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Mining on Bald Hill

Drift mining on Bald Hill evidently began in the early 1850s, as noted by someone named “Swoggle” in his discussion of Altaville:

"Near here are several claims in the end of Bald Hill, that paid well for more than two years. There is plenty of ground in the range, but it is deep and wet. On the hill in ’52 and ’53, I helped to sink 246 feet and $5,000." [San Andreas Independent, February 13, 1858].

C. B. Demarest, lacking this account, stated that gold mining activities on the Central Hill Channel probably started in 1858-9 (Demarest 1977), when a shaft was sunk to 120 feet and drifted. This was probably the original Calmo/Slab Ranch shaft in which work continued through the early 1860s with disappointing results. About $25,000 worth of gold was produced, however, primarily from rim gravels, as the main channel appeared to lie farther south (Julihn and Horton 1938:47). Another account noted that James McElroy sunk the first shaft on Bald Hill in 1858, reputed to be rich in gold (Buckbee 2005:106).

The 1860s and 1870s saw the most extensive development of drift mining in Calaveras County. While the most productive mines were in the San Andreas and Mokelumne Hill regions, the Central Hill near Murphys and Fort Mountain near Railroad Flat also saw activity. In the Vallecito-Altaville section of the Central Hill Channel, the San Domingo (Jupiter) Mine near Dogtown, the McElroy near Altaville, and Wild Goose in Vallecito, also opened up. These early developments, however, did not lead to any sustained activity and by 1880 the California Mining Bureau concluded that drift mining in the county had declined to near extinction (Limbaugh and Fuller 2004:34).