|If his legend wasn’t enough during his short life time, it would soon grow larger when in 1854, the first “fictionalized” account of his life appeared in a San Francisco newspaper and a book by John Rollin Ridge. In The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta.
Ridge portrayed Murrieta as a folk hero who had only turned to a life of crime after a mob of American miners had beaten him severely and left him for dead, hanged his brother, and raped and killed his wife. According to Ridge’s account, Joaquin was a dashing, romantic figure that swearing to avenge the atrocities committed upon his family, committed his many crimes only in an effort to “right” the many injustices against the Mexicans.
According to the tale, Murrieta fled from his claim only to set up a saloon in nearby Hangtown, where miners began to go missing. One by one, the dead bodies of the miners, all who were said to have been part of the killings at the Murrieta claim, turned up with their ears cut off.
After Joaquin’s supposed death, advertising posters were displayed where the head could be viewed, 1853.
|After fourteen miners had been found dead or missing, a Hangtown settler identified Murrieta who fled once again. Before long, he had gathered up his outlaw gang and began to take out his vendetta against the white settlers through robbery and mayhem. However, to his Mexican compatriots he was generous and kind, giving much of his ill gotten gains to the poor, who in turn helped to shelter him from the law.
There is no evidence that Ridge’s version of the tale is accurate; however, similar atrocities were committed on both Mexicans and Chinese who were living in California at the time.
Over the years, the telling of the tale continued to grow until the dead Mexican outlaw began to be called the Robin Hood of El Dorado and take on a symbolized resistance of the Mexicans to the Anglo-American domination of California. And all throughout Gold Country, tales were told of how the outlaw had stayed at this or that hotel, drank in various saloons, and those who claimed to have actually met or was robbed by the man.
As to what happened to Joaquin’s head, it was finally placed behind the bar of the Golden Nugget Saloon in San Francisco, until the building was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake.
|The head itself would become yet a part of another legend – the ghost of Joaquin. Even today, the tales continue of Joaquin’s headless ghost riding through the old gold fields, crying like a banshee – “Give me back my head.”|
Posts Tagged With: California
For the land that would eventually become California, the year 1542 was a pivotal point in time. The first recorded sighting of the California coastline occurred in that momentous year. Two small ships commanded by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo worked their way up the west coast of Mexico to what is now San Diego Bay. Cabrillo had been present during the final conquest of Mexico City and had personally witnessed the fall of the Aztec empire. But his discovery of California would be his crowning achievement, although he didn’t realize it at the time.
Sixty years later, the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino cruised the California coastline in search of wealth. Vizcaino named many locations along the coast including Carmel, Monterey, Santa Catalina, and San Pedro. The expedition found no treasure but did discover “fool’s gold” and a metallic silvery-blue mineral used by the natives.
It wasn’t until 1769 that a joint land and sea expedition to California was mounted by the Spaniards. Don Gaspar de Portola arrived in San Diego in June of that year as California’s first governor. The expedition included a number of illustrious men including Father Junipero Serra, Father Juan Crespi, Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada, and Lieutenant Pedro Fages. The Spanish presence was now firmly established in California.
Five years later, another expedition set out for the newly-established San Gabriel Mission in southern California. Led by Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spaniards marched from Sonora along the Camino de Diablo trail to the junction of the Colorado and Gila rivers. Here they encountered the Yuma Indians led by their famous chief Palma. From the Yuma villages, the Spaniards marched westward through the desert sands to Borrego Springs and then on to San Gabriel Mission. The floodgates were now open. Spanish prospectors quickly followed on the heels of de Anza and by 1780, were scouring the mountains of the lower Colorado River country. In that same year, gold was discovered in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, in the Picacho
Basin, and at the “Potholes” near the southern end of the Chocolate Mountains. The Cargo Muchachos have veteran status among the mountain ranges of southern California. They were the site of the first discovery of gold in California by Spanish prospectors. Initially the surface ores were extremely rich, but deeper down they gave way to very low grade ore. The Spanish miners quickly skimmed off the richest ores and moved on to other locations. The Cargo Muchacho deposits were sporadically worked by Mexican prospectors, but they essentially lay dormant for over 80 years.
Then in 1862, American prospectors discovered rich gold-bearing quartz veins in the Cargo Muchachos. Miners and prospectors swarmed into the area. In 1884, the rich Gold Rock lodes were discovered by a railroad worker named Pete Walters. Railroad men sure seem to make good prospectors. Besides Pete Walters’ Gold Rock strike in the Cargo Muchachos there was John Sutter’s discovery of the fabulous Bagdad-Chase lode and Tom Schofield’s lost mine in the Clipper Mountains.
The Gold Rock claims were extremely rich. A mining camp known as Gold Rock Camp sprang up near the workings, but it was renamed Hedges soon after. (In 1910, the name was again changed to Tumco.) Hedges was a hell-raising town during its heyday. During the late 1800’s, an Irishman named Jim Sullivan worked at one of the saloons in town. One of his fellow employees was an old Indian who had lived in the lower Colorado River country all his life. The Indian carried a secret with him. In his wanderings he had stumbled on a ledge of gold-bearing ore and had samples to prove it! Sullivan eventually persuaded him to reveal the location of the ledge and the two of them set out from Hedges. The Indian led Sullivan eastward towards the Chocolate Mountains. After about 15 miles, they located the ledge, worked it, and then returned to town. Soon after, the old Indian disappeared but Sullivan always figured he could find the ledge on his own. He was never able to.
Boundary Canyon slices through the heart of the rugged Amargosa Range just north of Beatty Junction, California. Besides Highway 190 which follows Furnace Creek Wash further south, the road through Boundary Canyon is the only route that cuts through the Amargosas. Boundary Canyon forms the border between two subranges of the Amargosas, the Grapevine Mountains to the north and the Funeral Mountains to the south. The canyon and surrounding mountains are extremely rugged and nearly waterless, but early prospectors sometimes used Boundary Canyon to travel to and from Death Valley. Occasionally, they left their marks along the way. On a vertical cliff in the Boundary Canyon area, an old inscription is carved into the rock. The words are enough to fire the imagination. There, cut into the rock above the canyon floor, is the message: “Hunting the Breyfogle. 1872.”
The Lost Breyfogle Mine is one of several legendary lost mines of Death Valley and is indeed one of the most famous lost mines of the entire West. And no wonder. The renowned Death Valley prospector, “Shorty” Harris, saw some of Breyfogle’s amazing ore and instantly pronounced it the richest he had ever seen! A chunk of the fabulously rich ore was on display in Austin, Nevada for a number of years. Hundreds of mining men and prospectors stared with amazement at the ore sample. It was nearly half gold!
The man who discovered this golden bonanza came west during the 1849 rush to California. Charles C. Breyfogle and his brothers Jacob and Joshua left their home in Ohio and joined the nearly 50,000 Argonauts who journeyed overland to the California goldfields. Charles spent the next 10 years of his life in the mining districts of the Mother Lode country. In 1859, he was drawn to the booming silver camps of Nevada. By 1862, Charles Breyfogle was one of many prospectors working the western slopes of the Toiyabe Range, overlooking the Reese River valley. The mining town of Austin rose up near the silver mines.
Several accounts of the Lost Breyfogle Mine have Charles setting out from Austin on his fateful journey. Other sources have him traveling from Los Angeles to the Nevada silver camp when he made his discovery. The sources are confused and contradictory, but in any case, Breyfogle and at least two companions were traveling through Death Valley in 1863 when they were attacked by Indians. All were killed except Breyfogle. Breyfogle scampered into the foothills of the Funeral Range and started wandering through the mountains in a generally northward direction. Somewhere on the western flanks of the Funerals, Charles spied a solitary mesquite tree in the distance. As he headed toward the tree, he stumbled on an outcrop of incredibly rich gold ore! It consisted of native gold in an iron-stained “chocolate brown” quartz. The ore contained nearly 50% gold! He continued northward, his pockets bulging with gold. Charles was eventually discovered wandering in the Nevada desert and brought in to Austin, where he recovered from his ordeal.
The incredible richness of Breyfogle’s ore astounded the local miners. By 1865, Charles was ready to return to the Death Valley country to search for the ledge. Breyfogle, Jake Gooding, and Pony Duncan wandered the valley for months but were unable to find it. Charles returned many times; his last attempt in 1869 ended in failure. He died the following year. In 1872, Jacob Breyfogle (Charles’ brother) took up where his brother left off. Unfortunately, his efforts also proved to be futile. The fabulous ledge remains hidden today.
The 1870’s were “silver years” in the mining history of the American West. After the fabulous Comstock silver strike in western Nevada, silver replaced gold in the hearts of the miners and prospectors of the West. 1873 was a big year at the Comstock mines as massive new silver lodes were discovered in the lower workings. These fabulous silver discoveries sent out a ripple of excitement to all parts of the West as prospectors poured over the mountains in search of the white metal. Soon after the Comstock windfall, prospectors discovered incredibly rich silver deposits in the Panamint Range of eastern California. Some of the Panamint ore assayed out at $3000 worth of silver per ton of ore!
Silver was king in Colorado during the 1870’s. It was during those years that the so-called “carbonate craze” swept the state. Prospectors scouted the mountains in search of silver-bearing ore bodies emplaced in carbonate rocks such as limestone. Prospectors looked for limestones that were closely associated with igneous rocks. And they found them! It turned out that Colorado was particularly well-endowed with silver deposits. In 1878, one of the greatest silver camps of all was born with the discovery of a 10-foot thick, tabular bed of silver-bearing lead carbonate. Leadville instantly leaped to prominence. In the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado, a similar ore body near Rico was worked during the 1870’s.
The white metal was also king in Arizona during the 1870’s. The great silver district of the Trigo Mountains got its start with the discovery of the rich Black Rock and Pacific lodes in 1877.
Then, around the turn of the century, gold again replaced silver in importance as numerous rich strikes were made all over the West. 1891 was the year of the great Cripple Creek gold rush. Situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the gold-choked throat of the buried “Cripple Creek volcano” has produced over $430 million in gold! Cripple Creek was the last of Colorado’s great gold camps. In 1895, the fabulous lode deposits of Randsburg were discovered in the Mohave Desert of southern California. The Randsburg mines produced nearly a million ounces of gold during their lifetime. Southern California was the scene of another rich
gold strike during the 1890’s. The discovery took place in the Panamint Mountains, about 7 miles south of the abandoned silver camp of Panamint City. The mining camp that sprang up along the western flank of the Panamints was named after the famous Australian gold camp known as Ballarat.
In 1897, it was Alaska’s turn. The great Alaskan gold rush took prospectors to the Klondike and then to Nome the following year. The great placer deposits of Alaska have produced over 20 million ounces of gold to date. In the early 1900’s, the focus shifted back to the American Southwest. In 1902, the fabulous ore bodies at Goldfield, Nevada were discovered. The mines at Goldfield eventually produced over 4 million ounces of the yellow metal. The Goldfield strike sent a pulse of excitement throughout the desert Southwest. Prospectors combed the wilderness, looking for gold and silver ores similar to those at Tonopah and Goldfield. In 1904, the famous Death Valley prospector “Shorty” Harris discovered the rich Bullfrog lode, near the Nevada/California border. Two years later, prospectors returned to the Panamints and located the gold deposits at Skidoo. The Panamints had a way of luring back prospectors again and again. It had happened back in 1873, and then in the 1890’s, and then again in 1906.
One of the many prospectors drawn to the Panamint Range during the 1890’s was a veteran of the Death Valley country named Jack Stewart. In 1897, Stewart found himself on the Death Valley side of the Panamints, not far from Stovepipe Wells. During a rare Death Valley downpour, Stewart was forced to take cover along the northeastern flank of the range. In one of the many small canyons that cut the range, Stewart discovered a freshly-exposed deposit of gold-bearing quartz float! He gathered up some samples, waited out the storm, and continued on his way to Stovepipe Wells. Eventually, Stewart returned to the Panamints to search for the source of the rich float. But the landscape had somehow changed! Perhaps another storm had altered the canyon floor, but in any case, Stewart was unable to locate the deposit. He never did.
Lost Santa Rosa Emerald Mine….
The rugged Santa Rosa Mountains rise up from the desert floor northwest of the Salton Sea, in the extreme south-central part of California. Part of the Peninsular Ranges, the Santa Rosa Mountains stretch for nearly 40 miles in a northwest-southeast direction. The Santa Rosas are dominated by three peaks, Toro Peak and Santa Rosa Mountain in the northwest part of the range and Rabbit Peak in the southeast part. Toro Peak is the highest peak in the Santa Rosas, rising to 8717 feet. The mountains decrease in elevation to the southeast, eventually petering out into a series of low hills just west of the Salton Sea. The Santa Rosas are bounded on the east and west by the Coachella Valley and Clark Valley, respectively. The range is separated from the adjacent San Jacinto range to the northwest by Palm Canyon. The southern part of the range merges with the seared wasteland known as the Borrego Badlands. The town of Borrego Springs lies a scant 12 miles southwest of the Santa Rosas.
The Santa Rosa Mountains have always stood on the periphery of events in California. Even today, the area is remote and fairly inaccessible. In 1774, a Spanish expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza passed through Borrego Springs on its way to San Gabriel Mission, near present day Los Angeles. But for the most part, people and events have by-passed the Santa Rosas.
The mountains have an air of mystery about them. For many years, persistent rumors of rich gold-bearing pockets in the Santa Rosas have circulated around the mining camps of southern California. Indeed, a few of these have been discovered. The area also contains numerous Pre-Columbian archeological sites including camp sites, stone rings, and ancient Indian trails. Many legends have come down to us concerning the activities of these early Indians. One of the most intriguing legends is that of a lost emerald mine worked for many years by the local Indians.
In the 1940’s, a mining engineer named Marshal South got wind of the legendary emerald mine from an old Indian living in Hermosilla. The two formed a partnership and began prospecting the Santa Rosa Mountains. Using Rockhouse Canyon as their base camp, Marshal South and the old Indian scoured the mountains in search of the emerald deposit. Although they never located the mine, they did find a small fragment of emerald in one of the many steep canyons that cut the flanks of the Santa Rosas. The emerald was found mixed with beryl float at the bottom of the canyon.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered near Los Angeles caused no major damage but jittered nerves throughout the region as dozens of aftershocks struck into the night.
Broken glass, gas leaks, water main breaks and a rockslide were reported near the epicenter, according to Twitter updates from local authorities.
Eyewitness photos and videos show bottles and packages strewn on store floors. Southern California Edison reported power outages to about 2,000 customers following the quake.
More than two dozen aftershocks ranging from magnitudes 2 to 3.6 were recorded, according to the USGS. Earlier in the evening, two foreshocks registering at magnitude-3.6 and magnitude-2.1 hit nearby in the city of La Habra.
Public safety officials said crews were inspecting bridges, dams, rail tracks and other infrastructure systems for signs of damage. The Brea police department said the rock slide in the Carbon Canyon area caused a car to overturn, and the people inside the car sustained minor injuries.
Callers to KNX-AM reported seeing a brick wall collapse, water sloshing in a swimming pool and wires and trees swaying back and forth. One caller said he was in a movie theater lobby in Brea when the quake struck.
“A lot of the glass in the place shook like crazy,” he said. “It started like a roll and then it started shaking like crazy. Everybody ran outside, hugging each other in the streets.”
A helicopter news reporter from KNBC-TV reported from above that rides at Disneyland in Anaheim — several miles from the epicenter — were stopped as a precaution.
Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully was on the air calling the Angels-Dodgers exhibition game in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium.
“A little tremor here in the ballpark. I’m not sure if the folks felt it, but we certainly felt it here in press box row,” Scully said. “A tremor and only that, thank goodness.”
Tom Connolly, a Boeing employee who lives in La Mirada, the next town over from La Habra, said the magnitude-5.1 quake lasted about 30 seconds.
“We felt a really good jolt. It was a long rumble and it just didn’t feel like it would end,” he told The Associated Press by phone. “Right in the beginning it shook really hard, so it was a little unnerving. People got quiet and started bracing themselves by holding on to each other. It was a little scary.”
Friday’s quake hit a week after a pre-dawn magnitude-4.4 quake centered in the San Fernando Valley rattled a swath of Southern California. That jolt shook buildings and rattled nerves, but did not cause significant damage.
Southern California has not experienced a devastating earthquake since the 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake killed several dozen people and caused $25 billion in damage.
Preliminary data suggest Friday night’s 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred near the Puente Hills thrust fault, which stretches from the San Gabriel Valley to downtown Los Angeles and caused the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.
“It’s a place where we’ve had a lot of earthquakes in the past,” she said.
The 5.9 Whittier Narrows quake killed eight people and caused $360 million in damage
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed several gun control bills on Friday, a move that essentially rebuffs an effort by fellow Democrats to enact a sweeping expansion of firearms regulation in the most populous U.S. state.
Brown vetoed the strictest bill, which would have classified any rifle with a removable magazine as an assault weapon, calling it an “infringement on gun owners’ rights.”
“I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” Brown said in his veto message.
He also vetoed a measure that would have banned people from owning a gun for 10 years if they had been convicted of substance abuse violations or ordered to undergo outpatient mental health treatment.
Brown did approve a measure to ban kits used to convert standard guns into semi-automatics with large capacity magazines, which he described as closing a loophole in existing state law.
California’s actions come amid national political lobbying around gun control, as lawmakers struggle to balance calls for more regulation following mass shootings against fear among gun rights supporters that their constitutional right to bear arms may be violated.
State lawmakers sent 17 gun control measures to Brown’s desk, in part because the U.S. Congress, mired in partisan bickering, failed to act after several high profile gun rampages last year, including a deadly Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults in December.
“Large-capacity magazines have no place on our streets,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley. “We seized the opportunity to make California a model for common-sense gun violence prevention.”
Chuck Michel, a Southern California attorney who advises the National Rifle Association on gun rights issues, said that with the exception of a bill phasing out the use of lead in ammunition used in hunting, Brown vetoed the measures that were of greatest concern to the NRA.
“I am pleased he’s shown some respect for the rights of California gun owners and those who would choose to own a gun to defend their families,” Michel said. Even so, the gun rights organization is concerned about several measures that Brown did sign, including the one banning conversion kits.
“He vetoed the worst of the worst,” Michel said, “But the rest are still bad.”
In all, Brown signed 10 new gun control bills and vetoed seven. Those he signed included a measure to ban people from gun ownership for five years if they tell a licensed psychotherapist that they plan to shoot people. Another, by Republican Ted Gaines, would give mental health professionals 24 hours to report such threats.
In addition to the semi-automatic weapons ban, bills vetoed included a measure that would have limited the ability of private parties to sell guns in the state, and one that would have allowed the city of Oakland to enact its own gun restrictions.
The clock is ticking on the next big earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, and experts fear it will be a monster
Following the deadly magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, Oregon legislators commissioned a study of the impact a similar quake could have on the state, according to the Associated Press.
The report, “Oregon Resilience Plan: Reducing Risk and Improving Recovery for the Next Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami,” was presented to legislators Thursday (March 14).
Within its pages is a chilling picture of death and destruction that would cripple the entire Pacific Northwest, from Northern California to British Columbia.
More than 10,000 people led. Bridges, dams, roadways and buildings — including Oregon’s State Capitol in Eugene — in a state of utter collapse. No water, electricity, natural gas, heat, telephokilne service or gasoline — in some cases, for months. Economic losses in excess of $30 billion.
The seismically active region has felt temblors before, most notably a massive earthquake and tsunami in January 1700 that wiped out entire forests in what is now Oregon and Washington and caused a deadly tsunami in Japan, thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. [Waves of Destruction: History’s Biggest Tsunamis]
“This earthquake will hit us again,” Kent Yu, chair of the commission that developed the report, told Oregon legislators, according to the Daily Mail. “It’s just a matter of how soon.”
That titanic 1700 shaker was a megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia Fault, a seismic zone that stretches for almost 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) just off the Pacific Northwest coast. Based on current understanding of the fault’s seismic history, scientists estimate quakes occur along the line roughly every 240 years.
In other words, another big Cascadia Fault earthquake is “long overdue,” the International Science Times reports.
The report also noted that, geologically speaking, Japan and Oregon are mirror images of each other. There is, however, one important difference: Japan is much more prepared for earthquakes.
And Oregon is hardly the only region of North America overdue for a large earthquake: The Lake Tahoe region on the California-Nevada border is home to the West Tahoe Fault, which generally sees a quake every 3,000 to 4,000 years, and the most recent temblor occurred 4,500 years ago.
Elsewhere in California, the southern San Andreas Fault last produced a big temblor in 1690, and has been relatively quiet ever since. That isn’t good news, since a major earthquake usually occurs there every 180 years, according to recent research, and the fault line now has more than 300 years of pressure built up.
Whereas the West Coast is usually considered the most seismically active region of North America, the East Coast also has earthquakes, just not as often. Fault lines have recently been discovered near New York City, and the Indian Point nuclear power plant, about 24 miles (39 km) north of the city, straddles the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones.
In virtually all of these regions, preparation for earthquakes has been woefully inadequate, say many experts. Maree Wacker, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Oregon, laments the state of readiness: “Oregonians as individuals are underprepared,” Wacker told the Daily Mail.
The gold miners who made California famous were the rugged loners trying to shake nuggets loose from streams or hillsides. The ones who made the state rich were those who worked for big mining companies that blasted gold from an underground world of dust and darkness.
The last of the state’s great mines closed because mining gold proved unprofitable after World War II. But with the price of the metal near historic highs, hovering around $1,700 an ounce (28 grams), the California Mother Lode’s first large-scale hard rock gold mining operation in a half-century is coming back to life.
Miners are digging again where their forebears once unearthed riches from eight historic mines that honeycomb Sutter Gold Mining Co.’s holdings about 50 miles (80 kilometres) southeast of Sacramento. Last week, mill superintendent Paul Skinner poured the first thin stream of glowing molten gold into a mould.
“Nothing quite like it,” murmured Skinner, who has been mining for 65 years.
It was just four ounces (112 grams), culled from more than eight tons of ore, but it signalled the end of $20 million worth of construction and the pending start of production. The company announced the ceremonial first pour before financial markets opened Monday, marking the mine’s official reincarnation.
By spring, the company’s 110 employees expect to be removing 150 tons of ore a day from a site immediately north of the old Lincoln Mine, enough to produce nearly 2,000 ounces (56,000 grams) of gold each month.
The company projects resources of more than 682,000 ounces (19.3 million grams) of gold worth more than $1 billion at today’s prices. Company officials say they are confident there is far more in their historically rich section of the 120-mile (190-kilometre)-long Mother Lode region of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Reopening the mine has been anything but a gold rush, however.
It took three decades for the mine’s operators to obtain more than 40 environmental permits. By contrast, the old Wild West miners wreaked such devastation that they prompted some of the nation’s first conservation efforts nearly 130 years ago.
“We’ve gone from no regulation to probably the other extreme,” said Bob Hutmacher, the company’s chief financial officer.
In recent decades, most of California’s gold has come from the state’s desert regions. However, high gold prices recently spurred what authorities say was a rogue surface gold mine in El Dorado County, east of Sacramento. The owners now face criminal charges.
Farther north, several mines have started the process to reopen. Most of these kinds of hard rock mines have recently been known more as tourist destinations, including the Empire Mine, which was once the state’s largest hard rock mine. It became a state historic site after it closed in 1956.
Sutter Gold’s mine also hosted underground tours featuring gold mining history until about a year ago. A half-million people took the tours before they were halted for insurance reasons as the company scrambled to begin production.
Miners have now burrowed more than a half-mile (800 metres) underground and are digging another half-mile (800-meter) network of tunnels to reach the milky white quartz deposits that contain the gold.
Six-hundred vertical feet (180 metres) underground, Keith Emerald was soaking wet in a T-shirt, rubber boots and bib overalls in the damp, chilly mine.
The only light came from his battery-operated hardhat headlamp as he leaned into a deafening 135-pound (61-kilogram) jackleg pneumatic drill, driving an 8 1/2-foot (2.6-meter)-long bit repeatedly into a wall of solid rock. The more than 30 holes he drilled were packed with explosives to reduce a head-high archway to rubble.
“Fire in the hole,” came a disembodied voice over the mine’s radio system hours later.
The miners are using tools like the jackleg drill that have changed little in a century because they are searching for relatively narrow bands of quartz, averaging 2.4 feet (0.7 metres) wide. That makes it too costly to use modern mechanized equipment that would churn out tons of worthless rock.
“This harkens back to the 19th century where you follow the gold veins,” said chief operating officer Matt Collins. “We’re throwbacks.”
Their predecessors pried 3.5 million ounces of gold from the ground underlying the company’s holdings before the last mine, the Eureka, closed in 1958.
The company has mining rights under about 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometres) of the Mother Lode between the quaint Gold Rush communities of Sutter Creek, population 2,500, and Amador City, with 200 residents. The mining area roughly parallels Highway 49, named after the miners who rushed to California from around the globe after gold was discovered in 1849.
Sutter Creek is the namesake of John Sutter of gold discovery fame. The nearby mines once made Hetty Green the nation’s richest woman and propelled the success of railroad baron Leland Stanford, who went on to become governor and found Stanford University.
Now the towns boast more about their proximity to foothill wineries and the restaurants, boutiques and antique stores that line their historic main streets.
“(Highway) 49 is known as the Gold Rush road. If there’s gold to be found, I think it should be mined,” said Jan Hicks, who lives in nearby Jackson but clerks in an 1869 Amador City building that once housed a general store catering to miners.
“It’s still an allure, the mining history,” Hicks said as she unpacked tourist knickknacks in what is now a home and garden shop. “We’re very fortunate. We have gold and grapes and antiques. What isn’t there to love?”
Donald “Pat” Crosby, 85, moved to Sutter Creek in 1959, just in time to watch the gold, sand, clay and logging industries peter out. The former city councilman remembers laughing at the Lincoln Mine owner who first proposed reopening the mine two decades ago.
“You’re going to make more off of tourism than you ever would from gold,” Crosby recalls telling the owner.
“Now, gold is taking the first step coming back. Thank God for that — I never thought it would.”
SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a 62-year-old employee was cooked to death at a Southern California seafood plant for tuna maker Bumble Bee Foods.
The Whittier Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/TmJFyv ) Jose Melena was found shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday at the plant in Santa Fe Springs.
Erika Monterroza is a spokeswoman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. She says it’s unclear how the man ended up inside a cooking device called a “steamer machine.”
The state agency has launched an investigation.
Bumble Bee Foods spokesman Pat Menke expressed condolences to Melena’s family in a written statement. Menke says operations at the canning facility will be suspended until Monday.