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Rio Grande River Valley, on the way to Creede, Colorado.

Rio Grande River Valley, on the way to Creede, Colorado.

Saturday, July 14, 2012 was the sixth day of my trip through Colorado’s mining history. I started in South Fork and travelled through Creede, Lake City, Gunnison, Buena Vista, and finally wound up near Victor. It was a long drive, but I stopped for some interesting tours and explorations along the way.

Campsite at South Fork. There wasn't much privacy.

Campsite at South Fork. There wasn’t much privacy.

My campsite in South Fork was very tiny and right next to the community center and I was trying to cook breakfast and break camp as people literally walked through my camp to set up a bake sell in the common room. Here’s a photo to show it. The tent trailer next to me almost hung over my picnic table. But despite the lack of privacy, I did manage to get packed up and ready to go at a reasonable time.

Main Street in Creede, Colorado.

Main Street in Creede, Colorado.

I drove north on Highway 149 toward Creede, following the Rio Grande River. The valley here is wide and flat, the obvious result of valley glaciers during the last ice age. Going back much further than that, about 60 million years ago, the Farallon tectonic plate was pushing under the North American Plate at a faster rate than normal, wrinkling up the western part of the continent like a rug on a wooden floor. The last great orogeny (mountain building episode) pushed up the Rocky Mountains and was called the Laramide Orogeny. The San Juan Mountains, which I have been exploring all week, were the final uplift and are the youngest mountains in Colorado. Eventually, the North American Plate slowed down and the Farallon Plate finally subducted beneath. As it pealed away, a wave of volcanic activity followed it as the melting plate became magma that rose to the surface.

Volcanic Activity in the San Juan Mountains.

Volcanic Activity in the San Juan Mountains.

In the newly formed San Juans, the rising magma created a system of andesitic volcanoes that exploded and spewed ash and tuft throughout the region. The empty magma chambers collapsed to form calderas, and around their rims veins of ore-bearing igneous rocks were injected into fault lines and cracks. These veins became the great silver and gold mining districts I’ve visited all week.

Creede, Colorado in 1942.

Creede, Colorado in 1942.

In the area of Creede, about five overlapping calderas exploded and collapsed; silver-bearing ore was injected into fractured rock at the edge of the caldera. In 1889, these silver deposits were discovered and began the final great silver mining camp in Colorado. It was the fastest, wildest, and richest of the boomtowns and the population reached 10,000 by 1891.

Creede Main Street looking north into Willow Creek Canyon.

Creede Main Street looking north into Willow Creek Canyon.

Denver went through a wave of gambling and saloon reforms in the early 1890s, and many of the most famous casino owners and con men moved here to set up shop, including Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II. He sold his Tivoli Club in Denver and moved to Creede. He swindled local property owners out of their deeds and took over a large section of Creede’s business district, setting up his gang in various fronts for his confidence schemes. He soon announced himself as camp boss, and controlled all of the gambling and organized crime in the district. He appointed his brother in law as deputy sheriff, and the two of them established some order to the rough and tumble town, throwing out troublemakers. Soapy opened up a gambling hall called the Orleans Club in 1892. He purchased a “petrified man” nicknamed McGinty and had him placed on display.

Cast of Characters in Creede, Colorado.

Cast of Characters in Creede, Colorado.

Later in 1892 he got word that the reforms in Denver were coming to an end, so he returned to Denver. Shortly after, a large part of Main Street burned down in a fire, including the Orleans Club.

Bat Masterson (standing) and Wyatt Earp in 1876, when they were deputies in Dodge City, Kansas.

Bat Masterson (standing) and Wyatt Earp in 1876, when they were deputies in Dodge City, Kansas.

Another well-known figure that came to Creede was Robert Ford, the man that shot Jesse James. He arrived in early 1892 and set up a dance hall, but after a drunken night spent shooting windows out along Main Street, he was about to be driven out of town when the Soapy Smith gang insisted that he stay. Ford’s dance hall was burnt down in the fire on June 5, 1892 and he set up a temporary saloon in a tent until he could rebuild. Three days after the fire, on June 8, Edward O’Kelley walked into the saloon, called Ford by name, then shot him twice in the chest with a shotgun. Ford died instantly.

Bat Masterson

Bat Masterson

Another famous Old West character that found his way to Creede was William Barclay “Bat” Masterson. In his early days, he was a deputy sheriff in Dodge City, Kansas, along with Wyatt Earp. Bat eventually became county sheriff, at the same time that his brother, Ed, was town marshal. When Ed was killed by a cowboy named Jack Wagner, Bat avenged his death and had to leave town. He went to work for Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona running the faro tables at the Oriental Saloon.

Map of mines in the Creede Mining District.

Map of mines in the Creede Mining District.

When Bat’s other brother, Jim, was threatened by men in Dodge City, Bat returned and engaged in a shootout in the town plaza where one man was wounded. Bat was fined $8 and asked to leave town again. He moved to Denver where he dealt faro at a gambling house and became friends with Soapy Smith. He moved with Soapy to Creede in 1892 and managed the Denver Exchange Club until it, too, burned down in the fire. Bat was known for being a dapper man who enjoyed wearing a bowler hat. He was also known as an irrepressible practical joker.

Map of the Bachelor Loop scenic trail north of Creede.

Map of the Bachelor Loop scenic trail north of Creede.

Other characters that stopped by Creede during its boom years were “Poker” Alice Tubbs and Martha “Calamity Jane” Burke.

Woodcarving lessons in the Creede Community Center.

Woodcarving lessons in the Creede Community Center.

As if the 1892 fire wasn’t bad enough, in 1893 the Sherman Act was repealed by congress and the Silver Panic began, with prices for silver dropping from $1.29 to about $.50 per ounce. Almost as soon as it began, the boom was over and Creede began to die. Most mines closed, but a few kept working and others consolidated until 1930, when all mining ceased. Some additional mining occurred in the late 1930s by the Emperius Mining Company, and the Bulldog Mountain vein system was discovered in the 1960s, with mining along the vein conducted by the Homestake Mining Company until 1985. Overall, nearly 5 million tons of ore have produced over 84 million ounces of silver and substantial amounts of lead, zinc, copper, and gold (the big five).

Creede Underground Mining Museum map. The mine tour and community center were blasted out of the side of Willow Creek Canyon.

Creede Underground Mining Museum map. The mine tour and community center were blasted out of the side of Willow Creek Canyon.

Some of the leading mines were the Bachelor Mine high up in a notch in West Willow Creek Canyon, the Commodore Mine lower down the same vein, the Amethyst Mine further up the canyon, the Last Chance high on the hill above the Amethyst, and the Bulldog complex to the west of Willow Creek. A large mill, called the Humphreys Mill, was located at the junction of East and West Willow Creek Canyons. The mill’s foundations can still be seen. The earliest mines in the district were discovered west of town around the Sunnyside area, such as the Solomon and Holy Moses mines. The town cemetery is located there now.

Model of the Bulldog Mine.

Model of the Bulldog Mine.

After looking around Main Street, I drove further up the canyon to where the Creede Undergound Mining Museum and community center are located. I was surprised to see a lot of cars filling up the parking lot, and was lucky to find a place to park. A large woodcarver’s convention was being held in the community center, and I enjoyed watching the vendors teaching classes. I think I have a hobby decided on for when I retire, if ever; I’d like to do a combination of wood burning and painting, perhaps of some of the mining towns and scenery I’ve seen on this trip.

Native copper in the Creede Underground Mining Museum.

Native copper in the Creede Underground Mining Museum.

I joined a tour of the Underground Mining Museum, which was built partially from an old tunnel that has been enlarged into a loop tour, with the community center blasted out in the middle. It had a good display of minerals and posters of mining terms, with some illustrations. After videotaping the tour itself, I backtracked around the loop with my camera and took photos, so this tour is better documented than some of the others I took where I couldn’t take still photos very well while running my video camera.

Mucker machine as it was found in the Big Six Mine.

Mucker machine as it was found in the Big Six Mine.

Some of the unusual aspects of this tour (which was a very thorough overview of hard rock mining) included a slusher, which is a type of dragline used to pull blasted rock fragments away from the face, a description of how fuses were measured (the person cutting fuses would wind them around wooden pegs set one foot apart), a honey car (an outhouse on wheels), an accurate recreation of a stope, a good assayer’s office, a hoist and skip station, and a description of the local geology.

Open stope in the Big Six Mine.

Open stope in the Big Six Mine.

After the tour I drove further up East Willow Creek Canyon and saw the remains of the Humphreys Mill, then drove up West Willow Creek. High on the hill was the Bachelor Mine, and lower down the Commodore, with its large ore house. The slope is so steep that extensive cribbing is needed. I drove a little further up, but the gravel road became too steep and too rough for my minivan. Perhaps some other time I can come this way with a 4-wheel drive. Further up the canyon are the Amethyst and Last Chance, and I’ve found some photos of them taken by the Mining History Association.

Measuring fuses. The fuses would be wound around the peg to get precise lengths.

Measuring fuses. The fuses would be wound around the peg to get precise lengths.

I drove out of town around noon and headed west and north on Highway 149. I came over a small pass with displays and beautiful views of the Weminuche Wilderness and the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. It was a nice chance to see both ends of the river. I have been down near the mouth of the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas and now I’ve seen the other end.

Assayer's office, with balance, crushers, and bone crucibles. To the left is the furnace for fire assaying.

Assayer’s office, with balance, crushers, and bone crucibles. To the left is the furnace for fire assaying.

Honey car in the Creede Underground Mining Museum. OK, I'll say it: whoever had to clean this out each day had a really crappy job. . .

Honey car in the Creede Underground Mining Museum. OK, I’ll say it: whoever had to clean this out each day had a really crappy job. . .

Humphreys Mill in East Willow Creek Canyon.

Humphreys Mill in East Willow Creek Canyon.

Site of Humphreys Mill today.

Site of Humphreys Mill today.

Ruins of mines in West Willow Creek Canyon. The Bachelor Mine is high up on the hillside and the Commodore Mine at the bottom.

Ruins of mines in West Willow Creek Canyon. The Bachelor Mine is high up on the hillside and the Commodore Mine at the bottom.

The Bachelor Mine.

The Bachelor Mine.

The Commodore Mine #5 Level adit.

The Commodore Mine #5 Level adit.

Commodore Mine ore house and chutes. Ore was hauled from the adit across a bridge to the top of the tipple.

Commodore Mine ore house and chutes. Ore was hauled from the adit across a bridge to the top of the tipple.

Amethyst Mine

Amethyst Mine

Last Chance Mine (photo by the Mining History Association).

Last Chance Mine (photo by the Mining History Association).

Weminuche Wilderness sign and road map.

Weminuche Wilderness sign and road map.

Headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Colorado.

Headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Colorado.

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red mountain reflection

The Red Mountains near Ouray, Colorado.

My original plans for this fifth day in Colorado’s mining towns was to drive north on Highway 550 to Montrose, then east on U. S. 50 and south on Highway 149 to Lake City and eventually Creede. But having to detour two days ago to Farmington, New Mexico to pick up a used rim for my minivan made it necessary to drive through Silverton without stopping. I did some quick calculating and found an alternate route that would allow me to hit all three places (but it would mean missing Alamosa and Great Sand Dunes National Park and having a very long day tomorrow). Since my trip is mostly about the history of mining in Colorado, I chose to take the alternate route. Alamosa will have to wait for another trip.

I packed up and ate some doughnuts and other supplies I had that were still good. The ice in my coolers had long since melted and things were beginning to go bad. I videotaped some panoramic shots along Ouray’s main street and talked for a few minutes with a Native American wearing a veteran’s hat, whom I had seen around town. He had been to Provo and enjoyed visiting the national parks in Utah.

Mining at Red Mountain 2

Mining ruins near Red Mountain #2, near Ouray, Colorado.

I drove out of town south on Highway 550, stopping to take photos of the Red Mountain peaks reflected in a small lake, as well as some mine structures I’d missed on my way in two days ago. Once over the top of the pass, I pressed on through Silverton, talking a gravel road out of town to the northeast toward Engineer Pass and Lake City, then southeast through a narrow river valley (Cunningham Gulch) to the Old Hundred Mine at the base of Galena Mountain. I arrived just at 10:00 in time to take the first tour.

Old Hundred mine location

Location of the Old Hundred Mine on Google Earth.

The Old Hundred Mine

This mine was named after the 100th Psalm, where it says: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” No doubt the prospectors who found this deposit made a very joyful noise! Galena Mountain was laced with veins of rich silver-lead-gold ore, and the Niegold brothers (Reinhard, Gustave, and Otto) staked claims on some of the richer veins in 1872. About 300 feet from the top of the mountain, they located the best vein of all at what came to be called the Number Seven Level. Other veins were located further down. The mountain was so steep that mining the higher levels was very difficult – supplies and equipment had to be lowered from the top of the mountain and ore removed on ropes to the bottom level. A small town grew up at the bottom with a hotel, a saloon, a post office, and cabins for the miners. It was called Niegoldstown. Well-educated and classically trained, the Neigold brothers would entertain the miners during the long winter months with music, operas, and plays.

Change room of Old 100

In the change room of the Old Hundred Mine.

In 1904 additional investment built a trail that winds its way around and up to the Number Seven Level, where a boardinghouse with bunks and a tram station were built perched on the side of the cliff and anchored by cables to the cliff face. A tram station was also built at the bottom of the mountain, and massive foundations poured for a stamp mill to process ore. A long adit was blasted into the mountain just above the mill level with hopes of reaching deeper veins inside the mountain.

Entering the Old Hundred Mine

Entering the Old Hundred Mine on an electric tram.

The boarding house still stands on the side of the mountain. Damaged by deep snows in the winter of 1983-84, the roof has been repaired and the boardinghouse and tram station stabilized by some very brave carpenters and helicopter pilots.

Inside the old hundred mine

Inside the Old Hundred Mine; near Silverton, CO.

The bunkhouse was built to house 40 miners and a cook. Miners would stay there for two weeks at a time, with two shifts rotating through the bunks. When they got their pay after two weeks, they would either take a slow mule down the steep trail (just wide enough for two mules to pass each other and much narrower than that now) or ride the tram buckets down. In Silverton, they would spend their money on gambling, whiskey, and women and head back to the mine after the weekend dead broke. Some miners had better sense, saving up money to send for their families in Cornwall or Ireland or elsewhere.

Charges on the face

Charges set to blast the face at the Old Hundred Mine.

Dynamite in Old Hundred Mine

Dynamite boxes at the Old Hundred Mine

With the improvements made, mining continued in earnest. Over 16,000 ounces of gold was removed from the mountain by 1908, but then the veins dried up. The panic of 1907 also dried up the money for further investment, and the property defaulted back to the Neigold brothers. Eventually the mine was lost to back taxes, and the last of the brothers died in 1927.

Old Hundred mucker

A working mucker inside the Old Hundred Mine.

Other owners worked the mine sporadically until 1967, when the Dixilyn Corporation brought new investment. The Mill Level Tunnel was continued over 5000 feet into the mountain and other levels were also extended and connected. A modern mill was built with better techniques for processing the low-grade ore, but the mine remained unprofitable. By 1973 it was finally realized that the deeper veins just weren’t there. The buildings and mill were torn down and sold for scrap. To find out more about the history of the Old Hundred Mine, go to: http://www.minetour.com/history.php.

For our tour, we donned hard hats and slickers, then boarded an electric tram and travelled deeply into the Mill Level adit. There is something a bit spooky and exciting about zipping along a railroad line underground in an open car. Since this mine only closed in the 1970s, they have kept some equipment inside in working order. Our guide demonstrated a working drill and even a pneumatic mucker, which are not usually available. Lots of old muckers are found with the rust painted over as standing displays outside of the mines (including some at this mine), but this is one of the only times I’ve seen one actually working.

No 7 level painting

Painting of the No. 7 Level at the Old Hundred Mine.

No 7 level

Number 7 Level above the Old Hundred Mine.

The tour was truly enjoyable, and I would recommend it as one of the best in Colorado, along with the Mollie Kathleen Mine tour in Cripple Creek. Our guide was knowledgeable and he gave us a good explanation of the technologies and history of the mine. Running my HD camcorder to record all that the tour guide said meant I couldn’t take many photos during the tour itself and some were taken rather hastily and turned out blurry in the darkness. After the tour I took photos around the mine entrance and of the boardinghouse high above us on the cliff. I also bought a used hard hat in the gift shop to add to my collection.

Hardrock holidays

Poster for the annual Hardrock Holidays celebration in Silverton, CO.

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For the last week, I’ve been busy preparing for my classes at Walden School, including inventorying the science lab room (which is also my classroom) and planning out my course schedules. I’ll be teaching two sections of Chemistry, one of Astronomy, one of Computer Technology (a basic computer literacy course required in Utah), a section of Media Design, and a section of Video Production. This is, for me, a perfect schedule. In the meantime I’ve also been preparing a series of maps and 3D images of the Tintic Mining District, focusing on the ore deposits and the various mines located there. I’ve also prepared the script for this section of the video, which I have pasted below:

Mines in the East Tintic Mts

MInes and Roads in the East Tintic Mtns.

Tintic Geology

To understand how the ore bodies in the Tintic District were deposited, we have to start about 800 million years ago in the Precambrian Period when the western portion of the North American craton rifted away from the rest of the continent along a line where the Wasatch Front now lies – this Wasatch Line has been an important hinge line in Utah’s geology ever since. For the next 600 million years, a sequence of ocean sediments including dolomite, limestone, shale, and sandstone were deposited off the coast in the geosyncline that would become western Utah. Beginning 150 million years ago, Nevada and then western Utah were uplifted as the Farallon tectonic plate was pushed under North America. Like a throw rug being wrinkled up as it’s pushed over a hardwood floor, western Utah was folded by thrust faults into a large mountain range during the Sevier orogeny about 70 million years ago. This thrusting continued across eastern Utah and into Colorado and Wyoming during the Laramide orogeny, building up the Uintah and Rocky Mountains.

East Tintic Mines

Mines in the eastern portion of the Tintic Mining District

Then, about 50 million years ago, the Farallon plate began to collapse from underneath the continent. As it peeled away, a wave of volcanism moved from east to west across Colorado and Utah. Intrusive laccoliths rose to the surface, bulging up the LaSal and Henry Mountains in eastern Utah and forming explosive calderas in several places in western Utah. About 35 million years ago, a series of calderas formed in the area that would become the Tintic Mountains. A large andesitic volcano rose up from eruptions of ash and tuft.

Tintic Standard ore samples

Ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine, eastern district.

About 31.5 million years ago, the volcano collapsed as the intrusive magma began to cool. Mineral rich fluids were injected into the surrounding limestone, quartzite, and dolomite as replacement beds. The hot magma caused the carbonate rocks to decompose; for example, limestone turns into lime or calcium oxide and carbon dioxide gas when heated. This left large cavities that then filled up with the mineral-laden magmas. These deposits are called stopes, such as the famous Oklahoma stope of the Chief Consolidated mine. The carbon dioxide released from the decomposing limestone and dolomite in turn dissolved into the hot magma, making it a kind of lava champagne, and reacting with it to form various exotic minerals, some of which are found nowhere else.

More Tintic ore samples

More ore samples from the Tintic District

The primary ore-bearing minerals in the Tintic District are enargite, tetrahedrite, galena, sphalerite, pyrite, marcasite, and native gold, silver, and copper. But many more minerals are present, including unusual minerals that blend copper, silver, tellurium, arsenic, sulfur, carbonates, hydrodixes, etc. At the Centennial Eureka mine, over 85 different minerals have been identified, ranging from common pyrite, malachite, and azurite to minerals found only here. It is the type locality (where the mineral was first identified) for leisingite, frankhawthorneite, jensenite, juabite, utahite, and eurekadumpite. Other rare minerals include xocomecatlite, carmenite, adamite, duftite, and mcalpineite.

These mineral deposits occurred around the edges of the caldera and formed the five large ore zones of the main Tintic District. The Gemini Ore Zone runs to the west of Eureka south to the north edge of Mammoth Gulch. The Gemini, the Bullion Beck and Champion, the Eureka Hill, and the Centennial Eureka mines (known collectively as the Big Four) are located on this zone.

The Chief-Mammoth Ore Zone begins under the center of Eureka and extends due south across the mountain to the east end of Mammoth Gulch. The Chief Consolidated mine is located on the richest ore body, which is right under the center of Eureka city; up the hill is the Eagle and Blue Bell mine, named for the beautiful deposits of azurite found inside. Further south over the top of Eureka Peak lie the Grand Central, Mammoth, Apex, and Gold Chain mines that are also part of this deposit.

Ore zones in the Tintic District

Ore Zones and Major Mines of the Tintic Mining District

The Plutus Zone branches off of the Chief-Mammoth Zone high up in the Tintic Mountains. The Godiva Zone starts just east of Eureka and runs southeast in a curve where it joins the Iron Blossom Zone, which continues in a curve south and then southwest. Some mines in these zones include the Godiva, May Day, Humbug, Beck Tunnel, Sioux, and Iron Blossom mines.

In the eastern section of the Tintic District, several zones of minerals were deposited and were among the last to be discovered because they are overlain by 400 feet of igneous rock. These bodies include the Burgin ore body, the Tintic Standard, and the North Lily bodies. Other bodies are located at the Apex and Trixie mines.

In the southern section of the Tintic District, the large replacement bodies give way to smaller fissure veins that are only two feet wide on average but can be up to 4000 feet long. Here, the mineral-bearing magma was injected into cracks and fault lines already existing in the host rocks. The Dragon mine is the only true open pit mine in the area; it sits on top of a network of fissure veins at the south end of the Iron Blossom Zone. Other mines in the area include the Swansea and Sunbeam mines at Silver City, the Tesora and Treasure Hill mines at Ruby Gulch, and the Showers mine at Diamond Gulch.

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

More ore samples from the Tintic Standard Mine

The final chapter in the area’s geomorphology began about 17 million years ago when normal faulting created the Basin and Range province, lifting up blocks to form the mountain ranges of Utah and Nevada, including the East Tintic Mountains. Other blocks sank to form the valleys, such as the Tintic Valley. Erosion has exposed the ore bodies in many places, including the outcropping that George Rust stumbled over in 1869. It was to become the Sunbeam Mine.

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Loading chute at Dividend Utah

Ruins at Dividend, Utah

The last few weeks I’ve had to neglect the Elements Unearthed project in order to finish a client video that had a tight deadline. It was uploaded to YouTube Thursday night, so I now have a little bit of a breather before the next project and am back at work on Part 2 of the beryllium video. Winter has finally decided to let go (after one last gasp – we had a snowstorm here just two weeks ago), and already the early summer heat is drying out the cheat grass and turning it a brownish-purple color on the lower south-facing slopes. I decided now was the time to do some exploring and photography while the grass is still green in the mountains.

Belt wheels and Mt. Nebo

Belt Wheels and Mt. Nebo

Over the last two years I’ve visited the Tintic Mining District several times with students and my own children and have collected a considerable amount of photos and video clips, including a tour of the Tintic Mining Museum and an interview with June McNulty, who runs the museum with his wife. But there were several places in the district that I hadn’t visited, including Mammoth and Silver City. So yesterday (Friday, June 4) I packed up the cameras and headed for the hills.

Glory hole at Dividend

Glory hole at Dividend, Utah

Change room stove at Dividend

Change room and stove at Dividend, Utah

I stopped first in the hills above Burgin, the site of the town of Dividend, so called because the mine paid out fairly decent dividends to the miners compared with other mines in the district. I decided to climb up the hill further than before, toward the two large rusty tanks that can be seen from the road. I was surprised to find much more there than I had known about before, including the ruins of miner’s houses (some semi-wild purple irises and lilacs were still alive and blooming). A processing plant once existed here, and the ground is covered with yellowish-stained rocks and pieces of slag and everything smells of sulfides. One ruin 2/3 up the hill still has an old rusted stove for keeping the miners warm in what was probably the change room – the mine portal itself is just above the room, and there are even a few remains of timecards used to clock in and out of the mine. The few I looked at were dated from 1971, which was about the time that the mine at Dividend finally closed down. Mining continued, periodically, further down the slope at Burgin. Almost forty years of weather has taken its toll; all the roofs and any other wooden structures have long since rotted away, leaving old, dry fragments of boards with rusted nails sticking out littering the ground. Most of the equipment is gone, taken by looters and souvenir hunters, but enough of the foundations and structures remain that one can imagine what Dividend looked like in its heyday.

Wild irises at Dividend

Wild irises at Dividend, Utah

The road past Dividend is off the main path of Highway 6. It’s a good road, well maintained and asphalted but not much visited. I only saw two other cars and a motorcycle during the four hours I spent exploring along the road. The East Tintic Mountains between Dividend and Eureka are dotted with old mining ruins and tailings piles, with dirt roads leading off frequently up every side canyon and ridgeline. Most of the area is posted No Trespassing, so I limited myself to taking photos from the main road. It is still late spring up there; the maple trees in the canyons have only just gotten their leaves, and wildflowers including mountain lupine and Indian paintbrush cover the hillsides.

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush near Eureka, Utah

Blue Lupine

Blue Lupine near Eureka, Utah

I traveled through Eureka and saw the continuing cleanup efforts there (more on this in my next post) and drove on to the town of Mammoth. Located in a side box canyon just to the south of Eureka, this was one of the richest areas of the Tintic Mining District. The mines are located ringing the valley – many long since abandoned but several showing recent work. With prices for gold and silver high right now, much exploration is underway to re-work the old claims and tailings piles and to do new exploratory drilling. Again, most of the area is posted and is private property; I limited myself to the main streets of Mammoth to photograph the old buildings and mine dumps.

Mine at Mammoth Utah

Mine at Mammoth, Utah

At one time, when the processing plant was in full operation in the early 1900s, Mammoth boasted a population of about 2000. The people lived in the upper eastern portion of the canyon (Upper Mammoth) while the mill was at the mouth of the canyon lower down the slope (called Robinson after the mill’s foreman and later Lower Mammoth). Once the town was incorporated, public works such as churches and even a hospital (rare for a mining town) were built in the middle, or Midtown. In the early 1930s, my father used to visit his first cousin Ralph Larsen, whose family lived in Mammoth. During the winter the road leading up to town would be covered in packed snow, and the two of them would ride their sleds from Upper Mammoth all the way down to Highway 6, almost two miles, without ever stopping. Then they’d have to wait for someone to give them a lift back to the top.

Miner's shack in Mammoth Utah

Miner's Shack in Mammoth, Utah

Even though the mines had all closed by the 1950s, Mammoth somehow escaped the fate of most boom-and-bust mining towns; it never completely died. A few people hung on. Over the last ten years, since I last drove up here, it even appears to have grown in population. More houses have been fixed up and are occupied than before, and it is becoming an artistic community of sorts. Renewed interest in mining has also given the town a boost.

Lizard

Lizard in the ruins at Dividend, Utah

After Mammoth, I visited the old Jesse Knight smelter at Silver City and drove up the canyon there, but I’ll leave that for next time.

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   Time is rushing forward and we are almost to the end of another school year at Mountainland Applied Technology College. Students in my Multimedia classes have been working daily to complete the alpha or “Director’s Cut” versions of their group video projects.

   Altogether, four projects will be completed within the next three weeks. These include projects titled: The Art and Science of Blown Glass (that group is currently creating their B-roll titles, images, and animations); The Art and Science of Stained Glass (this group is doing rough edit); High Pressure Alchemy: The Story of Synthetic Diamond (this group is capturing and editing the narrations); and The History of the Tintic Mining District (currently being captured and transcribed).

Eureka, Utah c. 1925

Eureka, Utah c. 1925

   This last project came about rather unexpectedly; the Tintic District is centered around the town of Eureka, Utah and was one of the richest mining areas in the West in the late 1800s. By 1960, the mines had closed and the town has since fallen on hard times. It is now designated as an EPA Superfund Site, and millions have been spent to cover up old tailings piles and replace contaminated soil.

   We had a team of students last year that filmed the area, but we didn’t have a good Subject Matter Expert that could tell the story. After driving through the town in early April, I saw that many of the historic buildings downtown are literally falling down and that this story needs to be told now rather than waiting for funding (my biggest challenge, besides having a full-time teaching job, is that I have no sponsorship as yet to support this project). I had one group of students that was going to do a project on pottery, but we hadn’t located a good site to visit. So I contacted June McNulty, who runs the Tintic Mining Museum in Eureka and arranged for him to be interviewed and to show us through the museum (which is only open by appointment) in an effort to preserve the history of this area before the reclamation efforts change things forever.

June McNulty in front of Eureka City Hall

June McNulty in front of Eureka City Hall

   On April 21 we took this team of students to Eureka and interviewed June and filmed the contents of the museum. Now I am going to be working on a final synthesis of two year’s worth of footage into two or more podcast episodes – one will tell the history of the mines, the other the history of the town and what life was/is like there, and perhaps a third will talk about the recent clean-up efforts and their impact on the town.

   The four projects will be completed by students and myself to an alpha test level by May 21, when we will have students from other classes at MATC watch the episodes and make comments and suggestions. At that point we will be too close to the end of the year for the students to do much more editing, so I will probably work on them over the summer to tighten the presentation/story and polish the images and audio.

Drawing of Iron Blossom Shaft 3

Drawing of Iron Blossom Shaft 3

   It will be a challenge getting this all done over the summer, since I will be in Philadelphia for three months researching background information and collecting images and photos on the history of chemistry in general at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, where I have been selected as a 2008-09 Fellow, sponsored by the Societe de Chimie Industrielle (American Section). This effort at CHF will result in at least two episodes as well, in addition to the four episodes this year and two from last year that I will be doing final edits on. My goal is to have 8-10 episodes completed and posted to this site and to iTunes and YouTube by the end of August. So far I have completed one episode on the rationale for this project. I will post that episode before leaving for Philadelphia (May 28) so that we can at least have a presence on iTunes and YouTube over the summer. I have been waiting until May 22 when I will be teaching the students how to compress and add metadata to podcasts; I’ll demonstrate how with this episode and take it all the way through posting and uploading to iTunes.

   Later today or tomorrow I will be adding a new post on how you, as an individual interested in this topic, can conduct similar research in your own community, or how you can participate to evaluate episodes or to provide sponsorship for this project.

June McNulty by mine hoist cage.

June McNulty by mine hoist cage.

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