Before ink dried on
the 18th Amendment, saloons and brothels lined the Ransburg Railroad
track on both sides of the Osdick Siding.
The law that prohibited the sale of alcohol didn’t apply to Red Mountain
because that settlement was located in San Bernardino County and the sheriff
had better things to do than drive one-hundred
miles on dirt-poor desert roads to enforce such matters.
Red Mountain started as a mining camp after the discovery
of a rich silver ledge located below the town of Ransburg.
Wade Hampton Williams, lucky owner of the mine, wanted his employees to
live near the workings. To that purpose,
he surveyed and plotted a townsite and named it Hampton.
Within a few months, relocated
cabins brought in from abandoned mining camps began appearing along narrow trails
around the mine and commercial buildings, hotels, taverns, stores and the all
important barbershops with bathing privileges could be found along the main
street through town.
North a few hundred
feet another settlement with two names took form. If you entered the town from
the north, you were greeted by a sign, “Welcome To Inn City”. However, if you entered from the south
another sign read, “Welcome to Osdick”. Residents could use either address. (Years
later, the postmaster in Los Angeles got fed up with three names for one post
office and changed the name of Osdick,
Inn City and Hampton to Red Mountain.)
who put their dwellings on lots donated by a local developer found that they
held only squatters rights to their land. Inn City had not been surveyed and,
unfortunately, the lots were located on mining claims and public property owned
by the federal government. It would take
many years for the owners to get clear title to their property.
On weekends men came from
Johannesburg, Randsburg, Fremont,
Kramer Hills, Garlock, Saltdale, Searles Station, Summit Diggings and Trona. A few hardened party types drove or took the
train up from Los Angeles.
was known as an open town where you could spend all your money without regret.
Most would agree that
the women were good looking and friendly.
You could find them at The Annex, Little Eva’s, the Red Onion, the
Shamrock, the Silver Dollar and at most saloons. The better places had dance
floors with live music on Saturday nights.
Drinking and gambling went on both day and night at every place in town
except the post office.
Many of the permanent
citizens of Red Mountain had been “pushed” out of other
communities by the local deputy sheriff or constable. Better to send them packing than keep them in
jail. In Randsburg, the
justice-of-the-peace warned members of one vile and troublesome gang that if
they returned to Randsburg they could become the subject of a hanging.
Crime could be
expected: mostly bar fights, harmless shootings, muggings, assault with intent,
and a few murders. One story made it all
the way to Bakersfield.
Music stopped; games and fun came to a sudden halt at the famous Monkey House
as three masked men entered and efficiently relieved patrons of their
valuables. One of the bandits flashed
his gun and told the clerk at the door to ‘stick em up’’.
By 1925, the law
could not longer ignore the wide use of alcohol in desert communities. In
response, three adjacent counties Los Angeles,
Kern and San Bernardino,
set traps to catch as many lawbreakers as possible. The raiding parties gathered secretly and
prepared to hit the towns of Mojave, Randsburg, Tehachapi and Red Mountain
on the same Saturday night. The parties included
deputy sheriffs, federal agents, district attorneys and a judge from each
Officers arrived well
before midnight at three establishments in Red Mountain.
Justice Hansdbrough of the San Bernardino County Court
presided while sitting at a poker table at the Owl Café. Most of the accused pleaded guilty and were
fined. The judge listened patiently to
the stories of those who pleaded innocent and charged them as well. The fines averaged $150.00 and were paid in
cash which hopefully found its way into county coffers.
The local Ku Klux
Klan took exception to the number of saloons and wide use of alcohol in the
community. In protest they set fire to a
cross on the side of Red Mountain directly above the town and then hosted a
series of clean wholesome Saturday night dances in neighboring town of Johannesburg
The Kelly Mine also
known as Rand’s Big Silver took position over
a network of underground workings which
included 5,000 feet of side drifts and crosscuts on five different
levels. These workings were accessed
from four shafts over 500 feet in depth. Ore
brought to the surface was taken by rail to silver processing facilities elsewhere.
The work force may
have reached one hundred miners during good years. Some of the men took part as extras in movie films
that were being shot at the mine. The Red Mountain
communities provided the setting for a number of westerns made during the 1920s. The mine closed in 1929.
Red Mountain survived the depression years and the repeal
of prohibition. And, was well position to do its patriotic duty during World
War II. Young men from military units
at China Lake Navel Base and Murdoc Air Field
(later renamed Edward AFB) partied on weekends at hotels and some of the better
maintained taverns where the girls were still considered good looking and
I took a picture of my
friend as he searched the south side of the Silver Dollar Hotel for the
entrance that he remembered from a visit he and his father made here over
seventy years ago.
Red Mountain is located on Highway 395 at Google Earth
35 21.285; 117 36.988