Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hard Rock Mining & Letters of Fate by Paty Jager #MontanaSkyKW

My current release starts out in a mining town. After researching the type of mining town, I concluded it was one with a stamp mill. I’d researched this type of mining before for my book, Miner in Petticoats, book three of my Halsey Brother Series. This time I was researching for a book to be included in a Kindle Worlds series. To be exact it is part of Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle Worlds Series. She’d set up Morgan’s Crossing a mining town two days from her original Sweetwater Springs setting. 

Morgan’s Crossing is small, with a boarding house for the miners, a store, saloon, community hall, cabins, and tents. Of course the man who owns the mine has a nice, large home.

Boulder Historical Society
My character in the book is a mine guard. He lives in a guard shack by the mine with three other men. Other buildings needed with hard rock mining were a mill to make the lumber to hold up the tunnels dug and blasted in the rock, a stamp mill to crush the rock and release the gold, a livery to house the horses that ran the machinery and hauled the loads of ore, a machinist to take care of all the mechanical parts, and an assay office to determine the grade of the gold found. 

A booming mining town wasn’t a quiet place.  The thud of the stamp mills could be heard for miles long before a person rode into town. The streets were either dusty or muddy depending on the weather. And most mining towns weren’t the people’s pride and joy. There were few women and the men worked long hours. All they wanted was food and a bed when they weren’t working. How they lived didn’t matter to them.

Western Mining History
Dust in the streets in it’s dry, mud when it’s wet. Animal dung from horses, mule sand oxen. Human refuse tossed in the streets.  And the fresh smell of pine from the new buildings constructed. 

Tents and crude cabins were the usually housing in a mining are that was growing. Water was drawn at a town well or pump. Each household had an outhouse behind it. 

When wives arrived they would organize gatherings. A weekly dance with the women bringing baked food.  There were so many men in a mining town all females as long as they were big enough to dance, danced every song. On Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, and Labor Day the whole mine would shut down, even the mills. Everyone celebrated with food, games, horse races and boxing matches. They had drilling contests with one and two man teams. The winner was the person or team who could hand-drill the deepest hole in a granite block in a named length of time.  Betting took place during the drilling. Men practiced for days ahead of a holiday and used their own special drill steels. Music was an essential at the gatherings. If you were a musician you were popular.

Company boarding houses, housed the mine workers. It was usually two story with the office, dining hall and kitchen on the bottom floor and the sleeping quarters upstairs. Built-in wooden bunks were shared by two people. Each person worked a different shift.  The miners weren’t clean either. After a shift they’d set wet boots around the wood stove and they didn’t wash. The smell must have been enough to make nose hairs curl. Tobacco juice mixed with mud on the floors. Pack rats and flies were also part of a company boarding house.

I tried to evoke some of this color into, Isaac: Letters of Fate.

 Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

Alamayda Wagner’s life has left her cynical, but also vigilant, and that’s what propels her to Morgan’s Crossing, Montana in order to uncover the secrets her father took to his grave. She quickly discovers her only hope includes trusting Isaac Corum. That soon proves to be expensive, and not just financially. 

The last thing Isaac Corum needs or wants is a snooty woman telling him he didn’t do enough to save her father, which is what her letter implied. He’d helped the man more than most people would have, and swears he won’t go out of his way like that again. He’ll meet her at the Sweetwater Springs train station, deliver her father’s belongings, and send her back the way she came.

But, dang it all, the woman doesn’t do a single blasted thing she’s told, and Isaac can’t just sit back and let her go traipsing off into the mountains alone…

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. 

You can learn more about Paty at
her website;  

and Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection


  1. I hadn't thought about how much noise the stamp mill makes. I'm glad I didn't live in Morgan's Crossing. Best wishes for the Letters of Fate series.

    1. Hi Caroline. Yes, stamps were heavy, nearly 800 lb hammers for lack of a better term, that dropped onto thick bases covered with rock. They smashed rock with each drop. That thudding noise would have also shook the ground I would imagine. But just like we get used to trains, traffic, and other constant noises, I would assume after awhile it would be like the ticking of a clock to the people who lived there. Thanks!

  2. Interesting post, Paty. Knew about all kinds of mills, but hadn't read about stamp mills. Like so many hard working frontiersmen & women, they always found time for fun and relaxation.

    1. Hi Cheri, Yes, there were all kinds of mills and they were run all kinds of ways- horse power, water power, and eventually generators.

      I agree, they work hard but they also knew you had to have some fun. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  3. I don't know how they managed to live in such horrible conditions. Ick!
    I wish you great success with your new release, Paty.

  4. What a hard life they lived. I don't know if I'd survive it. I am always interested in mining. I lived in Placerville, CA for 21 years and a couple of the hillsides still show where they did the hydraulic mining. Very interesting, Paty.


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