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California \ Dairy Farm Mining Co.

Dairy Farm Mining Company.

Copper deposits were located on the property of Alice and L. B. Hinman. In January 1903 the Dairy Farm Mining Company was incorporated in San Francisco. The most productive new settlements were located in the Gardner District near Bear River east of Sheridan in an area that later became known as Thermalands. The communities of Van Trent, Wilsonville and Superior were developed along what became known as the Sierra foothill copper belt.

The foothill vein was discovered to be eight feet in width and was mined at depths of more than 65 feet. There also were a number of productive mines in what was known as the Auburn District, and the counties leading citizens jumped to invest in them. Some of the investors quick to put up money were Joseph Walkup, who later would become lieutenant governor of California; Tapp Mitchell, editor of the Placer Herald; and John Boggs, a legendary local sheriff.

Wagon teams hauled the copper concentrates down to Sheridan, 5.5 miles away. There the concentrates were loaded onto cars of the Southern Pacific for shipment to be processed. In 1905 the Dupont Company purchased an interest in the company. Around this time a railroad named the Lincoln Northern was proposed to be built from the town of Lincoln to the mine. These plans fell through and it never made it beyond the planning stage.

Around the mine a town developed called Vantrent. The town grew to 40-50 structures and a postal route from Lincoln was established in 1913.

In 1913 the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) purchased the mine which had been sitting idle since 1906. In May 1914 ore was delivered to the ASARCO refinery at Selby in Contra Costa County. Increased activity at the mine lead to the construction of a railroad to move ore down to Sheridan. On July 25, 1914 a contract was let to the Utah Construction Company to build the line from Sheridan to Vantrent.

The railroad was built on a 30-foot-wide right of way from a new station point on the Southern Pacific named Jester. Jester was named after Lewis A. Jester who owned the land where the ore transfer facility was built. Narrow gauge track was elevated along the standard gauge spur.

Two Vulcan 0-4-0T locomotives, owned by Contractor Erickson & Peterson Construction Company. Numbered 23 and 24. The locomotives had been used in the double tracking of Southern Pacific’s Donner Pass mainline, near Newcastle. The first construction train reached Vantrent on November 29, 1914. The completed route was roughly 85 miles from Vantrent to Jester.

The Van Trent Mining Company was incorporated on February 24, 1915 to lease and operate the Diary Farm Mine for ASARCO. M.A. Newman became the manager of operations. Fletcher Hamiliton, state Mineralologist was one of the directors of the new company.

The mine produced 300 – 350 tons of copper ore per day during 1915. The only producing copper mine that year. In April of that year ASARCO purchased a brand new 30-ton Shay locomotive from the Lima Locomotive Works. The locomotive arrived in Sheridan that May. After the arrival of the Shay, the Vulcan locomotives were stored.

In September 1917 the mine shut down citing lack of standard gauge cars available to move the ore. The mining equipment was sold in January 1918 to Guy Green of the Western Placer Bank in Lincoln, and R. Peddler of Rio Vista. This equipment consisted of “two locomotives and eight or ten flat cars”. The Shay locomotive was sold to the Pittsburg-Mt. Shasta Mining Co. and shipped to Keswick, Ca. What remained at Jester, including a pile of unshipped ore remained through the 1920s. Today the site remains marred by the remains of the ore.

Revised: March 11, 2019.
Spohr, David. "Narrow Gauge to Van Trent", The Western Railroader, (1992).
Wilson, Bill. “Copper Mining in Placer County” Auburn Sentinel, 1992.

California \ Dairy Farm Mining Co.
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