Garlock Ghost Town

Not much is left of Garlock today, but remnants of fallen building remain on the outskirts.
Garlock was a mill town with a population of over 300 people, founded by Eugene Garlock.

County: Kern

Primary Minerals: This was a mining support town for the Yellow Aster Gold Mine and other mines near Randsburg.

Years of Operation: The town operated a series of mills and cyanide plants and also supplied water to Randsburg from 1896
. Eventually Barstow and the Yellow Aster Mine built larger mills and a railway, which led to Garlock's eventual downfall, beginning in 1898. By 1907 Eugene Garlock had died, and the town was completely abandoned.

Nearest City or Landmark: Approx. nine miles from Randsburg, at the foothills of the El Paso mountain range, just south of Red Rock Canyon State Recreational Area

On the edge of Garlock there's a small building that may have been a roadside rattlesnake exhibit.
This building may have been a roadside rattlesnake exhibit, although not confirmed.

Garlock is a true ghost town, population zero. It's located at the foothills of the El Paso mountain range, just south of the Red Rock Canyon State Recreational Area and about nine miles from the famous mining town of Randsburg. At its peak, Garlock was once home to several hundred people, thriving from the success of the Yellow Aster Mine on Rand Mountain.

On the edge of Garlock there are a few buildings that probably date back to the 1920s.
An abandoned storage shed or possibly a garage found near the old arrastra and water tower.

History of Garlock

Originally known as Cow Wells (and El Paso City), a prosperous farmer from Tehachapi named Eugene Garlock moved to this remote location in 1896, renaming it Eugeneville. Eventually his surname won out, and the tiny town become known as Garlock. Prior to its existence, springs in this area had provided water to travelers and a grazing area for horses. This area is thought to have been used first by Mexican horse thieves who were stealing horses in the settlements around San Fernando and driving them to the mission of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and other points east. The 1880 census shows that almost 100 residents lived here.

Old screening can be found on most of these old buildings. I'm not sure what purpose they served.
Ancient screens on the windows. There must have been some huge bugs back in the 1800s.

“The question of sinking an artesian well in some central part of Garlock is being agitated. Such a well would furnish not only a supply for domestic purposes, but also for fire protection.  Experts claim that from all indications a good flow could be obtained under 500 feet. Anyone who would take hold, of such an undertaking would find it a paying investment if they succeeded in obtaining a flow, which they undoubtedly would. As the boring here is comparatively easy to other sections it is estimated that the cost would be nominal.  A movement is now on foot to have local capital take hold of the enterprise. ”  

– The Herald, October 18, 1897 

Close to the town's main street you can find several of these old rock cabin ruins.
If you explore outside the main area you can see where old roads and stone cabins used to be.

Historical records show that during Garlock’s short lived boom period there were seven blacksmiths, one bakery, four butchers, two drug stores, one bank, six hotels and boarding houses, one laundry man, two lumber yards, sixteen miscellaneous stores, one town photographer, four restaurants, fourteen saloons, a telegraph office with a phone to Randsburg, one barber shop, a harness shop, a post office that received mail twice a day, eleven daily stages and two assayers. Many thanks to the Rand Desert Museum for their outstanding research on this town. 

Several of Garlock's buildings were move to Randsburg after a major fire there. Others eventually collapsed.
Roofing materials from an old building. You can find artifacts galore if you explore the outskirts.

At its height there were about 300 people living here, including the legendary Burro Schmidt. I'll be adding a page on Schmidt's amazing tunnel in the near future. By 1897 there were four stamp mills and one cyanide plant, processing ore round the clock for Randsburg's famous Yellow Aster Mine.

Walls of the two remaining wooden structures are about 8 inches thick, apparently built from railroad ties.
The walls of two remaining wooden structures appear to be made of sturdy uncut railroad ties.

“The main street is sixty feet wide and all others fifty feet. The citizens are eminently law-abiding and progressive, hence the town is peculiarly free from the obnoxious features and persons that generally characterize and infest mining towns. There are fifty children of school age in the district and the town has a substantial frame schoolhouse 20×36. The Garlock News, owned and edited by Schmidt Bros., supplies the local news of the district admirably. The Desert bank, F. H. Heald president; G. W. Fox, cashier, does a general exchange business and purchases gold bullion and gold dust. Mr. Heald was formerly editor of the Elsinore News, hence it was natural for him to render the writer valuable assistance at Garlock.” 

– The Herald, February 28, 1898  

These floor boards from a collapsed structure can be found outside of the main street area.
There's more to Garlock than meets the eye. Look around and you'll find collapsed structures.

Despite the relatively peaceful nature of the town a jail was later built. Interesting side note: If you scroll down this page you'll see two old postcards of Garlock. The first one shows the old jail before it disappeared. Inside of that jail the infamous cult leader Charles Manson scribbled his signature. What became of that jail is unknown.

Not much left of this structure. It was once a small dwelling with adobe walls.
This house once had adobe walls according to photos I've seen. Eventually they disintegrated.


Garlock built an eight stamp mill to crush ore from the famous Yellow Aster Mine on Rand Mountain. The mill, known as the Garlock Pioneer Mill was located near the spot where California Landmark Number 671 now stands, This was the first mill to process ore from Randsburg, after gold was discovered there in 1893. It was followed by several more mills, erected to service the ever increasing demand from Randsburg.

Several of these building to moved to Randsburg, after a fire wiped out 1/3 of the town.
Many of Garlock's original buildings were moved to Randsburg after a fire in 1898.

List of Garlock's Known Mills 

Garlock (Pioneer) Mill

“Eugene Garlock is rapidly pushing his eight-stamp mill to completion at Cow Wells and will be ready to haul and crush ore by the 20th of this month.” 

-  The Bakersfield Californian, February 11, 1896

Benson Bros. Chili Mill 

“Benson Bros. have a Chili mill also at the same place (Garlock), with a capacity of two tons per day.” 

The Bakersfield Californian February 11, 1896:  

“Benson Bros. “Chili” mill began to grind up ore Monday morning.” 

The CalifornianJanuary 27, 1896

This square rock structure was probably a foundation for one of the mills or other heavy equipment.
This is almost certainly one of the mill sites. I also found remnants of a cyanide plant nearby.

Visalia Mill (Rand Mill) 

“It is reported that all the stamp mills at Garlock were started up September 21st, and that the managers of the Rand Mines company purchased the Visalia Milling company’s mill and now to run night and day, milling their own ore.” 

-  The Herald, September 27, 1897

Smith & Maxon Mill 

“The Maxon five-stamp mill is owned by Dr. Maxon of Oakland, Cal. C. I. Belcher is the superintendent. The capacity is 12 tons daily; the motive power a 25 horsepower gasoline engine. It is a completely equipped and conveniently arranged plant, has a concentrator in connection, and is now working the Rand Company’s ore.” 

The Herald, September 05, 1897 

Back in the 1800s there was no such thing as trash pickup, so the desert is loaded with old artifacts.
Random artifacts strewn about. One item looks like an old gas tank from an early model truck.

Henry & Whipple Mill 

“E. E. Henry, a well-known businessman of Los Angeles, has a ten-stamp mill, capacity 20 tons per day.” 

The Herald, September 05, 1897

Oakland Company’s Mill 

“Five Stamps More have been put in the Oakland Co.’s mill, and they are now at work.”  

Mining And Metallurgical Journal, December 1, 1897  

Several of these mounts can be found in the desert on the outskirts of the old town.
This looks like a compressor mount. If you explore this area beware of uncovered mine shafts.

Hughes Mill 

“Last Sunday, May 22nd, the Rand people shut off the supply of ore to the Henry Mill and also the Hughes Mill, throwing about forty men out of employment. It is rumored that the ore is hereafter to be milled at Barstow.”  

Mining And Metallurgical Journal, June 1, 1898
L. E. Porter Company Mill 

“There are now six mills at Garlock. Mr. Henry, of the Henry mill, expects to put in a cyanide process. Mr. L. E. Porter, of the Porter Gold and Silver Extraction Co., representing Los Angeles capitalists, is also putting in one of their improved cyanide plants.”  

Mining and Metallurgical Journal, July 1, 1898

This mound of earth looks like an old ramp used to dump low-grade ore next to a cyanide plant.
This may have been a dump ramp where mine tailings were offloaded next to a cyanide plant.

Hall Mill 

“The Hall Cyanide Plant is about the only active institution in Garlock at the present time.  Almost everybody has gone for a summer vacation to mountains or coast.”  

Mining And Metallurgical Journal, August 15, 1899

Tremain Stamp Mill

“The new Tremain stamp mill out at Garlock started up on Wednesday.” 

-  The Californian, September 5, 1896

Cyanide was used to recover gold and silver from low-grade ore. There were three known cyanide plants in Garlock.
Garlock had at three cyanide plants for recovering gold from low grade ore. This is one of them.

Kelly Mill

“John Kelly has a two-stamp mill, capacity five tons per day.” 

The Herald, September 05, 1897 

Pomona Mill 

“The additional five stamps for the Pomona mill are expected daily, and they will be put  in place as soon as they arrive, increasing the capacity of this mill to ten stamps. Other needed improvements will also be added to the mill.”

The Herald, October 18, 1897

This poor fellow starved to death, after falling into a cyanide tank, unable to climb out.
Jack rabbit at the bottom of one of the cyanide tanks. He became trapped & starved to death.

Huntington Mill 

“D.R. Webb has sold a one-third interest in his mine to the inventor of the Huntington mill for $30,000, and five of those mills are to be put in at Garlock. All the big teams are busy, and a half a dozen more fourteen to twenty-mule teams could find employment hauling ore to the mills.” 

The Herald, September 27, 1897 

Spangler Mill

“Mr. John Skinner from Spanglor district reports much work being done there. He says the Spangler boys are taking out all the rich ore they can handle in their two stamp mill in Garlock, and that all the ore in and about Garden station is refractory, but can be concentrated. It carries a certain amount of free gold. — California Rand.” 

The Herald, March 28, 1898

Although this was not a mining town per se, I found several poorly covered shafts in the area.
Miners threw junk on top of mine shafts when the town was abandoned. I found four of these.

Showers & Downing Mill 

“A two stamp mill for Showers and Downing was taken to Garlock this week.” 

The Californian, December 12, 1896
Parker & McConnell Mill

“Parker & McConnell, successors to McKernan & Sons, have a five-foot Huntington mill, capacity twenty tons per day and are working ores from Garlock district.” 

The Herald, September 05, 1897 

California Landmark #671 explains the basic story of Garlock. This stone was supposedly near the site of the town's first mill.
California Landmark #671 marks the sight of Garlock's first mill, the Garlock Pioneer Mill.

A Rare Look At Garlock in 1898

The photo below gives us a rare look at what Garlock once looked like. It was taken by Randsburg's town photographer back in 1898. By that time a railroad had been built in nearby Johannesburg and water wells had been dug in Randsburg, spelling doom for the short lived settlement. The same year the photo below was taken there was a fire in Randsburg that destroyed most of the business district. Many of the buildings in Garlock were moved to Randsburg to replace those lost in the fire.

Garlock had several streets. This was the main one. Four of these buildings have been positively identified.
Garlock in 1898. Some buildings were moved to Randsburg to replace structures lost in a fire.


A few of the recognizable buildings in the photo ....

C. C. Mathews - The Desert Red House: 

Mr. Mathews, a Tehachapi merchant and miner, opened a store in Garlock sometime in 1896 known as the Desert Red House. The earliest entry in the Rand Mountain Mine Company ledger shows that they were doing business with the Desert Red House as early as September of 1896.

Losasso & Henry - Club Saloon: 

William (Billy) A. Losasso and Will Abrahms Henry opened the Club Saloon in Garlock in 1896. Billy Losasso was issued the license on the 1st of July 1896 and by August they had erected a 24x36 foot building and opened for business. Billy Losasso was still in business in Garlock in January of 1898 when he was reported to have been playing the harp at a masquerade ball that was held to benefit the school.

Zachary Taylor Lillard: 

Sometime prior to 1898 Mr. Lillard opened a hotel on Main Street in Garlock. It is not known how long he remained in Garlock, but by 1904 he had relocated to Randsburg and was managing the Houser House Hotel.

Andrew Jackson Doty: 

A native of Illinois, Mr. Doty came to Garlock in 1896 and went into the hotel/boarding house business. The Doty family moved on to Randsburg and in 1900 A. J. Doty was the Justice of the Peace in that town in addition to being listed as a hotel keeper.

Remains of a large arrastra. An old postcard mistakenly labeled this as a stamp mill.

The Arrastra

The first mention of milling of ore at that location is in Roberta Starry’s book "Gold Gamble" and states the following:  “An old letter dated 1887 tells of an expert stone mason, George Labb of San Joaquin Valley, who was brought into Cow Wells to erect an arrastra for crushing ore from the mines in the El Paso Mountains back of the settlement.”.  There was also said to exist a “Line Shack” to house cowboys who were hunting strays in the area.  Why was this area once called  “Cow Wells”?  Probably because John Searles piped water from Mesquite Springs down to the flat in 1873 for the use of his borax freight line. Additional water sources were required for the cattle in the area, resulting in the development of wells to water the cattle.

Miners dumped ore into a circular pit and drag stone slowly crushed it, as the unit rotated.
The upper beam had wheels attached outside the stone floor to rotate the unit.

"The new eight stamp mill of Eugene T. Garlock, at Eugeneville, near Golar, under the supervisor of Mr. Lovejoy, the contractor, is rapidly being built. The building proper is 50 x 75, with other additions adjoining. The concentrator and sulphuret rooms are completed and ready to receive their machinery. The large battery blocks are all framed and will be placed in the battery pit in a day or two. The ore bins are about completed and will hold 600 tons. The stamps weigh 900 pounds each, which is sufficient weight to do good work, in crushing the rock of that district. Mr. Garlock informed your correspondent that he expected to have the mill completed by the first of March. There is not the slightest doubt by what twenty-five more stamps will be added by next year, as the Randsburg company alone has enough ore in sight to keep a 100 stamp mill running steadily for the next fifty years. This is a fact. With the completion of the mill, Eugeneville will become one of the best mining camps in the State." 

~ The Bakersfield Californian, Feb. 16, 1896

Drag stones were usually flat. There were attached to wooden arms called sweeps, and dragged around a circular pit.
This arrastra was built by an expert stone mason named George Labb in 1887.

By late 1897, the Yellow Aster Mine had 65 men on its payroll and was leasing at least one of as many as three stamp mills at Garlock (the Visalia Mill). The mill ran round the clock, crushing as much as 20 tons of ore daily, until 1898, when the Kramer-Randsburg rail line was completed, and ore was hauled to a new 50-stamp mill in Barstow. That same year a 30-stamp mill was erected at the Yellow Aster. Their water supply was piped in from Garlock.  

An old postcard showing Garlock's arrastra with the side wheel still attached. The outward beam was probably attached to a mule team.
Postcard showing the arrastra. Charles Manson once carved his name inside the jail behind it.

During its relatively short existence Garlock featured a school, which doubled as a church and a meeting place for the Garlock Literary Society "founded to be a positive influence on the town's morals". There was also a post office and a general store/tavern, which later became a brothel/speakeasy in the 1920s, long after Garlock was abandoned. Several hundred people are said to have resided in Garlock during its short-lived heyday.

Two old structures and a fallen windmill from an old postcard taken in Garlock.
Another old post card showing two buildings and a fallen windmill. Both have since disappeared

By 1901 a 100-stamp mill was added to the Yellow Aster's mine site (one of the largest ever built). The Barstow mill was no longer and Garlock's mills became obsolete, and the population dwindled. Small amounts of ore continued to be processed at Garlock until 1907, when Eugene Garlock died. Garlock disappeared but Randsburg boomed, swelling to a population of 3,500. The Yellow Aster Mine operated continuously from 1895-1918 and re-opened in 1921. Since then there have been several intermittent lessees, including the Anglo American Mining Corp. Ltd., which leased and operated the mine from 1933-1939. By most measures this was a wildly successful mine. 3,400,000 tons of ore were milled between 1895 and 1939, yielding about 500,000 ounces of gold. In addition, 1,700,000 tons of tailings were treated by a sand and cyanide plant, yielding another 41,000 ounces. 

In the late 1800s this building served as Garlock's school house. It later became a store, tavern, and finally a brothel.
This was Garlock's school. Then it became a store & tavern and finally a brothel in the 1920s.

The School

The building seen above and below once served as Garlock's school house. After outgrowing its capacity it became a store and a tavern. In the 1920s, long after the town has died, it reportedly became a brothel.  From old photos I've seen this building was originally made of adobe bricks, but it appears that those bricks have been plastered over with cement in an effort to keep the building from collapsing.

“There are fifty children of school age in the district and the town has a substantial frame schoolhouse 20×36.” 

– The Herald, September 05, 1897

Modern shoring appears to be keeping this building from collapsing. The walls are made of adobe.
The schoolhouse was made adobe and is collapsing. Modern shoring is keeping it stable.

“The first term of public school in Garlock will open Monday, with Miss F. M. Doss as teacher.” 

– The  Herald, October 04, 1897  

Unfortunately people have no respect for these old structure. The adobe wall has been heavily vandalized.
Vandalism to the walls. When the jail still existed Charles Manson scrawled his name inside.

“The enrollment at the public school has become so large that the building has become inadequate, and if a further increase takes place it will necessitate a change of quarters.”  

– The  Herald, October 18, 1897

Apparently this building is slowing being restored. The outside was once made of adobe bricks.
This building is gradually being restored. These slat walls were once covered with adobe.

The Post Office 

Seen below is Garlock's Post Office. It operated from April 10, 1896 until March 31, 1904, and then again from October 18, 1923 until  June 30, 1926. During that time there were six postmasters. They were as follows... Ida Kelly April 10, 1896, Robert S. Simpson November 27, 1896, Martin J. Carpenter March 25, 1898, William H. Wright November 29, 1898, Eugene T. Garlock May 15, 1903 and John E. Norton October 18, 1923.                    

Garlock was abandoned after Eugene Garlock's death. This building served as its post office.
This was Garlock's Post Office from 1896 to 1904 and then again from 1923 to 1926.

Hidden Garlock

Officially Garlock has a population of zero, but next to the main structures there is a fenced private property area where modern vehicles and buildings still exist. This is an area I can't get into, but looking from the road it appears that whoever owns the property once tried to create a fake ghost town attraction. I could only view this from a distance, but it looks like there are a number of dismantled buildings, almost looking like a movie set. The photo below features the supposed Sheriff of Garlock. It would be interesting to find out exactly what's in there, but since I don't want to get shot I'll leave this one alone. If anyone has ever been in there please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This building is on private property. The dummy in front of the fake building is supposedly Garlock's sheriff.
On private property are dismantled buildings that may have been a fake ghost town exhibit.

The Garlock Incident

In 2011 a horror film called “The Garlock Incident” was shot in an around Garlock. I haven’t seen it, nor will I, but it looks to me like a film similar to the Blaire Witch Project. Director Evan J. Cholfin and producer Ariana Farina stated their goal was to create an interactive online experience for the social media age. Quietly they opened a website and a facebook page, beginning the prologue to the movie, based on the supposed disappearances of eight people who were on their way to Las Vegas.

On their Facebook page a gathering of friends, family and colleagues of the lost ones began to post their requests for assistance from the public…

“We, the families of those who disappeared, are in search of the truth behind the disappearances of our loved ones, who left Los Angeles on December 16th, 2011 to make an independent film in Las Vegas, and were reported as missing as of December 26th. The people who have gone missing are our children, our brothers, our sisters, our cousins, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our friends. If you have any information regarding their disappearances, please contact us on our Facebook Page.”

Below is a trailer for this movie. Apparently it’s quite bloody and got horrible reviews …