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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dock E. Hall, January 7, 1976. Interview H-0271. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Work in a stamp mill

Hall describes work in a stamp mill, where valuable material was extracted from pieces of rock. The work was not hard, Hall remembers, but the mill was very loud.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dock E. Hall, January 7, 1976. Interview H-0271. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
In the stamp mill, what you did there.
DOCK E. HALL:
Oh, I would work for There was a man there that would feed them stamps. First the ore is crushed up with a crusher; and he'd push this (what we called it was ore), them rocks in and them stampers would go up and down on it and beat it all up. Then they had copper plates that would run out of ore, and then they had blankets pulled over that, and it would catch the rest of it. And a lot of times we'd wash (well, not a lot of times, but we'd always) them blankets out, and they'd get all that gold business out of that. You've never seen a handful of gold and stuff like that, you know—it'd be like dust or something. And then they'd scrape it off them plates, copper plates. And they had quicksilver on that, and they'd scrape that all off; that was called an amalgamater, that man that done that.
BRENT GLASS:
There was no automatic belt that brought the ore from the mine into the stamper?
DOCK E. HALL:
Yes, yes.
BRENT GLASS:
It was done automatically?
DOCK E. HALL:
Well, it was run by a motor—not no motor, it was run by steam. And it had a belt to carry that stuff over when it was coming over to this place and put it in the chute, you see. Then he'd come around and he'd shovel that in and put it in the stamps: that's called a stamp feeder.
BRENT GLASS:
Stamp feeder. Did you do a little bit of everything in the stamp mill?
DOCK E. HALL:
No, I was what you might say was a helper in there. They'd have a man, an amalgamater they called him, and he was the man that would scrape all that gold off and quicksilver, altogether. Then they'd take that all and put it together that way. Then they had what we called an house, and they'd take that and burn that quicksilver off and make it out in pigs of gold, you know. Small pieces of gold, we called that pigs. But we didn't see no gold aside from that one. Now, them , like I tell you, sometimes you could throw water up on it and wash it off when you suspect you kind of had like Guinea eggs, you see—sort of like that.
BRENT GLASS:
This is underground?
DOCK E. HALL:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever find a little gold rock or anything and put it in your pocket?
DOCK E. HALL:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they ever check you when you would come out of the mine?
DOCK E. HALL:
No, never thought enough about that; it wouldn't be useful. If you wasn't run through that mill there you'd never know nothing about what it was. We didn't hardly know what kind of ore we was working on; we didn't know 'til we went through the mill. The amalgamater and them would find out.
BRENT GLASS:
How about with the blankets? Did they wash out the blankets?
DOCK E. HALL:
And wash out the blankets. And they'd strain that thing, you know, through strainers, and the gold or quicksilver or anything would catch at it, you know, and pick it up. Anything heavy, you see, and the rest of it would go on over. That's the same way with going across from the stamps across them plates, I was telling you. The water would run over that and the gold that was in it would sink through that quicksilver and pick it up, you see. Then they'd scrape it off and take it altogether (quicksilver and all) to the house, and then burn that off and burn it into pigs for gold.
BRENT GLASS:
Into pigs.
DOCK E. HALL:
That's what we called it.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you ever see any gold in the whole time you were there?
DOCK E. HALL:
Oh yes, I've seen a little of it—when they'd run it out, that is. They didn't show it to many people. It wouldn't do good to be like it is now, nohow, because if they did somebody'd go down and pull a gun on them and take it. [Interruption]
BRENT GLASS:
We were back in the stamp mill. What was it like to work in the stamp mill?
DOCK E. HALL:
Well, it wasn't such hard work, and you wasn't busy all the time. The man that had to run the steam engine, you know… And these stamps would raise up and go back down like that, you know, and you could hear them for ten or twelve miles.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh really?
DOCK E. HALL:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
So what was it like to be in there?
DOCK E. HALL:
You couldn't hardly be a'talking like me and you; we couldn't understand one another, hardly, in there.
BRENT GLASS:
So did you wear earplugs or something?
DOCK E. HALL:
No, didn't have none then.