Dr. Rose Victoria LaMonte Burcham
Better known to us as Great Aunt Rose
September 2012 Linda Lamont Holm
When I first started this project on Aunt Rose, I was going to start from the beginning and write a full history. Looking at my collected material, I was overwhelmed. So many people have written about Aunt Rose. Roberta M. Storry wrote the article Boss Lady of the Yellow Aster Mine, in the Frontier TimesNovember 1968. Uncle George Lamont found this magazine and thus started our interest in searching out Aunt Rose.
Sue Pahle contacted me about writing a children’s book on Aunt Rose, and gave me a huge collection of material. We visited her in California and she joined us when we first visited the site of the Yellow Aster Gold Mine.
Marcia Rittenhouse Wynn wrote Desert Bonanza the story of Early Randsburg, Mojave Desert Mining Camp in 1963 which is a very interesting book if you want to get an overall view of the whole Randsburg area as well as insight into Aunt Rose.
Lately, Lorraine Blair, PhD of Randsburg, California wrote the book Dr. Rose, A Yellow Aster…and the Blooming Womenof the California Rand. On page 13 of this book is a picture of Cady LaMonte Ness at Aunt Rose’s tombstone. Lorraine wrote that “Rose’s grave marker is simple granite; her resting place is in a beautiful setting in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles with grassy hills overlooking a small lake with bubbling water. “
Thanks to Harvey Lamont we were able to do a DNA test and found that his DNA fit in precisely as it should have to the Lamont history as we have heard it down through time. We tie into the Clan Lamont. Google: The Clan Lamont for more information on the clan history (Clan Lamont is one of the oldest of the Scottish clans, with an oral tradition of descent stretching back to the Kings of Ireland.)
I have a notebook on sites and data about Aunt Rose, Charles Burcham, and The Yellow Aster Mine and area from the internet. Just Google the various subjects.
J. Bart Parker, curator and Historian of the Rand Desert Museum at 161 Butte Avenue, P.O. 307 Randsburg, California 93554 helped us so much during our recent visit to the area. He has a web site at www.randdesertmuseum.com. Check out the site. He also gave me permission to include a DVD on this site, he made of the Randsburg area which is very informative. His phone number is (760-371-0965). Please visit him and the museum when in the Randsburg area.
Chapter one—Lets start with Aunt Rose’s own history written by her. My original source for this history was Aunt Illa Poynor of Beulah, Michigan.
LaMonte Family Tree
Grandfather James LaMonte was a Scotchman born in Ayrshire, Scotland about 1758 and died 1840. He was the father of Jamaes LaMont, M. D., our father. Grandfather LaMont married Sarah Voise, an English women whos father was Thomas Voise. Thomas Voise had ten children, Sarah the second girl who married the Scotchman James LaMonte. They had one child, JamesLaMonte, who was our father. The Voise family was an old Angle Saxon race and had considerable property, which was taken away from them by William the Conqurer and divided among his officers in 1168.
Father’s mother died when he was 12. His father took him to his Grandfather Voise in Staffordshire, England and he continued there until he was grown. Grandfather Voise accumulated considerable property, which was divided among his children. Father receiving his mother’s part. This was the money that he and mother came to America with. Father married Eliza Pratt, February 2, 1831. Father was born in February 17, 1811 and mother was born in Manchester, Lancashire. Father being born in Henlry, Staffordshire.
Compilled by Rose LaMonte Burcham
July 6, 1940
Attached to her history was the following data on her family.
James LaMont==Sarah Voice
James LaMonte, M.D. ==Eliza Pratt Married Feb. 2, 1831
B. Feb 17, 1811 B. May 31, 1813
D. Nov 19, 1893 D. May 17, 1878
-William LaMonte Born at Manchester Feb 8, 1832. Left home at 15. Death unknown.
-Sarah LaMonte Born N. Y. City July 26, 1834 Died Lima, N. Y. Feb 18, 1837
-Charlotte LaMonte born Lima Nov 10, 1837, Died Feb 15, 1911. Married Frederic K. Traxler, Conesure, N.Y. May 29, 1861. They had one child but died at 2 years of age.
-James Pratt LaMonte born Dansville, Oct 10, 1839 died Pomona, Calif. March 8, 1914. Married Catherine Keillor died Jan 26, 1922.
-Charles Voise LaMonte born Dansville July 2, 1841, Died Dec. 26, 1863 Died from Consumption from Civil War.
-Sarah Ann LaMonte born Dansville April 7, 1843, died July 6, 1869.
-Thomas LaMonte, Born DansvilleJune 12, 1845, Died 1864. Enlisted in the U.S. Army 1863 and died in the hands of the rebels at Mullenville Prison, Georgia.
-Henry Clay LaMonte Born Dansville April 27, 1847, Died April 7, 1920. Married Margaret Durnbacker at Homesville, N.Y. Aug. 29, 1872.
-Eliza Pratt LaMonte Born Dansville, Aug 11, 1849, Died Alhambra, California, Nov 8, 1935. Married Edward Hutchingson. No children.
-Ida Adella LaMonte born Dansville Jan 29, 1852, Died March 1, 1912.
-Rose Victoria LaMonte born Dansville, N. Y. Aug 28, 1857 married Charles Austin Burcham born Dec 1887, Died Aug 15, 1913. Rose died Feb 2, 1944.
Chapter 2—Biographical Sketches of James Lamont and Rose (LaMonte) Burcham—reprinted from the National Cyclopoedia of America Biography. James T. White & Company, Publishers, New York 1906.
LaMonte, James, scholar and physician, was born at Staffordshire, England, Oct 16, 1811, son of James and Sarah (Voyce) LaMonte. His father was a native of Ayr, Scotland, of Scottish-French extractions. His childhood was mostly spent in traveling with his parents, his mother being his teacher. When he was twelve years old, his mother died in Norfolk, Va., and he returned to Staffordshire, to his grandfather’s home, where he remained until he was of age. He made his third trip to the United States in 1834 and remained in New York City for a short time; then going to the western part of the state, he engaged in the leather finishing business for a number of years. To a great extent, he was self- educated, and continued his studies at home. He was a good logical debater on all leading questions of the day. In 1872 he was graduated at the Newton Eclectic Medical College in New York City, and located in Rochester, N. Y., where he continued the practice of medicine for many years. He was married at Staffordshire, England, Feb 22, 1833, to Eliza, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Pratt, and had six sons and six daughters. Two sons and four daughters are living, the youngest of who is Rose LaMonte Burcham, of Los Angeles, Cal. Dr. LaMonte died Nov. 19, 1893.
Burcham, Rose (La Monte), Physician, was born at Dansville, N. Y., Aug 28, 1857, daughter of James and Eliza (Pratt) La Monte. Her parents were of Scotch and English descent, with a strain of the French Huguenot on the father’s side, which gives her a touch of humor and vivacity to relieve the Scotch grimness and the English solidity of her disposition. She was educated in the public schools and then the seminary of Dansville, and receiving her first teacher’s certificate at the age of sixteen, she engaged in teaching for three years and then attended the Rochester Academy, where she was graduated in 1882. Immediately after graduating, she began the study of medicine under her father, and attended a course of lectures at Rochester, at Buffalo and at the Eclectic Medical Institution at Cincinnati, Ohio. where she was graduated M.D., in 1884. She entered the Cincinnati City Hospital as night nurse, to gain practical experience and in 1885 went to California, locating in Highland, San Bernardino Co., to begin the practice of her profession. She was married in Los Angeles, Dec. 10th, 1887, to Chas. A. Burcham of that city. In 1896, with her husband she became interested in the mines at Randsburg, California, and helped form the Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Co., in November, 1897, of which she has ever since been a director and secretary. She has always taken an active part in the management of the company’s affairs.
Chapter 3 — Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest published by the Los Angeles Times 1904
…………The subject of this biography enjoys the distinction of being the only successful woman mining operator in the entire Southwest, and as such as demonstrated that she was endowed with executive ability of a high order.
Born in the cradle of fame, the great commonwealth of New York, Dr. Burcham’s debut upon the stage of life was most auspicious. Her father was a practicing physician of Rochester, an Englishman by birth, a great student and traveler.
At the tender age of ten years his little daughter evidenced a keen delight in having free access to his extensive library, and after completing her elementary education, she determined upon securing a scientific education. In order to assist herself in defraying the expenses of a course in the Rochester Free Academy, she taught school from time to time, and finally, in 1882, was rewarded with her long-sought-for diploma. Success spurred her on to greater efforts, and the successful graduate of the Rochester Academy set her aim for the medical education and left home to enter the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated with highest honors from this celebrated institution of medicine in the class of ’84, and for the following year was upon the interne staff of a Cincinnati Hospital. Dr. Burcham afterwards built up a lucrative practice, which she was obliged to relinquish in 1885 owing to failing health.
What proved a loss for the medical profession of Cincinnati proved an advantage to California, for, attracted by the reputation of the State as a Mecca for the health seeker, Dr. Burcham decided upon locating in San Bernardino, this State. There is now scarcely a city of any importance in the country that has not its able women physician and surgeon, but when Dr. Burcham first located in San Bernardino she was the pioneer of women physicians. The successful and lucrative practice established by Dr. Burcham was the most genuine compliment the community could pay her talent and skill as a physician.
In December, 1887, she was wedded to Charles Austin Burcham, owner of an extensive cattle ranch located within the limits of San Bernardino county, but her wedding to Mr. Burcham did not divorce her from her chosen profession and she continued to practice until she moved to Randsburg in Feburary, 1896, to assist in the management of Southern California’s bonanza, the celebrated Yellow Aster Mine. While the Yellow Aster was located and opened up by the three founds of Randsburg, C. A. Burcham, John Singleton and F. M. Mooers, the success of their undertaking was largely dependent upon their “grubstake.” Like an army in the field deprived of their base of supplies, so helpless would the founders of Randsburg have been without their commissary department, and Dr. Burcham was appointed a committee of one to act as commissary agent. How well she performed the duties imposed upon her can best be told in the success of the Yellow Aster mine. Dr. Burcham enjoys the distinction of having been the first woman to enter Randsburg. She made the trip in July 1895, shortly after the mine had been located, and remained there until the following month. Returning to San Bernardino she resumed the practice of her profession until the following spring, when she returned to Randsburg to make her home at the mine, and actively engage in the duties of secretary of the Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Company, a position which was tendered her upon the incorporation of the company, Nov 16, 1897. Since that date Mrs. Burcham has been one of the most energetic and progressive members of the board of directors. Not the wealth of the Yellow Aster alone, but its location in the mist of other of the camp’s richest mineral zone, made surrounding and unexplored claims desirable assets. Dr. Burcham was not slow to recognize this fact, and at her instance the company has expended vast sums in acquiring adjoining territory in the past seven years, representing a series of investments that the company would not forfeit today for many fold their cost. Dr. Burcham has manifested no less discrimination and judgment in the selection of men to prosecute the actual development of the mine. Her knowledge of human nature has conduced to this in a generous degree. Not an innate attribute is the ken which measure men. Observation may be in a degree of heritage, but an insight into human nature must combine observation, experience and judgment.
Dr. Burcham has traveled extensively in Europe and on this continent. Travel is a great educator, and Dr. Burcham was an apt pupil.
Dr. Rose L. Burcham has made her home in this city since the spring of 1902. She has recently purchased a beautiful home at the corner of Burlington Avenue and Seventh Street, where she entertains in a manner befitting her station in life. The house is built upon the Italian style of architecture, and possesses many unique and artistic architectural effects, one of the most distinguishing features of which is the commodious reception hall and drawing rooms, which are admirably adapted for the receptions which Dr. Burcham frequently gives, when in town. Dr. Burcham has led an active life, and association with profession and business interests has left her little time for social pleasures. She is a woman of energy, but is as unassuming in manner as she is forceful in character.
Chapter 4–Dr. Rose Burcham, Man of Achievement by John Southworth in the magazine L. A. Corral Westerners BRANDING IRON, Fall 1989
In 1904, the Los Angeles Times published an impressive volume titled Men of Achievement in the Great Southwest, a work which featured vignettes of more then two dozen important local personages…… One of the listed men of achievement was a woman, Dr. Rose L. Burcham, part owner and Secretary of the Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Company of Randsburg, California. At that time she was living with her husband Charles Austin Burcham in a fine home at the corner of Burlington Avenue and Seventh Street in Los Angeles.
In 1911, Dr. Rose Burcham was further honored by being included in a list of this country’s more important women. These were women known to have played an active part in the world’s progress, as selected by Elbert Hubbard, prominent author, lecturer and publisher of the time.
In that same year the Los Angeles Morning Herald published a Southern California souvenir book, The Land of Heart’s Desire, which included a long article praising the accomplishments of Dr. Rose. From many glowing paragraphs on her behalf, two isolated items are quoted.
“Word has been quietly passed that a woman could hold her own along the frontier; her faith in mining; her long period of apprenticeship; her legal controversies; her final decisive victories; all these spirited chapters in her life have long made her a marked woman. The famous Yellow Aster Mines of Southern California, which have added $6,000,000 to the world’s wealth (with gold at $20.67 per ounce), are inseparably associated with Dr. Rose L. Burcham’s foresight, plush, pluck, and enterprise. The story is one of the true romances of American life and Dr. Burcham’s aggressive part reveals in a new way what a woman of clear thought and high purpose may do against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
In spite of her glorious past, hers has been so much of striving and achieving and helping that it sometimes seems odd that she had gone so far, done so much, and still has time for so many things.
Dr. Rose was born in 1857 in South Dansville, a small farming community 50 miles south of Rochester, New York. She was the daughter of James and Eliza Pratt LaMonte, both born in England. Although a scientific education for a young lady was hardly acceptable in those early years, Rose persevered in her determination to become a medical doctor and in 1884 graduated with highest honors from the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio. This achievement was attained with very little enthusiasm or encouragement from her physical father. She was, needless to say, brilliant, determined, even stubborn. All these traits she would later use to her advantage.
Strongly encouraged by the stuffy, all-male medical establishment of the eastern states to go somewhere else, the young and beautiful Dr. Rose LaMonte went West in 1885 where a woman doctor would be more welcome. She established herself in a prosperous and lucrative medical practice among the new and growing Mormon families of San Bernardino, California. Her beauty attracted all the single men of the district and she soon married Charles Austin Burcham. He was part owner, with his father and brother, of an extensive cattle ranch north of Cajon Pass in the Hesperia area. While Dr. Rose continued her medical practice in San Bernardino, husband Charles developed new markets for products from the family ranch.
Charles caught the gold fever, as did so many others. He tried to become a millionaire by investing in Comstock mining promotions. Then he joined the streams of hopeful prospectors crossing the Hesperia property on the way to “the desert” that vast mineral district which included eastern Kern County plus most of San Bernardino and Inyo counties.
He had been given a two-year grubstake by his wife along with an ultimatum that went as follows: “Succeed or comeback to San Bernardino to stay. But never forget that only half of whatever you might find is yours. The other half is mine”. So it was in April of 1895 that Charles ended up at the hard luck and very dry Summit Diggings where even water had to be purchased from a vendor. He was broke, discouraged, and his two years were up.
Forced to give up his golden dream of riches, Charles reluctantly agreed to the use of his team and wagon to move two other disheartened Summit Diggings prospectors back to San Bernardino. On their way, they decided to check out some placer gold showings that one of the men had spotted the year before on an unnamed mountain south of the El Pasos. Down to their last meal, the three men camped high on the north slope of what would later be called Rand Mountain, there they made their great strike in rock they thought resembled that of the Rand District in South Africa. This hard-rock property would require considerable financing before it could be made profitable.
It was at this point that Dr. Rose entered the scene and showed her true mettle. She was still young, not yet 40, but she totally intimidated her husband and his two 50-year old partners. She refused to allow the three elated promoters to sell their rich strike to promoters for a pittance. She would not even provide the wherewithal that would permit her three destitute good-time-Charlie prospectors to celebrate urgent and legitimate reasons for celebration.
As Charlie Burcham’s grubstakes, she owned one-half of one-third interest in the partnership and thoroughly succeeded in keeping close tabs on everything financial. For many, many years her signature was required on each check issued by the newly formed Yellow Aster Mining & Milling Company.
So Dr. Rose, early recognizing the serious need for a watchful eye and strong hand, and also perhaps suffering a bit from gold fever herself, sold her medical practice in San Bernardino. She moved into a tent on the new Yellow Aster Mining claim, a title named after a popular novel of the time. Dr. Rose was the first woman to live in the area destined to become the present town of Randsburg, California.
She prepared all the meals and kept the mining project under her close supervision. She carefully doled out money in little bits and pieces. Her three partners worked narrow high-grade streaks and shipped sacked ‘picture rock’ under armed to Mojave for transshipment by rail to mill or smelter. As their bank account grew, Dr. Rose did the purchasing of necessary new equipment and all the hiring of knowledgeable men who could correctly organize the development of this bonanza property.
Smelling money, human wolves soon surrounded the new and obviously rich gold strike. Lawsuits plagued the four partners from the onset, so much so that all their early profits went for legal protection. That established an experienced one-armed mining lawyer from Inyo County, Pat Reddy, as one of the first vultures on the scene. He found the younger, untried Dr. Rose a formidable obstacle in his every effort to take over a substantial portion of the mine’s ownership. He was so enraged by the Doctor’s successful neutralization of this attempt to gain some control over the rich mine that he swore it would be his last business venture with a women.
In spite of the trouble Reddy had caused her, Dr. Rose recognized his capabilities and, when she needed his expertise to settle a different legal matter, she retained him. She paid for his services in Yellow Aster stock, stock which was repurchased almost immediately. Apparently Pat Reddy was glad to be freed of this later contact with Dr. Rose for he is reported to have said: “There was no profit in dealing with a woman who should have stayed in San Bernardino and delivered Mormon babies.” This, from a man who pretty much had his own way and who few dared to cross.
There were many continuing financial problems at the Yellow Aster such as lively disputes over unpaid bills, unpaid wages, claims boundries, and equipment purchases. According to Roberta Martin Starry in the Gold Gamble, a thorough work on the Randsburg camps in the early days, it was “most often Dr. Rose herself (who) made trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco to settle claims or represent the company. She often moved in on labor disputes when the man became too angered to work out the problems.”
The Yellow Aster discovery site had originally been covered by several simple mining claims when staked by the three partners. Early on Dr. Rose had recognized the need to correct that situation and put an end to boundary disputes. She insisted that the newly incorporated Yellow Aster Mining & Milling Company, of which she was the first and only Secretary, buy up all the surrounding claims that had been staked by outsiders. Before Dr. Rose was finished, the Yellow Aster property included 40 patented mining claims. This foresight on her part is still paying off for the present owners.
As the company fortunes grew, so did the Yellow Aster surface plant. First there was a 30 stamp mill using water pumped from distant wells and springs. Later a 100 stamp mill was added along with a high pressure water line, complete with a state of the art stream pumping plant. The new water source, near Garlock, was a timbered shaft 400 feet deep with gasoline powered engines forcing water up to the stream pump in several stages. A payroll of some 20 men was required just to keep the water flowing continuously to Rand Mountain. The old, smaller mill treated high-grade rock while the new larger plant processed bulk ore from an extensive hole.
After several profitable years, due to dedicated efforts on the part of the four partners, it no longer was necessary to maintain such a continuous close watch over the Randsburg operation. Consequently, all the partners moved to Los Angeles and either bought or built large, fancy homes in order to better show off their new-found wealth and to enjoy the social life that only a big city could provide. The Burchams purchased an elaborate home probably all of redwood, in an ornate Italian Style. It came complete with reception hall and adjoining drawing rooms where Dr. Rose would entertain local society when she was not in Europe. Of the three great houses, only that of partner Mooers remains today at 818 So. Bonnie Brae. This house has been designated a Cultural Heritage Board Monument, along with a fancy sign and bronze plaque to prove it. It is number 45 in the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Series.
Dr. Rose LaMonte Burcham invested her continuing income from the Yellow Aster mine in Los Angeles and San Bernardino real estate and orange groves (Our ancestor, James Pratt and Katherine (Keillor) Lamont went out to help Rose, Jame’s sister, care for the orange orchards) while her husband pursued short-lived interests throughout California and Nevada.
Dr. Rose outlived all three of her male partners. Husband Charles died in 1913, partner John Singleton in 1941, and partner F. M. Mooers in 1900. None of the partners left any lasting remembrance of their important presence in Randsburg, no status symbols or monuments, no social hall, no permanent water supply, or anything that would have improved the town. However, the company records do indicate that once the Yellow Aster became profitable, Dr. Rose was indeed generous with company funds in support of Randsburg civic projects. Today only a great gash in Rand Mountain, with dusty mill tailings in the lower washes, remains to show traces of the original operation which had been the origin of three substantial fortunes. Even those minimal indications are rapidly being altered today as modern equipment, knew gold recovery processes, and a higher price for gold all combine to make reactivation of this aging property possible.
The Yellow Aster Mining & Milling Company was sold shortly after Charles Burcham died in 1913. Dr. Rose, the last remaining partner, moved on to devote her time to a variety of South California interest. The Yellow Aster had produced continuously for some 20 years for its original discoverers, thanks entirely to Dr. Rose’s tenacity and business acumen. Through all the trials and tribulations, the lean months and the legal controversies, Dr. Rose had succeeded in keeping the Yellow Aster organization as a closed corporation. It had been kept under the complete control of its original locators, those three prodigal prospectors and their talented female business manager.
Dr. Rose eventually sold her big home at Seventh and Burlington and moved to another house she already owned in the burgeoning Wilshire District. She spent the last 20 years of her life quietly and comfortable in a sprawling ‘California Cottage’ at 114 South Almansor Street in Alhambra, California. On the second day of February, 1944, she died peacefully at home, still a proud member of the Ebell Club of Los Angeles and the Southern California Academy of Science. She was 86. (She was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.)