It's A Stamp Mill!
As the placer gold ran dry, technology finally caught up around the late 1880's and the necessary capital (money) was finally raised to fund large-scale industrialized mining operations in Angels Camp. This original five stamp battery or “Stamp Mill” was used by the Hogarth Family at their Relief Quartz Mine, located just outside of town. Once the gold-bearing quartz ore was blasted free from underground veins and hauled to the surface, it needed to be crushed and processed to extract the precious metal. Each of these rods was a "stamp" that could weigh up to 1,000 pounds. The cams would lift the stamp and allow it to fall freely. The shoe would crush the ore between the plate, water would slurry the pulverized ore and travel down the trough to continue to be separated until the gold was extracted.
From the original Winter-Davis vein, four primary mining companies developed: The Sultana, the Angels, the Lightner, and the Utica. These deep load mines created over 200 miles of tunnels, hundreds of feet deep in the ground and are said to have removed over 30 million dollars in gold.
There were two stamp mills constructed in Melones. The Melones mill was built in 1902. It housed 100 stamps and was powered by water. Each stamp could crush two tons of ore in 24 hours. The stamps, however, were all connected by a single shaft and any time it needed repairs, the entire mill had to be shut down. In 1920 the Carson Hill mill replaced the Melones mill. It only had 30 stamps, but with a new design each stamp could crush 18 tons of ore a day. The mill had six independent five stamp batteries, so when repairs were needed, the rest of the mill could still operate. The Carson Hill mill operated until 1942.
Today there are very few remaining stamp mills that are still operable – the one featured here in this YouTube video is located in Montana (click to view.)
But you don’t have to go all the way to Montana to see an awesome demonstration of a stamp mill in action. All you have to do is visit the Angels Camp Museum! This working model of the Carson Hill Mine stamp mill in the Pole Barn was built by Melones resident Virgil Ghiglieri in 1946 after he returned from World War II. As a kid, he would collect cobble rocks from Coyote Creek to be used in the Harding Conical Ball Mills, which look like mini cement mixers in the model.
Just push the button and prepare to be mesmerized!
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