Welcome to Western Mining History

Underground Hoist Room Construction Captured in Photo Series

Large underground mines often have important infrastructure and facilities built in underground chambers, hundreds or thousands of feet below the surface. Storage facilities, repair shops, and even modern hoist houses can be found deep within the mines. These facilities weren’t often captured in photographs, so it is a rare treat to be able to see  Continue Reading

Arrastras Illustrated in These Historical Photos

Water-powered arrastra at Dixie, Idaho

The remains of mining-era arrastras are fairly common in the West, but what exactly are they? The short answer is that the arrastra was the most primitive method used to crush ore into a fine enough powder that the precious metals could be separated from the host rock. While many people are familiar with the  Continue Reading

Incredible Photos of Travel by Stagecoach in Frontier Colorado

Stagecoach loaded with miners headed from Dolores, Colorado to the San Juan Mountains ca 1890

The stagecoach has become an iconic symbol of the American West. In remote parts of the western frontier, the stagecoach was the only form of public transportation for years or decades before being replaced with trains or later roads and automobiles.   Continue Reading

Total Devastation: The Butte, Montana Explosion of 1895

Volunteers help sort through the devastation of the 1895 explosion in Butte, Montana

In January of 1895, a warehouse fire ignited a large store of dynamite resulting in a great explosion that devastated several blocks of Butte, Montana, and killed an estimated 58 people. The following account is partial text from the 1895 publication “The Great Dynamite Explosions at Butte, Montana: January 15, 1895” The Fire and Explosions  Continue Reading

A Look at California in 1851, Two Years Into the Gold Rush

El Dorado County, California in 1851

For anyone familiar with California in modern times, it is difficult to imagine what the state must have been like during the California Gold Rush. The famous gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill happened in 1848, but it wasn’t until 1849 that news of the discovery reached the East Coast and the rest of the world.  Continue Reading

A Pioneer Road Trip Through Southwest Colorado in 1878

Bakers Park and Howardsville, Colorado 1870s

The following article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, September 14, 1878 Gipsying in Colorado 1878 It is often asked, which do you admire most, Silverton or Ouray? It is impossible to make comparisons between places so utterly different. Ouray, as I have described, is in the wildest imaginable spot; just room enough, as it  Continue Reading