Gold Brick House

I like to think there’s hidden gold in every life. Just like in the life of Jep Ryan.

Jep was a miner in the Mojave Desert. He owned the Lost Horse Mine, along with his brother Thomas. From 1896-1899, it was the most successful gold mine within the borders of what is now Joshua Tree National Park.

The Ryan brothers were real go-getters, and also ran a cattle ranch a few miles away from the mine. Around the year 1900 they built a three-bedroom house on the ranch, out of adobe bricks. The bricks were fired out of clay, sand, and tailings from the Lost Horse Mine.

The Lost Horse played out in 1908, and went idle. But in the 1930’s a more efficient method for processing gold ore was developed that enabled Jep Ryan to briefly reopen his old mine. He focused on extracting gold from the abandoned tailings, that had sat for decades in huge mounds.

The riches he gained from this new extraction process led Jep to recall one of the ingredients he had used for building his adobe ranch house. And thereafter he dubbed his home, “The Gold Brick House.”

The Gold Brick House caught fire in 1978, but its external walls still stand, although eolian winds and softening rains have gradually rounded the edges of these walls. About 6 years ago, I photographed this site. Click through the slideshow below, and you may notice an aureate tinge in the stucco and exposed bricks. Is this coloring from the natural earthtones of Mojave clay? Or is it gold, from the Lost Horse tailings?

It’s hard to say. But I think it’s safe to say that when Jep Ryan lived here, there was a fortune of hidden gold in his life.

Categories: History

30 replies »

  1. Could be more than gold in those bricks. A Virginia City gold mine operator told me that he made more money just weekend panning old amalgam mercury out of the local creeks and the Carson River. And that said, the later cyanide tailings-processing mills account for the current big cleanup operations around here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sounds like a good idea, to let people clean up old mines by mining the tailings. I would have never thought you could make a profit from panning amalgam mercury. Maybe they sell it to dentists.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The mercury was used in gold refining in the late 1800s. It will form an amalgam with the gold that can be separated out. Then the mercury is vaporized out of the amalgam in a retort furnace. I don’t know how so much ended up in the local watershed. In the early 1900s, cyanide leaching could be used to get the remaining gold out of the mountains of tailings piled everywhere. They weren’t cleaning up anything… just leaving a new mess. I think cyanide is still used to leach gold out of large volumes of low-grade ore, and then aqua-regia is used to dissolve the gold for electrolysis refining when it’s more concentrated. All super nasty stuff.
        My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a metallurgist for the Bureau of Mines. I have some interesting paperweights.

        Curious, I just looked up the price for a pound of mercury (1.15 fl. oz). $190.
        I long ago had all of my mercury amalgam dental fillings removed. Surprised they’re still allowed in the US.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like you know your stuff when it comes to milling and processing ore. I’ll bet you have some interesting paperweights.

          I’ve researched the danger of mercury amalgam fillings, and there seems to be some controversy in that area. Some say they’re bad for your health, while others say there’s insufficient evidence to support that claim. I guess this is yet another case where health experts contradict each other and can’t find consensus.

          Liked by 2 people

          • My knowledge of mining and metallurgy is due merely to proximity.

            I don’t know about the fillings either. Had four of them for years (along with a gold crown) until a local dentist recommended removing them. My new dentist doesn’t use them, but more for aesthetics and durability.

            Off-topic, but it is the smokiest I have ever seen this afternoon (why I’m inside). It’s like fog here. The sun is just barely visible (sometimes not visible) in the sky, and everything is tinted in a dim red light. The EPA air quality index was off the chart at 387 (the “hazardous” part of the chart stops at 350). And it’s gotten worse since I last checked. My eyes are watering… and I’m indoors.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to see that you are thinking straight about gold nuggets found in everyone. You have learned something from my blog. 🙂

    Hmmm.. a mystery that I guess will remain a mystery, but yes I think I see some gold. So what is the story behind the name Lost Horse Mine? Was the horse ever found?

    Liked by 2 people

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