by Mary Dickinson
November 1, 2004
The tour starts upstairs in the Hattie Museum and Gift Shop, where mining devices were explained by the park rangers. A display board shows how gold was formed inside the rock 60 million years ago by fissures caused by volcanic action while a chart explains how much heavier gold is than other elements and how methods were used to harvest it from the rock by using its heavy weight.
We were given a hard hat and recorder with earphones for our self-guided mine tour, but first the ranger took us to a section with a rock that had a quartz vein running through it and explained it was a fissure and was what the miners were looking for because it might contain gold. I saw a similar quartz fissure next to the parking lot. Next we entered the portal of the actual mine. Looking up, we saw a shaft that had been explored until it petered out. A rusty, old electric light system was in place. We continued through the tunnel that had rough-cut rock walls, and it was cold and damp. Timbers supported the weaker walls.
As placer gold could no longer be found in the streams, miners came from all over the world with sophisticated drilling equipment knowing that the mother lode was in the rock in the mountains. The gold mine museums love to explain what the devices are and what country they came from. As we continued through the tunnel, we noticed rails on the ground used for cars that brought ore out of the mine. Up ahead the tunnel forked in two directions and both were blocked by heavy wire screening. The method and techniques of removing ore from the rock were described as we looked at the actual examples in place. It looked like dynamite was in place and ready to go off.
Not far from the museum is the stamp mill. The heavy cars full of ore road on tracks to the mill, and the ore was dumped into a special shaft on the third floor where it slid under the eight heavy stamps and was crushed. Then the crushed rock was lowered to the first floor, where the gold was extracted from it by a complicated table covered with a sheet of silver and mercury. When the gold and mercury were heated, the mercury was reclaimed, leaving the rough gold for further refining.
From journal California Gold Rush-The 49ers