Southwest Nevada with Glenn Shaw
Spring Mountain Ranch, Potosi Mine, Indian Sites, Goodsprings
On Sunday morning six vehicles lined up to go explore the south end of the Spring Mountains. The ﬁrst challenge was to move the group from Boulder City on the extreme east end of Las Vegas Valley to the Spring Mountains on the far west end of the valley over a network of freeways and highways. With Nelson Miller’s help as “tail” we were able to herd the group without incident to our ﬁrst stop at Spring Mountain Ranch.
On arrival at the ranch we found the ranch house closed and no one around– this was not supposed to happen! Having worked at the ranch a short time I was able to take the group on a walking tour of the historic area that contains some of the oldest buildings in Southern Nevada, by Lake Harriet and the old cemetery. Meanwhile back at the ranch house the park interpretive ranger was there and gave us an excellent talk on the ranch history. The ranch has had a very diverse and interesting slate of owners. It was originally called the Old Bill Williams Ranch after the famous mountain man, the ranch later passed on to two half-Paiute Indian brothers who ran into ﬁnancial difﬁculties. They sold the ranch to Willard George who was known as “furrier to the stars”, he created furs for stars such as Ginger Rodgers and Joan Crawford. Willard sold the ranch to the radio comedy stars of Lum & Abner and the ranch became a popular Hollywood hangout. Vera Krupp wife of convicted war criminal Alfred Krupp of the German munitions factories bought the ranch. Vera was in the news when she was accosted at gunpoint, rolled up in a carpet and the famous 33.6 carat diamond ring was ripped off her ﬁnger. The criminals were caught and Vera got her ring back. She then sold the ring to Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor. Vera later sold the ranch to Howard Hughes who never set foot on the ranch. The State of Nevada eventually acquired the ranch for a state park.
Leaving the ranch we were able to navigate our way through the road construction on highway 160 at Mountain Springs to see a great rock art site which required a bit of a hike down through a wash to some large boulders. After leaving the rock art site we passed by the Old Spanish Trail / Mormon Road trace and turned onto the dirt road going into the Mt Potosi area. Here we visited an agave roasting pit. The Indians created these roasting pits by collecting limestone rocks that were placed above the food and when heated by ﬁre, they retain this heat for cooking. When cooled the rocks fracture and are unusable. They are then cast aside and replaced by new rocks.
Over a long period of time this repeated process creates a volcano like ground feature. The Paleo-Indian occupation of the Spring Mountain range dates to about 12,000 years ago followed by the Piaute Indian occupation at about 5,000 years ago. The rock art and roasting pits probably date to this latter period.
Our next stop was on the west side of Mt Potosi where the Mormon Missionaries from the old Mormon Fort in Las Vegas discovered lead deposits. A small townsite was settled at Potosi Spring with about 100 miners. This was one of the earliest mining operations in Southern Nevada. The Mormons initially tried to cast bullets from the ore but were unsuccessful because the ore was too soft. They found the reason was the high silver content. In other words they were trying to shoot silver bullets. The mine was located high on the mountain side and had a small gauge railroad track and tramway to transport the ore to the mill site. It only took Steve Marschke about ﬁve minutes to ﬁgure out how this whole system operated.
Continuing on through the maze of old mining roads I’m happy to say that I managed to make only one wrong turn. The problem with this was turning the caravan around on a narrow rocky road. It takes numerous back and forth maneuvers to get headed in the right direction again.
Our next and ﬁnal destination was at the historic mining town of Goodsprings where one of the oldest continuously operated saloons in Nevada called the Pioneer Saloon is still open for business. It opened in 1913 and has never closed and still looks the same inside as it did in 1913.
The bartender said people come in and want to see the burn marks on the bar from Clark Gable’s cigarette. Clark Gable spent time in the bar waiting for news of his wife actress Carole Lombard's plane that crashed into the mountain above town on her return from a war bond selling drive in 1943, Everyone said they had a good time and will have something to talk about at the next “happy hour.” I was especially happy that in spite of the long day and the many miles of dirt roads, we did not experience a single breakdown or flat tire. Following is a list of brave souls who chose to follow me: Steve and Debbie Marschke, Nelson Miller, Ellen Miller, Leonard Friedman, Fredric Raab, Barb and Ron Midlikoski, Jay Lawrence, and Bill and Barb Gossett (who had to bail out after the first stop) ~ Glenn Shaw