Cement mining and the development of hydraulic mining

Many, if not most, of the mining improvements in the early years of the gold rush originated at or near Nevada City. The long tom and the sluice were first used there as well as the mining ditch. The stamp mills for crushing gold bearing quartz originated in neighboring Grass Valley and so too were the processes for cement mining pioneered here. Often the gold bearing gravel and dirt were so tightly packed that instead of a slow puddling box a faster method to separate the gold was needed, and … [Read more...]

The great variety in mining gear

Because of the vast scope of the gold country and the wide variety of conditions in which gold would be found, there could be no standard methods or equipment for mining. What worked in Mokelumne Hill might not work in Nevada City. But the 49ers were a creative and ambitious lot and adapted well. A long tom or sluice could be longer or wider than necessary to fit the situation and the fancy of the operator. A rocker or long tom for very fine gold was much different from one for coarse gold. … [Read more...]

Modern mining with a long tom or sluice

Placer mining hasn’t changed that much since the time of the 49ers. Sure, you drive close to some of the many good spots to look for placer gold but you will still have to walk into the river and carry your equipment with you, so it needs to be light and easily portable. Here are some examples of modern miners using over the counter gear you can pack in and back along with all the gold you find. Notice how the two guys with the long tom are taking their ore from somewhere on the hillside above … [Read more...]

Gold mining gear, long toms and sluices

As mining operations became more complex, the long tom and the sluice came into widespread use. The long tom was a shallow trough 15 feet long and 15 inches high and often increasing in width near the low end and through which a constant stream of water ran. A miner would toss in ore and it would wash down through a sieve tacked across the top, called a riddle, where the rocks and stones could be easily picked out but the fine particles would pass through and fall into a shallow box with cleats, … [Read more...]

Gold mining gear, the rocker

Panning gold was slow work and very early in 1848 Isaac Humphrey, a miner who’d been at the gold finds in the mountains of Georgia in the 1830’s, introduced a new device that sped things up a great deal. Called a rocker or a cradle, it resembled a baby’s bed. At the upper end was a hopper with moderately high sides and covered with a sheet metal or rawhide sieve with holes a half-inch in diameter. Here ore bearing soil would be shoveled in then washed down the body where the gold would collect … [Read more...]

The basic gear for a gold miner

The early gold miner who traveled by foot required little more than a single suit of clothes consisting of a wool shirt, thick pants, heavy boots and a slouch hat. He carried a pistol, a knife, and a roll of blankets for his bed, a cooking pot, a gold pan, a shovel and maybe a pick, and a pack with salt pork, beans, sugar, flour, and coffee or tea. Often he slept on the ground or in a hastily built brush hut. Men with horses and mules could carry more and might have a tent. It was quickly … [Read more...]