In 1872 John Baptiste Daneri, a merchant from Lone Pine and native of Sardinia, built a store, warehouse, and steamer landing on the west shore of Owens Lake to handle deliveries of silver ore from Cerro Gordo. Initially, the place didn't have a name and was informally referred to as 'Lakeville' or 'Danerisburg,' but on November 1, 1872 Daneri officially called it 'Cartago', perhaps with the hope that his settlement would become the "Carthage of the West". Launched the same year, the steamer Bessie Brady would make trips back and forth across Owens Lake, transporting silver-lead ingots from Cerro Gordo to the landing at Cartago where it was shipped to Los Angeles by Remi Nadeau's 14-mule team; she would then collect lumber and charcoal produced at the Cottonwood Kilns and make her return trip. A second, smaller steamer called the Mollie Stevens was launched in 1877, but soon mining activity declined and by the end of 1879 both were taken out of service. A brief revival occurred in the early 1880s, but a fire which destroyed the Bessie Brady in 1882 brought an end to the era of steamers on Owens Lake (cemented by the completion of the Carson & Colorado Railroad to Keeler the next year).

In 1910, Cartago became a station along the Southern Pacific's Lone Pine or "Jawbone" Branch. Seven years later, a demand for soda ash led to the formation of the California Alkali Company. A carbonation plant was built on the shore of Owens Lake, and Cartago became the site of their company town. A grid was laid out and bungalows built to house managers and employees. Reliant on water for solar evaporation, the Company quickly experienced difficulty as Owens Lake's water level dropped due to the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. By 1920, the water was insufficient and the plant was shuttered the next year. In 1924, the Inyo Chemical Company acquired the property and used water obtained from wells and an 8-mile pipeline, and operated until January 1932, when it permanently closed.

Cartago has since maintained a quiet existence. The post office closed in 1980, and the railroad was abandoned the next year, with tracks lifted about 1999. Less than 100 residents remain, most of which still live in the bungalows built by California Alkali over a century ago.

Jawbone Branch
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