Sunday, May 1, 2022

How To Mine For The Yellow Stuff!

The roar of jet engines!!!!   Oh wait, that's just the RV three doors down!  It's a good thing I have ear plugs, otherwise, this place is SO nice and quiet!!  

Back to the gold mine!  Probably the most important building on the property .... the 12-holer.  I know you're just on the edge of your seat hearing about this one.  They dug a big hole and placed the building over it, teetering on the edges.  Sometimes it fell in, but mostly it stayed until the hole was full, whereupon they dug a new hole, moved the building over and used the dirt to cover up the last one.   

This one moved quite often because there were three shifts of men working the mine.  Two shifts dug for gold and one for water.  I'll explain that below.  Way in the far back there's a tiny yellow thing ... a dead canary.  Just for show of course.

The head frame still stands since the frame is all steel beams now, having been rebuilt after a fire.  It's standing directly over the hole that goes straight down into the ground.

They required electricity to turn the wheels moving people and rock up and down the 5000 feet to the bottom.  It was provided by nine wood fired ovens, which completely wiped out all the trees around this area.  So many mines ate up every single tree, so eventually they had to change over to oil burners.  Those trees that are here now, have grown since the mine closed.  

These two images are looking at the hoppers, one up top and one below, along with the framework that held the cables that ran the skips (buckets).    

That lighter colored thing at the bottom is a skip, used to haul ore up through the mine shaft to one of two big hoppers.  The skip could be dumped into the first hopper if it was plain rocks that didn't assay out, or in the second bigger hopper above.  The skips were about 3.5 feet wide and open on one side if it hauled men or mules.  Yes, mules were taken down in the mine to move big rolling carts of rock to a holding area so it could be taken out later.  All that rock was moved by shovel and muscle.

Since we are not allowed to go into the mine, and truly, who the heck would want to go down a 6' square shaft to anything over ten feet, the museum built a mine shaft inside one of the buildings for us to walk through. 

That huge pile of cable on the right was attached to the two big wheels, one going each direction so as one skip was going down, the other was coming up.  

The other ends went around these wheels at the top of the head frame.

Rock dumped in the lower hopper is the fill dirt we were all standing on.  The second taller hopper was the ore (rocks and dirt) that was hauled off to the stamp mill to remove the gold.

These doors were opened loading big carts with the ore, that were then moved over to the stamp mill to the right .... wait for it .....

On this flimsy trestle BY MULE!  The mules walked along this walkway pulling the carts which rode on rails.

Those were dumped into the stamp mill below, the remnants of which can be seen on the left.

I think he said there were ten 1200 pounds stamps that crushed the ore.  With so many mines using stamp mills, the noise level was deafening day and night.  Using a sluice box system, the gold was gathered up and the waste water run into the nearest creek.  Farmers complained loudly.  The silty runoff filled in the rivers and streams and ruined their crops.  

Way off in the trees the mine built four huge water wheels they used to raise the sluice tailings 45' high, up and over the hill to a pond on the other side.  One water wheel remains today.

As I mentioned above, two shifts blasted and dug for rock (by hand) and one shift mined for water.  The water tables were so high at the time that the bottom of the mine filled up.  One entire 8 hour shift was spent each day removing water with this and one other skip.  

With all these skips running up and down constantly 24-7, you sure had to know what you were doing, what skip to get on and how to get OUT of the hole.  The only light inside to see came from small carbide headlamps they wore on their heads and a candle or two.  

These men ..... they were something else.  I couldn't even go 50' down a fully lit walkway in a cave down south.  There's no way I could ride a skip down into the pitch black to swing a pick and shovel. 

There's more, but I'll finish it up later.  The troops drove down to Jamestown and rode that steam train while I checked out Sutter Creek, then we all met for dinner at Strings Italian Restaurant.  SO MUCH FOOD!!!  

As for now, we are all headed back home this morning.  


  1. Amazing story. When we drove through Sutter Creek a few years ago I could not believe how much bigger it was...same with Jackson.

    1. Definitely bigger and full of wine tasting shops.

  2. Homeward bound already! Wow that seems so quick. Very interesting post! We loved it! I'll be curious to see how you liked Sutter Creek! We used to take my mom there every Christmas season...

    1. Yup - quick trip. At those RV park prices, no one could stay very long!! I bet Christmas there is wonderful!