Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Olancha Mill Site

Inyo County, August 30, 1993

Minnard Farley was looking for ‘The Lost Gunsite Lode’ when he came here in 1860 and ended up building a mill here several years later. Back then, any old tall story was enough to send prospectors scattering into any geological nook and cranny. In this case the story was that an emigrant crossing Death Valley lost his gunsite and repaired it with local silver ore. Yeah, right. It was good enough for Farley and many others, and sure ‘nuff, there was silver in these parts. Along with the rock crushing eight stamp mill be built a blacksmith shop and sawmill at this crossroads to Death Valley (Hwy 193) or parts north (US 395), and Olancha remains a popular place to stop for gas or a meal. The Southern Pacific even ran a railroad here, called ‘The Jawbone’, it served as the supply line for building the LA aqueduct.

Today, Olancha is host to a huge Crystal Geyser bottling plant, Anheiser-Busch pumps and then trucks the pure mountain water from here as well to its bottling plant in LA.

It was in the middle of a rainy August night in 1983 and about 200 yards from the landmark that a truck had jackknifed at speed as it came northbound around the slow bend with the back end catching up to the cab. All they saw from the Jeep CJ were taillights and to assume they were coming up on a slower vehicle and not the compounded speed of truck in the opposite direction, and my two close Sierra friends had no chance and perished tragically in the grizzliest of wrecks. For this writer it marked an abrupt end to what had seemed like an almost to good to be true life in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, the party was over and you can’t go back. Driving 395 these days and passing Mammoth Mountain still brings an indescribable feeling that is most closely stated with the German word, ‘weltschmerz’- the knowing, but world-weary sadness of reality.

These Southern Pacific narrow guage tracks were removed in 1999

The rock used to make this marker’s wall-like shape is from a wall of the original mill.

Plaque inscription: NO. 796 FARLEY'S OLANCHA MILL SITE - In 1860, while working for the Silver Mountain Mining Company in the Coso Mountains, M. H. Farley conceived the idea of building a processing mill on a creek that flowed into Owens Lake. He explored and named Olancha Pass that year, and by December of 1862 had completed the first mill and furnace in the Owens River Valley, on Olancha Creek about one mile west of this marker.
Location: On State Hwy 395 (P.M. 34.1), at Fall Rd, 0.6 mi S of Olancha
Google: 36.275106,-118.00269


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