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Catalog number 1997.2.1690
Object Name Clipping, Newspaper
Date 1957
Description TITLE: THE HILLSDALE, 110 YEARS ''OLD SUBTITLE: NOT Far off S. First. A Mine, Deep, Dank! AUTHOR: By BOB CRABBE PUBLISHER: Mercury Staff Writer C. 1957
On a summer day, 110 years ago, a perspiring gang of Mexican miners began to dig a tunnel into a brown hill that popped like a blister out of the Santa Clara Valley.
The men were boring into a promising vein of cinnabar - the red rock that yields shiny quicksilver when baked in a hot kiln.
The toilers in the sunshine of 1847 .had no way of knowing that they and their successors would dig 4,000 feet of tunnel during the next 60 years.
Half a mile north of the place where they swung their picks, San Joseans of a later time would greet Easter morning at the foot of a giant cross. Other toilers, Chinese, someday would push the Southern Pacific tracks southward along the east foot of the hill. Later, beyond the tracks, there would be the Monterey highway.
Like all mines, this one was born in a dream of riches, and when the dream died about 1906, the mine became its -ghost.
It lies at the south door of San Jose, most of whose residents never heard of it. Motorists glide down Monterey high-way past it each day, quite unaware of the hollowness of the hill they see a little to the west.
The mine, at various times, was known as the Chaboya, the San Juan Bautista, the Promise, the Chapman, and finally, the Hillsdale. Quicksilver people call it by this latter name today.
It got into the news a few days ago when sheriff's officers and firemen groped through it in search of two lost boys. The boys were not there at the time the search was going on.
"It's still a pretty good mine," in the opinion of P. S. (Jimmie) Shneider, a fruit company executive and scholarly collector of quicksilver lore. "If somebody . spent $100,000 to sink a decent shaft, they'd have a fair gamble.
The Hillsdale hasn't been worked at all since the late 1930's, and its major production stopped long before that. Its chief visitors now are kids and ground squirrels. Many of its 1,000 feet of tunnels can no longer be reached. Some are blocked by cave-ins, and others vanish into a crystal lake deep inide the hill.
State mining histories indicate the Mexicans first "gophered" into the hillside in 1847, about the time big production started at the famous New Almaden mine a few miles away.
Although Hillsdale never became a bonanza like New Almaden and New Idria, it was profitable enough that its Mexican owners stayed with it until 1862.
Legend connects their departure with some sort of disaster, a story believed by the late Robert R. Bullmore, who managed the Hillsdale during a fitful revival early in this century. Bullmore, who once supervised the New Almaden, wrote a "puff sheet" on the Hillsdale about 1906, with an ,eye to attracting investors.
He says the Mexicans struck a spring, which flooded their works without warning, and sent them fleeing for their lives. When the mine was pumped out half a century later, Bullmore claims, he found tools abandoned by the miners in their flight.
A man identified only as "Mr. Chapman" in the mining books took over when the Mexicans left, and ran the Hillsdale till 1874. Chapman was never talkative about his business, but he is believed to have been producing 40 flasks of mercury a month in 1871. At present day prices, this would be a gross of more than $10,000 a month. When he left in 1874, the mine lay idle for two decades.
An R. H. Harper of San Jose was the next man to get involved with it, and he seems to have been something of a salesman. On a trip east, he promoted some capital from two wealthy Bostonians, and had himself made manager of the enterprise.
Bullmore says Harper hit good ore in 1903 and quickly produced 53 flasks. He then fell out with his Boston backers, who fired him. In a lawsuit with a highly modern ring, Harper sued them for $167,000, and settled for $900. The Bostonians made Bullmore manager, and later sold the mine.
Small operators worked the diggings in 1915, and again in the late 1930's.
The most improbable name connected with the Hillsdale was that of a 30-year-old dish-washer who never dug a spade of cinnabar in his life.
He was John Leon Fredrickson, a disturbed veteran who drifted around San Jose for about eight years. In the winter of 1956 he became convinced San Jose faced immediate destruction by an atomic bomb.
He took refuge from the impending calamity in the mine, and lived there several weeks. At length the world situation overcame Fredrickson completely, and he hanged himself to a nearby oak tree.
Kids sneak into the Hillsdale regularly, although they have to trespass on American Dairy Co. lands to do so. The old mine hardly seems a safe playground, especially in earthquake country. Its shafts are dark and the footing on the muddy rocks is treacherous. Still, there is no record of anyone being lost or hurt there in recent times.
A few steps into its tunnels lies a world of uniform blackness, relieved only at intervals by the flashlights or candles of sightseers.
The caverns that rang to the Spanish oaths of miners in a long-ago California now hear only the giggles of the visitors as they paint their initials on the rocks.

Photo A Caption: Cinnabar Cooker - Mercury usually is found combined with sulphur in a rock called cinnabar. When the rock is heated, it decomposes and the quicksilver can be recovered. This crumbling brick kiln, which once serviced Hillsdale mine, probably dates to the early 1900's. The girl inspecting it is Greer Hillhouse, a Willow Glen High School Student.

Photo B Caption: Kilroy ond Others - Old compressor tank near the bottom of Hillsdale mine bears the initials of many a teenage visitor. The mine's dank tunnels were searched recently by sheriff's deputies for two missing boys, who were never there at all. The Hillsdale's tunnels are steep, and its footing is wet and treacherous.

Photo C Caption: Man-Made Cave - This cavern, 30 feet high, was carved by miners out of solid rock in the old Hillsdale mine just off Monterey Highway south of Oak Hill Cemetery. It is the deepest point still dry. Cave is pitch dark, but was lighted with flash equipment for this picture. Note old timber brace against rocks overhead. Coy creature with flashlight is Reporter Bob Crabbe.

Photo D Caption: Lonely Lake - A lake of crystal clear water blocks the way to the lower tunnels of the 110 year-old Hilsdale mine. Water is so transparent that visitors often step in it before they realize it is there. The sailboat used for perspective here is about a foot hight. Ranchers who bought the hill on which the mine is located pipe water from the lake for their cattle.

Photo E Caption: Entrance to the Hillsdale

Photos by Dave Milton.

People Bulmore, Robert
Schneider, Jimmie
Cataloged by Boudreault, Art