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The McElroy and Matteson Mine Shafts

Within the region of the new Highway 4 Bypass in Angels Camp, a flurry of activity in the mid-1860s occurred at Bald Hill with the sinking of the McElroy and Matteson shafts. McElroy and Matteson, however, were working on the same claim, as they were each assessed for the Bald Hill Gravel Mine Claim at different time periods (Calaveras County Assessment Lists, various). According to a report by the Bureau of Mines:

The first recorded development on this property occurred before 1866, when the McElroy Shaft was sunk on an intervolcanic channel called by the same name. This shaft, perhaps one of the first in California to be sunk in an attempt to mine deep gravels by such means, was about 200 feet deep. It was equipped with a hoist operated by a primitive overshot water wheel. It penetrated rich gravel, but after about $100,000 had been produced from a short distance along the channel, operations were stopped by flooding (Julihn and Horton 1938:42).

This shaft was sunk by James McElroy, a native of Ireland, who, by 1860, was residing in Angels Camp with his wife Julia, also born in Ireland; both were 34 years of age. McElroy was noted as having a personal estate of $150, but no property (U.S. Federal Census 1860).

Although McElroy is noted as having sunk the shaft, it may have been sunk by a company of Italians who deeded six full shares of 400 feet each of the Bald Hill Mining Claim to him on May 11th, 1868. The deed noted that it included the wheel, pump, hoisting apparatus, car, tools, all except the tailings, 10 sluice boxes, picks and shovels, composed of six full shares of 400 feet each. The deed was signed by Guiseppe Peirano, Luigi and Pietro Malespina, Luigi Daveggio, and Picheto & Co. (Deed Book P:408). That same day J. Talbott, J. L. Sperry, Counsel Goodale, William Jones, and Riley Senter deeded the First Extension of the Bald Hill claim to McElroy, with the same amount of shares, noting that it was formerly owned by McElroy, Maloney & Co., suggesting that it might just have been a mortgage (Deed Book Q:408).

In June of 1870, a newspaper account noted that McElroy was injured on his Bald Hill Claim when his ladder gave way and he fell 53 feet to the bottom of the shaft, fracturing his leg in two places. He had also broken his leg in the same mine the previous year. The account stated that McElroy was “a pioneer of Calaveras and known for his energy and perseverance as a prospector” (Calaveras Chronicle, June 4, 1870).

In September of 1872 McElroy filed a lawsuit against George Tryon and others, acting as head of the North Star Mining Company Claim, located immediately to the north. For the lawsuit, a map of the claims was prepared by U.S. Deputy Surveyor A.B. Beauvais that depicted the shafts on the Bald Hill Gravel Claim. They included

• No. 1 Hoisting works and working Shaft, 96 feet in depth
• No. 2 Austrian Shaft, 189 feet deep
• No. 3 McElroy and McGovern Shaft No. 1, 130 feet deep
• No. 4 Original Prospect /shaft, 93 feet deep
• No. 5 McElroy and McGovern Shaft No. 2
• No. 6 McElroy and McGovern Shaft No. 3, 67 feet deep
• No. 7 McElroy and McGovern Shaft No. 4, 95 feet deep
• All located in the NE ¼ of the NE ¼ of the SW ¼ of Section 28, T3N, R13E
• No. 8 Matson [sic Matteson] Shaft No. 1, 130 feet deep
• No. 9. Matson Shaft No. 2, 170 feet deep
• No. 10 Matson Shaft No. 3, 170 feet deep
• The Matteson shafts were located to the north, in the SE ¼ of the SE ¼ of the NW ¼ of Section 28, T3N. R13E (Figure XXX, map).

Also depicted was a water ditch, evidently the McElroy Ditch, which carried water to the McElroy shafts, and undoubtedly to the water-powered hoisting works (Beauvais 1872).

Earlier that year James Matson (sic Matteson) sold his interest in the Bald Hill Claim to McElroy for XXX. and in December McElroy incorporated his mine with $2,500,000 in stock with shares of $50 each. The business was located in San Francisco, with Edward Martin as president, and Lewis Lillie serving as secretary (McElroy Gravel Mining Company 1872). Three years later McElroy was assessed for “gravel and gold mining ground, with a water wheel, hoisting works, sheds, and a ditch taking water from Angels Creek about 1½ miles below Murphys and extending to his claim” (Calaveras County Assessment List 1875). In 1878 he deeded the corporation to the McElroy Gravel Mining Company, including “real estate and mining ground” near Altaville (Calaveras County Deed Book 2:69). The following year McElroy sold his water ditch to the Union Water Company for $5.00 (Calaveras County Deed Book 4:483).

The property continued to be assessed to McElroy through 1891, including 440 acres of mining ground, but with only a water power hoist noted. Although no deed was filed in Calaveras County, McElroy had evidently sold the property by 1895, when the Victor (Calaveras Central) shaft was sunk. When first assessed for the property in 1896, the Aetna Company noted only a water power hoist on the claim, undoubtedly McElroy’s hoist (Calaveras County Assessment Lists, various).

The property then went through several interlocking ownerships, including the Aetna Mining Company, Victor and Reiner companies, until finally acquired and consolidated by the Calaveras Central Gold Mining Co., Ltd. in 1931 (Clark and Lydon 1962:202).


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