Darwin, CA

Darwin, CA - The original Darwin Schoolhouse
Darwin, CA - The old Darwin Post Office, and service station.

Darwin, CA – The old Darwin Post Office, and service station.

 

Darwin sprang to life in the early 1870s as a trading center for the mines in the Argus and Coso mountain ranges. Named after Dr. Darwin French, a rancher from Fort Tejon, who had explored the region in the 1860s. By 1874 the town was officially a boom-town, with a reputation for being one of the most violent towns in the west. The town cemetery had 124 graves, 122 of them from a gun or knife. By 1875 the town population had reached 700 (some sources put that at almost double that number).

1877 was Darwin’s peak year, the population had grown to 3,500 residents. The violence continued to get worst, and a smallpox epidemic broke out throughout Darwin. In 1878 economic hardships hit the nation hard, and in turn local mine owners cut the miners pay. In September the newspaper packed up, and went to Bodie. Many of the miners followed.

Over the next forty years multiple fires burned large portions of the town, however the town never would completely die.

 

Darwin, CA - The original Darwin Schoolhouse

Darwin, CA – The original Darwin Schoolhouse

 

The nearby mines continued operation under different owners until 1942 when the US Government closed all mines as part of the “War Effort”.  After World War II the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. purchased and reopened the mine. Within a couple of years Anaconda’s, Darwin Mine was California’s number one lead mine. The mines remained open until the 1970s.

What remains in Darwin today? Turning down Darwin Rd., the first thing that you will encounter are the remains of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. This entire area is closed to visitors. From the road you can see that their operation was extensive, with dozens of structures still standing.

A little further down the road you enter the town of Darwin.  Few original structures remain, and the town appears rather junky. Residents come off as unfriendly, but spend some time here, and that first impression will quickly fade. While the town comes across as junky, it is really much more of an artist statement. Darwin is filled with imagination and creativity; making it a haven for free-thinking individuals.

The 2010 census lists Darwin’s population as 42, with a total of 28 households. There is nobody living in the town that is under the age of 25.

Some fun modern-day Darwin facts (borrowed from darwincalif.com)

NO 56k internet connection; ONLY 28.8k
NO broadcast TV; NO AM/FM radio
NO cell signal; NO stores, restaurants
40 miles to groceries and gas
ALL phone calls are long distance
MULTIPLE T1 lines but NO broadband

 

Darwin, CA - False front building

Darwin, CA – False front building

 

Darwin, CA

Darwin, CA

 

Darwin, CA - Housing for the Anaconda Mine.

Darwin, CA – Housing for the Anaconda Mine.

 

 

 

 

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.