|My spotted herd overlooking the Mother Lode|
Mules were a major part of the hard rock mining industry that made my current home infamous during the gold rush that began in 1850 and still continues today in some form or another.
I am not a fan of mining and don't support such a dirty, environmentally destructive way of life. Today, the mine is a state park where people can come, picnic, trail ride with horses, tour the beautiful grounds of the one time rich owners and have a great place for weddings and photo opportunities. There are two tours given that show with great contrast the different life of the workers in the mine yard, and that of the wealthy mine owners who vacationed and played there. It was not as beautiful then, as it is today because all the trees have grown back from harvesting timber to shore up the 367 miles of underground tunnels. The pounding of the stamp mill that crushed rock 24/7, 363 days a year, that was heard miles away...is now silent. Exposure to the toxins used to extract gold from the rock, such as mercury and cyanide surely took their health toll and continue to do so today. State taxpayers are still paying for toxic water cleanup. Gold fever persists...but not in my veins.
The Empire mine is the oldest, biggest, and richest of the hard rock gold mines. In it's 106 year history, 5.8 million ounces of gold was extracted from Quartz rock. In 1957 the price of gold was $35. an ounce and it cost $45. an ounce to get it out...so the mine became unprofitable and closed. If one were to envision the size of the total gold extracted, it would be represented in a 7' cube. It is estimated that only 20% of the gold has been taken, so you see...I really do sit on a motherlode. I like gold where it is...in solid rock.
I found some wonderful drawings done by my friend Tori Thompson done for The Union
The photos came from the Nevada County Historical Society, drawings came from Tori Thompson, and text was written by Evelyn M. Johnson...I made some notes in red from other research sources.
George Buelah and "May West" ca. 1950 Celebrating the Calif. Centennial - May West was the last working mule in the local Mines. Battery powered trammers replaced the mules and May was retired to roam the streets of Alleghany for over twenty years.
for more information on the historic state park, click on the link...
Also in the publication was an original poem written by Winifred Robins in 1982: