Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines Special! Ghost Mine AND Ghost Town! Dixie Apex and Shem!

Well, it's been three months since I last drank deeply from the well of gainful employment. It's been an educational experience. I've learned that Taco Bell offers a wide array of relatively cheap, somewhat digestable food-like items. I have learned that medical insurance is for chumps. I have re-learned the joys of playing with Legos. I am 32 years old.

But that list is not all-inclusive. I have also been outdoors, just walking around and looking at stuff. Stuff needs to be looked at or it will start to organize and plot to overthrow you (I have also increased my paranoia). While I've seen many things in the last 3 months, I've focused a little more on rocks and mines and stuff. That's kinda my thing. Have you ever read one of these blog posts? They go on and on about rocks and mines and stuff. Heavens knows I don't read this crap. I've also grown a little more bitter lately. Everyone sucks but me. Someone give me a job.

Well, enough banter. We've got a lot of work to do (nope) and not much time to do it (nope). Today we are going to visit a decidedly different corner of Utah. Not because I ran out of thing to talk about (that happened years ago), but because I now find myself with the opportunity to take long vacations. Plus no one seems to have written all that much about todays mine/ghost town. I figure to set things right.

Allow me to introduce the Dixie Apex Mine....

That's where it used to be anyway. Or somewhere near there. It's hard to say for certain. It would be an easy matter to pinpoint its location if it were still there, but nowadays it's just sorta....that. It's under there somewhere. Here's what it looked like when it used to look like something.

But you aren't here to look at interesting pictures! You're here because for some reason this blog is a google result for the query "busty mermaids". Well this post doesn't feature any busty mermaids you pervs. Or does it? You should search this post from top to bottom. Tell me how it turns out.

The story of the Dixie Apex starts with the end of the story of the Silver Reef mining district (which has been covered with all due attention and eloquence in a previous post rich with busty mermaids). Like most people, miners prefer to have jobs. Specifically to miners, they like to have jobs that allow them to dig in stuff. But Silver Reef soon had more people who were willing to dig in stuff than it needed. This lead to an unfortunate influx of unemployed miners who were completely without a place to dig a hole. Luckily for them, a whole new mining district was about to be discovered in 1884 by a young (possibly) fellow named William Webb.

Obviously that's not him, but it's as close as Google is going to get me. I like doing crazy Google searches. Have you ever googled "incredulous"? Pretty great. Things get a bit dicey after page 2 though. Stuff that would make busty mermaids weep for the souls of those soon to be born. Anyway, Mr. Webb was wandering the Beaver Dam Mountains in Southern Utah looking for cordwood. The Beaver Dam Mountains are located hereish...

As Mr. Webb was collecting his coveted cordwood on a mountain named Jarvis Peak, he came across some blue-green rocks. As you know, most rocks range in color from grey to greyish, so blue-green is somewhat notable. These rocks proved to be rich in copper, and copper appears to be more interesting than cordwood. Mr. Webb staked a claim on the site and created the Tugsagubet Mining District in the process. Tugsagubet is a hell of a word. Probably means something too. I don't know what though.

For reasons that are equally unknown to me, Mr. Webb named his mine The Pen Mine and work began that year (1884 for reminders). Here's some old-timesy pictures of people at work in the mine! I like old-timesy pictures.

Those pictures are sideways because Blogspot is the worst program ever purposely released on humanity. Sometimes a dame would show up at the mine and it proved to be a picture-worthy occasion....

Between the years of 1884 and 1888 the mine pumped out 300 tons of ore which was shipped to Wales for some reason. Wales seems to have been the place to be if you were a chunk of rock. Anyway, Wales is far away and rocks are heavy, so shipping ate up much of the profits. In 1890 Mr. Webb missed his corkwood gathering hobby and sold the mine to a local mercantile firm named Wooley Lund and Judd. I guess they wanted to branch out from the dry goods business into the heavy underground mining business. Companies could do whatever they wanted back in the day, like how a gym coach can also be a driver's Ed teacher. I dunno.

The ore assayed at 54.2 percent copper, 4.1 percent sulfur, and 4 ounces of silver to the ton. Is this good? I guess so. It seems good anyway. Not as good as 100 percent gold though. People should open more 100 percent gold mines. Either way, it was good enough for the Wooley Lunch and Judd powerhouse. They renamed the mine the Apex Copper and built several improvements, like a nice little boarding house. It seems like your chances of getting mauled by a rattlesnake seems slightly lower if you are standing inside a boarding house, so I'm betting it was a welcome addition. There's a picture of it up above. It's one of those sideways pictures.

Now, Wooley, Lund and Judd still had a problem. In fact, it was the same problem that William Webb had. Wales. Wales is just too far away for us to be shipping things to it. We would be better off just forgetting it completely in my opinion. So WLJ decided to again branch out once again, and in 1899 they built a small smelter right in the heart of St. George. The bugger lasted about a year and produced about 20 tons of copper before everyone seems to have lost interest in it. I tried to take a picture of the spot where this smelter used to be, but the site is now occupied by an irritable elderly gentleman who just wants to crack his cashews in peace.

The ore wasn't going to smelt itself, so in 1900 a hugetastic new smelter was built a few miles closer to the mine, near the town of Gunlock (which is perhaps the very definition of a cool town name. Take some notes Sulphurdale). This new fang-dangled smelter was powered by a dam that was built over the Santa Clara River. Well, they must have built that dam with super dam powers, because it's still there today....

And here is some other part of the smelter. The, uh, round part.

The rest of the smelter is out in the weeds somewhere. I can't be bothered to go look for them though.

Now, rivers and dams are all well and good, but smelters still need poorly educated immigrants to work it! So soon a town was built around the smelter, and was named Shem after a particularly friendly chief in the nearby tribe. The town was built on the hillside to the west (or possibly east or north, I'm bad with directions) of the smelter. There's not a whole lot to see anymore. EXCEPT THIS AWESOME WALL!!

Not good enough you say? Well, HERE'S ANOTHER WALL!!!

They are kinda hard to see there, but trust me, there are two walls in those pictures and they are fantastic. But if neither of those pictures are very interesting to you, then I don't recommend you go out of your way to see Shem. Because that's about it. Also you have to pull over on the side of the road and everyone slows down to look at the person who has pulled over to the side of the road and they start to judge them. Like they were some sort of freak tramping around in the bushes looking at old walls.Anyway, the population of Shem was never very large. Probably around a few hundred folks at its peak. And because the only work in town was a smelter, I'm betting the chick to dude ratio was horrible.

Here's a thing. These buildings are located pretty close to the old Shem townsite...

and although they weren't technically part of the town, they do have an interesting history that will fill out this otherwise short post nicely. Here's the thing. With the exception of the mine, everything we have seen is located pretty much right in the middle of the Shivwits Indian Reservation. I have never met a Shivwit, but based on the number of no trespassing signs, I'm guessing they don't want you poking your nose about in their business. So I recommend that you don't. The rest of this story will only serve to validate my recommendation. The structure in the upper picture was, not surprisingly, a prison built by the mormon settlers in an attempt to establish friendly relations with the native people. Why they chose something as unfriendly as a prison, I couldn't say. I would have gone with a candy cane teddy bear shop, but those were different times. The second picture is of an old chapel, located just a few feet away from the prison. Well, things were going along swimmingly until one night when a mob of angry braves broke into the prison and made off with a prisoner who had committed a crime of some sort. The mob took the prisoner over to the church and gave him the ol' hangy hangy from a rafter. After that, people didn't really want to go to church there anymore so it was abandoned. The end.
Let's get back to the mine. From 1900 to 1907 several other mines in the Tutsagwhatever Mining District started to ship ore to the Shem smelter. These include the Black Warrior Mine, The Westside Mine, as well as others that I feel no need to climb to. Here's a secret just between you and me. All mines look like this...
All of them. Just a big old hole. Now, there may be a few slight variations, but that's basically the idea. So if you ever feel like you need to waste an entire Wednesday climbing up some horrible, mountain lion infested peak to see a mine, I just saved you a ton of time. With that being said, here's another mine near the Dixie Apex that I wasted my entire Wednesday climbing to!
That there is the Paymaster Mine, but despite the illustrious name, it never actually paid much of anything. It produced a little lead and silver, but nothing to write home about (which would be a weird thing to do anyway). What is amazing about this mine is that it is still very well preserved.
This is the old steam hoist that would bring the miners up from their little vacation to Hades. The lever on the left is the operating action, and the chair on the far left is where the operator would sit their butt. I shouldn't have to explain what the chair is for.
Here's a few old oil cans still sitting on the shelf waiting to....oil...things. Neat. So, bad mine, neat piece of history. Not a bad trade-off. For us anyway. I bet the mine owners would have differing opinions. Or would if they weren't long dead.
Let's move it along. The Dixie Apex (as it finally became known) was worked until 1909 when dropping copper prices made digging holes cost-prohibative. I don't know who had to give the news to Shem, but I bet it wasn't met with much enthusiasm. Without ore to smelt, there is no need for a smelter. And without a smelter there is no need for a smelting town. So off Shem went. See you around Shem.
The prices of copper would rise and fall, and thus the Dixie Apex was re-opened several times between 1911 and 1960. At some point a shaft was dug in the hill above the tunnel for some reason. Here's a picture of what we're looking at.
I don't know if that clears anything up. At least the road is well labeled. See the dashed line labeled Apex Fault? See the part that has question marks all over it? That means that the fault is "inferred" which actually mean "maybe it does this" which in turn means "we don't know what the hell is going on". Much of geology should have those question marks.
Here's a picture of that shaft from far away...
Can you see it? Lets see if I can't make it stand out a little more....
Well, neither of those are really great. But the idea I'm trying to make is that you would have to be extremely stupid to climb all the way up there.
Here's some pictures of the shaft after I climbed all the way up there...
See? What did I tell you?
But look what I did find all the way up there!
What the devil is this thing? It didn't seem to understand english, so I tried to threaten it away by throwing sticks and leaves into the air. Then I fell down the hill. Nice views of the nearby valley though.
Plus I was able to capture this shot of me getting a workout. This one is for the ladies.
As a side note, I don't care whos head you put on He-Man's body, they will always look constipated. You could put FDR's head up there and you would end up with our nations only 4 term and most constipated president. Bah. Anyway, ore from this shaft (and from a second tunnel that I haven't mentioned) was driven along this little mining road.....
To an assay house that was located near the mine opening. Remember, there really isn't a whole lot left out there, so you have to use your imagination a lot.
See the rocks stacked up near the left-middle portion of the picture? This would have been the foundation of said assay house. Or possibly something else. I wasn't there. But I suspect it was an assay house due to a little detective work. See this??????
What we have here is a decorative piece of furnace surrounded by red furnace brick pieces. These, my friends, are the calling cards of an assay house. Or possibly any number of other things. But I'm sticking with assay house.
So, what did we end up with? Well, personally I ended up throwing up my lunch because I climbed up a really steep hill and had an imaginary fight with some weird plant. But if you mean the mine, well, the numbers are actually pretty good. 7,000 million tons of copper, 400 million tons of lead, 180,000 ounces of silver, and a slight dusting of gold. More than I've ever produced anyway. By the mid 1960's the mine ran dry, and everyone closed up shop. But something else was lurking in the depths of Jarvis Peak. Let's take a look at that 7th grade science thing.
That's the periodic table. It's full of stuff we use for other stuff. I've gone ahead and labeled our old friends copper and silver (as well as the made up elements down below). But have you ever seen these two fiesty little fellows?
Ga and Ge? What madness is this? Apparently science found them quite a few years ago, and named them Germanium and Gallium. It turns out that these metals are quite useful in the manufacture of futuristic things, like flux capacitors and catamarans. They are called "rare earth metals" because they are....rare earth metals. Or at least they are everywhere else other than the Dixie Apex Mine. You see, these two little buggers were hiding out in the low-grade ore that was ignored by the earlier miners and left down in the ground. But once they were discovered (and I'm not quite sure how they were), the mine soon had a new purpose. Enough Germanium and Gallium to make us all rich and sterile! And so, in 1985, the mine was again fired up with the intention of becoming the world's first Germanium and Gallium mine.
Now, the rest of the story gets a bit foggy. From what I understand, there is one other location in the world where Germanium and Gallwhatever can be found in useful quantities, and the folks who own that mine didn't care for the competition that the Dixie Apex was bringing along. So they did what anyone who has a Scrooge McDuck-like money big sitting around. They bought the mine and closed it down. Then you reclaim it. A-like so.
Then you stick a big fat "Stay the heck out" sign up and go on your way.
So, will the Dixie Apex stay shut? Probably not. I'm betting that at some point in the future, the allure of those two elements that I'm not going to type again will drag people back down into the hole. But I'm tired of thinking about this mine. Good day.