November 26, 2009

Insomnia and the Tin Mine

Blame it on insomnia, but I spent the better part of Wednesday night researching the history of Tin Mine Canyon. It seems it was all a wonderful con game, and while it has nothing to do with camping, it does cover our new favorite day hike destination.

It starts in September of 1891. Colonel E. N. Robinson, the General Manager of the mines was called to London to answer to the investors over the productivity of the mines. He told the investors that the rumors they had been hearing were most assuredly untrue. The mines were not employing 250 men, but only 80, and the claims of daily yields of $2,000 or more were ridiculous. I'm sure the investors must have thought they were being swindled because they had yet to recover anything from the venture.

Despite his claims to the contrary, the source of the rumors was in fact, Robinson, who three months earlier took a load of tin pigs (ingots) to the South Riverside (Corona) train depot so that President Benjamin Harrison could pose with it and endorse the endeavor in the local papers. After the President's photo, the pigs were hauled around to other locations for publicity photos to fuel the rumors of productivity.

When the scam began to unravel, Robinson and his conspirator James Crossman, blamed the controversy on the investors not wanting to work with anyone but "Cornishmen." The investors had sent their own managers to the site to see what was going on. Robinson and Crossman were accused of building illusions with shoddy mills without any possibility of enough water to run them. They said they were being shut down by "English capitalists who would rather waste the sweetness in the profound depths..." than to have anyone but an Englishman make a profit. Like a good con-man, they blamed the victim and then said that while they were harvesting tin, they had found some gold and were looking for local, American investors for their next venture.

I don't know if they ever got a pound of tin from the area, but the new managers recovered their money by selling the water rights to the "agriculturists in the vicinity." The most notable of these was Frank Miller, a Civil Engineer in Riverside who built an Inland Empire which included the Mission Inn.

In my late night research, I was looking for active claims in the area, and finding none, annotated the photo of the canyon. Only three of Robinson's 28 shafts are in this canyon. Blue is the creek, red is the main trail, and pink is the side trails. It is a half-mile walk on the dirt road to the trailhead, and another half-mile to trail's end. Now maybe I can get some sleep.