The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1996, Volume 42, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

By Stephen R. Van Wormer and James D. Newland

Images from the article

See also The History of Hedges and the Cargo Muchacho Mining District Part I


In 1900, San Diego County stretched from the Pacific Ocean eastward to the banks of the Colorado River. The most active gold mines in the county were not the more commonly known mines of the Cuyamaca Mountains near Julian, but at Hedges, located in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains of present-day eastern Imperial County.1 As a company town, the settlement owed its existence to the Golden Cross and Free Gold Mining and Milling Companies, whose histories have been presented in the first part of this series [JSDH, Spring 1996]. The locality became largely a society of Mexican mining families. In spite of lives that emphasized family and religious values, they lived in a harsh, unsafe, and often violent environment. The social history of the Hedges community illuminates the lifestyle led by many Mexican miners who emigrated to this country to work and live in company towns throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and southeastern California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Situated in a narrow desert canyon, in 1894 the town of Hedges consisted of approximately two dozen unpainted structures scattered randomly across the valley floor. By the end of the decade Hedges had grown into a large community of numerous buildings that extended from the mouth of the valley eastward into the canyon for approximately a mile. The town had taken on many aspects of second and third phase mining camps, with more permanent structures: a church, school, distinct neighborhoods, business districts, and social organizations.

Hedges was a company town, run from a company compound on a small terrace in the center of town. This type of community was common among western mining camps where development of remote locales in undeveloped regions required operators to organize and supply transportation, housing, food and supplies, as well as other requirements to support a large work force.2 At Hedges, the company supplied the community with a running water system, electrical lights, boarding house, miner’s club and reading room, housing for the management, and a hospital. The store was in a frame building. Adjoining it were the office of the receiver and a sleeping apartment for commercial travelers. Residences for the management consisted of four small wooden dwellings and three brick houses. The court appointed receiver occupied a seven-room structure, originally known as “Fuller’s House.” The miner’s club and reading room, actually a company saloon located in an adobe building, carried a general stock of liquors and tobacco and provided billiard and pool tables. The hospital was located in a stone building next to the miners club and had a resident doctor by 1897.3

In 1900 the San Diego Union noted that “…the buildings of the Free Gold Mining Company are well and neatly constructed, and the front entrance of each bears a sign designating the department.”4 A stage ran daily to the railroad station at Ogilby six miles to the south where connections were available with Yuma to the east and to points further west. A forty-stamp mill and cyanide plant were located directly south of the company compound. Together the compound, mill, and plant formed a line through the middle of the camp that divided it into east and west halves.

Residential neighborhoods occupied by Mexican families were located to the east and west of the company compound and up a small canyon behind the cyanide plant vats. Here families built their own houses based largely on vernacular Sonoran architectural traditions. Structures consisted of a variety of materials including adobe, ocotillo wattle and daub, stone, and board and bat. Exterior ramadas, patios, and kitchens and livestock corrals were common. Crowding the houses closely together in the canyon bottom along narrow dusty streets created a lack of space unconducive to sanitary living conditions. Privies, refuse heaps, and livestock corrals stood adjacent to residential structures.

Overlooking the town from a high bluff just beyond the eastern edge of the East Neighborhood stood a one-hundred stamp mill and its large tailings pile. The mines were at the extreme east end of the canyon beyond the mill.

On the western edge of town at the entrance to the narrow valley a third segment of Hedges society existed. Here a small district of private businesses formed that provided services which competed with and augmented those provided by the company. The district included two small barber shops run by “Spanish Americans,” Malquiador Lopez and Juan Cano; a meat market and stockyard run by two brothers, Ed and Frank Hodges; and numerous saloons.5 At various times saloons were owned and operated by H. C. Adams and Billy Horan, Samuel Wilson, Frank Norton, Mabel Lee, and a man named Brown. Adams and Horan employed two Mexican “sporting women” in their establishment and had a roulette table.6 Wilson’s place consisted of two adjacent rooms, one used as a bar, the other as a restaurant. A kitchen was attached to the rear and four rooms “out back” housed prostitutes.7 In 1900 he employed two barkeepers and three “sporting girls.” Two of the ladies claimed to be from France and one from Pennsylvania. Next to Wilson’s place lived a Chinese cook, probably employed in his restaurant.8


The town of Hedges resembled mining communities in Arizona and Sonora Mexico due to the fact that, by far, the majority of the inhabitants were Mexican. The transition of the mining industry between 1870 and 1890 from small individually owned operations to corporate enterprises, provided work for large numbers of laborers in the border regions. Mine owners, who realized laborers from northern Mexico possessed traditional mining knowledge, encouraged recruitment of Mexican mineros. These miners became the overwhelming majority of the mining labor force in Arizona and played an indispensable role in development of the industry.9

Mineros made up the majority of the work force at Hedges, some coming directly from Mexico while others had migrated from previous jobs in Arizona. Individuals of Mexican descent made up about 80 percent of the towns’ population. This is reflected in the school census of 1896 and 1897. In 1896 there were 117 children at Hedges under eighteen years of age. Only twenty-two (19 percent) were non-Hispanic while ninety-five (81 percent) were from Mexican families. In 1897 there were 125 children. Twenty-seven (21 percent) were non-Hispanic and ninety-eight (79 percent) were from Mexican families. San Diego county directories also indicate a large Mexican population for the years 1905-1906. They listed 102 households: twenty-one non-Hispanic households (21 percent) and eighty-one (79 percent) with Hispanic surnames.10

Some writers have claimed that at its height the population of Hedges reached two to four thousand.11 This seems unlikely. In 1898 the population of children peaked at 209.12 By 1901 the number had fallen to 184.13 If each household listed in the 1905-06 directory averaged two adults, this number (204) combined with approximately 200 children would indicate a population of approximately 400 people. This seems a realistic estimate. In 1900 the population for all of Yuma Township, of which Hedges was by far the largest community, was less than 700.14

The 1900 census gives what can probably be considered the most accurate profile of the community at that time. The census returns list 382 people residing in Hedges in June of that year. Hispanics made up 83 percent of the population (318). Individuals of Anglo-American descent constituted 15 percent (57) of the community while six Chinese males and a single black man employed as a porter represented 1.6 and 0.3 percent respectively of the inhabitants (Figure 1).

The makeup of the Hispanic and Anglo-American populations differed significantly (Tables 1 & 2). Among the Hispanics 1 percent (4) were over seventy years of age; 53 percent (168) were between the ages of eighteen and sixty-nine; while 46 percent (146) were less than eighteen years old. Overall, females made up 41 percent (131) of the Hispanic population and males 59 percent (187). Among adults between the ages of eighteen and sixty-nine females constituted 37 percent (62) and males 63 percent (106) of individuals of Mexican descent. Among adult females none were divorced, 11 percent (7) were widows, 15 percent (9) were unmarried, and 74 percent (46) were married. Male martial status differed slightly: 1 percent (1) were divorced, 8 percent widowed (8) 44 percent unmarried (47), and 47 percent (50) married (Figure 2).15 Such a distribution meant that the Mexican population was relatively young, with a high proportion of families with children, and consequently large number of dependents.16

The Anglo-American community, in contrast, exhibited a high ratio of males to females with few married males and, therefore, very few families or dependents (Figure 3). Males made up 88 percent of this group overall (50), and 90 percent (44) of the fifty individuals between eighteen and seventy years of age. This age group constituted 87 percent of the Euro-American population, while a single individual seventy years old made up 2 percent, and six individuals less than eighteen years of age represented 11 percent of Hedges’ non-Hispanic inhabitants.17 This group was consequently more mobile, economically active, and less tied to the demands of family and dependents than the Mexican population.18

A social hierarchy existed at Hedges in which Anglo-Europeans held the skilled and professional jobs while Mexican mineros occupied the majority of unskilled lower paying positions (Figure 4). This treatment of Mexican labor typified mining camps throughout the southwest. Managers and investors recruited from the eastern states held the skilled jobs opened only to union members. Mexicans, who could not join the union, filled the majority of unskilled positions.19 At Hedges, of sixty professional and skilled individuals, only sixteen (27 percent) were of Mexican descent. The single black porter constituted 2 percent of the skilled work force, three Chinese cooks made up 5 percent, and the Anglo-American population, which constituted only 14 percent of the camp’s inhabitants, held 66 percent of the professional and skilled occupations.20

Significant wage differences existed between skilled and unskilled labor. Hoist operators, managers, and other top positions received four dollars a day. Other skilled positions such as timbermen, machine operators, and chuck tenders received from three to three and a half dollars a day.21

Social stratification was also reflected in educational opportunities. In 1900, of the 122 school-aged children listed in the school records for the entire district, only seventy-five actually attended school. More significantly, of those who attended school, fourteen (20 percent) attended private schools.22 Needless to say, these students were not from Mexican families. More children are listed in the 1900 school census than the federal manuscript census returns for the same year because the district also included children at American Girl and other Cargo Muchacho mining camps as well as Ogilby.


Life in these communities could be hard. Workers in a company town often found themselves at the mercy of mine owners who supplied services that usually benefitted the company while neglecting the needs of employees.23 Under the operation of the Golden Cross Mining and Milling Company several abuses were reported. One miner complained that the company should call itself the “White Man’s Slavery Company.” According to newspaper accounts, employees were not provided with their own housing but were charged a dollar a day for the privilege of sleeping on company property. All were required to trade at the company store on credit since wages were not paid until an employee quit or was fired. Goods in the store were of poor quality and sold at high prices. Boots cost four dollars a pair and shirts two dollars and fifty cents. An additional dollar a month was deducted from their wages for the services of a doctor who in 1895 did not even have a shanty for his practice.24

The company store often enhanced the profitability of the mining enterprise. Wages paid out soon found their way back to the company through the store. By paying miners their wages in goods, operators kept labor costs to a minimum.25 At Hedges laborers often spent 50 to 60 percent of their weekly wages at the store. Selected examples from Golden Cross Company’s pay vouchers for 1897 are provided on Table 3.26 Since most of the money probably went for groceries and these laborers were mineros supporting their families, the expenditures may not be unreasonable considering the times. Few working class people were able to save money while supporting a family in the United States at the turn of the century. In 1900 the average wage in the country was seven dollars a week.27 Discrimination at Hedges appeared to be most evident in the inability of the majority of Mexican laborers to obtain higher paying skilled or managerial positions rather than low wages for the menial jobs they did do.

The company’s lack of concern for its employees and their families was also manifested in other areas. By 1896 the mines were expanding and the town was growing rapidly. On January 22 of that year citizens of Hedges petitioned the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to establish a public school in the town, claiming there were over fifty school-aged children.28 T. S. Fuller, secretary of the Golden Cross Mining and Milling Company, wrote to the Board of Supervisors on January 30, protesting the petition. He stated: “I am informed that certain persons of this place have busied themselves in preparing and forwarding to you a petition for the organization of a school district …” Fuller argued that none of the petitioners were taxpayers and the company was not ” …disposed to assume the burden of additional taxation for school purposes.” He further noted, “This company has no children to educate and is not disposed to pay for a school for the benefit of a floating and changing population such as is peculiar to a mining camp.”29 When the San Diego Board of Supervisors took up the matter in March, the Golden Cross Company’s attorney, H. L. Titus, again protested the petition. However, the board overruled his arguments and established the Hedges School District.30

The varied ethnicity of Hedges created a diverse cultural community. Traditional American culture of the company management, professionals, and skilled laborers was reflected in their celebration of certain holidays. For example, in February 1896, the Knights of the Drill held a party to celebrate the construction of their union hall. “An elegant supper was served by Mrs. Roberts, between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.” At daybreak some of the guests witnessed “…two of Yuma’s fair daughters climbing the hills on burros. And a most charming sight they were.”31 The newspaper noted that in November 1900 “Thanksgiving was observed in the usual manner. The boarding house gave an excellent dinner of turkey and fixings.”32

The Mexican inhabitants held to their traditional culture. Spanish was the primary language of the town. Data from the 1900 census indicate the family was the foundation for Mexican society at Hedges. As in many Mexican communities it served as the basic social unit that provided food, clothing, and shelter and also as the primary institution “…for the transmission of values, knowledge, and beliefs from one generation to another. Within a web of close kin, children were raised, money and goods shared, and old people cared for.”33

Religion formed the other basic social institution of Hedges’ Mexican population. Mexican families worshipped at a small chapel described as “the smallest Catholic Church in the nation.”34 It was a white painted rectangular frame structure on the eastern end of town with a small cross on the roof. The building had undoubtedly been constructed by the minero families. Catholicism constituted an essential force in the Mexican community and permeated almost every aspect of culture from marriage to health care. It was a force Mexican people shaped themselves “…taking what they needed in the way of ritual and belief from the church hierarchy and embellishing it with their own traditions.”35 The pious at Hedges worshipped on their own without the regular services of a priest. Elderly people could be heard praying in their homes as miners walked to work in the early morning hours.36 The small church constituted the physical presence of religious faith in the community and, like almost all Hispanic churches, was undoubtedly always open for the use and comfort of the faithful even without a resident priest and regular services.

Another social institution relied upon by Mexicans at Hedges was the Alianza Hispano Americana. In order to preserve their culture and lifestyle in the face of a rapidly growing Anglo-American population in the southwest, Mexican Americans formed fraternal mutual aid associations with the goal of preserving their culture. Known as mutualistas, the first to be formed was the Alianza Hispano Americana, founded in Tucson in 1894. Its goal was to preserve the dignity of the Hispanic race and to teach the working class temperance and moderation. The society nourished cultural pride among its members and offered low cost life insurance benefits and social activities.37

The Alianza soon grew from a mutual aid society created in southern Arizona to a fraternal insurance society that served Hispanic communities throughout the United States and Mexico.38 In existence by 1898, Hedges’ Alianza Lodge Number 8 was among the first ten chapters to be established.39 Meetings were held at the school house. Lodges were extremely popular in mining towns like Hedges where Mexican miners earned low wages and most needed to provide for a family, making savings difficult. The Alianza’s insurance provided for funeral services and paid benefits to a family if the breadwinner died.40

Minero families at Hedges celebrated traditional Mexican holidays as well as other festivities. As part of the larger Hispanic community living throughout the Cargo Muchacho mining camps and at nearby Ogilby, Hedges’ Mexican residents participated in a variety of social events. On September 16, 1891, Mexican Independence Day, a large crowd from the entire region celebrated at the Cargo Muchacho Mine with dancing, races, free dinner, and sports.41 September 16 was also regularly celebrated at Hedges.42 The town had a reputation for celebrations and dances still remembered by descendants of its Mexican population.43

Unlike the large copper mining towns of Arizona where management forbade socializing between Hispanics and other “whites,”44 social gatherings at Hedges apparently resulted in a relaxation of class hierarchy. On April 20, 1895 the Yuma newspaper noted:

Those that attend the ball this evening at the Golden Cross will no doubt have a pleasant time. The people of that place have won a reputation for hospitality second to none here abouts. We hope a good crowd from here will be present as the members of the Golden Cross Dance Club will be pleased to see and entertain all who go on a grand scale.45

Given the scarcity of available Anglo women in the camp it seems unlikely that the Golden Cross Dance Club would have been closed to Mexicans. In November 1896 the Miner’s Union sponsored a dance.46 In spite of union members’ opposition to mineros joining their ranks, they could not have excluded them from this type of social gathering since their daughters and sisters were the only available women in camp. Attempts to import ladies of their own heritage from nearby Yuma would have been largely unsuccessful since Mexican families also dominated that community.47


Untimely death constituted another aspect of life at Hedges. Family life, religious worship, and social festivities of the community functioned against a backdrop of accidental and violent death that must have added an almost fatalistic aspect to the lives of the inhabitants.

Accidents were a constant reminder of the precarious nature of life in western mining camps and Hedges was no exception. Mining has always been a dangerous occupation where accidents are common.48 In April 1895 a large cave-in occurred at the Golden Queen Mine. Luckily, no one was in the shafts at the time. Results of later incidents would not be so fortunate. Allen McLean, the underground foreman at the Golden Cross, was smashed by loose rock in September 1896 while he inspected a recent blast to determine the timbering needed. His back was broken and his body crushed. A doctor and priest arrived from Yuma to attend while he died in “agony.”49 Three months later a cave-in at the 400 foot level of the Queen trapped four miners who were later rescued.50 In September 1900, papers reported that an accidental explosion at the Gold Rock mines killed William Ames and Daniel Bean.51 Francisco Gutierrez was killed in June 1901 when he was buried in a tailings pile while loading ore carts for conveyance to the cyanide plant. Gutierrez, a risk taker, had been told repeatedly not to work next to the steep sandy tailings banks after being buried up to his waist twice before.52

Fire was another concern for the community. The large number of flimsy structures crammed together in the valley bottom combined with open fires and the close proximity of industrial activity compounded the hazards. In December 1896 two dwellings caught fire. Luckily no one was injured and the Arizona Sentinel noted they represented a “small loss” for the company.53 The previous year the situation had been less fortunate when a Yuma newspaper reported in October 1895 that “…the pretty little daughter of Manuel Oleata was burned to death when her clothing caught fire while she played around a small outdoor fire.” The doctor was sent for while the parents started with the child for Ogilby. The girl died at Ogilby before the doctor could reach her. She was buried in Yuma.54 In February 1903 Juliana Cilla, an elderly woman about seventy, burned to death when her small canvas covered cabin incinerated on the early morning of February 8th.55

Harsh environmental conditions combined with health and social problems to cause tragedy. A relatively minor incident occurred in April 1895 when a doctor from Yuma responded to a summons to treat a man

suffering great pain from the bite of a small red spider.56 One can only speculate the individual suffered from an allergic reaction. On May 8, 1897, J. A. Gassir, an asthma sufferer, died of morphine poisoning. Gassier often took the drug because of his condition and had experienced several close calls in recent months.57

On the morning of October 19, 1899, a twenty-three-year-old prostitute known as Georgia or Etta Winters was found dead in her room. Georgia “boarded” at Mabel Lee’s place in the “stingaree” or commercial district. Mabel evidently had a series of small rooms associated with her saloon where the “girls” resided and entertained, similar to Wilson’s establishment. Georgia had risen about seven on the morning of October 19. Around eleven she went to her room. A short while later one of the other “girls” passed by and saw her reclining on the floor with her face toward the wall. As Georgia often rested by stretching out on the floor, her fellow inmate thought nothing of it. Later that day a male patron became concerned when he found Georgia’s door locked and could not raise her. He broke down the door to find a Mexican miner, well known in the stingaree for “treating” everyone on payday, inside with his pants down and Georgia’s dress pulled up over her head. Georgia’s patron, recognizing she was dead, threw the inebriated miner into the street where a gathering crowd began to kick and beat him. The company doctor was summoned and determined Georgia had been dead for some time. She had no signs of violence on her body and the cause of death was undetermined. The miner, who was quite intoxicated, claimed he thought she was drunk and passed out on the floor.

Georgia had arrived in Hedges on the second of the previous month with “Miss Lee.” The madam had met the girl in Ventura, apparently destitute, without money or belongings. Mabel had offered to pay her train fare to Hedges and the opportunity to occupy one of her cribs in order to “make something.” The young girl drank regularly and had discussed killing herself with laudanum several times after her arrival. At the coroner’s inquest Mabel Lee denied knowing Georgia Winters, claiming her only contact with the girl had been a business transaction. Her fellow inmates at Miss Lee’s also denied any knowledge of her, her habits, or companions. The jury determined that Georgia or Etta Winters, “true name unknown” had died of unknown causes.58

Lawlessness added another dimension to life in Hedges. Although a sheriff and constable resided in town, outrageous violence, often encouraged by the catalyst of alcohol, gambling and prostitution, occurred regularly. Violence was perpetuated in the context of other crimes as well as resorted to as a means of resolving personal problems between individuals. In August 1894 the body of a well dressed man was found murdered four miles from town. The same month a reporter noted that “young” Ignacio Huegria had been forced to leave town to escape the vengeance of “…the father of the girl he was reported to have ruined.”59

Saloons of the Commercial District became the locations of many violent acts. The first murder of the camp occurred at Wilson’s Saloon on the evening of December 16, 1895. Among the patrons in the crowded room a prospector named Mulachy stood at the bar drinking with two brothers, Juan and Tirco Gonzales. Around seven o’clock Henry Randolph, another prospector, entered and sat at a table. Mulachy walked to Randolph’s table and accused him of the murder and the claim jumping of a friend of his on the desert. The antagonist had been drinking heavily all day and “…Randolph told him to drop the subject…Mulachy then engaged in some vile epithets.”60 He continued his harassment and repeated his slurs until Randolph stood up and knocked him to the floor. Still standing at the bar, Juan Gonzales pulled a “six shooter” out of his hip pocket. Sam Wilson grabbed his arms attempting to pin him. The gun went off firing over the heads of the crowd. Juan broke free of Wilson’s grip and fired a shot at Randolph who had started backing toward the front door. Randolph returned fire, hitting him in the stomach. As Juan slumped to the floor Tirco Gonzales rushed to his collapsing brother’s side. Twisting the pistol from Juan’s hand he pointed it at Randolph while backing out the door and pulling the trigger twice. The weapon, however, misfired. Randolph fired through the door hitting Tirco who fell over some beer kegs stacked on the front porch and into the street, a bullet in his heart. Randolph walked out of the saloon past his second victim and started up the street. In spite of his wounds, Juan Gonzales ran out after him, pulled the pistol from his dying brother’s hand and fired after Randolph as he escaped. Juan died twenty-four hours later, survived by a destitute mother. A coroner’s inquest determined Randolph had killed in self-defense.61 Randolph continued to prospect in the area through the turn of the century and filed the Inglewood, Mayate, Telephone Man, and Telephone Girl claims.62

Four months later, on March 8, 1896, another slaying occurred at Wilson’s. Benjamin Serrano, who had been in the camp for two weeks visiting his brother, arrived at the saloon on a Sunday evening about seven. Inside, patrons were drinking and dancing. Serrano took up with a local miner, Abril Rivero, and Jesues Amenta, one of four prostitutes who resided and plied her trade in a room behind the saloon. At one point in the evening another patron, Manuel Boboun, had words with Benjamin, and accused him of spreading rumors that Boboun had stolen thirty-five dollars from Jesues. Around midnight Benjamin, Abril, and Jesues decided to eat and sat down at a table in the adjoining room while they waited to be served. Boboun came in from the bar, walked up to Rivera and asked accusingly, “Estas senando con este desgraciado (Are you taking supper with this disgraceful lowlife)?” In the same instant he picked up a pitcher of milk that had been set on the table and threw it at Serrano, then moved toward him as he drew a dagger. Serrano stood up, drew his pistol and shot Boboun twice. He died the following morning. A coroner’s inquest determined Serrano had killed in self-defense.63

By December of the same year the town had gained a reputation for homicide when the Arizona Sentinel reported that “Gold Rock has added another murder to her already long list.”64 Bernardo Contreras and Joaquin Fuentes were in town participating in a drunken orgy. When Contreras tried to force Fuentes to eat a watermelon the latter slashed him across the stomach with a knife. Contreras died a few hours later. Both men were considered “hard characters” and had been feuding for several days. Fuentes was convicted of manslaughter.65

The following December a shooting took place at the saloon of Horan and Adams. Deputy Sheriff Joe Smarr came into the bar and began to search a miner named Juan Flores. The deputy shot Flores, claiming that the miner had made a quick motion with his arm as if attempting to pull a knife. Even though Flores’s companions testified that Juan had not made any sudden moves the coroner’s inquest found Smarr had killed in self-defense.66 Another incident occurred in the same saloon when Billy Horan tried to break up an argument over a card game. One of the Mexican antagonists pinned his arm to the wall with a knife. Horan’s partner, Adams, shot and killed the man, saving Billy’s life.67

In April 1899 still another shooting occurred when Constable August Jarick entered a saloon and ordered a card game closed. A heated argument broke out between the constable and the bartender Crawford. Crawford suddenly broke off the exchange and started to go behind the bar. Jarick, apparently afraid he was going for a gun, shot and wounded him.68

On December 18, 1899 violence combined with a language barrier led to the death of an innocent bystander. The incident began when a man named Charley Salamon was knifed in Frank Norton’s saloon. Norton and a companion, Epimenio Melendez, armed themselves and attempted to follow Salamon’s fleeing assailant. After a while they split up. Melendez, hiking alone, came over the crest of a hill and saw someone walking away from him. He thought this was the fugitive when in reality it was a black man named John Lee, employed as a barber in Juan Cano’s shop. Melendez, who could not speak English, shouted four times at Lee to stop while pointing a rifle at him. Lee, who did not understand Spanish, evidently felt threatened. He drew a gun and started to run. Melendez fired three shots, mortally wounding the barber. Melendez was sentenced to prison for manslaughter.69

After 1900 the shootings ended, perhaps as a result of a reduced work force. In December of that year a newspaper report described Hedges as an “…orderly and prosperous camp…Everything is well regulated and is run on exact methods so that there is far less noise and lawlessness here than is usually found in mining camps.”70

The lack of gunplay, however, did not signify an end to all violence. On January 1, 1900, James Kane was arrested for assault and battery upon Thomas Gallan. In May, Juan and Refugio Varlen were charged with assault and battery.71 In July 1901, Dolores Pistrano was also charged with battery, and in 1902 Jose Pistrano was charged for larceny.72 In general, the violence at Hedges mirrored the experience of many other western mining camps where saloons, liquor, and prostitution provided an explosive environment in which beatings, knifings, and gunfights occurred on a regular basis.73


After the shutdown of Free Gold’s operation in 1905 Hedges lay abandoned. In 1909 the mines were reopened by the United Mines Company whose directors included T. S. Fuller, W. V. Hedges and Gail Borden (of canned milk fame) along with several others.74 Laborers reoccupied the town, now called TUMCO after the initials of The United Mining Company. A school opened in the fall of 1910.75 The venture, however, was short-lived. United Mines closed and abandoned the mines and town by the summer of 1911.76

By the 1920s, Hedges had become a place of legends. According to popular accounts and local residents it had been a town of two to four thousand people, with few families or children, numerous Chinese, a large red light district, and at least seven saloons. A hundred and fifty Chinese were said to have been buried in a cave-in, and the brutal violence that actually had occurred was romanticized into swashbuckling adventure.77

The true story of Hedges needs no embellishment. It is a saga of real people struggling for survival and success in a harsh desert frontier environment. The town was a diverse place, where residents led lives that emphasized family, religious, and community values, and where children were important enough that families joined together to provide them with a school in spite of the protests of company managers. Yet, community and family life occurred against a backdrop of crime, prostitution, accidents, and violence.

Finally, in exemplifying the merging of corporate American mining with the Hispanic mining frontier, which was discussed in Part I of this series, and providing a profile of the lives of Mexican miners in a company town at the end of the nineteenth century, the history of Hedges is a case study of a still largely undocumented aspect of western mining. During the last half of the nineteenth century American mining companies replaced traditional Spanish-Mexican mining methods with modern machinery and technology in the southwest, but continued to rely heavily on the Hispanic mining population for labor. With only a few exceptions, the important role of Hispanic prospectors and mineros has remained undocumented by western mining historians.78

Yet Mexican miners did not disappear from the west after passage of the California Foreign Miners Tax in 1850. As independent prospectors and labors, Hispanics were often the overwhelming majority of the mining work force in Arizona, New Mexico, and portions of the deserts of eastern California and southern Nevada. In many communities, including Hedges, minero families constituted a majority of the population and played an indispensable role in western mining development.




1. The area of San Diego County between the Colorado River and the eastern edge of the Peninsular Range became Imperial County in 1907. See Owen C. Coy, California County Boundaries: A Study of the Division of the State into Counties and the Subsequent Changes in their Boundaries (Berkeley: California Historical Survey Commission, 1923; revised edition, Fresno: Valley Publishers, 1973), 113.

2. James B. Allen, The Company Town in the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), 6; Hector Galan and Paul Espinosa, “Los mineros,” transcript of the film produced by Hector Galan, Galan Productions, for the American Experience, WGBH, Boston (1991).

3. C. W. Pauly, Petition of C. W. Pauly, San Diego County, Superior Court, case no. 10,215 (1897), San Diego History Center Research Archives, San Diego; Isaac Trumbo, Final Report of Isaac Trumbo, Receiver, Superior Court, case no. 10,215 (1901).

4. San Diego Union, 15 December 1900, 12:3.

5. San Diego County Directory 1900, San Diego History Center Research Archives; U. S. Census Bureau, Population Manuscript Returns of the Twelfth Census of the United States (1900) for San Diego County, National Archives and Record’s Center, Laguna Niguel, CA.

6. U.S. Census Bureau, Twelfth Census, 1900, Population Manuscript Returns.

7. Jesues Amenta, “Testimony of Jesues Amenta in Inquisition by the Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Manuel Boboun” (1896), Coroner’s Inquests, San Diego History Center Research Archives, San Diego.

8. U.S. Census Bureau, Twelfth Census, 1900, Population Manuscript Returns.

9. Michael E. Casillas, “Mexican Labor and Strife in Arizona, 1896-1917,” (master’s thesis, University of New Mexico, 1979), 223; Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros“; Mario T. Garcia, Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press 1981); James E. Officer, Hispanic Arizona, 1436-1856 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1987).

10. Hedges school records 1896, 1897, School District Records, San Diego Historical Society Research Archives; San Diego County Directories 1905-1906, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

11. Donald C. Miller, Ghost Towns of California (Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Publishing Company, 1978), 168-170; Peter Odens, “Last of Tumco’s Residents ‘Love It'” Imperial Valley News, 17 January 1980.

12. Hedges school records, 1897.

13. Ibid., 1901.

14. U.S. Census Bureau, Twelfth Census, 1900, Population Manuscript Returns.

15. Ibid.

16. For an analysis of demographic patterns similar to those at Hedges see Thomas E. Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1986), 134.

17. U.S. Census Bureau, Twelfth Census, 1900, Population Manuscript Returns.

18. For an analysis of demographic patterns similar to those at Hedges see Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses, 134.

19. Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros“; Diane North, “‘A Real Class of People’ in Arizona: A Biographical Analysis of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company 1856-1863,” Arizona and the West 26 (Fall 1984): 261-174; Casillas, Mexican Labor, 6-10. Billy Horan, “When Tumco was Hedges,” Calico Print (1951), on file Arizona Historical Society Archives, Yuma.

20. San Diego County Directory, 1900; U.S. Census Bureau, Twelfth Census, 1900, Population Manuscript Returns.

21. Alex Sortillon, interview by William Ballinger, 9 April 1941, Tumco File, Colvocoresses Files, Arizona Geological Survey, Tucson; Pay vouchers for the Golden Cross Mining and Milling Company (1897), San Diego Superior Court, case no. 10,215.

22. Hedges school records, 1900.

23. Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros.”

24. Arizona Sentinel, 7 December 1895, 3; Frank Love, Mining Camps and Ghost Towns: A History of Mining in Arizona and California Along the Lower Colorado (Los Angeles: Westmoreland Press, 1974), 80.

25. Casillas, Mexican Labor, 21; Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros.”

26. Pay vouchers (1897).

27. Thomas J. Schlereth, Victorian America: Transformations in Every Day Life, 1876-1915 (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 78; Time Life Editors, This Fabulous Century, Sixty Years of American Life, Vol. I: 1900-1910, (New York: Time Life Books, 1969).

28. Hedges school records, 1896.

29. Thomas Fuller, Affidavit of Thomas Fuller, Superior Court, case no. 10,215 (1896).

30. Hedges school records, 1896.

31. Arizona Sentinel, 29 February 1896, 3; Barbara Rigby Connell, “Cultural Resources Management Plan for Hedges/Tumco Ghost Town, Imperial County, California, A Field Report Submitted in Candidacy for the Degree of Masters of Art Program in Historic Resource Management in Cooperation with The Bureau of Land Management,” (Riverside: University of California, 1979), 42-43.

32. San Diego Union, 15 December 1900.

33. Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses, 152.

34. San Diego Union, 15 December 1900.

35. Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses, 153.

36. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Juliana Cilla,” 10 February 1903, Coroner’s Inquests.

37. James McBride, “The Liga Protectora Latina: A Mexican-American Benevolent Society in Arizona,” Journal of the West 14 (Fall 1975): 82-90. Kaye Lynn Brigel, “Alianza Hispano-Americana, 1894-1965: A Mexican American Fraternal Insurance Society,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California), (Ann Arbor Michigan: University Microfilms #74-23,572 1974), 1; Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses, 111-113.

38. Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses, 111-113.

39. Arizona Sentinel, 16 December 1898, 1; McBride, “Liga Protectora.”

40. McBride, “Liga Protectora.”

41. Arizona Sentinel, 21 November 1891, 3; Frank Love, Cargo Muchacho Files, Personal Archival Collection, Yuma Arizona.

42. Connell, “Cultural Resource Management Plan,” 45.

43. Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros.”

44. Ibid.

45. Arizona Sentinel, 20 April 1895, 3.

46. Ibid., 22 February 1896, 3.

47. Joseph H. Park, “The History of Mexican Labor in Arizona During the Territorial Period,” (master’s thesis, University of Arizona, 1964).

48. Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros”; Richard Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners: A History of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).

49. Arizona Sentinel, 19 September 1896, 3.

50. Love, Cargo Muchacho Files; Arizona Sentinel, 12 December 1896, 3.

51. Love, Cargo Muchacho Files; Yuma Sun, 7 September 1900, 5.

52. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Francisco Gutierrez,” 20 June 1901, Coroner’s Inquests.

53. Love, Cargo Muchacho Files; Arizona Sentinel, 7 September 1896, 5:1.

54. Arizona Sentinel, 5 October 1895, 3.

55. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Juliana Cilla,” Coroner’s Inquests, 10 February 1903.

56. Arizona Sentinel, 20 April 1895, 3.

57. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of J. A. Gassir” (1897), Coroner’s Inquests.

58. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Etta Winters, Sometimes Called Georgia Winters, Whose True Name is Unknown,” 22 October 1899, Coroner’s Inquests.

59. San Diego Union, 20 August 1894, 5:3.

60. Arizona Sentinel, 21 December 1895.

61. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Tirco Gonzalez” (1895), Coroner’s Inquests; Arizona Sentinel, 21 December 1895; Love, Mining Camps and Ghost Towns, 117.

62. San Diego Union, 2 April 1899, 5:1; 1 December 1895, 5:1; 23 October 1902, 8:2.

63. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Manuel Boboun,” 10 March 1896, Coroner’s Inquests; Arizona Sentinel, 14 March 1895: 3; Love, Mining Camps and Ghost Towns, 117-118.

64. Arizona Sentinel, 26 December 1896, 3.

65. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Bernardo Contreras,” 15 August 1896, Coroner’s Inquests; Arizona Sentinel, 15 August 1897, 3; Love, Cargo Muchacho Files.

66. “Inquisition by Coroner’s Jury in the Matter of the Inquest Upon the Body of Juan Flores,” 19 December 1896, Coroner’s Inquests; Love, Mining Camps and Ghost Towns, 118.

67. Horan, “When Tumco Was Hedges.”

68. Love, Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, 118; Arizona Sentinel, 21 April 1899, 1.

69. “The People vs. Epimenio Melendez,” Transcript of Preliminary Examination (1899), San Diego County Justice Court, San Diego History Center Research Archives, San Diego.

70. San Diego Union, 15 December 1900, 8:3.

71. Isaac Trumbo, Report of Justice of the Peace (1900), Hedges Documents File, San Diego County Historical Society Research Archives.

72. Warner, Reports of Justice of the Peace (1901-1902), Hedges Documents File, San Diego County Historical Society Research Archives.

73. For a case study analysis of violence in western mining camps see Roger D. McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

74. Arizona Sentinel, 20 December 1909, 3.

75. Common School Reports for Imperial County (1910), Sacramento: California State Archives.

76. Ibid., 1911. From 1912 to 1917 Seeley Mud and the Queen Mining Company both attempted to find profitable ore where so many had already failed before them. In the mid-1920s Carl Walker purchased the Gold Rock claims. He lived with his family in the abandoned ghost town and later homesteaded nearby Walker Ranch, which became a popular camping spot and desert antique and rock shop. Several entrepreneurs and mining companies leased the mines from Walker and attempted small scale operations between 1929 and 1948 including Earnest Riggs, the Lacey Manufacturing Company, the Sovereign Development Company, and TUMCO Mines Incorporated. Since 1949 no serious work has been conducted at the mines, however the sharp increase in the price of gold during the 1980s opened a new era of mining in the Cargo Muchachos at the former Madre y Padre and American Girl claims and plans are now (1994) underway to reopen the Golden Cross Mine.

For a detailed account of mining in the Cargo Muchachos during the twentieth century see, Stephen R. Van Wormer and James E. Newland “History of Hedges Tumco” in Hedges/Tumco: Historic Mining Traditions of Southeastern California, by Michael S. Burney, Stephen R. Van Wormer, Claudia B. Hemphill, James D. Newland, William R. Manley, F. Paul Rushmore, Susan D. Walter, Neal H. Hupel, Jerry Schafer, and Lynne E. Christenson, Cultural Resource Management Report prepared by Burney and Associates, Boulder, Colorado for USDI-Bureau of Land Management, El Centro. Copies on file at the San Diego History Center Research Archives, San Diego, and Arizona Historical Society Archives, Yuma, Arizona.

77. Miller, Ghost Towns of California; Odens, “Last of Tumco’s Residents ‘Love It’.”

78. Such important works on western mining as Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners; Peterson, Bonanza Kings; Young, Western Mining, and Black Powder and Hand Steel: Miners and Machines on the Old Western Frontier (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976); and Jane Eppinga, “Ethnic Diversity in Arizona’s Early Mining Camps,” History of Mining in Arizona, Vol. II, edited by J. Michael Canty and Michael N. Greeley (Tucson: Mining Club of the Southwest Foundation and American Institute of Mining Engineers, 1991) have failed to discuss the role of Hispanic prospectors or hardrock miners in the development of western mining during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Notable exceptions are Galan and Espinosa, “Los mineros”; and Park, The History of Mexican Labor in Arizona.

Steven Van Wormer is a self-employed historical and archaeological consultant. He received an M.A. in history from San Diego State University in 1986 and has over eighteen years of experience in conducting historical and archaeological studies in greater Southern California. Mr. Van Wormer has published articles in several scholarly journals including the Southern California Quarterly, Pacific Coast Archaeology Society Quarterly, and California and Great Basin Anthropology.

James D. Newland is currently working as State Park Historian II for the California State Parks’ Southern Service Center in San Diego. He is also Archivist and Curator of the Gaskill Brothers Stone Store Museum in Campo, California and chairman of the Border Californias Museum Association. Mr. Newland earned a B.A. degree in Social Sciences and a M.A. in Public History from San Diego State University.