While the J. W. Booth family operated the stage stop, in 1903 Mrs. Booth discovered garnets in exposed granite, 500’ north of the house. With three working partners, they excavated five pounds of “spessartite garnets, in colors from deep red to light honey-to-yellow, affording beautiful gems, some have which have been cut, weighing from 3 to 6 carats.”
Another pocket discovered topaz “ . . . sky-blue to aquamarine-blue. About four pounds of these crystals have been extracted . . . Several very fine pink beryl were also taken out, one 6 inches long, having three perfect sides, and 1.5” in diameter, being the largest crystal yet found.”
Chester Booth, who as a little boy lived with his parents at the station, recalled that the mine was a small operation where his father and one or two men would pick and shovel dirt from the mine and sort through it for gems.
Minerals from the Surprise mine include-- white and blue topaz; pink, green, and white beryl; black, green, and brown tourmaline; spessartite garnets; biotite, magnetite, orthoclase, albite, quartz crystals, and two unknown minerals. (pp 146-147, Gems, Jewelers’ Materials, of California).
The Surprise mine is an extension of the Little Three mine, adjoining to the northwest. Because it was active for over a hundred years, unique gem specimens typical of the area are archived in the Smithsonian and other museums. A gallery of photographs can be seen with a web search Little Three Mine.
An interesting story of what will not be found . . . A fine topaz-elbaite matrix specimen weighing about 150 pounds was mined in 1905 from the Little Three Mine main dike. The specimen was placed on display for many years at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce until it was moved to the newly opened Natural History Museum. During World War II, the Navy took over the museum, and the displays were crated and stored away. The specimen hasn't been seen again, and it is said to have likely been put onto a junk barge, and dumped into the ocean.
Read more about regional mining history in the Ramona Journal.