Meade County Historical
Society Tour -- Spring 2008
The Silica Mines of Meade
April 26, 2008
The morning was bright
but cool as we gathered at the Meade City Park to start tour
of the old Meade County silica mines. Most of us have heard
stories about these mines, or at least mention of them, all
our lives, and this was our chance to explore them for
ourselves. As always, the participants were ready to go and
eager to learn.
Brian Hantla is the
great nephew of Albert Hantla who managed several of the
Meade County mines operated by the Midland Company in the
1930’s and 40’s. Brian came all the way from Pennsylvania to
help with this tour. His interest had been sparked when he
found Nancy Ohnick’s story about the mines on
www.oldmeadecounty.com. Nancy’s interest was sparked when
she found out her father, Robert Feldman, worked in the
mines as a young man and she could not find a history of
To start the tour, Brian
gave an interesting talk on the volcanic ash that made up
the pits that were mined in our county. We learned that ours
is not actually “silica” as it has been termed all these
years, but volcanic ash. We have vast deposits of it in our
county that came from three sources. Two were named
“Pearlette” and “Borchers Ash” ranging from .6 to 2 million
years old, erupting from volcanoes in Yellowstone Park and
Wyoming. The third is “Upper Borchers Ash” about 1.2 million
years old erupting from Bishop, California and New Mexico.
||The remains of some sacks
used to sack the ash was discovered in the
rubble at the Cudahy mine.
From the park we headed
north from to the Cudahy mine near the intersection of
Highways 23 and 96. This was the biggest and most well-known
mine in the county. Here we found remains of some of the old
buildings, walked along the railroad bed that used to hold a
spur track from Fowler, and climbed all over the mounds and
pits formed by the mining operation. Rock collectors found
many interesting samples to take home for souvenirs.
We next visited two
different Midland mines that were managed by Albert Hantla.
These are quite small compared to the Cudahy operation, but
interesting all the same. By this time the wind had kicked
up and we all got a taste of what it must have been like to
work with the volcanic ash!
On the way back to
Meade, we pulled in to Rod Ohnick’s place to look at his
house. This house was one of several that were moved from
the Cudahy location after it closed in the early 1950’s.
That company provided housing for workers on location. Many
of the women on the tour, gritty with volcanic ash,
commented on what it must have been like to keep house in
Back at the park we
enjoyed a wonderful lunch provided by Heart and Home
Catering. Then it was on the road again as we headed south
of Meade to yet another Midland mine. The largest of the
Midland operations, this mine provided a lot of interesting
nooks and crannies to explore.
Most went home to hit
the shower after this stop but a few sturdy souls went on
with us to Fowler to explore a small mine east of town. It
was around three o’clock when we finally broke up… gritty
and wind-blown, but glad we came…. wise in our new-found
knowledge of the Silica Mines of old Meade County.