Cantil, CA

Cantil was established in either 1908 or 1909 as a stop on the Nevada and California Railroad. The first homesteaders didn’t arrive in the area until 1911, at which time they found the name “Cantil” on a sign beside the platform next to the railroad.

Before the communities first post office was established in 1916, the train stopped at Cantil long enough to drop off freight and leave a bag of mail on a metal hook along the railway. Residents would sift through the mailbag for their mail.

A Post Office was established in 1914 at the Cantil General Store. The same year a one room schoolhouse was constructed.

In 1945 the General Store closed, the Post Office continued to operate in the General Store building until 1948. Martin Engel of the Yellow Aster Mining Company (Randsburg, CA) was a resident of Cantil, in 1948 he moved his assayer’s office to his property, and the Post Office was relocated to his assayer’s office. Engle became the Postmaster until his retirement in 1972.

In the mid-1940’s, Cantil became a short-lived agricultural center.

The famous female aviator, Pancho Barnes made residence in Cantil in the 1950s after her Happy Bottom Riding Club aka “Rancho Oro Verde Fly-Inn Dude Ranch” burned down in 1953.

Today, Cantil consists of roughly 57 homes spread out across the desert. There are many abandoned structures including the Red Rock Elementary School. It’s not clear when the school closed it’s doors, the last known information I have been able to locate is a  graduating class of 2005.






About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.


  • Hi Jim,
    Wish you could have seen Red Rock School, Cantil and the whole of Fremont Valley when we arrived there early Spring, 1950. Tamarisks, eythel and gigantic cottonwood trees were everywhere. My folks bought the old Cruckshank ranch at the end of Valley Road, renamed it Cottonwood Springs because of the natural springs and big cottonwood trees, and thus started the growing period an eight year old lad could only have dreamt about. My best year of school was there at Red Rock. Mrs Cochran graded on the curve, and I was the only one in the fifth grade. Calling the the likes of Mart Engle, Ole Todd, Rockhouse Harry, Clay Brown and Pete Cassoue your friend was mighty high stepping. Knowing Pancho was of something else. When my mother spoke of her or talked with her, Mom always called her Florence.
    Seeing the photographs of vandalism is disgusting. Our ranch had been vacant over 20 years when we moved in, and there had been zero vandalism. Use to ride my horse, Nelly, back into the canyons, and when a miner’s cabin was locked, it stayed that way.
    Have you found the old Dutch Cleanser mines up Last Chance? From you photos, I bet the structures are all gone, but the mines will still be there.
    Have you found the Garinger mines beyond Kelso up in the Piutes?
    I admire you and your family finding pleasure in the desert. It can be beautiful.
    Just remembered, I probably changed sprinklers over your yard. I worked for a while for both the M&R and Goforth ranches. Is the California City Inn still there. I washed dishes there in my final year at MHS. The developers flew in DC3s and Convairs full of prospects up to a dirt strip, and showed them their dreams of a future city. I think the meal was part of the sales package, but I knew I had all the dish washing I ever wanted.

  • Hi Sam,

    Glad you found my website!

    It’s great to hear some of your memories of the Cantil site. If you would ever be interested in sitting down and talking about growing up here, I would love to do so. However it sounds as if you may no longer live anywhere near here.

    Interesting that mention the Dutch Cleaner site. I found it for the first time just 2 weeks ago. I’ll be working on a report on that site soon. You are correct in your assumptions however, there is nothing left. Just some concrete slabs, the cave room, and the mines. It appears to be used as more of a camping spot these days for the OHV folks.

    I have not been to Garinger, at least that I’m aware of. I’ll look more into that.

    As for California City…it’s become a bit of a dump. This has happened in the last 10 years or so. The City Council wasn’t happy with the amount of growth the town was seeing so they began advertising Cal. City is places like Compton as a cheaper place to live where section 8 is welcome. This brought in all kinds of seedy characters, which as resulted in drive by shootings, gangs, drugs, you name it. Not the most pleasant place to live, but it works for now.

    The California City Inn is now just a vacant structure. It has no walls, and is crumbling to the ground. I’m not sure when it was last in use, as it has been this way since I began visiting my father who lives here 16 years ago.

    If you have any old photos of Cantil that you would like to share with myself and my other readers please feel free to email them! I’d love to see them! Email to


    • My grandfather was a miner and we lived in cantil, right across the street from the post office and 76 gas station in the early 80s. I also have memories of attending Red Rock Elementary as well. Surreal to see these photos now.

  • For what ever it is worth, the last 8th grade graduated in 1953. Mrs Cochran was the teacher for all 8 grades and Mrs Donley was the janitor.
    The school continued on as a 1st through 6th grade campus. The 7th and 8th graders were bused into the newly unified Mojave School District. The local 9th and 10th graders were bused by their families to Edwards till the MHS was ready for them in 1957.
    Till next time

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