By the time the Golden Egg Mine came to be, the mad-mining rush of the Pinto Mountains had died off. It was the mid-1940s, and the few mines in the Dale, and Monte Negras Mining Districts which remained open would soon be closing their doors. That however wasn’t the case with the Golden Egg, a miner by the name of Karl Schapel had just purchased the previously unworked claim from Jack Meek, the owner of the Meek Mine.
Schapel was born in Berlin, Germany in October of 1878. He came to the United State in 1903. Prior to purchasing the Golden Egg, he worked as a mine superintendent in the northwest. He came to the high desert region in 1940, where he worked at several mines in the Dale Mining District, before purchasing his own beloved Golden Egg.
Schapel developed the Golden Egg mine as a one man operation over the course of the next twenty-odd years. He constructed his own ball mill on site, allowing him to both mine and mill the gold, along with other precious metals that he managed to dig out of the San Bernardino Wash.
One would think that living in such an isolated area would be lonely, however that didn’t appear to be the case for Schapel. Despite his nearest neighbor being located a mile and a half away, Schapel was the friendly type. He was known to welcome travelers, and enjoyed giving tours of his mine. He never accepted money for tours, but many people brought him can goods as a donation for his time.
On New Years Day of 1961, Schapel’s remoteness almost killed him. While preparing for bed, the oil stove in his cabin blew up! His cabin engulfed in flames, the 83-year old leaped up, and ran through the wall of his cabin. Realizing that his truck keys were inside of the inferno, he ran the mile and a half to his neighbors, who took him to the hospital in Twentynine Palms.
When Schapel’s friends learned of what happened they immediately began the process of throwing a “house-raising.” Over 450 people showed up at the remote Golden Egg Mine, families, Marines, Search and Rescue personal, people from all walks of life. A local grocer donated food to feed all the hungry volunteers. It was quite literally a community event.
In two days Schapel’s new home was built. It was bigger and better than his previous home. Schapel lived out the remainder of his life at his beloved Golden Egg, passing on August 15, 1967 at 88 years old.
Visiting the Golden Egg today is not near as exciting as it would have been with Schapel as your guide, despite that, it is actually one of the better preserved mines in the Pinto Mountains. The first thing that I noticed when I arrived was the hoist still in place at the top of the vertical adit, it was hard to miss considering it looked like a giant swing-set hanging off the edge of the ravine. Lower down the ravine several horizontal adits join with the vertical.
The corrugated metal building which once housed Schapel’s ball mill, remains standing despite obvious metal scrapping activities having taken place. Bits and pieces of the mill’s machinery also remain. I must compliment the beautifully built stone retaining walls that surround the mill, having come from a family of stone masons, I really enjoy seeing well constructed stone walls. In this case every stone is squared off and placed meticulously into place.
Unfortunately the home that was constructed for Schapel back in 1961, after his original home burned down, has since also burned down. When, why or how, I do not know. I can only hope that it was done by natural causes, but arson is likely the culprit.