People of the Bullfrog District

Miners J.R. Pedenand Co,1898.

Miners J.R. Pedenand Co,1898.

The land of sand and sagebrush is a land of real men. There was just as much gold in Nevada’s craggy brown hills at the beginning of time as there is today. It was men she needed — men of the pick and pan to wrest from her secret treasure vaults the yellow dust for which the world is clamoring; men of brain, men of brawn, men of courage, real argonauts.

— Bessie Beatty, Who’s Who in Nevada, 1907

Montillus Murray “Old Man” Beatty(??-1908) – The namesake of the town of BeattyNevada, “Old Man” Beatty was a native of Iowa. He enlisted in the Union Army at Lyons, Iowa, in May 1861 and served in Company I, Second Iowa Infantry Regiment. After being discharged due to a disability, he went west and married a full-blooded Paiute Indian woman, with whom he would have three children. He established a ranch in the Oasis Valley in 1896, and when the town of Beatty was established, he became its first postmaster in January 1905. Unable to read or write, he kept the position for just a year. He then dabbled in mining. He died in December 1908 after falling from a wagon.

Ernest L. Cross – One of the discoverers of the famous Bullfrog Mining District, Cross was a quiet, sober newlywed who partnered up with Frank “Shorty” Harris in the summer of 1904. The pair couldn’t have been more mismatched, as Shorty was a well-known, colorful character known more for talking and drinking than he did for working mines. However, Cross had arrived too late in the area to find another partner. However, they discovered the first ore of the Bullfrog District on August 9, 1904. Unfortunately, Shorty would come out on the “short end” of this great find as he soon went to the saloon to celebrate and, in the end, gambled away his share for $1,000 and a mule to a man named J.W. McGaliard. Cross, on the other hand, joined with McGaliard and formed the Original Bullfrog Mine. Later, Ed sold his share for $25,000, and he and his wife bought a big ranch in Escondido, California. He lived there until he died in 1958.

James R. Davis – Mining man and one of the perpetrators of the Gold Bar Swindle, Davis was born in Columbus, Indiana, on December 16, 1872. Educated in the public schools of Indiana and Kansas, he headed west at the age of 17 and began working in the mines. The greater part of his time from 1890 to 1904 was spent prospecting in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Alaska. He then went to Goldfield, Nevada, in 1904, where he discovered the Sandstorm Mine, which gave him the nickname “Sandstorm Davis.” He soon connected with J.P. Loftus, and the two built an empire in the mining industry. In addition to the Sandstorm Mine, he was involved in the Round Mountain Mining Company in Goldfield, the Great Bend Mining Company near Diamondfield, the Gold Bar Mine in the Bullfrog District, and the Nevada Hills Mining Company in Fairview. He also had an eighth interest in the Goldfield Hotel. Beyond his significant involvement in mining operations in Nevada, we could not find any other information.

Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris.

Frank “Shorty” Harris (1856-1934) – One of the best-known and colorful prospectors of Death Valley, Frank Harris discovered the ore of the Bullfrog District in Nevada and at Harrisburg, California, which was named for him. Known throughout the region for having found several good claims, he never worked or developed them. Instead, he spent much time talking and drinking in saloons rather than doing the hard labor of mining. Known for his wild exaggerations and tall tales, most of his stories made him out to be a hero, but, in spite of this, he was well-liked. Harris prospected for the rest of his life, though he never had a mine he could call his own. At the age of 78, having been ill for a time, he died in 1934. See full article HERE.

J.P. Loftus (1856-??) – A mining man and one of the perpetrators of the Gold Bar Swindle, Loftus was born in Clinton, New York, in 1856 and attended Amherst College. Somewhere along the line, he made his way to the Nevada mining camps. With his partner, James R. Davis, he was involved in several mining operations, including the Sandstorm and Round Mountain Mining Companies in Goldfield, the Great Bend Mining Company near Diamondfield, and the Gold Bar Mine in the Bullfrog District. He also controlled the News Publishing Company and was instrumental in founding the Montezuma Club in Goldfield. Beyond his significant involvement in mining operations in Nevada, we could not find any other information.

Andrew Jackson “Jack” Longstreet (1834-1928) – Known as the “Last of the Desert Frontiersmen,” Longstreet hailed from Tennessee. He made his way to Arizona and Nevada in about 1880. Nothing is known of his earlier life other than his claims, which included being a relative of General James Longstreet of the Confederate Army, having ridden with Moseby’s Raiders during the Civil War, and having worked as a Pony Express rider. In his 40s, he married a Paiute Indian woman named Fannie, spoke their language, and spent much time with them.

Longstreet had only one ear, which he allegedly lost after having been caught rustling cattle in Texas. According to the tale, when the gang of rustlers was captured, the other men were hanged, but Longstreet was spared because of his youth, instead having one ear chopped off and sent packing. Until the end of his life, he wore his hair long to hide the injury.

In 1882, he was running a saloon and drug store in Sylvania. The next year, he was homesteading a tract of land a few miles south of the Moapa Indian Reservation. Longstreet’s white neighbor in the upper Moapa Valley was a man named Alexander Dry, with whom Longstreet had a dispute — some say over water rights, others say it was over a gambling debt during horse racing. Whatever it was, the quarrel resulted in gunfire, and Dry was killed.  Longstreet claimed self-defense, and because Dry’s weapon was found unholstered, he was acquitted of any crime.

By 1895, Longstreet was living in Ash Meadows, where he built a cabin and tried his hand at mining and ranching. The cabin has been rebuilt today and is in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. He sold the cabin in 1906 and then moved to the Monitor Range, where he built the Red Rock Ranch. There, he became really good friends with a rancher named Breen. According to the tale, the Clifford family, who lived in the valley below, wanted to buy the ranch, but Breen wouldn’t sell. When the Cliffords reported having found Breen dead, Longstreet didn’t believe them, thinking that they had killed him. He soon made his way down into the valley and shot them. He continued to ranch and mine until his death at the age of 94, having outlived most of his friends and enemies. After having accidentally shot himself, the wound festered for several days before he was taken to the Tonopah hospital, where he died later from a stroke.

Epitomized as the mythical Western frontiersman, Longstreet was said to have been a charismatic man reputed to settle arguments with a gun and champion those who could not protect themselves. Self-reliant, strong-willed, and fair-minded, he spoke with a southern drawl and, in his last years, was revered as a gruff but kind old man with many stories of his gunslinger days. His grave is in Belmont, Nevada, alongside his wife, Fannie, who died four years later.

E. A. Bob Montgomery

E. A. Bob Montgomery.

Ernest Alexander “Bob” Montgomery (1863-1955) – Capitalist and mine operator Montgomery was a self-made man who, after years of prospecting, made discoveries at Johnnie and Bullfrog, Nevada, that made him wealthy. Also involved in Goldfield, Nevada, and Skidoo, California, he continued his mining investments and development his entire life. See full article HERE.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated April 2024.

Also See:

The Bullfrog Mining District

Mines of the Bullfrog District, Nevada

Death Valley Ghost Towns & Mines

Characters of Early Death Valley

Death Valley National Park