Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Construction Camp: Flagstaff

Friends of the Saline Valley Salt Tram
SaltTram.blogspot.com   SalineValleySaltTram@gmail.com

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


QUESTION 1: Examine mining prospects and shaft along the Old Charcoal Road and look for signs that it was at one time could have been the Flagstaff Camp during the Salt Tram construction phase. Let’s call this location Flagstaff Mine - North. In particular, we would expect to find signs of a dump in the area with cans and other material from the Salt Tram era.

QUESTION 2: Examine old topo maps in the area of the Flagstaff Mine and the Flagstaff Mine - North. Look at maps from around 1880 to 1920 and see what was shown on these topos in these 2 sites. We expect to find the Flagstaff Mine on maps of this era, as is known to have been in operation prior to 1882. However, we are curious to see if the Flagstaff Mine - North prospects and shaft is shown on these older maps.

Flagstaff Mine: 
Background information on the mine itself. A report from the State Mining Bureau (of California) shows that their museum collection includes sample silver ore from the Flagstaff Mine in the Inyo Mountains near Swansea. This publication is dated April 16, 1881 and was published in Sacramento in 1882. It clearly identifies the Flagstaff Mine as being of rather old vintage, and certainly establishes that it existed prior to the construction of the Salt Tram in 1910 - 1913 timeframe. A 1986 reference puts the Flagstaff Mine in Inyo County as producing the commodities of Silver (Major), Lead (Trace) and Zinc (Trace), and its current status was as a “past producer”. Below: Brian and Mark at a portion of the Flagstaff Mine (click to enlarge).

Patterson Diary References to “Flagstaff” Camp: 
Cliff Patterson references numerous construction camps, including at least 3 references to “Flagstaff”. Control Station IV (CS IV) is also known as Station 29, and is not far from the “Flagstaff Mine” on a current topographical map. CS IV is also only .9 miles by pack trail from what we consider to be the likely location of the Salt Tram’s Flagstaff Camp along the Old Charcoal Road, and only 1.3 miles from the late 1880’s Flagstaff Mine.

Below: 3 entries from the Patterson Diary that mention Flagstaff:
July 21, 1912 (graph paper): Sun. Reed & one of Ben’s gang put up tent at Flagstaff.
July 21, 1912 (ledger paper): Sun. Put up one Tent & moved the other at Flagstaff.
July 22, 1912 (ledger paper): Mon. Moved To Flagstaff and excavated on Station # 29.
There are 2 entries on separate diary pages for 7/21/1912 and 7/22/1912. The reasons for this is unknown, except for the fact that the diary pages are not bound, and in fact, the diary uses 5 different types of 3” x 5” paper! We speculate that he simply misplaced the original diary pages and reproduced them from memory, then subsequently found them later. Under this scenario, he chose to keep both of the duplicate pages in the diary. Obviously, the statements for the same day from the 2 separate pages are similar. 
Below: Diary Page from Henry Clifton Patterson Diary, which references the Flagstaff Camp:
Location of Flagstaff Camp: 
We believe it is most likely that the camp is located in the draw through which the Old Charcoal Road passes. On current topo maps, it shows numerous mining prospects in that area, along with a mine shaft. It is conveniently located along the Old Charcoal Road (the Salt Tram’s main access road on the West side of the tramway), and is in a sheltered canyon that provides some protection from the elements. Control Station IV (CS IV) is also known as Station 29, and is not far from the “Flagstaff Mine” on a current topographical map. CS IV is also only .9 miles by pack trail from what we consider to be the likely location of the Salt Tram’s Flagstaff Camp. Below: Topo Map showing Old Charcoal Road, Pack Trail, Flagstaff Mine, Flagstaff Mine - North.

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