June 2, 2020 

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 By Michael Miller

03/26/2020  10:47AM

Sixteen to One mine’s home is Tahoe National Forest. Its owner, Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc.’s (OSTO) home is Tahoe National Forest. Shareholders live throughout America and five other countries. My home since 1975, is Southwest Tahoe National Forest. It surprised me last week about the absence of its deep history, so decided to share early facts about a most beautiful, healthy, vital natural resource land that propelled California into world-wide fame as the California Dream.

The Forest Reserves were established in 1893 to halt uncontrolled exploitation of its resources. In California, the Sierra Forest Reserve consisted of over 4,000,000 acres. Tahoe was originally established as the Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve on April 13, 1899. The name was changed to Tahoe on October 3, 1905. The following is from US forest Service publications.

Economic activities begun in 1849, changed in their scale and focus. New mining technologies, couples with refinement of system invented before 1859. An influx of outside capital for financing changed gold mining from the nascent industrial form established earlier, to a modern industrials system dependent on technical skills, scientific knowledge and processes, creating a permanent, trained work force. Mining for gold and other minerals on Tahoe National Forest during 1859-1906 was largely carried on in the areas developed during the first decade of the gold rush period. Mines in Alleghany, located in the early 1850s, remained active through this period. Some locations, uneconomical in the early years, became valuable producers after new technologies aided access to early gold deposits. Mining methods depended on the type of gold deposits: placer gravels or quartz lodes. Production was affected by technological advances such as the introduction of practical electrical power in mining and milling.

A change in the organizational structure of gold mining was necessary in order that gold mines could develop industrially. During the last four decades of the nineteenth century, most of the major mines in the Forest were operated by miners using investment capital from outside the gold region. The entry of outside (i.e. San Francisco, New York, or London) capital contributed to the development. More money from British sources began to arrive and the banks became eventually of great significance as channel through which foreign funds were directed into Pacific Coast investments. The Mining and Scientific Press (11/21/1903) noted this change in an article “Advantages of Technical Education”. “Within the past twenty years this old-time practical miner has been slowly forced into the background and in his place is found the technically educated man, who with a worldwide knowledge of his business is equal to almost any emergency…”

Placer mining at the Bald Mountain Mine and Bald Mountain Extension at Forest City, (purchase by OSTO in 1940) are among the biggest placer gold producers in California. These unpatented claims are underground mining operations. The streams in the area were placer-mined soon after the beginning of the gold rush, and the Forest diggings were discovered in the summer of 1852 by some sailors. Some of these sailors were "Kanakas" or Hawaiians who also had deserted their ships in San Francisco. The Bald Mountain and other drift mines were highly productive from then until around 1885. The town of Alleghany was named for Alleghany, Pennsylvania. Although the quartz mines were moderately productive until the 1870's, drift mining was the principal source of gold then. The rediscovery of the Tightner vein in 1904 by H. F. Johnson (erroneously given as 1907 in many reports) led to the revival of lode mining, which continued until 1965.

Quartz mining was also a productive form of mining undertaken on the Forest; however, it was also the most technically difficult in terms of mining and milling the gold ores. Quartz mines operated by digging into a quartz vein, aided by drills and blasting powder, and shoring up the tunnels and shafts as mining proceeded. Ore was removed by hand or mule cars, and processed in stamp mills where the gold would be freed from the surrounding native rock. Deep mines also required a skilled work force. California’s quartz mines were manned by miners who had become experiences in mining elsewhere. By the 1860s most of the necessary preconditions for the development of deep quartz mines had fallen into place. Refining processes allowed more efficient recovery of gold ore, experiences miners and managers were available, and capitalists began to invest in the mines.

“The Sixteen to One Mine at Alleghany in Sierra County was another of the important quartz mines of the period, and produced from 1896 to 1965, which made it the last major gold mine to close in the state. It produced an estimated $35 million during this time. In fact, the Sixteen to One was a consolidation of a large number of smaller mines and claims, including the Ophir, Rainbow, Rainbow Extension, Red Star, South Fork, Tightner and Twenty-One. The Sixteen to One was named in “honor of the silver/gold ratio of US coinage, as proposed by William Jennings Bryan in his campaign speeches” (Clark and Fuller 1981: 54-55). The activity around this Sixteen to One increased after 1890 and especially after the main claim was located in 1896. The mine was expanded through the rest of the century, and by 1907 the mine, and its consolidations, was known for the richness of its ore. Henderson L. Johnson, a former teacher and miner in Colorado and New Mexico, was the driving force behind the mine. Much of the mine’s later development came after the establishment of the Tahoe National Forest.”

Mining occupies a prominent place in the history of Tahoe National Forest, and indeed in California. Our image of the industry tends to be that of the sourdough with a pan. However, the true heyday of mining within the forest came after 1859, when industrial forms of mining increased and grew to prominence. During the period other economic activities grew alongside mining as important independent enterprises. All continued to serve mining, but also were part of an economy not wedded totally to gold.

The history of the logging industry on Tahoe National Forest, 1859-1906, can be divided into three periods: first, logging for mining and construction purposes in both California and western Nevada, 1859-1867; second, logging for railroad building, 1864-1870; and last, logging for general purposes 1870-1906. Different areas within the forest were affected by logging in a variety of ways. The western portion of Sierra County was logged for local consumption in towns and at mines throughout the entire period. Small sawmills were established around most of the mining towns and centers soon after the gold was discovered. Lumber was needed for buildings, flumes, equipment, mines, and fuel. The equipment for these mills was imported from the East Coast. The diversification of mill production after 1869 was caused by a variety of factors. There was a large market for wood products that developed outside of the railroad’s immediate use. Despite the variety of logging companies, actual operations during this period were fairly uniform. Transportation of logs to mills and finished lumber to market was an enduring problem, especially in such rugged country as that present in the Forest.

Agriculture during this period can be divided into two general categories: settled agriculture on farm of varying size within the Forest; and grazing use of forest range lands by livestock and dairy ranchers on a seasonal basis. Areas of permanent settlement included scattered small farms or ranches near mining towns and stage stations, as well as large farming regions like the Sierra Valley that supported year-round agriculture. These ranches typically provided food and fodder for the mining towns and logging camps nearby, and were able to gain access to larger markets once the railroad was completed if near enough to the line.
 By Michael Miller

01/01/2020  6:22AM

For some spring sparks a desire to Spring Clean. For some the New Year makes an urge to purge old stuff, so the new can find a home. I felt this urge and found papers to burn, read again and many to let stay for another day. J. Smith is a man who befriended me forty years ago, long gone now. We got to know each other because of a mutual love of mining in the Sixteen to One. In the late 30’s or early 40’s, he worked the mine, full of pee and vinegar and youth. Although his time as a miner was limited, its impact was profound. He became a great writer.

J. Smith sent me Christmas cards regularly and occasional letters. Fifteen or so years ago he sent me a note: “Mike, Just ran onto this old piece of memory, and thought you might like it. JS”. Well, I did like it for its clarity about working underground and honesty. Enjoy:

Christmas? I have heard of it when I was just a boy,
But now I’m old, I work too hard to really feel the joy
Of giving gifts, receiving them, of hearing sleigh bells ring,
Or learning songs of Christmas for I’ve forgotten how to sing.
I work down in a gold mine a half a mile or so,
I keep no track of time or life as the ore skips come and go.
I hear no bells of Christmas, jackhammers dull my ears.
I think of friends and family and blink away the tears.
The only light I see down here is the miners carbide lamp
And weak it is this far below where it is cold and damp.
We blast, we mick, we tram and dump and do our level best,
We work our shift and only think of quitting time and rest.
When lunchtime comes I cannot help the loneliness I feel,
For there alone upon a rock I eat my Christmas meal.
 By Michael Miller

12/24/2019  8:06AM

Development at Alleghany. [Colorado Capital plans big operations.] June 13, 1909- L.A. Times

Alleghany (CA) June 10- with $100,000 immediately available and backed by a group of the largest Colorado capitalists, L. E. Woodbury, manager of the Rainbow and Red Star mines, has arrived from Denver to push developments on a vastly augmented scale. The Rainbow ten-stamp mill will soon be in commission. The 2000-foot main tunnel pushed ahead, a north drift run to cut the wonderful Sixteen-to-one vein. And it is expected that the tunnel will shortly intersect the great tightner ledge. The working force has been increased and the thirty-inch bonanza shoot recently opened, will be thoroughly exploited. The main tunnel is going forward steadily and much new territory is being opened. Fully 5000 tons of rich ore are blocked in the Red Star and much bonanza quartz is being sacked for shipment. The vein continues thirty inches wide, values from $100 to $50,000 per ton.

Aside from the natural interest the famous Sixteen-to-one, attention is concentrated on the celebrated Tightner where the lower adit is expected to reach the lower ledge within a few days. If the strike comes up to expectations, managing owner, H. L. Johnson declares that the Tightner will at once leap into the front rank of California gold producers. It has already produced in excess of $1,800,000 from the upper workings and indications point to the continuance of the great ore shoot with depth. The tunnel is in over 3800 feet, but progress has been slow, owing to the excessively hard rock encountered.

The Sixteen-to-one and several others continue splendidly with increasing developments. The ore bodies are holding out excellently and give every promise of depth. Others have been taken by eastern capitalists and will be vigorously exploited. The Kenton and other properties, operated by Los Angeles capitalists, also show excellently. It is reported that George Wingfield is still after control of several properties in the district.

While the Alleghany ores carry fabulous values, they do not mill well and, except the Rainbow, none of the other mines are in the position to treat their products. The ore is hauled to Nevada City by teams, and thence sent to the Selby Smelter by rail, naturally at considerable expense. The Red Star is installing a testing mill and as soon as the best method has been determined, several works will probably be erected. The presence of powerful Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Goldfield capitalists is a guarantee that the mines will not suffer for want of milling facilities. In other mother lode counties mines are in full blast.



© 2020 Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc.
PO Box 909
Alleghany, California 95910

(530) 287-3223      
(530) 287-3455

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