The ghost of Providence is situated on the rugged eastern slope of the Providence Mountain Range in the Mojave National Preserve. The town grew around the extremely successful silver mine, the Bonanza King Mine. In the spring 1880, George Goreman and P. Dwyer discovered silver at this site while out prospecting away from their then home base of Ivanpah. The rock that they discovery assayed from $640 to $5,000 a ton.
January 1882, a rich vein of silver was discovered, it was assayed at $100 to $1,200 per ton. In order to work the vein and make it profitable a large mill would need to be constructed on site. The owners opted to sell the mine as opposed to making the investment themselves. The Bonanza King was sold to the Bonanza King Consolidated Mining Company for a reported sum of $200,000.
The Bonanza King Consolidated Mining Company, eager to begin recouping their investment, had a new hoisting works and 10-stamp mill shipped in from San Francisco. The mines now had 100-150 men working around the clock. A stockpile of 2,000 tons of ore, with a value of $230 per ton was awaiting the construction of the mill.
By 1883 Providence had become a town. A post office had opened the year prior, as well two general store, two hotels, and a saloon had begun operating. The town also boasted a few company offices, a blacksmith, wagon maker, survey office, and a contractor.
In July of 1884, the superintendent of the Bonanza King boasted, “the Bonanza King is better opened up, better worked, and we have obtained better results from the ore than any other mine in this great mineral desert. Nearly one million dollars has been taken out from the mine in 18 months and ten days.”
Within a year of the release of the above statement, the Bonanza King closed down for a brief one week period, at which time the miners left. The closure was said to have been due to the falling prices of silver, but other sources point to the mistreatment and over working of the mines employees. The Calico Print (newspaper) published a letter around this same time from one of the mine workers that accused foreman H. C. Callahan and shift boss John O’Donnell of being “heartless task masters…. forcing men to work more than their health and strength will permit.”
Upon reopening, the Bonanza King went from employing over 100 men, down to 15 men. They slashed the pay from $4 to $3 per day.
In June of 1885, the mill was fired up again for the first time since the closure. The company was milling 24 tons of ore a day, and in one month, 24 bars of bullion had been made. One month after beginning operation the mill burnt to the ground. The mine closed down after the fire, and the owners collected their insurance claim and walked away.
In 28 months of operation the mine had produced $1,700,000 ($42,777,773 in current value).
Despite the closing of the Bonanza King in July of 1885, the Post Office continued operating at Providence until 1892, likely to continue servicing other surrounding mines in the area.
The Bonanza King would see two additional revivals, from 1906-1907 and 1915-1920. Neither revival would see the success of the early days.
A significant portion of the town site is still visible today. The stone walls of at least a dozen buildings still stand, mostly crumbled down to three or four feet; their wooden roofs long gone. The most significant building ruin is the remains of the stone block assay office. The block walls still surrounding the concrete floor beneath. Another interesting stone structure with a metal roof, wood burning stove, a table and chairs remains as well.
The mill that is present today was erected in 1906 during one of the short-lived revivals, by the Trojan Mining Company. It isn’t in the greatest condition after over 100 years of neglect, but you can still get a rough idea of what it may have looked like while it was in operation.
The Providence and Bonanza King Mine site is well worth a visit to anyone interested in mining history or ghost towns. The ruins are significant compared to most desert sites. If you visit in the summer be prepared for scorching desert, during my visit in June I recorded a temperature of 113 degrees. The road to the mine itself is recommended for those with a high clearance vehicle, 4×4 is likely not required, but the road is bumpy with large stones strung about.
Providence, CA and The Bonanza King Mine is featured in Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. IV. Detailed maps, and GPS coordinates are included. Order your copy now.