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Soledad Mines, Part II

A Page of History

Series: Soledad Mines | Story 2

Last week I wrote a column about the mines of Soledad Mountain from the perspective of Viola White Jennings, who with her family lived around that area. The article was from the collection of my mother, Marion Deaver.

This week I will wrap up the remembrances of this lady. I concluded last week with Jennings and her sister avoiding snakes on that mountain. In all the years I have roamed around the deserts of East Kern, I have only happened upon a rattlesnake twice. Once however, was in January, and I concluded that it is never too cold to find a snake.

Jennings remembered that she and her siblings loved to watch the gold drop down the mercury shaking table. “Dad let us ride the hoist down too, like privileged characters,” she said.

The mine milled their own gold into bricks and produced about a brick a week. “Mother baked all our bread, cinnamon rolls, and coffee cake from the bread dough that she made.

The girls played around the old cook house left from the Queen Esther Mine. The mine had shut down, but everything was still left there, she noted. There was a huge old cook stove, and all the cupboards were full of heavy dishes.

“We played outside and made mud pies out of the smooth cyanide tailings. Inside we would set the long table with the dishes and then put them back when we were done.” (Imagine playing with cyanide tailings today. . .)

Burt Wegman was the caretaker of the old mines and since they never opened up again he gained possession of them.

Jennings remembered another old mine near them called the Exposed Treasure. (I thought I knew about all the mines, but never heard of this one.) It was north of Soledad and on the way to Mojave.

Jennings said it had been a bonanza mine, but at 400 or 700 feet Jennings, was not sure, they hit an underground river and had no modern machinery to pump out the water.

“Brother and I lit two candles that we found on a ledge and ventured down to the bottom to see the rushing water.”

“I will never forget the sights I saw that day – rushing water and from the ceiling hung beautiful long crystals.”

Jennings said she wanted to bring one home but could not climb the rickety ladder with the candle and carry the crystal.

Jennings said her brother was always looking for veins of gold and once there was a vein right on the surface. Another man wanted Jennings father to work it but he was not interested. Just a few years later the big Silver Queen opened up and there were new homes built along with a café and Goldtown got its new name about 1934 or ’35.

Jennings said they lived on Soledad for 18 months. They later moved to Mojave and rented a house on Main Street and started school

Her father had a job at the railroad yard. “At that time Mojave was all saloons, with a Harvey House and a large roundhouse. Mojave was a rip-roaring town in those days, with miners coming from all of the surrounding mines.”

The family lived in Mojave for one year and then moved back to Burbank. Years later Jennings sister and husband leased one of Wegman’s holdings, but when it didn’t pay enough for them, the family moved to Grass Valley.

Jennings and her mother returned to the old mines on Soledad some years later and found the houses still standing, but very old.

Ten years later she and her mother returned and found nothing left. They assumed the houses and buildings had been torn down.

“I was really surprised when we found out that they had all been moved to Tropico Gold Mine and Camp in Rosamond so that they could be preserved,” she exclaimed.

“I have lived on both the upper and lower deserts and have seen a lot of beautiful places on each, but never will forget our experiences on old Soledad Mountain – they were happy ones.”

I have climbed all around Soledad since I was little, but now I know “the rest of the story.”