Three Towns Called Lee
overview of trail
|Trail in Google Maps|
|creator:||Tim France (nvprospector)|
|Dates:||August 07, 2010|
|Trail time:||5 hours|
|Vehicle classes:||Stock 4WD|
Southwestern United States, Southern Nevada, Nye County, Southern California, Inyo County, Sand Mountain, Funeral Mountains, Amargosa Valley
Original supply routes to all three Lee town sites
The roads to the Lee area are not very good. There are some big rocks to be negotiated so high ground clearance is necessary. Four wheel drive is recommended but not required.
Terrain type / brush factor
Non-maintained town supply routes; small boulders and loose gravel
Low brush factor
Permits? Fees? Seasonal closures?
There are no vehicle requirements or permits. The trail is not maintained and it is up to the driver to determine if the trail conditions are suitable to drive.
Toyota Tacoma/ Tim France / (nvprospector)
Toyota FJ Cruiser / Gary Eshelby/Paula Eshelby/Scooter/Micky (xpdishn)
History, geology, etc.
The first record of any activity in the Lee District in Nevada was in the early spring of 1905 when Frank McAllister located the Lee and Birthday groups. Later, Dave Poste (sometimes listed as “Post”) recorded nine claims. In the paper work he submitted to file his claims, he entered a question mark for the mining district. However, when he recorded his tenth claim (the Heart’s Desire) on January 2, 1906, he listed it as being in the Poste District.
The first mention of a town on the site was in the Rhyolite Bullfrog Miner on November 30, 1906. Less than two months later, on January 11, 1907, the Rhyolite Herald announced that the new town of Lee was platted. This was followed by an large advertisement by the town promoters on January 18, 1907. The plat for the townsite was filed at the Nye County Recorder’s office in Tonopah the following month, in February 1907.
Water was hauled up to the town from Rosewell (Rose’s Well), a station on the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad. The cost was $4 to $5 a barrel. This was reduced to $3 a barrel by the end of February. The townsite company began sinking a well in the Amargosa Valley, three miles below the town.
The business community grew rapidly along Gold Street during the months of January and February 1907. By late February, there was a daily auto stage from Rhyolite. In the first week of March, Lee was connected to Rhyolite by the Southern Nevada Telephone Company. The line was then continued to Lee, California. And then on to Greenwater by way of Schwab. Lee, Nevada, never had a post office – plus they would have had conflict with the name since there was already a post office post office named Lee in Nevada, which was located on an Indian reservation in Elko County and which had existed since 1882.
In early March, it was becoming apparent all was not well with the new town. Previously, when there had been no other roads in the area, Lee was on the only direct route down from Rhyolite to supply the mines. However, with the coming of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad and with the building of a road with an easy grade from the rail station in Leeland, Lee was two miles from the main travel route. Business men suggested that the town be moved closer to the Nevada-California line, to be nearer the new route up from the railroad. Even the townsite company office moved so it was within 2,100 feet from the state line to be more convenient to the new transit options.
Located at the state line on the California side, Lee Addition was to be a compromise between Lee, Nevada, and Lee, California. It was thought that the merchants from Lee, Nevada, could be induced to move this new location, and that then the California merchants would follow.
Being adjacent to the road from Leeland, it had all the transportation advantages. It was also a favorable location for tending animals, since it was located at the top of the grade from Leeland. This plan would have worked had the mines proved to be as rich as it was thought they might be. However, even before Lee Addition was planned, Lee, Nevada, and its mines were already beginning to fade.
Lee Addition got off to a fast start. The Rhyolite Herald first talked about the townsite on March 22, 1907. About a month later, on April 26, 1907, the Rhyolite Herald printed comments from a visit by Baron Leo von Rosenburg of New York: “Already there are 15 to 20 tents, with a boarding house run by Mrs. Kekar, and other businesses are preparing to move in. Mrs. Kekar will build a good house in a short time.” A plat map was prepared and filed with the Inyo County Recorder on May 4, 1904. However, initial boom was short lived. By the end of the summer of 1907, Lee Addition was not heard from again.
The Lee-Echo area on the east side of the Funeral Mountains was prospected for silver in the 1860s during the Breyfogle excitement, but no major strikes were made. The only camp in the area was Lee’s Camp which was used by Philander Lee and his wife, Mops. They owned the Resting Springs ranch near the present town of Tecopa, California. Philander Lee, along with his sons, Robert, Richard (Dick) and August (Gus), and daughters, Clara and Dora, used the flanks of the Funeral Mountains to graze their herds.
With the boom of the Bullfrog District and the emergence of Rhyolite as a real city in Nevada, interest in the mining prospects of the area increased. H. E. Finley was one of the original members of the expedition led by Breyfogle to locate his “lost mine”. During the expedition, Finley located several claims of his own. In November 1904, with the help of the brothers Dick and Gus Lee, Finley relocated his claims. This was only six months after the discovery of the Keene Wonder Mine.
The Lee Mining District was organized in the late spring of 1905, covering the mines on the California side of the boundary. During the summer and fall of 1905, additional locations were made in canyons to the south of Lee. The Echo Mining District was organized in October 1905. When the boom started at the end of 1906, these two mining districts were combined into the Lee-Echo District.
At the end of January 1907, Lee was established on the site of Lee’s Camp, only a mile and a half south of Lee, Nevada. In February 1907, the town was platted. It was then filed at the Recorder’s office in Independence, California, on March 5, 1907. A post office was established on March 7, 1907. The post office alone raised the town in status above Lee, Nevada, which never had its own a post office.
Perhaps more important, the Kimball brothers had decided to extend their stage line from Rhyolite through Leeland and Lee to Echo Canyon. This meant the line had to go through Lee, California, but did not have to pass through Lee, Nevada.
A major concern was water. Money was raised by subscription to sink a well in Amargosa Valley. Three different companies talked about piping in water from Ash Meadows, Cow Creek or as far away as Springdale, north of Beatty. On the week of April 19, water was struck 120 feet down in a mine shaft only one and a half miles east of town. This caused a big excitement in the town. S. J. Herstadt of the Rhyolite Herald wrote “that the people down there are more excited over this strike than they would be over a gold strike.” Even though there was talk about building a pipeline, it was never done and Lee never overcame its water supply problems.
The Tidewater and Tonopah Railroad opened their new depot at Leeland, in Amargosa Valley, on October 15, 1907. Leeland was only four miles east of Lee, so the new depot facilitated getting supplies into the district and ore out of the district. On that same day, a newspaper called the Lee Herald opened in town. There are no known surviving copies of the Lee Herald. However, the Rhyolite Herald borrowed freely from it for their own paper, noting “From the Lee Herald” on various articles -- and thus insuring that some bits of information regarding the town survived.
The ramifications of the financial panic of 1907 would eventually kill the town. The first sign of trouble was when John Powers and his wife returned to Lee on December 16, 1907, after taking a trip back east. Powers, an influential member of the local community, was a deputy sheriff and townsite agent in Lee. However, upon his return home in December, he resigned both of his positions and announced that he was moving to Spokane, Washington.
Matters worsened in 1908 when the mines were unable to operate as a result of the earlier financial panic. Without the mines in operation, it was no longer viable for many other businesses to remain open. By June 1908, nearly all of the business had closed or relocated. All that remained in Lee were three stores, one saloon and a restaurant.
Two years later, the 1910 federal census counted only fifteen residents remaining in the Lee area. The Lee post office closed on April 1, 1912. This closure, which was not even mentioned in the nearby Rhyolite Herald, signaled the end of the town.
GPS units/laptops used for tracking/navigation: ASUS EEE PC; GPS puck attached to computer; DeLorme PN-40 (backup in case of hard drive crash)
Navigation software used for planning/navigation: Oziexplorer
Books/maps used for planning: Inyo County Recorder’s Office. Plat maps for Lee, California and Lee Addition
Rhyolite Bullfrog Miner. Numerous issues, June 1905 – March 1908
Rhyolite Herald. Numerous issues, May 1905 – March 1908
Nye County Recorder’s Office. Plat map of Lee, Nevada
U.S. Bureau of Census. 1910 Census for Inyo County, California, Nye County, Nevada (microfilm)
National Archives and Records Administration. Publication M1126, Post Office Department Reports of Site Locations 1837-1950 (microfilm)
Important waypoints as coordinates
Trailhead: N36.741813, W116.646322