Tag Archives: Crown Plaster Company
Gypsite, CA is probably a place that you’ve never heard of. I know that I hadn’t. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon I set out on a mini adventure which lead me to Red Mountain and Randsburg. I decided on my way home that I would take the dirt road that runs along the Southern Pacific Railroad. From Saltdale I drove roughly 3 miles along the tracks, it was about this time that I noticed a good amount of rubbish laying throughout the desert. I decided to get out and have a look, along with the rubbish there were a number of wooden foundations, fencing, a couple of fallen buildings, and a mine entrance all within a short walking distance. I had no idea that a town/settlement had existed in this location, and I couldn’t find anything for it on any modern maps. When I returned home I consulted a map of the area from the 1940′s, and sure enough, there is was, Gypsite, CA. I later found that plugging Gypsite, CA into Google maps will find the location, but it’s not marked otherwise.
So what’s the deal with Gypsite? Gypsite was founded in 1909 by a man named Charley Koehn (Yes, the same man who Koehn Dry Lake is named after). Koehn had found gypsite near his homestead, and quickly placed a claim on it. A calcining plant was built near the site about a year after the discovery. From 1910-1930, Koehn would lease out his claims to various companies including the Crown Plaster Company, Alpine Cement Company, or Alpine Lime and Plaster Company.
In 1912 a gunfight took place at Gypsite, a group of claim jumpers hired a number of gunmen to force Koehn off of his claims. Koehn won the gun battle and stayed put on his claims. This didn’t end the trouble for Koehn however, Alpine Cement Company would take Koehn to court over contracts and percentages seeking damages of $50,000.00. Judge Campbell Deaumont would hear the case, and put it on hold until further study could take place. In May 1923, Koehn would be arrested for attempting to bomb Deaumont’s house. Koehn pleaded innocent to the charges despite bomb making material being found in his car. Koehn was found guilty and sentenced to prison at San Quentin. He died there one day before his scheduled release in 1938.
George W. Abel mined Koehn’s claims from 1926-1935, he created and sold a product called Mojave Desert Agricultural Gypsum which was used as a soil conditioner in agricultural production. The end would come when the Lost Hills deposits in the San Joaquin Valley would increase production and caused less of a demand for Abel’s product.
It’s interesting that this information isn’t more well-known in the area. After all without Charles Koehn, and his Gypsite settlement Koehn Dry Lake would be called something different today.