Local man puts his ‘stamp’ on the past | TheUnion.com

Local man puts his ‘stamp’ on the past

Mike Nevius has turned his three-acre spread behind the Rood Administrative Center into an outdoor museum of California mining history, which is why a crew from the History Channel is visiting him today.

The History Channel will be shooting footage of a working 1898 stamp mill for a segment on mining that will be broadcast on its regular series, “Saving History.”

The name of the series sums up Nevius’ passion, one he acquired growing up in Union Hill when several local gold mines were still operating. He has even worked a mining claim near Downieville in his spare time.

“I caught the bug early,” he said recently. “It’s a serious disease.”

He pursued his passion full-time when he retired from the U.S. Forest Service and joined the Native Sons of the Golden West; he is currently president of Hydraulic Parlor 56 in Nevada City.

A life-long mechanic, Nevius is not just interested in preserving Gold Rush-era mining equipment for the future. “I like machinery to run,” he said.

That’s why the History Channel is interested in filming the stamp mill made in 1898 by Joshua Hendy Ironworks of San Francisco; it’s the only one the station’s crew could find that is fully operational.

Nevius first heard about the stamp three years ago, and he traveled with a crew to Coarsegold near Mariposa to salvage the 12,000-pound relic, then buried under a collapsed building.

Stamp mills were used to crush ore so gold could be extracted. The stamps in Nevius’ latest acquisition weigh 1,000 pounds each.

The Native Sons crew disassembled the machine and hauled it to Nevada City, where Nevius restored it to working condition. He consults his collection of historic books, cannibalizes parts from other equipment, and fabricates parts when needed to do his restoration work.

The 1898 stamp occupies a prominent place at Nevius’ home off Cement Hill Road. A stickler for detail, he has added ore cars, an ore bin, and other necessary equipment to the display.

He has an extensive collection of Pelton and other water wheels, and several monitors – water cannons used in hydraulic mining – from a fence around his back yard. His collection includes a stamp mill made at the Miners Foundry in 1904.

The Native Sons are active in preserving the state’s history, and Nevius is glad to host school classes and individuals who want to see his collection.

“Our whole desire is to preserve California history,” he said. “I’m doing as much as I can to preserve items made in this area.”

Nevius welcomes groups and individuals who want to see his array of mining equipment. He can be reached at 265-2592.

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