Harrisburg, CA (Death Valley National Park)

 

Harrisburg was founded by two of the most well-known prospectors in Death Valley history, Pete Aguereberry and Shorty Harris. In June of 1905 the two men set off to the Panamint Mountains to reach the town of Ballarat in time for their 4th of July celebration. After making their way through Blackwater Wash, the two men arrived at what we call today Harrisburg Flats.

Shorty, only being concerned about getting to Ballarat in time for the festivities was far ahead of Pete on the trail. Pete noticed a promising looking ledge, he chipped off a piece, and found that it contained free gold. He took the piece and caught up with Shorty, showing it to him they agreed to head back and stake their claims after replenishing their water at Wildrose Spring.

The two men divided the outcroppings, Pete staked claims on the north side, which became known as Providence Ridge, this included the Eureka Nos. 1-4. Shorty staked claims on the south side, which would become known as the Providence Group. The two men agreed to name the came Harrisberry, which was derived from a combination of Shorty’s last name, and the last part of Pete’s last name.

The men then continued on their way to Ballarat, where Shorty bragged of his new claims, and Pete found a grubstake. Thanks to Shorty’s need to brag it wasn’t but days later that the miners around Ballarat made their way to the new strike.

By August, 1905 around 20 parties were searching for and making claims in the hills within a 3-mile radius of the original strike. This new mining strike was considered to be part of the Wild Rose Mining District. The samples of the quartz was assaying from $90 to $200 per ton in free-milling gold. Some was rumored to be valued at as much as $50 per ton.

It wasn’t longer before 300 were in the new camp. A town site was beginning to be planned. Miners came from the towns of Darwin, Ballarat and as far away as Rhyolite, NV. By September, 200 claims had been recorded.

Shorty set off for San Francisco, here he was able to persuade some investors to visit his claims and finance his development work. He was successful and thus the Cashier Mining Company was formed, and headed by O.L. Ingalls.

Shorty was a man who liked to have attention brought to himself, and because of this he wasn’t happy with Harrisberry as the name of “his” town. Along all of his journeys he would always refer to the town as Harrisburg, eventually it would stick and poor Pete, would lose having his name tied to the town name.

In October, the land had been surveyed for a townsite, and new tents popped up regularly in the business district. Twenty-seven tons of high-grade ore had already left The Cashier Gold Mine. Twenty-three men worked the mine 24-7 at a wage of $3.50 per day.

In December, six claims that were part of the Exjunction Group made a big strike. Quartz averaging $259 in gold, silver, copper, and lead had been exposed.

In February 1906, the owners of the Eureka Group had sold a half interest to a San Francisco investor for $15,000 down and the promise of building a mill.

In March of 1909 the Harrisburg Mill was finally on its way, awaiting it was over 100 tons of ore waiting to be dumped. The long delay was over a dispute having to do with Pete’s claim to the Eureka Mine. Ownership was originally divided between Pete and his original grubstakers, Flynn and Kavanagh. The three men had decided to sell the property, but the money never came through from the buying party. In November of 1906, an investor by the name of Sherwood Aldrich agreed to purchase the claim for $180,000 cash if the sellers could provide a clear title. The original buyers (that never made payment) blocked the sale by tying up the property in litigation. Flynn and Kavanagh, sick of the situation gave their shares to Pete. It wasn’t until the spring of 1909 that Pete managed to be able to start working the claim.

In mid-July of 1909 the Cashier Mill was about completed. In early August the Cashier Mine had shipped its first gold bullion, in only two weeks the mill had yielded around $2,000. In October an additional 5-stamps would be added to the mill.

Sam Godby purchased a controlling interest in the Cashier Group in February of 1911. Godby discovered more ore, and expanded the mine. Shorty after the Cashier Mine was sold to W.C. Price.

By 1913 Pete had mined ten carloads of high-grade ore. By 1916, the Cashier Mine had produced 15,000 tons of ore at around $20 per ton.

By 1938 Pete was the rightful owner of both mines. Pete stuck around and continuing mining the Eureka and Cashier until his death in 1945.

When visiting Harrisburg today, there is nothing left of the actual townsite. Pete’s camp continues to stand, including his original cabin which he built in 1907. There is also a guest house (built in 1941), and a third cabin which was built around 1946. The camp is badly vandalized from years of neglect and destructive visitors.

Around the bend from Pete’s camp you will find the Eureka Mine, the Cashier Mill, Pete’s car, as well as extensive amount of old mining equipment.

 

 

 

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.

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