Just outside of Rosamond in the hills above the city, there’s a place where the Mojave Mining District became a 4th area of production; I’m referring to Tropico Hill. I visited the area when my 5th grade class from West Boron Elementary School took a field trip to the area back in the mid 1970’s and have wondered about the history ever since so I decided to do a little research and this is what I found.
TROPICO HILL – is the fourth area of production in the Mojave Mining District; in the late 1870’s, Dr. L.A. Crandall noticed a red coloration on a hill near Willow Springs where he took samples and found it to be suitable as fire clay. The hill became known as Crandall Hill; while Dr. Crandall sent the samples to potential buyers such as Ezra Hamilton whose Los Angeles Pottery Company was growing; Hamilton ordered a carload of the clay to be shipped by railroad from Rosamond to Los Angeles and in 1882, Hamilton bought Clay Pit #61.
In 1894, Hamilton’s business was going through a depression and many men turned to mining during hard times because of the potential of sudden wealth and the possibility of equaling current wages at a time where few jobs were available. Hamilton decided to pan some of the clay from the pit and noticed specks of gold; after 2 years of prospecting with his son, Hamilton traced the gold float to an outcropping on his hill that was $35/ton. A man by the name of Charles Graves came out west from Kentucky in 1882 and owned a ranch on the south side of Hamilton Hill and Graves invited the Hamiltons to stay at his place while they worked. Curiosity got the best of Graves and Hamilton told him about his discovery suggesting that Graves stake claims. Hamiltons first shipment paid him $46,000 and with some of the money, he built a two-stamp mill in 1898; in 1900, Hamilton sold one of his claims for $100,000 and in 1902, a five-stamp mill was built one mile south of the claims. During this period of time, Hamilton purchased 160 acres of land from the Beale Estate where he paid $3,500; with his riches, Hamilton built stone houses at Willow Springs in which he attempted to turn it into a health resort. After an ill-fated stock promotion attempt in 1907 by the Tiger Head Mining Company, the Antelope Mining Company acquired most of the claims and selling them to the Tropico Mining and Milling Company in 1909. H. Clifford Burton started working for the Tropico Mining and Milling Company in 1912 and by June of 1914, he was promoted to Superintendent due to his previous studies at an assaying school which helped him solve problems in the milling process. The Tropico Mine had a 10-stamp mill and a 30-ton cyanide plant; the mine was inactive during World War I so Clifford and his brother Cecil returned to work again at the mine. From 1933 to 1942, the Burton brothers Tropico Gold Mines prospered at his highest level ever and reached a peak production on 1939 with 400 miners shipping ore for treating. Tropico was closed after Limitation Order L-208 shut down the Ruth Mine near Trona in 1942 but rock from Tropico Hill was used in the construction of air strips in the Antelope Valley; for this reason, the Burton brothers were able to keep a small crew on site that helped keep the mine dewatered and timbering intact.
TROPICO GOLD MINE – The Tropico Hill Mill Tailing site was the result of historic mining and milling activity in the Rosamond Mining District; the hill was mined for its rich gold lode deposits during the early 1900 to 1950’s. The historic mill was constructed during the 1920’s with a rotary ball mill circuit and the mill tailings were produced by the rotary ball mill operations. Fifty thousand tons of mill tailings were generated by mining and associated milling operations; these mill tailings had discharged from the mill site and formed southerly directed tailings deposits over the last 50 years down slope onto the fan surface adjacent to the residential subdivision area and into the floodplain areas within the Rosamond Basin Drainage system; the Tropico Mill tailings are said to have elevated levels of arsenic according to the Bureau of Land Management.