Written by Roger Mitchell, Historian & Librarian at the Fresno Flats Historic Park, Museum, & Research Library
This month’s History Mystery is about an arrastra, a primitive type of quartz mill, about a mile east of Highway 41, just off Thornberry Road (Road 420). Here on the top of a ridge which separates the watersheds of Coarsegold Creek on the south, and the Fresno River to the north, somebody once went to the trouble to build an arrastra. The lack of wear on the floor and the drag-stones suggests it was never used.
Arrastras were commonly used 150 years ago to crush quartz so that the gold could be extracted. The mysteries involved in this particular one include: Who built it? When was it built? What powered it, and why was it never used? The low roof suggests this was mechanically powered, and not by a mule or a burro walking around an endless circular track while pulling the drag stones.
These same questions must have also occurred to former Sierra Star Editor Jack Gyer more than 50 years ago. Jack took a Polaroid photo of the arrastra which appeared in the November 16, 1961 issue of the Sierra Star. At that time Gyer asked readers to contact him if anyone had any knowledge of it. A search of subsequent issues of the Star revealed nothing more, so I assume there was no response. Now, some 52 years later, the question is again raised: is there anyone out there with any information about this arrastra?
The historic village and grounds of Fresno Flats are open from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours. A brochure is available at the entrance kiosk. The museum and guided tours of the buildings are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Fresno Flats goes dark during the months of January and February so that we can change exhibits and work on the grounds. Your family or group may schedule a tour or reserve the park at anytime during the year by calling (559) 683-6570.