Quicksilver Mining


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Pioneer Day
Incline Railroad Sign Dedication
October 13, 2012

On October 13, 2012, the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association (NAQCPA) held their 30th annual Pioneer Day celebration. This year, like last year, it was held at the Hacienda Mining Display Outdoor Museum, located on the site of the Hacienda Reduction Works. This theme of this year's Pioneer Day was the dedication of the interpretive sign for the Incline Railroad (above).

As seen from the Mine Hill Trail, the Pioneer Day celebration was held in front of the Hacienda Mining Display

The New Almaden Chimney is on the hill above the Outdoor Museum. The chimney was used to vent sulfur fumes from the reduction works high into the air, away from New Almaden.

This is the Hacienda Mining Display. Normally the public can only see the displays through the fence. Today, however, the gates were open, and visitors could see the displays up close. The display is arranged from left to right, in order that the mercury ore is mined and processed. There have been improvements to the display since last year's Pioneer Day. The fence in front was purchased by NAQCPA and installed earlier this year. Several exhibits were enhanced, particularly the rotary furnace.

At the far end are 2 simulated mine openings, one vertical shaft, one horizontal. adit. The vertical shaft is named the B&R Shaft after Bruce Bartlett, who designed the Outdoor Museum, and Rich Robertson, who designed the shaft. The adit is named the Tobar Adit after the Tobar Family, one of the pioneering mining families.

This is near the left end of the display, which has equipment related to mining and moving ore. In front is the Mancha "Little Trammer" battery locomotive. Behind it is an air compressor, like the type

This is a motorized scoop for scooping up ore.

This is the skip loader.

This is the Gould rotary furnace. At this end is a rock hopper and electrical control panels.

From the other end of the rotary furnace, the condenser pipes can be seen. Next to them is the tank on the right, that held fuel for the furnace.

This is a view of the backside of the furnace, showing the condenser pipes, with the mercury collection buckets below them. The chimney on the right vents the waste sulfur fumes.

This is the D retort and condensing system. Ore was heated in the D-shaped chamber. Vapors were condensed in the large tank on the left.

These are Cornish pump parts. Cornish pumps were used to remove groundwater that seeped into the mines. In back are pipes. In front are beams. One of the beams still has wood in it. The one in front has only the metal reinforcing bars left.

At the NAQCPA tables, Robbie Lamons is selling T-shirts and other items, while Ranger Paula Bergmeier looks on.

Shari Sullivan is selling raffle tickets.

Mary Lee Biaocchi (left) talks to Janice Frazier, who brought her horse, Easy.

Visitors find Easy is easy-going and easy to pet.

Tere Johnson looks at these displays of historic pictures. He is a descendent of one of the photographers, James Kessell, who took the pictures on the left.

These pictures, put together on this poster by Veronica Jordan, were taken by James H. Kessell, who was born on Mine Hill in 1883, the son of a Cornish Miner. The pictures are from Kessell's descendants, the Johnson and Job families. Kesell's pictures show the miners at work, at church, at play, and their children at school.

These pictures are of Bill Wedlake and his family. Bill's family's history in New Almaden began with his great-great-grandfather Richard Wedlake, who was a Cornish miner who came to work in the Almaden mines with his son in 1882.

This map showed the route of the Incline Railroad.

Bob Meyer collects money for the lunch and hands out programs.

Jim Campbell (right) displays his pen-and-ink drawings of New Almaden and the life of the miners.

The San Jose Ukulele Club, led by Gillian Altieri, provides entertainment.

Gillian Altieri (left of center) leads her band.

NAQCPA President Kitty Monahan introduces the band, while ranger Paula Bergmeier and Park Interpreter Heidi McFarland look on.

This is a model of a stamp mill, used for crushing rocks. It belongs to Russell Pearce, who spoke later.

Kitty Monahan and Russell Pearce, with Bruce Bartlett and Mike Cox in the background.

Kitty Monahan watches as a flag is raised on the hill overlooking the site.

The flag is raised on the hill. It was carried up the hill and raised by Doug Hamilton and the Bright brothers.

The crowd recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

Tere Johnson delivers an invocation

Tortillas being prepared for lunch.

There was a choice of pork, chicken, and beef for the tacos.

The attendees line up for lunch.

Mike and Dorene Boulland, Rebecca Mapes, and Mike Cox pose for a picture, while Art Boudreault watches.

Dot Wilson talks with Shari Sullivan at the raffle table.

Park staff stop by to enjoy lunch.

Mike Cox served as Master of Ceremonies. He recounted how he explored the mines as a child and was later hired to close the mines in 1984-85. He mentioned that NAQCPA started Pioneer Day as a means to meet with people who worked in the mines and hear their stories. Many people in the audience were related to miners.

John Drew is the 4th generation of his family to work in the New Almaden Mines. His great-grandfather came from Cornwall, England during the Gold Rush and settled in Grass Valley. His grandfather and his father moved to New Almaden in the 1880's. He told how his father's youngest brother was riding on the incline railroad, which was against the rules, when he lost is footing and was killed.

Russell Pearce talked about the incline railroad. Until 1864-65, when the incline railway was built, ore from Mine Hill and supplies for the people living and working on the hill were hauled by pack mules and wagons. This was very expensive and dangerous. The railway greatly cut this cost. It hauled well over a million tons of ore.

Veronica Jordan told about her research in family genealogy. She is a 6th generation descendant of Spanishtown miner Juan Hernandez, who came to work in New Almaden around 1850. His grand-daughter, Katherine Hernandez, married John Tobar in 1910. Their son, Jim Tobar, who was Veronica's grandfather, was born in Spanishtown. Spanishtown residents began to inter-marry with the Cornish in Englishtown. Veronica's great-great grandfather had a sister who married Captain William Gray of Cornwall. She found she was related to the Kessell Family of Cornwall. They had photographs of New Almaden taken around 1900, which are shown on the left behind her.

Tere Johnson talked about his ancestors, the Kessels and the Jobs, who came from Cornwall England. The Cornish miners were experts at hard rock mining. They worked in the tin mines in England. When those mines began to decline, they came to America for better opportunities. They worked in the mines of New Almaden. Tere remembered growing up in New Almaden and hearing stories told by his family.  His great-grandmother Eliza ran a boarding house in Englishtown. Many of his family lived there. He remembers eating Cornish pasties, made by his grandmother. His grandfather Clifford in the 1950's rented a cabin near Twin Creeks Pool, a few miles up the road from here, which his family enjoyed through the 1970's. He recalled how he passed through New Almaden and explored the hills as a young boy. Now he enjoys working as a volunteer in Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

Bill Wedlake talked about the history of his family, the Wedlakes, Matthews, and Padillas. His great-grandfather Richard was the first Wedlake to work in the Almaden mines. Richard's son and grandson were also miners. Another of Bill's great-grandfathers was Thomas Matthews. He married Ramona Bernal. Their daughter Mary married William R. Wedlake. Bill's great-grandfather William T. Wedlake Sr. married Maria Frances Padilla from Spanishtown. Bill talked about how he became interested in his family history after his wife died. He found boxes of old photos and memorabilia and began photographing and scanning them. He got an e-mail from Veronica Jordan about Frances Padilla, and they began corresponding about their families. He talked to his 95-year old Aunt Jane, who is the last living Wedlake from the Almaden mining era, and got stories about his relatives.

Richard Wedlake gives Kitty Monahan a disk with his pictures and genealogy research on it.

Marvin Tanner talks to Park Interpreter Supervisor Julie Lee. Marvin helped work on the Outdoor Museum until he was injured in an accident at home.

The group begins the short climb up the Mine Hill trail to the side of the new interpretive sign.

The sign is at a bend in the Mine Hill Trail, where the incline railway came down a steep hill. Rich Robertson (left), Bruce Bartlett (center), and John Atwood (right) look at the route of the railway.

People gather around the sign.

Marvin Tanner watches from the park van, while Bob Meyer watches nearby.

Kitty Monahan tells the story of the incline railway.

The crowd watches while the sign is about to be unveiled.

Kitty monahan pulls off the cloth, unveiling the sign, while Jeff Bright and Rich Robertson look on.

Everyone gathers around to read the sign.

This is the interpretive sign. Below are closeups of portions of the sign.

Created 10/16/12 by Ronald Horii