Sunday, November 30, 2014

Speaking of Star Base Blacks

The Sierra Buttes Mine
Located north of the small town of Sierra City - The Sierra Buttes Mine was one of the largest and longest producing mines in Sierra County. Discovered in the late summer or early fall of 1850 this mine employed a major population of the town of Sierra City and was worked for over eighty years.
Early view of the Sierra Buttes Mine
It is said that the mine was discovered by a company of Italian miners, that were prospecting the area, and was first worked with arrastra’s in 1851. A company of English investors took control of the mine in the mid 1850's. It is possible that the original discovery site was near Independence Ravine where a huge quartz outcropping can still be seen today. The mine was worked on nine main levels and the levels were designated as tunnels one through nine; tunnel number one being the highest in elevation and the oldest of the workings, and nine being the lowest and newest.
Arrastra in Buttes Ravine
( note gin pole in upper right of photo)
A small camp started around the mine as early as 1851 and after the heavy snow during the winter of 1852 - 53, that crushed most of the buildings in Sierra City, a settlement started to emerge at the mine site. All manner of business was represented at the site except for the sale of liquor. Company policy stated liquor was prohibited on the mining property. It is interesting to note that, although liquor was prohibited at the Sierra Buttes Mine, scores of liquor bottles ranging in age from the early 1850’s to the late 1880’s have been discovered at this site.
The Sierra Buttes Mine was the perfect example of a early "company town". Most, if not all, of the workers lived on the mining property in boarding houses with the mine bosses residing in small cabins located away from the boarding houses but still on mine property. Company owned stores supplied everything from candy, tobacco, fancy foods to jack knifes and clothes to the miners that worked the property.   

The number one tunnel, and the boarding house for those workings, have yielded gold rush bottles and artifacts but it the authors contention the area around the number six tunnel was the site of the settlement started after the heavy winter of 1852 -53. Weighing in favor of this contention is the fact that the area around the number six tunnel has a natural gently sloping flat that was suitable for the construction of buildings and was not as steep as the area around the number one tunnel. The amount of abandoned structure sites discovered in the number six area far outnumber the couple of sites around the number one tunnel and boarding house.
Bottles and artifacts ranging from the early 1850’s to the middle 1880’s have been recovered from the number six area dating the site as a settlement in continual use since the early 1850’s. Everything from pontiled umbrella inks, early star base English blacks, open pontil medicines to western whiskey fifths and bitters along with several S.F. Gaslight Ammonia's have been recovered from the number six settlement area.

Today the Sierra Buttes site is still private property but heavy brush covers the site and all that's left of this important gold rush settlement are acres of broken glass and scattered trash.
A group of miners at the Number Six Tunnel Portal
(note the candles instead of carbide lamps)

1 comment:

  1. Awesome information on the early mining there! Thanks for sharing Rick!