August 25, 2001, my boy, his friend and I were following Huntington
creek, south of Twin Bridges,
trace the 1846 route of the Donner Party along the Hastings Cutoff
trail. Three miles south of Twin Bridges there is an old
abandoned stone cabin. I took some photographs and began a
Cabin South of Twin Bridges'.
hope was to learn more about the history of this cabin. I have
not verified much, but at the Jiggs, Nevada bar, Harry thought it
might be the old 'Ballanger or Bellinger' ranch. Mr. Zaga, Harry
and the museum's archive gang all also mentioned the old 'Soap Mines'
near this cabin. I missed this on my first trip to the
area. Embarrassingly so, since I'm supposed to know stuff like
this. Nobody knew if the cabin had any relation to the mines or
not. The quest continues
September 2, 2001, my boy and I returned to the area to visit the 'Soap
Mines'. That's the subject of this page. They are
cool! Figuratively, historically and literally! I do not
advise going in them, though. They have been abandoned a long
time. The rock is weathered and the ground stability is
questionable. The timbers are rotting. Strike three - I'm
mineral mined at the "Soap Mines" was 'montmorillonite' a
white, pure, mostly sodium silica clay (see formula below). This clay is also known as
bentonite and fuller's earth. The first miners may well have
been the Indians. The first recorded miner's that I could find
at this locality were the emigrants headed west
on the Hastings Cutoff trail (Moorman,
1860 - see links).
They mined it for its soap properties to wash their clothes. Someone later dug some
fairly substantial tunnels in the hillside to mine the clay. A
future courthouse trip to the recorders office may answer the
who. But in 1940, when the C.C.C. camp was located in Twin
Bridges, this locality was already a long abandoned mine.