Empire Mine


  • empire mine operated for over a century from 1850 to 1956
  • the largest mine in the state
  • still contains millions of dollars in gold
  • pulled more gold out of ground than any other gold rush era
  • located in Grass Valley on Hwy 49
  • gold was discovered by accident just like nearby Malakoff Diggins
  • the gold was discovered by George Roberts who found gold flakes on his boots
  • the gold rush had been on a full year all ready yet minners were still panning for gold
  • George Roberts found gold that was imbedded in quartz
  • the only way to get out the gold was to dig it up or crush it
  • in 1851 George sold his gold to the land for a mere 350 dollars
  • little did he know 13 years later in 1864 the mine would have produced a mere one million dollars
  • the gold rush changed the population of Grass Valley by a lot
  • in 1850 there were very few people in Grass Valley
  • by 1851 about 20,000 people populated this little town
  • they soon came up with a new method of finding gold called hard rock mining
  • first you must dig a hole in the solid rock, then the rock you dig up you have to crush, then you have to extract the gold from the crushed rock
  • carnary birds were brought down into the mine to warn minners about any increase in methane gasses
  • an unusual relationship also developed with rodents
  • minners were known to feed the rats that lived inside the mines
  • much like the carnary birds a dead rat also gave warning of an increase in methane gasses
  • minners would work six days a week and 10 hours in the underground tunnels
  • mules were also used at deep depths in the mine
  • at one year old they were taken into the mine and would spend the rest of their life there
  • they had there own stalls with fresh food and water
  • the mules were used to pull ore carts
  • the owner of the mine was William Bourn, Jr. and his mine superintendent George Starr
  • Bourn inherited the mine at age 21 in 1877 from his millionaire father
  • at age 16 Starr started working in the mine as a mucker the most difficult job in minning
  • within 11 years at age 28 he became the superintendent of the mine
  • minners knew his as the "Minning Genius" or the "Shinning Star of the Empire"
  • dynamite was introduced into Empire Mine in the 1870's
  • this change allowed for for only one minner being required a series of small holes
  • by 1890 single jacking was replaced with compressed-air powdered drills
  • even common things like the ore cart were improved
  • standard carts were changed to have their own bucket system
  • muckers would scoop the ore into the buckets that was on the ground
  • the mine was pushed further and further soon pushing 11,000 feet
  • it had 367 miles in tunnels
  • empire mine has know been changed into a tourist attraction
  • it still has the Bourn Mansion Standing
  • and the Bourn green house


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Empire Mine loacated in Grass Valley CA