Ballarat, California

Ballarat History

The site that would become Ballarat was frequented by travelers and prospectors as early as 1849 as Post Office Spring, a quarter mile south, was a rare and essential watering hole in an otherwise harsh and dry desert wasteland.

During the Panamint mining boom of the 1870's, outlaws using the mountains as a hideout established a mail drop at the site where they would deposit outgoing mail in a box attached to a mesquite tree. Stage drivers would pick up the mail and return with provisions.

Ballarat, California
Ballarat, California

It is interesting to ponder a scenario where outlaw gangs developed regular supply lines that would certainly reveal their whereabouts to the law, but this region in the late 1800's was so desolate and remote there was little presence of lawmen or civilized society of any kind.

It wasn't until the 1890's, well after the boom at nearby Panamint City, that a town started to form at Ballarat. A store and blacksmith shop were established to service some of the traffic coming through the Panamint Valley.

Ballarat, California
Ballarat, California

The local mining industry was experiencing an upturn in the late 1890s and the town of Ballarat was finally officially plotted and named in 1896. Ballarat took its name from a famous gold district in Australia.

Ballarat was a growing regional supply center, and by 1900 the town had a school, a post office, three hotels, seven saloons, but was reported to have no churches.

The mining districts in and around what would become Death Valley were better known for their lawlessness and isolation from society than for being civilized towns where families would raise their children. Up to 500 people called Ballarat home during the town's peak years between 1897 and 1905.

The Ballarat Cemetery
The Ballarat Cemetery

Ballarat began its decline when the nearby Ratcliff Mine closed in 1905. Many mines in the district were in decline during that decade and the town inevitably declined with them. The Ballarat post office closed in 1917.