Gold Ridge / Agamemnon Mine

This incredibly heavy quartz mile was broken in half when heavy rocks came down from above.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only existing Huntington Rock Crusher in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Gold Ridge / Agamemnon Mine 

County: San Bernardino

Primary Mineral: Gold

Years of Operation: 1897-1907 

Nearest City or Landmark: Upper San Antonio Creek, between San Antonio Falls and the Sierra Club Ski Hut.

Depth: The main adit was reported to be 187 feet deep in 2008. I searched for this mine without success. The narrow portal has probably closed up, but water within was reportedly neck deep at the last time it was entered. Interestingly the mine was described by the original owners as being 600 feet deep back in 1900. This could possibly be explained by a fill-in at the back, a cave-in or possibly the existence of a completely different tunnel.

This rare Huntington Rock Crusher weighs at least a ton. How miners were able to get it here is a mystery.
During the slide of 1907 a landslide broke this mill in half. The remainder is partially buried nearby.

High in the upper reaches of San Antonio Creek, the remains of the Gold Ridge Mine can be found. Located between San Antonio Falls and the San Antonio (Sierra Club) Ski Hut, this hard rock gold mining operation was originally known as the Agamemnon or Penelope Mine. It operated for ten years, until a series of events ended the mining. Today the mine site is a shadow of what it once was, but the remains of a rare Huntington rock crusher and remnants of the old miner's mess hall still remain.

Frank Atwood Huntington invented the Gold Ridge Mine's rock crusher and other mining related machinery.
Left: Frank Atwood Huntington, inventor of the rock crusher / Right: Diagram of a fully assembled unit.

The Huntington Rock Crusher

The rock crusher you see in the photos above is the last of it's kind in the San Gabriels, to the best of my knowledge. It was invented by a genius engineer named Frank Atwood Huntington. These unique mills were poised to replace stamp mills, but never quite caught on. The unit's full name was the Huntington's Centrifugal Roller Quartz Mill. They were manufactured in three countries, America, Mexico and Australia. The one you see on this page was manufactured in Mexico.

The crusher was hauled in through Lytle Creek to the Hocumac Mine, then packed in to the Gold Ridge site.

Huntington worked in both the lumber and mining fields, making improvements to existing equipment. Eventually he went on to patent numerous inventions in both fields. He also invented a gasoline engine propelled vehicle, four years before the Duryea brothers built and tested their first vehicle. It was known as the Huntington vehicle, invented in 1889. Some of his other famous inventions included a street paving machine, invented in 1891, the Huntington ore car in 1892, and of course, the famous Huntington centrifugal roller mill (rock crusher) in 1898.

These metal straps probably secured either a structure or the loose hillside near the rock crusher.
Metal straps near the rock crusher. These were probably used to secure the hillside after a rockslide occurred.

History of the Gold Ridge Mine

In June of 1897, F.O. Slanker and W.I. Grable discovered gold bearing quartz veins on the southeast flank of Mount Baldy, near the headwaters of San Antonio Creek.  Claims were filed in July under the names of Agamemnon and Penelope.

In July of that year, the Pomona Weekly Times printed an optimistic report;

“Messers Grable and Slanker have had 30 assays of the ore of their mining claim near Old Baldy, showing an average result of $68 per ton in gold. The vein is 100 feet wide. It has been bonded to Peter Fleming for six months at $20,000. This seems a very low price for such a prospect, but Grable and Slanker are generous and willing to let the other fellow have a chance to make something”

Apparently the same landslide that broke the mill in two caves in this mine portal.
This may or may not be a caved in portal. The main tunnel existed on the opposite side of the stream bed.

By August over 100 people had set up quarters near the Agamemnon Mine. A few buildings were constructed, and mining commenced. A five stamp mill was erected, five cyanide leaching tanks were brought in, as well as a Huntington rock crusher. An aerial cable tram could also be found, near the mill site. The remains of the mess hall and kitchen still remain today, as well as faint traces of the foreman’s cabin. But the ore was of such low grade that the promising operation was abandoned by 1899.

The miners were kept supplied by a sheep hunter turned merchant named Fred Dell, who built Dell's Camp near present day Mt. Baldy Village, and by mule driver Fletcher Manker, who built a store at what is now known as Manker Flat.

This poor quality photo shows you some of the Gold Ridge Mine's structures. Year is unknown.
Photo of mining operations at the Gold Ridge Mine. Exact location & year the photo was taken are unknown.

In 1900 the mine was taken over by two men from Pomona, named John A. Way and C.R. Johnson, who dug a 600 foot adit. The change of ownership brought a new name with it, the Gold Ridge Mine. The success of the mine during that time is unknown, but by 1904 the partners sold out to an investment group from Los Angeles. 
One of the new partners, O.E. Welborn, was quoted in a newspaper called the Pomona Daily Review on July 19, 1904;

“There are millions of dollars of gold in the scarred and weather-beaten sides of the mountain. I have never  known better prospects than up there … If we had about $30,000 we could open mines up there that would make the Cripple Creek and Victor properties look like thirty cents worth of dog meat.”

The Gold Ridge Mine used a destructive mining method called hydraulic mining, which was eventually outlawed.
Looking up a a man-made flume ditch near the location of the main adit. It ends near the rock crusher.

In spite of Welborn’s optimism, the Los Angeles investors abandoned the operation after just one season of fruitless activity. After that the mine most likely sat idle for three years. 

On May 18, 1907 the Citrograph newspaper of Redlands reported the following;

“… word comes down from the Gold Ridge Mining Company’s property on Mount San Antonio, that the heavy snows formed huge avalanches that utterly destroyed the Gold Ridge houses and machinery. Nothing but scrap is left, and not much of that.”

These are the remains of the Gold Ridge Mine's kitchen mess hall, located above the mill.
Mess hall ruins above the mine. At one time there was also a wooden foreman's cabin, located nearby.

Ultimately the Gold Ridge, like most mines of that day was a failure. Although gold was found, it was mostly low grade, and water supply was not always certain. More than likely the avalanche described in the Citrograph article was actually a rock slide, known as the slide of 1907, which broke the Huntington mill in half and buried whatever still remained at the site. The great flood of 1938 is thought to have washed the remainder of the mine site downstream. Interestingly I found a cyanide tank in the lower part of the creek, many miles downstream. Its origin is unknown.

Remains of the stove top, found inside the mess hall ruins. A stove pipe rests nearby.
Stove remnants inside the mess hall. In the photo below you can see what the mess hall looked like in 1899.

The Baldy Mining District

The Baldy Mining District was organized in the 1870s, when mining began in this area. The U.S. Army’s Wheeler Survey of 1878 mentions several mines on Baldy’s southern side, some of which may still exist: The Shell Bark, Gilbert and Elmore were all placer mines. The Clark Mine, and the Red White & Blue Mine were both lode mines. The Clark Mine may actually be a mine discovered by Davon Grey in 1983. He didn’t know it’s name, so he dubbed it the Century Mine (because of it’s 100 foot depth). 

Left: The foreman's cabin Right Top: The intact rock crusher Right Bottom: the mess hall. Circa 1899
Left: Foreman's cabin / Right Top: Crusher before it was damaged / Right Bottom: Mess Hall (Circa 1899)

The Hocumac Mine

Perhaps the most famous mining operation in this area was the Hocumac, also known as the Banks Mine or the Criterion. This was a hydraulic mining site that was initially quite successful, but ended when farmers and a nearby water company shut it down with a court injunction. Hydraulic mining was extremely damaging to the environment and caused the water to become polluted downstream. Eventually this mining method was deemed illegal everywhere. The Hocumac eventually sold out to the San Antonio Water Company. Today remnants of the pipeline leading the the Hocumac Mine site can still be seen on the mountainside high above the Gold Ridge Mine. It was over one mile long. The mine site and all of it's cabins are long gone, replaced by a ski run, but a long asphalt flume chute still remains. The name "Hocumac" came from the combination of three men's last names, who consolidated their claims, Holcomb, Cushion and Mackay.

Photo taken in 1895 of a mine camp near Baldy Notch, now known as Miner's Bowl.
Mine camp at Banks Wash near Baldy Notch (circa 1895). This area is now known as Miner's Bowl.

Transporting The Rock Crusher 
Upon finding the Gold Ridge mine site, my first question was how in the world the rock crusher, weighing well over a ton, was transported to this location. Amazingly, records were kept of its long journey to the mine. This was brand new technology in that day. The crusher was invented in 1898, and probably cost a bundle. Before it was broken in half by a rock slide (or possibly an avalanche), markings on the unit indicated that it was made in Mexico, one of three different countries these mills were manufactured in. The Huntington rotary mill, powered by a gasoline engine was shipped by wagon from Lytle Creek to the Hocumac hydraulic mine, and then somehow packed in over a trail to the Gold Ridge site. The slide of 1907 disabled the mill forever. And the great flood of 1938 probably carried away all of the remaining structures at this site. 

As always, many thanks to the late, great mine historian, John W. Robinson, and an amazingly detailed report on the Mt. Baldy Mining Area, published in August of 1986 by D.D. Trent, a geologist from Citrus College. Photos of the old structures were taken in 1899 by Charles Clark Vernon, and are a part of the Will Thrall collection. And of course, the great adventurer Hugh Blanchard, my inspiration for this website.

A composite of the hard to find Gold Ridge Mine portal with explorer Hugh Blanchard on the left.
Left: Hugh Blanchard before his death in 2008, Right: Gold Ridge Mine in 2005 (Photos by Richard Collier)

Hugh Blanchard's Exploration of the Mine 

During my exploration of the Gold Ridge mine site I was unable to locate the actual mine. Perhaps it had filled in, or perhaps I was looking in the wrong area. The mine is not far from the mill, but the portal is in a deep ditch that’s often covered with brush. So, until I locate the mine for myself I’ll repeat the amazing story of Hugh Blanchard’s exploration of the Gold Ridge Mine. Hugh Blanchard was a famous mine explorer who unfortunately died in a fall near Castaic Mine in 2008. But before his death he recorded many of his adventures.

Before Hugh’s first trip to the Gold Ridge, he was informed that the mine was filled with water and ended at the 60 foot mark. He made a solo trip to the mine in August of 2004, which at the time was barely large enough to squeeze into. You can see two photos of the mine above, after the portal had been excavated. Hugh reported that the mine was full of gnats, and soon he found himself chest deep in ice cold water. At the 30 foot mark he reached what appeared to be a rock wall, and turned back. One month later, three members of his grotto team were able to pass that point, reporting that the mine continued well beyond the 60 foot point. They reported that the water gradually receded, until there was none at all. Apparently they did not have flashlights with them, so they too turned back.

The very next day there was a fire closure in that area, so further exploration was put on hold until 2005. When they returned, the portal was completely covered with rocks and gravel. In October of 2005 Curtis Wheeler and David Lew dug out a small opening, and went in an estimated 160 feet. By that time the water depth at the portal was up to almost five feet, gradually decreasing until there was none. They reported that at about the 80 foot mark the tunnel veered about 30 degrees to the right.

After a four year lapse Hugh re-entered the mine with Daniel Veelik and Davon Grey and made it to the end of the tunnel, measuring it at 187 feet. On this attempt it took almost an hour to dig out the portal. They reported that two bighorns curiously watched them while they were digging. Now for the interesting part. In 1900, the original owners reported that the depth of the tunnel was 600 feet. Could there be more to this tunnel? Possibly a fill in at the end? I would be interested in finding out for myself, if I can locate the portal in the future.

This is the San Antonio (Sierra Club) Ski Hut, built in 1937 and maintained by volunteers.
The San Antonio Ski Hut was built entirely by volunteers back in 1937. It rests at an elevation of 8.300 feet.

The San Antonio (Sierra Club) Ski Hut

In 1931 Dr. Walter Mosauer, who some call the “founder” of Southern California backcountry skiing began teaching his techniques to a number of young students. Mosauer was an Austrian transplant and a professor of zoology at UCLA. On February 14, 1932 Dr. Mosauer made a ski descent of Old Baldy and was so impressed with the natural bowl and quality snow conditions, he suggested the erection of a "ski hutte" in Baldy Bowl. After founding the Ski Mountaineers Section (SMS) of the Sierra Club in 1934, the SMS acquired a permit on October 25, 1935 to construct the San Antonio Ski Hut.

For a mere $20 a night you can rent this cabin, $15 for Sierra Club members.
For a mere $20 a night you can rent this cabin, with stoves and running water. $15 for Sierra Club members.

The hut was built by volunteers and completed in 1936, at an elevation of 8,200’, near a year-round spring. Visitors to the hut were few, and it burned to the ground on September 20, 1936, less than one year after it was completed. It was immediately rebuilt and has remained virtually unchanged since then. Today the hut is maintained by volunteers and is available to groups for the unbelievable price of $20 a night, $15 for Sierra Club members. It offers a fully-equipped kitchen, dishes, cookware, running water and solar lighting. The hut sleeps up to 16 and even has an upstairs loft. Water from a spring is piped directly through the kitchen, running 24 hours a day.

This view of Baldy Bowl makes the peak look deceptively close. It's actually quite far away.
A view of Baldy Bowl from near the Ski Hut. Although the summit looks close, it's quite a long hike from here.

On the day I visited the hut, the people who were staying there allowed me in, to take a look around. They looked like they were having quite a good time, and I took a few photos of the inside. Nearby there’s a picnic table and in front of the hut there’s some hand carved benches, with a spectacular view of Ontario Peak. Few people are aware that the remains of the Gold Ridge Mine lie just half a mile beneath it.

San Antonio Falls is a spectacular waterfall. The segment in this photo is only the bottom tier.
San Antonio Falls lies south of the Gold Ridge Mine. This is only the first of the waterfall's many tiers.

San Antonio Falls 

San Antonio Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall at the base of upper San Antonio Creek. In the old days it was referred to as "Lower" San Antonio Falls, because of another significant waterfall upstream, which was considered the "Upper". The Gold Ridge Mine lies somewhere in between the two. Upper San Antonio Creek has long be a favorite with canyoneers, who like to rappel down the rock faces. The photo you see above is only the first of many tiers of the lower falls. The most common drop in point is next to the San Antonio Ski Hut, ending at the base of the falls. I do not use ropes to access any of the mines on this website, so that will tell you there is another way to reach the Gold Ridge Mine. If you do a little research on other websites you will find the way.

Reproduction of a Tongva summer camp, located behind the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center.
The Tongva once made camps at Baldy’s cooler elevations. This a a reproduction of a dwelling or (kich).

The Mt. Baldy Visitor Center

On the way home from the mine I dropped by the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. This is where you can buy an Adventure Pass to park in the area. I have never bothered to buy one. In my opinion it's an illegal tax, and as of yet I have never been ticketed. My destination was not the Visitor Center, but a museum next door to it. Unfortunately both buildings were closed, and the museum looked like it had gone out of business. However behind the buildings there are some interested reproductions of old structures that once existed in the area. 

None of the structures are built in a truly authentic way, but I give the builders credit for their effort. Among the reproductions is a Tongva ceremonial house (kehie) and a family dwelling (kich). The Tongva had permanent villages in the valley below, but would set up summer and autumn camps at higher elevations to beat the summer heat. Behind those structures is a reproduction of an old storehouse, and a miner's cabin, next to a sluice and a mine cart. This area looks like a work in progress, and although I would have enjoyed the museum more, this was an interesting find.

This old mine cart can be found behind the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. It probably came from a nearby mine.
An old mine cart found behind the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center. It probably came from one of the local mines.

Additional Photos - Gold Ridge / Agamemnon Mine

All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.