The start of quartz mining technology at Grass Valley

Grass Valley, along Wolf Creek just over the ridge from Nevada City and where water flowed into the South Yuba instead of the Bear River, was growing at about the same pace as it’s neighbor. In 1849 miners were working on Badger Hill east of town at nearly the same time as Jules Rosiere opened a trading post on the other side of town. Four miles below James Walsh began a steam-powered sawmill while nearby Samuel and George Holt were working on a water-powered one.

Grass Valley 1850s

By spring 1850 the Holt’s mill was in operation and sawing lumber for the rapidly growing boomtown when it came under attack by Indians. Their arrows killed the older brother, Samuel, but George, armed only with a pocketknife and wounded thirteen times, managed to escape. He fled to the Walsh mill and safety. That night the Holt mill was burned and the next day news of the attack was taken to the US Army at Camp Far West along the Bear River near Johnson’s Ranch. Twenty-four soldiers aided by about a 100 local miners went after the Indians and either killed them or chased them away.

It was about this time that gold was discovered in quartz veins near Oroville. And while the Grass Valley mining at Boston Ravine and Badger Hill was placer mining, quartz veins were soon found on Gold Hill. Quartz mining began immediately but had many hurdles to overcome, mostly because the techniques for working the quartz veins had to be developed as they went along. There were many failures, the first stamp mills, used to crush the rock so the gold could be processed, were crude and inadequate affairs. And as the miners learned over time how to follow the gold bearing veins deep inside the earth, quartz mining became the most productive and lucrative of the mining operations and the mines around Grass Valley continued to thrive for many years. During the 14 years after 1853, the Grass Valley quartz mines alone produced 23 million dollars in gold.


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