Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> ACTON
Red Rover Mine: Miners and Ore Body
Acton, California


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Miners strike a pose in front of the ore body in the Red Rover Mine.

There are four captions on the back of this photograph. One reads: Red Rover Mine / 1890.

Another faint caption, almost illegible, reads: Group of miners in Red Rover Mine in front of ledge / taken by flashlight.

(The candles wouldn't have provided enough illumination for the photograph.)

A third caption reads: Ed Brough on right / Ore vein in background.

(Ed Brough would become superintendent of the Red Rover, but not in 1890.)

A fourth caption reads: Gov. Gage's mine / Supt - Shilling / Supt - R.E. Nickel.

Reynolds (1992:66) identifies the photograph as follows:

Henry T. Gage's mining interests were developing the Red Rover gold mine in Acton around 1890. These miners use candle power inside the Red Rover to illuminate a fissure vein for the camera. Left to right are Robert Clark, Joe Eckles and Ed Brough. In the back is Frank Ericksen. From the collection of Clara Wright.

Reynolds doesn't say which of the two men in the back is Ericksen, although it's probably the man on the left since he looks more suited for a garden party than a sledge hammer.


About the Red Rover:

The Red Rover was one of several Acton gold mines owned in the late 1880s by California Gov. Henry Gage. At the time, it was one of the most productive gold mines in Los Angeles County.

The Red Rover sits on what is now BLM land on the west side of Red Rover Mine Road, about a half-mile north of SR-14 (and just south of Fairlane Street). The mining claim, which covers 69 acres, is held by an Acton resident who has owned it since about the early 1980s.

According to John Robinson, noted historian of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Red Rover actually predated Gage. Robinson (1973:27,30) writes:

The Red Rover Mine ... was first worked by Mexicans in the early 1870s, using arrastres. It is said that for several years, the gold-bearing ore from the Red Rover was hauled by oxen to San Pedro, then shipped to Mexico for processing. Around 1882, the Red Rover came under the control of American miners, led by E.B. Millar. A 200-foot shaft was dug which tapped a rich vein of gold-bearing quartz and for a number of years the Red Rover enjoyed bonanza times. In 1888 the company erected a 10-stamp mill below the mine and conveyed the ore to mill via a 400-foot tramway. By 1892, a new vertical shaft was down 400 feet, with several levels being worked. In 1894, according to the California State Mining Bureau's annual report, the Red Rover was the most productive mine in the district. Three other mines were operated by the company — the John Logan, the Earl, the Topeka — but none of them approached the production of the Red Rover.

[...] The No. 2 gold producer in the county was the Red Rover [after the Governor mine on the next hilltop to the east], with a total yeild of $550,000. The Red Rover was inactive from 1897 until 1912, when it was briefly worked, then inactive again until 1931, when it was acquired by Francis Gage [son of Henry Gage] and his Governor Mines Co. During the 1930s the mine was worked in conjunction with the Governor Mine, yielding good amounts of gold at various intervals. The ore, averaging a modest $10 per ton in gold, was milled at the Governor mill in Acton. The Red Rover closed down in 1940 and has not been worked since.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had banned the private ownership of gold in 1934, and World War II brought additional restrictions. The government shut down gold mining operations nationwide in 1942. The Red Rover's shafts — of which it had six, varying in depth from 100 to 650 feet — were filled in.

There's still some gold in them-thar hills, but not in quanties or concentrations that were profitable to mine when the spot price of gold hovered in the $300 to $400-per-ounce range throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. When the spot price topped $550 in 2006, a group of entrepreneurs, in cooperation with the claimholder, started making plans to reopen the Red Rover under the assumption that the high sales price would justify the otherwise prohibitive expenditure.

Accrording to the company (Red Rover Mine Inc.): "Now [2006], we have concluded that the price of gold has made the expected profitability of the mine so profound that the reopening of the mine can no longer be put off."

The spot price of gold passed $1,500 in 2011-2012. But as of late 2013, the reopening hasn't happened.


About Henry Gage and his Acton gold mines:

California's 20th governor after statehood, Henry Tifft Gage came west from New York, where he was born in 1852, to seek his fortune. He found it in Acton.

Gage was an attorney by profession but established himself in Los Angeles as a sheep dealer. His interests soon turned to gold.

About 1875, according to the late SCV historian A.B. Perkins, "he purchased the Bard holdings in Bouquet Canyon [Saugus] and erected a water storage dam with the intent of fluming the waters down for placering [sifting through alluvial sand for gold flakes]. The gold dust was present but proved to be too fine for profitable recovery."

Gage returned to the law and was elected Los Angeles City Attorney, but his belief that the Santa Clarita Valley hid vast deposits of gold did not fade. Gage and his associates snatched up what proved to be some of the most productive gold mines in Soledad Canyon, near the tiny burgh of Acton — the Red Rover Mine, the Emma, the Puritan and the wildly successful New York, which alone produced $1.5 million from 1895-97.

The money no doubt played a role in Gage's next career decision.

Elections were still machine-run at the end of the century, and the Republican Party was split between "Railroad Republicans" and "Reform Republicans." The California Republican Party had been founded, after all, by Leland Stanford, governor in 1862-63 and one of the "big four" of the Southern Pacific Railroad — the others being Charles Crocker, Collis P. Huntington and Mark Hopkins.

A friend and ally of Theodore Roosevelt, Gage was an SP backer and, on Jan. 4, 1899, he succeeded an anti-SP Democrat as governor of California. State Capitol historian Molly Shoemaker Schaechtele describes Gage's single four-year term as a rocky one.

"When bubonic plague broke out in San Francisco," she writes, " he publicly denied the existence of the plague, only to be proved wrong. Later, he 'negotiated' a major labor strike by threatening to impose martial law if both sides did not compromise."

"When a newspaper printed a cartoon of railroad king C.P. Huntington leading Gage around on a leash," Schaechtele writes, "Gage retaliated by signing legislation that restricted the press whenever politics — or politicians — were involved."

One supposes Gage's reaction was not extraordinary for the time; an earlier governor had shot and wounded a newspaper editor in a duel (after leaving office, and after stating that those foolish enough to duel aren't fit to live), while another governor, prior to his election, had a gun drawn on him by a newspaper editor in retaliation for a physical assault.

Gage entertained several notables at the Acton Hotel while keeping an eye on his mines, among them Roosevelt, attorney Earl Rogers and the King of Spain. In 1900 Gage appointed hotel owner Rudolph E. Nickel to the position of port warden at San Francisco Harbor.

Though Gage's mines had seen their most productive years by the time he left for Sacramento, Gage's sons had moderate success with the New York when they reopened it in 1932. They renamed it the "Governor" in honor of their father who had died eight years earlier in Los Angeles, where he made his principal residence. A middle school and street are named for him there.


AP1836: 19200 dpi jpeg from copy print. Same as AP3233. Captions on back is AP3234 (not online).
RED ROVER MINE

Also See:
Gov. Henry Gage
Governor Mine

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Miners & Ore Body 1890

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Henry Gage & Ed Brough n.d.

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Overview 1911

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5-Stamp Mill 1911 x2

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New Shaft House 1911

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12-14-2013 x7

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