Tag Archives: Tropico Gold Mine
Ruth Camp & Mine is located a short distance from Trona in Homewood Canyon. From the rest stop in Trona, follow Trona Wildrose Road north toward Death Valley for roughly 9.4 miles. Turn left on Homewood Canyon Road and follow for 4.95 miles (the road will begin paved, but will become graded dirt). Ruth Camp will be located on your left.
The Ruth Mine began production in 1899 under the name Graham-Jones Mine, under the ownership of Doug Graham and S.S. (Smiley) Jones. The mine is located at 3,530 feet in the Argus Mountain Range, roughly 14 miles from the town of Trona in the Sherman Mining District. According to the U.S. Geology Survey, “the ore found at the mine is free gold associated with pyrite in iron-stained quartz and stringers in quartz monzonite.”
Graham and Jones worked the mine together from 1899 – 1917. In 1917, Jones would decide to move on and Graham would continue to plug away until 1930. In 1930 Graham would bring in two new partners, Fred Austin and Dr. Evans. The partnership was to save the Graham-Jones Mine, as Graham had not been able to cover the tax bill alone. Sadly for Graham, he was robbed just three weeks later of his grubstake money from Austin and Evans, and died just one week later.
In 1937, Austin and Evans leased the mine to the Burton Brothers. It was at this time that the Graham-Jones Mine would be renamed the Ruth Mine. The Burton Brothers already had success in the mining industry at the Tropico Gold Mine in Rosamond, CA. Due to that previous success, the Burtons had the funds to expand the operation and installed a 40-ton cyanide mill. The new cyanide mill allowed them to expand output to 70 tons per day. In order to be more profitable, the Burtons would lease the nearby Davenport Mine and bring the ore into Ruth for processing at the mill.
By 1941, the Ruth Camp was beginning to look more like a town than a small mining camp. The camp now had a population of 62 of people, and the mine employed 25 individuals. The camp had its own school-house, with as many as 22 students attending on the first day of class. The teacher, Mrs. Rayburn lived on site at the school-house in an apartment that was built specifically for her. The General Store served as the saloon, however, the saloon was only ever open on Friday nights and for special occasions. The Burton Brothers believed that education was more important than drinking and having a good time. Both a bunk house and mess hall were constructed for the men employed at Ruth.
Things were looking good at Ruth, that is until October of 1942 when the Roosevelt administration issued order L-208. This order closed all unessential mining during World War II. The Ruth Mine, like so many others in the area was forced to close. Overnight, miners and their families left camp to find work elsewhere. There have been a few attempts after the war to bring the Ruth Mine back to its one time glory, however it was never the same. In the 1970′s, the mine closed for good.
Let’s now fast forward to more current times. Since the mine had closed, the mine and the camp had been privately owned until recently. The owner had a caretaker living full-time at the camp. BLM had interest in the location and pressured the owners for a few years into signing over the land to the agency. This eventually happened and BLM ignored the property for a few years. Since BLM has taken over the property, 2 buildings have been burnt to the ground. Even more recently, the BLM has begun their plan for “reclamation.” Part of this “reclamation” has been the destruction and complete removal of the mill that once sat on the hill-side.
So what is there to see at Ruth Camp & Mine today?
A lot actually! Despite BLM removing the mill, there is still plenty to see here, and it does appear that BLM is beginning to make an effort to clean up the vandalism that has been done to the many structures that do still stand. It is unclear however, how long they have been working on the “reclamation” and what more they intend to do.
For the time being, you can still explore the many building that remain here, but it is unsure for how long. All of the buildings have had their windows boarded up and brand new latches attached to the doors. At the time of my visit, locks had yet to be installed but it is likely that they are coming soon.
The school, bunk house, saloon, storage facilities, and a ransacked 1970′s decorated home are what remain. Most of these buildings appear to have original furnishings, however they have not been left in the best condition by previous visitors.
The road leading up to the mine itself has been barricaded to prevent vehicular access.
It will be interesting, or maybe rather gut-wrenching to see what comes of Ruth in the coming months and years. This is one of few ghost towns/camps in the Mojave Desert that still has standing buildings and hasn’t been reduced to rubble.