The Kennedy Gold Mine is named for Andrew Kennedy, an Irish immigrant, who reportedly discovered a quartz outcropping in the late 1850's near what is now Highway 49. The Kennedy Mining Company was formed in 1860 when he and three partners began digging shafts near today's mine property entrance.
Walk up the well-marked trails to get a closer look at the huge tailing wheels erected in 1913 that carried vast amounts of gravels up and over the hills into a settling pond. Only two of the original wheels are still standing, one on each side of Jackson Gate Road. The others lie in ruins, victims of the elements and age. Picnic areas and restrooms are available.
The mine operated sporadically until it closed in 1878. In 1886 fifteen people invested $97,600 to reopen the mine under the corporate entity of the Kennedy Mining and Milling Company. In 1898 the company began sinking a new shaft 1950 feet east of the original shafts. This East Shaft would eventually reach a vertical depth of 5912 feet, the deepest vertical depth gold mine in North America at the time. In 1928 a surface fire burned all the structures except the Mine Office and the Stamp Mill. All other buildings and foundations were built after 1928. The company operated the mine until 1942 when the U.S. Government closed gold mines because of the war effort.
At the time of its closing, the mine had produced some $34.3 million (some dispute this number) when gold was valued at $20.67 and $35.00 per ounce. The company paid its stockholders $5.8 million between 1886 and 1937. Over 95% of these dividends were paid at $20.67 per ounce.
The location of the Argonaut Mine (known originally as the Pioneer Mine) was chosen after a large gold deposit was discovered by two miners, James Hager and William Tudor. In 1893, the Argonaut Mining Company was established. By the time operations ceased, the mine reached a vertical depth of 5,570 feet with a 63-degree shaft.
Overlooking the City of Jackson, the Argonaut Mine is located along State Route 49/88. Nearby Argonaut High School takes its namesake from the mine. The close proximity to the Kennedy Mine often fostered fierce competition between the two companies.
The Argonaut Mine is the site of the largest mining disaster in California history. On August 27, 1922, 48 miners –mostly Italian, Spanish, and Serbian immigrants—were trapped when a massive fire broke out 4,650 feet below ground. The cause of the fire was never determined with any degree of certainty; one hypothesis being arson perpetrated by employees of the Kennedy. Despite the antipathy between the two companies, a heroic rescue effort was launched by the Kennedy Mine, attempting to dig their way to the tunnels where the miners were trapped. There were few survivors.
The mine closed in the autumn of 1942, the same year as the Kennedy’s closing, due to the United States’ involvement in World War II. It produced more than $25 million in gold during operation. Today, the headframe is visible to motorists driving along State Route 49/88.