At the urgings of Hearst, the individual claims quietly fell into the hands of some wealthy San Francisco investors who formed the Modock Consolidated Mining Company and for his part, George Hearst respectfully became one of its directors.
Ore from a number of tunnels and drifts drilled into the east and south faces of the mountain was brought by various means to the stamp mill and blast furnaces located on the top of Lookout Mountain. The two furnaces or smelters burned huge amounts of coke each day creating almost pure silver and lead bars. Placing the furnaces on top of the mountain rather than at its base was not a unanimous decision by the owners. Conventional wisdom had it that, when possible, the stamps, furnace and other milling equipment best be located below the mines where gravity can help deliver the ore.
Across the Panamint Valley in Wildrose Canyon, ten beehive shaped kilns reduced local pinion logs to ninety-five percent pure carbon by burning them slowly in a limited amount of oxygen – a process that took weeks.
The furnaces’ inexhaustible appetite for fuel placed a heavy demand on the kilns. Crews of sawyers worked all across the Panamint Range cutting pinion trees and hauling the logs by pack train to the kilns. In addition to cutters and haulers, the operation needed a sizable crew to operate the ovens. This frenzy of activity brought some additional enterprise to the canyon in the form of a general store, a boardinghouse and a number of saloons and shops.
John Small and Archie McDonald, two inept “road agents”, arrived in the Wildrose Camp after two unsuccessful stagecoach robberies conducted on the road leading out of Eureka, Nevada. In both cases, the safe-box happened to be empty -- they had picked the wrong stage both times. Well Fargo sent out notices offering a reward of $500 for their capture. Incredibly, a short time after the notices were sent word came back to the Eureka Sheriff’s Office that John and Archie intended a return to Eureka and attempt another holdup.
This time, the company set a trap for them by placing a guard inside the coach rather than on the seat next to the driver. Once again, the pair followed an eastbound stage and stopped it at gunpoint a few miles out of town. The driver pitched the safe-box down as ordered and as Archie greedily reached to un-strap the top flap on the safe-box, the guard jumped from the coach wildly firing his shotgun. The boys narrowly escaped capture on that day and promptly headed back to Wildrose Canyon and their mining claims. Later that year, their career took a favorable turn when they stopped a Panamint City stage. This time the safe-box contained $2,000 -- considered a good haul back then.
Lookout was served by three saloons, a few stores a boardinghouse, a meeting hall, and a post office plus regular stage service to Darwin. The population may have reach 200. Oliver Roberts, owner of one of the saloons and sometimes constable, wrote about enforcing the law without benefit of a jail or Justice-of-the-peace. According to his account, those being held for some misbehavior were chained to a post until someone could be talked into hauling them to the Darwin jail - a rough 15 miles away .
When a Methodist preacher came to town it raised some questions about the future of Lookout among superstitious miners. Denny Murphy came in to Roberts’ saloon to warn everyone that preachers and women in camp were as bad as a miner whistling underground. Murphy told Oliver that he better sell before it’s too late and go someplace else. According to the story, Roberts took Murphy’s advice and immediately placed a sign out front -- “Saloon for Sale “.
At its peak, the underground workings of the Modock Mines measured over 1 ½ - miles of drifts and tunnels at four different elevations nearly 1,000 feet apart. From 1875 to 1890 the mine produced two million dollars of silver in spite of labor problems and smelter malfunctions. However, the 1893 crash sent silver prices plummeting, signaling the end of operations at most silver mines including Lookout. Some activity was revived in 1945 in response to increased demand for lead and zinc. It mostly amounted to reworking the dumps and discarded ore. The mines have been idle since 1953. As far as I know the property is still owned by the Hearst Family Estate
The Minnietta mine took form on the south face of Lookout Mountain above Thompson Canyon. The ore bodies were located in a southerly extension of the marble ledges being mined by the Modock Company. Though located in the 1870s, little was recorded about the workings of or production from the original claims.
In 1898, Jack Gunn bought the claims and increased production of both silver and gold. Moderately rich ore mined from off-shoots of an incline shaft was shipped to San Francisco for processing. The mine was closed after World War I and reopened in 1944 principally for the production of lead. It is also now idle.