Argonaut Mine and Mill, c. 1920
|Location||State Route 49, Jackson, California|
The Argonaut Mine is a gold mine in Jackson, California, United States. It was discovered in 1850 and was the site of the worst gold-mining disaster in the state's history. The mine closed in 1942 and, along with the nearby Kennedy Mine, is registered as California Historical Landmark #786.
It was discovered by two miners, James Hager and William Tudor. The mine's serious development began in 1893 when it was purchased by the Argonaut Mining Company. The mine operated until 1942, reaching a vertical depth of 5,570 feet (1,700 m) via a 63-degree shaft and produced more than $25 million in gold.
On August 27, 1922, 47 miners, mostly immigrants from Italy, Spain, and Serbia, were trapped in a fire 4,650 feet (1,420 m) below ground. Other miners who had been near the surface poured water down the shaft in an attempt to put out the flames. By dawn, townspeople and other miners arrived to help, but it took two-and-a-half days for the fire to be extinguished.
Rescuers began re-opening tunnels from the Kennedy Mine which had been closed since an earlier fire in 1919. It was slow going, but hopes remained high until September 18, when a canary inserted beyond a bulkhead by oxygen-tank-equipped workers died. Still, it took three weeks to reach the level at which the miners were trapped. None survived, and evidence indicated that they had all died within hours of the fire's breaking out. One of the bodies was not recovered until a year later. Most likely, water flushed down the shaft carried his body further into the mine, but in the intervening time, newspapers speculated he had fled the mine to start a new life.
It was determined that the mine had violated safety regulations, but the owners escaped punishment, as the United States Bureau of Mines had little enforcement power. The cause of the fire was never determined and put down to "incendiarism," a broad term meaning either arson or defective wiring.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Argonaut Mine.|
- "Argonaut and Kennedy Mines". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
- "Jackson". The Virtual California Gold Country: Highway 49 Revisited. Retrieved September 16, 2005.
- Mace, O. Henry (2004). 47 Down: The 1922 Argonaut Gold Mine Disaster. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-44692-0.
- Rasmussen, Cecilia (January 15, 2006). "1922 Gold Mine Disaster Was State's Deadliest". Los Angeles Times. pp. B2.