Can you imagine leaving your family and home to travel to an unknown place just because others said there was gold? In 1849 thousands of individuals came from all over to strike it rich in California. They heard stories that the ground was covered in gold. They traveled by ship, overland trail, and by land. Many of these dreamers died before they even got a hold of any gold during gold mining from weather hardships, hunger, spoiled food, bad water, and serious illnesses such as dysentery, cholera, or scurvy.
Gold: There are three forms of gold: nuggets, gold dust, and flakes. Dust looks like yellow sand. Flakes are a little larger. Nuggets look like small rock. Gold is a transition metal and is in group 11 element. Traditional Elements are hard and have high melting points and boiling points. Gold is measured by troy weight. Its chemical symbol is Au and its atomic number is 79. Gold is the least reactive chemical element. Gold is sometimes mistaken for the mineral pyrite which is known as fool’s gold.
This is the first element my children have learned. We are making The Periodic Table of Elements out of felt. 🙂
Gold makes a “clink” sound.
Panning for Gold…..
To pan for gold all you need is a river, a pan, and shovel. The best places to find gold are the inner banks. Look for dark dirt. Fill the pan with gravel, sand, and water. Next you need to slant the pan while swirling it around so that lighter things like water and sand can spill over the sides. In the end you will have gravel and if lucky some gold. This was the first and oldest method of getting gold. In those days if you found quite a bit of gold and you wanted to come back the next day to look for more gold, all you needed to do was leave your shovel or pick. This was called “stake a claim.”
Panning for gold lasted for a few years but soon less gold was found on the riverbanks and streams. Gold was found in rocks called quartz.
Once miners found a quartz vein, a mine shaft would be built which lowered workers and ore cars into the mine.
The two pictures above are pictures of the Kennedy mine.
The above picture is of the headframe of the Fremont Mine near Amador city.
10 men would go inside the skips above which lowered and raised at a vertical depth of 5900 feet. This skip moved at a speed of 2000 feet a minute (talk about a scary drop zone in the dark). 5 men would stand where my kids are standing. Then wood would be put above their heads and 5 more men would stand on top holding on to a bar.
Once the men would find quartz rocks underground, they would bring them up in ore carts.
These rocks needed to be made smaller.
Once they were made smaller they would go into a stamp mill. This machine would crush the rocks into a liquefied content. Then it would go over an angled tray which was made out of copper. Since mercury sticks to gold it would also stick to copper. The gold would stay on the tray while everything else would wash away. They then would scrape the gold and copper and heat them.
When gold was separated from crushed quartz, poisonous chemicals were released.
To reduce groundwater contamination from waste tailings, wheels were built. The chambers on the outer ring would pick up waste tailing. When the wheel turned and made the runny sludge to fall out the left side where it would go to the next wheel (there were 4 wheels) then into a holding dam which was 128 feet uphill from where the gold processing took place.
Here are some of the places you can visit:
Kennedy Gold Mine: Located near the intersection of State Highways 49 and 88. Opened during the weekends from March through October. Hours of operation are from 10am until 3pm. Call (209) 223-9542 or visit www.kennedygoldmine.com
Placerville Gold Bug Park and Mine: located at 2635 Gold Bug Lane, Placerville, Ca 95667. Opened during the weekends from November through March. From 12pm to 4pm. Call (530) 642-5207 or visit www.goldbugpark.org. Here you can tour the underground gold mine. You can watch a Blacksmith work his magic.
See what the blacksmith created: salt spoon.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park: Located on Hwy .49/Coloma Rd at Bridge Street Coloma, Ca 95613. For more information call (530) 622-6198 or visit www.marshallgold.org They offer gold panning, poke program, wagons ho, and gold discovery tour. Visit the museum to become a Jr. Ranger.