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Guide to the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park Collection
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1867-1959 (bulk 1871-1920)
    Collection number: Consult repository
    Collector: Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (Calif.)
    Extent: 33.5 cubic feet
    Repository: California. Department of Parks and Recreation.
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Abstract: The Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park Collection contains correspondence and financial material of the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company, owner of the Malakoff Diggins Mine. The world's largest hydraulic mining operation, Malakoff Diggins Mine was located near the town of North Bloomfield, California. This collection also includes the financial and administrative records from North Bloomfield's Post Office and the McKillican and Mobley General Store. In addition, the collection contains personal material belonging to North Bloomfield resident Mary Kallenberger. The records in this collection cover the years 1867 to 1959 with the bulk of the material ranging from 1871-1920.
    Physical location: The collection is on deposit at the California State Archives, Sacramento.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

    Preferred Citation

    Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park Collection. California State Parks.

    Acquisition Information

    Gifts of families residing in the North Bloomfield, California, area and their heirs including Stella Tracey and Mary Kallenberger.

    Organizational History

    The Malakoff Diggins Mine, located near North Bloomfield, California, was the world's largest hydraulic mining operation. Small-scale hydraulic mining of gravel deposits near present day Malakoff Diggins began in 1853. By the 1860s miners discovered that in order to profit from hydraulic mining, long-term investments were required. At this point many claims were consolidated and stock companies were established to assemble the necessary capital. In 1866 a local miner consolidated multiple gravel claims (including Malakoff Diggins) and with backing from San Francisco investors, established the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company.
    Hydraulic mining was invented in Nevada County, California, in 1852. In hydraulic mining, miners directed a powerful stream of water at a hillside, washing away gravel into sluice boxes. The sluice boxes trapped heavy rock and gold, and the mud and other debris washed into ditches that carried it to nearby rivers. Monitors (i.e., large water canons) were used to direct water at hillsides. The monitors were able to discharge thousands of gallons of water per minute. Getting water to the site was typically done through dams and ditches which were costly to build and maintain. In 1876, when Malakoff Diggins was in full operation, 16 billion gallons of water was used each year and 100,000 tons of gravel was mined per day.
    Although hydraulic mining was remarkably profitable, it was also extremely harmful to the environment. As early as 1873, farmers residing downstream from hydraulic mining operations began complaining about the mud and silt that inundated their land. Initially, waste gravel, mud, and excess water from Malakoff Diggins were disposed of via Humbug Creek, and later into the Yuba River. Eventually Malakoff Diggins mining debris polluted streams, killed fish, damaged agricultural property, and caused repeated flooding in the towns of Marysville and Yuba City. In 1875 the most damaging flood occurred when Marysville streets filled with thick brown mud after Malakoff Diggins' debris accumulated until the Yuba River's bottom was higher than the adjacent town, causing severe flooding, damage, and death.
    Damage from Northern California's hydraulic mining industry was far reaching. Over 1 billion cubic yards of debris raised the bottom of parts of San Francisco Bay by as much as 3 feet. The bed of the Sacramento River rose 16 feet, impeding navigation and causing millions of dollars in damage to California's Central Valley farms. In addition, the Central Pacific Railroad suffered damage as tracks along rivers were continually flooded.
    Finally in 1882, E. Woodruff, a New York resident and Marysville property owner, filed a suit against the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company. In 1884 Judge Lorenzo Sawyer presented his decision that hydraulic mining was legal, however discharging the debris into local rivers was illegal. The judge stated that the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company violated the rights of individuals downstream by destroying the landscape and damaging the watershed. The company was allowed to carry out hydraulic mining, however it was required to contain the debris within its own property and could no longer dump it into any river. The Sawyer Decision was among the first environmental laws introduced in the United States.
    After the Sawyer Decision, most hydraulic mines were unable to operate profitably under the new restrictions. When mining operations were curtailed at Malakoff Diggins in 1884, it was the largest and richest hydraulic gold mine in the world. By 1910, hydraulic mining was entirely abandoned in the area.
    The town of North Bloomfield, California, was established in 1853 to support the nearby hydraulic mining operations. As many as 1,500 people reportedly lived there during the prosperous years at Malakoff Diggins from the 1850s to 1884. The town served as a residence for the miners and its merchants supplied all the goods required by the nearby mines.

    Chronology

    1851 Gravel deposits were discovered in the hills northeast of Nevada City, California.
    1853 Hydraulic mining of gravel deposits began in the region near present day Malakoff Diggins. The town of Humbug was established near Humbug Creek, California.
    1857 Town of Humbug's name was changed to North Bloomfield. Post Office was established in North Bloomfield. Population of North Bloomfield was ca. 500.
    1860s Drought diminished water supplies and hydraulic mining was curtailed until the late 1860s.
    1860 The building currently housing St. Columncille's Catholic Church was built in North Bloomfield. The building was originally used for training civil war solders.
    1862 Home of Rush Skidmore (saloon owner and relation of Mary Kallenberger) was built in North Bloomfield.
    1866 North Bloomfield miner consolidated multiple gravel mining claims along the Yuba River, secured outside investors, and established the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company.
    1869 St. Columncille's Catholic Church building was finally used as a church for local Catholics.
    1870 McKillican and Mobley General Store was built in North Bloomfield. Post Office moved into the McKillican and Mobley General Store.
    1870 Water from the Big Canyon Creek Dam first reached Malakoff.
    1873 Farmers began protesting the mud and silt that inundated their land due to upstream hydraulic mining operations.
    1874 Malakoff Diggins' 8,000 foot long drainage tunnel was completed under the direction of engineer Hamilton Smith.
    1876 Hydraulic mining was in full operation at Malakoff Diggins' with 7 monitors in use. Population of North Bloomfield was ca. 1500.
    1875 Town of Marysville flooded sweeping away levees, seriously damaging property, and causing loss of life. Subsequently, a petition was submitted to the State Legislature requesting that laws regulating hydraulic mining be passed.
    1880 First long distance telephone line in the United States was developed for use at Malakoff Diggins.
    1882 E. Woodruff, New York resident and Marysville property owner, filed suit against the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company in order to halt the dumping of debris into the Yuba River.
    1884 Judge Lorenzo Sawyer decided that hydraulic mining was legal, however discharging the debris into the river was illegal.
    1900 Population of North Bloomfield was ca. 730.
    1910 Hydraulic mining was entirely abandoned.
    1940s McKillican and Mobley General Store closed.
    1965 The Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was established.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park Collection contains correspondence and financial material of the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company, owner of the Malakoff Diggins Mine. The world's largest hydraulic mining operation, Malakoff Diggins Mine was located near the town of North Bloomfield, California. This collection also includes the financial and administrative records from North Bloomfield's Post Office and the McKillican and Mobley General Store. In addition, the collection contains personal material belonging to North Bloomfield resident Mary Kallenberger. The records in this collection cover the years 1867 to 1959 with the bulk of the material ranging from 1871-1920.
    The records in this collection are largely textual and consist of correspondence, ledgers, invoices, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, receipts, and shipping statements. Other types of records, such as sheet music and artwork, are primarily included in the Mary Kallenberger materials.
    Much of this collection documents life in the town of North Bloomfield rather than the nearby mining activity. The largest series is made up of Post Office records documenting North Bloomfield's postal activity for a period of 30 years beginning in 1870. The second largest series consists of Mary Kallenberger's material. Much of this series consists of sheet music and also includes other records documenting Kallenberger's interest in art, music, and writing.
    This collection does not contain the records of Malakoff Diggins Mine or legal records pertaining to the Sawyer Decision or any other major court actions regarding hydraulic mining activity in the region.
    Documents within folders are arranged in chronological order by date and undated material resides at the end of each folder. The overall arrangement of the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order.
    The collection is organized into six series:
    • Series 1. North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company, 1870-1901 and undated. 1.5 cubic ft.
    • Series 2. McKillican and Mobley General Store, 1870-1942 and undated. 3.5 cubic ft.
    • Series 3. Post Office, 1867-1939 and undated. 21.5 cubic ft.
    • Series 4. Topical Files, 1871-1955 and undated. 1 cubic ft.
    • Series 5. Mary Kallenberger Material, 1860-1959 and undated. 6 cubic ft.
    • Series 6. Oversize Material

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection.

    Subjects

    Gold mines and mining--California--Nevada County--Archival resources.
    Historic sites--California--Nevada County--Archival resources.
    Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (Calif.)--Archival resources.
    Post office stations and branches--California--Nevada County--Archival resources.