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August 10, 1861: New Almaden

August 14, 2011

Camp 46

Well, we arrived. A most lovely little town has sprung up by the furnace—neat houses on a long street, with a row of fine young shade trees, green yards, pleasant gardens, etc. The superintendent, Mr. Young, is absent. He lives in most magnificent style, like a prince, has a wife half Spanish-Californian, half Scotch, who has a lot of single sisters, the Misses Walkinshaw, lovely girls, of whom more anon.

Mr. and Mrs. Whitney were at the house of Mr. Day, the mining engineer, and head man in Mr. Young’s absence. We were introduced to the ladies in the same unpresentable costume, which excited much mirth. It was the first time I had seen Mrs. Whitney since taking the field. She scarcely knew me in my bronzed, burnt skin, robust looks, and un-Parisian costume, and she failed entirely to recognize Averill, so has he changed by exposure and the growth of a tremendous beard. We were soon camped below the town, by a stream, in a pretty spot. Another rig donned (colored shirts, of course, but clean), and I returned to talk about affairs with Professor Whitney. He had to go to a party, so I went up late in the evening to talk with him after his return.

[Today] we visited the principal mine of New Almaden, with Mr. Day to guide and conduct us. It is probably the richest quicksilver mine in the world, and is worth one or two million dollars. The pure red cinnabar (sulphuret of mercury) is taken out by the thousands of tons, and the less rich by the hundreds of thousands of tons. The mine is perfectly managed and conducted. The main drift is as large as a railroad tunnel, with a fine heavy railroad track running in. Six hundred feet in and three hundred feet below the surface of the hill is a large engine room, with a fine steam engine at work pumping water and raising ore from beneath. The workings extend 250 feet lower down. We went down. The extent of the mine is enormous—miles (not in a straight line) have been worked underground in the many short workings, and immense quantities of metal have been raised. We were underground nearly half a day, then came out and had a sumptuous dinner at a French restaurant near, then climbed the hill over the mine.

A ridge runs parallel with the main chain of mountains, about 1,700 feet high, in which are three mines, of which this is the principal one. The view from “Mine Hill” is perfectly magnificent—over the region east and north, with the bold, high peaks back of it.

Mrs. Whitney went to San Francisco [today].

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