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David A. Wright

THE FUNERAL RANGE PART II - LEE, CA - LEE, NV - LEE ANNEX, CA/NV - ECHO, CA

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My next video is in the prosess of being rendered, was hoping it would be finished by now to put online. Since it is about a half hour long, it takes about nine hours for my computer to render and save the final video in Windows Media format.

The video will be the second part of my visit to the Funeral Range ghost town camps while on my April, 1999 trip with author Alan Patera. We visit the ghost towns of Lee, CA, Lee, NV, Lee Annex, CAand Echo, CA. I willlikely uploadit tomorrow.

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OK.  Here it is.

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THE FUNERAL RANGE PART 1 – LEE ANNEX, CA/NV – ECHO, CA – LEE, CA – LEE, NV – LEELAND STATION, NV.

In April, 1999, author/publisher Alan Patera and I enjoyed a five night/six day exploring and camping trip through ghost towns and historic sites in a wide circle around southern Nevada.  On the first two nights and three days, we also enjoyed the company of George Huxtable, then president of the Death Valley Hikers Association.  On April 9th and 10, Alan, George and I visited the ghost towns of Keane Spring, Chloride City and the Capricorn Mine.  That video is found elsewhere on this forum.  Alan was involved in research and photography for his upcoming publication, WESTERN PLACES - FUNERAL MOUNTAINS: MINING CAMPS AND MINES.

In this video, starting during in the late morning of April 10th, we visit some of the camps and sites of the southern Funeral Range, such as the Lee’s (Lee, CA, Lee, NV and Lee Annex, CA/NV); and to top things off, we head to the mountaintop perch of Echo, CA.

Map4_Funeral-Range_1999.jpg

Map3_Funeral-Range_1999.jpg

SATURDAY, APRIL 10, 1999

To help keep tract of the context of this video, this narrative.  In the opening scene of this video, our caravan made a beeline for the Longstreet Casino, situated on the state border on Nevada 373 north of Death Valley Junction, California.  There we had made arrangements for George to leave his rental car in a safe place overnight.  Then we head back north, then west over a grid of roads to visit the Lee district on the east slope of the Funeral Range.

When the area of Lee was reached, we stopped and snooped briefly about Lee Annex, which straddled the state line.  After, we then continued right on through the ghost town of Lee, then up a rocky canyon and deep into the Funeral Range.  The ghost town of Echo, 4½ miles up the canyon above Lee, was first on the menu.  Lee would wait until later and we had planned on camping at the ghost town that night.

Echo is perched atop the crest of the Funeral Range, our resources indicated that it was better to walk to the site as Alan’s Explorer and my stock Chevrolet S-10 were not up to the so-called road into the site; a path, they say, better suited to modified serious off-road vehicles sprouting winches from their snouts.  For George, with his lithe frame and experience as a Death Valley hiker, such a trek was what he came for.  So as not to slow George down, we made arrangements to meet at a certain hour and he departed.  As per our topographic maps, it would be about 4.1 miles to reach Echo.

Alan and I started the hike to Echo on foot.  But after nearly an hour of walking, Alan and I decided to return for his Explorer as the roadway was quite easy.  Backtracking our path in comfort, we found the first couple of miles of the route to Echo to be easily navigable by Alan’s stock Explorer.  At a point where the road turned inadequate, Alan and I switched from horsepower to foot power and head skyward.

In this video, you will likely notice that I videotaped none of our hike to Echo; and at the site, I was hasty in my narration and rapidly panned my camera about.  What had happened was that a short distance after starting our trek to Echo, the strap on my video camera suddenly came unbuckled, dropping the camera to the ground and hitting solid rock.  It happened so quickly that I was not able to react and catch it in time.  I picked up the camera, at first it appeared dead.  I was worried that I yet destroyed another expensive video camera in the wilds (indeed, in those days, most quality videocameras were well over $500).  After a few minutes of my examination and prodding, the camera began to respond semi-normally.  Then I found the tape was jammed and the camera wouldn’t pop open the tape door so that I could see if I could free it. I was able to rewind the tape by about one minute so I could at least videotape the site of Echo.

Alan and I continued our hike to the crest of the Funeral Range, where we found George poking about some of the prospect holes.  At Echo, I quickly used up my minute of available videotape on its nearly invisible remains.

So this is the history of Echo: In 1907, with activity in nearby Lee, prospectors soon began to climb into the Funeral Range to look for promising outcrops. Primarily most of the focus centered in the lower reaches of Echo Canyon on the new camps of Schwab and that of the Inyo Gold Mining Company nearby. A few decided to plat a townsite at the head of Echo Canyon on a saddle overlooking the Amargosa Valley and the Bullfrog region, and gave the new townsite the moniker of Echo.  Echo never amounted to anything, only a few tents ever touched the ground and a few prospects were explored. Other than a more amiable climate due to the fairly high altitude (approximately 4,800 feet), there was nothing to recommend the townsite. There was no water, no wood, no electricity, no paydirt. The telephone line between Lee and Schwab did pass through here, but that was not enough to sustain a camp. After the curiosity of its founders were satisfied and no good ore was found, Echo died a quick and painless death.

It took five and one half hours for myself and Alan to do the complete hike to Echo and back to my truck, including backtracking.

The three of us camped at the main Lee townsite.  That evening, as darkness overcame us, George, Alan and I prepared our meager meals - canned tuna, canned chicken, dry soup mix and other semi-delectable side dishes from a can.  We enjoyed wine, conversation, solitude and the lights of Rhyolite shining in the far distance.  I attempted in vain to get my camera to eject the videotape so I could pop in a fresh one and take any video of our evening camping activities.  In the twilight, Alan commented that the folks of Lee could look out and see the lights of Rhyolite, since they were the only sign of civilization during those days.

SUNDAY, APRIL 11, 1999

I was up before the others, greeting the morning with relish.  As opposed to the previous night of tossing, turning and freezing at the Capricorn Mine, I slept well at Lee ghost town.  The calm air of dawn in a ghost town made my first cup of hot coffee special.

Lee was a wonderland of stone foundations, stair steps, cellars, tailing piles, and desert isolation.  And, I assume, my videocamera got a good night’s sleep as well, it was for no apparent reason working normally so that I was able to resume capturing the sights and sounds of Lee - and indeed, the rest of my travels on that trip.

My history research tells me that in 1904, brothers Richard and Gus Lee decided to try prospecting, leaving their ranch at Resting Spring. In November, with the help of Henry F. Finney, they found two gold ledges, which they named the Hayseed and the State Line, located at the eastern foot of the Funeral Range, 30 miles south of Rhyolite. These were located just inside the California state line, west of Amargosa Valley.  A stampede began, and the Lee Mining District was formed in March 1905. The rush created the townsites of Lee, California and Lee, Nevada, each within sight of the other. In between, straddling the state line, was Lee Annex or sometimes referred to as North Addition.  In May, 1905, the Lee brothers optioned the Hayseed Mine to W.F. Patrick, a Goldfield speculator, for the sum of $75,000, with $7,500 down. Patrick died two months later, and the mine returned to the Lee brothers, who kept the $7,500 cash. They schemed that they could make some serious ready assets by optioning and re-optioning the Hayseed, but they soon found themselves and the mine wrapped up in litigation.  Says the Inyo Independent (Independence, California), March 2,1906:

 “BIG MINING SUIT
An important suit has been commenced in the Superior Court of Inyo County, Cal., by Chas. del Bondio, the prominent attorney, against Richard and Gus Lee to enforce specific performance of a contract in writing to sell and convey the Hayseed and State Line mining claims in the Funeral Range, near the State line of California and Nevada and about 30 miles from the town of Beatty, and also to secure possession of said claims.  These claims are well known, and are the same properties that were held under a bond for a large sum by Mr. Patrick at the time of his death.  A very phenomenal showing of high grade milling ore is made for the amount of development.  The samples taken from a quartz ledge give an average of over $150 for a width of seven feet.  Out of 12 samples taken across this vein the lowest ran $110 and the highest $270.  The property is only three miles from the surveyed line of the railroad and has abundance of water accessible for mining purposes.  Col. Hugh Wilkinson of Rhyolite is the plaintiff’s attorney. -- Bullfrog Miner’

The Lee boom reached its zenith in 1907, with a population of around 600 for the entire district. By February of that year, the fracas over the Hayseed was cleared and production began. Further zeal was added when the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, then under construction, passed within a few miles of the district and within sight on its way to Rhyolite. A townsite rivalry began, Lee, California becoming the favorite. Of the 600 people in the district, Lee, California grabbed more than half. 300 men plus 20 women populated the townsite. There were many saloons and a red light district flourished in the location dutifully delineated by the Lee Board of Trade. Lee also had a post office which opened March 7, 1907 with John H. Lawrence as the first postmaster. A large union hall was erected by the Death Valley Miners Union, Local No. 258 of the Western Federation of Miners. The Lee Herald began publication October 15, 1907 by Earl Clemens to compliment his other newspapers, the Rhyolite Herald and Skidoo News. A telephone line was run to the camp from Rhyolite.  At first, auto and horse-drawn stages ran to the camp from Rhyolite, later to run six miles to and from Leeland Station on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad in the valley below. These stages connected with the two trains each day. Inyo County recognized the swelling population and appointed a justice of the peace, who also served as the tax collector. None of the towns in the Lee region had their own water. That had to be hauled in by Adolph Nevares from Rose Well at $5 a barrel. That price prompted most to travel to Rhyolite for their baths.

The financial panic of 1907 caused dull times in 1908, leading to the eventual death of all the Lee family. Lee, California hung on the longest. At the beginning of the year, the Hayseed shipped its first load of paydirt, 18 tons worth, brining in an income of $1,314. However, that load was to be its last. Nothing less than $50 per ton ore could pay costs, even though the railroad was running by literally at the foot of Lee. Saleable ore was found only in small pockets that already had been exhausted, and so the superintendent closed down the Hayseed by summer. The Lee Herald suspended publication in February. By summer, there was only one saloon left.  Not everyone left Lee. Enough miners and prospectors stuck around for a few more years so that William H. Lillard kept a store open until 1912. There were enough people around for the post office to keep its door open until April 1, 1912.

At 10:00 o’clock, it was time for Alan, George and myself to move on.  We all wanted to explore the other Lee’s that placed their names on this landscape where the Funeral and Amargosa, California and Nevada meet.  Backtracking 0.8 mile eastward downslope, we came to the footings of a large stone corral that marked the Lee Annex, or sometimes called North Addition.  Though ruins are not as condensed as at the main Lee townsite, there are still enough building sites to make exploration interesting.  About 200 yards north of the present route into Lee, I found what appeared to have been the primary thoroughfare during Lee’s heyday, and there were rows of building remains on each side of it.  As at the primary townsite, cans and broken glass littered the ground.

Lee Annex (Addition, North Addition) was born as sort of a compromise between those of Lee, California and Lee, Nevada to combine and form a stable mother camp for the district.  It was hoped that merchants and residents of both camps to come together at the state line and a townsite was surveyed on the California side of the state line, platted right to the Nevada line, and filed in Inyo County, California at Independence.  However, the effort didn’t last long, primarily during the summer of 1907, and Lee Annex quietly faded from importance.  There were some lingering residents for much of the time that Lee, California was a live town, and some of those residents resided on the Nevada side of the state line.

A dim road traced its way through the creosote northeastward, mine tailings on the slope of the eastern hills indicated Lee, Nevada.  Our 4x4 vehicles were among the first in many a moon to pass this way.  At 0.2 mile we passed out of California and Death Valley National Park (the state line and park boundary is marked on every pathway and road by small plastic posts), driving through Lee Annex.  We were so busy trying to find the road, we didn’t notice anything interesting.  Our sights were on the hills ahead, the site of Lee, Nevada.

Lee, Nevada was an outgrowth of the Lee rush and due to their proximity to each other, each local’s history are linked.  Several claims were recorded in 1905 and the Lee, Nevada townsite platted by February, 1907.  Businesses were brought in, freighting and transportation routes direct from Rhyolite and the advancing railroads from the south were established.  No post office ever opened at Lee, Nevada; the name Lee could not be used at any rate, as there already was a post office named Lee in the state.  The town’s housing was primarily tent structures, though some efforts were made in erection of more permanent structures.  By spring of 1907, the Southern Nevada Telephone Company wires reached Lee from Rhyolite, and continued to Lee, California and over the mountains to other camps on the Death Valley side of the range via Echo.  After the establishment of Leeland Station on the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad below town, Lee, Nevada was found a bit too far north for convenient transportation.  The claims weren’t producing as much as those just over the stateline anyway.  Lee, California was quickly gaining traction as the primary camp in the district at the expense of its close Nevada neighbor and Lee, Nevada died a quick death.

After poking about Lee, Nevada a short time and retracing our route back to the main road from Amargosa Valley, we noticed this time more ruins on the Nevada side of Lee Annex.  The stone cairn army stationed granite troops up to and upon the state line, indicating prospectors didn’t care one wit for political lines drawn upon a once empty desert.  Stone ruins dotted the flat plain, tin and glass were found hither and yon.  A brief stop to examine a couple of these paused our trip a bit, then we rejoined the main road just inside California again, then immediately turned back into Nevada.

Our two vehicle caravan dropped back down into the ranching community of Amargosa Valley.  In a short distance, a raised mound running parallel to the road indicated that we once again crossed paths with the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad, this time at what was once a whistle stop called Leeland.

Leeland was established when the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad reached the northern Amargosa Valley in 1906. Leeland derived its revenues from the mining going on at the Lee camps to the west.  Facilities for service was established by the railroad due to the abundant water in the lower Amargosa Valley. A post office was established November 23, 1911 and discontinued November 14, 1914. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was abandoned during WW2 and tracks pulled up.

Today, there is scant evidence of Leeland.  The most obvious remnants are the concrete foundations of the water tower and pumphouse.  I found a few spikes and a boxcar seal that bore the stamping “T&T RR #35027.” A boxcar seal is a thin, soft metal (usually aluminum) strip with a clasp on one end.  It is run through a looped bracket on the doors of a boxcar, bottom dump on a gondola car, or doors of a semi trailer; they are still in common use today. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad seal is now on display at the Beatty Museum.

When we completed our windy tour of Leeland, our caravan continued back to the Longstreet Casino to drop off George at his rental car.  He needed to return to the airport at Las Vegas for his flight home.  Alan and I enjoyed a meal at the Longstreet, then resumed our travels through the Nevada desert in search of our next ghost town to prowl. 

This video is 32:40 long.  Enjoy the ride.  Funeral-Range2_1999.wmv

Edited by David A. Wright
Minor formatting changes.

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