Turquoise was one of many natural substances utilized by Pre-Columbian Indians in North America. Its sky-blue color was universally revered by all Indian tribes. One of the most famous of these Pre-Columbian sites is the Cerrillos District, located 20 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most of the turquoise in the Cerrillos Hills occurs on two small peaks, Turquoise Hill and Mount Chalchihuitl. These two peaks have been mined since prehistoric times. Turquoise from Cerrillos almost certainly found its way southward to the Aztec Empire where it was highly prized! Another ancient source of turquoise lies 14 miles northeast of Baker, California, in the Mohave Desert. Known as Turquoise Mountain, the peak is laced with veinlets of blue-green turquoise. Turquoise Mountain is part of a highly mineralized zone that includes the Halloran Springs gold district. When American prospectors from the gold mines wandered over to Turquoise Mountain, they discovered many ancient shafts, tools, and excavation pits on the slopes of Turquoise Mountain.
About 80 miles west of Turquoise Mountain another source of the blue gemstone exists. This rich deposit lies somewhere on the western flanks of a
small peak known as Slocum Mountain. It is located 3 miles south of the old site of Copper City, in the south-central part of California. The Superior Valley bounds the mountain on the east while Grass Valley forms the western boundary. Slocum Mountain is a small peak, encompassing only about 7 square miles and rising to an elevation of 5123 feet.
The ore deposits at Copper City were discovered in the 1880's. By the following decade, the camp was bustling with activity. It was to the mining camp known as Copper City that two brothers named Jim and Roy Morrow came in the year 1898. The Morrow brothers found more than they bargained for in this desert mining camp. It happened one day when they were working on the slopes of Slocum Mountain, just south of Copper City. Jim and Roy stumbled onto a rich turquoise deposit on a low ridge, along the west flank of the mountain. The deposit contained no primary ore minerals of copper so they abandoned the claim. Years later, the Morrow brothers decided to return to the turquoise deposit on Slocum Mountain, but they were unable to find it. After several more attempts, they eventually gave up.
The history of mining in the mountains and deserts of south-central California must surely begin with the Pre-Columbian Indians who lived in the area. The early natives were extracting turquoise and other mineral from the earth centuries before the Spaniards arrived.
The nearest mining camp to Slocum Mountain was Copper City, located only 3 miles to the north. The ore bodies at Copper City were located in the 1880's. The deposits were rich enough to keep the mining camp going until about the turn of the century.
The Goldstone Mining District lies 15 miles east of Slocum Mountain, on the other side of Superior Valley. First discovered in 1881, the district produced both placer gold and lode gold.
The famous Randsburg District lies 30 miles west of Slocum Mountain. Gold was discovered here in 1894 followed by the Johannesburg strikes in 1897. Randsburg was named for the renowned South African Rand gold mines while Johannesburg took its name from the mining town in South Africa.
Roughly 16 miles southeast of Slocum Mountain lie the so-called "Coolgardie Placers". Discovered around 1900, the area has extensive dry placer diggings. Virtually all the washes and gullies on both sides of Coolgardie Road are productive.