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The Mine Camp Of Greenwater California

Old time prospectors knew about different deposits in this part of the country way back in the 1880s, but because this place was in the middle of nowhere and was a hostile and desolate environment, not a whole lot of work was done here. However in the early 1900s that all changed when mining around the town of Rhyolite started and being as this place was only about 20 some miles away, exploration started to get some traction out here.

There were actually three town sites in the district in the beginning Furnace, Kunze, and Ramsey. These small settlements were not much more that tent camps and never had to much of a population base. Then in 1904 a couple of prospectors, Fred Birney and Phil Creasor were out looking for gold and came across some rich surface outcrops of copper in Greenwater Valley. These two men sent some samples off to be assayed and the next thing you know, Frederick Heinze a big time mining man who was known as the copper king from Butte Montana came down to see these outcrops for himself. These copper showings looked so promising that Heinze bought 16 claims right on the spot for $275,000. Of course with these new discoveries plus being close to Rhyolite, by 1906 a whole new mining boom had taken off.

Now the first thing you need to realize is that people back in the olden day were just like they are today. Everyone wanted to make money and had big dreams of getting rich. Today it's all about investing in tech stocks and crypto currencies but Back then it was mines, railroads and power. since electricity was one of the big flavours of the day, investing in right copper play was just like a winning ticket on a power ball lottery. You see, big cities in California and elsewhere in the united states were all getting wired up for electricity and the need for copper wire was at all time highs and so when easy copper deposits were found there was usually no shortage of investors willing to pony up the cash. In fact big money names like Schwab, Senator William Clark and most of their cronies were first inline betting money on this copper play. And as usual, once word got out about these guys buying in, the rush was on.

One of the biggest drawbacks of this area was the total lack of water. Water had to be hauled in by mule trains but most of that water would be consumed just on the trip in. With the influx of more and more people, the premium for water rose to as much as 10 dollars a barrel. One traveler counted more than 100 freighting wagons heading towards the district in one day, straining their resources to supply the growing demands of the new boom camp. One wagon master counted $25,000 worth of supplies heading into the Greenwater District in one day as the rush continued. Another counted more than 200 miners and prospectors heading into the area looking for work and to stake claims and all this activity put strain on the water supply.

While all this was going on plans were in the works for a townsite of which showed 32 blocks with over 550 lots for sale, was approved by the County Commissioner. There were also 73 different mining companies busy digging shafts with hopes of being first to get copper ore out of the ground and talks about railroad lines being run from Rhyolite to transport supplies and ore. Some of the bigger mines were the United Greenewater Copper company, The Greenwater & Death Valley Copper company which was owned and promoted by Charles Schwab. There was also The Greenwater Furnace Creek company, the Funeral Creek Copper Mine and the Greenwater Ely Consolidated.

By the end of 1906 Greenwater is said to have about a dozen saloons along with numerous tents and wooden structures being built at a frantic pace. Close to 1000 people had moved into the area staking claims or setting up shop. The town of Greenwater was heavily promoted by both newspapers and stock promoters.

An article posted in the Los Angeles Herald in the fall of 1906 was quoted as saying,,,
Excitement over the copper deposits recently discovered In the Greenwater, Cal., district is on the increase. Hundreds of men have braved the dangers of the desert to get into Inyo county and locate prospects in the new field sixty miles south of Bullfrog.

It is stated that within the past two weeks there has been realized cash aggregating a grand total of $4,125,000. The mere price of everything In the district has shot sky high. In twenty days prices of property in the district have gone from $100 or $200 to $10,000, and In some cases even higher.

Another paper, the The Bullfrog Miner, was noted saying that nearly $20,000,000 had been invested in 100 claims in the last six months and that Greenwater was without doubt, the greatest copper mining territory ever found in the world. They envisioned a city of 10,000 within the next couple of years.

By early 1907, Greenwater had a couple of barbershops, and a couple dozen buildings were being constructed. A butcher shop, and there were 5 restaurants. There was a lawyer and a shoe repair store, a couple of mining office and even an undertaker.

However, behind the scenes there was one news paper that wasn't jumping onto this hyped up bandwagon and that was the Engineering & Mining Journal. They're only comments on the Greenwater discovery were that the district is too new, to permit trustworthy predictions as to its future, and it will take many months before development work can be carried far enough to establish its real value.

Sure enough almost as fast the boom started, it was on it's way out. Yes the copper deposits were at surface and very rich but there was a much deeper problem and that was that these deposits weren't deep. Mine shafts were being sunk deeper in hopes of trying find more copper but there was none to be had. A couple of news paper articles in the fall of that year were written in the tone of reassurance but everyone knew the boom had become a bust. Yes, the Engineering and mining journal was right. They had seen this same play before and by January of 1908 the town of Greenwater had just one saloon left, and only 50 people in the entire camp.

There really is nothing left of the towns or the camps of Greenwater. I read some off road drivers came across old foundations a debris from some old buildings and signs of old tailings dumps.