|Randsburg still has 69 residents. Most of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the mining days.|
Primary Mineral: Randsburg's economy was built around the famous Yellow Aster Mine, the largest gold producer in Kern County. The Rand Silver Mine on nearby Red Mountain produced more silver than any mine in California. Tungsten was mined in the neighboring town of Atolia.
Years of Operation: Gold was discovered on the slopes of Rand Mountain in 1895. From this discovery, the town of Randsburg (originally known as Rand Camp) sprang up almost overnight. By 1899, the town had over 3,500 residents. Randsburg boasted a 100-stamp mill and conservative estimates are that $60,000,000 in gold was taken out of the mines in the area during the town's boom years. From 1895 until about 1933, the Yellow Aster mine produced almost $25,000,000 worth of gold. Today about 69 people still reside here.
Nearest City or Landmark: Close to the Kern-San Bernardino counties border, 17 miles south of Ridgecrest, near the El Paso Mountains.
|Little has changed in Randsburg since the mining days. This building probably dates back to the early 1900s.|
Randsburg is a living ghost town. In 1899 it was host to over 3,500 residents. But like all mining towns, the boom came and went. Today there's still a population of around 69 people, who show their pride by keeping this legendary town as original and unchanged as possible. The main street through town is Butte Ave., and although quite a few tourists pass through this area I wouldn't call Randsburg a tourist trap. At least not on the level of Calico. It's mostly a sleepy desert town with open mines dotting the hillsides and artifacts just about everywhere, mostly from the Yellow Aster Mine. During the first half of the 20th Century, the Rand Mining District was the principal gold producing region of California.
|This building now serves as an antique store, but may have been a machine shop or warehouse at one time.|
Large-scale gold mining continued until 1918, but small-scale placer operations continued through the 1930s, and to a lesser extent even into the present. By 1919 most of the population had moved on to greener pastures.
|Earliest known photo of Randsburg, then called Rand Camp, after the discovery of the Yellow Aster Mine.|
History of Randsburg
As early as the 1860s this region has been prospected, however no significant finds were made at that time. It was not until placer gold was discovered in 1893 in Goler Wash, in the El Paso Mountains 15 miles to the north west, that there was any mineral production. Numerous short-lived dry-washing camps soon sprang up in various locations along the El Paso range. In 1894 prospectors Frederic Mooers, William J. Langdon and B.F. McGee had been placer mining in the El Paso Mountains, east of Red Rock Canyon and south of Ridgecrest, when they ventured into the Rand mountains.
|John Singleton's office interior. Singleton was a partial owner of the ultra successful Yellow Aster Mine.|
They found a little “color” there, but returned to a dry wash which had been worked by a German man named John Goler, an area that had been worked since the 1850s with proven success, known as the Summit Range Mining District. The partners had planned to continue their placer mining operations in that area, but an extremely wet winter made mining the wash nearly impossible. In 1895 Mooers returned to the Rand region with a new partner named John Singleton to take a closer look. To their surprise the volcanic mountain was “covered with float” showing free gold as large as wheat grains to the naked eye.
|Randburg in the winter of 1897. This photo was taken at the intersection of Broadway and Butte Avenue.|
Mooers and Singleton brought in a third partner by the name of Charles Burcham and staked their claims in 1895. Soon after they changed the name to Yellow Aster Mining and Milling, named after a new novel one of the men was reading at the time (“A Yellow Aster” by Hunt Caffyn, written in 1894).
|Looking east on Butte Ave. in 1897. At its peak, Randsburg had a population of over 3500 citizens.|
Despite the legendary success of the Yellow Aster Mine, this venture nearly failed in the beginning. The prospectors barely had enough food and supplies to keep them alive when they first established their claim, and every ounce of gold they found was used to finance another day’s digging. At one point they came close to selling the claim when Charlie’s wife, Rose Burcham came to the rescue. She wouldn’t allow the sale, and found a way to finance the mine’s development. This was TRULY a rags to riches story. The Yellow Aster mine became one of the biggest gold mines in all of the Mojave.
Their first shaft was fifteen feet deep, and a ledge six feet wide was soon developed . According to the San Francisco Call of Jan. 27, 1896, “They then began prospecting for other ledges and located fourteen other claims.” But coming up with the money to file the claims and paying the fee apparently took a lot longer than expected, and by that time word of their find had spread far and wide. Hundreds of prospectors, investors, fortune seekers and mining experts from South Africa poured into the area.
By 1897 Randsburg was a boomtown of nearly 4,000 people. The same year, three separate fires destroyed most of the original town, but some of the $60 million dollars in gold profits quickly rebuilt it. The Yellow Aster mine alone had taken $25 million dollars worth of gold at the day’s price of $20 an ounce. In 1901, a 100-stamp mill was added on site, one of the largest ever built. Over 110 years later, the Rand Mining Company still operates 24 hours a day and employs about 80 workers.
|Old Post Office location on Butte Ave. By 1899 Randsburg had grown to over 3,500 residents.|
The Post Office
Randsburg’s Post Office was first established in 1896. The first postmaster was F.M. Mooers. The original location was inside of D.C. Kuffel’s store, but two major fires forced a change of location to a new adobe building, later known as Rinaldi Market.
“The Post Office has been moved to its new quarters, at the corner of Butte avenue and Broadway, and has been handsomely lifted up with new boxes, etc. The building is of adobe and is as nearly fireproof as possible. ”
In 1910 the location changed again, this time to the building pictured above. In 1940 it was moved once again, to a building next to the Randsburg General Store. And believe it or not, it moved one more time in the early 1980’s to its current location, near the Opera House.
|The White House was one of Randsburg's many saloons. Across the street is another one, called The Joint.|
The White House Saloon (pictured above) was was reportedly opened in February of 1917 by Emmett and Moses “Whiskers” Elder when a liquor license was issued to Emmett. At that time the saloon was known as the “Whitehouse Club”. However a sign on the door states that the saloon was established in 1897. This might be explained by a change in name from the early days. Although liquor is no longer served here, you can still get a shot of spiced sarsaparilla. "The White House" and "The Joint" located across the street both have original boot rails and spittoons.
Countless Saloons have come and gone since Randsburg’s heyday, and some still exist today. The first one was known as the Starkey & Richards Saloon, opened by Ed Starkey in 1895. Starkey’s partner, Charles Richards who was the first man ever killed in Randsburg. Richards was supposed to be married to Sally Payne of Tehachapi, but a fellow by the name of L. A. Scott put an end to his life in early September of 1896. Mr. Scott was a miner on whom the sheriff had received a number of complaints in the prior year. Richards was shot in the back after a fight broke out over money. Scott was arrested and later transported to Garlock.
|Inside the Yellow Aster Saloon in 1900. The game being played was called Faro, very popular in that day.|
|The soda fountain inside the General Store (formerly the Jones Drug Co.) is over 100 years old, built in 1904.|
The General Store
The soda fountain inside is over 100 years old, built in 1904. It was purchased in Boston, MA and brought around the horn by Clipper ship, then hauled in by mule and wagon. The store still serves original style ice cream sodas, phosphates, and the biggest banana splits ever seen, known as the Black Bart. Today this building serves as both a sit-down restaurant and a general store and includes memorabilia, maps and locally-published histories on Randsburg. The restaurant is known for its long counter, antique backbars, active malt machines and the famous Egg McMiner Sandwich.
|Randsburg and nearby Johannesburg both take their names from miners who worked in South Africa.|
The Churches of Randburg
The Santa Barbara Catholic church (seen above) was founded in 1897 but burned down one year later. It was rebuilt in 1904 by Father Matthew Ternes of St. Malachy. It still has the original bell. Apparently one side has been propped up because of instability. One street north of this one is the Randsburg Methodist Church, built in 1934. Methodists of Randsburg began holding services at a different location as far back as 1898. There was also an Episcopal church that dated back to 1896. A small Mormon church was mentioned by the Deseret Evening News in 1902. And a Christian Science was mentioned by the Bakersfield Morning Echo in 1918.
The Randsburg School was established in 1897. From 1897 to 1962 there were 37 teachers. Today Randsburg no longer has its own school. There is still a one room school in nearby Johannesburg for children up through 3rd Grade. Older students are now bused to Ridgecrest, the nearest large town. The first school teacher of Randsford was Miss Wores.
“The Halfway house at Randsburg has been purchased, and fitted up as a school room. School will open on the 20th inst., with Miss Wores as teacher.”
|Randsburg had a Sheriff, but town's people formed their own Vigilante Committee when things got out of hand.|
As was the case in virtually all mining boom towns, Randsburg had its share of crime.
|The Randsburg Inn sits on the site of the old Orpheum Theater, opened in 1897. Later it became a brothel.|
Randsburg Inn sits on the site of the old Orpheum Theater, which opened in 1897. Originally owned by Joe Petrich, It was the center of entertainment for the town's miners at that time. Stage plays, dance hall girls, ladies of the evening, and a gymnasium in the basement were just some of the offerings. By 1899 a new owner, Joe Woodward, renamed it "Woodward's Dance Hall". Sadly, it was destroyed by the "Fire of 1903".
From 1903 to 1907 Marguerite Roberts ran a "House of Ill Repute" on or near this location. She called it the "My Place Dance Hall". Several trade tokens from this dance hall and the Orpheum Theater have been found around the small buildings called "cribs" directed behind the Randsburg Inn. Maraguerite managed to keep the establishment open until her death in 1907, despite repeated attempts by some citizens to shut it down. Miss Roberts in buried in a local cemetery.
In 1922 another mining boom created the need for more hotels, so Mrs. Artibe build the Commercial Hotel with lumber supplied by the Johannesburg Lumber Company. Since then the hotel has be refurbished and renamed. It's a tiny, rustic inn with with a little antique store in the front.
|Underground at the Yellow Aster Mine with a mule. This mine has operated intermittently since 1895.|
The Yellow Aster Mine
The Yellow Aster Mine was huge. It operated continuously from 1895 to 1918 and then reopened in 1921. In 1933 the Anglo American Mining Corp. Ltd. leased it and reopened in in 1939. There have been intermittent lessees since that time. By 1905 about seven and one half miles of horizontal underground working had been driven. Most of the ore mined from 1905 to 1933 was obtained from a large glory hole, but reportedly the workings totalled between 12 and 15 miles in length by 1909. Between 1895 and 1939, more than 3,400,000 tons of ore was milled, and about 500,000 ounces of gold was recovered, nearly all by amalgamation. In addition, 1,700,000 tons of mill tailings was treated and yielded 41,000 ounces of gold.
|The Yellow Aster's Olympus Tunnel in 1897. This mine had at least twenty eight different portals.|
|20 Mule team hauling oil to the Yellow Aster's 30-Stamp Mill. In 1901 a 100-stamp mill was added.|
|Locomotive at the Yellow Aster Mine. The Randsburg Railway opened in 1898 and ran for 35 years.|
|Miners coming off a shift at the Yellow Aster Mine's Hercules Hoist House in May of 1898.|
The Yellow Aster was the big game in town, but that’s not to say there weren’t other successful mines. Here’s a list of the many others in and around Randsburg ...
Ajax, Aksarben, Alpha, Alphonse, Allstate Prospect, Amber, America (American) Group, Argus Butte, Arizona, Annex, Apex, Archer E. Lass, Bald Eagle, Baltic, Banner, Barnett Group, Belladona, Belle, Big Dike (Big Dyke), Big Daisy, Big Gold Mine (Big Tungsten, Bi-Metallic, West End), Birthday, Bogart & Morton, Black Crown, Black Hawk (Eureka Mining & Milling Co.), Bobby Prospect, Buckboard (Merton Mining & Milling), Bully Binder, Bully Boy (Lucky Boy), Burcham # 1, Burcham # 2, Butt (Butte Lode Mining Company, Consolidated Butte Mines Company, Sun Ray Mining Company), Capitola & Combination Claims, Central Lode Mining Company, Comstock, Corona, Craig & Chamberlain, Culbert (Josephine, T.G.), Curless & Faver, Cuve (Rand United Mining Company), Defender, Donovan, Double, Dos Picaninni, Eclipse (Dixie Rand Company), Elizabeth Prospect, Eva L, Ezperanza, G.B. Mine, Good Luck, Gold Coin, Gold Crown (Gold King), Gold Dollar, Gold Flint ...
|A bizarre desert dredging contraction owned by the Placer Gold Company at the Baltic Mine.|
All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.