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Timelines: Pelton wheel exhibit

LET’S BEGIN WITH the stamp mill in Photo (A) from Sept. 16.

It is, as almost all of you told us, located in the North Star Mining Museum and Pelton wheel exhibit, at the big intersection of Mill Street, Freeman Lane, McCourtney and Allison Ranch Roads in Grass Valley at Boston Ravine and across Wolf Creek from Glenn Jones Park.

The (B) is at the Grass Valley intersection of North and South Auburn and East and West Main streets, southeast corner; (C) is displayed in Nevada City’s Commercial Street parking lot that was formerly the Tahoe National Forest’s service yard.



When in operation crushing ore, the sound of the stamps falling was a constant “thunk, thunk, thunk,” which could be heard for miles. Legend claims that Mill Street in Grass Valley was so named because the sound carried on the wind and could be heard “loud and clear.” A favorite Cousin Jack story relates that many a highgrader operated a small “family stamp mill” in the basement where he processed his ill-gotten booty; he also lived on Mill Street!

Before we begin listing and commenting on our faithful and usually correct Risers, we’ll excerpt an e-mail from Daniel R. Ketcham, president of the Nevada County Historical Society: “I couldn’t resist … the first pic is … our very own Stamp Mill,” located in the room that also houses the giant 30-foot diameter Pelton Wheel. He continues, “Our enterprising volunteers … have caused it [the wheel] to be ‘in motion’ and we are planning to soon [have it] rotate for our touring visitors.”




The wheel, the largest ever made, was originally the motive power for air compressors supplying the North Star Mine and was installed in 1895. It has been static since 1933, when the mine switched from compressed air to electricity.

Before restoration, it was vandalized and lost almost all of its buckets, and the building was destroyed by fire.

The Pelton wheel was saved by private donations when all the other equipment was scrapped in 1959. Also falling to the junkman was what remained of the equipment at the Empire and Pennsylvania Mines, all part of the Empire-Star grouping owned by Newmont Mining.

Restoration of the Pelton Wheel museum was overseen by Glenn Jones, a Grass Valley hardware merchant turned restorer and its first curator and after whom the little park across the creek is named. Jones is now retired and is owed the respect and gratitude of the entire community for his long, continuing and unselfish effort to preserve a unique part of our gold mining heritage.

And now to our weekly housekeeping chores. Frankly, we here at TIMELINES! are a bit concerned about the lack of sleep many of our Risers are enduring in order to claim coveted “Early Riser” status.

LES WORTHINGTON came in first, but must have sacrificed many ZZZs in order to, once again (ho, hum!), achieve ER for the week. His time in: 4:08:08 a.m. PDT. Les, you really must get more sleep!

Other Early and Not Quite So Early Risers include: Jean Rowe Keeny; Kenneth Holbrook; Jim Dierberger, a docent at the Empire Mine SHP, who recommends “The Stamp Mill for Recovery of Gold from Hard Rock,” by Roger P. Lescohier, available at the Empire Mine gift shop and local bookstores; and Dennis Babson.

No, Dennis the women in front of the Grass Valley mill are not Gina Lollobrigida and Alice Faye; from Brenda Apple, who this week is acting as agent for Sis Schwike, Margaret Gallego, Ken and Dolly Jaynes. No, Frank Bennallack, the women in the GV photo are not my grandkids!

Troy Ellen; Mario Valceschini; Ed Hayden writes, “Being the grandson of a hard rock miner, Louie Bevelacqua, who worked at the Empire for close to 30 years, it [the photos] brings back some great memories;” and Ed, thank you for your continuing support of TIMELINES!; Jim and Debbie Luckinbill; and Jim Evans from a while back!

It appears that one of our valued reader’s correct answer to the Sept. 9, TIMELINES! somehow went astray for which we sincerely apologize. We now acknowledge Margaret Burlew as a Regular Riser and ask her to keep sendin’ in those answers.

BOB WYCKOFF is a retired Nevada County newspaper editor/publisher and author of local history. Contact him at bobwyckoff@sbcglobal.net or P.O. Box 216, Nevada City CA 95959


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