History of our 20-stamp Mill

This stamp mill, used to extract gold and silver from ore, was built in 1914 and originally used in Bland, New Mexico. Bland was located at the bottom of a canyon approximately 60 feet wide, part of the Cochiti Mining District, Sandoval County, New Mexico, approximately 8 miles southwest of the Los Alamos National Labs and 1½ hours north of Albuquerque, in the Jemez National Forest.

Gold discovered in Bland

Uncle Joe Lode Plat - Cossak Mill Site in Bland, NM

Uncle Joe Lode Plat, Cossak Mill Site, Bland, NM

A German prospector discovered deposits of gold and silver in the early 1890’s in the area and the rush was on. The town was originally called Eagle City and later re-named for either Richard Parks Bland, a Missouri senator who fought the demonetization of silver earning him national fame, the choice also perhaps influenced by a local family of saloon keepers named Bland. A post office was established in 1894. Population of the town of Bland in the 1890’s reached nearly 3,000. The town consisted of more than 50 buildings including a dozen saloons, a red light district, four sawmills, two banks, a school, an opera house and 4 ore stamp mills. Some of the structures were built into the sides of the canyon. Mining was most active between 1894 and 1916.

At that time, gold was $18 to $19 an ounce. An ore cart holds roughly one ton of quartz ore. Poor management resulted in few profits.

Cossak Mining Company

Cossak Mining Co. operated the mining efforts in the area from 1914-1916 and built this four-bank stamp mill into a 35-foot-high building on the side of a canyon wall. The mills were gravity fed. From 1914 to 1916 about 33,000 tons of gold were mined and milled at the Bland site.

Decline of the Cochiti District

Cochiti Gold Mine Company - posing outside the Bland NM site

The decline and fall of the Cochiti District was due to several factors, among them the low grade of ore; the decline in width veins; high transportation costs, and mismanagement. In 1938, the town and several mining claims were purchased by Thomas and Effie Jenks. He was a mining engineer and she was the head Harvey Girl at historic old La Fonda on the Santa Fe Plaza. His intention was to start up a gold mining operation again in Bland, but he died before his dream could come to fruition.

In 1965, Effie retired and moved to Bland where she elected herself mayor of the ghost town where she lived until her death in 1983.

Donation of the Mill

Mill Building (center left), Bland New MexicoIn 1988, Joe and Vickie Jones owned the land upon which the 20-stamp mill was located and they donated the entire 1800’s mining operation to the Superstition Mountain Historical Society.

Initial Survey & Reconnaissance

Aerial Photo of Bland NM SiteMuseum board member Ed Siefert flew museum chairman Clay Worst and Larry Hedrick to New Mexico in his private plane to check out the site. Deep in a beautiful canyon at about 8000 feet, the group stood in awe as the historical significance of this donation began to sink in. An entire functional 20 stamp mill in four banks, standing 21 feet high, riveted their attention.

Original Cossak Mill Building, Bland NM

The mill was located in a building about 85 feet by 60 feet in area, and 35 feet tall. The mill was built by F.M. Davis Ironworks of Denver. It was belt-driven from a jackshaft by steam power. The mills were gravity-fed. Ore dumped from wooden hoppers passed through a 16 inch jaw crusher into the holding bins. The ore then moved into four feeders that supplied the stamps.

Cyanine Process (outside of the tank building), Bland NM Site

The discharge from the stamp mills was then pumped into several circular above-ground steel cyanide tanks, 15 feet tall by 28 feet in diameter. Here, gear-driven paddles agitated the cyanide-mixed solution and pumped it to a bullion house.

Bullion Room, Bland NM Site

The bullion house still contained many old hand tools, zinc precip boxes, a tilt-pour furnace, ingot moulds, drill steel, and a number of old mule ore-packs used with sawbuck pack saddles. In addition, some ore cars, trucks and many items too numerous to mention were made available to SMHS.

Salvaging the Mill

1 of 5 Flatbed Trailers of Mill Artifacts

The salvage job began in August, 1989. It took five men, 28 working days, and five 1000 mile round trips from Bland to Apache Junction to move the 20-stamp Mill.

* For more details, refer to Salvage and Rescue of the 20-stamp Mill.

In 2011, the Las Conchas forest fire devasted the Bland area and burned to the ground what was left of the town and mill. This may be the only stamp ore mill preserved from New Mexico, and is for certain the last surviving remnant of the boomtown of Bland.

Goldfield site

Some people might think that the 20-stamp Mill came from the Goldfield mines down the highway near the current location of the museum. There is a little truth to that, but there is more to the history of the 20-stamp Mill. When the mill was first transported to Apache Junction, the mill was first erected at Goldfield Ghost Town, and it stood there for 13 years (1990 to 2003).

Reconstruction at the Museum

When the new museum was built, the 20-stamp Mill was moved from Goldfield Ghost Town to the present museum site where it stands today. The Questors donated $5000 to help defray the cost of reconstructing the stamp mill on the museum property. Hank Brown’s bob-tailed boom truck did the lion’s share of the loading. After making repairs, it was erected on the museum grounds using the booms on two trucks.

Mortar Boxes Installed at the Superstition Mountain Museum Site in Apache Junction, Arizona

The mill sits on four base supports. Each support was made using about 1½ yards of 3500-pound test concrete. It is a sturdy structure. Parts of the mill were scrapped during WWII and new parts were remanufactured to restore it to its original working order.

Next: Salvage & Rescue – of the 20-stamp Mill

20-stamp Mill: | History | Salvage & Rescue | Restoration | Acknowledgements | Stamp Mills