Sterling Borax Mine/Tick Canyon Historic Photos


Here are some historic photos of the Sterling Borax Mine and Tick Canyon. Following many of them are my own photos showing almost the same location. Some old photos have been scanned from magazines or books so the quality is not very good. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society also has some photos and other information here.


This is the oldest photo of the mine that I have seen. In 1910, there was no mill - the raw ore was just sent to out of state mills by train. I believe the narrow-gauge train from here to Lang was built in 1910. This photo seems to show the tracks for that train leaving the photo in the lower left. The other tracks on the right above were for the cars that took the waste to the dumping area. There looks like two piles of wood for future construction. View towards the northwest. The photo was scanned from The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemisty, Vol. II, No. 12, December 1910, "The Borax Industry" by F. M. Dupont, p. 500.


About the same view on 1/31/2017


Another 1910 photo from The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemisty, Vol. II, No. 12, December 1910, "The Borax Industry" by F. M. Dupont, p. 501.


Looking at where the bins were in 1910. Photo taken on 11/6/2005.


View towards the northwest looking down at Tick Canyon with worker's homes in the foreground and the borax mine in the distance. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.

A note on G. Haven Bishop - As Southern California Edison's first in-house photographer, Gilbert Haven Bishop (1879-1972) took an estimated 30,000 photos during a 40-year tenure. He retired in 1939 at the age of 60. In 2006, the Huntington Library received the Southern California Edison archive, a collection consisting of about 70,000 images covering 80 years of SCE history. There are 11 unique high-quality photos on this page taken by Mr. Bishop.


Similar view on 1/25/2016.


Closer view of mine area from the previous photo. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Davenport Road runs horizontally in the photo blocking the view of the gap where the train came through. 1/25/2016.


Even closer view. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


1/25/2016.


Nearly complete view of entire processing plant looking north up Tick Canyon


Very little left now (photo taken on 12/22/2012)


Looking south down Tick Canyon at the mine in the foreground and worker's homes in the background, c. 1914-1918, from "The Story of the Sterling Borax Company", by A.B. Perkins, Part II, Newhall Signal, October 12, 1961



About the same view on 2/17/2016


Closer view of plant at the loading dock with the train ready to go with a full load, from "The Story of the Sterling Borax Company", by A.B. Perkins, Part I, Newhall Signal, October 5, 1961, and the SCVHistory.com website


What's left of dock (12/22/2012)


Looking down at the processing plant. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


2/3/2016


Again, looking down at the processing plant but this time at a later date. You can see how much it has been enlarged from the previous historic photo. The plant was enlarged in 1916.


12/22/2012


From "Lang..the Suburban Borax Mine" by Harry Gower from "The Pioneer" (a US Borax company magazine) of November 1961, courtesy of Betty J. Peters. The mine actually produced from 1908-1921.


"Visitors at the Sterling Borax Mine - Agua Dulce", c. 1914, from Heritage Happenings: Our Pioners in Acton, Agua Dulce, Antelope Valley, and Elsewhere, USA, Meryl Adams, Kimberly Press, 1988


Interior shot of the processing plant. No description given of the machinery shown. This circular device has arms that appear to be stirring up the ore which can be seen underneath the arms. It looks like the ore container would do the rotating and not the arms. The ore apparently drops down from a conveyer belt. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Interior of the plant. Photo has no description given of the machinery shown. Winfrid Rollinson believes that we are looking at an electric motor in the foreground driving an air compressor in the background. The air compressor would be used to power tools in the plant. Mr. Rollinson kindly emailed me with this information. He is more familiar with this kind of equipment then I am. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Description is given as the transformer house. Like the previous photo, Mr. Rollinson says that this is also an electric motor on the left with an air compressor on the right. The motor has a manufacturer marking of "Westinghouse". There appears to be a pressure gauge located behind the belt pulley. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Interior of plant. Description is given as electric transformers. Mr. Rollinson confirms that these are transformers. He says that the tanks would be filled with oil to cool and insulate the tranformer windings as they are non-conductive. The valves at the botton would be used to drain the oil for repairs or transport. If that is a thermometer near the top, it would be measuring the temperture of the oil. My thanks to Winfrid Rollinson for his help. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


"Sterling Borax Mine - Agua Dulce", c. 1914, from Heritage Happenings: Our Pioners in Acton, Agua Dulce, Antelope Valley, and Elsewhere, USA, Meryl Adams, Kimberly Press, 1988


2/3/2016


View north of bins. Compare to 1910 photo near top of this page. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


1/25/2016


View east towards the upper headframe and hoist house. Only the top of the headframe can be seen. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


1/25/2016


Closer view from the previous historical photo. The actual hoist house with the hoisting machinery is on the other side of this building. The top of the headframe can just be seen.


Inside the hoist house where the hoist (or winch) is. This is an electrically controlled drum type mining hoist. The drum with the coiled wire rope can just be seen in the back right. The engine is connected to the drum. There are levers for control. The wire rope is connected to the drum on this end with the load on the other end. In between is the sheave (or pulley), which is connected to the top of the headframe. The headframe is the structure that supports the load, the sheave, and the pull from the drum. The lower part of the headframe can be seen in the distance. The rope can also be seen heading up to the sheave, which is out of the photo.

The pole (electrical power or telephone) outside of the building on the hill indicates that this must be the upper hoist, the one in the previous historical photo.

Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Closer view of wire rope coiled around the drum. The wire rope to the sheave can also be seen on the left.


View of another headframe for a hoist. This one is at ground level next to the creek. The engine room for this one is out of the photo on the right, but you can see the cable from the top of the headframe running diagonally across. It looks like there is a vertical mine shaft that the ore skip (little car in the middle of the photo) uses. There is also a horizonal mine shaft into the hillside on the right. Photo taken on 4/9/1915 by G. Haven Bishop. From The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives.


Shaft has been completely buried. I never knew there was both a horizontal and a vertical shaft with hoist at this location. 1/25/2016


Looking south down the train track at the worker's camp, which was called Sterling


Nothing left now (12/22/2012)


View of the Los Angeles County library branch, although I don't know for sure which building is the library. Photo after 4/9/1915, the date of the G. Haven Bishop photo. The building at the right is not in those photos, so it is probably the library. From the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, Seaver Center for Western History Research, General Photo File Collection.


Another view of the camp with some of the buildings labeled at the bottom


Lower angle view at a different angle (12/22/2012)


Still another view of Sterling


View on 1/31/2017


Close up near wooden tower that, from other photos, looks like a small windmill maybe for pumping water, which the camp needed badly.


Looking north at the train and the gap for the train with the tracks above going to the waste dump


Davenport road was realigned (in the late 1950's) through the lower dump blocking the view of the gap for the train (12/22/2012)


Photo of dinky train heading toward Lang, c. 1914-1918, from "The Story of the Sterling Borax Company", by A.B. Perkins, Part II, Newhall Signal, October 12, 1961, and the SCVHistory.com website


2/12/2011


Panorama view from Heritage Happenings: Our Pioneers in Acton, Agua Dulce, Antelope Valley, and Elsewhere, USA, Meryl Adams, Kimberly Press, 1988