Discovery of the Standard Mine

Note: The following is excerpted from “The Story of Mono County” by Ella M. Cain who was born in Bodie and later taught school there. She was married to David Cain, the son of James S. Cain who was one of Bodie’s early settlers and later one of the principal land owners (his house is the one with the green house window at the corner of Green and Park streets).

The Standard Mine, which eventually produced mullions, had a hard and varied career before it began to poor out the yellow metal to such an extent that one of the biggest gold rushes started that the West has ever known. The Standard was located under the name of The Bunker Hill Mine, the original locators selling out their interests for twenty thousand dollars to an actor named James Stark and a jeweler named John W. Tucker.

Stark owned an opera house in San Jose, and had the idea he could use it in his new venture in Bodie. But the job of transporting it to the latter place, and transforming acoustics built for Patti into frame work for a quartz mill was a sad experience for actor Stark and jeweler Tucker. They ran out of money and were forced to sell their “Opera House Mill” as it was called.

A geologist Professor J.D. Whitney gave a good report on the property, and new capital was brought in. A new consolidation of claims took place. Leland Stanford, then Governor of California, was elected President, and Judge F. T. Bechtel, Secretary. The new company was called “The Bodie Bluff Consolidated Mining Company”, and was incorporated for over a million dollars.

Governor Stanford brought a mining expert up with him to Bodie. The “expert”, in looking over the property advised Stanford to get out, saying he himself would not give five hundred dollars for the whole district. (The fact was that there were millions just beneath the place where they were then standing).

The Governor took his advice and decided to abandon this seemingly worthless mining ground. The so-called “expert” lived to regret the day he gave this advice.

This put a crimp in the camp for a time. The property then passed into the hands of four men who were without money, but who had faith and brawn. Their names were Essington, Lockberg, Mooney, and Walker. The two latter soon dropped out and the Swedes Essington and Lockberg went in together.

They were boarding with a man named William O’Hara, an Irishman by name and African by birth who grub-staked them. After they owed O’Hara nine hundred and fifty dollars they offered to give him the claim for what they owed. This was agreeable to O’Hara and the miners left. In vain, O’Hara offered the claim to any one who would pay him his nine hundred and fifty dollars. He had no takers.

Essington and Lockberg drifted around for some time and not finding anything as promising as Bodie they came back. O’Hara was willing to let them try again “on tick” and they again began digging and hoping. Lady Luck this time decided to smile on them from a dark cave in the earth.

Timber was scarce, so they used hardly enough for self protection. One day there was a rumble and roar, their tunnel had caved. Disheartened, they went to see the extent of the damages and there it was, the ledge they had dreamed of, had worked for, and had hoped to find.

It wasn’t long before they had cleaned up $37,000 from their “Aladdins Cave” in the gulch. They were using an arastra and did not want to risk building a mill with this money. When four San Francisco capitalists, Seth Cook, Dan Cook, John Boyd, and William Lent, offered them $67,500 in cash for the claim, they sold.
The new owners erected a twenty stamp mill on the property and changed the name of the claim now known as Bunker Hill to The Standard Consolidated Company. These new owners took out the enormous sum of $6,396,270. The total production of all mining done in Bodie is estimated to be between 95 and 100 million.
Source:Cain, Ella M.,The Story of Bodie, Fearon Publishers, 1956.

Thanks to Bill Draeger for transcribing this story from the book, and emailing it to me.

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