Lately it has felt as though I have been chasing down the most obscure of the obscure mines in and around Joshua Tree National Park. I truly enjoy these obscure locations, many times much more than their well documented counterparts. This enjoyment comes from three things, the often remote and solitary locations of these places, knowing that few people have stepped foot there since the last mining activity took place, and the element of surprise of not knowing what will be found. These locations are however often challenging from a writing perspective. More commonly than not, these mines are nameless, and there is no written documentation of their history.
This brings to me the mine that I have dubbed, “The Jug Mine.” It came to my attention while scouring the southern foothills of the Pinto Mountains on Google Earth. In the hills southwest of Mission Well in the Pinto Basin, I could make out what appeared to be the scars of a mining operation, and the faint traces of a road crossing this stretch of the basin. My research came up empty-handed on any mining activity having taken place this far south in the mountain range. So the only thing to do was hike out, and see what exactly I was looking at.
It was a warm day in June, the temperatures were easily expected to reach 100°F in the basin. I decided to get a somewhat early start, arriving around 8am at the location along Old Dale Road where I would park my vehicle, before venturing off on foot for the rest of the morning. The hike across the basin was pretty uneventful. I managed to locate the old road that I had seen on Google Earth, and followed it for the duration, occasionally finding a rusty can hiding in a shrub along the route.
Nearing the foothills I lost the road where it crossed a very lively stretch of Pinto Wash. Creosote, smoke trees and mesquite trees were in an abundance, and appeared very healthy. The wash looked as though it has seen several gully washers in recent months, explaining the healthy look of the vegetation.
I was able to pick the road back up quickly, as it climbed up a hill that had obscured the view of the mine on the other side. On the top of the hill were the ruins of a small camp. Lying on the ground there was a large sheet of corrugated metal framed up with wood. My initial thoughts where that a building had once stood here, but that quickly faded as there was no foundation or stone structure in site. There was however several pieces of rotting lumber lying around that could have been used to create a covered overhang. There was also a riveted metal tank that had probably been used to store gasoline, and several dozen rusty cans discarded along the hillside. For the most part the camp was one of the cleanest old mining camps that I’ve encountered.
Across the way from the camp was the mine. The hillside covered in shallow trenches, exposing the quartz that the miner(s) were chasing for gold. There was one shallow adit that virtually went nowhere before the miner called it a day. On another nearby hill, I was surprised to find a wood framed shaft that has yet to be sealed by the National Park Service, but now that I mention it, I give it six months before a steel cage is installed over top of the entrance.
As I walked along the base of the hills, I was paying close attention for anything that was out-of-place, or man-made. You can imagine my surprise when I found some obviously placed stones were hiding a fully in tact glass jug! While I can’t say for sure the age of the jug, I’ve narrowed it down to between the late 1930’s and 1950’s, based on the style of the screw cap design. I took several pictures of the jug before placing it back in its hiding place.
I then hiked another half mile or so across another wash to the edge of Pinto Mountain, where I had spied on Google Earth what appeared to be the ruins of a stone structure. Sure enough, I was correct. An old stone ruin sat just below where the mountain began to climb to the sky. Inside I found a couple of sherds of broken glass bottles. One of which had turned purple, and contained just enough writing on it that I was able to trace where it had come from. “Nzeman,” “rmacist,” “h main st,” “es cal” was all that was on the sherd. With a little research I was able to place the bottle as having came from “HEINZEMAN PHARMACIST, 222 NORTH MAIN STREET, LOS ANGELES, CAL.” One website that I found dates the bottle to 1879.
A brief bit about Heinzeman from Southern California Quarterly, Volume 6:
CARL FELIX HEINZEMAN was born in the year 1841 in Wallmerod, in Nassau, Germany, and died in Los Angeles City on April 29, 1903, after an illness of only a few weeks, and was buried in the Rosedale cemetery on the first day of May, 1903.
C. F. Heinzeman received his education in his fatherland in pharmacy and chemistry, and as a practical druggist. In 1868 he emigrated to the United States. After a short stay in New York and in San Francisco he came to Los Angeles. Soon after he arrived in this city he established his well-known phar macy on North Main street which he maintained throughout the remainder of his life.
What is unclear is the stone cabin’s connection to the area. Was it part of “The Jug Mine”? A better part of me declines to believe that to be the case. I scoured the area in search of other mines that may have been nearby, but came up empty-handed. While I don’t have a date on “The Jug Mine,” I believe the stone cabin to be older based on the sherd of glass. The ruins at the mine site don’t come across as being any older than the 1930’s, or possibly later. If the bottle is indeed from 1879, that very well places the stone ruins before the mad mining rush in the Dale Mining District. The earliest reports of gold strikes in the Pinto Mountains date to 1881.
Overall, the day was a success in my eyes. I returned to my Jeep around 12:30pm, the temperature gauge registering 101°F. It was a tad bit hot, but cool considering the temperatures that will plague the basin in the coming months.