Hike: 3.3 mile loop
Dogs: Not allowed
The remains of the nineteenth century Stonewall Mine and its former workers’ community are located at the northern end of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (SP), San Diego County, next to Cuyamaca Lake (Figure 1, below). Together, they are designated archaeological site CA-SDI-18502. The site is open to the public daily and has a parking lot, restroom, and picnic tables. Archaeologists from the Southern Service Center (SSC) of California State Parks conducted test-level archaeological excavations at potential locations of new park visitor facilities in April-June 2006 and October-November 2007 to identify the presence or absence of significant cultural remains. The latter fieldwork represents the first subsurface archaeological explorations ever conducted at the Stonewall Mine site.
The geomorphic province in which Cuyamaca Rancho SP lies is composed primarily of granitic rock of the Southern California Batholith. The batholith has been dated as Late Cretaceous in age. The Stonewall Mine itself consists of a body of gold-bearing quartz surrounded by quartz diorite and schist. Today, the site is characterized by a pine-oak woodland vegetation community with a ground cover dominated by exotic grasses. Cuyamaca Lake and montane meadows surround Stonewall Mine and the old townsite.
History (Based primarily on research by H. John McAleer and Alexa Luberski-Clausen)
The discovery of the gold ore deposits of the Stonewall Mine is a matter of some debate. There is agreement that the gold discovery occurred in March 1870 and mining within the present-day park began soon thereafter. Ownership of the Stonewall Claim became the subject of litigation, though, by early 1871, A. P. Frary and J. M. Farley had purchased all claims to the Stonewall Mine and had a full mining operation in place; the remains of the 1870s mine shaft is located north of the later (1886-1892) mine shaft. Frary and Farley sold their mine holdings in January 1876 to settle financial difficulties. The Stonewall Mine reopened in early 1885, but, by September 1886 the mine was sold again to Robert W. Waterman, who had been successful in previous mining ventures. Subsequently, Waterman purchased lands of the Rancho Cuyamaca Grant; this grant land comprises the present-day state park. Waterman was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 1886 which led him to turn over supervision of the mine to his son, Waldo. In 1887, Waterman became Governor when the incumbent governor died. Stonewall Mine had many successful years under Waterman’s ownership; Waldo Waterman, Robert’s son, served as Mine Superintendent during these good years. Waldo, with a degree in mining engineering from UC Berkeley, directed the day-to-day operations of the mine and served as overseer of the Rancho Cuyamaca Grant lands.
Stonewall Mine (Figure 2, left) was well publicized as a highly successful mining operation by 1886. Gold production at the mine continued to be strong throughout 1886, 1887 and 1888 under Waldo’s direction. For example, 5,182 tons of gold ore was mined and processed in 1888 with a total value of $198,666. In 1889, Waldo directed the construction of a new 20-stamp mill that was added to the existing 10-stamp mill. Reportedly, a total of 300,000 bricks were made on-site for use in the new stamp mill. In this same year, the work force reached 200 men and the mine had been sunk to a depth of 400 feet. The mine shaft, identified as Feature 81, reached a depth of 600 feet in 1892. Stonewall Mine under Waterman’s ownership ended production by mid-1892. Total gold ore production from 1888 to 1892 (first three months) was 57,754 tons with a dollar value of $906,063. According to a 1963 California Division of Mines & Geology report, Stonewall Mine was the most productive gold mine in current San Diego County with a total yield of approximately two million dollars over its entire span of operation.
During the operation of Stonewall Mine, a lively community for the mine workers and families was located nearby in the present-day State Park. The community of Cuyamaca consisted of two bunkhouses for single miners, cabins for married workers, a boarding house (that sometime in 1891 became a hotel), the Superintendent’s house, a school, a library, a general store, a cemetery, and support structures.
Robert Waterman had passed away in 1891, a year after leaving the Governor’s office. Sather Banking Company became owner of Stonewall Mine and holdings of adjacent lands by the latter part of 1892 to satisfy financial claims against the Waterman Estate. The workers’ community became a resort for several years after the mining operation ended, until the early 1900s.
An option to reprocess the tailings of Stonewall Mine stamp mill were apparently purchased in 1898 by a company called Strauss and Shin from Sather Banking Company, the land owners. The Strauss and Shin operation sought to extract gold from the tailings left from the Stonewall Mine operation that ended in 1892 using the relatively new cyanide process. Experiments with the use of cyanide to extract gold took place in many countries throughout the 1880s, but, this technique only proved to be commercially successful as a gold processing technique in 1890. An economically viable cyanide processing technique was introduced to the United States shortly afterwards.
The drive up here is beautiful:
The old miner’s cabin has now been turned into a museum:
What remains of the mine: