Skidoo, and Tommyknockers, too.
by Cecile Page Vargo
the hills from Ballarat some 40 miles or more
Man who made the Panamints, He left a ledge of ore,
Man who made the Panamints, had something on his Mind,
left the ledge of ore in sight for you and me to find.
forty miles from Ballarat, the mountains there are blue,
place is numberd 23, they’ve named the camp “Skidoo!”
GOLD by Craig Macdonald
Ramsey and John A. Thompson wandered around
Emigrant Springs in January 1906 and became famous for the
discovery of the Skidoo ledge of gold ore.
They staked 30 claims along the great mother lode and named it
the Gold Eagle. By March,
the Rhyolite Herald & Shorty Harris with a sack of ore samples, were
doing their part to let the world know what was going on in the
. George Ottis
and E. Oscar Hart came along and bought a sixty-day option for 23 of the
original 30 claims.
mining magnate Bob Montgomery came to town and managed to get his hands
on those twenty three. The town of
soon built up around the Skidoo Mining Company. Eventually as much as
$1,500,000 was pulled from the entire area.
There are several stories as to
how “The Famous Skidoo” mine got it’s name.
A popular saying
of the day, “23
Skidoo,” probably played a
part in it. The March 1,
1907 Rhyolite Herald
attributed the name to Bob Montgomery and his associates who bought
the original properties of the Skidoo Mines Company which consisted of
twenty three claims.
After surveying and laying out the site,
they soon realized that, like their mining claims, their new town consisted of twenty
three blocks: “23 claims, 23 city blocks -- 23 Skidoo.”
It sounded good, so they stuck with it.
A proposal was soon made to
change the original Hovick
Post Office ( after part manager and owner of the Skidoo mine) to the
official name of Skidoo. The United States Post Office initially rejected the name, saying
it was inappropriate slang. By
March 31, 1907
, it was announced that mail
addressed to Skidoo would be
delivered to the "richest gold camp in the desert and on earth.
his book, Gold, Craig
MacDonald, tells the naming story a bit differently. According to MacDonald, as
the camp surrounding the Skidoo Mines grew to 1500 residents, the
miners gathered around to decide upon an appropriate name.
One prospector suggested that the camp be called
after Bob himself, who was responsible for
on the map of the world with his mining ventures.
Everyone agreed this was a fine name, but Bob Montgomery was a
modest man and did not want his name used.
This put a damper on things, until someone reminded them of
the man who traveled the 23 miles to bring water twice a week
from a spring at
Telescope Peak. “Skidoo” Stewart Skidoovich, received the honor of having the new town
named after him, and the rest is history….or perhaps not…..
of which story you choose to believe, the town of Skidoo
was born. A flood of
miners came in to help pull out a great amount of gold ore. Many of these miners
were English and Cornish. They were often heard singing songs of “two foot high brown men in little mining boots.” These elf-like gnomes, better known as Tommyknockers, were
famous for the tapping sounds they used to warn of mining disasters.
Imagine the Skidoovian miners as their hearty voices echoed
through the tunnels as they worked:
a hardrock miner an I ain’t afeard of ghosts,
my neck-hair bristles like porcupine’s quills,
I knock my knuckles on the drift set posts
the Tommy Knockers hammer on the caps an sills,
raise hallelujah with my picks an’ drills!
someone behind us knocked?
they’re locked in the earthen wall,
that found death down there…
we leave the haunted place,
we won’t work where they be,
whenever we hear them knocking
sure will always flee.
it means whoever hears it
the pick-pick of the “Tommy Knockers
the last and awful sign.
a couple of signs, and a piece of the 23 mile long pipeline that made
Stewart Skidoovich’s job
as water boy obsolete, are the most visible remains of the old gold
camp which is now a part of Death Valley National Park.
A road around the corner from the main town site leads to the
stamp mill. You can find
it easily….. if the Tommyknockers haven’t hidden it from you!
Craig MacDonald and
his book GOLD published by
- Alan H. Patera & David A. Wright and their book Skidoo!
by Western Places
all my friends at www.death-valley.us
who often inspire me with their special sense of humor & history .