California Desert trips,interesting places to visit: ghost towns, old mines, lost treasure, personalities and bits of the old west


The desert is sort of my second home. The places described below are special and worth visiting provided you know the story. That's what this blog is all about. Now I have tried as best I can to be factual but sometimes you hate to let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wyatt Earp's Happy Days

It’s widely believed, and interesting to note, that if it hadn’t been for a woman reporter who happened to be in Tombstone at the time, the shootout would have passed with little notice. Yet, before the dust settled in the OK Corral, newspapers across the country carried her byline and the story quickly cast Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers as true seekers of western justice. They became national heroes endlessly written about in books and magazines, and portrayed as the “good guys” in 29 movies and 11 TV series.

The town of Tombstone had the right name for the famed gunfight, and Wyatt Earp was the perfect man to represent frontier law in action being over six feet tall, steady and handy with a revolver.

Following the shootout, arrest warrants for murder were issued for the brothers and Holliday. The OK Corral incident was seen by some locals as an unfair fight between gunfighters and cowboys. The case against the boys was weak, but never the less, they decided it best to leave the Arizona Territory and avoid standing trial. .

The record on Wyatt’s adventures and whereabouts after Tombstone is not clear. We know that he spent some time in Texas and Colorado checking out mining prospects. He and his brother ran “the largest and finest saloon’’ in Coeur d’Alene. He arrived in San Diego in the mid 80s and invested in real estate. In San Francisco, he refereed the championship heavy-weight fight between Tom Sharkey and Bob Fitzsimmons. In 1897 or 98, he joined the gold rush to Alaska, did some prospecting and opened a saloon in Nome.

After Alaska he and his wife, Josie, moved back to the states and tried their luck in the new gold camp of Tonopah were he financed a saloon and dealt faro. Josie, in her autobiography, claimed that she found a piece of high grade float on the road south of Tonopah but failed to find its source. The area that they searched was in the Grandpa Mining District. In 1903, two prospectors from Tonopah ventured south and located a number of rich gold mines in the Grandpa District. Soon the word was out and prospectors, miners, investors and promoters from all over the country flooded into the renamed camp of Goldfield; a bonanza that lasted and prospered for over ten years. The Earps missed their chance, no question and Wyatt never stopped talking about it.

Wyatt told a local newspaper that he would never shoot another man again unless he shoots at me first. This statement was made shortly before he decided to do some prospecting in the Copper Basin / Whipple Mountain area, located west of the Colorado River in San Bernardino County.

Happy Days! For the next 20 years, between 1905 and the 1920s, the Earps spent winters and the cool months at Vidal near their mines and the hot months in Los Angeles mingling with the Hollywood crowd. The county records show that over the years, Wyatt filed almost 100 mining claims in an area south of the Whipple Mountains. The first two lode claims were named “Happy Times and Happy Days”. Mines in this mineral belt primarily produced copper and gold. However, none of his mines proved to be of much value which leads one to wonder why he spent so much time staking and recording mining claims in this area,

He and Josie, for part of the time, camped near the mines. Later, they built a small home in the railroad settlement of Vidal. The house, designated an historic site by the state, is fenced and maintained as shown in my recent photograph.

Happy Days and the other mines are generally located in Section 6; Township 1N; Range 25E. (Google Earth 24, 12.249; 114, 25.449) A trail from Highway 62 leads to the mines.

Shortly after Wyatt’s death in 1929, the Santa Fe Railroad company and the U.S. Post Office Department changed the name of the railroad siding and nearby post office from Drenan to Wyatt Earp. The post office is located on the south side of Highway 62 just west of the bridge to Parker, Arizona. The post office sign above the entrance is faded as my recent photograph shows. A landmark sign that simply said “EARP” located on the road near the post office has been removed, destroyed or stolen since my last visit back in the 80s. However, the Automobile Club of Southern California continues to place this famous name on the San Bernardino County road map.



Blogger Dan Hawkins said...

I tried to leave a comment. Dan Hawkins

11/27/2015 8:36 AM  

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