Red Mountain, CA is located within the Rand Mining District in San Bernardino County. The town is located directly along Highway 395, roughly 26 miles north of Kramer Junction. The mining ruins around Red Mountain are found in the mountains behind the town, and can be accessed via Osdick Road and Red Mountain Road.
Before becoming Red Mountain, the town was known as Osdick (I will refer to the town as Osdick up until the name was changed). Osdick was founded in the summer of 1919, during the nearby town of Randsburg’s third big mining boom. Pete Osdick was one of the first miners in the area and felt the town should be named after himself. W.H. Williams, another miner in the area (discovered California Rand Silver Mine) contested that the town should be named Hampton, which was his middle name. Both parties would end up laying out a townsite, and both applied for a Post Office. Pete Osdick won the Post Office in February of 1922, and the area officially became known as Osdick.
The California Rand Silver Mine (also known as The Kelly Mine) would produce over seven million dollars in ore during its first four years of production, it was one of the richest mines in California. For many years it was also the largest producing silver mine in the United States. It was said by Charles Moroney (General Manager) regarding the mine, “Drifts 104 feet, raises thirty-two, and cross cuts 111. Values across and along the vein for a distance of twenty feet or more will average about $2.40 in gold and 60 ounces of silver”. It would continue production until 1929 when the price of silver dropped significantly. It is estimated that the mine’s total production was over $12 million dollars. Other mines included the Big Four, Silver Kings and Silver Glance.
By 1929 Osdick had acquired many names, “Sin City”, “Inn City”, “Never In”, etc.. Finally the postal service decided to put an end to the naming dispute and dubbed the town Red Mountain, which it has remained since.
Despite having one of the most impressive silver mines in the country, some might say that Red Mountain was even more well-known for it’s “sins”. During prohibition you could get a drink at any business in town with the exception of the Post Office. The only time Red Mountain was ever “dry” was when they were tipped off about an upcoming raid. The Ku Klux Klan actively protested the drinking atmosphere in Red Mountain by offering up free dances in nearby Johannesburg, the KKK may have been about the only ones to oppose the party atmosphere that Red Mountain became famous for.
Red Mountain was also well know for its prostitution. It has been said that the prostitutes that worked the many brothels were high-class and beautiful, kept themselves clean and made for good company. The Annex, Little Eva’s, The Monkey House, The Northern, The Owl, The Pacific, The Red Onion and the Silver Dollar are just a few of the more well know houses of ill repute.
Gambling was another of the many past times celebrated at Red Mountain. Just about anywhere you could get a drink you could find a game as well. Overall the advertising slogan “Where every night is Saturday night and Saturday night is the 4th of July”, was pretty accurate.
Today Red Mountain is a skeleton of its former self, the 2010 census lists Red Mountain with a population of 125 residents. All of the mines, bars, hotels, casinos, and of course brothels have all long ago closed their doors. Most of the buildings and homes in town are original structures and make for an interesting walk through including the Silver Dollar Bar, church, schoolhouse, market and many more. The California Rand Silver Mine sits above the town, fenced in to preserve its history and keep unsuspecting victims from the dangers of arsenic poison. There are also many additional mining sites that are free to explore in the surrounding mountains, and if you do decide to explore please be aware that there are many unmarked open shafts throughout the area.
Red Mountain is a fascinating place to explore. Sadly everything from about 1933 to current that has happened or hasn’t happened here is extremely difficult to track down. Next time you’re driving Highway 395, and find yourself driving through Red Mountain, slow down and imagine the once bustling streets.