Clayton’s Karen Terhune and Traci Parent, a supervising naturalist at the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve in Antioch, recently celebrated the release of their book. “Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve” is one of the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing.
Drawing from a large collection of photographs, the duo assembled a pictorial history to bring attention to the history of the mines as well as raise money for the preservation and restoration of the Rose Hill Cemetery.
“Traci’s been interested in doing this for a number of years,” said Terhune. “It was something that was always being requested by descendents and people coming to the park.”
From the 1860s to the turn of the century, the Mount Diablo Coal Field was the largest producing coal field in California. At its height, the field produced the towns of Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville – which held the largest populations in the county. Three railroads serviced the area, further cementing the towns as a focal point for growth.
Prior to the advent of the railroads, coal had to be loaded into sacks and hauled by wagon teams, a costly and inefficient process. In 1868, a standard gauge line began to transport coal to the New York Landing in what is now Pittsburg. The Pittsburg Railroad, which started in 1866, had to travel a 300-foot tunnel and eight trestles including one span of 340 feet.
With the decline in coal production, many residents turned
to ranching and sand mining. The East Bay Regional Park District acquired the land in 1973, turning it into a historical preserve open to the public. With miles of trails and a historic cemetery, the preserve is a popular attraction for area visitors.
Terhune’s involvement working as a volunteer at the park brought her into contact with Parent and the two fell into
a collaborative arrangement cemented by an interest from Arcadia Publishing.
“The challenge was finding photographs,” Terhune said. “The park has a very large archive collection. We scanned over 500 images, even though we used 208 or so in the book itself.”
The process took almost a year, with various diversions through genealogical research and with added park history from a variety of sources.
“Trying to get it organized and edited so that it was the story of the coal field was the challenge,” Terhune said, pointing out that the Arcadia books have a strict word count so they had to choose descriptions with care.
“An archaeological dig performed by UC Berkeley in the late
1970s produced thousands of artifacts,” Parent noted.
Accuracy was another motivation. As is often the case, misidentified images often require verification and, in some cases, correction.
“Joel Clayton was a miner at the coal field at one point,” Parent said, noting the mine’s close relationship to Clayton. “And Clayton’s well known Mrs. Gomez would bring tamales to the miners,” she added.
Parent began her career in 1977 as an intern at the preserve. In her current role, she is responsible for maintaining historic artifacts, oral histories and documentation.
“We’re donating our royalties to the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve,” Terhune said.
The money will go toward the ongoing restoration of the
tombstones at the Rose Hill Cemetery. “It’s amazing what they are doing in restoring it,” Terhune added. The book, released March 2, has received positive reviews – especially among history buffs and descendents of the coal field. “A lot of the descendents are so happy to see it,” Terhune said.
Clayton Books will be hosting a book signing at 3 p.m. May 24, and the pair will also appear at the Clayton Historical Day on May 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Clayton Books is located in the Clayton Station Shopping Center.
The book is available through Arcadia Publishers. Local retailers and online book stores. For additional information visit www.arcadiapublishing.com and enter the book title, or visit www. ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond.