Column No. 76

Mining and Friendships

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

This column continues the life story of Ines Fraser, widow of Jack Fraser, who along with his brother Al, was brutally murdered by Mexican bandits in the February 1920 robbery of the general store at the Ruby mining camp. We are telling the story in Ines’ own words, in a long letter written in 1968 to her grandson Bruce and her granddaughter-in-law Claudia. At this point Jack and Ines are living at their Los Alamos mining camp, near the border with Mexico:

In late 1905 I made a new friend, Grace Ring, the wife of mining engineer Ambrose Ring, recently graduated from Columbia University in New York City. Ambrose and Grace [paternal grandparents of co-columnists Bob and Al Ring] were newlyweds and this was Ambrose’s first full-time mining job. He was employed at the old Oro Blanco mine, first worked in 1873 by the old stage driver and former Tucson mayor, Robert Leatherwood. After all those lonely days, it was so wonderful to have a new friend, close to my own age!

Ambrose and Grace lived in the El Warsaw “Hotel,” just up the hill, west of the last stage stop at the Warsaw store (Old Glory post office). This was just a couple of miles from Los Alamos, so Grace and I were able to visit frequently. (She was a city girl from Long Island and had to suffer the same burro riding training that I had been through earlier.) Jack and Ambrose had some good talks about mining too.

Unfortunately, these good times didn’t last very long. There was something about his job or circumstances at the Oro Blanco mine (I never understood exactly what; they would only say “personal reasons.”) that caused Ambrose to quit; he and Grace left the area in April 1906. Grace and I stayed in touch for a while by mail; the Rings went to Ambrose’s new surveying and mining job in Butte, Montana, and I understand a number of successful mining engineering assignments in later years. So, I learned quickly, my dears, to treasure the friendships you make in life – while you can.

Let me just mention one more loss that Jack and I, and the Oro Blanco community, suffered in those years. Old Kirk, James Kirkpatrick, who I had met and befriended on the last leg of my initial trip to Los Alamos, died in 1907 of natural causes at age 77. Kirk was one of the more prominent and successful of the old Oro Blanco mining pioneers. In times of slow activity in the mining business, Kirk worked at his old trade of carpentry and I could see his skill in several houses he built. One of his last jobs before retirement was to build his own redwood coffin. Kirk was buried in his redwood box in the Oro Blanco village cemetery.

I apologize to you two for neglecting to tell you about Jack’s and Al’s mining activities until now. Los Alamos was not only our home, but the center of their gold mining efforts for quite a while. Jack and Al started working only the surface gravel, but gradually dug a 300-foot shaft to go after deposits buried underground. Initially, Jack built a small dam in the canyon to back up runoff rainwater to run through the sluices; to provide water for us to cook and wash with, and for us to drink; for the animals; and to keep our garden watered. But the dam failed to hold water, because as Jack said, “It was not founded on a rock.” Despite our best efforts, Los Alamos was stubbornly unproductive. This disappointed not only Jack and Al, but also the investors from Colorado who our promoter friend Gene Alnut had convinced to provide development money.

While mining efforts at Los Alamos proceeded in 1905, Jack and Al became stockholders and officers in the newly formed Gold Mining Assurance Company, attempting to operate the Old Glory gold mine, about three miles east of Los Alamos. During the 1880s and 1890s the Old Glory had been the most famous and productive of the Oro Blanco district gold mines. This was to be an attempt to resurrect the success of the past with new methods and technology. (But don’t ask me what they were. Restarting the old Oro Blanco mines became a theme at this time in the district). Gene Alnut was President of the Company, Jack was secretary, and Al was treasurer. Unfortunately for all involved, renewed mining at the Old Glory was not productive either.

Jack was increasingly discouraged and lamented in a letter to his sister Annie in Boston in the summer of 1909, “We’ve spent about $75,000 in the mining business and it is high time something was coming back. I am mighty glad, that it has not been all our own money. Most of the stockholders of the company made up their minds long ago that there wasn’t any gold here at all, that it was only another mining fraud.”

Frustrated with years of hard work and lack of success at both Los Alamos and the Old Glory, Jack and Al made short exploration trips outside Arizona’s Oro Blanco region to the Nevada gold fields of Pioneer, Rhyolyte, Ventura, and Nevada Camp. They were unsuccessful in locating any good mining prospects, but were able to “sign up” a group of Nevada investors who were interested in prospects in Oro Blanco. So our “shoestring” mining explorations were to continue for a while, still looking for the “the big strike.”

One of the new places that Jack and Al began to explore for mining properties was just across the border from Oro Blanco in northern Sonora, Mexico. And I may have forgotten to mention that Jack and Al had retained their interest in, and periodically visited their mine in Liberty, Colorado, on the south slope of my beloved Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

I got to go on some these trips too - especially the trips to Colorado where I could visit my parents in Salida. Besides Colorado, we had friends and family in California. So I traveled to Colorado or California about every year, and sometimes Jack and I were both away.

To finish up this chapter in my life, my dears, let me just say that for over six years Jack and I had been mostly together and mostly happy in our love for each other, in the rustic but beautiful southwestern desert. Jack didn’t strike it rich and he still had gold fever, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

Frasers with Grace:  Riding horses or burros, or walking, were the only options for traversing the Oro Blanco district’s narrow twisting mountain trails. Left-to-right: Jack Fraser, Ines Fraser, and their new friend, Grace Ring. (Courtesy Ring family, 1906)

(Sources: Fraser Family Records, courtesy of Connie Fraser Kiely)






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