Grass Valley History

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Mining Museum


Empire Mine
Visit the Historic Empire Mine
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It is believed that millions of dollars of gold, depending on current value, still lays buried deep in the earth below the quaint town of Grass Valley. Prospectors from Oregon in search of gold and emigrants from the east looking for fertile homeland settled in Grass Valley between 1848 and 1849. As with all the mining camps and towns along what would become Highway 49, gold fever created an instantaneous population explosion. Though early miners sought their riches in the streams, it was only by accident that the true wealth of Grass Valley was discovered. Legend has it a miner in search of his missing cow stubbed his toe and dislodged a large rock which when he picked up gleamed with gold. Not too much later another man searching for stones to construct a chimney discovered a rich vein of gold quartz. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ore carsBy 1855 the town was prospering and growing when it suffered two significant setbacks. A fire that swept through the town destroyed 300 buildings. Rebuilt the town faced a worse disaster, the ease of accessing the gold had become more and more difficult. Tenacity and improved techniques in hardrock mining allowed Grass Valley to once again prosper by the 1860s.

150 million dollars in gold was mined from two mines, the Empire mine, and the North Star Mine in their 100 years of service. Nevada County in total produced an unbelievable 440 million dollars in gold during that same time period. Both mines were closed in 1956 and are now a park and a museum open to the public. Grass Valley was one of the fortunate cities who's economy based on its mining efforts was able to prosper even through the Great Depression until the mines were closed by the war production board because of the war in 1940.

Hydro MIningGrass Valley today still proudly displays its early architecture and history as a living museum that coexists with a thriving, modern business center, that has maintained its cultural identity and remained a strong family oriented city.



Hydro mining

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