History of the Alleghany Mining District For Young Students

Gold was first discovered in the Alleghany Mining District by a group of Hawaiian sailors in May of 1850.


The creek where they discovered gold was named Kanaka Creek. Kanaka means “person” in Hawaiian. In the gold rush days native Hawaiians were referred to as “Kanakas”. Kanaka Creek flows below the town of Alleghany.


Other prospectors followed the Hawaiian Sailors to Kanaka Creek and they found gold as well. Soon towns sprang up all over the place. Often the miners named the towns after places they had left behind when they came to California. Examples of this in the Alleghany Mining District were Cumberland, Minnesota Flat, and Alleghany named after Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. Alleghany and Forest City are all that remain of the dozens of towns that once thrived here.


The first miners worked in creeks and rivers sluicing and panning the gravel for gold nuggets. This is referred to as placer mining. It did not take the miners long to notice that placer also existed under the earth in ancient dry river channels. The first underground gold mines in the Alleghany District were placer mines also called "drift mines". These mines followed the ancient dry river channels buried under the earth.


The miners were always asking themselves, “Where did the gold come from?” They thought if they could figure this out, they would strike it rich. Some of the nuggets they found in the placer channels were not pure gold they were gold and quartz. Quartz is a pure white rock commonly found in areas where gold is found. This gave the miners a clue about where they might find more gold. In the mid 1850’s the first gold bearing quartz veins were discovered in the Alleghany Mining District. A quartz vein is seen as a rock ledge on the surface. What cannot be seen on the surface is how far into the earth these veins run. Soon miners were following these quartz veins deep into the earth to extract the gold bearing quartz. This type of mining is called “lode mining” or “hardrock mining”.


W. I. Smart examining the contents of his gold pan
ca. late 1800's

Lode mines do not produce gold nuggets. Lode mines produce rock with gold in the rock. In order to separate the gold from the rock the rock has to be crushed. Stamp mills were used to crush the rocks in order to get the gold out. Later in the 1930’s Ball Mills were introduced, which are still used today.


The Sixteen to One Mine


The Sixteen to One Mine is a hardrock mine. The quartz vein which it follows is called the “Sixteen to One vein”. The Sixteen to One vein was located in 1896 by Tom Bradbury in his backyard in Alleghany. Since that time it has produced over 1.1 million ounces of gold and is still being mined.


Why did Tom Bradbury name it the “Sixteen to One”? The name refers to a system in which sixteen ounces of silver is equal in value to one ounce of gold. This system originated in Portugal and was in use in the United States from 1792 to 1873. William Jennings Bryan was running for president in 1896, the same year that Tom Bradbury located a quartz vein in his backyard. Bryan wanted the United States to return to the Sixteen to One monetary system and most miners were in favor of this policy. As a result several mines in the U.S. were given the name “Sixteen to One”. (William Jennings Bryan was defeated by William McKinley, not once but twice, and the Sixteen to One monetary system was never adopted.)


Rae Bell


2018 Underground Gold Miners Museum
356 Main Street
Alleghany, CA 95910
Phone: 530-287-3330
E-mail: info@undergroundgold.com