Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ghost Town Tuesday - Diamond, Utah

Just to be clear, I like ghost towns. Even if they don't have anything left, it's fun to go to these places to try as hard as you can to imagine what life must have been like. "Look! There's Pierre the Pervert, hiding behind the bath house!" or "I hear Ted the mule tanner is having a sale on excess mule chunks!" or "Oh no! my digestive system is chock full of undesirable creatures!" All these things happened. Probably.

Today's ghost town is one of the older places in Utah, and is also has a somewhat cooler name than most. I speak of the town of Diamond.

Sadly, unlike a real diamond, the town Diamond came and went pretty quickly. Probably the best part of having a town with a cool name is the possibilities it opens for high school mascots. Everything sounds cool with "diamond" sitting in front of it. For example, this is the Aye-Aye.

Even when it is young, it looks like sun-baked pig corpse wrapped in leather rope. It scurries around in the middle of the night because it is far too hard to sneak up on something in the daytime when you look like a lost mardi gras float. And it doesn't even do all that well at night! The name Aye-Aye comes from the noise that the native folks of Madagascar used to make when they saw it. I'm not sure about this, but I think it means "Creature from the devil's crotch". In short, no self-respecting high school would want to use the Aye-Aye as a mascot. But what if you were in Diamond?

Bam! Diamond Aye-Ayes. I would die to defend such a creature. But we've gotten off-track. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

In the year 1869 (which is a long time ago), the land around Diamond looked....probably exactly like it does now. Ticks were the top of the food chain, followed by rattlesnakes, coyotes, ticks again, and then probably some sort of plant. Let's take another look at what I'm talking about...

A land so bleak that angels weep upon visiting. And what do we use ugly land for? Cows! We use it for cows! And this sets the backdrop for the beginnings of Diamond.

Steve Moore wasn't a rich man. He wasn't even an important man. In fact, once we are done within this intro you won't be hearing from him again. But for this paragraph and a little bit of the next one he's very important. Cows (in addition to being tasty) like to wander. This is a pain for people who raise cows because you don't get paid for cows that you no longer own, and so it is in your interests to keep track of all the cows you can. Steve Moore was busy doing that very thing one dusty day in September of 1869. He followed the clues (mounds of cow turds) up a small canyon on the western foothills of the Tintic Mountains. It's this area....

I don't know how helpful that map is going to be. If you were to visit that canyon, this is what you would see.

Those mines weren't there back in 1869, so ignore them. Anyway, I don't know if Mr. Moore ever found his cows, but he did find something of else. Diamonds! Precious diamonds! Treasure of the Gods! Littering the ground! Cows are good, but diamonds are way better. Mr. Moore ran down the canyon with pockets filled with diamonds and showed them to his buddies. They hooted and whistled and threw their hats in the air (probably, I wasn't there), and they named their canyon "Diamond Canyon" because originality wasn't a prospector's strongest suit. Anyway, turns out the diamonds were just worthless quartz, but you don't throw away a catchy name just because it's a horrible lie.

The story could end right there and we would have very little left to talk about, but something else was discovered while everyone was busy filling their pockets with disappointment. Copper, silver and gold were discovered as well! Veins of galena and pyrite were found on the surface, both shoved full of valuable earth goods!! Silver, gold and copper are also better than cows. Cows are actually pretty far down on the list of valuable things, clocking in at number 476, right after a bucket of broken hot wheels and right above the wail of an ill-tempered toddler.

Anyway, after the whole diamond debacle, this was a bit of welcome news. This discovery lead to the creation of the Tintic Mining District. By 1870, the hills around Diamond Canyon were filled with this guy....

And wherever that guy goes, towns are soon to follow. First come crude, little miners cabins made from logs, weeds, poor-hygiene and mud. If a town is lucky enough to endure beyond this first stage, stone buildings will start to emerge. The next step is a mono-rail. Diamond never quite made it to the mono-rail stage, but spent most of its time in stage two. The town was named Diamond because even back then the miners knew a cool name when they saw it. The mines around the site were so rich that even the hobos wore tuxedos, and monocle-manufacture was up nearly 8000% within one year of the town's creation (this part I'm making up). The main mines around town included the Joe Bowers...

The Showers and Walker

As an interesting (not all that interesting) sidenote, the Showers Mine had only inclined headframe (those big wooden structures that allow people to get up and down in mines) in the west. Why did they do this? Why should you care? I haven't the foggiest. But still kinda neat to look at.

That photo was taken in 1982. Since then, the headframe has become even more inclined. Some would say that it has become dangerously inclined.

And finally, the Shoebridge Bonanza

The ore from these mines was so rich that it was shipped all the way to Wales because there wasn't anyone in the US who could deal with it. And they still made a profit! Precious, precious profits. And wherever there is a profit, there needs to be a place to spend it. Within one year of the discovery of the not-diamonds, a town boasting 4 stores, 3 hotels, 5 saloons, a post office, and an unfortunately-named newspaper named "The Rocky Mountain Husbandman". This newspaper allowed the wealthy newcomers a chance to read up on the latest badger-related fatalities, then turn the page and read an article concerning the latest improvements in top-hat repair. Old timesy rich people were funnier than nowaday rich people.

By 1871, the town had a population of nearly 900 people, which is pretty impressive considering most people couldn't expect to see their 40th birthday. At first, town was located on the canyon bottom but soon it spread up onto the nearby hills closer to the mines. Very few pictures of the place exist, as no one really thought to take pictures of towns back then.

That mountain in the back is the same mountain as this picture. Or at least I think it is. Who can tell.

So that gives you a little perspective of what is left. Which is to say, nothing at all. That same year a large mill was constructed within the city limits to help process the ores coming out of their mines. Like a drunken uncle at opera, it was considered to be a fairly crude operation and didn't last long.

The town was a rough place (as mining camps tended to be), and it was once said of the place; "Diamond is the chief camp of the Tintic Mining District, and is one of the quietest mining camps in Utah. It has been several days now since a murder has been committed". I'm assuming that comment was meant to be hilarious, and it probably was back in 1880. Some things don't age well though.

But as we've seen several times, towns that are tied to mining rarely need to come up with long-term civic planning. By 1890, the mines around town faced the unconquerable foe of water. At a depth of 300 feet, water was pouring into the mines faster than the primitive steam pumps could keep it out. One by one the mines called it quits, despite the fact that good ore still remained. With the mines all flooded, the miners soon started to migrate north to the richer mines (that didn't require gills to work) by Eureka and Mammoth. They took most of their houses with them.

From 1890 to 1900, the town was somewhat maintained by the fact that you could dig anywhere and find ore, but you could only mine it to a depth of 300 feet before things got particularly moist. By 1900 the population of Diamond was down to a brave 264 people and only three businesses. Then, sadly, in 1923 the last house was removed from the townsite and shipped off to a new life in Mammoth. This was a poor choice on the house's part, as Mammoth would join Utah's list of ghost towns a few years later. Well kinda. A few people still live there. But they all seem to have really mean-looking dogs and don't care for us outsiders.

As has been true with most ghost towns we've looked at, the only remaining signs of one-time township are the mine dumps and the graveyards. The mine dumps we've seen, but where is the graveyard? I'll tell you how to find it. Just walk around until you find a place where you feel really creeped out. Then you'll know you've found it. Now, I'm no ghostologist, but the place gave me the heebie-jeebies.

That's the main gate. So you can pretty much tell the place is haunted from the start. It's nice to get the uncertainty out of the way early. The gravestones have all long ago been lost, but a few replacements are still found between the bushes....

(This tribute to our mother's name
Her loving children raise
Yet feel that neither words nor fame
Can tell our love and praise)

Sometimes the gravestones didn't get replaced in time so we no longer know who's down there. In that case, they get a simple yet elegant rock.

The graveyard was full of rocks. One of them belongs to this fellow...

That mean-looking fellow is Henry Green, and he died in August of 1887 and joined the other lonely souls in the Diamond graveyard. I added that picture because that's the only picture I can find of anything having to do with Diamond. So enjoy it.

The Diamond graveyard is actually supposed to be somewhat haunted. The townsite would be too if there were anything left. I couldn't even find a hole in the ground or an old tin can. So if you go out there, prepare to be disappointed and haunted. Probably by this guy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ghost Mine Monday - Confidence Mine, Big Cottonwood District

Well, here we are again. Another week, another blog post. What should we cover this week? A mine? Is that all you people can think about? I have so much more to offer! Fine, we'll look at a mine so you crybabies will get off my back. But that means you won't get to read about the time I tried to make crepes. I guess that's ok because that story would only make us feel bad.

Writing about mines is tricky. Some people don't like posts about mines. It doesn't have cats saying "I can haz" or stuff like that, nor does it have *ahem* blue content. In fact, I'm not entirely sure what it has. Huh. I've kinda run out of steam. Well, nothing to do but power forward! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you....

Yesssirree, we are about to embark on another journey into the cold clutches of lady earth. And our portal to earthly delights is named the Confidence Mine. Oh, look, here we are!

Friendly little place, isn't it? Going into mines can take some getting used to, and probably shouldn't ever be done anyway. But before we dive right in, we need a few facts. Facts are like little hammers we can use to bash in the nails of ignorance while we create the ship of enlightenment! Or something like that. I'm tired.

The first item we need to know is where the mine is. Well, that one is easy enough. It's in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Still confused? Let's look at the map!

The Big Cottonwood Mining District is located within beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon. It's a feisty little geologic feature located not too far from downtown Salt Lake City, and is full of all sorts of wildlife that one would expect to find in the wilderness. It is called Big Cottonwood Canyon because it is located right next to a smaller canyon that has conveniently named Little Cottonwood Canyon. Actually, it's located right next to several smaller canyons, but I'm not in the mood to list them. Most are filled with rich people's houses guarded with big fancy gates with names like "Le Mason De Ted" or "Doctor Bill's Palatial Palace". As an interesting side note, these people don't like to buy Scout-o-Rama tickets, so don't waste your time. Anyway, I imagine that after nearly 170 years of constantly being reminded that it is the smaller of the two canyons, Little Cottonwood Canyon has got to be pretty upset, but what is it going to do about it? Glaciate us back into the stone ages? When your movements are measured in eons, it can be hard to exact revenge.

Anyway, now that we know where we are, let's look at a little history. The Big Cottonwood Mining District fired up around the year 1870. The initial prospectors were army scouts sent out by Colonel Patrick O'Connor, and then ran around digging holes here and there, laughing and swearing and doing whatever other things they did. As a reward for their efforts, they discovered several rich ore bodies just waiting to be plucked from the picnic basket of lady nature. The ore generally consisted of our old friend galena (you should read that post again) which was joined by the friendly minerals Chalcopyrite (it's basically just pyrite with copper in it), Sphalerite (zinc mixed with a blast of sulfur), and gold, precious, precious gold. Mining in the canyon continued at a stop-and-go pace until 1967, at which point people decided that skiing in the canyon was more fun than digging little holes in it. From that point onward the mines were forgotten, and the cursing, scratching, prostitute-frequenting miners were replaced by cursing, scratching, prostitute-frequenting lawyers and software designers. The district doesn't have a bad record though. Total metal production amounted to 30,600 ounces of gold, 17.5 million ounces of silver, 18.1 million pounds of copper, 252 million pounds of lead and minty topping of 4.7 million pounds of zinc.

So there we go, now we have the loin-cloth of geologic knowledge that will protect our midsections from the sexually-transmitted diseases of ignorance! The miners have all long left, but look what they left behind! Mines! Mines for us to foolishly explore! In we go!

Well, bad news right from the start. It appears that the Confidence Mine has a little water problem. That's going to happen in mines from time to time. But without water, we wouldn't be able to see the glorious birth of some new stalactites!

In a few hundred thousand years, you are going to have some hefty stalactites on your hands. But you won't get to see them because you'll be long dead. I guess geology got its revenge after all. Now here's something more human in origin...

Wooden stakes! Pounded into the solid rock! These were used to hold cords and powerlines off the floor and out of everyone's way. Now they are just sort...there.

Ah, what fun. Anyway, it's high time we learned where all this water coming from. Look! I think we are hot on the trail....

The water is coming from the very walls we are relying on for life!

Apparently the Confidence Mine has crossed into a rather sizable aquifer within the bedrock. But no time to dwell on that now! Look what we've just found!

That wooden box once held several mighty sticks of dynamite. While it can be fun to come across dynamite boxes, finding dynamite in a mine (which happens on occasion), is a lot less fun. You see, if dynamite doesn't get to fulfill its purpose within a few years of manufacture, it tends to get a little unstable. It's like a Golden Retriever puppy that never gets played with so it ends up being that dog that always seems happy to see you until you get near it and then bites off one of your brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hightops.

Let's continue down the way and see what we can see...

Huh. More water. That's not very interesting. We can see water in the toilet at home. Hey, now here's something...

Looks like we have ourselves some good old-fashioned miner graffito. Miners would burn these cryptic message into the walls using their carbide lamps. What message has this forgotten soul chosen to pass onto generations of the future? Looks like "9+h". As true now as when it was written.

The Confidence Mine belonged to a group named the Union Associated Group. They were probably a stogy group, sitting around smoking their over-sized cigars, talking about how well their coal monopolies were doing. The mine was founded in 1930, and the workings included two adits (that's what mining folk call horizontal shafts), and a single winze (those are what mining folk call smaller vertical shafts within the mine that are used to access lower levels. This is opposed to a "raise" which is the same thing except used to access higher levels). The reason the whole thing was here was because the prospectors saw this vein...

While that vein didn't have any massive gold nuggets on the surface, miners were always willing to chase them into the hillside in the hope that they may start to have something useful in them later on. Sometimes they will chase it using multiple tunnels, which is what they did here. In fact, let's just draw the thing out so we can get a handle on what's going on.

There. The good news is that all those pictures above came from Adit #1! We still have a bunch of mine to explore! In we go!

Look at this! Not more than 30 feet into the mine and we've already hit miners gold!

That is an inclined winze! Those metal rails are probably part of an old ladder. I say maybe because I'm not sure what I'm talking about. Anyway, what I AM sure of is that this shaft has been reclaimed by the water it was stolem from all those years ago...

Ahh, what fun. I don't know what's down there, but I'm suspecting that there was a reason they dug this thing. People are lazy creatures, and digging pits for no reason is rarely an activity we engage in. Or at least I don't, I can't speak for the rest of you. Weirdos.

Let's move on. Deeper and deeper into the mists of questionable quality!

Ooooo..look! Old wooden railroad ties! Still in place after all these years! Now if only we could find railroad rails. Maybe they will show up later. But for now, we've found something else to occupy our time!

It's a stope! I can't remember if we've covered what a stope is already. But if we haven't, it's a cavern created when miners dig out all the ore. It's like how you feel after getting dumped. A sad mockery of the confident person you used to be. Sounds like you need a trip to the Confidence Mine! Onwards! Look at this!

This part of the mine has kinda caved in. Cave-ins are what cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up as soon as you enter a mine. The hilarious thing is that you are far more likely to die from falling down an abandoned shaft or breathing bad air than you are to die from a cave-in! Ahhhh, go ahead and laugh at yourselves for being so foolish, then let's move on.

Look at this! Another stope! Also there seems to be another tunnel heading off to our right! What mysteries await us down that tunnel? Nazi Gold? Inca Jewels? Or is it something dangerous like a rabid bear, evil Santa, or a Nissan Cube? Let's boldly go where no one has gone...for a while!

Turns out that there was nothing down that tunnel at all. Just some scary darkness. A little further down the tunnel was a hole that lead down into the bowels of nature. I didn't take any pictures of it because I was too busy trying to get away from it. Sometimes mines have unmapped holes. Let's go down the main tunnel some more. I have a feeling we are about to find something awesome. Like good Santa.

Nope! It was the original rails for the ore carts! Still in place! Usually the mines would pull up their tracks whenever they could because you could sell them for money. Mines were largely ventures that were operated with the intent to make money. That's an important thing to remember. But what about the people who used to work these tunnels? What other artifacts can we find that tell us about them?

Well, we know that they drank Schlitz Beer! This can may indicate that someone was in this mine at some point in the 60's or 70's. Unless the miners in the 1930's discovered some way to obtain beers of the future, which I doubt. Who knows though. Hey, maybe that's what this other mysterious panel of miner's musings is all about.

Looks like we have the letter "S" as well as what may or may not be a crude drawing of an ample buttocks. And to think that these poor miners were born too early to enjoy the song "I Like Big Butts". Don't cry now! We've got to finish off the mine!

Oh, here we are. That my friends, is a backfilled tunnel. Sometimes the miners would do this with their waste rock if they had decided that a particular part of the mine wasn't going to work out. You can't tell from the picture, but there is water squirting out from all over the place, so I'm guessing there is some water behind that playful little wall. Let's retreat to a safe distance and take a moment to learn more history.

The confidence mine was not a huge producer. In fact, it was not even a large producer. It was more of a small producer. Leaser mined a little ore in 1931, and in 1932 it produced a small lot of ore that assayed at $30 to $40 a ton in gold, 100 to 150 ounces of silver per ton, 30% lead and 7% copper. These numbers were measure in 1932 dollars, which would be more like $3000 to $3400 per ton in gold nowadays. These numbers are very impressive, but I don't know how much of the ore they were able to pull out of there. I guess it doesn't matter as in 1934 S.A. Parry, president of the Union Associated Group bought the farm and all mining at the Confidence Mine was ended. Now it's all flooded.

And so ends the saga of the Confidence Mine. Our shoes are wet, but our souls are enlightened with geological empowerment! Now, I'm going to go get a burrito. Good day.