Follow in History’s Foote-steps at Quicksilver Park

There is mystery in the brooding hillsides at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Beneath the rolling hills of oak woodlands and serpentine grass meadows lies an underground maze of mining tunnels that once fed the second largest mercury mine in the world. Today, mountain bikers and hikers tread over the same dirt roads where horsecarts and miners traveled. At Quicksilver, a sense of history mingles in the dusty, hazy air, as if the ghosts of the mines were walking alongside the trails. The landscape is equally imposing: the now lush hillsides offer stunning views of the busy valley and the dark mountain ranges.

 

If you’d like to experience Quicksilver in its heyday, then I recommend reading “A California Mining Camp” by Mary Hallock Foote. Foote lived on the East Coast for almost thirty years before she reluctantly followed her husband to California. The well-established New York artist, who had collaborated with Longfellow and other Eastern intellectuals, struggled with the transition to Western life. For her first year in the West, Foote lived with her husband in New Almaden, a mining town in South San Jose, located in the current boundary of Almaden Quicksilver County Park. While her husband, the head engineer, worked in the mercury mines, she wandered the grounds in solitude. The still, silent mountains seemed to reflect her feelings of loneliness and captivity. “A California Mining Camp,” published in Scribner’s Monthly in 1878, captures her first impressions of New Almaden. Many of the places that Foote describes in the article can be found on the grounds of Quicksilver Park, including the cemetery that she walks to on Christmas Day.

 

The Literary Ranger

 

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Comments

  1. Dave Fiore says:

    Stephanie, I read about your story in Santa Clara magazine; I am a 1979 grad. I, too, wrote about New Almaden as a student at SCU while taking Father Torrens California History/Lit class. How serendipitous. I interviewed some of the people living there at the time. As a young man, I also ran from my home in San Jose out to Calero Reservoir. I recall those days fondly. What a small world.

    I am glad you are undertaking this project–I am a bit envious of your energy and will power. Keep it up. As a high school Enlgish teacher in Bend, Oregon, I took groups of students on summer literary tours of Northern California and southern Oregon in the late nineties. We read Kerouac in Big Sur and San Francisco, Steinbeck at Cannery Row, John Muir and Walt Whitman in the Yosemite, Jack London at Beauty Ranch, etc. We also met Ken Kesey at his farm one year, but he’s an Oregon writer with feet in the Bay Area, however. Thanks for all you do! Go Broncos.

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