Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Lincoln Mine - A Utah first. Kind of.

Welllll..what haven't we looked at? It's been a while since I last wrote about a mine, so maybe I'll do that. Frankly this first paragraph is just here for filler. Go ahead, look at all my past posts (do it!) and you'll see that I've never really said anything of use here. And by here I mean this blog.

Lets look at a mine stooped with history. Something that really enslaves the mind and pro-richens the heart. A mine that has all the rich, lustrous B-vitamins of history that you've come to expect from this blog and at the same time holds back the formation of the dandruff of ignorance! I read most of this paragraph off of a Head and Shoulders bottle. Ahhhh, Head and Shoulders, the perfect cure for writers block. But this post isn't about hair-care products! It's about this mine!




That sir, is the first mine in Utah. Well, kinda. If you pretend that the Spaniards didn't mine anything before the Mormons go here, THEN it's the first mine in Utah. So, in a much more factual way, it's in no way the first mine in Utah. But it is still largely recognized as the first mine in Utah, so let's go with that. We are going to need a little back story to truly appreciate the glory of this mine, so here we go.

Mormons first arrived in Beaver County in 1856 with the intention of doing what they do best; settling and growing stuff and attempting to escape the usual dangers of frontier life. One of the things that early Mormon settlers did not do was work in mines, or even look for mines really. Early church leaders found the prostitute-rich lifestyle of the miner to be somewhat at odds with the chastity-based viewpoint. Likewise, most miners tended to avoid Mormonism with particular vigor for the same reason. But gold heals all wounds, and the miners came anyway.




But the leader of the Mormon church (Brigham Young) recognized that building a settlement requires more than sheep and chastity. Iron and lead were needed! You can do a lot with iron and lead. Shovels, hammers, model trains, those wires that connect the little baskets to hot-air balloons, and so on. In realizing this, Brigham Young took a sharp departure from the whole no-mining thing and sent scouts out to the various corner of the state looking for coal, oil, iron and maybe just a little gold. Just to make chastity belts. Not really.

Of the metals mentioned above (iron and lead), lead was particularly important. You can use lead to make bullets, and with the arrival of the federal army in Utah in 1858 bullets became a hot commodity. The US Government was pretty sure that the Mormons were up to all sorts of mischief in their little paradise and had sent the army to do what it does best. Flapjacks! Also war. Mostly war.

Anyway, in the fall of 1858 Jessie N. Smith




Isaac Grundy



William Barton



(that's his house anyway) and Tarlton Lewis




discovered a rich load of lead-ore in the Mineral Mountains. Why, those are the very mountains we discussed a few weeks ago with the Bradshaw Mining District! Speaking of which, it is with a small amount of embarrassment that I admit that I may not have been *quite* right in my location of the Bradshaw District. It's actually a smidgen south of there. But hey, this is all free information, so if you don't like it, then go find someone else who is stupid enough to go into these things.

Please don't go. I'm so lonely.

Anyway, here we are....



Not good enough? How about this?



Anyway, these brave explorers returned a piece of the ore to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City, and taking one look at that sweet sweet galena (You should read that post again!), he told them to return to the prospect and construct a mine and a town to support it. And in which to practice chastity and such. And so, in 1858, the Lincoln Mine was born. This was roughly the same time that prospectors on their way to California discovered minerals in Gold Hill, but nobody really stopped to mine them until the 1869, so in theory the Lincoln Mine was the first mine in Utah. But what about the Spanish folks and their mines? Well, there is some evidence that the Spanish actually had a mine at the same location as the Lincoln Mine and worked it in the 18th century, so it may have actually been the first mine if you consider that. Interesting stuff. Well, to some. To others that was a very long and boring paragraph. I'm still undecided how I feel about it.

The first shipment of ore from the Spanish Mine (as the mine was originally called) occurred in 1860. The ore was transported to the Grundy-Barton Smelter which has been built on the Beaver River a few miles away. I would show you a picture of it, but it washed away in 1861 and no one ever bothered to take a picture of it. Anyway, it was rebuilt a couple of times.

In 1860, the mine was renamed the "Rollins Mine", after James H. Rollins, who became the bishop of Minersville that year. Minersville was (and still is) the name of the little community that was built to support this unusual Mormon mining endeavor. Here's Mr. Rollins...




They knew how to grow a mean beard back in the day. Anyway, pictures of old Minersville are few and far between. Here's two that are probably from somewhere around there.




Anyway, in a letter sent to Brigham Young in 1859, our friend Isaac Grundy says the following...

"We have prospected several leads and raised between six and eight thousand lbs. of lead ore. I think when the ore is in smelting order it will yield about sixty-eight percent lead. we intend now to put up a temporary furnace and send up to your city between 600 and 1,000 lbs between this time and Conference."

So hopes were high for this little hole in the ground.



The ore was smelted into bricks, at which point it was to be sent to Salt Lake to attend bullet school. I'm no bulletologist, but I'm betting that 1,000 lbs of lead would have made a fair sum of bullets. Or at least it would have if they hadn't run into a delightful little problem. Remember this guy?



That is galena. And, as I have stated before in a very important fashion, it not only contains lead, but also frequently contains silver. Lead is soft, and can be bullied into doing whatever we want it to. But silver isn't such a pansy. The problem with the ore from the Rollins Mine is that it contained significant amounts of silver, too much to be effectively worked into bullets. As a result, only a few bullets were made in order to address the pressing issue of werewolves.

Well, as we all know (very few of us know), the US army showed up but the war never really panned out. Utah agreed to stop marrying all the women it could find, and the government agreed to skip all the torching and burning and such. But now Rollins Mine was free to really start pumping out some silver, and that it did. In 1870, the Rollins Mine was renamed again in order to honor this guy....



It was probably somewhat of an effort to bury the hatchet with the Government in hopes that it might help Utah along with statehood. I don't know that for sure though, just something I made up. In 1871, the Lincoln Mining district was created, and whoooo doggie, it made some silver. Even during the Silver Depression of 1893 and the Overall General Depression of 1929, silver poured out of the area, with the Lincoln Mine proving to be a major producer up until 1935. This may not have happened at all if this guy....




(his name is Wells Spicer) hadn't leased the idle Lincoln mine in 1873 and struck a vein of ore that brought the mine back into the lime-light after the whole lead thing sort of puttered out. As an interesting note, Mr. Spicer wandered out into the desert in 1887 and was never heard from again. I guess that's not all that interesting.

In all, the average ore contained 13% lead and 6 oz. of silver per ton, as well as some gold and copper to boot. Abe Lincoln would have been proud. After 1935, the records of the mine grow a little more difficult to track down. Mining in general started to putter off around this time throughout the district. Minersville stuck around though. If you are ever bored and find yourself in the middle of Utah, stop on by. You can see some houses and lawns and stuff. Everyone likes houses and lawns.

So here is the Lincoln Mine today.





The main entrance is through this little incline surrounded by the wood remains of the head frame that once hauled the ore cars up the slope to the surface. Teenagers burnt most of it. Teenagers love burning things. It probably used to look something like this....



That thick red line is supposed to be a cable. I can only do so much in MS Paint. Look up on the hill! You can still see the old gasoline hoist from yesteryear! Neat! The only reason that thing is still there is because it weighs more than everything else in the universe combined.



The other tunnel you can see in that picture was a more of an exploration deal driven into the mountainside as folks looked for more silver and bullets and stuff. Again, there are signs that teenagers have been lurking about....




Next to burning things, teenagers love to write swears on things. Damn kids. Let's move through the swear door and into the musty unknown! Again, this is not the main Lincoln Mine, just some sort of other, sub-Lincoln mine. In we go!









Look! A door that says "Danger"!



I totally went through the door, but it was just an empty room. Maybe the danger was loneliness. In reality, it turns out that's where the miners used to store explosives. Explosives are dangerous to humans because we are soft, pungy creatures that fly apart when explosions happen around us, so if you ever find an explosive underground you probably aught to only kick it a little bit. Nah, don't touch it.

So who's ready to go down here?




Me neither. I guess people have gone down there and found the place to be flooded in areas. I was content to just look down at it from the top. That incline goes down for 400 feet before it connects to a 200 foot tunnel. After that, the tunnel splatters all over the place for a grand total of 2,500 feet of pure mine goodness. But it also is full of watery crappyness, so that sort of takes the steam out of it. But look at my reward for choosing safety!




A horny toad! I must have chased this little bugger around for a solid hour. Ahhh, but it was all in good fun. For me.

Also located near the mine was this mine-like object.



I don't know what this was supposed to be. That tunnel is easily 10 feet in diameter, but only goes in for a few hundred yards. See?




Perhaps some particularly tall miner was looking for silver, but got tired and just gave up. I can sympathize. Birds have taken over this little hole in the ground now and have built little nests all over the walls.



Also, they poop a lot, so while bird poop isn't as bad as having a mine collapse on you, it's still pretty bad.

As for rockhounding potential, the Lincoln Mine isn't too great. I found some of our galena friend on the dump as well as a few pieces of another mineral named hemimorphite. It's pretty neat.

And so, with that ends the story of the Lincoln Mine for now. Maybe one day the mine will spring back to life, much like zombie Lincoln.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obsidian Vs President Taft

Obsidian. What does that word mean to you? If it means anything other than a black volcanic rock then you are wrong and should feel bad.

Obsidian is a bit of an oddity in the rock world. Remember that little devil Ozokerite? What a thing that was. Not quite a rock, not quite a mineral, but some sort of slobbering beast stuck between worlds. Well, Obsidian is pretty much in the same boat. If you pretend that Ozokerite is the late President William H. Taft, then it would be fair to consider obsidian as his lesser known brother. Maybe this brother's name is Cornelius, I don't know. I forget the point I was making. Something about how both ozokerite and obsidian are in the same family owing to the fact that they exist in that geological world between worlds. Also I made this.




Obsidian does have a leg up on its less fortunate earthy brother in that there is at least a name for what it is. Obsidian belongs to a class of earth-things known as mineraloids. Which if you ask me is a fancy way of saying "We don't know what you are and your very existence offends us and nature". But fear sometimes leads to poor geology test scores, so let's see if we can't shake out a few of the mysteries surrounding this reclusive mineraloid. Here's what it looks like when you hold a bunch of it in your hand....



(That dog is just asleep on the floor, by the way. No animals were killed during this post). Here is what it looks like when it is piled on top of a rather threatening letter I got from a bank....



And here is what it looks like under a raccoon-skin hat next to a wood carving of two monkeys climbing trees. Let's see another blog give you this sort of variety!



As you can see, obsidian is black. As such, it becomes easy to see how the saying "black as obsidian" came about. Is that a saying? Seems like I've heard that before anyway. But don't get comfy with your "obsidian is always black" frame of mind. Look at this...





Other colors! Plus there's this little devil to deal with....



They call that snowflake obsidian because it melts on your tongue. Nah, it's because those spots look like snowflakes. The snowflakes are just a different form of quartz named cristobalite that is created at the same time as the obsidian. Cristobalite has a wacky atom structure that makes it behave and look completely different than quartz, even though chemically it is all the same crap. Just like William and Cornelius Taft. I'm tired of talking about snowflake obsidian.

So as we can see, obsidian is all over the place. As a mineraloid, it enjoys all sorts of freedomes not afforded to the fully-bonded and insured minerals. Heaven knows you will never find a mineral that shows up in multiple colors.

Anyway, In addition to color, obsidian occupies an unusual range of hardnesses. Look at this part that I've written in bold!

Hardness of obsidian - 5.0 to 5.5!

That's right! A range of hardnesses! While it is true that most mineral specimens will show some small range in hardnesses, it is far more common for a pure mineral to stick pretty close to one number on the ol' hardness scale. But also sometimes not. Who are you to keep pestering me about this? I'm not geology's lawyer! Leave my client alone! A quick review of our handy Moh's Hardness Scale review sheet tells us that a hardness in that range means that sometimes your pocket knife will deal a deathblow to obsidian, and sometimes the other way around. Either way, you shouldn't probably keep both of them in your pocket at the same time. In fact, if you are a the type of person who would do this, then you are likely the type of person who should also read Dr. Seuss' lesser know book "One fish Two fish, both of which are suffering from debilitating groin injuries".

So, why is this so? Why does obsidian refuse to adhere to our tightly knit world of organized....organization? What is it rebelling against? Well the answer has to do with the point I think I was making with the President Taft part. Much like President Taft's shifting political position on many key issues, obsidian doesn't have a set chemical formula!




This means I couldn't tell you what obsidian is even if I wanted to. What I can say is that obsidian usually contains around 70% or more silicon dioxide (that's common glass folks!), with the rest generally being a mixture of iron and magnesium that give it some sort of color as we saw above (again, just like our 27th president)

UNUSUAL FACT FOR FEBRUARY!

Even though obsidian contains (usually) 70% or more of quartz, it has a hardness of 5 to 5.5. BUT QUARTZ HAS A HARDNESS OF 7!!! Behold the mysterious loss of 1.5 Moh Hardness Units! Where did they go?? We may never know! (It has to do with the crystal structure of obsidian! Read on!)

END UNUSUAL FACT FOR FEBRUARY!

In addition to being a veritable funhouse of chemicals, another reason that obsidian is all up in our gills about our ordered lifestyle is that it lacks a crystal structure. What do I mean? For his subject we will have to look into the very heart of the murderous volcano that is responsible for the creation of obsidian. And why stop there? Why not look at the volcano that is responsible for the creation of THIS VERY PIECE???



For that, we must travel to the bowels of Utah. It makes me mad that when most people think of Utah they picture a deserty wasteland populated by polygamists and poor drivers. Sure, you can only see those things, but you will be completely ignoring that we also offer volcanoes and cattle. Now, while it is true that Utah is not the most volcanic state in the union, it certainly has had its share of bubbly explosions in the past, and anywhere you find volcanoes, there is a chance you will also find our mineraloid friend obsidian. The volcano responsible for the piece up above is located in a little place named Topaz Mountain.



Topaz Mountain is a portion of a massive volcanic caldera (bowl). In fact, many of the peaks in the Thomas Mountain Range mark the remains of once mighty magmatic tubes and plugs and whatnot. At some point during the last 42 to 21 million years (Tertiary-aged!) the area around Delta Utah was a lot more exciting than it is now. During that period, this area repeatedly exploded with volcanic ash and deadly volcanic mud and rock breccias. Now days the only explosions around are when the locals shoot cans of Bud Light with various semi-legal firearms. Amazingly, the premise behind both types explosions is pretty similar.

Anyway, yes, if you want obsidian and find yourself in Utah, head ye to Topaz Mountain with all possible haste. The obsidian isn't going to last forever! Only a couple million years. Like everything else, the second obsidian is created it is already doomed.

So why did some of the volcanic emissions end up as glass and other parts end up as those amazing granites we've all heard so much about in our geology magazines? Well sir, the answer is lies with how fast the molten earth-goo cooled. You see, when magma is finally free from the volcano and goes about doing the various things magma does, its molecules are in a state of excitement. They are so excited that they are running around all over the place like me at work.




If you remember back to the days of Jr. High science (should Jr. High be capitalized? Apparently I can't remember my Jr. High english), you will recall that the reason that liquids are so liquidy is because the atoms are moving around all over the place, as the figure above demonstrates. And so it is with lava (and President Taft). Most lava enjoy their time in the sun, then begin to cool and harden. As this cooling happens, the molecules of the various things organize themselves into various crystal forms. I don't know why they do this, but they do. Just blame science. Anyway, for example, here is a quartz crystal...



Now our old pal quartzy here shares much of the same chemical formula as obsidian, but obviously it looks much different. It's likely that the quartz crystal had a long time to cool which in turn allowed the molecules of SiO2 to grow up, go to grad school, get mortgages, and line up to form these crystals. Like so....



That, my friends, is called having a crystal structure. All the cool minerals have them. Well, some of them do. I dunno. Obsidian didn't get that option. for some reason, the happy excited molecules pouring out of the volcano were cooled way faster than those above. Sometimes this happens when lava flows into cool water or perhaps an abandoned ice cream truck. Either way, the result is that the SiO2 molecules didn't get a chance to do anything with themselves.




So, much like myself, obsidian is stuck in a perpetual state of disorganization and serves as an eternal monument to the dangers of using indifference as a lifestyle.



As if that wasn't enough, it is due to this lack of crystal structure that obsidian cannot be invited to the world of proper minerals. And since it is not composed of minerals, it cannot be considered a rock. And so the rise of the mineraloids took place so it could have a home.

YET ANOTHER FASCINATING FACT FOR FEBRUARY

You know those granites we were discussing (mentioned once) above? THEY (usually) HAVE THE SAME (similar) CHEMICAL MAKE-UP AS OBSIDIAN (sometimes)!!! The granite just had a long time to cool so it could form all those neat black and white crystals that remind me of Oreo ice cream (but taste much different). In sort, obsidian is just granite that drank too much as a teenager and now works at the 7-11.

END YET ANOTHER FASCINATING FACT FOR FEBRUARY

Well, we know how obsidian forms, we know why it isn't a mineral, and we know whatever it was I was talking about in the first half of this post. But what is it good for? Something? Nothing? Well, say you are the type of person who likes cutting things. If this is the case, then obsidian is just the (not) mineral for you. Folks have been using obsidian to make blades, arrowheads, shotgun shells (nope!) and various other edge-related tools for ages upon ages. In fact, if you take the time to look about Topaz Mountain, chances are that you will find an arrowhead or two.




I don't know if it is legal to take them though. So if you get caught you've never read this blog and we don't know each other.

Obsidian is so stellar at the whole cutting thing that surgeons today still use it to slice us open and mess about with our gizzards. Obsidian has been shown to keep their edge down to a molecular level, which is pretty good I guess if you are looking for that special edge in your life.

Obsidian is also considered a semi-precious gemstone (gem-mineraloid). It can be cut into all sorts of things, like pigs!



Or skulls! Kids loves skulls!



And say you have the power to give life to things, then you could conceivably make this dog.



So there you go. A whole new mineraloid for you to think about. Also there's that part about President Taft in there, which was pretty good. Anyway, that's my present to you, the world.



No returns.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ghost Town Tuesday - Calico, The California Edition

Alright, we covered a mine, looked at a rock and enjoyed some home-made Dilbert cartoons. If this isn't heaven, I don't know what is. Something feels wrong though. This blog was founded on the principles of asking the hard questions, thoroughly researching the hard answers, and generally being bored at work. Is it a coincidence that these qualities also define the late 19th century prospector? Possibly. In fact, it almost certainly is, as I'm not sure why I'm typing any of this. For the sake of segwaying into what I wanted to talk about, I feel that in honor of the prospectors to whom we can trace much of today's modern mining and spitting technique, let us look at yet another town in which they lived.



First and foremost, today's town isn't in Utah. In fact, if you go looking around Utah for a ghost town named Calico, your efforts will be wasted and you will end up mocked and penniless. It will be like Jr. High all over again.

Calico, my friends, is in California. It's a small, sparsely populated state owned by Kobe Bryant.



Look at that! There's something crazy going on with that prospector's head! It looks like a Salvadore Dahi painting! You can tell how great a ghost town is going to be by how crazy the sign to it is. That's what I always say. And so should you.

Calico is located in southern California, or "So Cal" as I like to say. I'm going to have to make a new map. Here, let me whip one up....



There. As we can see, Calico is nowhere in Utah. What's more, we can see from that map that Calico is "This way". A good map is an internet geologist's best friend. And frequently their only friend. But let's be serious here for a moment. Calico is yonder....




If you've ever driven to San Diego (or heaven forbid, Los Angeles), then chances are you have passed right by this place. You can even see it from the I-15!



Subtlety is the hallmark of a great ghost town. One day, when I'm officially recognized as the greatest person ever, there will be "Scott" emblazoned on the hills behind Holiday. And also Holiday will be declared a ghost town because the greatest thing to ever come out of it will already have happened. Also because the median age group there is currently 103. I wrote this entire paragraph so I could use the word "emblazoned". Anyway, let's get back to Calico.

Calico's humble beginnings took place waaaay back in 1875. A man named Lee was wanding around the hills and discovered a ledge that was filled with sweet sweet silver. Lee made a claim, but then was likely killed by Indians. Something happened to him anyway. That event seems to have been enough to discourage even the most hardy of prospectors, and the region remained prospector free until 1880. A that point however, everything changed.

During the same time that most of Utah's mining districts kicked into action, prospectors were again on the prowl for new and tasty finds. In fact, the period from 1870 to 1890 was the golden (silver) era of western US prospectors. As a result, it was a good time to be a prostitute or a whiskey-maker guy. Or perhaps some sort of a muleologist. Muleology is a degree that has seen dramatic declines in graduates over the years. In the spring of 1880 a man named Porter rediscovered Lees claims, and managed to not get himself killed right after. When his fellow prospectors saw that the hills were not only filled with silver, but also low on potential for getting slaughtered, They flocked to the area. It was in 1881 that one of the more famous mines in the area was found.

The fortunate prospectors were named S.C. Warden and John C. King, and it was in 1881 that they found the first claim in the area. A claim that they humbly named the Silver King Mine. It was located on an equally humbly named King Mountain. It was here that the city of Calico would be established.



It doesn't look it, but this mountain would be the biggest silver strike in California. Well, the that mountain and the area around it. The portion of the Calico Mountains that we are interested is called the Yermo Hills.




You may be interested in a different part of the Calico Mountains, but this isn't your blog, so you are out of luck. A little sign inside one of the buildings at Calico says that the mountain was covered in unusual boil-like objects, and when struck with a pick, the boils were actually silver balls. My maturity deficiency requires that we laugh at that. Here's a picture of the sign that I stole this information off of.



Very quickly a town sprung up around King Mountain.



Ignore those cars in that picture. Those probably wouldn't have been there in 1881. The town was named after the colors on the mountainside being as bright as a gal's calico skirt. I guess they're right. I don't know that I've ever seen a calico skirt. But regardless of whether you have seen a calico skirt, you have to agree that these are some pretty cool colors.





When visiting Calico, the first thing you notice is that you are in the presence of several mines, which should give you a sense of how successful the place was. In all, the hills around Calico featured more than 500 mines, most of which are no longer places you would want to be. But there are plenty of signs that the mines exist around town. You just have to look close.







Aaaand sometimes you don't have to look so close.




The first mine in that series of pictures was the apparently famous Maggie Mine. I didn't have the money to ride the train though, which was pretty disappointing. I really wanted to go in there. The picture above that is of the Burcham Mine, which also proved to be a big producer in the area. You have to look close at that picture to see it. It looks like a little hole in the mountainside. As opposed to most mines which....also look like little holes in the mountainside. Mines are like that sometimes. This mine.....



I think is the Silver King mine. I couldn't quite figure out where I was. I was pretty drunk.

In 1882 the first mill was built in the area, and later that year a rail line was completed to the city. Railroads are important to mines due to the fact that ore tends to be very heavy, and people tend to be easily squished. So a train is just the thing to get ore to where it needs to be. Namely, somewhere else.

In addition to Silver, borax ended up being an important source of mining entertainment in the area.




One doesn't really consider borax to be something to get excited over, but I know one pretty irritable historian who works in Calico who will yell at you if you don't seem excited over borax. If I could offer you any advice concerning your visit to Calico, it would be to always act excited about borax. Apparently, in 1883 people were so excited about the stuff that the town nearly became deserted with everyone racing up into the hills to get their hands on some of that sweet sweet borax. I guess I just don't get the excitement. Most of the resulting claims ended up in the hands of one Mr. F.M. "Borax" Smith. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't earn that nickname as part of his borax investments, but rather by his chalky, powdery complexion. Nah, I just made that up.

But nothing is ever easy for mining towns. You remember how most of the ghost towns in Utah burned down at some point? Well, it turns out that fire also liked to hang out in California. In 1883 Calico stopped being as pretty as a gals calico skirt and became as pretty as a pile of charred remains. Which it turns out is far less pretty. The town was rebuilt, but then it burned down again, which totally sucked for them. But prospectors don't give up easily. The town was built again, and this time it stuck. For a while, anyway (it is a ghost town, after all).

By 1884 there was a booming population of 2,500 people, which was up from 0 just 4 years prior. That's pretty good for a horrible desert wasteland. The Silver King continued to dominate the other mines, which at this point included the Waterloo, Bismark, Oriental, Garfield and Burning Moscow. As well as 450+ others that didn't have memorable names. In a 14 month period it produced $1,000,000 worth of silver bars, which shouldn't be confused with $1,000,000 worth of snickers bars, which would have also been impressive. Miners were paid $3.50 a day for their hard work.

During this time, 22 saloons were built,






A sheriffs office was established, as was a no cussing or shooting law. Apparently.




And a place for the miners to get their digital photos onto a compact disk.



And, if you are of the more sadistic persuasion, this gentleman offered his services for just that purpose. All it cost you was one shiny quarter.



Now, if you are the type who believes the internet, I feel like I should let you in on a little secret. That particular attraction was probably not actually there in 1884. I wish it wasn't there in 2011. But there it was, and it just so happened that I had a quarter to spare. So let the suffering begin!


video


I'm not sure exactly what sort of suffering he was up to, but I felt like the experience was perhaps more of a dimes-worth. That's capitalism for you.

I went to lodge a complaint with the local authorities, but Chief Broken Foot wouldn't have anything to do with my whining. I guess he has that broken foot to worry about.



Ah well. Anyway, after 2 pretty horrible fires, the crispy citizens decided that a fire department was just the ticket. And why stop there? Why not buy some crazy looking fire-fighting device?




I love old timesy machinery. They could have told me that was a banana split making machine and I would have no reason to doubt them. Look at the other old machines that are littered about town!





Neat. Anyway, one thing that no 1880's era town had a shortage of was corpses, and once a town has too many corpses laying around, people start getting worried. So in comes the undertaker!



It was his duty to make sure no one came back as a zombie, and to this day there aren't any zombies in town. So I guess he was good.

A couple of jokers built this little house right into the side of the cliff, only feet from some other mine.



The little sign on the door told their story, but I forget how it went. I think they died there. Those guys. Always with the pranks. I really wanted to get in there, but a friendly prospector-turned-security guard joked with me that I may end up dead too. We laughed, but then he stared me down until I ran off. Security guard? More like a jerkurity guard if you ask me. No one asked me.

Back to history. Things were going great. The Mammoth mine installed 600 feet of tramway, the Occidental had a 1,000 foot long ore car track to get the ore to the station, and the Sue Mine had 300 feet of tramway, a third of which was nearly vertical. The vertical part had to be operated by hand as there wasn't enough wood to operate the steam generator. So, I guess things were great except for the various creatures that used to live in the trees in the area. But by 1892 falling silver prices caused most of the mines to shut down, and again, this fella was reduced to suffering to earn his keep.



In 1896 the Silver King mine shut down, and that was pretty much that. In all, nearly $20,000,000 worth of silver came out of this desert mound, which is far more than I've ever contributed. For scale the Comstock Load produced about $400,000,000 worth in gold. $20,000,000 is still pretty good though. Borax mining kept chugging along until 1930, but on a much smaller scale. After that, there wasn't a reason to stick around, and Calico was abandoned.

You really don't get a sense of how amazing the very existence of Calico is. Twelve hundred people doesn't sound like a lot until you see the area you are talking about. It's pretty desolate, and features only three Starbucks. Hahahahahahaha!!! I'm so funny.

The town came back to life when Walter Knott bought it and had it largely re-built. Mr. Knott is also the mastermind behind Knottsberry Farm, a dramatically less mine-themed area in Los Angles. Only a few of the structures are original, and I only know two for sure.....



You can tell that this one is original because it still has two indians sitting on top of it! Also the historian lady told me. Also you can just kinda tell.

The other house has a museum in it, and was home to the last resident of Calico. She died in the 1960's I think. I didn't take a picture of it though. Just imagine a really old house and you're there.

I loved Calico. If you have the chance, I can't recommend enough that you take the time to get over there and check it out. Do it! DO IT!!

I can't make you do anything.