My grandmother Purdy was an avid rock hound, so I experienced some interesting outings as a child. One of these adventures was to the Apache tears mine in the Smoke Creek Desert. The mine dates back to World War I when Smoke Creek resident Gordon Mott while exploring a small canyon came across a mica deposit. He developed a tunnel and a vertical shaft hoping that he would find gold. What he did find was small pieces of obsidian embedded in the soft mica, sometimes referred to as Apache tears or Black Diamonds.
The heavy winter of 1906-07 brought tremendous flooding to the region. One of the side effects was the erosion exposed a variety of minerals, especially that of gold. Thus, folks were finding gold in places they never thought of like Antelope Grade and Bass Hill. It was the discovery of gold on Skedaddle Mountain that caused quite a stir. So many mining claims were filed on the mountain that it necessary to create the Hot Springs Mining District.
Of what was one of the more unusual uses of Eagle Lake water was a proposal to use that resource in the mining operations at Hayden Hill, located some twenty-five miles north of the lake.
During the 1920s and 1930s, both the mining activity and the population at Hayden Hill declined. In 1934, Stratton & Stratton of Spokane, Washington consolidated the mine ownership. They had high hopes to revive the Hill. One of the main drawbacks that Hayden Hill suffered was the lack of water for milling. In 1938, Stratton & Stratton proposed to pipe water from Eagle Lake, at a rate of 2,500 gallons per minute. This scheme never came to fruition.
Hayden Hill’s first mine, was named the Providence. In the early 1870s, Hayden Hill was sometimes referred to as Providence. The following whimsical account is from the Mountain Tribune of Bieber, April 22, 1882 that explains how the name came to be: “While at Hayden Hill this week in search of information, we inquired of Ben Bradshaw which was the first claim located on the Hill and he informed me that the Providence was the oldest claim. Being curious to know why it was so named he said it was located and owned by ‘seven preachers and two white men.’ We record this fact for the benefit of the future historiographer of the Hill.”
This is an interesting photograph in more ways than one. Alexander Howell, was a photographer. For a brief time in the 1880s, his brother Oscar Howell, was a one-time renter of Papoose Meadows at Eagle Lake.
In 1979, I obtained a copy of the above print from Alexander Howell’s granddaughter. She thought it was tunnel at Eagle Lake. Well, it is obvious that indeed it is a tunnel, just not the original tunnel at Eagle Lake. It is actually, the tunnel entrance of the Golden Eagle Mine at Hayden Hill, the largest and most productive mine there. In the 1990s, Lassen Gold Mining revived operations at Hayden Hill, which most of the place was obliterated. However, as a Lassen County Planning Commissioner, I made an inspection of Hayden Hill, as part of the reclamation process. What caught my attention, probably no one else is aware, amazingly the tunnel entrance is still intact.
There will be a feature article on Hayden Hill in the Northern California Traveler March/April issue.
One of the most interesting enterprises around the region was the Buffalo Salt Works in the Smoke Creek Desert. It is so easy today to take many things for granted, but back in the early days of settlement of the mid-1850s, those hardy souls did not have that luxury.
First of all, it boggles my mind, how B.F. “Frank” Murphy and Marion “Comanche George” Lawrence discovered and claimed the salt marsh in the summer of 1864. For most of its existence Murphy was the main operator of the Buffalo Salt Works. Two types of salt was produced. The first being table salt that 99.8% pure. A lesser grade was sold to mining operators with a smelting plant that utilized the salt. The salt was obtained from wells, the brine pumped into vats, and left to dry. In 1888, it was reported that 200 tons of salt was produced annually. Continue reading Buffalo Meadows Salt Works→
In 1929 the Honey Lake Valley Gold Mining & Development Co. was incorporated. Two years prior to that event, Hilding Sundberg, a mining man from Oakland, California took possession of an abandoned gold mine called the Badger Group located some six miles southeast of Milford on the Diamond Mountain range at an elevation 6,000 feet. Sundberg began work on the property with a new cross-cut tunnel, reaching a small vein of gold 300 feet in. The property was incorporated in 1929 with Sundberg as the new president and general manager of the new company. A second tunnel was cut 720 feet into the mountain, 500 of which were driven along a ledge of gold ore. Assayed samples taken from tunnel no. 2 showed an average of $55.00 a ton. A third tunnel was started at the mining company’s base camp at the 5,000 foot level. Sundberg took a calculated risk that a horizontal tunnel driven far enough would reach the same vein of gold, whereby the entire body of ore could be mined by gravity at a much lower cost. Continue reading Honey Lake Gold Mine→
If you recall earlier this year about the mining activity at Rosebud on the eastern edge of the Black Rock Desert, there was also considerable mining activity much closer to the Honey Lake Valley in the nearby Smoke Creek Desert. In 1882, the Cottonwood Mining District was established on the Fox Mountains on the east side of the Smoke Creek Desert. Due to its remoteness and lack of any substantial high grade ore, little mining was development. Continue reading Wild Horse Mine→
While the bulk of mining was south of Susanville, along Diamond Mountain, there was a bit of mining activity to the town’s north. Some of you may recall the piece about Grabel’s hole that appeared back in September.
For some odd reason, by the 1890s considerable prospecting was done on Antelope Mountain. If one looks closely on Highway 139, one can see small mine tailing piles. At a place call “the spires” there is a small spring. It was a popular rest stop back in the horse and buggy days, to stop and give the horses a rest. Charley Carpenter thought it was the perfect place to call home, and built a small cabin there, while he was search of the next mother lode. He had a nearby counterpart, Sandy Crawford, better known as Round Valley Red, who staked out claims in nearby Round Valley. By the mid-1930s, the two old bachelors, were getting along in age and finally abandoned mining in the area.
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Humbug Valley is located a bit south and west of Lake Almanor. It is an interesting locale, and worth the trip if you have never been there.
In 1855, B.K. Ervine and William B. Long used the valley for stock-range. Two years later, gold was discovered and set off a flurry of mining operations. Long and his father-in-law, Allen Wood, built a hotel there, and a sawmill mill, too, and thus the town of Longville came into existence. In 1862, Long came to Susanville and purchased William Weatherlow’s ranch, known today as Susanville Ranch Park.
Longville continued to flourish, and then came along World War I and everything changed. Like so many places Longville would slowly become de-populated and residents never returned after the War. The Longville Post Office that had been in operation since 1861, closed in 1918.