The popular image of a Forty-niner era goldminer is of a bearded man in a flop hat, a checkered shirt and suspenders, and jack boots. In tow was his “mountain canary” or burro and strapped to the burro was his spade and gold pan. He might have a piece of mining equipment call a rocker. Perhaps this was the image of a miner in 1849. But mining in the Gold Country continued up until World War II and at a much larger scale.
In the town of Jackson is a perfect example of a large scale mining operation that operated halfway into the 20th century. The towering headframe of the Kennedy Mine can be seen from Highway 49. I had seen this many times on my way to the Eastern Sierras but I was in Jackson on a Saturday when the Kennedy Mines were open to the public and this was the final Saturday of 2018 that the site would be opened. This would be the first time that I would be able be see this massive mining operation up close!
The Kennedy Mine is known to have the deepest mine shaft in the United States at the time of its closing. The shaft reached 5,912 feet down into the earth. The area was first mined in 1860 by Andrew Kennedy who later sold his share in the mine and the following year and the Kennedy Mining Company was formed. Many improvements and changes happen in the intervening years. The mine was closed in 1942 by the US government because of the war effort. After the war, gold mines could be reopened but the shafts and tunnels of Kennedy Mine were flooded with water so the company chose to keep the mine closed. At the time of its closing the miner had produces $28,000,000 worth of gold.
The center piece of the mine is 135 foot high East Shaft head frame which is the tallest headframe that is still in existence. It acts like a beacon that can be clearly seen from Highway 49 when heading down the hill to downtown Jackson.