To the average browser looking at a shelf of used books on Western Americana at Grassroots Books in Reno it wasn’t much. A weathered old publication called California Journal of Mines and Geology, Volume 49, October 1953 caught my eye because it featured an article by J.C. O’Brien titled “Mines and Mineral Resources of Mendocino County.” For $3.99 I got 50 pages of information on our mineral resources, big fold-out maps included.

The geologic history of Mendocino County is rather ho-hum: no gold, no silver, mineral claims that produced few results, and yet some citizens just kept digging up rocks. Mineral sales from 1880 to 1950 had earned only $4 million. The big mining money maker was sand and gravel for concrete aggregate used in building and road repair. The second biggest mineral money earner was surprising: natural carbon dioxide gas wells that supplied dry ice manufacturing facilities in Hopland at the Cal Dri Ice Company. The gas was cooled, can-pressed, formed into 10 x 10 x 12 inch cakes, and shipped in refrigerated trucks to the Bay Area.

Cars sit in front of a commercial building labelled Cal Dri Ice

The Cal Dri Ice Corporation plant near Hopland. Image from the California Journal of Mines and Geology, Vol. 49, October 1953.

During World War I, manganese had been mined, but a lack of roads and the long distance to markets were problems when there wasn’t a pressing need. Mineral waters were bottled in the county from 1890-1909. Coal beds were found east of Dos Rios, but hard to access. The Redwood Copper Queen mine near Yorkville tried to be profitable, but struggled. Graphite was mined, and jade could be found at Leech Lake, but it was an 11-mile horse pack trip to reach the site.

Some 23 pages of the 1953 journal list mines, their owners, and locations. There are also remarks, mostly sad ones: “Idle, nearly inaccessible, undeveloped, no production, dismantled, no ore of shipping grade.…” The fold-out maps show the location of every mine mentioned. For your information, the Redwood Copper Queen Mine was along Pardaloe Creek a mile east of old Ornbaun Hot Springs west of Yorkville off Fish Rock Road.

I’ll turn this wonderful resource over to the Kelley House Museum Archives. It can be shared with the public by appointment with the museum.

Saturday, June 10th! Celebrate the Water Tower Wonderland exhibit opening. 4-5pm: Kelley House members will enjoy a private preview and reception. 5-7pm: General public invited for refreshments and cookies as part of the local art walk. Quench your thirst and satisfy your curiosity about water towers during Mendocino’s Second Saturday Art Walk. Using historic photographs, art from local artists, and small-scale models, the exhibit explores the majesty and functionality of many well-known towers, including several still standing and many that aren’t. On display will be renderings of Mendocino water towers in several media, with serigraphs by Anne Kendall Foote and Bill Zacha, a quilt square by Dee Goodrich, and a woodcut by Emmy Lou Packard.