Take it easy
  Masonic (Mono Co., California)

38° 21.77'N, 119° 6.88'W DOME HILL Quad

VISITED 5/15/04
Our Dinner: Scrambled eggs, and sausages!

Our breakfast: Eggs at Meadowcliff Lodge RV Resort and Restaurant in Coleville, CA
Our lunch: Burgers at the Jolly Kone in Bridgeport, CA
DIRECTIONS Take US east out of Bridgeport, CA about 0.5 miles to the intersection of CA 182; go 3.8 miles and turn right on Masonic Rd; travel generally east for 8.7 miles.

Gold was discovered here in 1860 but it wasn't until 40 years later that anyone got up and did something about it. Discoveries at the Pittsburg Liberty Mine in 1902 excited the populace and by 1908 the town had three sections, Upper, Middle and Lower Masonic. But there was no vein- once the pockets of gold had been mined no more could be located, and the town died. A 1910 census shows 113 residents- a 1920 census shows 12. Activity continued until WWII, and even now a mine or two in the area continues to be worked.

It took a while for things to get moving, but once they did there was a lot of excitement. Maybe a bit too much.

New California Mining Camp Just Over Nevada Line
Bodie, Cal. Considerable excitement prevails at Masonic a new mining camp recently discovered near this place. The camp lies midway between this point and the Nevada State loe and extends into the Wassuk mountain foothills. Ore in very large quantities running $40 per ton has been discovered, resembling in many particulars the early discovery at Virginia City on the Comstock and by some it is claimed that the district will prove another Comstock. Claims have been located both from the camp to and over the Nevada State lne and some surface croppings have run as high as $728 per ton. The Jump-Up Joe claim has been bonded to the Standard Company for $60,000. A big rush is now on from the surrounding California and Nevada towns. A townsite will soon be laid out and already several stores are in operation.
-Reno Evening Gazette, October 28, 1904

Mining District in Mono County Takes On New Life
Masonic Mountain in Mono County, from which some remarkably rich ore has been taken at times during the last year, is again looking up and mining men are again turning their attention that way.
-Reno Evening Gazette, August 21, 1905

First Shipment from Noted Mono DIstrict Has Been Made
Six tons and 470 pounds of $200 ore, the first shipment ever made from the noted Masonic mountain district between Bridgeport and Bodie, in Mono County, California, arrived in Reno yesterday. On account of the isolated condition of the country development work is expensive. Road building is very costly and the ore as well as the equipment has to be hauled a long distance from the railroad. At present is costs $22.40 a ton for freight to get the ore to the Reno sampler, after which the freighting charges to the smelter and the cost of reduction must be taken out. the haul from the mine to Carson is about one hundred miles by team. From Carson to reno the ore is transported by train.
-Reno Evening Gazette, November 7, 1905

Evidently there was some confusion on the name.

Lorena. Masonic District, Mono County, California, is now a city of tents, but the construction of more substantial buldings is in progress.
-Morning Appeal (Carson City, NV), December 06, 1905

Naturally, there were all sorts of wild speculations about how the district was going to develop.

Carson. - From reliable sources it has been learned that the Virginia and Truckee railway contemplate the early extension of its line into the Masonic Mountain mining district. For several weeks, it is said surveyors for the V. & T. have been running lines into Mono County and the aim of the company is to tap the rich mineral section. The road into Masonic is said to be built from the end of the Carson-Gardnerville extension.
-Reno Evening Gazette, November 22, 1905

Power Site Has Been Located on Walker River, Short Distance From New Camp
W.A.R. Loose, general manager of the Field of Gold mining Company arrived from Bodie Saturday morning, says the Masonic Pioneer. Mr. Loose says he considered it the most important thing in Mono county at the present time. It has not been fully decided as yet whether the power will be transmitted to the Tonopah section of across the mountains to the Bay Cities. The distance is about the same and the power is needed and desired in both sections. A line will be built to Bodie to furnish power for the New Bodie mining properties and in fact for all parties desiring power. The question os electric lighting of Bodie has been agitated for years past, and will be solved by the installation of this plant. Not alone will Bodie be benefited by this project but the whould county will be traversed by the life-giving wires. The surveyed pole line to Bodie passes through the heart of masonic and what this means to the district can easily be seen.
-Reno Evening Gazette December 23, 1905

Don't know if they ever got power-- pretty sure no train ever chuffed its way up Masonic Mountain. But they continued to dig.

BODIE, July 12.—1t is reported that another very rich discovery has been made in the Pittsburg-Liberty. From a fairly reliable source it is ascertained that the new discovery is about two to two and a half feet in width and that the assays show values from $5OO to $.50,000. Wingfield and Nixon, who have the claim bonded, are rushing w'ork with all possible speed, and if it is true that they have made such a rich discovery as above referred to, it means that they will surely acquire the property, which will mean the making of Masonic.
-Sacramento Union, Number 141, 13 July 1907

A couple general overviews.

This district lies about 16 miles, by wagon road, NW of Bodie and about two miles distant from the California-Nevada boundary line, at an elevation of about 8,000'. Masonic and the neighborhood has been known sllightly for many years and some prospecting had been done, but discovery of valuable ore took place August 1, 1902, when J.M. Bryan, Kaleb Forsey, and J.S. Phillips made locations on what has since been called the Pittsburght-Liberty Mine. No considerable production was obtained until 1907 when they shipped to the Selby smelter near San Francisco, a car load of ore (17 tones) which netted them $1040 per ton. This was the product of five men's work during the summer and at a depth of only fifteen feet. The Pittsburgh-liberty mining Company was formed and a 10-stamp steam power mill was erected about a mile down the canyon. The mine, operated until about 1910, reported production being $600,000 to $700,000 and has since been idle. No very large profit is said to have resulted and the corporation is at present bankrupt. This is remarkable when it is considered that the maps show only about 6,000' of drifts and crosscuts.
-Mines and Mineral Resources, 1915-1916

Bridgeport, Cal. It is reported here that interests connected with the Chemung mine at Masonic, Mono county, have virtually decided to erect a mill for the treatment on the ground of the lower grade ores from that and other properties in the district. Owners of the Chemung lease, which has more than two years to run, are anxious to secure a mill, as they have huge quantities of ore that cannot be shipped to outside smelters with profit, but contains vallues running from $50 to $100 per ton. A.R. McRae of Reno received for the Chemung lease, states that the property is in excellent condition and that the outlook is most favorable.
-Reno Evening Gazette, September 18, 1920

Masonic lies about two miles from the California-Nevada line and twelve miles NE of Bridgeport at an elevation of 8,000 fet. The surrounding country rock is practially all basic lava, although the principal ore deposits so far discovered are associated with silicified zones in an area of instrusive granite. The camp of Masonic is proper, qiet. The principal work being done there is that of Messrs. Bray and Frazier, of Reno, who leased the Pittsburgh-Liberty Mine in the Spring of 1922. F.W. and Geo. C. Stall, owners of the Serita property, are reported to be preparing to resume operatins in the near future. In contrast to the older portion of this district, the neighborhood of the Chemung Mine (Masonic Mines Association) about 2 1/2 miles SE of the town of Masonic, presents a scene of real activity. The Chemung, which is only one claim of a large group owned by the nic Mines Association, has produced some phenomenally rich gold ore. It has a checkered career, however, dut to litigation and conflicts between various interests identified with its development.
-Mining In California, Published Monthly by the California State Mining Bureau, January 1922

Minden. A carload of mine and mill machinery arrived in Minden the other day for the old Chemung mine which is located at Masonic. This property is being worked by people from Caifornia who are installing a new mill.
-Reno Evening Gazette, November 18, 1927

Things slowed down quickly and the town died, but the district itself always had enough activity to keep the grass growing too tall on the road.

The past few weeks have seen quite a revival in the interests of mining in this part of Mono county, the Bridgeport Chronicle-Union reports. At Masonic, the James McLaughlin ground is the scene of considerable work, several truck loads of materials and machinery already haveing been hauled to the mine, which is located a short distance above the Chemung. At the Sarita, Frank Stahl has been at work on a prospecting proposition, the present outcome of which has not yet, been made known. We understand work is also being done at the Chemung, Cristo, Perini, and other properties at this time.
-Reno Evening Gazette, August 23, 1932

Milling of gold ore is scheduled by the Whinnery Mining Co. in the Masonic District near Bridgeport, reports from there state. The mill has a capacity of 100 tons of ore daily and may be enlarged when the ore tonnage has been increased. The mill was installed late last year. Property controlled by the Whinnery mining company include the Chemung, Sarita, and Pisttsburgh-Liberty. The first ore milled will be taken from the Pittsburgh-Liberty which is credited with containing a substantial tonnage of gold quartz.
-Reno Evening Gazette, May 10, 1950

POST OFFICE Lorena (1905-1906)
Masonic (1906- 1912) (1913- 1927)
NEWSPAPER Masonic Pioneer

Close enough to Nevada for us! In fact, back in the old days, no one was really sure just where the border was. Even now, the homemade boundary marker on the road coming in from the north is about 300 feet off. Still, this area is so pretty we couldn't resist crossing the border for a little look-see. Neither could five or ten other ATV'ers- the place was crawling with tourists- and they all looked lost, frankly.

But hey, Masonic is big enough to share. Besides, it's beautiful up here- lots of quaking aspens all leafed out and California greenery. Lots of ruins too, spread out over quite a distance. National Forest Development Roads are often good enough to travel on in the family car- hence the 4WD not needed reccomendation. The Forest Service does, however, ask that you leave Uncle Ted's Buick at home and bring a pickup or 4WD to be on the safe side.

Take a run down to the Chemung Mine while you're there, it's just a couple of miles away.

2017 Update:

Surprisingly, not much has changed. Roads are wide and flat and you should have no trouble getting a car up here. The exception is the road to the Serita Mine and the tram. Plan on hiking a bit. Not too many people up here today, surprisingly, since it was a gorgeous day. Saw some folks at Chemung, with one idiot climing to the top of the ruins. Don't do that. That's realy stupid. Several nice places to eat in Bridgeport depending on the time of day and season. This time we came in from Bridgeport instead of from the north.

Keep in mind you are in California, and when you are off-highway you have to wear a helmet on your ATV. Not on your motorcycle, though. Weird.

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