LOCAL MINING HISTORY
By Bonnie Ketterl Kane
Mining in these mountains may have begun as early as the 1600's when the Spanish began to make claim the southwestern portion of the future United States . The Spanish explorer priests traveled between the primary settlements of their “ New Spain ” which were located at Santa Fe , in the present area of New Mexico , and Monterey in the present Northern California . The trail they traveled became known as “El Camino Viejo” and coming from the east, it came from the future Antelope Valley , through the present Gorman, Frazier Park, Cuddy Valley , down the present San Emigdio Canyon and on to the north.
These early travelers were always on the lookout for the precious metals no longer available in their homeland. Many mining locations throughout the Southwest gained the name of Los Padre Mines but one of the most documented was the “Lost Los Padres Mine” that was located in the area of San Emigdio Canyon. Many stories have been collected about this mine and the curse the padres left over it when they could no longer haul off it's contents. The ore was processed and strings of mules were known to have carried the bars of gold and silver back to the East over the Colorado River and to the Gulf of Mexico where they were shipped back to Spain .
When Mexico overtook the Spanish and removed them from their homeland, and with the defeat of the mission system, all of the Los Padres Mines were closed – though rumors of their existence continued and many searched for and probably worked some of the old sites.
Following the “Gold Rush” in the Sierra Nevada Mtns , prospectors began to search for gold throughout the mountains of California and mining settlements occurred locally from Lockwood Valley to Hungry Valley – from Frazier
Mountain to Alamo Mtn .
One of the most significant local discoveries occurred in 1870 when the Frazier brothers came across an outcropping of gold while hunting on the mountain that would soon bear their name. Warren Frazier was the brother who spent the most time developing the mine. One of his first partners, Bob Maddux , left us this great description of that early mine:
“ Warren took me not far from his camp to the croppings of a quartz vein and I broke some off and could see gold in it. He asked if I had experience in mining and if I had this, what would I do. I suggested he build an arrasta , which he knew nothing about, so I helped him build it. We could, with the help of one of the mules, grind about three hundred pounds of rock a day, which ran about a $100 to the ton.”
Mr. Maddux also recorded that Mr. Frazier had the bad habit of spending the gold on booze and once while on a binge he was approached by some investors from San Francisco and lost the mine. The new company installed a ten-stamp mill to increase production. The mine was worked as late as the 1980's before being blasted shut.
Gold and silver were not the only minerals mined locally as a number of borax, aggregate and lime developed in the 1900's.