Ashford Mine and Mill in
January, 1907 a man named Harold Ashford wandered into the
region, and attracted by the gold strikes at the Desert Hound Mine,
prospected in that vicinity. Within a few months, he discovered that the
Keys Gold Mining Company had failed to do the required assessment work on
several of its claims, and Ashford relocated them and started to work on
his own. It took the Keys Gold Mining Company almost two years to discover
that someone else was working their former claims, and when Ashford
refused to vacate, the company took him to court In January, 1910;
however, the judge found in favor of Ashford and he retained title to his
claims. He might have been better off if he had lost.
Harold Ashford and his brothers, Henry and Lewis, worked the mine off and
on between 1910 and 1914, without good results. In November, 1914, they
leased the mine to B. W. McCausland and his son, Ross.
Ashford Mill ruins, courtesy ericy102,
The McCauslands started to work on a large
scale, and within a year had driven a tunnel 180 feet into the side of the
mountain. At the height of their operation, the McCauslands employed 28
men, had invested over $125,000 in capital improvements, and had completed
2,000 feet of total workings. In addition, a mill had been built on the
Death Valley, five miles and 3,500 feet below the mine, where the
ore from the mine was trucked for preliminary treating. The mill included
a jaw-crusher, a ten-foot Lane mill, a Wilfley table and a Diester slime
table. The McCauslands were described by the Inyo Register as being
wealthy residents of Los Angeles, and in late August they announced that
their 40-ton capacity mill was in operation, and they had plans to
increase its capacity to 150 tons.
However, despite taking out an estimated $100,000 worth of ore, the
McCauslands soon discovered that the ores from the mine were not rich
enough to justify their capital expenditures, and they ceased operations
in September, 1915. In order to cut their losses, the McCauslands didn't
pay the Ashfords for the year's lease on the mine. Though the Ashfords
took them to court, they never received payment.
The mine and mill then set idle for more than a decade until 1926, when
four men were working the mine, but it soon closed down again. The mine
was leased again by the Ashfords in 1935 to Golden Treasure Mines, Inc.
The new company reopened the mine but minding the old mill inadequate to
treat its ores, shipped their rock out to Shoshone where it was loaded
upon the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. The long truck hauls, however,
proved very expensive, and after searching for other ways to reduce costs,
the company settled down to taking out only the highest grade of ore
available. They continued to work on the mine until 1938 when they gave
up. Total shipments by the Golden Treasure company amounted to no more
than $18,000 during their tenure.
Following the departure of their lessees, the
Ashfords again began working the mine and in August, 1938 made a 38-ton
shipment. By this time the mine was described as comprising twenty-six
claims, and had a 320-foot shaft with a crosscut, a 215-foot tunnel, and a
200-foot drift. Equipment at the site included a portable Ingersoll-Rand
compressor and various camp buildings. Three men were working, probably
the three Ashford brothers.
After working the mine themselves for a
short period, the Ashford's leased it again, this time to the Bernard
Granville and Associates of Los Angeles. That company immediately went
to work, employing ten men, and soon installed a short aerial tramway,
to facilitate the task of consolidating the ore from the scattered
shafts and tunnels to one central point for trucking down the
mountain. Operations continued until sometime in 1941, when the new
lessees gave up. No record of any shipments being made by Granville
and Associates can be found.
The Ashford Mine, showing the complex used in
the 1930's. The cookhouse and office is in the
foreground, the bunkhouses are to the right, with the head frame, collapsed
tramway terminal and a shed visible in the rear. photo by John Latschar,
1978, courtesy National Park Service.
The Ashfords continued to hold title to
their mine following the departure of their last lessees, although
they apparently never returned to work it themselves. In perhaps the
best summary of the spotted history of the Ashford Mine, C. B.
Glasscock wrote that it was able to produce just enough gold to keep
the Ashfords in groceries and lawsuits for more than a third of a
Today there are a number of structures that continue to stand at the
Ashford Mine, although not many of them could be classified as historic.
The main mine site itself is situated high on the west side of the Black
Death Valley, and the old road to the site has been
washed out for many years. Access is only possible via an arduous hike
about one mile from the end of the road up to the mine site. Structures at
the main complex consist of a collapsed shack, an outhouse, a large office
and cookhouse building, two wooden bunkhouses, a tin shed, a head frame
and ore bin, and the tramway towers and terminal. All of these structures
date from the 1930-1940 period of mining.
Just around the knoll from the main mining site--towards the east--are the
ruins of an older mining effort, undoubtedly the remnants of the
McCausland's work in 1914-15. Here may be found several older adits and
dumps, the ruins of a collapsed shack and half a dozen level sites, the
former homes of a small tent community. This site has better integrity
than the former, since it was relatively undisturbed in later mining
years, but still does not possess historic significance.
ruins of Ashford Mill stand on the floor of
Death Valley. Structures here
consist of the crumbling walls of a concrete office building, and the
ruins of the mill itself. Not much is left of the mill, with the exception
of the large concrete foundations and a very limited amount of debris. The
ruins of the mill foundation and the office building are rather
interesting, and according to local legend, are due to the fact that a
double load of cement was shipped to the McCauslands when construction was
in progress. Rather than send it back, which would have entailed further
transportation expenses, the extra cement was used in construction of the
mill and office building, which largely accounts for their still standing
Ashford Mills is located about 29 miles west of Shoshone,
CA-178. From the mill to the mine, visitors will
travel east on Ashford Canyon Road for three miles, and then hike about
1.25 miles up Ashford Canyon to the mine site. Following the remnants of
the old road up the Canyon will make for an easier hike.
of America, updated August, 2014.
Primary Source: National Park Service
Ashford Mill, 1934.
remains today, photo by Dave Alexander, February, 2015.