January 2013 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Lucerne Valley, California from Wikipedia

Lucerne Valley is a census-designated place located in the Mojave Desert of western San Bernardino County, California. It lies east of the Victor Valley, whose population nexus includes Victorville, Apple Valley, and Hesperia. The population was 5,811 at the 2010 census.


Lucerne Valley is located 19 miles east of Apple Valley and 20 miles downhill north of Big Bear in the southern reaches of the Mojave Desert. It is surrounded by several mountain ranges which include the Granite mountain range, the Ord mountain range, and the San Bernardino mountain range. The heart of Lucerne Valley is located on the crossroads of State Route 247 (Old Woman Springs Road / Barstow Road) and State Route 18. Yucca Valley lies 45 miles east via Route 247/Old Woman Springs Road.

In San Bernardino County, Lucerne Valley's area is also identified as County Service Area 29. While Lucerne Valley's "town limit" signs are within 2 miles of each other (technically the signs are just "community markers", because San Bernardino County requires cities and towns to be incorporated, and the County doesn't recognize villages or townships) the County Service Area Limits are much larger: in the west to Joshua Road (unpaved road east of Milpas Rd. on Hwy. 18), to the north at the 4000 foot height of Ord Mountain on Highway 247, to the south at the entrance to Cushenbury Canyon on Highway 18, and 2.5 miles east of Camp Rock Road.[citation needed]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP covers an area of 105.6 square miles (273.5 km²), all of it land.


The 2010 United States Census[4] reported that Lucerne Valley had a population of 5,811. The population density was 55.0 people per square mile (21.2/km²). The racial makeup of Lucerne Valley was 4,507 (77.6%) White, 170 (2.9%) African American, 106 (1.8%) Native American, 90 (1.5%) Asian, 0 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 676 (11.6%) from other races, and 262 (4.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,447 persons (24.9%).

The Census reported that 5,780 people (99.5% of the population) lived in households, 31 (0.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 2,176 households, out of which 685 (31.5%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 954 (43.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 280 (12.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 157 (7.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 146 (6.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 14 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 632 households (29.0%) were made up of individuals and 255 (11.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66. There were 1,391 families (63.9% of all households); the average family size was 3.28.

The population was spread out with 1,424 people (24.5%) under the age of 18, 452 people (7.8%) aged 18 to 24, 1,214 people (20.9%) aged 25 to 44, 1,780 people (30.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 941 people (16.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.7 years. For every 100 females there were 106.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.4 males.

There were 2,949 housing units at an average density of 27.9 per square mile (10.8/km²), of which 1,454 (66.8%) were owner-occupied, and 722 (33.2%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 4.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 9.0%. 3,800 people (65.4% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 1,980 people (34.1%) lived in rental housing units.

Recent development

An attempt to construct a golf course and install utilities for residential/commercial zones called "Rancho Lucerne" began grading north of the High School location before embezzlement charges filed against the financier caused the project to shut down in 2001.

Other projects are meeting with mixed reactions from residents and state/county officials, including Solar Power and Wind Turbine plants as well as Water Drilling proposals for the Los Angeles' centric Department of Water and Power, who recently cancelled an attempt to install a 2 mile wide water and power corridor in the Southern half of the town to transport distant resources into Los Angeles.

Public safety

San Bernardino County operates a Sheriff Substation and a full-time staffed fire station within town limits. Cal Fire also has a fire station east of the Town between Lucerne Valley and Johnson Valley. California Highway Patrol provides traffic enforcement and investigation.

Sites of interest

 Johnson Valley to the east of Lucerne Valley is a popular off-road vehicle recreation site known for its steep, rocky mountains and several dry lakes. Recent expansion plans for the Twentynine Palms Ground Combat center from the United States Marine Corps threatens to close the majority of the OHV area for 25 years or longer, including a seasonal race called "The Hammers" a few miles north of the town that brings annual business to Lucerne Valley.

Lucerne Valley's two dry lakes, Lucerne Dry Lake and Rabbit Springs Dry Lake are used for various activities. The Dry Lakes are used frequently in filming projects; notably Rabbit Springs Dry Lake was the scene for the attack sequence in Stagecoach filmed in 1938. Also, actress and singer Selena Gomez shot her music video for A Year Without Rain here.

Chimney Rock, a registered landmark of the State of California, is located on the mountains north of Highway 18 at the Rabbit Springs Road junction as the site of the last battle between settlers and Indians in the Mojave Desert. An official landmark is at Highway 18 next to the welcome sign at the western border of town.

    Two parks exist in Lucerne Valley:

        Pioneer Park (next to the County Fire Station), which is the main park for San Bernardino County CSA 29 used in most public events.
           Lucerne Valley Museum is also located at Pioneer Park with self-directed tours.
        Midway Park (at Midway and Rabbit Springs Roads), which has the Midway Schoolhouse and Equestrian Arena.

Notable people

    Jordan Romero, former resident who is currently the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest.
    Thora Birch, actress.
    Harry Abdul, father of Paula Abdul, who started a bottled water company called Crystal Hills in 1996 based in Lucerne Valley's foothills. 
       (The company was sold to a private firm and closed in 2005.)

Daggett, California from Wikipedia

Daggett is an unincorporated town located in San Bernardino County, California in the United States. The town is located on Interstate 40 ten miles (16 km) East of Barstow. The town has a population of about 200. The ZIP code is 92327 and the community is inside area code 760.


The town was originally founded in the 1880s just after the discovery of silver in area mines. In 1882, the Southern Pacific Railroad from Mojave was being completed in the area and it was thought that a good name for the town would be Calico Junction. But this name would be too confusing since it was right next to Calico, where the silver was uncovered. It was decided to name the city after then Lieutenant Governor of California, John Daggett, during the Spring of 1883.

For two years, it was the terminal of the twenty-mule team run from Death Valley, but after one of their swampers, William Pitt was lynched, the Pacific Borax Company made the terminal in Mojave.

Not only did silver define Daggett's history, but borax was also important to the city's economy. This borax was being mined, around the turn of the century, out of the Calico Hills nearby. This operation required many more laborers to come to the city to help. The Borate and Daggett Railroad (more below) was built to haul borax ore from the mines up in the hills down to Daggett.


Daggett is the location of Daggett Airport. The facility is a general aviation airport serving the Barstow area. It is also the regional weather information center. The airport was built as a modification center for the Douglas A-20 Havoc bomber aircraft that were sent to Russia as part of the Lend-Lease program during World War II.


Daggett is part of the Silver Valley Unified School District. The Silver Valley High School is located at 35484 Daggett/Yermo Rd, Daggett, CA 92327, (760) 254-2963.


As of 2003, 1000 people lived in Daggett, though nearly 1500 live in the surrounding area. Only about 200 people actually live in the town. The town's elevation is approximately 2,000 feet (610 m).

Solar Power Generation

The worlds first commercial solar power plants, SEGS I (built in 1984) and SEGS II (built in 1985) of the SEGS network are located in Daggett.

Daggett was also home to a unique solar thermal energy plant named Solar One, a pilot project which was operational from 1982 to 1986. The plant used mirror-like heliostats to aim sunlight at a collecting sphere located on a solar power tower (a type of solar furnace), through which oil flowed. The large quantity of sunlight reflected on the sphere superheated the oil, which was then used to create steam for power generation. The plant was upgraded in 1995 as part of the Solar Two project. Solar Two substituted molten salt compounds instead of oil as an energy storage medium.

During calibration of the power plant's thousands of heliostats, a ball of glowing light was sometimes seen in the nearby area. This effect was caused by the heliostats focusing sunlight onto a specific point. As the intensity of the light increased, it reflected off dust in the desert air. This phenomenon was sometimes seen by passersby on the nearby highways 40 and 15.

Solar Two was decommissioned in 1999, and the facility was converted in 2001 into a gamma-ray astronomy telescope. The facility is now known as CACTUS (Converted Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope Using Solar-2). CACTUS, which is operated by the University of California, Davis but owned by Southern California Edison, operated from late 2004 until late 2005.

On November 25, 2009 the Solar Two tower was demolished The site was levelled by Southern California Edison. All heliostats and other hardware were removed. Plans are in place to develop a training facility for Southern California Edison to train personnel on construction and maintenance of high power transmission lines and towers.

Rail Freight

Rail freight is provided by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad on the BNSF Needles Subdivision. Train service is very frequent on the line as this line goes to Chicago.


Daggett appears in The Cardigans' video for "Favorite Game."

Borate and Daggett Railroad from Wikipedia

The Borate and Daggett Railroad was a narrow gauge railroad built to carry borax in the Mojave Desert. The railroad ran about 11 miles from Daggett, California, USA to Borate, California, USA.


Francis Marion Smith originally intended to use mule teams to carry borax ore to Daggett until he tried to use a steam tractor called "Old Dinah" to carry the ore instead. The tractor broke down too often and was eventually retired. In 1908, Smith finally began to build a 3ft-gauge railroad to carry the ore faster than the mules and the tractor.

The railroad owned 2 steam engines, both Heisler locomotives. They were named "Francis" and "Marion" after Francis Marion Smith, the "Borax King" and founder of Pacific Coast Borax Company. Ore from the Calico Mountains was carried in wooden, side-dump ore cars. A few odd flatcars completed the roster of rolling stock.

In 1907, the ore at Borate began to run out of fresh borax deposits. Once Smith discovered richer borax deposits in Death Valley, he moved his headquarters there and the last B&D steam train ran into Daggett about two years later.

The two locomotives were stored away in Daggett for a while until 1913 where they were taken to Ludlow, California to work on constructing the Death Valley Railroad, another one of Smith's narrow gauge lines. Francis was the engine sent to Death Valley, but Marion was thought too old for service and was cut up at the engine shops. After the Death Valley Railroad shut down, Francis was moved to the Nevada Short Line Railway to work until he was sent to Round Mountain, California to work for the Terry Lumber Company. In 1919, Terry Lumber sold the locomotive to the Red River Lumber Co.

The locomotive was lost without trace by 1920 and its current whereabouts are not known.

After the railroad ceased operations, some of the equipment was shipped to Ludlow, California. Still later, it was used to construct the Death Valley Railroad.

History of "Francis"

2-truck Heisler locomotive #2 "Francis" was built at the Stearns Manufacturing Locomotive Works of Erie, Pennsylvania in 1899 with the plans of Charles L. Heisler with the build number of #1026, and worked for the following railroads:

    Borate and Daggett Railroad; Daggett, California
    Death Valley Railroad; Death Valley Junction, California
    Nevada Short Line Railway; Oreana, Nevada
    Terry Lumber Company; Round Mountain, California
    Red River Lumber Company; Unknown Location

It is not known where the engine's current location and status is.

Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad from Wikipedia
The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, the T&T, was a class II railroad extending roughly 200 miles through remote reaches of the Mojave Desert from the Santa Fe Railway railhead at Ludlow, California, through Death Valley and Amargosa Valley, terminating at the mining towns of Tonopah and Goldfield in the Great Basin Desert in Nye County, Nevada. The railroad was listed as a common carrier, however it was built by Francis Marion Smith the "Borax King" and his Pacific Coast Borax Company primarily to transport borax to processing and market. The line is now completely abandoned.

Construction and territory

Grading began on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad - T&T line on July 30, 1905. 50- and 65-pound rails were laid starting on November 19, 1905. The line was completed on October 30, 1907, with the T&T tracks ending at Gold Center, Nevada. From Gold Center the T&T reached into Beatty, Nevada with joint trackage rights with the Brock Road Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad. The T&T also reached Rhyolite, Nevada over the Bullfrog Goldfield trackage via the connecting wye at Gold Center. From 1908 to 1914 the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad, which also serving the mines around Beatty, was combined into the 

Abandoned bed of the Tonopah and
Tidewater Railroad, crossing
Soda Lake at Zzyzx, California.
T&T, and then combined again in 1918 after the demise of the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad. The T&T owned and ran both lines under a "new railroad identity" from 1920 until January, 1928.

The T&T also had a 7-mile (11 km) branch that ran from its mainline at Death Valley Junction, California to the Lila C Mine with the station named "Ryan". At Horton, California the T&T separated from the narrow gauge Death Valley Railroad - DVRR. The DVRR ran for 21 miles from Death Valley Junction west to Devar, later renamed Ryan, and different than the Lila C. Mine's Ryan, via Colmanite and was abandoned in 1931. The T&T branch had 3 rail tracks (both narrow and standard gauge) from Horton to Death Valley Junction. The T&T branch was built in 1907 and the DVRR was built in 1914. The branch to the Lila C. was removed not long after all operations were transferred to Devar - Ryan.


Originally the railroad intended to build from Las Vegas to Death Valley but grading was terminated in 1905 due to rate problems with the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. The "San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad" was later shortened to "Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad," and is the present day Union Pacific mainline between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

Once the mining boom ended, the railroad struggled to survive, as borax shipping came to comprise the majority of its business. After the borax mining and operations were moved from the Death Valley region to the Boron, California mine and facilities in 1927, the line relied upon whatever traffic could be found. Over most of its existence, U.S. Borax (USB) had made up the losses from the railroad's operations. Discussions for cessation/abandonment were started as early as 1930. After the major flood of 1933, Ludlow was abandoned and operations ran north from Crucero, a Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad railhead. The 26 miles (42 km) of track between Crucero and the T&T's connection with the Santa Fe Railway at Ludlow was placed out of service on October 8, 1933. After the flood of 1938, applications for abandonment were pursued.

By 1940 the entire line was out of service and on July 18, 1942, scrapping began at Beatty and terminated a year later at Ludlow. Final abandonment with the I.C.C. was approved on December 3, 1946.

Former stops

Many stops along the railroad were named for associates of Francis Marion Smith

    Ludlow, California
    Rasor - named for Clarence Rasor, Smith's employee
    Soda Lake, later renamed Zzyzx, California
    Baker, California - named for Richard C. Baker, Smith's business associate
    Silver Lake, San Bernardino County, California
    Dumont - named after Harry Dumont who ran the company's San Francisco office
    Sperry - named after Smith's niece Charlotte Grace Sperry
    Tecopa, California
    Zabriske - named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, superintendent at Columbus Marsh later in charge of New York operations.
    Shoshone, California
    Gerstley, California - named for James Gerstley, Smith's business partner (and later U.S. Borax President from 1950-1961)
    Evelyn, California - named for Evelyn Ellis, Smith's wife
    Horton, California - named for the T&T's trainmaster, Ben Horton
    Death Valley Junction, California
    Ryan, California - named for John Ryan, Smith's trusted supervisor
    Lila C, California
    Bradford Siding, California
    Scranton, California
    Gold Center
    Bullfrog, Nevada
    Rhyolite, Nevada
    Beatty, Nevada

Pacific Coast Borax Company from Wikipedia
The Pacific Coast Borax Company (PCB) was a United States mining company founded in 1890 by the American borax magnate Francis "Borax" Smith, the "Borax King"


The roots of the Pacific Coast Borax Company lie in Mineral County, Nevada, east of Mono Lake, where Smith, while contracting to provide firewood to a small borax operation at nearby Columbus Marsh, spotted Teels Marsh while looking westward from the upper slopes of Miller Mountain where the only nearby trees were growing. Eventually, to satisfy his curiosity, Smith and two assistants visited Teels Marsh and collected samples, that proved to assay higher than any known sources for borate. Returning to Teels Marsh, Smith and his helpers staked claims and laid the foundation for his career as a borax miner.

With the help of his older brother, Julius, who came west from the family home in Wisconsin, and financial support from the two Storey Brothers, operations began in 1872 under the name, Smith and 

Twenty Mule Team Wagon, in Death Valley.
Storey Brothers Borax Co. When the Storey Brothers interests were acquired subsequently in 1873, the name was shortened to Smith Brothers Borax Co. A few years later (circa 1884) it was changed again to Teel's Marsh Borax Co. In 1880, the separate and previously existing Pacific Borax Company (with no "Coast" in the name) was acquired by Smith. Frank Smith also developed holdings with his business associate William Tell Coleman at the Harmony Borax Works as well as the Meridian Borax Company, which were subsequently combined to form the Pacific Borax, Salt & Soda Company in 1888. The Pacific Coast Borax Co. name was not adopted until Smith acquired all of Coleman's borax interests in central Nevada and California, after Coleman's bankruptcy, and incorporated them all under the new company name in 1890.

Death Valley

The Harmony Borax Works were part of what was acquired from Coleman by Smith in 1890. The borax was shipped via the Death Valley Railroad that the company built to the east, from Ryan, California to Death Valley Junction, California. It then transferred to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad (T&T) running from the Amargosa Valley south to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway railhead in Ludlow, California. The Borax Museum, located in Death Valley National Park, has a T&T locomotive on display.

Other mines

As Death Valley mining ran down Smith developed new ones in the Calico Mountains near Yermo, California, and built the Borate and Daggett Railroad to haul product to the railhead in Daggett, California. Later the company developed methods to process material from Searles Lake in the Searles Valley, building the company town of Westend, California and a siding on the Trona Railway for shipping to the railhead at Searles, California.

One of the first reinforced concrete buildings constructed in the United States was the Pacific Coast Borax Company's refinery in Alameda, California, designed by Ernest L. Ransome and built in 1893. Christian Brevoort Zabriskie joined the company in 1885, became its vice president and stayed until 1933. Zabriskie Point above Death Valley is named in his honor.

In 1926, the Pacific Coast Borax Company created a subsidiary called the Death Valley Hotel Company to construct a Mission Revival style luxury hotel near the Furnace Creek springs in the foothills of the Funeral Mountains overlooking Death Valley. The Furnace Creek Inn opened in February 1927, with transport via the motor-coach from the Ryan station of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad.

20 Mule Team Borax

The company established and aggressively developed and marketed the 20 Mule Team Borax trademark in order to promote the sale of its product. The name derived from the Twenty Mule teams that were used to transport borax out of Death Valley in the 1880s from Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek Ranch owned by William Tell Coleman at that time and sold to Smith in 1890. They also produced Boraxo hand soap. The popular radio and TV series Death Valley Days was hosted by "Borateem-pitchman" and future president Ronald Reagan.

Corkhill Hall - Amargosa Opera House

In Death Valley Junction, California in 1923-24, the Pacific Coast Borax Company constructed their Civic Center at a cost of $300,000. Designed by architect Alexander Hamilton McCulloch, the U-shaped complex of Spanish Colonial Style adobe buildings included company offices, a store, an employee dorm, a 23-room hotel, dining room, lobby, gymnasium, billiard room and ice cream parlor. At the northeast end of the complex was Corkhill Hall, a recreation hall used as a community center for dances, church services, movies, funerals and town meetings.

Remodeled in 1927, the Civic Center became the Amargosa Hotel. In 1967, Corkhill Hall became Marta Becket's renowned Amargosa Opera House.

U.S. Borax

In 1956, the Pacific Coast Borax Company merged with United States Potash Corporation to form U.S. Borax, which itself was acquired by the Rio Tinto Group in 1967. As a wholly owned subsidiary, the company now is called Rio Tinto Borax and continues to supply nearly half the world's borates. It operates the largest open-pit mine in California next to the company town of Boron, in the Mojave Desert east of Mojave, California.

The Trona operation became part of Searles Valley Minerals.

Searles Valley Minerals from Wikipedia

Searles Valley Minerals Inc. is a raw materials mining and production company based in Overland Park, Kansas. It is owned by the Indian company Nirma. It has major operations in the Searles Valley and in Trona, California where it is the town's largest employer. The company produces borax, boric acid, soda ash, salt cake and salt. It also owns the Trona Railway.

The Trona facility extracts and ships 1.75 million tons of chemicals per year.

Searles Valley Minerals Inc. is part of Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now), a public/private partnership which is seeking to reduce US industry greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent between 2002 and 2012. As it operates on government owned land, Searles Valley Minerals Inc. pays royalties of millions of dollars each year to both the federal and state governments. Much of those royalties cover the expenses of local school districts.


The assets of what eventually became Searles Valley Minerals Inc. have a long and varied history.

Founded in 1914 as the American Trona Corporation, it began the production of potash in 1916. After becoming the American Potash & Chemical Corporation in 1926, it began producing borax, soda ash and sodium sulfate. Productions of these chemicals continued to expand throughout the 20th century. In 1962 the company received nationwide recognition and an award for its innovative solvent extraction process to recover boric acid and potassium sulfate from weak brines.

After World War II, the company has endured frictional labor relations with allegations that Latino workers were paid lower wages than Whites. Since then, Latinos have been able to find equal footing and have risen to managerial positions.

In 1967, Kerr-McGee Corporation (now a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation) acquired American Potash and Chemical Corporation and they held operations of the Searles Valley facilities until 1990. That year the operations were purchased from capital investors D. George Harris and Associates which formed the North American Chemical Company.

Ownership changed yet again in 1998 when IMC Global Incorporation acquired North American Chemical Company.

The company's current incarnation was set up in 2004 when Sun Capital Partners purchased IMC Global Incorporation and renamed it Searles Valley Minerals, Inc. In November 2007, Nirma, based in Ahmedabad, India purchased the company from Sun Capital Partners.

Environmental Problems

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has noted that salt toxicosis has killed over 4,000 birds in brine ponds produced by the Trona plant. The DFG made an agreement with the company in 2005 to allow a certain number of bird deaths, if the company to paid $300,000 for a new wetlands area in the southern Owens Valley on the main migratory bird route.

There are allegations of arsenic poisoning of plant workers. SVM argued in a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board, that concentration of total dissolved solids, chlorides, sodium and other minerals are higher in natural ephemeral pools than in the company's depleted brine ponds.

The Searles Lake brine is rich in arsenic, and a unique anaerobic, extremely haloalkaliphilic bacterium which uses arsenic for respiration has been isolated from the mud.

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