White Mountain City, California

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White Mountain City (WMC) is a ghost town at the mouth of Wyman Canyon in Deep Spring Valley, Inyo County, CA.  Virtually all that is known of its existence comes from a single letter published in the Sacramento Union of March 28, 1864.  The letter promotes mining activity in the area and states that the town was laid out by Lieutenant W.A. Oliver and surveyed by L.F. Cooper. Several buildings had been erected and others were under construction when the letter was written.[1]


The history of WMC provides a good example of how even primary historical sources can be misleading.  The author of the Sacramento Union letter (“D.Q.C.”) asserted that that he visited WMC due to a desire to visit the famous “Deep Spring precinct where the heavy vote was recorded for Judge Quint two years and a half ago which gave rise to the famous contested election case…”[2] The first modern historian to write about the contested election, W.A. Chalfant, took D.Q.C’s letter at face value and concluded that WMC was: 1) the site of the voter fraud which led to the contested election; and 2) must have existed as early as 1861, when the fraud occurred.[3]

However, a close reading of the testimony given to the legislature in the contested election makes it clear that neither conclusion is correct.  The fraudulent ballots were those of the “Big Springs precinct,” not “Deep Spring precinct” and the “Big Springs precinct,” had it existed, was at a mining camp at the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek, not White Mountain City.[4]

Over 36 people -- largely prospectors and outfitters -- gave evidence to the investigating elections committees of the legislature and not a single one mentioned White Mountain City. Prospectors testified that the only habitation in the White Mountains was a cabin at the head of Cottonwood Creek and that the nearest place to the White Mountains to get supplies was the town of Aurora – not White Mountain City.[5]

Newspaper advertisement for mining share assessments in the White Mountain District began to proliferate in late summer 1863 which suggests that is the earliest likely date for the town’s establishment.


The site of White Mountain City is on a dirt road east of CA-168, northwest of Deep Springs, near the Nevada border. Today White Mountain City is marked by some ruins.


  1. ^ D.Q.C. (March 28, 1864). "Letter from Mono County". Sacramento Daily Union.
  2. ^ D.Q.C. (March 28, 1864). "Letter from Mono County". Sacramento Daily Union.
  3. ^ Chalfant, W.A. (1933). The Story of Inyo. Chalfant Press. pp. 143–145.
  4. ^ Pritchett, Daniel (2018). "The Big Springs voter fraud revisited: Justice and geography in 1861". Journal of the West. 57(1): 3–16.
  5. ^ “Report of Testimony taken before the Committee on Elections of the Senate, in the contested Election Case of Cavis vs. Quint” ; “Report of Assembly Committee on Elections relative to the contested Election Case of Orr vs. Davis.”; Items 37 and 39 in Appendix to Journals of Senate and Assembly, Thirteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of California.  Sacramento: Benj. P. Avery, State Printer 1862.

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Coordinates: 37°24′42″N 117°59′51″W / 37.41165°N 117.99756°W / 37.41165; -117.99756