Kentucky Mine: Putting a Unique Stamp on History

A special treat awaits visitors one mile north of Sierra City on Highway 49. Here the Sierra County Historical Park and Museum clings to the precipitous base of the Sierra Buttes. A cozy museum contains displays and artifacts about Native Americans, early-day mining, logging, pioneer skiing, and day-to-day life a hundred years ago. Outdoors, mining relics and picnic tables dot the shady landscape.But the heart of the park is the lovingly preserved Kentucky Mine. The Pelton wheel and stamp mill just outside the mine's entrance present a vivid picture of what life must have been like for the hard-rock miners of a hundred years go.Docents lead tours of the stamp mill, explaining how the ore was ground into fine particles to extract gold and recalling anecdotes from the day-to-day lives of the miners. Working conditions here a century ago were not ideal. Mercury poisoning commonly affected the workers. Noise in the mills was extreme. After six months the workers would be completely deaf.The mine has operated off and on since the early 1850s. A five-stamp mill completed in 1863 was increased to ten stamps in 1888. The mine was abandoned for some time, then Emil Loeffler of Sierra City relocated the mine in 1910, operating it with his son, Adolph, "Dutch" Loeffler.The existing six-level stamp mill, build beginning in 1928, is built to standard specifications primarily from materials salvaged from nearby abandoned stamp mills. The mine operated until 1953.In 1974 Sierra County purchased the Kentucky Mine and by 1977 completed and dedicated the small museum on the site. The Sierra County Historical Society now operates the museum, which is self-supporting through admission fees. Pay $1 per person for the museum, or $5 for a tour of the stamp mill and 80 feet of the adit (mine tunnel) and museum, scheduled at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on each day the mine is open. It has also established the Kentucky Mine Museum Memorial, established in 1990. Donations–ranging from a $100 supporter level to patron and pillar levels of $1,000 And $2,500 respectively–are put into a trust fund to accrue interest and are not used for operating expenses.An amphitheatre above the museum provides the setting for the Kentucky Mine Summer Concerts.The park and museum are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September. In October, the mine is open weekends only, and the park is closed for the winter. For more information write P. O. Box 260, Sierra City, CA 96125 or call (530) 862-1310.
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