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Old mill draws viewers

81-Year-Old Denny Thompson stands next to the 1890's-era gold-stamp mill he rebuilt. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
81-Year-Old Denny Thompson stands next to the 1890's-era gold-stamp mill he rebuilt. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).


A piece of Gold Rush history — a multi-ton piece — has been catching the eyes of drivers on Kewin Mill Road between Cedar Ridge and Belleview School.

An 1890s-era gold stamp mill, used to crush rock so gold can be extracted, has been erected on Denny and Jeanne Thompson's 40 acres in a wooded area along the headwaters of Sullivan Creek.

"Everybody's honking when I'm out there working," 81-year-old Denny said.

Though the late spring rains put off some of Denny's work, over the past couple of months, he and a couple of friends used a backhoe to move pieces of the 12- to 14-ton mill that had sat on the Thompsons' property for nearly 20 years.

After relocating the parts to the end of Denny's driveway, they put the mill together piece by piece. Denny said the owners of Comstock Ranch subdivision intended to set up the mill at some point, but never got around to it.

"For years I've been wanting to put it up out there and almost waited too long," Denny said in reference to his age.

The mill was once used at the Comstock Mine, a gold mine near the Thompsons' property. Standing about 18 feet tall and 14 feet wide, the 10-stamp mill was used from the early 1900s to just before World War II, when mining stopped. The mill was first brought to the mine in 1901, housed in a building and powered by steam from an adjacent boiler room. The mill now sits about 300 yards from where it was originally used.

Thompson said all of the parts are original, though some were missing and he had to buy them. Part of the steel on the mill reads Fulton Iron Works San Francisco 1892.

Miners used gold stamp mills to crush quartz into dust. Then they would separate out the valuable gold. Thompson said it once was the most popular way to mine gold.

Denny traveled to Placerville to get pictures of an old gold-stamp mill to help him figure out how to put the steel puzzle back together.

"It turned out it really wasn't that bad," he said. He estimated he spent about $1,000 on the project.

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