Geologist Cabin, Death Valley
Anvil Spring and Anvil Canyon were both named by Sergeant Neal, a member of the Bendire expedition of 1867. He found an anvil, wagon rims, and some old iron scraps near the spring site in Butte Valley and so it became Anvil Spring. Although it has been postulated by some that these were remains of a blacksmith outfit brought into Death Valley by Asabel Bennett in 1849, it appears that actually, they were a later addition to the spring.
A gentleman by the name Milo Page, writing about the early mining locations in Inyo County, explains that in the fall of 1858 he and friends purchased a team and supplies in Salt Lake City and headed for San Bernardino following an old Mormon route. Shortly after leaving the Kingston Mountain Range the group met a party of four or five Mormons with a six-mule team pulling a wagon heavily loaded with silver-lead bullion that they were transporting to Salt Lake for refining.
Eight years after the Mormons worked this mine, several men lead by a Joseph Clews who had heard of their find left San Bernardino in search of the mine. Included in their outfit was a large anvil. Near the carbonate mine, on the west side of a small valley, was a large spring where they camped; departing the area months later, they threw the anvil into the spring, where it was evidently later seen by the Bendire expedition.
The stone cabin located at Anvil Spring, known as the "Geologist's Cabin" over the years, is the prominent landmark in the Butte Valley area. The cabin was originally built by Asa Russell (Panamint Russ) when he first started work on his nearby claim in 1930. The 1930 time period is further confirmed by a 1929 photo of Anvil Spring by Margaret Long, in which the "Geologist's Cabin" is not shown. Russell further developed Anvil Spring by containing it within a rock-lined cistern and covering it with a wooden trap door. An overflow pipe attracts the ever-present burro population, as attested to by the number of tracks visible.
Authors Emmett Harder and Judy Palmer in their book, These Canyons Are Full of Ghosts: The last of the Death Valley Prospectors, put forth an alternative theory that the cabin was actually built by a Dr. Wallace Todd, Capt William Fison, and Dr. John Wolff. Todd and Wolff were both geologists which is probably where the “Geologist” moniker came about. This account seems less probable given Dr. Todd was a student at Sanford at the time and received his masters in 1931. Sooner or later additional facts may come to light.
The cabin is a popular backcountry camping spot and many will spend a night or two. The unofficial practice is to fly the American Flag over the cabin when in use to let others know it is occupied. The cabin has a fantastic view of Striped Butte and the valley. In the tradition of the old west please leave the cabin better than you found it.