The old Soledad Mining District died a natural death in 1873, and its founder, James O'Reilly, moved down to Los Angeles to revel in his fame as one of Southern California's most eccentric characters.
With the completion of the railroad through Soledad Canyon three years later, a number of construction workers found themselves out of work and began prospecting the stream beds around Acton Station.
One of these men, George Gleason, managed to get some financial backing from Sanford Lyon and struck paydirt on the slopes of a mountain that now bears his name. Together the two men formed the Gleason Mining District, which included the Jockey Club and other holes in the ground.
By 1880 the Cedar Mining District was in existence, comprising several gold, silver and mercury mines in the desolate canyons to the north of Acton. One of these mines, now known as The Governor, would become the greatest producer of gold in Los Angeles County.
The saga of the Governor began in 1881 when twenty-nine year old Henry T. Gage arrived in Los Angeles from New York. A lawyer and sheep dealer by trade, Gage was elected city attorney and, in 1888, was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where he seconded the nomination of Levi P. Morton for vice president. On January 4, 1899, Gage was sworn in as governor of California and became a political ally of Theodore Roosevelt.
Gage's tenure in office was marked by a number of problems, including an outbreak of the bubonic plague in San Francisco. Several businessmen convinced the governor that the reports of the plague were false, so Gage halted relief efforts. As it turned out the plague was real.
Gage crusaded against deficit spending, lobbyists and bureaucrats. At one point he waded into a labor dispute but alienated everyone involved when he threatened to impose martial law if both sides did not compromise.
Gage was no friend of the media. When the San Francisco Call wrote that the governor had accepted furniture made by prison labor, Gage swore out an arrest warrant against the editor. The Call retaliated by claiming criminal libel and had a warrant issued for the governor's arrest. On another occasion an editorial cartoon showed Gage being led on a leash by Southern Pacific Railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington. Gage promptly signed legislation restricting press coverage of politics.
Gage was not reelected in 1903. However, President Roosevelt appointed him ambassador to Portugal. He resigned that post during the Taft administration and returned to Los Angeles, where he died quietly in 1924.
During Henry Gage's flamboyant career he came to own some of the most famous and productive gold mines in the Soledad. Into his collection went the Red Rover, the Emma, the Puritan and the fabulous New York. In three years, from 1895 to 1897, the New York produced $1.5 million. Closed shortly thereafter, it was reopened in 1932 by Gage's sons and renamed The Governor. They pushed its main shaft down one thousand feet and closed the mine again in 1942 when the vein petered out. It since opened a third time with meager results.
The superintendent of Gage's Puritan Mine had a most unusual and precocious daughter known as Lou Henry. She was sent to Stanford University when it opened in 1891 and became the first female graduate. While there, she met and married a young geology student from Iowa who thirty years later became President of the United States. He was Herbert Clark Hoover, and while he coped, or failed to cope, with the Great Depression, Lou Henry Hoover filled the White House with books and art works. The remarkable lady spoke five languages and relaxed by reading sociology and economics.
Hoover, in his early days, was a mining expert who developed claims in Australia, Burma, China — the newlyweds were caught up in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 — and Russia. They frequently visited her parents in Acton where, it is said, the future president relaxed by fishing for native trout in the Santa Clara River. Mrs. Hoover was a member of the Acton Church, and even when she could not attend services, she sent donations.
Certainly the most unusual "mining" operation of the Soledad involved converting Joshua trees into newsprint. In 1884 the Atlantic and Pacific Fibre Company of London was formed with J.A. Graves of Los Angeles as its attorney. Graves acquired 5,200 acres in the Antelope Valley and an old stamp mill in Mill Canyon and began the conversion of Joshua trees into paper.
They obtained a contract to supply the London Daily Telegraph with pulp product. A crew of Chinese cut the trees into two-foot lengths and hauled them to the plant near Ravenna for processing. In October, 1884 Joshua paper was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Fair.
The trees were called "monkey puzzle" because it would have been a puzzle for a monkey to climb them. A flood in February, 1886 wiped out the mill and the dreams of the Atlantic and Pacific Fibre Company.