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August 17, 1861: New Almaden

August 17, 2011

Camp 46

[Today] we were up in good season, and Hoffmann and I rode to visit the other quicksilver mines of this vicinity. There are three mines within a region of six miles, all in the same ridge, which is about 1,700 feet high, lying parallel with the high chain of mountains behind, and separated from the Santa Clara Valley by a still lower chain of foothills.

We rode to the Enriquita Mine, about six miles from camp, by a trail over the hills. It is the poorest of the three, and lies about midway between the other two, the three being in a direct line. We introduced ourselves to the superintendent and engineer, Mr. Janin, who showed us every attention, going into the mine with us. It is much like New Almaden in character, but vastly poorer. Its owners are one set of disputants for the title of New Almaden also, so of course there is much feeling between the two mines. Four sets of claimants are lawing for New Almaden, and two more wait behind, to claim of these claimants should the latter be successful—a pretty “kettle of fish,” to be sure.

The mine of Enriquita has been going about two years, has its great works, deep cuts, long tunnels, furnaces, steam engine to work machinery, etc. Mr. Janin is a very young man, New Orleans birth, but has spent several years in Europe at mining schools, mostly at Freiburg in Saxony.10 He knew many of my friends, and we had a capital time.

The third mine, the Guadalupe, is two or three miles farther to the northwest. As he had never been in that, Mr. Janin offered to go with us, which he did, and introduced us to Doctor Mayhew. The mine is more rich, extensive, and profitable than the Enriquita, but vastly poorer than the New Almaden. It is mostly in a valley between the “mine ridge” and the main chain, and its workings extend down about 450 feet below the bottom of the valley. As it is so much lower it is much more wet and dirty than the other mines here. There are also workings in the hill, all of which we visited, spending some hours in climbing ladders, crawling through passages, threading tunnels, examining the character of the rock and ore everywhere.

We came out dirty, but were taken to Doctor Mayhew’s house, introduced to a lovely little wife, with two fine babies four months old. Doctor Mayhew is a rough Baltimore man, probably forty or forty-five, his wife a lovely girl of perhaps sixteen or seventeen. His story was brief but comprehensive: “Well, I wandered many years, concluded a year ago last spring that I ought to marry and settle, went home from Salt Lake, married, returned, and in nine months and two days was astonished with a pair of daughters. And here I have, in about a year and a half, traveled, stopped, married, settled, and have a smart and growing family—California is a prosperous state!”

His wife laughed heartily at her mistake, for seeing three men in red woolen shirts, belts, Spanish hats, saddles, spurs, etc., she had exclaimed, “There come some fine looking Mexicans!”

I loaded my saddlebags with specimens, returned to Enriquita, spent an hour or so more with Janin, then returned here at evening. We are having lovely moonlight nights now—cool, clear, bright. I am soory that I must so soon leave this place and the acquaintances I have made. We spent the evening at Mr. Day’s. It was pay day [today], and [tonight] the town rang with the sound of violins, guitars, dancing, fandangos, singing, and mirth….

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