EVHS presents ‘Bartow’s Tunnel Mining Age’ Tuesday

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Bartow’s golden era of tunnel mining will step into the limelight during the Etowah Valley Historical Society’s lecture Tuesday.

“Tunnel or shaft mining was indeed the beginning of the golden age of Bartow County mining history,” EVHS Vice President Joe Head said. “This program will re-introduce a century of mining that has long been forgotten. Requests from the community often ask for a mining or iron furnace program from time to time. When possible, we try to offer fresh history content that has not been previously presented.

“Additionally, college interns who have worked on some of our EVHS digital mining map projects also asked if tunnels were ever used in our past. EVHS realized that current generations of today only have a vision of large mounds of red dirt, open pits, abandoned holes and giant drag lines as a mining reference. The public has little or no memory of how mining in Bartow emerged and that pit mining was not how it was always done.”

Starting with a reception at 6 p.m., the "Bartow’s Tunnel Mining Age" lecture will follow at 6:30 p.m. at Komatsu, 100 Komatsu Drive in Cartersville.

“Most people of today think that mining has always been conducted by surface or open pit ore extraction,” Head said. “However, mining actually began by discovering ores that were naturally exposed on the surface and then extracted literally by hand digging with pick and shovel by following a vein or ore field layer.

“We typically associate tunnel mining with romantic Western gold mines, Kentucky coal mines or mining quarries in the states of Colorado, Montana and Nevada. However, tunnel mining first existed in the north Georgia mountains and caves, but was overtaken by modern heavy equipment in the early 1930s.” 

Along with Head, the "Bartow’s Tunnel Mining Age" presentation will be delivered by Stan Bearden. Noting the tunnels have been confidential and not widely exposed, Head shared details about their existence is a recently new development.

“Without question, Stan Bearden is our local ‘go to’ authority on the geology of mining,” Head said. “He is a career employee of over 30 years at New Riverside Ochre and an expert on mining in Bartow County. Stan knows where the restricted tunnel mines once existed, and he has a vast knowledge of how the ‘old-timers’ worked the tunnel mines.

“The program will reveal selected regions in Bartow where tunnel mines once existed. Mr. Bearden will explain how pioneers discovered ores and the methods used to construct tunnels to reach ore deposits. Additionally, a number of fatal tunnel mining tragedies will be discussed and how these catastrophes happened.”

He continued, “This program is intended to introduce fresh information about Bartow mining history that has not been presented before. We hope this program will provide attendees a deeper knowledge of Bartow mining heritage that has long since disappeared. As a result, we think attendees will gain a wider appreciation of a forgotten past and learn a more complete history of the county’s mining story.”

Open and free to the public, the program is posted on online at evhsonline.org.

According to the EVHS website, “The Etowah Valley Historical Society Inc. was founded in 1972 by concerned owners of historical properties in Bartow County. From a membership of 24, primarily interested in preserving the Etowah River Valley region of this county, the society has evolved into an organization of over 600 people dedicated to the promotion of historic education and preservation throughout Bartow County.

“Today the Etowah Valley Historical Society … celebrates the heritage of our unique area — ancient history and Civil War battlefields, coexisting with Victorian architecture, nestled in the richness of Georgia’s mountains and streams. Our major objective is to promote and enhance the education, awareness and preservation of the heritage and traditions of Bartow County.”