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Sandy Valley

sandy valley2

To say Sandy Valley is unique is an understatement. Although it is only a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, many life-long residents of the city have never been to Sandy Valley. The reason for this, it seems, is that Sandy Valley is not on the way to anywhere else. There are really only two reasons people arrive in Sandy Valley: either it is their destination or they are lost.

In the late 1800’s, mining was the primary activity in Sandy Valley and the nearby town of Goodsprings. Prospectors dug into the mountain side and extracted gold, silver, platinum and other ores. Ranchers moved in primarily to provide food for the miners. Even today, mines are easily visible up on hillsides around the valley.

There were several early developments in Sandy Valley including Sandy Platina and Kingston, which grew up at the Nevada/California border. In his book, Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, Standley W. Paher lays out one of the most detailed descriptions of Sandy Valley’s origin:

This small milling settlement of Sandy had its beginning when the ten-stamp Keystone mill was built in September 1893 at Taylor’s Well to treat ore from the Keystone gold mine, five miles east in the Spring Mountains. A store and saloon were established in 1894; a post office was established in January 1896; and at times until 1910 a hotel, feed corral, and school were open at this peaceable, though at times drunken, town. The sturdy shade trees and springs here were a welcome sight to travelers on the stage road from Manvel and Ivanpah on the Nevada Southern northward to Manse and Bullfrog.

The Nevada Keystone Co. terminated operations at its mine in 1905 and the mill shut down permanently in 1906. The post office was moved in 1910 and Sandy was abandoned. Mill tailings were cyanided in 1910 and again in 1916-18. Buildings, mill ruins and cemetery remain. Another point of interest on the road to Sandy and two miles south is the thirty-ton Shenandoah mill, built in 1935 to treat ore from the Keystone-Barefoot mine.

Active mines, agricultural possibilities and hopes for a railroad all made the Sandy Valley (or Mesquite) area between 1904 and 1915 a promising place for promoters who could count on public readiness to invest in get-rich-quick schemes. The first of these impossible towns was started about 1904. With the Salt Lake railroad under construction nearby, a promoter from Los Angeles started the town site of Lincoln City about three miles south of Sandy, advertising it as a place with superb agricultural and mining resources. Many lots were sold and a store was established, but the town developed no further and investors soon decided that they were left with worthless sagebrush. Four years later homesteaders began to arrive in Sandy Valley, a promoter started the townsite of Mandolin in August 1908 between Sandy and the state line. Many people who had never seen the valley bought lots and one tent was erected, but that was all.

In March 1914, a Goodsprings assayer found platinum in ore from the Boss mine, three miles east of Sandy. This created considerable excitement and much publicity for platinum is seldom found in lode form. When high assays of selected ore gave the impression that the mine contained extensive deposits, promoters were quick to take advantage of the news. On a mesa a half-mile west of the Boss mine the townsite of Boss was staked out, and a rival townsite was started near the Ripley post office. Californians and others eagerly bought about 100 lots, but a small tent constituted all the building. Another townsite called Ripley was also platted. Adjacent to it on the north was Platina, born on paper in January 1915, the only one of the promotions to achieve town status.

Active mining of the platinum lode at the Boss mine began in October 1915. A post office opened the following January and within the year Platina had its Broadway Department Store, a hotel and other businesses for about 200 people. People bought lots on speculation as well as mining stock. Some individuals actually came to live, but in 1917 when the big talk and hopes were over, capital for future development was no more and the boom collapsed. The Los Angeles Realty Board publicly denounced the promotion and by early 1918, Platina was a thing of the past. Now only depressions remain where buildings once stood and no trace is left of the other townsites, although wooden pegs which marked the streets at the Boss townsite may sometimes be found.

A small influx of homesteaders came to Sandy Valley about 1908 and settled especially on the California side, but most moved away in about two years. In the early 1920s a second wave of homesteaders came, mostly from California, and the community of Kingston was started on one of the homesteads. A school was opened and Kingston post office was established in May 1924. Many World War I veterans came and attempted to start dry farms, but the growing season was too short and most raised only a few vegetables. Vineyards were planted and bootleggers were active during the prohibition era.

During the Depression of the early 1930’s unemployed people tried to eke out an existence here, and perhaps as many as fifty or more were at Kingston and on adjacent farms at peak times. The community consisted of a post office, grocery store, community hall and branch of the San Bernardino County library. As the depression waned the era of homesteading near Kingston ended, and the post office closed in 1938. A cellar remains where the community hall once stood.

One unique aspect of Sandy Valley is that the Nevada/California border runs right through the middle of the valley from the southeast to the northwest. The valley also consists of three counties: Clark County in Nevada and Inyo and San Bernardino Counties in California. About 2,000 people reside on the Nevada side, (where the minimum parcel size has traditionally been 2.5 acres) while about 80 people reside on the California side (where the minimum parcel size is 40 acres). There is little farming on the Nevada side where water rights must be purchased, whereas there are numerous circular fields of alfalfa and sod on the California side where water rights are unrestricted.

Residents of Sandy Valley generally like to be left alone. Many have encountered problems in the big cities with law enforcement, employers and/or creditors. They like the solitude of the country and although they have relatively few possessions, they are ready to defend them. This tongue in cheek poem sort of sums up the folks in Sandy Valley:

Al Marquis

We live in Sandy Valley
Where everyone owns a gun;
At bars they check for weapons,
If unarmed, they’ll loan you one.

Out here in the boondocks
Among the burning sands,
We’re inclined to take the law
Into our own two hands.

If somethin’ that we’ve done
Has gone and made you sore,
We suggest you think twice
Before knockin’ on our door.

Our gun is always handy
Sittin’ there on the shelf;
If we should feel threatened,
We take care things ourself.

And if you’re after me,
There’s more you oughta know:
In addition to a gun,
I also own . . . a backhoe.

I’ve buried my share of horses,
Two dogs a cow and cat.
Out there in the desert,
Who’d know where they’re at?

Now, some folks they’re afraid
To plug an opposing foe;
They think they’ll get caught
And off to jail they’ll go.

And while I gotta admit
That arrest is a potential.
In order to be convicted,
A body . . . is essential.

You might be thinkin’
“Such morals tend to warp us.”
That’s OK . . . as long as I’m released
On a writ of habeas corpus.

How many bodies are buried?
We ain’t never done a tally,
I’m just here with a warnin
From the folks in Sandy Valley:

Unless you like tastin’ dirt
And you’re tired of seein’ the sun,
Don’t be messin’ with an hombre
Who owns a backhoe . . . and a gun.

While this poem was written in jest, it is probably a good idea not to go up to someone’s Sandy Valley residence unannounced.

Wild life abounds in Sandy Valley. Groves of natural mesquite trees are scattered throughout the valley as well as creosote bushes, sage brush, cactus and other natural vegetation. There are rabbits, coyotes, badgers, fox, pack rats, ground squirrels, ravens, owls, snakes, dove and many other creatures.

One unique aspect of Sandy Valley is that it is surrounded, nearly 360° by mountains. This makes for a fantastically glorious sunrises and sunsets.

Most of the surrounding mountains consist of limestone-sedimentary deposits that accumulated at the bottom of the ocean 320 – 550 million years ago (when all California and most of Nevada was under water). Stretched by separating tectonic plates, the crust of the earth buckled and thrust upward. While sedimentary layers generally remain horizontal, protuberant mountain occasionally broke off adjacent sections leaving them in a vertical position (much like adjacent sections of a pie when a piece is removed).

Some of the limestone like the Bird Springs formation that forms Table Mountain between Goodsprings and Sandy Valley is covered with tertiary volcanic rock. Thirty miles to the south are clearly preserved cinder cones and lava flows-clear evidence of volcanic activity around one million years ago.