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Meade County Historical Society Tour -- Spring 2008

The Silica Mines of Meade County 

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. 2008 Meade County History Tour

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 them. 

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! Volcanic Ash vein in old Meade County

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 those days. 

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.  

 

 
Cudahy mine examining the remains of the buildings.   Cudahy
 
Cudahy   Cudahy
 
North Midland mine   North Midland mine
 
North Midland mine   North Midland mine
 
South Midland mine   South Midland mine
 
South Midland mine   Fowler mine
 

The Fowler mine above and above right.

Right: some of the interesting artifacts gathered on the tour.

 

 

 

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