Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kennedy Mine Foundation releases 20th Anniversary commemorative poster

JACKSON, CA - The Kennedy Mine Foundation has released an art quality poster commemorating the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary preserving, restoring and sharing the story of the Kennedy Gold Mine.

Ione artist George Lambert created the stunning image of Kennedy Tailing Wheel No. 1, featured on the poster. The original work in acrylic paint and paper collage beautifully reflects the setting and majesty of the three-story-tall relic that has become an icon of Amador County gold mining.
The 16” x 20” posters are available for $20.00 at the Kennedy Mine gift store on weekends and at the Amador County Chamber of Commerce office, 115 Main Street, Jackson.

Posters will also be for sale at the Kennedy Mine Foundation’s 20th Anniversary benefit dinner on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at the Kennedy Mine. At the dinner, the Foundation will kick off its “Dig Deep” campaign with a funding goal of $35 per foot of mine depth to preserve and restore the historic headframe, buildings and property. Sales of the poster also benefit the Foundation’s work.
1. Ione artist George Lambert with his original artwork in front of the subject of his painting, Kennedy Tailing Wheel No. 1, featured on the Kennedy Mine Foundation’s 20th Anniversary commemorative poster.

2. Commemorative poster: Kennedy Tailing Wheel by George Lambert, Acrylic and paper collage.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Gravestone: Murder Mystery Dinner Party at the Preston Castle - June 23 & 24

Gravestone Arizona has degraded into a lawless town run by a bunch of outlaws known as The Ranchers. The mayor, in hiding and fearing for his life, has high hopes that recent arrival Wylie Arp and his brothers and friends would consider taking over as the law enforcement in town and getting the outlaws under control, or better yet…running them out of town.

A party is underway at the Gravestone Saloon and everyone is enjoying parlor games and the delectable Wild West dinner until someone is found to be murdered in cold blood.  The townspeople come together to figure out whodunit, and surprises arise.

The principals include:
Bella Starry – educated lady and notorious outlaw
Wylie Arp – Civil War veteran and ex-lawman from Duck City
Josephine Marco – Golf Rush entrepreneur and Wylie Arp’s girlfriend
Abby Oakley – feisty exhibition sharpshooter
Doc Galady – Wylie Arp’s right hand man, physician and gambler
Katie Fishman – helped put the “wild” in the Wild West, Doc Galady’s girlfriend
Wavy Will Bronchus – leader of the outlaws known as The Ranchers
Bronco Bill – leader of the famous Bronco Bill’s Travelling Wild West Show
Enjoy dinner, hosted by the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, in the Preston Castle Courtyard and be part of the action as events unfold around you. Observe, ask questions, and use your super sleuth skills to figure out “who done it?” A no host bar will have a nice selection of drinks available for purchase.

Friday & Saturday, June 23, and June 24, 6 to 9 pm
Limited to 100 tickets, each night.
PRICE: $50
Preston Castle, Ione, CA
35 miles southeast of Sacramento, CA off HWY 104 in Ione
(209) 256-3623

About Preston Castle Foundation
The strikingly beautiful Romanesque style Preston Castle, on a hill in Ione, was actually the administration building for the Preston School of Industry, the first major attempt in California at rehabilitating, instead of just impris­­­oning, young offenders.  Opened in 1894, the Preston School of Industry became a leader in the juvenile prison reform movement by giving convicted boys a real chance at life by educating them not only in academics, but in all of the useful trades of the time.  Closed in 1960, when the Preston Youth Authority moved into a new administration building down the hill, the Preston Castle was left to deteriorate due to weather, vandalism, and general neglect.  It now serves as a vacant, but vitally important landmark for Ione, Amador County, and the Motherlode.  It is a California State Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mission of the Preston Castle Foundation is to preserve, rehabilitate, and utilize the historic Preston Castle site.  We are proud of the fact that the State of California has deeded the title for the Castle, four other buildings, and surrounding 13 acres of land, to the Preston Castle Foundation.  Last year saw the completion of our own water and sewer connections.  This year we are working hard to install new gutters and downspouts for the Annex, and repave Palm Drive.  To help raise money for these important projects, the Foundation sponsors several fund raising events throughout the year.
Other fundraising events for 2017 include:
Photographer’s Day on June 4,
Movie Night on July 15
Wine Tasting and Tour on August 5
ParaCon on August 25 and 26
Photographer’s Day on August 27
Preston Castle Haunt October 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, and 28
Olde Tyme Christmas Holiday Bazaar on December 9.
Help Save the Castle and learn more about our history, events, and tours by visiting:  All contributions are tax deductible.

Stanford/Dondero Marble Fest at Italian Picnic grounds June 3 and 4

The first weekend  of June, Sat 3rd and Sun 4th at the Italian Society Picnic Grounds, there will be an Italian stone splitting and marble working demonstration  hosted by the Italian Benevolent Society. Demonstrations midday thru afternoon are planned for Saturday and Sunday.

Marble sculptor Matt Auvinen who taught marble sculpturing for 7 years in Italy will demonstrate how Italians split huge marble blocks and carved statues; he will demonstrate how the Romans carved letters in stone, how they drilled stone with a two man string spool, and discuss how the masters like Michelangelo worked stone.  A couple blocks of marble 5,000 to 10,000 will be split with 100 year old stone wedges, aka "pins and feathers". As of yet undetermined items will be produced, possibly marble bench, stool, mile markers, etc

Marble blocks retrieved from the old Dondero/Leland Stanford quarry near Pine Grove will be brought to the Italian Picnic ground for the demonstration. Presently, the quarry is owned by the Oneto family; a couple years ago Eddie Rux and Brian Oneto hauled out about 100,000 lbs of hand-cut old abandoned marble blocks 3 to 4' square x. 8' long left at quarry almost 100 years ago.

This high grade marble quarry near Pine Grove was opened in 1880s with Stanford money ($50,000) by Carlo Dondero. Huge blocks of stone 5,000 to 15,000 in size were quarried out by Italian quarry workers from Carrarra, Italy.

Stanford built several miles of difficulty road to quarry site where the marble was loaded onto wagons hauled to Martell, reloaded onto steam train and hauled to San Francisco where it was fabricated by Joseph Musto Company at Fishermans Wharf for use in Stanford's University he was building . Much of the marble was used in buildings around San Francisco, including Old City Hall, Bank of America, etc.

A couple years ago the Oneto family held a private " Italian Marble splitting and carving demonstration " This year, in cooperation with The Italian Society, this is being hosted for the public enjoyment. Don't miss it! Matt will be available to have works commissioned and some of the beautiful old marble blocks will be available.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Blast from the Past: Knight Foundry Hands-on History article in Live Steam Magazine, 1995

Ed Arata

Article in Live Steam Magazine in 1995.
Living history workshops at Knight Foundry may come back in the future...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kennedy Mine Foundation celebrates 20 years of preserving the Kennedy Gold Mine - Thurs June 22

JACKSON, CA - Twenty years ago, the Kennedy Mine Foundation received the keys to the historic Kennedy Gold Mine, once one of the world’s richest gold mines, and today, a rich depository of California’s gold mining history. The Foundation is celebrating the anniversary and its mission of preservation, restoration and education with a benefit dinner on Thursday, June 22, 2017, at the Kennedy Mine.

The Kennedy Mine was at the 5912-foot depth when it closed in 1942 due to WWII, and was considered one of the deepest mines in the world. At the dinner, the Foundation will kick off its “Dig Deep” campaign with a funding goal of $35 per foot of mine depth to preserve and restore the historic headframe, buildings and property.

The 20th Anniversary event will also honor founding members of the Kennedy Mine Foundation for recognizing and acting to keep the historic gem available to the public: Kevin Bonneau, Susan Bragstad, Bob Devlin, Rich Escamilla, Georgia Fox, Carolyn Fregulia, Dick and Dot Haislet, Mike Hewitt, Doug Ketron, Aprille Phil, and MaryAnn and Frank Tortorich.

To commemorate the anniversary, the Foundation has commissioned a limited edition 16” by 20” poster, featuring an original painting of Kennedy Tailing Wheel No. 1 by Ione artist, George Lambert. Tailing Wheel No. 1 stands three stories tall at the lower entrance to the Kennedy Mine property on Jackson Gate Road. The posters are available for $20.00 at the Kennedy Mine gift store and at the Amador County Chamber of Commerce office, 115 Main Street, Jackson.

The evening at the beautiful grounds around the iconic Kennedy Mine headframe will include a catered dinner, no host beer and wine, music by Double Edge, and a silent auction and raffle. Doors will open at 5 pm, with dinner at 6 pm.

Tickets are $40 each, $75 for a couple and are available online at Tickets can also be purchased at the Kennedy Mine on weekends, and at the offices of the Amador Council of Tourism (209.267.9249) and Amador Chamber of Commerce (209.223.0350).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Blast from the Past: Prince Andre Poniatowski with tunnel workers on the Moke

Ed Arata

One of my favorite photos of the tunnel workers on the first Electra project on the Mokelumne River, shown with Prince Andre Poniatowski - 1864 to 1954.

Not trained as an Engineer, Poniatowski had to become a self-trained engineer as he dealt with the challenges of developing the first hydro-electric power sites on the Mokelumne River and the first, very long distance transmission of electricity for Amador County to San Francisco.

Paris-born Poniatowski came to America in 1892 and again in 1893, seeking investments on behalf of European bankers. He grew up in the atmosphere of the court of Napoleon III, winning two duels, serving in the French cavalry, and developing a passion for horse-racing, yachting and big game hunting. After meeting with California financiers in 1893, the Prince became engaged in California mining interests and organized the California Exploration Co.

Interested in the problem of how to supply cheap electrical power to the mines, he funded the construction of the first small hydroelectric plant on the Mokelumne River for the Blue Lakes Water Co which would also supply power to as far away as Stockton. The success of this project then set the stage for further development on the river. No office-chair promoter, he spent time in the high Sierras in the Blue Lakes region. From the data and surveys, he calculated water storage capacity, size of dams required, and estimates of cost for a much larger hydroelectric project that would generate upwards of 20,000 kilowatts. He dreamed of a plant that could serve San Francisco 219 miles away.
Poniatowski and other investors formed the Standard Electric Co on November 27, 1897.

The Prince approached the three major electrical manufacturing companies, General Electric, Westinghouse, and the Stanley Electric Co. to bid on the project and to provide insulator designs for 40,000 volts. All three companies declined, stating that no insulator had yet been made that would be practical above 30,000 volts and that no insulator could be made that would hold up to the required 40,000 volts, which was necessary for this project to be economical. However, work proceeded on the design of a power plant at Electra and on the power line. Dr. Frederick A. C. Perrine, first professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, was the chief engineer; one of his associates was Frank G. Baum. Baum and Perrine eventually solved the problem of the insulators and other problems and Poniatowski had his project!

The Standard Electric Company was purchased by the California Gas and Electric Corporation in 1904 which became Pacific Gas and Electric Company in1905. The Amador County electric and water system thus became part of the biggest light and p power corporation on the Pacific Coast. PG&E as we know it today.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Amador County Historical Society's Annual Spring/Summer BBQ at the Museum - Fri June 16

Friday, June 16th at 5:00pm at the Amador County Museum. Come early and tour the Museum and the newly renovated Mine Model Building!
Enjoy a BBQ steak sandwich, salad, chips and beverage - $20.00 per person.
Frank Tortorich – Local Historian will explain the “Anatomy of a Prairie Schooner” – the wagons that brought our ancestors to California.
The Kennedy Gold Mine Models building will be rededicated with a brief program followed by tours of the new displays in the building. – New interpretive signs and displays – Robert Richards’ Mine Map of Amador County and Mine Sketches, and the Original Watercolor Art Work featured in Jack Wagner’s – Gold Mines of California - 1969
Tickets at, or get your tickets from an ACHS Board Member.

Blast from the Past: Prince Gelasio Caetani

Ed Arata

Working on some displays for the Mine Model Building at the Amador Museum...
Prince Gelasio Caetani - 1877 to 1934 - Mining Engineer - Plymouth Mine

Gelasio Caetani was born in Rome in 1877. Although from a royal Italian family, he chose to be a mining engineer and graduated from the Rome Royal University as a civil engineer and then sailed to America to enter the Columbia School of Mines in 1901. He graduated in 1903 and began his mining career in the mines of Idaho. He was soon recognized as an innovative and successful mining engineer and founded the engineering firm of Caetani, Burch & Hershey in San Francisco. At the age of 36 he began work at the Plymouth Consolidated designing a new ore processing facility. It was the first of its type and featured a conveyor system which delivered ore directly from the mine to the mill, eliminating the costly tramming of ore.

When Italy entered World War I, he returned home and joined the Italian army engineers. In April 1916 he led a successful tunneling attack on the Austro-Hungarian Alpine stronghold on top of mount Col di Loma. Promoted to colonel by the end of the war, Caetani had won three decorations for bravery. After the war, he worked with Hebert Hoover, another mining engineer, at the Paris Peace Conference on the Commission for War Relief.

After the First World War, he pursued a political career and served as mayor of Rome. In 1922 he became the Italian ambassador to the United States.

He died of natural causes in 1934.

Blast from the Past: Plymouth Consolidated Mine

Ed Arata

The Plymouth Consolidated Mine is located in the town of Plymouth. The mine is the most northern of the major Mother Lode Mines in Amador County and one of the preeminent mines of the Jackson-Plymouth district. The Plymouth Consolidated Mine came into being in 1883 with the consolidation of the Plymouth, Empire, and Amador Pacific mining companies. The mine ultimately produced about $13.5 million. The Plymouth Consolidated Mine holdings comprised 126.3 acres including the Plymouth, Southerland, Oaks, Pacific, Simpson, Aden, Reese, Phoenix East claims, the Phoenix mill site, and interests in the Reese and Woolford, Indiana, Rising Star, Conville, and Beta claims.

Prior to the Consolidation of the Plymouth, Empire, and Pacific Mines, several independent shafts opened each mine. Little information is available regarding the underground workings of these early mines. After 1883, the Plymouth Consolidated Mine was opened by at least 4 shafts including the Pacific shaft, the Empire North shaft, and Empire South shaft. The North Empire shaft was a 1065 foot inclined shaft located about 350 feet north of the 1280 foot inclined Empire South shaft. The Pacific shaft ultimately became the main working shaft for the mine and was ultimately sunk to a depth of 4450 feet in 1925. It consisted of a 3-compartment vertical shaft to 1600 feet, below which the balance was inclined eastward at 60 degrees (Carlson & Clark, 1954). During the mine's heyday between 1883 and 1889, the Plymouth Consolidated mills were considered the second largest quartz mills in the world. The mills had an aggregate of 160 stamps crushing 400 tons a day (Knopf, 1929).

On January 24, 1888 a fire was reported on the 1200-foot level and the mine was flooded to extinguish the blaze. In 1889, the Pacific workings were reopened and produced $215,515 by 1892 when operations ceased. The mine lay idle until 1911 when the California Exploration Company Ltd. was formed to explore the mine. In 1914, after the California Exploration Company had identified $100,000 tons of ore assaying $6.35 a ton, the Plymouth Consolidated Mine Company Ltd was incorporated to reopen and operate the mine. The Pacific shaft was reopened and a winze was sunk from below the 1600-foot level to 2000 feet. A 30-stamp mill was built and began operating in July, 1914. Operations continued profitably until 1920, during which time the company milled 1,037,373 tons of ore yielding $5,718,000 and paid $758,000 in dividends. During this period, about 125 men were employed underground and 60 on the surface. After 1920, however, costs escalated to the point where the mine was no longer profitable and the mine was forced to close. At this time, the workings had reached an inclined depth of 4300 feet (the shaft below 1600 inclined of 60degrees). In 1925, the Plymouth Consolidated Mine was sold to the Argonaut Mining Company for less than $75,000 (Knopf, 1929).

The Argonaut Mining Company deepened the main shaft an additional 150 feet making a total depth of 4450 feet. Some ore was milled between 1925 and 1928 which yielded $525,292. Based on these results they decided not to rehabilitate the mine ore sink any more workings. Very little work was done between 1928 and 1939. Some exploration was conducted on the 400 and 500-foot levels between 1928 and 1931 and a combined flotation and cyanide plant was put into operation by the Argonaut Mining Company to treat tailings. The plant was shut down in 1943 as a result of World War II.

In 1946, the Empire workings were reopened by the Argonaut Mining Company. This was a resumption of the prospecting interrupted by WWII. On the 400-foot level, an old drift was extended north 700 feet. Only a small amount of ore was found and the mine was permanently closed in 1947.

The Empire shaft of the Plymouth Consolidated near Hwy. #49.... The hoist and hoist house are still there. 

Blast from the Past: The Argonaut Mine

Ed Arata

Continuing to work up some displays for the Mine Model Building at the Amador County Museum - Argonaut Mine...

The Argonaut Mine is located one-mile northwest of the town of Jackson. The Argonaut Mine produced $25.2 million (Clark, 1970). Discovered in 1850, the Argonaut Mine lay largely undeveloped until purchased by the Argonaut Mining Company in 1893, after which the mine remained in continuous operation until 1942 except for a period of 3 years when mining was discontinued due to the results of mine fires (Vanderburg, 1930). The Argonaut Mine became one of the deepest gold mines in the US, bottoming at a vertical depth of 5570 feet.

The Argonaut Mine was worked through a 5,800-foot 70 degree inclined shaft sunk in the hanging wall of the vein. An auxiliary shaft (The Muldoon Shaft) was also maintained for ventilation and as an escape route. The three-compartment shaft was divided into one man and two hoisting compartments, each of dimensions 5' 9" x 4' 1".

Levels were driven at 290', 380', 470', 560', 740', 830', 920", 1010', 1130', 1240', 1350', 1460', 1570', 1690', 1800,'1920', 2040', 2160', 2280', 2400', 2520', 2640', 2760', 2880', 3000', 3150', 3300', 3450', 3600', 3750', 3900', 4050', 4200', 4350', 4500', 4650', 4800', 4950', 5100', 5250' 5400,' 5500', 5800', 6000', 6150', and 6300'.

The lower levels were accessed through a winze sunk from the 5500 foot level, 300 feet south of the shaft. The deepest 6300-foot level was 5570 vertical feet below the collar of the shaft (Clark, 1952a). Levels were turned from the winze at 5700, 5800, 6000, 6150, and 6300 feet. There are approximately 8 miles of drifts, crosscuts, and tunnels, 4 miles of raises, and 50 miles of stope floors (Clark, 1952a). A connection to the adjoining Kennedy Mine was maintained at the 4650 level. All ore and rock was trammed underground in 1-ton end dump cars. Mechanical haulage was not used since the distance from the shaft to the ore body was small.

Before 1936, milling was done in a 60-stamp mill. After stamping, the pulp was concentrated, classified, and the tailings were cyanided. In 1936, ball mills and flotation cells were installed making it possible to raise recovery to 94 % (Clark, 1952a).