Foresthill was founded in 1850 when miners first began their exploration of the region known as the "Foresthill Divide." It is located at an elevation of 3,200 feet, and many of the mines were situated in steep ravines and rugged hillsides.
Miners forged their own roads and brought in massive pieces of equipment that weighed several hundred to several thousand pounds. Much of this early equipment was transported by wagon, mule, and man.
Many of the artifacts on this tour are not only a reminder of the mining industry, but also the monumental efforts of early freighters in the Sierra Nevada.
Background Image: Boiler headed to the Barton Mine. January 11, 1909. PCM Collection
Starting at the walkway leading up to the museum, there is a large collection of historical machinery on the right-hand side.
Roll crushers are still one of the most widely used crushers in the mining industry. Two of these stone or cement cylinders are placed next to one another with a small gap in between. Material, like ore, is fed into the top and crushed between them. They can handle high-capacity loads while using low horsepower and low headroom.
Miner’s dismantled and repurposed vehicles to help power their mining equipment. This engine is from a Star motor, assembled by Durant Motors Company between 1922 and 1928.
These automobiles were relatively affordable. Miners could repurpose the transmission and belt to adjust the speed of their mining equipment without purchasing a new flywheel.
A trommel is a rotating screened drum used to sort material. In a larger operation, it is generally integrated into a wash plant setup. Gold-bearing gravel is added to a hopper and washed down by jets of water. This material would then run into the trommel which rotates, further breaking up the dirt. The smaller material would drop through the screen into a sluice to be further mined. Trommels are still used in mining operations today.
This receiver tank would be used in conjunction with an air compressor. Receiver tanks held air, or liquid, at a high pressure which was then released to operate tools, like jack hammers and pneumatic drills.
These tools replaced the early use of jack hammers and helped modernize hard rock mining. However, the high pressure could lead to potentially fatal accidents.
Diesel engines began replacing steam engines in the early 20th century. They produced more horsepower with less space.
Unlike gasoline engines, diesel engines do not require a spark plug. Instead, they rely on compression to raise the temperature enough for the fuel to spontaneously combust when introduced to the air.
This is a 19th century reaction turbine in a volute casing. A volute is a curved funnel that increases in area as it gets closer to the discharge port. This type of turbine converted the energy of water flowing through it, into torque, which powered a flywheel attached to it. This in turn could be connected to other mining machinery.
You will find several safes on the grounds. It was estimated that the total output of all Foresthill area mines amounted to $10 million by 1868.
Safes were an essential tool for storing not only gold, but cash, paper, and other valuables.
Hoists, such as this one, were used in underground mining to raise and lower conveyances in the mine shaft. A cage could raise and lower miners and equipment, while a kibble or skip brought ore to the surface to be processed.
A centrifugal pump moves fluid by means of the transfer of rotational energy from one or more driven rotors, called impellers.
The fluid enters the rotating impeller and is pushed out by centrifugal force. The impeller increases the fluid’s velocity and pressure as it’s pushed out.
Hydraulic monitors were used to wash away gravel, creating a slurry that ran downhill through a sluice box or other equipment to recover the gold. Long flumes were constructed to carry water from a higher elevation. The drop in elevation combined with forcing the flow through a narrow opening built up high water pressure capable of washing away vast portions of hillside in a short period of time.
This was an efficient method of gold mining, but extremely damaging. The excess sediment washed downstream, burying farmlands. It was severely curtailed in the 1884 Sawyer Decision. This is considered the first major environmental law in California.
In the 19th and early 20th century, the blacksmith was essential to all aspects of life.
The blacksmith was never short on work when they could craft and repair items essential for daily life, from a cooking stove to an ore cart.
This blacksmith shop is a modern construction and is still used every summer by local blacksmiths.
The livery features an old firetruck and spring wagon.
The old Foresthill Jail
This building was primarily used as a holding cell for petty crimes, such as public intoxication, during the 19th century. It was later used as a storage building but was restored by the local Boy Scout troop in the 1990s and moved to its current site at the museum.
The Nisenan Maidu dwelling, or hu, was built to represent the history of the native people of the region. While Foresthill is best known for the gold rush, the Divide and Placer County were home to native people for thousands of years prior to the discovery of gold. Massive immigration into the gold fields led to the decimation of their resources, disease, death, and the appropriation of their land. The current tribal lands and population are only a fraction of their pre-contact size.
A ball mill is basically a grinder that breaks down ore into smaller pieces. By adding 3-inch steel ball bearings to the mill and then spinning it, gravity and centrifugal force work together to crush the ore.
Ore cars were used in tunnel mines to transport ore out of the mine. Ore was shoveled into the ore car and pulled out of the mine on a track.
By using a mechanism on the ore car, the ore could easily be dumped out to the side.