Schubach, California is a US Census defined place in unincorporated land of California around 50 miles SW of Needles, California. Originally founded in 1922 by William S. Schubach, a German prospector who established a 1600-acre mining claim. The claim was to use the a railroad siding which had been established in 1911 to transport goods and services for the mining workers and their families in and materials for cement and concrete out.
In the modern day the area is sparsely populated and while there is newer construction it is mostly empty. The majority of residents who still live in the area live in manufactured home parks or run-down rental properties. The area does not have a police or fire department, though they do have a local basic-needs clinic which provides mostly-free medical care to the residents. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's department is the primary source of law enforcement but do not have a local substation. The nearest ER is in Blythe, California a 2-hour drive away and fire services are provided by local volunteers.
The clinic is just called "the clinic" by the locals, though it's proper name is Schubach Community Clinic. It is funded primarily from state and federal grant money but also a handful of local investments from figures in the community such as James Buck and Vickie Heinz. Locals refer to the local volunteers as the Fire Department, though they are not a proper fire department. Through grants and private help they do have a fire truck and basic equipment. None of them are properly trained in a formal sense but they are well known and respected for doing what they have to do.
The town has no official incorporated government and instead San Bernardino County officials have actual legal governing authority. There is a general feeling of social and political unrest. Most of the population is conservative and undereducated / underemployed. They feel the government has forgotten about them and there is an undercurrent of anger and betrayal toward the government at the County, State, and Federal levels. During the 2016 election the town was overwhelmingly against Hillary Clinton as a candidate though in the 2008 election most were for Barack Obama. For the most part the area believes that the government isn't worth worrying about, politicians are liars, government promises can't be trusted, and big companies are out to steal everything a person has.
Internet & Communications
The area is served by a singular telephone company, Pacific Oasis Communications which offers DSL services and has been promising fiber connections for several years. Spectrum does service the area minimally with only basic service, they are the top provider of Internet while the telephone company provides basic landline services to many older homes. Cellular services are offered by Verizon & AT&T but smaller carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile just do not function at all, getting no service. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) have the most success there. The 4G LTE coverage is poor but there is decent 3G and voice coverage.
TV coverage is very limited over the air, though possible with a high enough antenna. The local bar provides for sporting events making big events and such to bring locals in who cannot afford cable or other TV services. Otherwise cable TV is the only reliable means of bringing in media other than Internet which tends to not be reliable enough to provide for high bandwidth uses like Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services.
- Buck's Camp 'n' Hunt owned by James Buck III
- Provides wilderness supplies for camping in the desert during the cooler months. Moderately successful, James Buck III is a pillar of the community and well respected.
- Jake's Cool Stop owned by Cameron Dennis
- Favored gas station and convenience store for adults in the area, has a larger than average grocery section. Provides locals with basic food needs more than gas. Milk, eggs, flour, and other staples can be bought here but the business has a high overhead. Cameron Dennis is relatively new to the area, not very well respected though he's lived there for about 10 years. Bought the business from the original owner Jake Martin's son Robert Martin around 2010. Robert moved to Los Angeles, many feel that Cameron did something shady to get Robert to leave. In reality Jake killed himself in 2008 when the bubble burst and Robert was only staying in Schubach because of his dad who had a lot of health problems.
- Pilot Flying J which is corporately owned
- Sports a McDonalds and a Taco Bell supported by truck drivers passing through. There is no major roadway going through but the area is often a stop of truck drivers wishing to avoid the major highways for whatever reason. There are legitimate routes that can be cut through the town on the way to Needles or Blythe for those who know the area well, but that is not the most common reason for routing through Schubach. Most of the local youth prefer to hang out here and can often scam a few truck drivers who are new or do legitimate work for them, fixing things, carrying things, or running other errands for small change.
- Desert City Jewelry & Loan which is owned by Los Angeles finance company
- Once owned by a local Jessie Diamond and her two sons Rick and Art. In 2008 the business was hit really hard from the crash and Jessie issued paid letters to all of those who had loans out and couldn't pay when she closed the doors in 2009. In return James Buck III gave Jessie and her boys a healthy cash loan, no interest, to help get them to better job prospects in Blythe. A finance company in Los Angeles bought the store in 2017 peddling high interest payday loans as well as pawning services. It is known for being cut throat and predatory but also the only game in town. The place is managed by Rick Blunt, known for just doing his job even as he has to do distasteful things to collect on debts.
- Red Sands Bar owned by Vickie G. Heinz.
- Local watering hole, bit of a dive, but mostly honest. Vickie herself is a local, family has been here since the beginning back in the 20's. Her husband Al died of an overdose just in 2019 and the bar has seen better days. While her son and daughter (Freddie and Jenny) try to run the place, they have very little financial sense. Freddie is a recovering alcoholic and Jenny is about as functional as one can be addicted to oxy. Vickie laments that she should have left whens he turned 18 like her brother did. Incidentally her brother, Seth, did leave at 18 and is a successful mechanic in Sacramento. He sends her money every month and constantly tries to get her to move, though has made it clear her "junkie brats" are not welcome.
The rail strike of 1922 severely impacted the establishment of the mining quarry, which was to provide needed raw materials to Schubach's construction business through cheaper access to cement and concrete base materials. Construction of the site slow to a crawl as the railroad was the only way to get heavy machinery to and from area. While Schubach was not involved in the strike directly, he was known to be aggressive toward the strikers. When the strike ended, construction equipment was brought in and construction began.
Discovery of Iron Ore
In 1927 while excavating crews discovered iron ore in the form of magnetite. Geologists were at first not sure the potential size of the site but Schubach himself felt it was a prime time to expand into that market. Using the intense economic growth of 1927 Schubach was able to get Bank of America and Wells Fargo to both invest in the project using only the initial survey findings that a vein of magnetite did in fact exist while exaggerating the find extravagantly.
The investments paid off in the short term, geologists speculated that the find could be one of the largest in America. When news broke in San Francisco that a new massive iron ore deposit was found in the state, Schubach was able to bet heavily on how well his business would do. In 1927 and 1928 the operation was set to greatly expand. In 1929 when the markets collapsed it gutted Schubach's company, which relied heavily on its investment portfolio and was leveraged to the hilt attempting to capitalize on the iron ore deposit.
In 1930 it was found that the geologist reports which provided the proof to the new San Francisco investors had been doctored. Schubach blamed the geologists for misleading him but the investors were having none of it. Without the stability provided from the investments in the NYSE and no new lending going on, Schubach went bankrupt. Ceasing all operations in California by 1932.
The community was saved from being relegated becoming a ghost town by investments by J.R. Dobbs Materials Inc. in 1934. The original prospects of the area were still good and as the markets improved J.R. Dobbs Materials began to purchase land and operations at the quarry began again in 1936. The area saw steady economic growth throughout World War II. A small iron ore deposit was uncovered along with a number of other similarly small deposits of zinc, copper, and mercury.
Rumors of Gold
In 1948 an ad was placed in the Los Angeles Times asking for experienced miners to send a $5 claims fee to a post office box in Los Angeles to claim land for gold prospecting in Schubach, California. The advert claimed that the "J.D. Hobbs Minerals Company" had discovered gold and they would let anyone have a claim for a $5 fee. The ad was a fraud, while the perpetrators were never eventually found, prosecuted, and sentenced the jail time the rumors of gold persisted. Throughout the 1950's the rumors were nothing more than urban legend, circulating around Los Angeles and surrounding areas. The J.R. Dobbs company was successful at managing its resources and Schubach, California was on a steady if shallow economic incline.
During the 1960's the urban legend of gold near Schubach took on a new tone. A satirist against the anti-government movements during the Vietnam War released a number of pamphlets playing off of the idea that the government could not be trusted but taking it to obvious extremes. One of these claims was that the gold found in the desert around Schubach was being secretly used to fund the war and that they didn't want you to know it. This revived the idea that gold was in Schubach and linked it strongly to the anti-government movement.
Protests were staged blaming the J.R. Dobbs company for funding the war. While the gold itself was not real the links between J.R. Dobbs Materials and the US Government were real. The company was a relatively minor contractor providing various building materials for the construction and maintenance of US military bases.
New Breed of Settlers
The idea that gold was nearby fostered treasure hunters, amatuer prospectors, and fraudsters to come to Schubach inflating is population and drastically changing its political demographic over the next 30 years. The quarry was still the economic lifeline of the town. By the 1980's though the site was on the decline, costs of extracting the needed materials had increased dramatically and the site saw a drastic decline over the 80's and 90's. The town of Schubach was losing money quickly prompting those who could afford it to migrate away from the community. The J.R. Dobbs quarry ceased operations in 1992 even while the construction industry was booming. The quarry had become too expensive for the company to continue operating. The supplies of metals such as iron, zync, and mercury had depleted entirely after being leveraged for the last 40 years to offset increased operating costs.
Real Estate Bubble
During late 90's and early 00's the real estate boom allowed for some economic growth. Many would-be homesteaders bought land in Schubach hoping to become self sufficient in a challenging environment while others moved there for the isolation. Since real estate was on the incline a handful of small new subdivisions began construction, promising to build an oasis in the desert. These homes would become fodder for the subprime mortgage lending, the land was cheap for the bank to buy and loans to people who were not equipped to deal with the challenges of living in such an isolated place were easy targets for predatory lending.
The real estate bubble of bursting at the end of 2008 saw many in the local community no longer able to move away. Homes got foreclosed on, construction on the subdivisions stopped entirely. Empty suburban streets pockmarked with new and now empty homes share space with run down old buildings of the city center, plans to gentrify the area having failed entirely. Several plots of land were purchased by companies and turned into lots of manufactured homes and trailer parks.
By 2011 the communities only proper grocery store closed down and the site was foreclosed on by the bank. Leaving the community having to travel for at least an hour in any direction for more than the most basic of needs. Locals even in 2020 mark this event with special significance and blame then-President Barack Obama for the event fueling anti-government sentiment.