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NPS CRM Special Issue on Mining Heritage

NPS CRM Special Issue on Mining Heritage

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Published by Russell Hartill
a series of articles on mining history and preservation
a series of articles on mining history and preservation

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Published by: Russell Hartill on Aug 03, 2008
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10/24/2010

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CRM
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W
hile re s e a rching theG e o rgetown mining district of Colorado, I recently discovere di n f o rmation about the Red,White, and Blue Mining Company, an entre p re-neurial enterprise made up of a group of ex-slavesf rom the Missouri lead regions. They had org a n i z e dtheir own company, opened mines, and operatedone of the first smelters in Colorado. A member of this mining company, metallurgist Lore n z oBowman, became a locally recognized expertb e f o re his death in 1870. Archeological evidence of his operations on the headwaters of South ClearC reek is an important reminder of the AfricanAmericans who participated in the Pikes Pearu s h .
When cultural re s o u rce management studiesa re conducted, we often forget that the story of min-ing is the story of people. Mining history is morethan the physical presence of mines or mills. It isabout new arrivals in a region, the creation of newtowns, and the characteristic mining culture of boomand bust. It is about the mix of industrial workers of a region, the great cultural diversity, and the re s u l t-ing social and political fabric. And, it is about thetale of innovators and entre p reneurs, opport u n i t i e sand disappointments.In this, the centennial celebratory year of theKlondike Gold Rush and the 150th year after theC a l i f o rnia gold discovery, we continue to study andre - i n t e r p ret mining history and places. New parks,such as Vi rginia City State Park in Montana, pro-vide further opportunities to explore additionalthemes; in this case, Chinese sojourners and thesociety that evolved in the isolated nort h e rn RockyMountains. Interpretation of mining sites, like manyother historic places, has been influenced by the“New History,” which looks at the broader story of our diverse culture. In my corner of the West, thep rehistoric and Spanish-era turquoise mines nearC e rrillos, New Mexico, are just as important as them o re celebrated gold rush sites elsewhere .H o w e v e r, the conservation, pre s e rvation, andmanagement of mining sites are particularly pro b-lematic. In general, mining sites lasted only as longas profitable ore or coal was extracted; then theyd i s a p p e a red. Integrity of the re s o u rce will alwayscomplicate the search for historic mining sites. Overthe past decade, the National Park Service haso ff e red guidance for the surv e y, evaluation, and sub-sequent nomination of historic mining sites to theNational Register of Historic Places. An incre a s e da w a reness, partially because of the loss of mining-related pro p e rties in the West, has also facilitatedthe recognition of mines and mining-related sites forNational Register designation and/or the initiationof serious pre s e rvation eff o rts.R a re is the extant industrial plant or mill thatonce processed ores, either east or west.P re s e rvation eff o rts have often been piecemeal—with some notable successes, such as the pre s e rv a-tion of the Mayflower Mill near Silverton, Colorado.P re s e rvation through documentation studies is toof requently the relied-upon method for re c o rding atleast some level of information about a historic min-ing site before the re s o u rce is lost. The HistoricAmerican Engineering Record has provided techni-cal guidance and direction as well as conducted spe-cific projects to re c o rd the mills and engineeringworks at idle mining sites.Mitigation eff o rts for federal clean-up pro j e c t sor new federally-permitted mining operations haveresulted in many studies, especially archeological, of f o rmer mining camps and mine sites. As part of themitigation for the loss of physical evidence of his-toric pro p e rties, mining companies or agencies havefunded the archeological study or historical re c o rd a-tion of mining regions. Occasionally, the need top rovide habitat for rare species, such as bats, hasfacilitated the pre s e rvation of mine works. This for-tuitous overlap of natural re s o u rce managementmandates with an identified cultural re s o u rce bene-fits both.Nearly 10 years ago, the National Park Serv i c ec o - s p o n s o red a week-long conference at DeathValley National Park on the pre s e rvation of historicmining sites in response to a need for guidance onissues and policies, management and interpre t a t i o n ,National Register and inventory projects, and miti-gation approaches for new mining operations ore n v i ronmental clean-ups within historic areas.To d a y, many of the issues raised at the confer-ence have been addressed. However, mining historynow needs new direction. There is a need for newpoints of view and historical methodologies. In par-t i c u l a r, there exists a continued need for innovativeguidance on pre s e rving and protecting these fragileremains; a need for additional awareness about min-ers, prospectors, and countless other mining-re l a t e dindividuals; and a better understanding of the diver-sity of mining-related technologies and surv i v i n ghistoric re s o u rces within the national story. Wehope this edition of 
CRM 
begins this new dialogue.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
 Robert L. Spude is Chief, Cultural Resources and  National Register Program Services, NPS Intermountain Support Office, Santa Fe. He served asco-guest editor of this issue of 
CRM.
R o b e rt L.Sp u d e
Mining History
A New Dialog u e
 
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CRM
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ecent years have seen an incre a s-ing awareness and concern forindustrial heritage in Nort hAmerica and intern a t i o n a l l y. Publicand private interest in the rise of industrial soci-ety is readily visible in the creation of industry -focused national parks such as Saugus, Lowell,Am e r i c a s Industrial Heritage Project, Steamtown,Keweenaw National Historical Park, as well asstate and community-recognized sites like SlaterMill, Sloss Furnace, Eckersley Village, andFayette State Park.
P rominent among the sites and communitiesthat highlight industrial heritage are the locationsof former mining activities, both here and abro a d .I n t e r p retive eff o rts on major mining sites havebeen especially successful in Australia. Care f u l l ydesigned and located interpretive signs combinedwith walking and driving tours provide import a n ti n f o rmation to visitors at Broken Hill, Burr a ,Moonta, and Kapunda, among other sites. A majori n t e r p retive center at Sovereign Hill in the goldfields of Victoria is one of Austalia’s most success-ful tourist attractions, drawing visitors to a care-fully re c o n s t ructed, if not fully faithful and accu-rate, historic mining complex. Something of a cro s sbetween Disneyland and Wi l l i a m s b u rg, theS o v e reign Hill complex is an excellent re p re s e n t a-tion of several stages of mining activity from anisolated tent camp to a fully developed village,complete with mills, machines, mollock heaps,steam engines, pubs, housing, and costumed inter-p re t e r s .In Cornwall, through the eff o rts of theTrevithick Trust and other organizations, the exten-sive mining history of the English countyside isbeing studied, pre s e rved, and interpreted for thepublic. Engine houses for pumping and hoistinghave been acquired and rehabilitated, interpre t i v ecenters have been housed in mining companybuildings, and former mining tramways have beendeveloped as interpretive trails linking key sites forwalkers. These imaginative schemes pre s e rv ei m p o rtant elements of the mining landscape andallow visitors to appreciate their role in the historyof the re g i o n .In the United States, historic mining sitesand lore occupy an important place in our collec-tive memory and popular culture, whether it bestories of the Forty-Niners, coal mining inAppalachia, or gold prospecting in the Black Hills.Several states continue to base their identity onmining heritage, such as the Silver State of Nevada; the totemic Badgers of Wisconsin, re f e r-ring to the badger-like diggings of early lead min-ers; or, the California state slogan, “Eureka!” Thecultural and technological importance of miningv e n t u res to our national development is re f l e c t e din these expressions of shared identity, even if thehistoric distribution of benefits was limited toinvestors and owners.Few types of human habitation and enter-prise generate such profound impacts on the land-scape as mining operations. The scale of eart h -moving, re s o u rce consumption, and enviro n m e n t a limpact associated with mining generally exceedsthat resulting from any other activity. The oftenrapid growth of communities devoted to the miningenterprise, the development and spread of distinc-tive cultural and technological forms, and the per-sistence of a “mining mentality” also attract atten-tion and curiosity. In addition, the very notion of extracting essential and/or precious minerals fro mthe bowels of the earth, working in perpetual dark-ness, and the attendant technologies for accom-plishing these feats generate sincere interest at abasic emotional and humanistic level.Scholarly interest in mining towns and land-scapes has also penetrated the realm of socialscience. Several historians have focused theirre s e a rch inquiries on mining as an economic enter-prise and, in recent decades, interest has extendedinto other disciplines. For example, the well-respected studies of Anthony Wallace onPennsylvania coal mining towns demonstrates theanalytical power of anthropological communitystudies. Archeologists have also been drawn tomining sites across the country because of bothre s e a rch interest and cultural re s o u rce manage-ment concerns. Identification and management of historic mining sites frequently arise when envi-ronmental evaluations are necessitated by federalor state-sponsored projects. Numerous studieshave also been conducted by federal agency arc h e-ologists and/or private consultants on lands admin-i s t e red by agencies such as the Forest Service, theNational Park Service, and the Bureau of LandManagement, where pertinent data on historicalsignificance are needed for short and long-termmanagement plans.Archeologists at Michigan Te c h n o l o g i c a lUniversity began studying mining sites in thevicinity of the university in the mid-1980s.Michigan Tech, founded in 1885 as the Michigan
Patrick E.M a rt i n
Industrial A rc h e o l ogyand Historic MiningStudies at Michigan Te c h
 
CRM
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Mining School, is located in the midst of a nation-ally important copper mining district and near toextensive iron mining regions. Copper miningflourished from the 1840s until the 1960s, whilei ron mining is still active in the Lake Superiorregion. Michigan Tech has expanded into a com-p rehensive science and engineering university inthe 20th century, but its surroundings and historicbeginnings continue to provide an unparalledo p p o rtunity for studying former mining operations.The remnants of mining ventures litter the physicaland social landscape. Mining-related machines,buildings, transportation systems, and wastedeposits dominate the small communities that sur-vive. The social stru c t u re of mining enterprises,with their rigid and hierarchical ranking systems,have left unmistakable traces in the housing stock and settlement patterns. Heavy dependence onimmigrant labor also produced a diverse mix of ethnic and national minorities, a mix distinctivelyunlike other communities in the Midwest.F o rt u i t o u s l y, the mining school’s focus during itsearly decades resulted in the gathering of ani m p ressive collection of documentary re c o rds andre s o u rces related to mining, thus providing anespecially rich source of insight into technologicalm a t t e r s .Michigan Te c h s unique location and historyhave made it a convenient setting for the study of historic mining. Faculty in the Department of Social Sciences have taken advantage of the settingfor several decades, dating at least to the mid-1960s, when the late Lawrence Rakestraw studiedhistoric copper mines within Isle Royale NationalPark. In the late 1970s, archeology was added tothe depart m e n t s curriculum when Patrick andSusan Martin joined the faculty; the arc h e o l o g i c a lexamination of mining sites commenced almosti m m e d i a t e l y. For example, when the OttawaNational Forest initiated planning eff o rts for devel-oping trail systems within the Ontonagon District,Patrick and Susan Martin carried out historicaland archeological surveys that provided detailedi n f o rmation about the National Mine near thetown of Rockland. Mining-related sites also com-posed a significant portion of the cultural re s o u rc edatabase generated by Patrick and Susan Mart i nfor the Cultural Resource Overview of the OttawaNational Forest, completed in 1979.As Michigan Tech Universitys curr i c u l u mevolved during the 1970s and 1980s, theD e p a rtment of Social Sciences developed a facultyfocus on “Science, Technology and Society” as aunifying theme among the several disciplines re p-resented (anthro p o l o g y, history, geography, politi-cal science, and sociology). Adoption of this philo-sophical and methodological approach resulted intraditional American historians gradually beingreplaced by historians of technology, a shift thatf u rther encouraged study of historic mines andmining. As a result, Larry Lankton was hire ds h o rtly after he had led a Historic AmericanEngineering Record team that had documented theQuincy Mining Company operation in Hancock. Inthe early 1990s, this departmental emphasis con-tinued as a Master’s degree program in IndustrialArchaeology and was formally developed to takeadvantage of both faculty expertise and localo p p o rtunities for re s e a rch. Establishment andexpansion of the program resulted in the hiring of two additional full-time archeologists (SusanM a rtin and David Landon) and an arc h i t e c t u r a lhistorian (Alison K. Hoagland) in order to comple-ment the historians of technology (Larry Lankton,Te rry Reynolds, and Bruce Seely) and the culturala n t h ropologists (Carol MacLennan and JosiahHeyman), whose interests focused on industry andw o r k .Archeological field school students docu-mented a variety of mining-related site features in1984 at the Quincy Mine near Hancock. Whilel e a rning archeological methods and techniques,student crews re c o rded surface features, systemati-cally collected artifacts from looters’ backdirt piles,s u rface collected in plowed fields, and excavatedtest pits in a residential area associated with themine. Patrick Martin and Larry Lankton alsou n d e rtook a re s e a rch project under contract withthe Ottawa National Forest that year. This work intensively examined the Norwich Mine complexin Ontonagon County and involved documentaryb a c k g round and surface survey to guide decision-making for routing a major hiking trail through themining site. Martin and Lankton documented sev-eral mining companies and their associated physi-cal remains that were still visible within a squaremile area. In addition, the re s e a rch generated aNational Register inventory-nomination for the siteas well.
The Kennecot Mill,operated between 1908 and 1932,with glacial moraine and mountains in the background.Located within the Wrangell St.Elias National Park,Alaska,this site has been the focus of a cultural land- scape study by Michigan Tech University and the National Park Service.Photo by the author.

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