Roger Papesh commissioned Andrea “Ange” Cox to do a collection of scenes chosen by the artist from the early history of the New Almaden Mine. A 4 foot by 36 foot mural was created on a cement wall next to 21744 Almaden Road, San Jose, California, which is across from the Hacienda entrance to Almaden Quicksilver County Park.
The mural is a small representation of the 170+ years of New Almaden history in art and literature. Some of the works that inspired the mural are available on the Internet and links are provided below. The New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum online archives are a wonderful resource (Museum Archives Link) as well as visiting the museum (Museum Hours and Information Link).
The New Almaden mine site was known to the indigenous Ohlone for cinnabar long before Mexican settlers. New Almaden cinnabar was widely traded by indigenous people and has been found in Indian graves as far away as Washington. In 1845 Andres Castillero, a captain in the Mexican military, became interested in the red rock he saw at the Mission Santa Clara de Asís and was guided to the location of a small cave. LINKS:
In June 1846, United States Navy Lieutenant Joseph Warren Revere came to look at Castillero’s quicksilver mine. Revere wrote about the visit in his 1849 book “Tour of Duty”. The book also contains an illustration of early ore processing using whaling pots by Alamitos Creek near the current Hacienda entrance to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. LINK:
Late in 1846, Castillero sold his interest in “La Mina de Santa Clara” to the English industrial firm of Barron, Forbes, & Co. located in Tepic, Mexico. Alexander Forbes renamed the mine “New Almaden”. Barron, Forbes, & Co. relinquished ownership in 1864 after losing litigation at the U.S Supreme Court. Many of the mural scenes are from this 1845-1864 period. Originally the ore was mined from an adit a few feet from the old Indian cave, 160 feet below the peak of “Mine Hill”. The mule path from the adit came down Deep Gulch Creek as depicted in 1852 sketches and account from John Russell Bartlett. The “tenateros” (ore carriers) carried ore out of the mine while climbing ladders formed by notches cut into a solid log. The mine contained a shrine dedicated to “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” where the “mineros” would offer prayers before beginning work. The “Main Tunnel,” started in 1850, was driven 171 feet below the original adit to facilitate removal of ore. The ore, however, soon surpassed the depth of the tunnel and the “Main Shaft” was dug underground in the tunnel for the lower ore bodies. LINKS:
Mercury was used to extract gold in ore and the mine grew to become the richest in California with quicksilver production second only to its namesake in Almaden, Spain. After several failed attempts using adobe, red brick furnace works were constructed near Alamitos Creek to roast the cinnabar. These furnaces used hundreds of thousands of bricks and required large amounts of cut wood for fuel. Brick chimneys were built on the hill above to help move exhaust away from the workers, one of the tallest remains today. A large “planilla” (open sorting shed) was constructed near the Main Tunnel. Laborers unloaded ore cars for breaking and sorting the ore to specified size and grades. LINKS:
The rest of the mural is a 1860s-1880s Hacienda street scene at the location of the mural that draws upon period photographs. Only the building on the right remains today. These buildings are drawn to scale using a 1863 Carleton Watkins “mammoth plate” photograph. The leftmost building was 92 feet long, made of adobe, and used as a company store. The middle house (26 feet long) and apartments (92 feet long) were “board and batten” construction. Many changes to the buildings appearance occurred over the years. For example, the store by the 1870s had wood siding added halfway up the front wall and brick work placed on the sides extending above the roof. The “toll gate” at the end of the mural was later added by Quicksilver Mining Company to control access to the furnaces and mine. Depicted on the left, the Hacienda had a stage for shuttling people from the rail depot. Some residents embraced early bicycles and eventually formed the Hacienda Bicycle Club. LINKS: