Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Hangtown Fry

Like with many other events that occurred during the early days of California, there are different stories relating to the origin of Hangtown Fry, the now world- famous mixture of eggs, oysters, and bacon that originated in Placerville, which was then known as “Hangtown.”

Among them have been several tales of “last meal” before hanging and one of a mistake made by a tired miner trying to cook dinner in the dark. However, the version most widely accepted and credited with its origin is generally as follows:

In 1849, just a short time after Old Dry Diggins had been renamed Hangtown in honor of the recent hanging of three desperadoes from the large oak tree on Main Street, a prospector rushed into the saloon of the El Dorado Hotel announcing that right there in town , along the banks of Hangtown Creek, he had “struck it rich” and had every reason to celebrate.

Untying his leather poke from his belt, he tossed it on the bar where it landed heavily, spilling its shining contents of gold dust and nuggets. Turning to the bartender he loudly demanded, “I want you to cook me up the finest and most expensive meal in the house. I’m a rich man and I’m going to celebrate my good luck.”

The Bartender called to the cook and relayed the prospector’s order.

The cook stopped what he was doing and came out of the kitchen. Looking the prospector in the eye he said, “The most expensive things on the menu are eggs, bacon and oysters. The eggs have to be carefully packed to travel the rough road from over the coast; the bacon comes by ship round the horn from back east; and the fresh oysters we have to bring up each day on ice from the cold waters of San Francisco Bay. Take your choice. I can cook you anything you want, but it will cost you more than just a pinch of that gold dust you have there.”

“Scramble me up a whole mess of eggs and oysters, throw in some bacon and serve ‘em up,” said the prospector.

“I’m starving. I’ve lived on nothing much more than canned beans since I got to California, and at last I can afford a real meal.”

The cook did just that, cooking up a whole mess of eggs, bacon and oysters for the hungry prospector. Out of that prospector’s wish, and with a little artistry from the long forgotten cook, the original Hangtown Fry was created.

Over the years since, Hangtown Fry has continued to have been served at many of the local restaurants in Placerville. One of the more famous places was the Blue Bell Café, just a few doors east of the Cary House, which proudly advertised and served the basic recipe from the late 1930s into the 1970s when the restaurant was sold.

Hangtown Fry, although sometimes amended with onions, bell peppers and a minor assortment of various spices and herbs, has remained the same basic dish that was born in Gold Rush nearly a century and a half ago. It appears on hundreds of menus in restaurants along the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Canada.

It is also listed prominently on the menu of the exclusive membership-only Breakfast Club at Club 21 in downtown New York City and, for a while, was featured on the first-class menu of at least one major American airline.

No dish epitomizes California and its Gold Rush more than Hangtown Fry. It was created at a location central to the Gold Rush at the same time the great state was being born. And, like the miners who worked the river banks and hillsides, and the population that followed, it is a unique blend of many things, both those produced locally and those that have arrived from elsewhere.

Hangtown Fry fully represents the spirit of the Gold Rush and those who helped make California what it is today.

It is the Official Dish of the County of El Dorado and of the City of Placerville, by proclamation of the Board of Supervisors and the City Council.

HANGTOWN FRY RECIPES

Blue Bell Café Hangtown Fry

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. milk
breading mixture of cracker crumbs and bread crumbs
oil
3 oysters medium sized oysters
2 slices bacon
2 eggs

Dip the oysters in egg-wash and then breading. Pan-fry until three-fourths cooked. While doing this, fry the bacon in another skillet until just before it becomes crisp. Beat the eggs lightly. Place the bacon like railroad tracks off-center in a frying pan, pour a bit of the egg over the bacon. Place the oysters on bacon and pour the remaining eggs over. Cook and then fold the omelets over the oysters. Place a lid over it and cook until the steam blends together all the flavors. Makes 1 serving.

Cary House Hotel Hangtown Fry

12 medium-sized shucked oysters
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
6 eggs
1/3 c milk
1/4 tsp. salt

Coating:
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1 beaten egg

Pat oysters dry with paper towel. Combine flour, salt and the pepper, dip oysters into beaten egg and then the flour mixture.

Melt the butter or margarine in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook oysters in butter till edges curl, about 2 minutes on each side.

Beat the 6 eggs with the milk and salt. Pour into skillet with oysters. As egg mixture begins to set on bottom and sides, left and fold over. Continue cooking and folding for 4 to 5 minutes or till eggs is cooked throughout. Remove from heat. Makes 3 or 4 servings.

The New Haven

French fries. I love them. Some people are chocolate and sweets people. I love French fries. That and caviar.

— Cameron Diaz

 

 

My friend Russ Salazar and I had planned on giving the New Haven, the restaurant at 6396 Pony Express Trail in Pollock Pines, a try last week, but he got sick (no, not from food). I was about to move it to another day when a young lady I know who had some errands in that area offered to join me for lunch. Let me see, Russ is an old geezer like me and she is much younger and way more attractive. I didn’t have to think about that too long.

Jim O’Keefe, owner and chef at J and J’s took over the Haven last year, renovated it and renamed it the New Haven. It looks very nice, is very clean and, if that Friday was any indication, is very popular.

I asked O’Keefe what it was I really liked when I reviewed J and J’s a couple of years ago and he immediately said “The Philly Cheesesteak.” He then recommended the lobster roll, which was the lunch special that day, but I am not that wild about lobster and when I eat it prefer to eat it at the shore in Maine when it is only a few hours out of the ocean. He also said that if I like fish and chips, his are the best (well, Jim, I will be back just for the fish and chips).

I ordered the Philly and my lunch partner ordered the the Prospector, which usually comes with beef, shrimp, cheese and secret sauce on whole wheat. “It was originally made with ham and I liked it that way,” she said, ordering it with ham.

The sandwiches came with a side, she ordered fries and I onion rings.
Now, I have to stop here and talk just about the fries and onion rings, even though the two sandwiches were excellent (I took half of mine home for dinner and it was still great reheated).

O’Keefe uses an outstanding beer batter on his onion rings and secret seasoning on the fries. The onion rings, which were made with whole pieces of onion were the best I have eaten in a long time and the fries, well they were still crispy and delicious even when no longer hot. I usually eat the fries first to get them while they are hot, but I didn’t have to there.

The New Haven specializes in great sandwiches, steaks, pasta and especially seafood, serving both lunch and dinner six days a week (closed on Monday). Looking over the lunch and dinner menu, both of which are being updated, I found a lot of things I would really like to try.

The hours at the New Haven are from 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from noon until 8 p.m. on Sunday. They have both indoor and patio seating. For more information call 530-644-3448.

“We are going to reopen J and J’s as a sports bar,” said O’Keefe (who’s chef’s jacket is way too clean). “It is going to specialize in sandwiches and pizza to take and bake at home, but no dinner.

“The people in Pollock Pines like our pizza, especially in the winter. If they buy one already baked, it is cold by the time they have gotten home and lit a fire in the stove to warm up the house. With ours, they can light the fire while it is baking and eat it hot, like it should be.”

Mines of El Dorado County: Introduction

Fifteen years ago I ran a series of articles on the mines of El Dorado County in the Placerville “Mountain Democrat.” Since then a number of people  requested that the series be updated and rerun, often to find a name for their new street or to get more historical information on their property. About three years ago the list was substantially updated and rerun.

As you will see, this information is an early and important part of the history of our county and mining in California.

For the first few years following the discovery of gold at Coloma in 1848, mining was nearly everyone’s occupation. When a prospector found something promising in or near a creek or river, a claim would be staked out on a small parcel of land according to the “Miner’s Rules” for that Mining Region, there being no real government regulation at that time. Later a formal process evolved where the miner could file a claim with the government on larger parcels of land, which occurred mostly along the Mother Lode system, a large, north-south region of steeply dipping gold-bearing quartz veins within fine grained slate.

Thousands of mineral claims were filed for gold and later, for chromite, copper, lead, manganese, mercury and tungsten, along the badly needed building materials such as limestone, slate, soapstone and various kinds of gravel.

For identification purposes, each mining claim was named by the miner or miners who discovered or worked it. Like the towns they created, some reflected their personal name, the place they had left from on their trip west, loved ones left behind, a nearby physical landmark or often, something now totally obscure.

In time some of these claims grew into large mining operations operated by a cooperative “company” or large crews of hired miners. However, most were simply abandoned once any value was removed and soon became just a forgotten entry in the record books. Like the early towns and roads, these mines, and often their names, have become simply a part of our history.

Several mining terms are used that may be unfamiliar to the reader. These are: Adit: a horizontal or nearly horizontal entrance to a mine; Crosscut: a cutting that intersects the main lode or workings; Drift: a horizontal or nearly horizontal passage, usually following the deposit or ore body; Shaft: a vertical or inclined excavation often used for ventilation or to haul out material; Stope: an excavation from which the ore is removed either above or below a level in a series of steps; Winze: a small, inclined shaft from one level of a mine to another and Working Level: the vertical depth at which mining occurs.

Placer mining is the mining of existing or ancient river and streambeds for material washed from its source and usually done from the surface, by hand or machine (often a small or large dredge). If it is an ancient riverbed with later deposits above it, mining may be by tunneling, drifting or by high pressure water (hydraulic mining) which was outlawed in the late 1800s. Lode and seam deposits are in-place material which is mined either underground or by open pit depending upon its depth

IMPORTANT

I am often asked about some of the mines about which I have written and whether or not there is anything left worth viewing. By now most of them are on private property and you will need the owner’s permission to see them. How you find out the name of the owner is a matter of research at the El Dorado County Recorder’s Office and government mining documents such as “Mines and Mineral Resources of El Dorado County”, which can be found in the rare book collection at our main library.

You must always remember that a mine, working or abandoned, open pit or underground, is a potentially dangerous place. When following an adit into a mine  you may come across a winze or an air shaft, several hundred feet deep. If you fall in, they will never find you and your cell phone will probably not work! It is best to not go alone.

They are also nice locations to find rattlesnakes and other animals you may not want to meet.

Mine timbers were put there for a purpose when they were new, and now they are rotten and will not support anything. It may not take much to collapse the tunnel.

The best rule is: If you really want to see an old gold mine, go to Gold Bug Park in Placerville or a similar lit and ventilated mine and take the tour.

NEW INFORMATION

If you have information on a mine that is not listed, additional information on a mine that is listed or even have conflicting information on a mine, please leave a reply.

When I updated the original list I found a lot more mines that I had overlooked the first time, so I know that there are still more.

I am always looking for updates, photos, etc. and would appreciate receiving them.

 

Alphabetical List of Links to Mine Information:

A B1 B2 C1 C2 D E F G1 G2 H I J K L M1 M2 N O P1 P2 Q R1 R2 S1 S2 S3 T U-V W-Z

 

Sources for this information includes: “Atlas of California,” by Donley, Allan, Caro and Patton (1979); “A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals,” by Frederick Pough (1953); “California Gold Camps,” by Erwin Gudde (1975); “California Place Names,” by Erwin Gudde, 3rd Edition (1974); “History of El Dorado County,” by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); “Natural History of the Sierra Nevada,” by Storer and Usinger (1963); “Hand-Book of Mining Law,” by Henry N. Copp (1881); “California Mines and Minerals,” California Miners’ Association (1899); “The Mother Lode Region of California,” by W. H. Storms for A. S. Cooper, California State Mineralogist (1900); “Mother Lode Gold Belt of California,” by C. A. Logan (1934); “California Journal of Mines and Geology,” Walter W. Bradley, State Mineralogist (1938)”; “Mines and Mineral Resources of El Dorado County, California,” reprinted from the California Journal of Mine and Geology – California Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mines (1956); Map entitled “The Mines of El Dorado County, California,” Clifton Wildman (1932);“Map of Western Portion El Dorado County Showing Mining Claims,” C. A. Logan, District Mining Engineer (1938);Newspapers: “Mountain Democrat,” 1854-present; the “Empire County Argus” (Coloma), 1853-1856; the “Californian” (Monterey), 1846-47; the “Alta California” (San Francisco), 1849-1850 and the “Placerville Republican and Nugget” and “El Dorado Republican,” various issues.

Mines of El Dorado County: “A”

The Adams Gulch mine (also Stony Point or Sullivan mine) was located on a portion of the Mother Lode, two miles northeast of the early town of Nashville (on Highway 49) and just a few miles from the present Amador County line. Its four foot vein of gold bearing quartz was actively mined from 1902 until 1911 and again in 1914 and developed by 180 and 200 foot crosscut adits.

The Adam Colwell claim consisted of 40 acres about three miles east of Diamond Springs.

A few miles north of the Adams Gulch mine and about two miles southwest of the townsite of El Dorado (Mud Springs) was the Adjuster, or Hustler mine. It contained a five foot vein that was worked prior to 1914 by a 250 foot crosscut adit and about 100 feet of drifts. At one time there was a ten stamp mill on the property.

The Admiral Schley quartz mine was located on the west branch of the Mother Lode, about a mile north of Greenwood and consisted of 20.11 acres.

A copper mine named the Agara mine was located three miles northeast of the town of Fair Play, just north of the Cosumnes Copper mine. Little is known about it other than it was developed by a 25 foot shaft.

The Agren Placer mine was located about one and one-half miles southwest of Camino. It was 84.12 acres in size.

The Alabaster Cave mine was another copper mine that was located one mile east of Rattlesnake Bridge and taken by the government for the development of Folsom Lake. It was active prior to 1902, when miners followed an eight foot vein that contained 3 to 4 percent copper along with some gold and silver. Later it was also mined for limestone which was cooked for use in mortar. It was a large operation, developed by one 300 and two 50 foot shafts and a 100 and a 30 foot adit.
The cave itself was filled with interesting limestone formations and in 1862 was chronicled in “Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California -Alabaster Cave,” by James M. Hutchings. The cave must have been mined, since one of the etchings shows limestone being cooked.

One of only a few manganese mines in El Dorado County, the Alderson mine, was located about one and one-half miles southeast of Placerville. Assays on the 150 foot long deposit ran as high as twenty-five percent manganese. Little is known about its operation.

A famous lode gold mine, the Alhambra mine is located one mile east of Spanish Flat and two miles northeast of Kelsey. It was originally worked in 1883 when a 29 foot shaft yielded $27,600 in gold (remember, at around $16 to the ounce).
It became active again in 1886 and by 1890 there was a five-stamp mill on the property noisily hammering the mined quartz to release the gold.
In 1934 it was re-opened by Messrs. Jensen and Schneider who discovered two very high-grade pockets at a depth of about 90 feet, each yielding about $10,000 in gold. Soon thereafter, the Alhambra-Shumway Mining Company was formed and the mine was significantly deepened.
In 1939, a huge pocket of high-grade ore was found between the 225 and 275 foot levels that yielded over a half a million dollars in gold. Word of this discovery quickly spread, resulting is numerous newspaper and magazine articles, world-wide.
Through the 1940s, the mine produced over $1,250,000 of gold overall, at least 50 percent of which came from pockets of high-grade ore. It is developed by a 440 foot shaft and over 3000 feet of drifts and crosscuts.

The Allen Dredge was a short-lived (1945-47) suction dredge operation on the Bacchi Ranch near Lotus.

Another large lode gold mine, the Alpine mine, was located two miles southeast of Georgetown. Originally worked in the 1860s, by 1888 the quartz was being crushed by a ten-stamp mill. It was active around 1902 and 1912 and continuously from 1933 until 1938, when the Beebe Gold Mining Company, which also ran the nearby Beebe Mine, took over operations.
In the six years the Beebe Company operated the mine, some 64,349 tons of ore was removed and trucked to the Beebe Mine where it was processed, producing $434,665 worth of gold. The mine was developed by a 400 foot shaft with working levels at 100, 200, 300, 350 and 400 feet.

The Alveoro mine was a placer gold mine in an ancient river bed one-half mile north of Smith Flat. The deposit, which is 100 to 300 feet wide and 6 to 30 feet deep, was developed by a 4000 foot adit and 400 and 500 foot inclined shafts.

The Amelia mine was another placer gold mine some two miles east of Volcanoville, which is several miles east of Georgetown. In 1908 this mine, along with others, was operated by the Two Channel Mining Company.

A gravel mine known as the Anderson Pit was located adjacent to Highway 50 one mile north of Meyers in the Lake Tahoe basin. This pit was a major source for sand from decomposed granite that was used for road surfacing and in concrete.
The Apex mine was a chromite mine one mile southwest of Volcanoville. It was mined by the open pit method in 1918 when eight tons of ore was removed.

The Andrew Kinnenmouth claim consisted of 160 acres on the Mother Lode, just southwest of Garden Valley.1

Located at Henry Diggings, three miles south of Grizzly Flat, was the Armstrong and Roberts mine. It was a placer deposit 60 feet wide and 5 feet deep which was developed by a 600 foot adit.

The Argonaut (also Aultman and Golden Unit Mine) was a gold mine on the Mother Lode one and one-half miles southeast of Greenwood. Active in the 1880s, 1921 and 1927-28, it was a northwest striking vein up to 15 feet wide developed by a drift adit. The ore yielded up to $15 a ton.

A similarly named mine, the Argonaut Fraction mine, was a lode gold mine located one-quarter mile northeast of the Argonaut mine, by Georgetown Creek. Consisting of two parallel veins of ore, it was developed by a 100 foot adit (east vein) and 60 foot adit (west vein). It has been intermittently operated since 1933 with most of the ore stockpiled (as of 1956).

The Arizona Claim was a copper mine two miles southeast of Georgetown, containing outcrops as wide as 100 feet.

The Asbestos placer mine was an isolated parcel of 14.22 acres about one mile northeast of Spanish Flat.

Near Pleasant Valley, the Avansino mine was a placer mine that was active around 1893 and prospected in the early 1930s. Channel and bench gravels were developed by a 107 foot shaft with a 57 foot north drift on the 90 foot level and a 307 foot south drift on the 107 foot level.

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