High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
Garlock & Burro Schmidts Tunnel
Originally founded by Eugene Garlock who built the first mill used by the Randsburg Mines. Water was plentiful so Garlock became a kind of primary settlement for miners. After water was made available for Randsburg most everyone simply moved up the hill. Burro Schmidt a miner of the era dug a tunnel so long he went right through a mountain. More facts and history of this town available HERE.
The Odyssey of Burro Schmidts Tunnel
one room cabin
William Henry Schmidt was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island in 1871 and subsequently came to California in 1894. He prospected around Kern County finally establishing several claims in the El Paso Mountains near Last Chance Canyon. There was no convenient way to get his ore to a transportation center at Mojave or to the mills in Randsburg or Garlock. Thus in 1906 he began digging a tunnel thru Copper Mountain to provide access to the Garlock Mills. He hired out to ranchers in the Kern River Valley to get enough money to support his digging. At some point during the several years of his digging the tunnel became less mission oriented and more of an obsession. In 1920 a road was completed from Last Chance Canyon to Mojave. At this time he could have quit digging but as previously noted the tunnel was now an obsession. He continued tunneling until 1938 when daylight was finally observed at the far end of a more then 2000 foot tunnel. By this time he had manually moved 5800 tons of rock to complete his work. He never used the tunnel to move his ore. Instead, he sold the tunnel to another miner and moved elsewhere in the El Paso Mountains. He died in January 1954 in Ridecrest, CA and is buried in Johannesburgs cemetery.
In the 1940's Ripleys Believe it or Not recorded his efforts. They wrote, "Wm. H. Schmidt spent 32 years boring thru a mountain. The greatest one man mining achievement in history.".
Light at the end of the tunnel!!
The exit at the far end
The Entrance (above) and the view at the end of the tunnel (left)
But Wait!!! The Odyssey is not yet over . . . . .
In 1963 Milo and Evelyn "Tonie" Seger bought the rights to the tunnel at the probate court in Bakersfield. They originally bid on 800 acres of raw desert sight unseen. The price?? Five thousand dollars. They moved from Huntington Park giving up a nice home and a nice automobile to live in a 2 room shack and drive an old pickup in the middle of the Mojave Desert. . A year later Milo died and Tonie elected to stay on the property.
The tunnel, already an oft visited tourist attraction was now under the supervision of a keeper who gave lectures about the tunnels history and its original architect. As many as 50 people a weekend came to take the self guided tour of Burro Schmidts one room cabin and the tunnel. The tour was free but people often left money anyway.
Over the years the newspapers and television media took an interest in the site. This actually served to increase the flow of people to the tunnel.
After 40 years of giving lectures and talking to tourists she has now passed away. At age 95 she died in her bed on the property she loved.
BLM will now take possession of the property and its tunnel and maintain it. .
Now you would think that would finish the story, right???
Wrong!!! Here is another page I have added written by a gentleman who visited Burro Schmidts Tunnel and got a chance to talk to Tonie Seger and others connected with the tunnel with some really good pictures. Just click HERE