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“Exploration of the Sierra Nevada” (1925)
by Francis P. Farquhar


Mining Ventures

It is only in recent years that the hope of discovering rich mining districts in the upper regions of the Sierra seems to have definitely subsided. The Kearsarge and Mineral King excitements have already been mentioned. The next wave of excitement developed about the year 1878 when prospectors staked out claims all over the main crest of the Sierra from Mammoth Pass at the head-waters of the San Joaquin to the northern tributaries of the Tuolumne.

The Mammoth excitement began in the spring of 1878, and two towns known as Mammoth City and Pine City attained a total population of about 1,500 in the following year. 92 The Minaret mining district, a little farther west, was established in 1878. As in a great many other mining districts, the amount of capital required to develop the mines and the cost of Transporting the ore to the mills was too great for the quality of ore developed, and few of these mines continued active production for more than three or four years. Large deposits of iron were found in the Minaret region, and the time may still come when this ore will be mined, provided roads are developed. A survey for a railroad was actually made over the Mammoth Pass route in 1881, and it is surprising indeed that this pass has not been utilized as one of the routes across the Sierra.

From 1879 to 1888 operations were carried on in the Homer mining district, principally in the May Lundy mine. At one time there was a substantial mining town at Lundy. The temporary success of the May Lundy mine led to the development of operations higher up on the crest of the Sierra at the Tioga mine. As early as 1860, a sheep-herder had located a mine not far from the present Tioga Pass, but it was not until 1881 that extensive development was carried on. At that time the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Mining Company was incorporated and during the next two years a wagon road was constructed to connect the mines with the roads leading westward into the San Joaquin Valley joining the Big Oak Flat mad at Crocker’s Station, a total length of about 56 miles, at a cost of about $61,000. Its eastern terminus was the town of Bennettsville, named for the president of the company, and situated near the Tioga mine, but Bennettsville and the mine soon faded from the scene and only the road remained as a monument to the type of enterprise that has mined many an investor. 93 In 1888 a few of the eastern stockholders bought the entire property at sheriff’s sale and after several attempts to resume operations at the mine, the property was practically abandoned until in 1915 Stephen T. Mather, who had just been invited to take charge of the national parks under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, recognized the value of the road for tourist travel and, largely through his own contributions, purchased it from heirs of the original stockholders and turned it over to the federal government for the benefit of the public.

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92 Report of the State Mineralogist, 1888, p. 373.

93 Report of the State Mineralogist, 1888, pp. 367-371; R. S. Kuykendall, in Handbook of Yosemite National Park by Ansel F. Hall, 1921, p. 26; Report of the Commission on Roads to Yosemite National Park, Senate Document No. 155, 56th Congress, 1st Session, February 8, 1900.


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