Sunday, July 24, 2016

Revisit to Copper King Mine

One thing I do NOT lack is old newspaper ‘clippings’ that my ancestors have saved over 100 years or more.  Sometimes they’re interesting to me, sometimes not so much.  And while I have no idea which ancestor to thank for this, one article from The Fresno Bee (December 3, 1961) really caught my eye.

Fresno Bee 12_3_1961 page one

Why this one in particular, you might ask.  Easy!  Because the young man the newspaper interviewed for this story, Edward Fitzgerald, was my great grandfather! 

In the photo above, it states that Edward was the sixth man from the right but after blowing it up the quality is so poor I can’t be sure.  But I do have a photo of Edward from 1907 which is about the same time period so you can see him.

Edward Fitzgerald 1907

And here’s how he looked in 1961 when he was photographed for the article.

Edward Fitzgerald

The article is awfully long so I won’t transcribe it all but here are some interesting excerpts.

“Snorting steam engines sent echoes bounding through the foothills east of Fresno as they chugged downgrade toward Clovis dragging heavy wagons loaded with copper bearing mother rock of the Sierra.
These snorting behomoths of another day always traveled the Pittman Creek Road by night because the horses which drew the stages to the mountains bolted whenever they saw one approaching.
This is how it was in 1900 when a young man named Edward Francis Fitzgerald applied for a position at the Copper King Mines, Ltd., as an engineer, but landed, instead, a  job on the end of a shovel.”

How did I never, ever know that he worked in the mines?  I was nearly 14 when he died but I have no recollection of ever hearing about it.  Did he not talk about it?  Did he talk about it and I didn’t listen?  Or, did he talk about it and I listened but don’t remember it today?  Thankfully, my packrat ancestors have, once again, helped me out.

“In its heydey in the 1890s the mine had a working force of about 150 men who took turns burrowing deep into the earth extracting copper ore.
The same road over which traveled the steam engines, or the two horse phaetons, still is in existence but unless you have the keys to one of five padlocks on gates barring the roadway the chances you’ll ever get to the Copper King are slim.”

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to “burrow deep into the earth”.

And the second part of page one:

Fresno Bee 12_3_1961 page one A

Here’s some of the buildings of the old mine.

Mine Buildings

What it must have been like to peer down the main shaft of the mine.  The thought of actually veturing down into that black hole makes me squeamish!

Glory Hole

And look at the dump and loading lines.

Shipping Point

And on to the next page.  I love this page as it describes Edward’s early life and then with his wife, and my great grandmother, Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald.

Fresno Bee 12_3_1961 page two copy

I’d read in his obituary that they had honeymooned at a cottage at the mine but it still makes me smile to read about it here.  Not just read about it but actually see a picture of it!

Honeymoon Cottage

They were married November 18, 1901 so the mine would have been in full swing at that time.  I can’t imagine they let that bother them, though.

Once again, I’m thankful for my packrat ancestors.  That is, until I try to organize everything they left behind.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Bart. A tie to our shared ancestor.

  2. I am amazed that this article was saved for so long. And what a hard and dangerous life it is/was to be a miner.

    1. I have so many newspaper articles and photos from the last 100 or so years that were just thrown into a cardboard box and then into a storage unit. I'm amazed at the condition they're in!

  3. Well I just have to laugh at your last line about the mine being in full swing when your great-grandparents honeymooned there. I'm sure they were in full swing too. Ha ha! It's funny to think about young couples today planning honeymoons to the Caribbean - I bet nobody thinks about going to a mine.

    I'm messing with you Debi. I wish I had a newspaper article for every time I ignored my grandparents when they might have shared something about their younger days.

    1. And I'll bet no one thought about honeymooning in the Caribbean in 1901. LOL!