New Almaden History
The New Almaden Quicksilver Mine and Museum will be the subject of the next presentation at the Milpitas Historical Society meeting on Wednesday, June 13, at 7:00 pm in the Community Room (auditorium) of the Milpitas Library.
Doug Bergtholdt will be our speaker on the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine and its background, geology, and the fascinating social history of the town of New Almaden, with photos and stories that make the area come alive. A film about the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines will also be shown.
The New Almaden Quicksilver Mine, which is 12 miles south of San Jose, was first developed in the 1820’s by the Robles family, who were trying to mine the cinnabar (mercury) ore for silver, but not having any success. In 1845, Andres Castillero recognized the ore for what it actually was, due to familiarity with the Almaden Mine in Spain, and filed the first mining claim in California. His claim ran into trouble after the Mexican War, because he was a Mexican Army Officer, so he sold his shares to Eustace Barron and Alexander Forbes, who operated the mine until 1863, when as a result of another claims dispute, The Quicksilver Mining Company took over and ran the mines until it went bankrupt in 1912.
The first mine manager, Henry Halleck, built the Casa Grande, completed in 1858, as the manager’s residence. He lived there until 1861, when he left for the Union Army, where he eventually became general-in-chief.
Subsequent managers lived there and entertained many distinguished visitors, including Abraham Lincoln.
Various other companies continued mining at the site until 1976, when the price of mercury dropped so much that it was no longer be feasible to continue mining, as well as the EPA declaring mercury to be hazardous. In 1978 the County of Santa Clara purchased over 4,000 acres of land for the park.
In 1997 the County obtained the mining museum that Constance Perham had begun in 1949. The museum was moved into the Casa Grande, where it is today, it, and brought up to code. Local groups, including the DAR, obtained donations of furniture and décor for the 1895- era rooms and the beautifully refurbished museum reopened in 2011.
New Almaden Quicksilver Mines Field Trip
The Society will sponsor a field trip tour of the town and mines (10 am) and the Casa Grande museum (1 pm) on Sunday, June 24, 2012. As part of the Living History Day celebration at the Casa Grande, costumed docents will be on hand to guide you through Victorian period rooms and museum exhibits. Time (around 9 am) and place of departure for the tour will be specified at our meeting. Come to the June 13, 2012, meeting and sign up for the tour! You can also call the Milpitas Historical Society at: (408) 320-9587 to sign up.