Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Research Doc: May 29, 1960 San Bernardino Sun Telegram

Salt Tram history is rapidly disappearing, and we are striving to rediscover the efforts of our forefathers in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories. We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:
National Register of Historic Places 1          National Register of Historic Places 2

**************************************************************************For some reason, this blog doesn't post the photos in the order I am trying to put them in. Perhaps I'll figure out what order it lists them, so that I can control that order. Until then, they'll just be randomly posted.

I got a copy of this article from the Eastern Sierra Museum, and the copy is absolutely lousy. The article doesn't give too much good information about the Salt Tram, but does provide a few good leads. The older the article, the better the information, I have found.

Here's my summary of the document.

Source: San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, May 29, 1960, by L. Burr Belden “13-Mile Tram Hauled Salt of Saline Valley” (acquired from Eastern Sierra Museum)

Current Status: Have contacted the Sun (no longer the Sun-Telegram) to see if I can get a copy of the original articles, and perhaps the original photos, as the copy I have contains only 6 of the 9 referenced photos. I photocopied a photocopy at the Eastern Sierra Museum (ESM), so the quality is really, really, bad!

Usefulness of Information: 2 (out of a scale of 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the best information, 2 being so-so, and 3 being nearly worthless).

New Information / Leads: • Period of greatest Salt Mining activity via the Salt Tram was 1910 - 1918 (the Salt Tram was first run on July 2nd, 1913) • May 1902: Calif. State Minining Bureau published a county-by-county survey of salt mining, and reported only minor local use made of the Saline Valley salt deposits; extensive deposits of pure rock salt were discovered in1864 • Commercial operation started in 1913 after over $300,000 had been spent on building the mining operation • There was a rail spur to the tram terminus, and on the railmen’s timeables it was named “Tramway”, but no such station appeared on public tables • Tram operation terminated in 1930 at the start of the depression (I thought it ended in1932), but they didn’t think the recession would last long, so posted caretakers at the tramway for some time • Tramway eventually sold to Al Noren of Big Pine for a $1, and he was the only bidder; Noren salvaged some of the more accessible material (cable, buckets), but left the remote material where it remains today • “3 miles S of Beveridge Canyon is Saline Camp, the region’s one-time metropolis. Just No of the camp is a miner’s home with a road sign inviting travelers to help themselves to water, if they don’t shoot or steal his burros (wonder if this is the Conn-Trudo Borax Works?) • At the time of the article, loading platforms still existed at the Salt Lake, and I believe are shown in the fuzzy photos accompanying the article; also adds that a few resistance coils and foundations of the power plant (not sure what he is talking about - what power plant? they got power from the hydro-electric plant in the Eastern Sierras?).

Interesting Facts Not Related to the Salt Tram: author references the ghost town at Belt Spring (“a small colony of permanent residents”) • references the “old indian trail down Marble and Cottonwood Canyons down to the Death Valley Floor” • references the “small mining community of Wacuba - a collection of miners cabins and mine shafts” • Apparently during 1960ish, there was a highway sign along Saline Valley Road that listed the mileage to Beveridge, which got its named, according to the author, from the 1912 Bull Moose Party, which is obviously not true. • there are several camps in Grapevine Canyon (from another source: Areas of particular archeological significance within the park boundaries include Butte Valley, Mesquite Flat, the floor of Death Valley, Grapevine Canyon, high elevation localities in the Panamint Mountains, alluvial fans on the west side of Death Valley, and springs; perhaps the author is referring to Indian camps?)

Misc: L. Burr Beldon was born in 1898 and died in 1977, but it might still be fun to try and contact him or his relatives, since this was his 21st article of the 9th historical series - this one on Saline Valley. It turns out that he has written numerous books, including some that I own: Mines of Death Valley by L. Burr Belden and Illustrated with b&w and color Drawings & Photos (Paperback - Jan 1, 1966); Baja California Overland - Third Edition by L. Burr Belden (Paperback - 1968); Amasa Lyman, San Bernardino's first mayor (Quarterly of San Bernardino County Museum Association) by L. Burr Belden (Unknown Binding - 1964); Goodbye, Death Valley!: The 1849 Jayhawker Escape by L. Burr Belden (Paperback - Jan 1, 1956); The Mississippians and the Georgians of the Death Valley 1849 party by L. Burr Belden (Unknown Binding - 1975); Romantic heritage of Upper Mojave Desert: A saga of pioneer discoveries and modern achievements by L. Burr Belden (Unknown Binding - 1967)

To learn more about L. Burr Belden, see this link: L. Burr Belden Memorial
The link above states in part:
Birth: Apr. 26, 1898
New York, USA
Death: Feb. 18, 1977
San Bernardino County
California, USA

In the early 1920's, Belden wandered Death Valley as a young reporter for the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram. He befriended old-timers and reclusive miners who shared with him their confidences, many told for the first time in this book. Belden made the Death Valley area a field of intense personal study and research. He loved the desert, an in particular, he loved all that had to do with Death Valley -its history, landscape and its people. Belden spent more than 50 years at the Sun-Telegram and later served on the California History Commission and Conference of Historical Societies, appointed by then California Governors Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan. Belden also served as chair of the Death Valley Forty-Niners. Other books "Searles Lake Borax 1862-1962", also "San Bernardino 150 Years Old Today" "PADRE FOUNDS CITY IN 1810 AND GIVES VALLEY ITS NAME" By L. BURR BELDEN (Sun-Telegram Historical Writer)Copyright (1960), First Noble Grand Humbug of the Billy Holcome chapter in 1968, of the Ancient and Honorable order of E Clampus Vitus.

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