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July 20, 1861: New Idria

July 20, 2011

call the mine

New Idria, 2011; by minnemynx, on Flickr

Camp 42

[Today] we started under the guidance of Mr. Maxwell for the San Carlos Mine. The road ran up a canyon and over ridges—steep, yet a good road. Three yoke of oxen were toiling up with an empty wagon to bring down ore. We passed a cluster of tents and cabins of the miners at “Centerville” on the way. A single frame house perched on a lofty crag at a dizzy height was seen from below, and being the only house we asked what it was. “Oh, a billiard saloon and drinking house,” was the answer. “A man recently built it and I believe he has other refreshments for the miners, a load of squaws went up a day or two ago.” We passed this cluster of cabins and continued our way, and in due time reached the San Carlos Mine.

New Idria: Structure

Mine buildings, New Idria; by AGrinberg, on Flickr

The mine is almost on the summit of a mountain about five thousand feet high. The ore is diffused in streaks through the rocks and is wrought extensively. Diggings, galleries, shafts, and cuts run in every direction, wherever the richest ore may be found. The rock is a very remarkable one, a sort of altered slate, acted on by heat and hot water, and the brilliant red ore is diffused through it. We spent five or six hours there, visiting every working. We planted our barometer on the summit. I had carried it up, and we got our observations for altitude, to be calculated after our return. The miners are mostly Chileans, a hard set, and their quarters are in shanties covered with bushes, in huts, and even in deserted workings. We went into one to get a drink of water; it was a deserted gallery, and a squaw was in attendance, the wife pro tem of two or three miners.


Mining machinery, New Idria; by tapbirds, on Flickr

The view from the summit is extensive and peculiar. It is to the north and east that the view is most remarkable—the Panoche plain, with the mountains beyond—chain after chain of mountains, most barren and desolate. No words can describe one chain, at the foot of which we had passed on our way—gray and dry rocks or soil, furrowed by ancient streams into innumerable canyons, now perfectly dry, without a tree, scarcely a shrub or other vegetation—none, absolutely, could be seen. It was a scene of unmixed desolation, more terrible for a stranger to be lost in than even the snows and glaciers of the Alps.

Beyond this lay the San Joaquin, or Tulare, Valley, wide and dreary. It is fifteen to twenty-five miles wide, without trees, save a green belt along the river—all the rest dry and brown. Dust rose from it, shutting out the mountains beyond, but in places we could see the snows of the Sierra Nevada glittering in the sun through the veil of dust that hung between us. They looked grand and sublime in the faint outlines we could see and appeared ten or twelve thousand feet high. Although we were so high, five thousand feet, yet the temperature was about 80° F.

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