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Ghost Mines of Yosemite (1958) by Douglass Hubbard


11. BENNETTVILLE

MOUNT DANA LOOKS DOWN ON BENNETTVILLE, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN IN 1898.
[click to enlarge]
MOUNT DANA LOOKS DOWN ON BENNETTVILLE, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN IN 1898.

BENNETTVILLE, first called Bennett City, sprang into being a few hundred yards from the mouth of the tunnel. In a region noted for the scenic beauty of its summers and the bitterness of its winters, it was named for the company’s president, Thomas Bennett, Jr. It soon became headquarters for the Tioga Mining District.

The embryo town . . . is situated in a beautiful valley or cove at the base of Tioga Hill, 9,300 feet above sea level, and is sheltered to the south and west by the towering and somber cliffs of Tioga Hill . . . while Slate Creek, a large and beautiful mountain stream, goes rushing and laughing through the center of the vale. . . . Bennett City, being centrally and beautifully situated, will be the principal town of the district, though when the mines are developed they will doubtless support one or two other towns of considerable size . . . There is ample room on the gently rolling ground for a city of 50,000 inhabitants, with an abundance of wood and water of the best quality on the ground. 30

John Martin snaked machinery for a sawmill up from Lundy to provide timbers for the mine and for the buildings of the young city. A boardinghouse, several utility buildings, a company office, assay office and stable were constructed, and civilization moved in:

Bennettville . . . will hereafter be blessed with the presence of a number of ladies, as Mrs. W. C. Priest and Mrs. Emerie Reno will shortly take up their residence there, and it is rumored that others may also become residents . . . before the summer is over. 31

The young town had its wild moments and a society editor of today might turn up her nose at the social notes reported in the Index:

They had a “high old time” up at Bennettville last Saturday night. During the evening the book keeper of the Great Sierra Co. exhibited unmistakable signs of insanity, but it was not suspected that he would attempt to harm anyone. About midnight, however, he gathered together eight improved Winchester rifles, a Sharp’s magazine rifle and one or two large 6-shooters and turned loose on the army of would-be-assassins he imagined were after him. In a few seconds the west wing of the Company’s office building looked like an old-fashioned long-tom screen and the east end of the boarding and lodging house ten steps distant, was riddled with No. 45 slugs, some of which passed entirely through the building while others lodged in the mattresses and pillows under sleeping miners. Of course, great consternation ensued. The miners turned out and the maniac was secured—nobody hurt. In the office or sitting room of the lodging house is a large stove, the pipe from which passes into a huge drum in the lodging room above. When the miners rushed out to capture the maniac, a big 220-pound calf (without horns) from Mount Gibbs, who happened to be stopping there that night, leaped into the stove-drum, pulling the lid down over the only open end thereof. He could not reopen it from inside. As the night was intensely cold, and most of the men were out in their night clothes only, the Chinese cook got up and built a rousing fire in the sitting room stove—and there was another tremendous commotion, upstairs. 32

Of the dozen or more buildings which once graced Bennettville only two remain today— the old stable and what probably was the assay office. In the shadow of Mount Dana they have weathered quietly to a golden brown. Burned wood outlines the foundations of the company office and a large warehouse. The fate of the other buildings is not known.

LIGHTS AND SHADOWS IN BARN LOFT, BENNETTVILLE
[click to enlarge]
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS IN BARN LOFT, BENNETTVILLE
COMPANY OFFICE RUINS, BENNETTVILLE
[click to enlarge]
COMPANY OFFICE RUINS, BENNETTVILLE


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