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July 19, 1861: New Idria

July 19, 2011

New Idria 20

New Idria; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 42

We were up at dawn and came on ten or twelve miles to a stream, where we stopped and took breakfast. This brook looked refreshing, the first for fifty miles, and our morning ride was refreshing. Once we came on a drove of ten antelope, the first we have seen. They were very plentiful a few years ago in this state, in large flocks. They are very graceful, pretty animals, like small deer, but little taller than sheep. After breakfast, Professor Whitney and I came on ahead, leaving the rest to follow. We struck up a very wild, picturesque canyon into the heart of the mountains, rising very fast, and in six or seven miles, before noon, came to the furnace and the director’s house, below the mines. We introduced ourselves, and found a place to camp, and two hours later the rest of the party arrived.

New Idria Road 02

Vallecitos Creek valley, above Griswold Canyon; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The New Idria quicksilver mines lie in the heart of the chain of mountains which runs southeast from Monte Diablo. There are three principal mines—New Idria, Aurora, and San Carlos—all in the center of the chain, with some six or seven miles between their extreme limits. The furnace and the superintendent’s quarters are in a valley some six miles from some of the mines, and three or four miles from the others, at a height of 2,500 to 2,700 feet above the sea. The highest mine lies 2,500 feet higher still. Mr. Maxwell, the superintendent, is very obliging and shows us every attention. Friday afternoon we examined the furnaces and the works for preparing and reducing ore. These are on a large scale and are very complete and scientific in their arrangement. Averill and I dined with Mr. Maxwell that afternoon, and champagne was introduced in our honor.

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