randsburg, where they will Join Mr. Howell, who is engineer of the Johannesburg Water company.” – The Herald

June 25, 1898: NOTICE. TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN—It having been brought to our notice that reports are being circulated in this district with reference to the water supplied by the Johannesburg Milling and Water Company being full of impurities detrimental to health, we hereby invite the representatives of the City of Randsburg and other places interested in the consumption of said water to thoroughly inspect our reservoirs  and supply system, and also to co-operate with us in taking samples of water at the various supply stations, for chemical analysis at our expense.

Johannesburg Milling & Water Co.”

October 03, 1898:  “The broken parts of the engines and pumps of the Johannesburg Water company and the Squaw Springs Company have been replaced and the wells are now furnishing their usual quota of water. By a coincidence the machinery at both wells broke down at the same time, and for a while it looked as though a water famine would ensue, but happily this was averted, and provision has been made so that should any subsequent breaks occur they can be easily remedied. ” –The Herald

June 25, 1898: NOTICE. TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN—It having been brought to our notice that reports are being circulated in this district with reference to the water supplied by the Johannesburg Milling and Water Company being full of impurities detrimental to health, we hereby invite the representatives of the City of Randsburg and other places interested in the consumption of said water to thoroughly inspect our reservoirs and supply system, and also to co-operate with us in taking samples of water at the various supply stations, for chemical analysis at our expense.

Johannesburg Milling & Water Co.” –Randsburg Miner

October 03, 1898:  “The broken parts of the engines and pumps of the Johannesburg Water company and the Squaw Springs Company have been replaced and the wells are now furnishing their usual quota of water. By a coincidence the machinery at both wells broke down at the same time, and for a while it looked as though a water famine would ensue, but happily this was averted, and provision has been made so that should any subsequent breaks occur they can be easily remedied. ” –The Herald


October 30, 1897:  “KERN COUNTY, JOHANNESBURG — JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 29.—(Regular Correspondence.) The water problem of the Rand mining district was for a long time a serious one and has never been completely solved, although now it is only a question of a short time when it will be. Early in the history of the camp, water was obtained from Skilling’s well and from Garlock, and was brought in by water teams; later the Johannesburg Milling and Water company purchased a water site in the mountains four and one-half miles distant and proceeded to develop water. It was found impracticable to pipe this to Randsburg, so a townsite was laid out this side of the King Solomon divide, and the town of Johannesburg came into existence.  This partially solved the problem, but the complete solution has been worked out by Captain H. D. Colson by the development of water at Squaw Springs. There la a legend which tells of a squaw wandering with her burro on the burning desert, almost famishing for a drop of water, when she saw a moist spot of earth. She hastily scooped out the dirt with her hands, and was rewarded with water for herself and burro. However true this may be, it gave the name to the wells since located there. When Captain Colson purchased this water site several months ago, well No. 1 had been sunk 27 feet, and had a flow of 3000 gallons every 24 hours. This well was situated in a little ravine, and with the new ownership work was begun higher up on the hill, and on the other side of the dike. Well No. 2 was sunk to a depth of 30 feet, the bottom being only two feet lower than the top of the ground where No. 1 is located. This well supplies 10.000 gallons of water daily. The wells are located on separate streams, and their daily output, by actual measurement, is 13,000 gallons. Not satisfied with this, Captain Colson went S6 feet higher up and sunk a 100-foot shaft 6×5 feet on what he knew to be dry ground. This shaft he encased throughout with 2-inch planks, thus precluding the possibility of caving or impurities entering the water. The next step was to run a drift to tap the underground stream. A 6xl-foot drift was started and run 46 feet, when the workmen were forced out. On the fourth day after work was stopped the water had filled the drift and risen to within 40 feet of the top of the 100-foot shaft, and was still rising. The water in well No. 2 sank 18 inches on the day the underground stream was tapped by well No. 3, but has since held its own. The daily output from No. 3 can safely be estimated at 50,000 gallons. There are two reservoir sites available; from the lowest of these the gravity would carry the water in pipes over the King Solomon divide into Randsburg, with pressure enough to make it available for fire purposes; the higher site would enable the water to be carried to the vicinity of the Rand group of mines for stamp mill purposes. A survey for a pipe line makes the distance four and one-third miles from Johannesburg. The water is free from borax and all other alkalis, and is of the purest quality.” – The Herald

Squaw Springs Shaft With Red Mountain in Background -- McPherson

Squaw Springs is located on the back side of Red Mountain, east of Johannesburg.  The land on which it is located has been designated as a Wilderness Site.  Although the Bureau of Land Management has yet to address handicap access to the National treasures that they have incorporated into these Wilderness Sites.  We are however able to see the area due to George W. McPherson, who in his book The Rand Mining District of California provided us with photos and description of the company that operated this vital water supply which we quote in its entirety:

“The Principal Water Supply of the Rand District Capt. H. D. Colson Manager  —  Pipes Laid in Principal Streets of Randsburg and Johannesburg.”

“In Desert mining water is next to gold in importance.  For a long time after the discovery of the mines in the Rand it was claimed that water would have to be brought scores of miles at great expense, but today the streets of both towns of the district are laid with pipes, and a first class water system is in operation, the supply point being but four mile distant.  Not only has sufficient water for domestic purposes been developed, but from the great reservoirs pours forth a steady stream that keeps in active operation numerous stamp mills.

“The source of supply for the Squaw Springs Water Company is in what is known as the Red Mountain five miles northeast of Randsburg, the reservoirs being at an elevation of about 500 feet over that of the streets of Randsburg and Johannesburg.

Engine Room of Squaw Springs Well -- McPherson

“The reservoir site of the company is an ideal one.  It is on the summit of one of the spurs of the Squaw mountains which rise to an elevation of 500 feet.  The Red butte of this group of peaks is a landmark that can be seen for fifty miles or more from almost any direction.

Squaw Springs Reservoir 1898 -- McPherson

“The reservoir is very substantially built, all the excavating being solid rock, and has a capacity of 120,000 gallons.  It is seventeen feet in perpendicular depth, thirty-four feet square on the top and twenty-four feet on the bottom, with a partition wall dividing it into equal parts, running to a height of ten feet.  This latter is for cleaning it out at any time desired and still retain sufficient water in the other half for all practical purposes.  In the building of the reservoir every precaution has been taken to make it secure and clean.  It is covered closely by a tongue and groove floor, laid on a strong frame absolutely vermin and dirt proof, with four ventilators to give circulation, these covered by close wire screen.

“The tunnel under the north side where the pipe leads out was made larger on the nearest the cistern, and when the pipe was put in it was cemented and walled up, the work (was so ) complete that not a drop of moisture shows on the outside.

“Consumers of water may feel absolutely sure that no dead squirrels, mice or other extraneous matter can possibly pollute it under the present system.  The pipe line to Johannesburg is a trifle over four miles, and from there to the end of the line in Randsburg about a mile and a half.  The line is built of four-inch throughout the entire distance.

“The well from which the water comes is 100 feet deep with a drift forty-six feet, and will probably as it now stands furnish 40,000 gallons per day.  The engine is a 25-horse-power gasoline and is now pumping when in use about 120 gallons per minute.

“The entire plant and all its connections seen to be put up in the best shape to give a good, pure and sufficient water supply and protection from fire, and represents an outlay by the Squaw Springs Water Company, of which Capt. Colson has been the leading spirit and promoter from start to finish, something like $20,000, outside of first cost of ground.  The officers of the company are Alva E. Snow, president; Geo. W. Jones, vice-president; L. L. Cory, treasurer, and W. C. Colson, secretary;  Capt. H. D. Colson, who resides at Johannesburg, is the general manager.”  —  McPherson

Squaw Springs Well, Various views presented in a decorative frame w/ ornamental elements. - McPherson

July 24, 1898:  “A. E. Snow, district attorney of Fresno county, and one of the largest stockholders in the Squaw Springs Water company, spent a few days in Johannesburg last week, looking over the works of the company just completed at Squaw Springs. He returned to Fresno Monday evening accompanied by his sister, Mrs. H. D. Colson.” – The Herald

October 7, 1899: “RANDSBURG WATER COMPANY—The Two Water Companies Have Been Consolidated under a New Name—a very important deal to the people of Ranasburg (sic) has just been consummated in the consolidation of the Johannesburg and Squaw Springs water systems.

It has been known for some time that nether company was making any money, so to obviate the necessity of running two companies and the extra expense attached, the gentlemen interested got together and formed a new company with the above name.

The officers of the new company are H. D. Colson, President; Henry A. Darling, vice president; Geo. H. Curtis, secretary and manager; L. L. Cory and Alva E. Snow.

The capital stock of the new company is $100,000 divided into shares of one dollar each and their principal place of business will be Johannesburg.  The new company will pursue a liberal a liberal policy with their patrons and the probability is that shortly all water will be sold through meters at the rate or one cent per gallon.” –Randsburg Miner

October 21, 1899: “THE WATER QUESTION STILL CONTINUES TO AGITATE PEOPLE and is by no means settled.  A general kick is made against the meters and the $8.50 deposit.  Wherever they have been put in it has been because they were forced to.  All think the rise in the price of water sufficient to warrant the water company in putting in the meters themselves.  Arrangements are perfected by which the railroad will bring water to be furnished all teams free, and to others at a very low rate, so we may expect to see the water wagon again on our streets.” –Randsburg Miner

November 4, 1899:  “THE WATER QUESTION.  Is still the absorbing topic of interest of Johannesburg and Randsburg.  The water company have according to iron clad rules laid down by themselves, shut off the water from many houses of people who refuse to put in meters and pay for same.

As before state, nobody wants, or expects the water company to do business at a loss, bur a rise of double the price per gallon and the expense of a meter that costs $9.50 is more than the people will stand.

It is certainly a question open to investigation, whether the Squaw Springs Company has any more right to the wells at Squaw Springs than the general public.  This was a public watering place, known far and near to all residents of the desert long before the Squaw Springs Water Company was in existence, and it is a question whether all parties would not have a right to the water if they went there after it, as long as the supply lasted.

It is a mistaken idea that the railroad is against the people and in favor of the water company. So far as they are concerned they are perfectly neutral nor are they bound, as many suppose, not to haul water.

The Randsburg railroad’s contract with the water company prohibits them from selling water or entering into competition with the water company, but it does not prohibit them from hauling water.  As common carriers they could not enter into such a contract, nor refuse to haul it if it was offered them.

Besides, whatever contract or agreement was between the Randsburg road and the water company was not binding on the Santa Fe and they were bound to put in water for the teamsters in order to protect their own interests, and the Randsburg road is ready at all times to accept whatever freight is offered, water not accepted.

When the water company put up the rate the railroad company prepared to haul in water for the benefit of the 80 head of horses, or more, which were engaged in hauling their freight to northern points.  This brought the water company, first to a rate of $90 a month from the railroad and afterwards to $50 neither of which the railroad would agree to.  They finally agreed and a contract was entered into, to pay the water company $25, Mr. Morgan generously agreeing to pay $12.50 more and circulate a subscription lit to raise the other $12.50, making the amount up to $50 per month.  The last twenty five however the railroad company had nothing to do with, nor did they agree not to haul in water if parties wished.  Mr. Morgan found on approaching different parties for subscriptions to this fund for the benefit of the water company that people were not falling over each other in their anxiety to help a corporation that was injuring the community and so far as heard from, he is the only subscriber.

Just now the scarcity of cars, the whole Santa Fe system having but twenty-five water tank cars and a section of country 200 miles in  length between Winslow and Seligman on their line absolutely destitute of water.  This they hope soon to remedy if timely rains come and they will then gladly furnish the cars and the cost of water delivered to Johannesburg will be just four-tenths of a cent per gallon.

The railroads perfectly well understand that whatever is against the interests of the people is consequently against them and they were quick to protect their own interests, which was the water for the many teams hauling their freight.  While the railroads are satisfied, the people are not, and they cannot see why they should be made to pay so much more than the railroads when they are so much less able to pay it.

The result will be that by their mistaken policy, when they thought they had the people in their power, a general boycott of the water company and all  connected with it will be inaugurated and out little community will  be working at cross purposed, the people being put to an inconvenience  and the water company making no money.  If the question of the meters had been left out the thing might have worked, but they will not pay for meters, especially when it is known that several of them are entirely unreliable as to measurement.” –Randsburg Times

November 4, 1899: “WATER AT RANDSBURG HAS BEEN REDUCED to one cent per gallon, which is cheaper than it used to be.  Yet to some places some people complain at high rates when their water doesn’t cost them a cent a barrel.—Visalia Delta

It is the consolidation of the two companies that the people complain most of, and worse then all, the taxing them for the meters.  So many are here only while they can get work, and when that stops they move out.  They do not believe that the water company will refund the nine dollars and a half which they are required to deposit with the company when the meter are put in besides many of our people have not got that much to spare and it works a hardship.” –Randsburg Miner

November 11, 1899:  “PIGMY MONOPLY –The issues involved in the contest between the water company and its patrons in this vicinity are of absorbing interest.  They present an object lesson on a small scale and therefor, more readily understood, of the unscrupulous instincts of corporate capital when an opportunity for monopoly is presented.

However small the investment, or feeble the hands in control, a marked tendency is usually displayed to exploit the people the moment that a “person without a soul” called a corporation, believes them unable to offer successful resistance.

The two local water companies have for over a year proved a blessing to our community by supply, as a reasonable rate, fresh and wholesome water for domestic use.

The principal stockholders in the two concerns have for a much longer period transacted business with our people in other lines and were ever regarded as trustworthy citizens.

A pigmy “trust” formed by the consolidation of the two companies removed the competitive barrier, and, presto, our erstwhile trusted business men appear in the role of pigmy monopolists, lacking however, the business acumen necessary to successfully conduct their diminutive scheme.

Their impatient haste to enjoy the profits of monopoly by despoiling their patrons, led them to establish unlawful and oppressive regulations accompanied by a raise in rates to which the people will not accede.  The matter of rates to be collected they found promptly taken out of their hands by the people, and referred to the Board of Supervisors for adjustment.  They will if necessary, be as promptly relieved of compelling their patrons to put in meters at their own expense, by having that question referred to the Superior Court.

In the meantime, men whose business integrity and personal veracity are less in question, will probably continue to supply the “Burgs” by hauling the necessary liquid on wagons at the same rate the Lilliputian “trust” proposed to charge. UNION MINER’

Randsburg Miner

November 11, 1899: “ORDERED TO APPEAR –The water question will probably reach a settlement today.  On Wednesday constable Kelly in obedience to an order from the Supervisors, cited the officers of the company, Capt. Colson and G. E. Curtis, to appear before the board of Supervisors at Bakersfield today and bring their books and papers and all matters pertaining to the business, in order that proper rates be established.  Several parties representing the people’s side of the controversy have gone down also, so the matter will be settled, and we have no doubt equitably to all concerned.” –Randsburg Miner

November 18, 1899: “RATES FIXED – The Board of Supervisors Settle the Water Question—The whole question of the water rates was brought before the full Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Saturday last in Bakersfield.  Each side was represented by counsel and each had their representatives present.  For the water company H. D. Colson, president of the consolidated company, G. H. Curtis, secretary and general manager together with A. E. Snow of Fresno, former president of the Squaw Springs Company.

On the side of the people were attorneys C. Linkinback and Frank Goodbody, with J. R. Dorsey, who represented the county attorney.  Geo. H. Clark, president of the Miner’s Union, Al Houser, and Capt. A. W. Collins.  The company had been ordered to appear and bring their books and records.  The hearing lasted all day, the Supervisors getting all information possible from both sides to the controversy.

The Board found that the entire cost and expenditure of the former and the present water companies, amounted to about $37,000, and finding from the amount of water sold, as discovered from the reports of Houser, who is now furnishing most people in town by wagon, and the water company’s books, that one-half cent per gallon would yield a fair revenue to the water company, after due deliberation on the motion of Supervisor Taylor, fixed that as the rate to be charged.  On this the Board were unanimous.

On the question of  the meters, of course the Supervisors had no jurisdiction and  made  no attempt to regulate it, as everybody but the water company  seemed to know that was an illegal charge and could not be enforced.

The Board seemed to be actuated, so far as could be seen by unprejudiced persons, by a desire to arrive at a just and equitable adjustment of all differences and it is now hoped that soon again the dove of peace will hover over these two usually quiet hamlets of the desert, Randsburg and Johannesburg, and that our citizens will be able to quaff their thirst and boil their coffee in the pure waters of Squaw Springs and Johannesburg consolidated water companies.” –Randsburg Miner

November 25, 1899: “THE WATER QUESTION—This vexatious question still remains in a muddle.  The water company still refuses to deliver water at the rate fixed by the Supervisors and began taking up their pipes.  They were stopped doing than and a committee of seven business men visited the water officials on Monday.  An amicable talk was the only result.

The water company proposed to furnish water for Randsburg measured by a meter into the 20,000 gallon tank on the hill between here and Johannesburg and let a delegation of businessmen here see to its distribution and collect from the people.  In this proposition they also wanted pay for water for fire purposes.

The proposition was rejected at a public meeting the same evening and another committee of five was appointed.

This new committee visited the officials of the water company on Tuesday and had a long conference without any practical results.

At a meeting held on evening J. B. Price was appointed to go to Bakersfield and ascertain what our legal rights are, and if necessary, get out a writ of injunction to restrain the company from taking up the pipes.  He left for Bakersfield the same evening.” –Randsburg Miner

December 2, 1899: “THE WATER QUESTION—Has been the all-consuming topic of interest here for the past month.  It is now in a fair way of settlement.  The settlement will not be a satisfactory one, but will be better than now water.  Several committees have visited the water company and many propositions have been made.  The best one by the water company on Wednesday was a schedule of rates as below.  At a meeting of the people in connection with the citizens committee Wednesday evening it was decided to call a mass meeting of the citizens of Randsburg on Friday evening and submit the rate to them.

The rates as submitted are higher to the average family than one cent per gallon and more than double the rates fixed by the supervisors, but if the people are satisfied it will go.

The rates as submitted by the water company:  One family in a house, per, month $3.50; two families in a house, $7,00, each border in a family 50 cents extra;  houses with bath tubs, $2.00 extra; saloons, $10.00; saloons with families attached $12.00;  horses per head $3.00; cows $3.00; burros, $1.50; stores $3,00; laundries , $8,00; hotels without meals, $5.00; bakeries, $10.00; bottling works, $10.00; stage line, $15.00; blacksmith shop, $6.00; theatre, $12.00; market, $3.00; lunch counter, $8.00; restaurants from $15.00 to $35.00; watering horses cents; water at stand 50 cents per barrel; water delivered within town limits, 85 cents per barrel.  All monthly rates payable in advance.

The meeting last night was fairly well attended.  Mr. T. C. Eckles acted as chairman, and N. N. Miller secretary.  The freest discuss was admitted and indulged in after the question had been stated and explained by the chairman, and all negotiations either pending or which had been discussed and dropped read by Mr. Miller.  Nobody argued especially in favor of the rates, which all felt were too high, but at present time it was deemed the best we could do.  Upon a rising vote being taken the rates were adopted by a vote of three to one of all present and the meeting adjourned.

The next thing to do will now be for the committee to report to the water company and then make an effort to have the Supervisors abrogate their recent action fixing the rates at one-half cent and enact an ordinance making the rates adopted by the people here legal and effective.” –Randsburg Miner

March 26, 1900:  “The lack of water at Randsburg is admitted by the Randsburg serious The Plnmore and Red Dog mills at Johannesburg are stopped for lack of water The Yellow Aster mill has about enough water to keep running. “The camp never looked better.” says the Miner, nor were the mines ever in a better condition and our future is great; but water we must have, and its source is not determined nor will any more mills be built here until it is assured. Many families this town with water pipes in their houses and paying a water rate have not had a drop of water through the pipes for days.” – San Francisco Call


From:  THE PREHISTORY AND MANAGEMENT OF CULTURAL RESOURCES IN THE RED MOUNTAIN AREA - Russell L. Kaldenberg, Matthew C. Hall, James P. Barker, BLM, et all, 1978;


Squaw Springs Archaeological Area, 1978. The well site is in about the center, possibly near the light blob. -BLM

Kroeber (1925:P1. 1) assigned seven aboriginal groups to locations within the boundaries
of the El Paso/Red Mountain Planning Units. Only two of these groups—the Kawaiisu and
Koso (Panamint)— appear to have used the region as a major resource base. The others—Chemehuevi, Serrano, Vanyume, Kitanemuk, and Tubatulabal—seem to have had territorial claims to portions of the area, although not using it as a major part of their subsistence base.

The focus of Serrano and Vanyume activity was the San Bernardino Mountains and portions of the Mojave River (Kroeber 1925:P1. 1,611; Strong 1929:5-11). The Kitanemuk and Tubatulabal were concentrated in the drainages of the Kern and San Joaquin rivers (Kroeber 1925:612). The Chemehuevi were centered in the eastern Mojave Desert and seem to have been concentrated mostly between Twentynine Palms and the Colorado River (Kroeber 1925:593-594; Laird n.d.). For this reason, primary emphasis in the discussion
that follows will be placed on the Koso, Kawaiisu, and Tubatulabal, although some attention will be given to the other groups (Fig. 6).

Red Mountain - Squaw Springs Ethnographic Context - Kroeber

The general ethnographic record for the El Paso/Red Mountain Planning Units is extremely sparse. The record for two of these groups, Kitanemuk and Vanyume, consists of some conflict over the use of these designations, mention of linguistic affiliation, a population estimate, and a vague assignment of territories. For the other groups, the ethnographic record focuses on their activities in areas outside of the planning units. However, it is possible to reconstruct from the total record a general picture of the aboriginal occupation of the El Paso/Red Mountain Planning Units.


There is very little hard demographic evidence for Indian groups in the El Paso/Red Mountain Planning Units. Kroeber (1925:590, 595, 603, 608, 614-615, 617) presented contemporary census data and extrapolated aboriginal populations as follows: (1) Chemehuevi, 1920 federal census estimate of 350 with 260 living in California, and an estimate of a maximum of 1,000 in aboriginal times; (2) Kawaiisu, an estimate of 150 to 500 in aboriginal times; (3) Tubatulabal, 1920 federal census estimate of 100 to 150, and an estimate of up to 1,000 in aboriginal times; (4) Vanyume, estimate of a very small aboriginal population and a reference to Garces’ mention of 65 people in two villages in 1776; (5) Serrano, 1910 federal census estimate of over 100, and an estimate of up to 1,500 in aboriginal times; and, (6) Koso, an 1883 estimate of 150, an 1891 estimate of 100, 1920 federal census estimate of 100 to 150, and an estimate of not more than 500 in aboriginal times. Kroeber is careful to indicate that there is no real basis for his extrapolation of aboriginal populations, although he believes them to be ample. No data is provided by Kroeber on the age/sex breakdown of any of his populations.

Voegelin (1938) reported that there were 145 Tubatulabal in 1938, and he estimated
that the population was between 300 and 500 in aboriginal times. In 1854, Henley (1855)
reported a Tubatulabal population of 100 persons. Steward (1933:237) estimated that there
were 250 Koso during aboriginal times. However, Coville (1892:352) noted that there were
only 25 Koso in 1892, and asserted there were never very many more of this group.
Swanton (1952:48) estimated that at the time of Spanish contact there were a combined
total of 3,500 Alliklik, Serrano, Vanyume, and Kitanemuk.

The conclusion to be drawn from these vague estimates and partial data is that there was
most probably a very low population density for the El Paso/ReiJ Mountain Units as a
whole. However, given the resource distribution of the region and the nature of aboriginal
exploitation (see Seasonal Round below), undoubtedly there were relatively high population
concentrations in the region at specific places during certain times of the year.


The progression of seasonal movements within the El Paso/Red Mountain Units can be
seen as a response to the differential ripening of major plant food resources. Hunting was
probably carried out as an adjunct to gathering, and hunting methods appear to have been
tailored to the exigencies of plant gathering.


The ethnographic record indicates that the most important plant resources for groups in
the El Paso/Red Mountain Planning Units was the pinon pine nut (Pinus monophylla Torr.
& Frem.). Pinon pine occurs as a co-dominant in Pinon-Juniper Woodland areas between
6,000 and 8.000 feet on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on the upper
slopes of the Coso Mountains (Ornduff 1974:6. 106). These nuts were harvested in early
autumn and formed the basis for the winter diet (Coville 1892:352; Dutcher 1893:377-380;
Kroeber 1925:592).

Dutcher (1893:377-380) recorded a detailed description of a Koso pine nut harvest. The
Koso pine nut camps were located within the pinon groves near the ecotone between the
woodland and the sage communities. They were temporary camps composed of five or six
brush and wood windbreaks (Dutcher 1893:377). The nuts were collected by women, using
long thin poles to knock the cones from the trees. The cones were then collected in large
conical baskets and transported to the camp. In camp, nuts were removed from the cones by
placing the cones on a large (6 to 8 ft. diameter by 2 ft. high) slow-burning brush fire
(Dutcher 1893:379). This process dried the pitch in the cones and forced the cone scales to
open. On the day that Dutcher (1893:380) observed the process, there were about two
bushels of pine nuts collected. This yield seems low compared to the 30 to 40 bushels per
day estimate that Steward (1938) gives for pine nut collecting in the Owens Valley.
However, pine nuts are more plentiful and easier to reach in the Owens Valley than they are
in the El Paso/Red Mountain Units. While pine nut use is specifically mentioned only for the
Koso and Tubatulabal (Voegelin 1938), their use and significance can be inferred for the
other groups in the area.

The second most important plant resource used during aboriginal times in the El Paso/Red Mountain Units was bunchgrass seeds (Poa spp.). Bunchgrass seeds were collected in the spring and represented the major component of diet during the period from the exhaustion of stored winter resources (primarily pinon pine nuts) and the beginning of the pinon nut harvest (Coville 1892:353). Bunchgrasses occur as part of the Valley grassland community and are found on large alluvial plains throughout the area (Ornduff 1974:97). These seeds were collected by women, who beat the seeds free of stalks and collected them in shallow baskets (Coville 1892:353). Either at the time of collection or later in temporary camps, these seeds were winnowed to remove chaff and sifted through wicker-work sieves to remove unwanted stems, chaff, and dirt. The seeds were then ground and re-winnowed prior to cooking.

Other plants used include mesquite (Prosopis spp.), digger pine (Pinus Sabiniana Dougl.),
chia (Salvia Columbariae Benth.), thistle sage (Salvia carduacea Benth.), cattail (Typha
latifolia L.), juniper (Juniperus culifornica Carr.), devil’s pincushion (Echinocactus polyce-
phalus Engelm & Bigel.), beavertail (Opuntia busilaris Engel & BigeL), Mormon tea (Ephedra spp.), evening primrose (Enothcra brevipes), reeds (Phragmites spp.), and Joshua tree (Yucca brvifolia Engelm.) (Coville 1892; Voegelin 1938).


The Koso hunted deer (Oducoileus hemiones), mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis),
antelope (Antilocapra americana), jackrabbits (Lepus californicus), cottontail rabbits
(Syvilugus spp.), wood rats (Neotoma spp.). Kangaroo rats (Dipodomys sp.), mice
(Peromyscus spp.; Microtus spp.), and chuckawalla lizards (Sauromalus obesus) (Coville
1892:352). Coville does not discuss Koso hunting practices, although Voegelin (1938) does
discuss how these anim


June 16, 1898 : “JOHANNESBURG, June 11.—The Yellow Aster company are now down 160 feet in the water shaft in the Skllling well, which they recently bought, and have opened up a volume of water from which 26,000 gallons a day can be secured. Their pipe for the line between the well and the mines at Randsburg has been ordered and as soon as it arrives it will be laid.” – The Herald


October 11, 1897:  “KERN COUNTY JOHANNESBURG – JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 10— (Regular Correspondence.) For nine months past Kleist & Faris have been sinking for water on a mountain about four miles from this place, and on Monday last their efforts were rewarded by a large flow of water. A shaft six feet square was sunk through solid rock to a depth of 175 feet when a moist stratum was encountered. Encouraged by this work was continued through rock so hard in places that three men could go less than a foot and a half in two days. For a week before the final strike little pools of water would form when the drills were withdrawn. On Monday one man was working in the shaft alone and as he withdrew his drill the water spouted up, but he thought nothing of it and’ turned to drill on the other side of the shaft. In a minute he found, himself sitting in a pool of water, and before he could collect his tools and get into the bucket he was standing in two feet of water. In a short time there was four feet of water in the well, and. as all means at hand failed to reduce it work had to be discontinued until a pumping plant arrives. The flow was struck at a depth of 198 feet, and’ it is the owners’ intention, to sink 25 feet more. This well is located at the highest point of any in the vicinity and a few feet higher up on the mountain is a natural reservoir site. One particularly gratifying point about this strike is that the altitude is sufficient to carry the water into Randsburg through pipes. After development work is finished Kleist & Faris propose erecting a five-stamp mill near the well.” – The Herald

January 22, 1898: “Kleist & Faris have put in a pipe from their well to the flat below and are now ready to dispense water to all comers.” – The Herald

May 09, 1898:  “RANDSBURG, May B.—The Yellow Aster company has brought Kleist & Faris’ well adjoining the old Skilling’s well, recently purchased by this company. This gives them a good reservoir site, one thing the former purchase lacked. They are
pushing development work on both properties and as soon as the amount of water justifies them they will begin the erection of a thirty-stamp mill on their property near the Rand Mountain. The plant will be built so that it can be increased to 100 stamps if so desired. It is stated that this company has found the “mother lode” of the Rand Mountain in their tunnel on the Trilby claim.”– The Herald

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