Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

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Black Diamond Mines
Black Diamond Mines (Antioch, CA).JPG
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Nearest city Antioch, California
Coordinates 37°57′1″N121°51′25″W / 37.95028°N 121.85694°W / 37.95028; -121.85694 Coordinates: 37°57′1″N121°51′25″W / 37.95028°N 121.85694°W / 37.95028; -121.85694
NRHP reference No. 91001425 [2]
CHISL No.932 [3]
Added to NRHPOctober 02, 1991
Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines National Register 91001425+California Historical Landmark 932 copy.tif
Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines
Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines National Register 91001425+California Historical Landmark 932.tif
Rose Hill Cemetery, Black Diamond Mines
Trail to a mine, Black Diamond Mines Trail to a mine, Black Diamond Mines MM 4412.tif
Trail to a mine, Black Diamond Mines

The Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a 6,000-acre (2,400 ha) park located north of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County, California under the administration of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). The district acquired the property in 1973. The preserve contains relics of 3 mining towns, former coal and sand mines, and offers guided tours of a former sand mine. The 60 miles (97 km) of trails in the Preserve cross rolling foothill terrain covered with grassland, California oak woodland, California mixed evergreen forest, and chaparral.

Contents

History

Mount Diablo Coalfield

Historic marker for Mt. Diablo coal field Mt. Diablo Coal Field Historic Marker, Black Diamond Mines.JPG
Historic marker for Mt. Diablo coal field

In 1859 William C. Israel discovered a coal deposit while clearing out a spring on his land at Horse Haven Valley, six miles south of Antioch. His initial attempt to mine the coal was not financially successful but soon other coal deposits were discovered nearby and mining operations grew rapidly. [4] The area became known as the Mount Diablo Coalfield, the largest in California, producing more than 400 million short tons (357 million long tons) of coal during this time. [5]

The area includes the remains of twelve coal mines and the sites of several long-gone coal mining towns. The Preserve contains over 200 miles (320 km) of mine workings. The largest and oldest town, Nortonville, had a peak population of about 1,000. Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville were located in valleys to the east. The sites of Stewartville and West Hartley are located on private property outside the eastern boundary of the Preserve. The mines were the Empire, Central, Star, Corcoran, Pittsburg, Manhattan, Eureka, Independent, Union, Black Diamond, Mt. Hope, and Cumberland. The coal produced was of a low grade (sub-bituminous or lignite), but for a time in the 19th century, was the only readily accessible and economic source in California. Therefore, it was a very valuable resource and powering the railroads, ships and heavy industry of California. The mineral was often called 'black diamond." [6]

The coal was carried to the San Joaquin River by three railroads: the Empire, Pittsburg, and Black Diamond, for shipment by barge to markets in San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton and other communities. Coal mining activity ended as better-quality imported coal became affordable and as petroleum emerged as an energy source. After the coal mines closed, the towns were abandoned and the area was used mainly for cattle grazing. In 1974 the Southport Land and Commercial Company (former Black Diamond Coal Mining Company) donated 160 acres of its land holdings to help It become Black Diamond Mines Regional Park.

The coal mines are closed due to hazards posed by the age of the mines, the gases they produce (carbon dioxide and methane), and their rock quality (the shale and coal in the mines is unstable). In 1980 four young boys from the local area were killed by the methane gas from one of the open mines [7] However, a number of mine openings have been turned into public-access openings which allow visitors to look into the mines and, for some, to walk a short distance underground. The deepest public-access opening is known as Prospect Tunnel. Visitors can enter 200 feet (61 m) of this excavation made by miners searching for coal.

Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery Rose Hill Cemetery, Antioch, California 01.jpg
Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery, officially designated as a Protestant cemetery, the final resting place for over 200 residents of the coalfield, is located on a hillside between the Somersville and Nortonville townsites. [lower-alpha 1] After the mines closed and the nearby towns were abandoned, the cemetery fell into disuse. Many of the gravestones were stolen or destroyed by vandals. In 1960, Ansel Adams photographed two Italian Cypress trees in the cemetery, and called the image,"Poplars, Cemetery near Mount Diablo". [9] The photo was taken with a Polaroid camera, though it's possible that it was not a typical consumer camera model.

The land the cemetery occupies was originally owned by the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company and was given to Contra Costa County by Emma Rose, the daughter of Black Diamond Mining Company president Alvinza Hayward. The original records for the cemetery were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. [10]

Few people buried in the cemetery are identified. Many of the individual plots were never marked. More had only a wooden marker - nearly all of which were destroyed over the years by either wildfires that swept through the area or by insects, weather, or other natural cause. Vandals are said to have carried off some of the more permanent stone markers. [8]

A few whose earthly remains were laid to rest here include:

Sandstone mine

Inside the Hazel-Atlas Mine at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve Hazel-Atlas Mine.jpeg
Inside the Hazel-Atlas Mine at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

In the 1920s, a mine producing high-quality silica sandstone was started by owner Marvin Greathouse on a hillside above the Somersville townsite. He sold the product to the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company which operated a plant in Oakland manufacturing glass containers. Hazel-Atlas eventually purchased the mine and operated it until about 1945. Another sandstone mine in the Nortonville area produced sand used by the Columbia Steel mill in Pittsburg, California for steel casting. The two companies recovered more than 1.8×106 short tons (1.6×106 long tons) of sand between from the 1920s to the 1940s. [5] The Hazel-Atlas mine is being restored and maintained by park staff and can be visited on guided tours which cover the area's mining history and geology. [11]

Greathouse Portal, Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve in 2012 Greathouse Portal.jpg
Greathouse Portal, Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve in 2012

Inside the Greathouse portal, a 950 foot (290 m)-long section of the entrance corridor has been made into a museum. The first section is a series of self-guided exhibits, while the larger second section (which has a separate entrance from the outside), houses a reconstruction of the Hazel-Atlas works as it would have appeared around 1940. [12]

EBRPD originally repurposed the Hazel-Atlas mine as a museum in the 1970s, but storm damage in 2007 forced closure of this attraction for extensive repairs. It did not reopen for five years. [13]

Recreation

The trails offer views of Mount Diablo, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and on clear days, the Sierra Nevada.

The Preserve usually has an impressive variety of wildflowers in spring including the rare Mount Diablo fairy lantern ( Calochortus pulchellus ), Mount Diablo sunflower ( Helianthella castanea ), and Brewer's dwarf flax ( Hesperolinon breweri ). It is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, golden eagles, and a variety of hawks. The endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) and threatened California red-legged frog ( Rana draytonii ), California tiger salamander ( Ambystoma californiense ) and Alameda whipsnake ( Masticophis lateralis ) are present as well. The park is open year-round for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding from 8 am to dusk. A backpack camp and a group camp can be reserved for overnight stays. There have been many reports of a ghost in the park.[ citation needed ]

2016 land donation

EBRPD accepted the donation of 50 acres (20 ha) by Antioch Holdings LLC on December 20, 2016. The property had been deeded to the holding company by Gordon Grevelle, president of Suncrest Homes, who had originally planned to build a gated residential community there when he had bought the tract in 1987. After going through an extensive permitting process and a decline in the California housing market, Grevelle decided that the project he had envisioned would be unlikely to meet his financial goals. Since the tract was already surrounded by park land, he chose to make the land available to EBRPD, which announced its intention to add the land to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Grevelle estimated the market value of his donation at $3.5 million in 2016. [14]

Notes

  1. One writer states that there were over 230 burial plots, though the exact number cannot be documented. Only 80 gravestones remained in 2016. Men buried there were mostly immigrant miners from Wales, killed in mining accidents, while the women were wives who died during childbirth. The majority of graves in the cemetery are for children who died in epidemics of scarlet fever, typhoid fever, smallpox, and diphtheria during the late 1800s. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Contra Costa County, California County in California, United States

Contra Costa County is located in the state of California in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,049,025. The county seat is Martinez. It occupies the northern portion of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, and is primarily suburban. The county's name is Spanish for "opposite coast", referring to its position on the other side of the bay from San Francisco. Contra Costa County is included in the San Francisco–Oakland–Berkeley, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Pittsburg, California City in California, United States

Pittsburg is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States. It is an industrial suburb located on the southern shore of the Suisun Bay in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, and is part of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta area. The population was 63,264 at the 2010 United States Census.

Black Diamond, Washington City in Washington, United States

Black Diamond is a city in King County, Washington, United States. The population was 4,151 at the 2010 census.

Mount Diablo Mountain in California, USA

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East Bay Regional Park District

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a special district operating in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, California, within the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay Area. It maintains and operates a system of regional parks which is the largest urban regional park district in the United States. The administrative office is located in Oakland.

Morgan Territory Region in California

Morgan Territory is a regional preserve in California established in the late 20th century on the east side of Mount Diablo in the San Francisco East Bay's Contra Costa County. The acquisition and expansion of this territory has preserved important habitat and watersheds in the area for the public. Now an estimated 5,000 acres (20 km²), its creation has been a collaboration by public and private parties. It has been connected to Mount Diablo State Park by acquisition and transfer of properties between them.

Briones Regional Park

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Nortonville, California Unincorporated community in the United States

Nortonville is an unincorporated ghost town in Contra Costa County, California. It was located on Kirker Creek 5.5 miles (9 km) north-northeast of Mount Diablo, at an elevation of 801 feet.

Brushy Peak Regional Preserve

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Del Valle Regional Park

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Somersville, California Former settlement in California, United States

Somersville is an unincorporated ghost town in eastern Contra Costa County, California. It is located 6 miles (10 km) north-northeast of Mount Diablo, at an elevation of 741 feet.

Browns Island (Contra Costa County)

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Cornwall, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Cornwall, formerly known as Cornwall Station, was an unincorporated community in Contra Costa County, California, before it was absorbed into the City of Pittsburg. It was located 7.25 miles (11.67 km) east-southeast of Baypoint and 1 mile (1.6 km) south of downtown Pittsburg, at an elevation of 39 feet (12 m) ASL.

Marsh Creek (California)

Marsh Creek is a stream in east Contra Costa County, California in Northern California which rises on the eastern side of Mount Diablo and flows 30 miles (48 km) to the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta at Oakley, California, near Big Break Regional Shoreline. The creek flows through Marsh Creek State Park (California), where water is impounded to form Marsh Creek Reservoir, then through the city of Brentwood, California.

Noah Norton was a government agent, museum founder, and California Gold Rush prospector. He was instrumental in founding the towns of Adrian, Michigan and Nortonville, California.

The Black Diamond Coal Mining Railroad was 5.9 miles (9.5 km) long and ran from Black Diamond Landing, California to Nortonville, California. It was owned and operated by the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company and therefore did not have its own official name. Over the years, it has been known by at least four different names.

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Southport, Oregon Unincorporated community in the United States

Southport is an unincorporated locale in Coos County, Oregon, United States. It was located along Southport Creek, near where the creek flows into Isthmus Slough, 6.5 miles (10 km) south of the city of Coos Bay, at an elevation of 30 feet. The former community is now a ghost town.

The Black Diamond Coal Mining Company was formed in 1861, consolidating the Cumberland and Black Diamond coal mines in the region of Mount Diablo, in Contra Costa County, California. During its years of operation as a mining company, it established three towns: Nortonville, California, Southport, Oregon, and Black Diamond, Washington. The company's mines in California and its settlement of Nortonville later became part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park and a California Historical Landmark. Several railroad lines were built in California and Washington to support the company's mines, and the company operated numerous ships to transport its coal. As the mines played out and petroleum became the more common source of energy, the company closed its mines and transitioned into real estate as the Southport Land and Commercial Company.

References

  1. "Mount Diablo coal field". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  2. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  3. "Mount Diablo coal field". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  4. Hulaniski, Frederick J., ed. (1917). The History of Contra Costa County. Elms Publishing Company. p. 96.
  5. 1 2 "Todd, Gail. SFGate. "Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve." September 26, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2013". Archived from the original on July 11, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  6. Erickson, Ger. "Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve." 2017. Archived 2017-02-24 at the Wayback Machine Accessed February 22, 2017.
  7. "Teen-agers die in abandoned mine". UPI. Archived from the original on 2020-04-07. Retrieved 2020-04-07.
  8. 1 2 Viall, Tim. "Exploring the East Bay; the ghosts of old coal miners haunt Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve north of Mt. Diablo." ESanJoaquin.Blogs. July 16, 2016. Archived September 3, 2018, at the Wayback Machine Accessed September 2, 2018.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Pohl, Michael. "Rose Hill Cemetery #007." Michael Pohl Photography. May 21, 2017. Archived September 3, 2018, at the Wayback Machine Accessed September 2, 2018.
  10. Gibbons, Traci. Rose Hill Cemetery (Booklet). East Bay Regional Park District.
  11. "Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve - Park Features". East Bay Regional Park District. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011. Retrieved 24 Aug 2011.
  12. "Sand Mine Underground Visitor Center." RoadsideAmerica.com Archived 2017-02-23 at the Wayback Machine Accessed February 22, 2017.
  13. Alden, Andrew. "Black Diamond Regional Mines Preserve Reopens Visitor Center." KQED Science Quest. May 17, 2012. Archived February 23, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Accessed February 22, 2012.
  14. Coetsee, Rowena. "Black Diamond Mines park 50 acres larger." Brentwood News. December 30, 2016.

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