May 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Enterprising Women of the Western Mojave Mining Camps

Part III: The  Rose Behind the Yellow Aster

by Cecile Page Vargo

        July 1895 - A few months after the rich gold discoveries by prospectors, Charles  Burcham, John Singleton, and F. M. Mooers , Dr. Rose La Monte Burcham packed up her personal belongings and medicines and headed for Rand Mountain . She left her home and practice in San Bernardino , where she was known for delivering babies, and hopped on the train bound for the dusty town of Mojave . Her husband met her there with his wagon and team to take her on the fifty mile long  journey to Rand Camp. Just after dark, they arrived in Cow Wells, and decided to camp out for the night. The following morning, she was taken to a barren hillside with two lonely tents. Her husband and partners lived in the tents close to their diggings.

        Dr. Rose arrived in camp in true Gay Nineties fashion, with long skirts, and high-necked shirtwaist with long mutton-let sleeves and pinched in heavily corseted waist. Aware of rugged desert terrain, she brought good stout walking shoes, and was prepared to work. As time went on, of course, she found it more practical to wear khaki clothes when she went into the mines. At first, however, she spent her time cooking and tiding up the camp, while the men worked with pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow. She had grubstaked the partners from the very beginning, and was now half owner of her husband’s one/third share. Her business and financial savvy helped to keep the mine, and the money it earned, intact so it could grow to become the famous Yellow Aster Mine. 

 A Silver Lining For Every Retort Means a Drink For Every Man

         There was little money among the partners. What little they did have was controlled by Dr. Rose. When the first ore was ready to be sent down the steep mountainside to the Garlock mill for processing, John Singleton went to her for several silver half dollars. He proceeded to tell her that the coins were needed to put in the retort so the amalgam wouldn’t stick. As Rose reminded him their funds were running low, she reluctantly handed him the coins he requested. A bit later, Singleton was back saying that they needed more silver lining for the retort. It didn’t take Dr. Rose long to figure out that the men had not traveled the 10 miles to Cow Wells, but had gone to the recently opened saloon in Rand Camp to celebrate, instead. Needless to say, she verbally let the partners have it for drinking their funds away. Luckily for the thirsty partners, the first milling of the Yellow Aster Mine netted a nice little fortune of a little over eight hundred dollars.

        Rand Camp and Cow Wells were little more than a few canvas-covered stores, scattered tents, corrals and dugouts in the hills of the surrounding mountains in these early days. There was no Wells Fargo office to ship the gold into Mojave.  The new rich claims, and that the ore that had been processed at the Garlock Pioneer Mill, were common knowledge throughout the desert. There was real danger that gold bullion would be hijacked. Dr. Rose decided to accompany F. M. Mooers into Mojave. As Mooers drove the wagon, the doctor carried the heavy gold brick in her lap, the folds of her long skirt concealing it from anyone that might pass by. Not only did the gold arrive safely, but Dr. Rose was able to make sure that the $850 they received for it, came back to Rand camp and was not used for more drinking celebrations by Mooers along the way.

 The One Armed Lawyer Meets The Iron Lady

         Dr.. Rose might have been content to stay in San Bernardino and help Mormon women birth babies, if she had not been afraid her husband and partners were going to lose their claim to investors.  When her husband sent word that there were offers being made which could possibly lead to a sale of at least $300,000, she knew she had to join the men and keep them from losing their shirts. As it was, partners Singleton and Mooers had already signed an agreement with a man named O. B. Stanton for one half interest. His offer to provide $10,000 for a mill and to take a 30 day option to purchase the property for $500,000, was one that the practically starving miners could hardly refuse. Dr. Rose arrived in camp in time to stop her husband from adding his signature to the deal .

        O. B. Stanton eventually realized that Singleton, and Mooers were not going to be able to follow through on the agreements they had made with him. Dr. Rose hired Pat Reddy, the famous mining lawyer, and promised a part interest in the mining properties if he would defend them. In December of 1896, the man who had lost his arm when he was shot while walking down the streets of Virginia City three years earlier, took a $150,000 option on the mine. When the 75 day option became due, and no money was paid, Reddy filed $50,000 damage suit against each of the owners, figuring he would get the mine for himself. Two months later, Burcham, Singleton and Mooers, under the direction of Dr. Rose, put their mine back into operation, leaving Reddy out of the management. Six months later he agreed to sell his rights back to them for $25,000 plus nearly $10,000 in dividends that they owed him for the portion he had owned for less than a year. With Reddy out of the way, the Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Company incorporated. The famous one armed lawyer of the mining camps from Mojave to Virginia City , Pat Reddy, found first hand why Dr. Rose Burcham was known as the Iron Lady.

        Many questions over boundaries, claims, and labor negotiations arose over the years. Dr. Rose tirelessly worked to resolve these issues, and successfully kept the corporation intact so she and her husband, and their business partners could become the millionaires of Rand Mountain .

 A Clean Operation

         With litigations out of the way for the time being, and ownership secured, the Yellow Aster partners could devote their time and money into mine development. Two large mills and two water pumping plants were built. By December of 1899, the Yellow Aster was providing jobs for nearly 150 men, and paid out over $13,000 a month in payroll.  As the year 1900 rolled in, an estimated  $3,000,000 had been taken from the Rand Mining district. Thirty-five hundred people lived in and around Rand Camp, which was now known as the town of Randsburg . The partners also owned two water works, a general mercantile store, and eventually a telephone line. 

        Dr. Rose was not only known for her hand in mining business matters. The engine rooms of the mills and water pumping plants, showed her fine touch as well. The walls and floors of the rooms were as spic and span as any second-class hotel lobby. Impressive chandeliers graced the engine rooms. One engine room even boasted a large and elegant potted palm. The usual dirt, oil, greasy rags, etc., were non-existent in the Yellow Aster mills.

 A Man of Achievement

         As the secretary and director of the Yellow Aster Mine and Milling Company, Dr. Rose Burcham was described as “one of the most energetic and progressive members of the board of directors.”  She closely watched the financial end of things, and added her signature to each check that was issued by the company. She also had her own share of the stock, and maintained her own private bank account.    Her husband Charles, worried that the “division of family interest” would be the talk of Randsburg, but Dr. Rose wasn’t concerned at all. “Generally the Burcham interest is voted as one, but when it is not Mrs. Burcham is as good as any man among them.” Dr. Rose was the only successful woman mining operator in the southwest and was recognized in the 1904 Los Angeles Times publication,“Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest.”

        The partners found they were able to live well on the dividends from the Yellow Aster Mine.  John Singleton was known as a man who dressed well, and enjoyed changing his attire two and three times a day. Dr. Rose planned trips to Europe when she could get away, and Charles Burcham invested in other mining properties.  Frederick M. Mooers was in ill health, but enjoyed spending his money as much as the other men did. The Burcham’s maintained a fashionable home in Randsburg, but like the others, they also enjoyed an elegant home and social life in Los Angeles .  Dr. Rose contributed to charities in Randsburg and the thriving metropolis of Los Angeles .

 Last Survivor

         Dr. Rose La Monte Burcham found herself the last of the original owners of the Yellow Aster in 1914 after the death of Singleton. Her husband Charles died in 1913 and Mooers died in 1900. The various heirs made headlines in Southern California newspapers with their lawsuits and personal grievances. As they were settled, Albert Ancker, and Arthur Asher gained control, but Dr. Rose still held many shares and remained on the board of directors. 

        She invested her income in real estate in Los Angeles and San  Bernardino . Dr. Rose spent the last 20 years of her life in a “California Cottage” in Alhambra .  She died in February, 1944, at the age of 86.  At the time of her death, she was still a member of the Ebel Club of Los Angeles and the Southern California Academy of Science.  


Desert Bonanza

by Marcia Rittenhouse Wynn

The Arthur H. Clark Company

Glendale, California

Out of Print  


Desert Country

by Bob Powers

The Arthur H. Clark Company

Spokane, Washington 2002


Gold Gamble

by Roberta Martin Starry

Engler Publishing

George N. Engler & Associates

Now available through 


Dr. Rose, A Yellow Aster and the Blooming Women of The California Rand

by Lorraine Blair, PhD

The Library Press

Ridgecrest, California


Romancing the Rand

by Lorraine Blair, PhD

The Library Press

Ridgecrest, California


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