Reefer City

No, not that kind of Reefer.

Though located nearer to Standard Hill, Reefer City's history is actually more closely related to mining activity on Soledad Mountain, over a mile to the south. Following George Bowers's discoveries at Standard Hill in 1894, the Queen Esther and Echo mines were located on Soledad Mountain. In 1903, ore from the Queen Esther began being treated at a new 75-ton cyanide plant, which doubled in size the following year. By 1910, after producing $1 million in ore, both mines were idle.

A revival began in December 1933 when George Holmes and Bruce Minard located the Silver Queen mine. In less than a year, Holmes shipped 300 carloads of ore (yielding $600,000) to the smelter at Selby (near San Francisco). The Los Angeles Times reported on the gold production, and a rush to the Mojave District began. On January 11, 1935, Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa purchased Holmes's holdings for $3.17 million plus royalties. That year the South Africa company organized the Golden Queen Mining Company, a consolidation of the Silver Queen, Queen Esther, Echo, and Golden Queen mines.

It was in 1936 that Reefer City came into being. Rather than paying for the construction of new homes for miners, Golden Queen ordered fifty old refrigerator cars - known as 'reefers' - from Southern Pacific and had them moved to the desert near the mine; thus 'Reefer City' was born. By 1939, 300 lived in Reefer City and more than $3 million in gold had been taken out of the Golden Queen mine. Although this number doubled by 1942, the mines in the Mojave District were closed after Executive Order L-208 was issued on October 8 of that year. For over 70 years, the Golden Queen would remain dormant due to the high cost of restarting the mine before it was finally reopened in 2015.

In 1943, Reefer City and the Golden Queen were purchased by Dr. Leroy Schultz and his wife, Freda. Throughout World War II and intermittently thereafter, the reefers were rented to Marines and their families stationed at Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Mojave. This too came to an end after the base closed in 1960. What remained of the community was dismantled in late 1971. Today, not much remains at the site of Reefer City and ruins that previously stood at the Golden Queen mine have recently been removed by the current operation.

See Also
Gold Town