Swindle at the Gold Bar Mine, Nevada


Gold Bar, Nevada

Gold Bar, Nevada

The strikes at Tonopah and Goldfield attracted miners from all parts of the nation, and among them were two miners from Cripple Creek, Colorado, named Ben Hazeltine and N. P. Reinhart. Although they arrived in Goldfield too late to capitalize on that rush, they soon found jobs in local mines. By the time the news of Shorty Harris‘ and Ed Cross’ strike hit Goldfield, Reinhart and Hazeltine were ready for another rush, and they joined the great migration to the new Bullfrog District.

Finding that all the close-in ground was already staked out, the two men drifted farther afield, prospecting in the upper Bullfrog Hills. On October 10, 1904, their persistence paid off, for they found and located the Hazeltine claims, approximately four miles northwest of Rhyolite, and two miles north of the original Bullfrog.

J.P. Loftus

J.P. Loftus

The two men worked the mine by themselves for a short while and regularly brought in ore samples to be assayed at Rhyolite. The rich results of the assay tests did not go unnoticed, and early in 1905 Reinhart and Hazeltine sold their mine for $117,000 to Goldfield promoters, headed by J.P. Loftus and James R. Davis. The new company was soon organized as the Bullfrog Gold Bar Mining Company.

By the end of May 1905, after only six weeks of exploratory work, the mine had run into ore ledges averaging $15 per ton and had uncovered small rich pockets, one of which assayed at $1,458 a ton. Ordering more equipment and hiring more men, the 14 miners continued to uncover evidence of paying ore. Towards the end of the summer, with the mine well into its development phase, a new boarding house had been completed for the convenience of the miners, and the Rhyolite Herald characterized the Gold Bar as “one of the surest and most dependable properties in the district.”

Good news continued through 1906 and by March three shifts of miners were working and the mine owners were contemplating building a mill. In April, the fortunes of the mine reached a turning point, as the Gold Bar Company gave Charles M. Schwab, the famous steel millionaire and mining promoter, an option to purchase the property. Descriptions of the deal varied, but Schwab apparently had an option to purchase the mine for $1,000,000 by May 1st. Schwab sent his engineers out to examine the mine, prior to exercising his option, and the Bullfrog District waited in anticipation. The control of a mine by a man with the assets of Schwab could only mean good things for the entire district.

While Schwab pondered the deal, the Gold Bar continued to report discoveries of valuable ore, and the month of April saw so much promising development take place that the owners of the mine privately expressed the hope that Schwab would let his option expire without buying the mine. The Rhyolite Herald after digesting the latest company reports, called the Gold Bar “one of the biggest things in the far famed State of Nevada.”

But the San Francisco fire and earthquake that year dampened the mood of unbounded optimism. Schwab requested several extensions of his option and eventual the deal fell through. The owners put on a good face, declaring that they were glad that Schwab had not bought. Developments at the mine continued despite the effects of the San Francisco disaster upon financial circles.

The Gold Bar Company continued operations through the intense heat of the summer. The mine now employed twenty-five men, and its main shaft reached a depth of 330 feet by the end of July. However, it was becoming apparent that the Gold Bar was a low-grade mine, which would have to operate its own mill in order to make a profit. Development continued and by the end of 1906, The Gold Bar property included a hoisting plant and gallows frame, a small engine house, a blacksmith shop, a boarding house, an office building, and miscellaneous equipment.

In early January 1907, the Gold Bar announced that it would definitely build a mill on its property, but no further details were released. In order to help finance the construction, the mine began to ship ore to the newly completed Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad terminus at Rhyolite.

Gold Bar Mine, Nevada

Gold Bar Mine, Nevada

In June, the company announced it had a contract for the construction of a 10-stamp mill. Work soon began on the mill foundations, and the company started laying a pipeline from its spring to the mill site.

Work on the mill slowly progressed during the last months of 1907, but despite the evidence that the Gold Bar was evolving from a developing to a producing mine, stock prices were falling. The mill building was completed in December 1907, but delays in obtaining electrical power and equipment began to plague the company. However, the delays were overcome and the Gold Bar Mill began operations on January 11, 1908.

Unfortunately, the mill had problems with leaking pipelines, but production continued until April, as rumors circulated that the mine would be forced to replace the entire pipeline in order to solve the water problem. On April 25th, the mine and mill were closed in order to refurbish the mine and pipeline. The company soon announced plans to replace the entire pipeline and install expensive cyanide treatment machinery. Ominously, the company did not announce a definite date for the beginning of the improvement work and its stock declined rapidly.

With the benefit of hindsight, it suddenly became apparent that something was definitely wrong with the Bullfrog Gold Bar Mining Company, and had been wrong for some time. Its superintendent, L.E. Bedford, had quietly resigned on March 21st, which looked strange at a time when the Gold Bar was finally beginning to produce.

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