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Restored gold mine in Browns Valley gives visitors a look into the past

Visitors look over the Donnebrough Mine during a Yuba County Historic Resources Commission event on Saturday in Browns Valley.
Chris Kaufman/The Appeal-Democrat |

The Yuba County foothills were once a hot spot for gold mining, and a Browns Valley couple has spent more than a decade preserving a big piece of that history.

Ruth Mikkelsen and Mike Schuster invited a new group, the Yuba County Historic Resources Commission, to hold an event Saturday on their property, which features the abandoned Donnebrough Mine and other artifacts.

“We’ve been doing tours here for the past 15 years,” said Mikkelsen. “We rebuilt the wood part on the A-frame and the hoppers on the mine.”



Schuster and a few others did much of the work, adding new timber to the 40-foot tall A-frame that towers over the mine and cleaning up other mining equipment on the property.

“We’ve spent a great deal of time finding out about the mine and have found a bunch of documents that reference the mine. There were a bunch of mines around here in the 1860s.”Ruth Mikkelsen

“We’ve spent a great deal of time finding out about the mine and have found a bunch of documents that reference the mine,” said Mikkelsen. “There were a bunch of mines around here in the 1860s.”




Mikkelsen said in 1865, a fire broke out in Browns Valley that almost burned down the entire town.

“It’s fascinating that this town had law offices, hotels, bars, an ice cream parlor and now, there’s almost nothing,” said Mikkelsen.

Roberta D’Arcy, who is a member-at-large on the commission, said the intention of the free event is to raise awareness about the area’s rich mining history.

“For all of us, it’s about preserving history here, and that’s the point of the event,” said D’Arcy. “Many people that live here don’t know about what happened here years ago.”

Karen and Duane Hensley, who have lived in Brownsville for more that 40 years, didn’t know about the mine and came to the event to learn more.

“You don’t even know what’s in your neighborhood,” said Karen Hensley. “I’ve driven this road since the 1970s and never knew it was here — it’s amazing.”

Duane Hensley, who worked on the Oroville Dam, imagined how challenging it must have been for the miners working in the 1800s.

“I can appreciate the work they did,” said Duane Hensley. “The had old, antique trucks and didn’t have the equipment like the bulldozers we have now.”

Under the auspices of the Yuba County supervisors, D’Arcy said the commission reports to the supervisors, and either the commission or supervisors can direct what projects to focus on.

“There’s probably a lot of gold still in there but the mine is filled up with water,” said D’Arcy. “It would take so much money to make it safe enough to get the gold out.”

For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/yubahistory.

Kaufman is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat; contact him at 530-749-4794.


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