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.