Sunday, July 27, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0110 - Frisco Ghost Town - Beaver County, Utah

In September of 1875 two prospectors discovered a rich outcropping of silver in the San Francisco Mining District of Utah and immediately filed a claim. However, fearing that the silver deposit was not very large, the prospectors decided to sell the claim rather than work it themselves. Bad decision!

In 1879 the United States Annual Mining Review and Stock Ledger stated that the Silver Horn Mine, the claim that the two prospectors discovered and then sold, was “the richest silver mine in the world now being worked.” Before the mine closed, it produced over $20.2 million in silver.

Soon after mining started at the Silver Horn, the town of Frisco was established nearby and was named after the mountain range where the mine was located. Other mines were soon opened in the nearby area and by 1877 Frisco contained a smelter that included five beehive charcoal kilns, a post office, commercial center, and the terminus of the Utah Southern Railroad, which had been extended from Milford located 15 miles to the east.

Because there was no source of water in Frisco, the miners said that it was cheaper to drink whiskey than water. Consequently there were soon 23 saloons in town along with various gambling dens and brothels. Frisco soon gained the reputation as the most lawless of any mining camp in the San Francisco Mining District. One writer described Frisco as “Dodge City, Tombstone, Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one.” Murders were so frequent that the town officials contracted to have a wagon pick up the dead bodies each morning and deliver them to boot hill.

Eventually a lawman from Nevada was hired to clean up the town. When the lawman arrived in Frisco, the town council told him that they would build him a new jail to house prisoners, but he told them that wouldn’t be necessary because he only gave the lawless element two options – get out of town or get shot. He reportedly shot six people the first night and then had no other problems.

Unlike most ghost towns in the west, the end to Frisco came suddenly. On the morning of February 12, 1885, the day shift was told not to go into the mine because there were some small tremors shaking the ground. Soon after the night shift exited the mine, the entire mine collapsed. The collapse was so great that tremors could be felt in Milford 15 miles away. Fortunately, no one was killed, but the mine closed down after the cave-in and most people moved away.

Although the town stayed open to provide services to other mines in the area, by the 1912 the number of business decreased from about 150 to 12, and by the 1920s Frisco was a ghost town. Over the years there has been various sporadic small-scale mining activities at the site, but nothing like the 6,000 workers that were in Frisco in the late 1870s.

The mine area and some of the Frisco ruins are currently closed to the public, but the charcoal beehive ovens and the remains of various building are located outside of the restricted area. 



We had just started our vacation when someone pried our travel trailer door open by placing a screwdriver between the door and the door frame, disabling the deadbolt lock. This in turn caused the door to spring open, breaking the large glass window on the side of the trailer. Thankfully, we have good USAA insurance!

Friday, July 18, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0109 - Parawan Gap Petroglyphs, Iron County, Utah

Geologist tell us that about 15 million years ago a long, slender section of sedimentary rock sheared from the earth’s crust and was thrust upward, forming the Red Hills north of Cedar City, Utah. At the same time, a stream started flowing through a rock fracture and eventually eroded a gap in the rock slab, known today as “Parawan Gap.” Then, over a thousand years ago, the First Americans started chiseling geometric figures into the stone slabs. The main band of First Americans moved out of the area several hundred years ago and the meanings of the images was lost with time. 

In 1849 the Parley Pratt Expedition discovered the Parawan Gap site and wondered if the geometric figures chiseled in stone had a specific meaning, or if they were just “doodling.” One of the local First Americans that remained in the area explained to the men that “a person does not work for hours and days deeply inscribing figures in solid rock, just to doodle.”

At many petroglyph sites throughout the southwest, the images chiseled in stone are primarily of mountain sheep, lizards, snakes, bear claws, human figures, and random shapes. However, while the images at the Parawan Gap site do contain some animal figures, in general the figures tend to contain more repetitive elements, such as dots and lines.

Of particular interest is the large “V” shaped “Zipper Glyph,” which has been studied extensively and is still not fully understood; but it is know that the image was used as a map and an observational calendar. The angle between the “V” shaped lines fairly accurately represents the angular traverse of the sunsets as observed from the rock through Parawan Gap; and there are approximately 180 tick marks on the lines, which is the approximate number of days between solstices. (The tick marks on the lines also make the image look like a zipper; thus, the name “Zipper Glyph.”)

On the ground to the west, researchers have discovered an entire system of rock cairns that mark the solstice points (and other important observations) relative to the “Zipper Glyph.” Studies of the rock cairn system indicates that the First Americans divided the year into four seasons of about 90 days each. The seasons did not start on the equinoxes and solstices, but started at the cross quarter dates (mid-points between them); i.e., November was the first day of winter, February 5 was the first day of spring, May 8 was the start of summer, and fall started August 8. There are also rock cairns that apparently were used to compensate for a calendar year of slightly more than 360 days.

The rock containing the “Zipper Glyph” is also a map. The “V” is superimposed over a map that has been chiseled into the rock of the horizon to the west, so that users of the calendar could be certain of where they were at on the calendar by checking the position of the sunset relative to the map.

Explanations provided for the other marks on the "calendar" were beyond my attention span, but apparently the lines and the bulb at the bottom of the "V" were used for corrections when using lunar months. There are twelve and a third lunar months per year; thus, various correction lines were required so that the calendar could be used for both lunar and solar observations.


Friday, July 11, 2014

RonnieAdventure #108 - Maine, 2014 Part V

The Maine Capitol Building in Augusta is currently undergoing a $1.2 renovation to replace the green copper dome, which is to be completed in October 2014. The original copper dome was installed in 1909 and is currently pockmarked with hail damage and corrosion, with some holes in the dome as large as a dime. When the renovation is completed, it will take about 35 years for the brown copper to oxidize into a green color once again. Located across the street from the capitol building are a number of beautiful apple trees that were in bloom.

Old Fort Western is located across the river from the State Capitol Building and is the oldest wooden fort in New England. The fort was constructed in 1754 as a fortified storehouse for Fort Halifax during the French & Indian War. Just south of the Fort is the site of the earliest mercantile store in the area. The Cushnoc Trading Post was established in 1628 and the William & Samuel Howard’s Store was constructed in 1767, after the completion of Old Fort Western. Looking back across the river are beautiful views of the city's waterfront. Our timing was great, because throughout the area the lilac bushes were in bloom.

The Castle Tucker home is located at 2 Lee Street in Wiscasset, overlooking the Sheepscot River. The home is open for public tours and docents are available to explain the 150-year history of how one family survived the boom and bust periods of the Maine costal economy. Because the property remained in the Tucker family since 1858, the home contains an extensive collection of original furniture and other artifacts. Many of the original sales receipts for object in the home were found in the attic and are now on display along the tour route.

By 1905 the number of Catholic parishioners in Lewiston had grown so large that approval was given to start construction on a new church building. The basement of the new building was completed in 1906, but then the parish was split and there was insufficient money left to finish the building. In subsequent years, every time the funds needed to finish the building were saved, the parish was split again and half of the savings went to the new parish. Finally, in 1933 enough money was obtained to finish the top part of the building, which was completed in 1936 and dedicated in 1938. The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is the second largest church in New England.

The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village located near New Gloucester is the only remaining active Shaker community in the world. In the entire world there are only three Shakers still living (the Shakers practice celibacy); so in 2007 the Shakers partnered with the Trust for Public Land, Maine Preservation, Royal River conservation Trust, and the New England Forestry Foundation to place the Shaker property into a Preservation Trust. The Shaker Village’s buildings and property are now forever protected from future development in the area or from any inappropriate use. It was interesting to tour the facilities and learn about the Shakers.

No trip to Maine would be complete without a stop in Freeport at the world headquarters for L.L. Bean, Inc. In 1912 Leon Leonwood Bean founded the company and it is still a privately held, family-owned business; thus, they release very little financial and operating information. The only thing that I could find out is that the company has about 5,000 full-time employees, and about the same number of additional seasonal employees. Annual sales are about $1.52 billion, and they did not want to adopt me as one of their children.

To say that L.L. Bean is located in Freeport is a little misleading, because when you visit the area, it seems like Freeport is located in L.L. Bean. The 200,000 square-foot flagship store is open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, and contains a restaurant, trout pond, 3,500-gallon freshwater aquarium, and part of a streambed. Over 3 million people a year visit this store. Adjacent to the flagship store is the L.L. Bean Hunting & Fishing Store, then next door is the L.L. Bean Bike, Boat & Ski Store, and across the street is the 33,000 square-foot L.L. Bean Home Store. But that's not all! For those on a budget, the L.L. Bean Outlet Store is located in Freeport Village Station, and if you need some adventure in your life, you can sign up for a L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery School course. Needless to say, we didn't make it through all of the stores, but we did eat at the L.L. Bean 1912 CafĂ©.
Kennebunkport has a reputation as a summer haven for the upper class and is one of the wealthiest communities in the State of Maine. Kennebunkport is also the summer home of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. The house was originally built by President Bush’s maternal Grandfather George Herbert Walker, and has always been under family ownership. We did not get to see the Bush home; however, we did get to see the First Families Kennebunkport Museum. 
In 1874 Congress approved $15,000 to construct a lighthouse on Nubble Island (located  just off Cape Neddick Point) to warn sailors of the rocky shoreline. The Cape Neddick Lighthouse was constructed in 1879 and quickly gained the nickname “The Nubble,” or “Nubble Light.” The lighthouse is still in use today and it is one of the last eight lighthouses in Maine to still have its original Fresnel lens. “The Nubble” is the most famous lighthouse in the Universe because the Voyager spacecraft, which carries pictures of prominent manmade structures on Earth, includes a photograph of the “The Nubble,” along with photographs of the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, etc.

Fort McClary started as a private enterprise in 1689 when local shipbuilder William Pepperell acquired Kittery Point at the mouth of the Piscataqua River and erected a crude defense works to protect his business. However, in 1715 the Massachusetts Bay Colony recognized the site’s strategic position and voted to erect a permanent defense structure on the site with six canons to protect the Portsmouth harbor and the U.S. Naval shipyard.
In 1808 an official fort was constructed on the site and named for Major Andrew McClary, an officer killed in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. Then, the current blockhouse was constructed in 1844. During the Civil War, US Vice President Hannibal Hamlin enlisted in the Maine Coast Guard and served in the fort as a cook. The fort was decommissioned in 1918 and the State acquired the property for a park in 1924.

The entire time that I was in Maine I kept looking for a moose, as they were reported to be everywhere in Maine. Several times while looking for a moose I about ran off the road or had a wreck while driving and looking in the marshy areas along the highway. I saw deer, but no moose! I had just about given up on seeing a moose in Maine when I stopped at a little candy store to buy an ice cream cone, and there was Lenny -- A 1,700 pound chocolate moose! He was even surrounded by some little chocolate bear cubs, so, I did get to see a moose and bear before I left Maine!