Golden Egg Mine

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.

 

Karl Schapel, second to the left.

Karl Schapel, second to the left.

 

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.

 

Volunteers building Karl Schapel a new home, after his house burned down on New Years Day of 1961. Desert Sun, Number 164, 8 February 1961

Volunteers building Karl Schapel a new home, after his house burned down on New Years Day of 1961. Desert Sun, Number 164, 8 February 1961

 

Volunteers building Karl Schapel a new home, after his house burned down on New Years Day of 1961. Desert Sun, Number 164, 8 February 1961

Volunteers building Karl Schapel a new home, after his house burned down on New Years Day of 1961. Desert Sun, Number 164, 8 February 1961

 

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 hoist

The hoist

 

A peak down one of the vertical adits.

A peak down one of the vertical adits.

 

The corrugated metal building which once housed the ball mill.

The corrugated metal building which once housed the ball mill.

 

The inside of the mill building.

The inside of the mill building.

 

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.

 

Beautiful stone retaining wall.

Beautiful stone retaining wall.

 

Short horizontal adit.

Short horizontal adit.

 

The burnt remains of Schapel's home.

The burnt remains of Schapel’s home.

Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. 7

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.

  • Desertbat

    Nice!

  • Brian Waller

    Jim, My father, Thomas G. Waller purchased the golden egg in 1969 and our family actively worked it until 1975 when it was sold. The original A Frame was timber and not the pipe contraption in your picture. The hoist room was powered by an old model B engine linked to an 18 inch drum with a friction belt brake. The ore chute held about 6 to 8 tons of ore and would gravity feed into an ore crusher and then into the 12 ball mill. A 6 copper plate collection stair was built by my father below the mill and after processing we amalgamated the mercury to recover the gold. I never met Karl but knew some of his friends including Mr. Winters. Hi workmanship and ingenuity were unparalleled. His smithy forge created unique door hinges and latches of amazing design. Many were decorated in subtle ways. My father sold the Golden Egg to an airline pilot in LA that needed a tax deduction. That was the end of the road for the mine. The house was partially destroyed by a wind storm in 1978 and then was burned by vandals sometime in the 80’s. With no maintenance or protection vandals robbed the mine of every engine, forge, drill steel, and water tank. The ore car, track and track junctions were all pulled up for scrap. I visited in 1979 and again with my sons in 2004. Other miners since 1979 opened up the ore seam in the roof of the main cross cut tunnel all the way to the surface. The golden egg was a gem of a small scale mine and the last of her kind in the Old Dale District. A way of life has faded away.