Queho Posse Chapter
E Clampus Vitus
Jean , NV
April 27, 2014
Yellow Pine Mining Railroad
The Yellow Pine Mining Company Railroad
The earliest westerner to leave his name on the area known as Goodsprings was a rancher and cattlemen named Joseph Good. He found a spring which became known as Good's spring and settled there about 1868.The name eventually became Goodsprings.
Early prospectors noted the mineralization in the mountains around Good's Spring. The Mormons mined Lead (mixed with a lot of zinc, unfortunately for them) on Mt. Potosi, starting in 1856. The area known as the Yellow Pine Mining District was initially explored by miners from the Ivanpah Mining District. The Yellow Pine Mining District was organized in the early 1870s, as miners found many sites for their claims, but it didn't begin to flourish until the later 1880s. It includes the Spring Mountains and the land on either side, the Sandy/Mesquite Valley and the Goodsprings area itself.
The name probably came from the large number of pines in the mountains, and was used as early as 1872. The Mining Company was named for the mining district, not the other way around.
The first mining in the Sandy Valley area was a salt processing site started by Miguel Navares in 1876. He did not stay long, but within a few years the Shenandoah Mine had been located by Jonas Taylor. The value of the ore led to more prospecting, and with Taylor's find of the Keystone Mine, the area took off.
Gold, silver and other minerals were located. Soon, the area on the north side of the range, close the where the town of Goodsprings was laid out, proved its worth, and claims were located throughout the mountains. By 1901, a number of claims in an area known as Porphyry Gulch were consolidated purchased and consolidated by J. F. Kent, and the Yellow Pine Mining Company was created.
With the building of the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad into and through southern Nevada, a small siding known as Goodsprings Junction was created on the line. This attracted a few businesses, as it was the closest siding to the town of Goodsprings. When it applied for a post office, the postal authorities disallowed the name as being confusing with the nearby town of Goodsprings. Since local businessman George Fayle (builder of the Pioneer Saloon, site of a Queho Posse 2001 doins) was the postmaster, he suggested his wife's name for the new post office, and on June 28, 1905, the post office of Jean was opened.
Goodsprings as a community had grown up around the mining and wells in the town area starting in the 1880s. It came into its own with the opening of a post office on April 6, 1899. The railroad coming through Jean made the mines much more profitable, as the cost of hauling ore to a railhead was significantly lessened. Mines were often judged as much on the cost of hauling ore, as they were on the quality of ore they produced, since profits were all about the bottom line.
Now, ore was hauled by wagon from either the Sandy/Mesquite Valley side of the mountains, or the Goodsprings side of the mountains. The cost was still higher than the mines wanted. By 1906, Kent was producing copper at the Yellow Pine Mine, and shipping it out of Jean. He saw the need for lowering the shipping costs, and began planning a railroad to connect the mine to Jean and the SP, LA, and SL.
In 1907, zinc and lead were also found. These were to be the mainstays for the Yellow Pine Mining Company over the next twenty years. Kent found out that the Quartette Mine at Searchlight had stopped running its narrow-gauge railroad which had connected the mine to a milling operation on the Colorado River. He began negotiating with the owners of the Quartette for the rails and other materials from the abandoned line, and eventually acquired them in 1910.
By March, Kent's workers had completed roadbed grading for his short line, but the rails had not arrived. The rails finally arrived, and by June 1911, the first eight miles had been laid. At the same time, Kent had great plans for the Yellow Pine Mine, and had built a 100-ton mill for the lead and zinc ore coming out of the ground.
The route was finally completed in August, and ore began to be shipped over the entire 12 Â½ mile route from Goodsprings to Jean. Unfortunately for the railroad owners, the only route which they could lay out included grades of as much as 12%, and much of the rest of the line as 4% to 5%. This was a problem throughout the history of the railroad. Railroad try to not exceed 3% in grades, and that only for very short stretches, as the only thing that allows a railroad engine to haul its cars is the friction between smooth steel wheels and the smooth steel rails. With the grades on the Yellow Pine line, there were going to be problems.
And sure enough there were. By December 1911, the first wreck occurred on the line. The only engine being used at first, a gasoline powered one, was repaired after the wreck, and put back into service. After two more wrecks, it was no longer able to be repaired, and another engine was purchased. This was a Shay engine, which is a type of engine based on the designs of Ephraim Shay.
It is a geared steam engine. The first Shay purchased for the line was wrecked in November 1914, and while it was being repaired, another was purchased, since each time the one engine was wrecked, the railroad was shut down. The two were considered sufficient, as there were only twelve cars for the line.
The railroad began to be well worth its cost by 1915, when zinc and lead prices were high and there was prosperity in Goodsprings and at the Yellow Pine. By the middle 1920s, problems at the mine (the original mill burned down in 1924, and its replacement burned in 1928) and a general slump in metal prices after 1920, led to hard times for the Yellow Pine. In 1925, Jesse Knight became president of the company, and determinedly set about to make it a success.
Knight had worked in the Goodsprings area at other mines between 1909 and 1918, so he was familiar with the land and its possibilities. His son also worked at the mine, and later made a bit of a name for himself in California politics. He was Goodwin J. Knight, also known as "Goodie" Knight, who served as governor of California from 1953 to 1959.
Jessie Knight worked hard to keep the mine profitable, but ongoing problems with wrecks on the railroad, cost of production at the mine, and prices for zinc and lead, lead to the railroad, and the mine, being discontinued in 1930. In 1934, the rails were taken up and sold, as were the last of the engines and cars. The engines went to a junk metal dealer in Los Angeles, and the Yellow Pine Mining Company Railroad was history.
The mine itself was reopened a few times in later years, but never for very long. Its buildings are gone today, but their foundations are quite noticeable on the hills above Goodsprings. The right-of-way for the narrow gauge railroad can still be seen along parts of the road between Jean and Goodsprings, and there has been talk of transforming it into a hiking trail under the "rails to trails" program of the federal government. Who is to say?
The Arrowhead Trail Highway to Las Vegas, our own named road Arrowhead Trail Highway article courtesy Desert Companion
Before Interstate 15 was constructed in the 1960s, the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and then north out of Clark County, was variously known as the Arrowhead Trail Highway, the Salt Lake Highway, and, later, as Highway 91. Today, it's most recognized section is Las Vegas Boulevard.
The portion of the highway which runs from Jean to North Las Vegas was originally laid out as the Arrowhead Trail highway. It was developed to provide a well-maintained road from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City through southern Nevada. The route followed earlier trails and roads, and took a number of years to settle on the route we know today.
In 1829, Mexican traders developed a new trail through the desert. Having found the abundant water available in the Vegas valley, the route which became known at the Old Spanish Trail was blazed initially by Antonio Armijo, and later developed as an overland route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The route, which was neither old nor Spanish, being a relatively new route developed by Mexican traders, was mainly used legally by freighters.
It was, however, also used by horse thieves who were active in California. The California missions and ranchos provided great sources for those individuals who decided that thievery was much more remunerative than actually raising their own stock. These thieves were known as Los Chaguanosos, and began their deprecations about 1832, when Juan Jesus Villapando led the first band over the trail to California. Horses stolen by these Chaguanosos bands were often led back over the trail and sold in Santa Fe. In 1840 a group of Chaguanosos led by Tennessean Philip Thompson stole over 3,000 head from missions and ranchos ranging from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles. The horses and mules were then driven over the trail through the Mojave Desert, followed by a posse. Near Cajon Pass the gang ambushed the posse and killed two of its members, dissuading the rest from continuing pursuit.
Later, the route, which was not a particularly easy one, became known as the Mormon Trail. With the move of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to the promised land of Utah and the Great Salt Lake, the borders were ill defined. Brigham Young considered all the area which is today's Nevada, and that part of California east of the Sierra Nevadas as part of his new land. With movement to settle the land, it was necessary to have routes which provided access, and the Old Spanish Trail became a part of the trail system.
It continued to be used into the American period, and by the early twentieth century, the movement for transcontinental highways discovered the route. Boosters in Utah, Nevada, and southern California began promoting the route through southern Nevada.
The Automobile Club was supportive of the effort to have an all-weather highway, since the Lincoln Highway which ran through the northern part of the state was closed on a regular basis during the winter. With great promotion, the Arrowhead Trail Highway association was formed in 1916, and work was begun. By 1917, the Goodrich Tire Company had gone over the road setting up its familiar signposts to help travelers.
These signs, an example of which can be seen in the Clark County Museum, were heavy steel plate with a center circle in red and white, and arms in black with the names of towns and mileages noted in deep drilled dots on the black surface. These signs were meant to survive in the harsh desert climate, and many did without care for more years than today's signage could.
The road was eventually rerouted many times, and today's Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Boulevard follows only a few parts of the road. Between Barstow and Las Vegas, the final route was in contention for a number of years. Initially, it ran along south into Searchlight, and then up through Railroad Pass and into Las Vegas. With that being quite a long route, a shorter one was developed that bypassed Searchlight, and instead went over the Kingston Grade through Sandy Valley to Goodsprings, where it then came south to Jean and then north to Las Vegas. The final route was closer to what we know as I-15 today, and was known as the Silver Lake route. This one was about half-way between the other two possibilities, and led to Silver Lake, a stop on the Tidewater and Tonopah Railroad, and then to Jean.
In northern Clark County, it originally ran down into the Valley of Fire State Park to St. Thomas, then up through Overton and back down into Bunkerville and Mesquite. Today it bypasses most of this part of the route, being routed for speed and without the need for frequent communities to stop in and make repairs on one's vehicle.
The 1920 Automobile Blue Book, which gave exact directions for someone trying to follow the road, is interesting to review. Just to get out of Las Vegas going north you had to go from "Fremont and 1st Streets, bank on the left. Go east on Fremont four blocks. At .3 miles, 5th Street (end of pavement); turn left. Thru irregular 4-corners at cemetery 1.7. Follow winding but direct road across desert. Pass well on right 11.1, running onto rough stretch across flats 28.4"
And this just got you out of town.
Building a highway like this was an expensive undertaking, and no one community could afford it. The idea behind the Arrowhead Trail Highway was that the various states, counties, and cities would work together to have the road built. Much of the discussion about routes had more to do with being on the road, no matter whether it made engineering sense.
As the routes for the road changed, attempts to drive the route were noted in the newspapers. A spectacular trip by a U. S. Army vehicle in 1917 showed what could be accomplished over the new road. To test how long it would take to get to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles in case the telegraph and railroad were both knocked out, Captain O. R. Bird and three others drove a truck with a mounted machine gun over the proposed Arrowhead Trail Highway route. In spite of road troubles, including a broken axle at St. George and torrential rain south of Salt Lake City, the actual driving time was 36 hours and 14 minutes, almost 60 hours less than the previous record.
Estimates of 2,000 travelers over the highway in 1919 led to renewed efforts to finalize the route and build the roadway. The highway was not paved, but the effort was initially to build a gravel roadbed over the finalized route. Autos in the 1920s were still not the most reliable overland transportation. They tended to overheat in the desert, and many entrepreneurs would build service stations in the open stretches between towns. One such was "Glendale Nick" Nicolaides.
The settlement of Glendale, Clark County, is about 45 miles north of Las Vegas. Though most of the community is gone today, it was an early and important stop for automobile travelers along the Arrowhead Trail Highway. The founder of the service station, and later community, J. H. "Glendale Nick" Nicolaides, was a prospector who had heard of the new Arrowhead Trail Highway being planned, and saw an opportunity to build a service station business along its route.
He determined, with the help of some maps held by the White Star Plaster Company, whose plant was in the area, that the land he located at the mouth of the Overton Valley at the Muddy River would be a good location. The crossing site had been used as early as the Old Spanish and later Mormon trails, and a bridge would be needed.
Bridges in the early days of driving meant a ready source of water, and a need to slow down, so gas stations were often built close to the crossings. Glendale Nick, as he came to be called, bought the property, and in 1924 began building his service station. He named the site Glendale because of the view from the small hill near the station.
During the building of the Glendale Service Station, C. C. Boyer, the Nevada State Highway Engineer, came by and talked to Nick. He told him his new building was twenty feet too close to the proposed highway, and he would have to move it. Nick said no, that the highway did not have a right-of-way through there. Boyer went back and checked, and found out they did not.
When Boyer asked Nick what it would take to get a right-of-way over his property, Nick said they should reroute the road coming out of the Overton Valley along the Muddy River. This was done, and he granted the right-of-way. Of course, the road now came out right at his service station, and he had a successful business.
In 1926, he sold out to Guy Doty, a Moapa resident who operated the Standard Oil bulk station there. Doty expanded the station, and later sold his interest. In the highway was realigned in the 1930s, the original service station buildings were torn down and rebuilt next to the new alignment. This was a successful site, even boasting an airstrip for a time in the 1960s, but when the highway was rerouted in recent years, the business dropped off and the service station finally closed. The original bridge can still be seen in the area, and a new service station, motel and restaurant are there today.
The Arrowhead Trail Highway was actively promoted throughout the 1920s as the "all-weather" route from California east. Newspaper articles trumpeted the wonderful sights, such as the Valley of Fire, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and Bryce Canyon (which became a national park in 1928). Promoting tourism was first and foremost in many of the articles. As this was before re-legalizing gaming in Nevada, we were pushing the scenic wonders of the area.
When Lake Mead filled in the 1930s, the Arrowhead Trail Highway was re-routed away from St. Thomas. Originally the road ran through the Valley of Fire to St. Thomas, and then came back up the Muddy River Valley and over to Bunkerville and Mesquite. With St. Thomas being drowned under Lake Mead, the route became more direct to Bunkerville and Mesquite
The Arrowhead Trail Highway eventually became known as the Salt Lake Highway, and then the federal government began numbering highways rather than naming them, it became Highway 91. Until the creation of I-15 in the early 1960s, it was the route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and on to Salt Lake City.
Our own "all-weather" highway helped Las Vegas become the destination it is today. If you get a chance, try driving a piece of it, even if it is only the Strip.
To assuage the literary or historical interests of the brethren, the following works are recommended for further reading, as they were of great help in the production of this monograph:
Carlson, Helen S., Nevada Place Names; A Geographical Dictionary, 1985, University of Nevada
Myrick, David, Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol. 2; The Southern Roads, 1992, University of Nevada Press
Patera, Alan, Goodsprings, Nevada, including Sandy, Jean, Keystone, Platina, Ripley and the Yellow Pine mine camp, 1999, Western Places
The Las Vegas Age newspaper, on-line, various articles
Return to Past Doins Page
Return to Queho Posse Home Page