April 22, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Looking Back

Senator John Percival Jones served 30 years in the senate before retiring to his home, Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica. Photo Credit The Nevada Historical Society

John Percival Jones was a compelling orator and a magnetic personality. He was handsome, with an imposing black beard and flashing black eyes. Witty and genial, his powerful mind matched his robust body. He served for 30 years in the United States Senate, representing Nevada. As majority-owner of Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, he and Robert Baker developed Santa Monica. Jones was also a genuine Wild West character, right out of Zane Grey or True Grit.

Jones was born in England in 1829. His family emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio a year later. He was working in a bank when gold was discovered in California. He and other adventurous Ohio men determined to seek their fortunes in the gold fields.

They chose a unique way to travel. They bought a small bark in Cleveland, named it Eureka, hired a captain, and set off across Lakes Erie and Ontario, up the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic, then “round the Horn†to California. (Their voyage is believed to be the first to sail to the Pacific from an inland U.S. port.) Not long after reaching the Atlantic, a fever struck the ship; the one fatality was the Captain. 20-year-old Jones, already a commanding figure, took charge until they reached Rio de Janeiro. There they hired a new captain. The voyage continued but contrary winds created a food shortage. In the hold was a shipment of flour for San Francisco markets. The passengers wanted access…they were out of food. The Captain refused. Led again by Jones, they demanded the flour or they would take over the ship. Evidently underestimating their resolve, the Captain again refused. Jones had him locked in his cabin. The rest of the trip was filled with flapjacks, muffins and biscuits. Arriving in San Francisco, Jones immediately went to the authorities and told the tale. Found blameless, they were even congratulated on their common-sense solution.

Jones spent the next 20 years in northern California. He served as Sheriff of Trinity County and as a California State Senator. When he lost the race for Lieutenant Governor in 1867, he decided to try his luck in Virginia City, Nevada.

The famous, fabulous Comstock Lode was considered “worked out.†The near-surface deposits had been taken. Many thought that was all there was. Jones had a different idea. He became superintendent of the Crown Point silver mine.

In 1870, he struck a body of silver ore at 1100 feet. Keeping the discovery quiet, he bought up all the shares he could afford. (The mines on the Comstock were public corporations and traded on the stock exchanges). The stock in Crown had sunk to $2 a share. When news of the new silver veins got out (possibly worth $600 million), the stock soared. By 1872, Crown Point was worth $1,825 a share and Jones was making $1 million per annum.

That same year (1872), he campaigned for a U.S. Senate seat from Nevada. He was the “Nevada Commoner,†friend of the miners. After his victory, he and William M. Stewart became known as the “Silver Senators,†both Comstock millionaires.

In 1873, Jones and Stewart heard about a strike in remote Panamint Valley, California. Panamint was a notorious hideout for bandits and thieves. With only a narrow gorge leading into the Valley, it was ideal protection from pursuing posses. The outlaws discovered they were camping on a bonanza of silver. They filed claims to the land but they had no money to develop it. Jones bought up the claims for an estimated $250,000 and the boomtown of Panamint was born.

Though it lasted only three years, they were rip-roaring years. By 1874, there were 20 saloons, 200 houses, and 3,000 residents, not to mention a brewery, several hotels, and even more brothels.

The town’s one wagon served as a parade float when a grand celebration marked the July 4, 1875 opening of the mill and smelting furnace. The first shipment of silver was scheduled to go out soon and Panamint outlaws had plans for it. Wells Fargo thought the narrow gulch was too dangerous to guarantee safe passage; they would not provide protection. Panamint was on its own.

When the first shipment headed toward Independence, there was no one aboard except the driver. No guards? It must be a trick! The outlaws stopped the heavily laden wagon and demanded the silver. The driver looked startled and said, “There’s nothing here but cannon balls. Look for yourself.†The canvas was thrown back and the outlaws saw…cannon balls. Each one weighing over 400 pounds, the solid silver balls, anodized to a black color, obviously couldn’t be carried away by men on horseback. The outlaws left in disgust and the “Cannonball Express†became the accepted way of shipping ore out of Panamint until the veins ran out a year or so later.

Senator Jones understood one of the most important rules of survival in the Wild West: “out-smarting your opponents is just Wild West justice.â€

Related Posts

Bob Rosenbloom, Esteemed Owner of Bob’s Market and Community Pillar, Passes at 92

April 9, 2024

April 9, 2024

Bob Rosenbloom, the cherished proprietor of Bob’s Market on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica, passed away at his residence...

Don’t Miss Your Last Chance to Experience CORTEO by Cirque du Soleil!

April 25, 2023

April 25, 2023

The Show’s Run At The Microsoft Theater Ends On April 30  Time is running out for fans of CORTEO by...

Regulation of Short-Term Rentals in LA Failing as Enforcement Drops Significantly

April 4, 2023

April 4, 2023

Better Neighbors LA report highlights the inadequacies of enforcement measures for short-term rentals in Los Angeles, calling for increased regulation...

Non-Profit Helping Relieve Financial Burden For Cancer Patients

November 16, 2022

November 16, 2022

Cancer Cartel is helping cancer patients focus on their treatment, not the financial stress of living with a diagnosis. Learn...

100 Miles of Bus-Only Lanes Coming to L.A in Five Years?

October 17, 2022

October 17, 2022

L.A’s public transportation network is known for being slow due to traffic congestion. A new motion by L.A. City Council...

How to Wisely Manage Your Finances After a Job Layoff

October 3, 2022

October 3, 2022

Being laid off can be difficult, both emotionally and financially. It is important to manage your finances wisely during this...

Union Members Protest UC Policies in Westwood

May 3, 2022

May 3, 2022

Westwood and Wilshire protest takes place April 26 By Dolores Quintana The intersection of Wilshire and Westwood was the site...

Kale of All Kinds

March 16, 2022

March 16, 2022

Today at the Santa Monica Farmers Market we explore three different kinds of Kale from Cole Family Farms..Video sponsored by...

Name Revealed for Alice Waters’s Westwood Restaurant

October 20, 2021

October 20, 2021

Westside Dining Scene October 21, 2021 By Dolores Quintana Esteemed chef Alice Waters’s upcoming Westwood restaurant’s and the name has...

Community Volunteer Patrol Program Brings Civilians New Insight Into Law Enforcement

October 19, 2021

October 19, 2021

The West LA Police Department has a community patrol program bridging the gap between civilians and law enforcement. Video brought...

Police Seek Man Wanted for Sexually Assaulting Sleeping UCLA Student

September 2, 2021

September 2, 2021

Police are searching for a man wanted for sexually assaulting a female UCLA student while she slept. According to the...

Final Weekend of Marina Drive-In Movie Summer Series With New Movies Added

August 28, 2021

August 28, 2021

WHERE: Marina del Rey Boat Launch Ramp, 13477 Fiji Way at Parking Lot #2 COST: $20 per vehicle, per movie...

UCLA Admits Most Accomplished Class in Its History

July 20, 2021

July 20, 2021

New freshman and transfer cohorts are also among university’s most ethnically diverse By Ricardo Vazquez | UCLA Newsroom UCLA has...

Heritage Museum Reopens with Unique Exhibition

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

The California Heritage Museum welcomes back visitors with a unique and stunning quilt exhibition, learn more in this video brought to...