The Empire mine, Grass Valley, California

Settlement of Grass Valley began when settlers’ cattle wandered from their campsite on Greenhorn Creek to the area, where the grazing was better. At the same time, miners were panning for gold along Wolf Creek.

In October 1850, George Roberts discovered a hard-rock gold vein in a quartz outcrop on Ophir Hill. He sold the claim in 1851 to Woodbury, Parks, and Company for $350, who consolidated several local claims into the Ophir Hill Mine. However, they mismanaged their finances and in 1852 were forced to sell the business at auction, at which time it was purchased by John P. Rush and the Empire Quartz Hill Company.


I’ve driven past that mine hundreds of times (and I’m not exaggerating) and never once stopped in. It was always one of those “I’ll catch it next time around” deals that never happened.

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11 Responses to The Empire mine, Grass Valley, California

  1. richard noyes says:

    It is a great museum, with original shop. My grandfather was a millwright there, They also have a nice wire model of the tunnels, including where they ran into the North Star. Bourn Mansion is beautiful too.

  2. Elmo says:

    The article doesn’t mention the Cornish miners greatest contribution to local culture, the pastie. Whether they’re beef, chicken, turkey or sausage, they’re delicious.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Love those things. They’re great road food. You can eat them hot, warm or cold.

      • Elmo says:

        I used to wrap mine in foil and set them on the hydraulic tank of my machine in the morning. A little slice of heaven come lunchtime, especially on a cold winter’s day.

        • Wirecutter says:

          Yup, heated ours on the manifold of our vehicles. If we were away from the truck for a couple hours we’d lay them on a sheet of foil on the dashboard and they’d be nice and warm when we got back.

  3. EDC says:

    There is a local story about one of the beloved mine mules. When she died the miners had a funeral for her out on one of the hills. The next day she was found dug up. Seems some of the miners loaded her up with gold before she was brought to the surface. No more mule funerals after that.

  4. B_Rad says:

    To close to George Town for me. Home of the tooth brush. Otherwise they would have called it the teeth brush.

  5. MadMarlin says:

    If you get a chance get down to Dahlonega, GA and visit the Consolidated mine. About 200 miles SE of you. It’s not the size of the CA mines, but fun to get down inside and see how the vein of gold was mined.

  6. Back in the ’70s, Delta College had a DIY Gold Country tour. They provided a cassette tape with narration of historical sites in Eldorado County and the Grass Valley area. The Empire mine was one of the stops. It took about two days driving to see everything. This was back when they still had the tailings of dredge mining along the sides of Highway 50.
    If you’re ever back this way, the Empire mine and the old Pelton waterwheels are worth seeing.

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