Mines Celebrate Christmas in 1896 with Dinner and Dancing


Monday, Dec. 25, 2017


Gail Fiorini-Jenner


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Ethel Porter moved when she was seven in 1896 with her family to the Altoon Quicksilver Mine in Northern California. Her father’s job was hauling wood to the mine using teams of six and eight horses.

The first Christmas was a cold one, with snow packed 12 feet deep, but Porter’s father had earlier brought in a large supply of turkeys, chickens, and geese.  He buried them in the snow near a large stump.  As the snow piled higher, it changed the landscape so that the birds were not located until enough snow had melted to reveal the cache. By that time, they were spoiled.

The men at the mine brought a large tree from the woods and set it in the mess hall.  People strung popcorn and cranberries on the tree, and lit its candles on Christmas Eve.  The children received small bags of candy purchased by the miners.

The mining company provided a Christmas Eve dinner.  Tables were removed after dinner and bales of hay dragged across the wooden floor, giving it a slick surface just right for dancing.

Source: Porter Callom, Ethel. "Recollections of a Childhood Spent in the Trinity Mines." Trinity, 1958, pp. 40-43.


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