Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gold Mining


The gold rushes of the 1800’s spurred immigration, migration, settlements and businesses of all kinds in several areas of the United States (and the world). Gold mining actually proved unprofitable for the majority of miners and mine owners, however a few became extremely rich by it, and that was enough to keep men and women dreaming and searching for the mother load. Merchants and transport companies made huge profits and often mines that were lucrative enough, expanded to include these other services, therefore double and tripling the money they made.

Mines were often started by an individual panning for the gold. A simple process of washing the gold out of the sand and gravel with a ‘pie pan’ shaped wash basin. Once it was determined there was significant findings, the individual would set or file a claim and perhaps build a sluice box or rockers, and most likely hire or partner up with other miners. Though the investment at this point was relatively minimal, the work was hard, usually too much for one man to handle. The gold in the stream beds would usually be gathered rather quickly, leaving the miner to search for the vein that had fed the creek bed findings, or move on.

When searching for the feeder vein, more men would be needed to tunnel into the earth, find and transport the ore. Here more capital was needed as well and miners often sold out their claim to larger operations who’d then oversee the extraction of the ore, delivering it to stamp mills, where they’d crush the large rocks, and eventually to the smelters where the gold would be extracted from the other telluride minerals. Sometimes these minerals proved more valuable or plentiful than the gold. Many once gold mines evolved into silver mines, or even lead, zinc, or copper mines.  

Though many advertisements lured folks to the gold mines with promises of nuggets lying on the ground like apples falling from trees, that was far from the case. Mining towns of the old west were some of the roughest places, Tombstone, Deadwood, Telluride. In many of those places it wasn’t the miners causing trouble, it was those striving to ‘make it rich’ by relieving the miners of their hard-found gold.

In March of 2013 Inheriting a Bride will be released by Harlequin Historicals. The story is about Kit Becker who travels to Colorado to claim the gold mine she’d inherited from her grandfather. There she not only meets Clay Hoffman, her grandfather’s partner, but learns family secrets that tear her apart. I dedicated that book to Chris Ralph, a man I will most likely never meet in person, but after I stumbled across his blog, he and I conversed through email and phone conversations, and he taught me more about gold mining than I could have ever hoped to learn.


  1. Wow, mining for gold sounds like a bigger risk than entering the lottery and the chances of winning, even less. But I have to express gratitude to those brave souls who decided to meet the challenge and open the way to the west.
    Great blog. It's just amazing the rich history we have in the USA.

  2. Gold mining was not the simple job men thought, was it? So many poor men never found anything. I'll be looking forward to your book, though, which sounds like an intriguing read.

  3. Great post! I stumbled upon some great articles and stories about mining in Montana during my research. I can't imagine that the payoff was worth the enormous risk those men took. Talk about people who knew how to keep the dream alive!

  4. I love gold mining stories, Lauri, and know I'll love this one. We just visited Holcomb Valley in Southern California where the mother vein has never been found! Yippee.

    Climbing into a quartz mine just broke my neck and made me claustrophobic. Definitely not the occupation for me LOL

  5. Mining stories are always of great interest. I read once that more people got rich feeding and houseing and providing entertainment than by actually finding gold.
    Remember Paint Your Wagon? Oh,gosh, that was a good movie. And it really showcased the old mining towns.
    I really enjoyed this...thanks.
    But I couldn't get the video to play! Darn.

  6. Yes, Sarah, I think the odds of finding gold were probably close to those of winning the lottery.

    Not, simple at all, Caroline!

    Thanks, MK, there are some great stories out there about mining, and how people kept the dream alive!

    We visited several old mines in Colorado, Tanya! Lots of fun!

    Paint Your Wagon was a classic, Celia! Such fun!

  7. I'm looking forward to reading your new book! Goldminers were a hearty lot, for sure. And it's so fun to read about boomtowns, too.

    My current wip is a silver mining story, and one of the first things I learned was that miners often discarded silver to get to the gold, not even knowing what they were discarding.

  8. Yes, Jacquie, I read that happened more often than not in the early days.

  9. I've often thought the people who left everything to find gold were either foolhardy or too optimistic for their own good! Great article.

  10. Celia, Paint Your Wagon was filmed near Baker City, Oregon.


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