Tag Archives: Dr. Darwin French
I’ve heard and read about Darwin, CA on several occasions over the few years, however I had never visited as I just never found myself in close enough proximity. The things I had previously read made Darwin out to sound a bit on the creepy side, and upon visiting that was quickly verified.
Darwin is located 38 miles South East of Lone Pine, CA and 8 miles west of Death Valley (West Entrance). To get there take State Route 190. When you really get the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere look for Darwin Rd., follow Darwin Rd. for approximately 5.7 miles.
The town of Darwin began in the early 1870′s and was the trading center for the mining activities in the Argus and Coso mountain ranges. The town was named after Dr. Darwin French, a rancher from Fort Tejon. Dr. Darwin had named a wash after himself when he was in the area around 1860. By 1874 the town was a boomtown, and had a reputation as one of the most violent towns in the west. At one point the sheriff of the town had pointed out the cemetery had 124 graves, and that 122 of the graves are from a gun or knife. By 1875 the town’s population was estimated at 700 (however some sources put that at almost double that number).
1877 was Darwin’s peak year, with a population of over 3,500 people. They say that the violence that the town was known for had just continued to get worst. On top of the violence, a smallpox epidemic broke out around the town. In 1878 economic hard ships hit the nation hard, and in turn local mine owners cut the miners pay. In September of that same year the newspaper packed up, and went to Bodie. Many of the miner’s followed suit.
Over the next 40 years multiple fires burned down large portions of the town, however the town never would die.
The nearby mines continued operation under different owners until 1942 when the US Government closed all mines as part of the “War Effort”. After the end of World War II a company by the name of Anaconda Copper Mining Co. purchased and reopened the mine. Within a couple of years Anaconda’s Darwin Mine was California’s number one lead mine. The mines remained open until the 1970′s.
So, what remains in Darwin today? Once you turn down Darwin Rd., the first thing that you will come across is the remains of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Sadly this entire area is closed off to visitors. From the road you will see that their operation was rather extensive, and had a lot of living quarters for their workers.
A little further down the road you will come into the town of Darwin. The town looked nothing like I had anticipated. Few original buildings remain, and the town is rather junky. We walked up and down the streets to take some pictures and take it all in. Nothing here jumped out at me as must see. I really just felt as if I had wasted my time coming here. I don’t say that to sound rude, as I have much respect for folks that live in, and keep these towns alive. I just find the history much more interesting than the present day happenings in Darwin.
As of the 2010 census Darwin’s population is 42, with a total of 28 households. There is nobody living in the town that is under the age of 25.
Some fun modern-day Darwin facts (borrowed from darwincalif.com)
NO 56k internet connection; ONLY 28.8k
NO broadcast TV; NO AM/FM radio
NO cell signal; NO stores, restaurants
40 miles to groceries and gas
ALL phone calls are long distance
MULTIPLE T1 lines but NO broadband