By Charles V. Birkett
This summons reached Jim Bailey in San Jose, California, in mid-September of 1870. Cryptic though it might seem to others, Jim Bailey knew what it meant, for it was from his brother Drew, in Julian. He gathered his few belongings, mounted his horse, and headed south.
Drury D. Bailey, his brothers James and Frank, and their cousins, Mike and Webb Julian — ex-Confederates late of the command of General Joseph Wheeler, C.S.A. — had founded Julian after making the first gold quartz discovery there on Feb. 20, 1870, nearly five years after the end of the War Between the States. Drew homesteaded several hundreds of acres, laid out the town site, and offered free lots to any who would build a home on them. But his gold find was only a pocket. It fell to other miners to make the important quartz strikes on the “Golden Hill” above Julian.
The Baileys and other unlucky miners tramped the Julian hills fruitlessly, but had to move on, their means exhausted. So Jim Bailey set out to find work that would sustain his brothers’ prospecting. He went north, selling his revolver in Temecula to buy supplies, and reached the San Jose farming region in early August, only to turn back when Drew’s reported message reached him.
He rode into a busy Julian in early October, to find stage coaches and freight wagons spewing up the dust on the main street, some 50 shacks and shanties sprouting on the hillsides, and miners going on and off shifts, or milling about the stores and saloons. He was amazed at the hustle and bustle, but his cousin, Mike Julian, the mining recorder, told him to get down the canyon to “Banner” with all speed. His brothers, Drew and Frank, needed him. They had hit it big!
When Jim had gone north in August, Drew and Frank drifted down the rugged grade from Julian into the San Felipe Valley, hacking away at every likely ledge. With a man named Boyd as partner, they were always in the vanguard of the miners relentlessly combing the canyon from top to bottom.
We could detour here and tell many stories of Julian and its gold, of Coleman’s placer finds near Wynola, of the flood of gold seekers, their endless searchings up and through the beautiful Julian mountains, the finds on the “Golden Hill,” and the search of the hitherto unlucky ones down the 6-mile canyon that led to the San Felipe Valley and the desert floor. But this is about a remarkable mine, a remarkable family, and a remarkable “city” — Banner. They are all interrelated, and all distinguished.
A week before the Bailey party had reached the canyon floor, Lewis B. Redman, a Julian assayer and a former Missourian, had found some gold quartz on a ledge on the east side of the small, everflowing stream in the canyon. He put up an American flag as a banner, and called his mine the “Redman.”
He knew the Baileys, and, now, seeing them approach, hailed them. Jim Bailey waited for him to cross the stream, but Drew hammered away at the rock wall before him. Some of the rock crumbled. Drew picked up a chunk. It was blue quartz, glittering with gold — beautiful free gold in a wall of schist, 200 feet across the stream from the Redman claim. This was, indeed, “ready relief” from pressing financial troubles. And Drew Bailey immediately summoned his brother home from San Jose.
These formidable discoveries brought a deluge of miners into the canyon. “Banner City” — seven miles from Julian and fifteen hundred feet lower – was born. The miners named it after the flag above Redman’s mine in the canyon, soon to be named Chariot. It wasn’t long before Banner had seven saloons, all in a row, a hotel, two stores, three stamp mills, a freight station for the wagon trains that came from San Diego by way of Santa Ysabel and the San Felipe Valley, a school, and a cemetery with 75 inhabitants (all done in by John Barleycorn!).
With a serious ownership conflict between the Julian mine owners and the vestees of the giant Cuyamaca Rancho to the south, prospectors outdid themselves in the Banner area, and more good discoveries were made. By this time the Redman mine was in full production, and the “Ready Relief” — with its new water power — was getting into good ore, and when Geo. V. King, in February of 1871, discovered the Golden Chariot, three miles south of the Ready Relief, the canyon and Banner City really came alive.
A new road was needed, and, in 1872, Wilcox and sons built a toll road down the grade from Julian. This saved many miles and much time, and enabled heavier equipment to be brought into the canyon. Previously, some of the mines on almost inaccessible slopes got supplies by a “drop-from-above” method: a sled on ropes restrained by heavy tree-brakes.
Wilcox’ road was built along the “world’s worst mule trail.” Toll rates were interesting: lc for a hog, sheep, or goat; $1 for a fancy 4-horse get-up; and 25c Tor a prospector with a jackass. The latter never paid, and the prospector almost always slipped by in the brush!
With this new access, and with new mine discoveries, Banner’s population soon soared to 500, and Julian, beset with its troubles with the ranch owners, was getting just a little bit jealous.
And the Ready Relief, with its growing production of good ore, was the bellwether for the mines in the canyon. By now, it had its own cheap power, from water that cascaded unendingly from the heart of the mountain above. Three days after its discovery by Drew Bailey, Lewis Redman — of the Redman mine — bought out the interest of a man named Boyd, and, with the Baileys, began the mine’s development. For a few weeks, gold was pounded out by hand mortar — for “eatin’ money” was badly needed; then two arrastras were put in. But Drew Bailey, eyeing the unceasing flow of water from above, had an idea.
A dam was built above the mine, the water piped down through ever-decreasing sized pipe, and shot against a large wheel lined with cups. The water spun the wheel 200 times a minute, and power, the cheapest kind of power, was created. Drew Bailey’s idea powered the mine for 30 years.
Incidentally, this water flows the same today as it did then, and a responsible engineer says its 30 horsepower can be increased to 100. This water flows down Chariot Canyon for a short distance, then most of it sinks into the earth, finally reaching underground desert reservoirs. Frank Herron, the present owner, keeps the two crushers and ball-mill in tip-top condition, and they can be started up in short order. Miners still bring in some ore for him to crush, but operations in the Julian-Banner area are practically at a stand-still because of high production costs and of the pegged price of gold, at $35 an ounce.
In actual production, state mining records say that the Ready Relief, with $500,000, was second only to the Golden Chariot in the entire Banner mining district, but the Chariot was through by 1876, whereas the Relief kept going into the’20s, and has “steam up” today! It was the steadiest producer of all the mines in the entire Julian district.
The Baileys kept the mine until 1874, when they sold it to Neyhard and Schuyler, of San Diego, for $45,000. The new owners put $50,000 into improvements, and operated it until 1881, when, at the, death of Neyhard, Schuyler sold it back to Drew and Jim Bailey. It remained a steady producer, and, even in the ’90s, when most mines were idle, the Ready Relief was making money. This mine was noted for an unusual formation, the quartz occurring in folds, like a succession of waterfalls, some small, others large, even to 20 feet in width.
But this is the story of a family, as well as of a mine. When the mine was sold in 1874 to Neyhard and Schuyler, Drew Bailey moved into Julian, which he had founded four years before, after homesteading several hundred acres. His brother Frank went to Australia, and Lewis Redman, partner, went to San Francisco to meet his sister, coming in by train from St. Louis. He was never heard from again. Jim Bailey stayed in Julian, and later, with Drew, bought back the Ready Relief.
In 1875, Drew Bailey married Annie Laurie Redman, niece of Lewis B. Redman. They had 12 children, six being born in Julian, and six in Chariot Canyon at the Ready Relief mine. Today, two children survive: Miss Lela E. Bailey, of San Diego, and Mrs. Eunice Derrick, of Brawley. There are also 18 grandchildren, 33 greats, and eight great-greats.
In Julian, Drew gave land for a school, a church, a town hall, a high school, and a jail; the Baptist church also availed itself of his offer of land. There were reports that the Baileys sold the mine in 1904, but Lela Bailey says they didn’t -that her father and her aunt owned it in 1921, when Drew Bailey died. Jim Bailey died in 1909, and when Drew passed on in 1921, his son, Luther (for 25 years Deputy County Recorder) decided to sell the mine for his mother and aunt. He finally sold it to the North Hubbard Mining Company, of Los Angeles, in 1938. Later, the mine went to the present owner, Frank Herron, of Pasadena. Herron is a retired attorney, and owns some 20 other mines — all contiguous — on over 400 acres in everwatered Chariot Canyon.
Miss Bailey and her sister, Mrs. Derrick, say that life at the Ready Relief mine near Banner was more than interesting. Both were born at the Bailey home several hundred feet south of the mine, a “small home at first, but as more brothers and sisters came along, it had to be enlarged.”
The Bailey home in. Chariot Canyon was destroyed by fire in 1938, a great fire that started in Pine Hills, swept eastward into Kentwood-in-the-Pines, and down into the canyon. Scars of the fire are still plainly visible, as is the old cook-stove.
Miss Bailey taught school in Banner, Julian, and other mountain areas, as did several of her sisters. She said that miners often came to their home in the canyon in order to “sample her mother’s cooking. Corn bread was a great favorite with them, but they would have little to do with beans, saying they had them all the time.”
She remembers gold bullion from the Ready Relief. “It would be poured into small crucibles, and when cooled, looked like a bar of yellow Fels-Naphtha soap. Mamma and we girls would sew the bars in canvas coverings, Pappa would take them into Julian and ship them by Wells-Fargo to San Francisco.”
About the Ready Relief, she said: “My Pappa once had 25 miners at the Ready Relief, and it was a busy place; we also had a good vegetable garden in the canyon. Pappa also had 80 head of cattle in ‘Bailey Field’ (where the high school is now) at Julian. We went to school in Banner when we lived at the Ready Relief, and the school was near all the saloons, all of them being in a row. Mamma would say for us not to tarry near the saloons, but to hurry home. No one ever bothered us. At Christmas, we always had a program at the school. There would be much music, most of it by stringed instruments, although one man always played the ‘bones’.”
Little remains of the Banner City of the ’70s; most of the autoists coming down Banner Grade from Julian pass it by without stopping, intent on getting to Borrego, and the desert, and Chariot Canyon is not the lusty place it once was. But the mines are there waiting, the crushers at the Ready Relief can get going in 20 minutes, the canyon and its big trees are ever-green with the eternal water, and, over it all, there’s an air of expectancy that someone will come soon and “call the card.”
It’s not improbable that someone will do it. Frank Herron is sure of it. And he’s got some mighty fine specimens from the Ready Relief to back him up.