There was a time when the foothills of California bustled with activity.The lure of gold, copper and other treasures sent men into the earth in droves, so that it often seemed there was more activity under the ground than at the surface.
Tools and machinery were needed to make the mining possible. Stamp mills, hoist works, pumps, ore cars, dredger buckets, rock crushers, and many other types of equipment had to be manufactured. If the mines were to operate, so must a foundry to cast the metal parts and a shop to machine them to final form. And this is where our story begins.
Historic Knight Foundry, in Sutter Creek California, is believed to be the only remaining water powered foundry and machine shop in the United States. Originally formed as Campbell, Hall & Co., the foundry was established in 1873 to better fill the ever growing needs of the Mother Lode mines, and to produce the patented Knight water wheel. Samuel Knight, a partner with Campbell and Hall at the beginning of their foundry venture, later bought them out with his new partner George Horne. Knight, a ship's carpenter, had worked at mine construction sites in Calaveras and Amador counties, where he had begun to develop a more efficient water wheel.
About 1866, Mr. Knight, in common with others, made water wheels entirely out of wood The buckets were shaped likesaw teeth, and wooden flanges covered the sides of the bucket to confine the water; a round nozzle was used and the general results were considered at the time highly satisfactory.
"The next step (1868) was to make a wooden water wheel with iron buckets, giving them a curve and discharging the water toward the center of the wheel, still using a round nozzle."
Old photos of Knight Foundry
Information, photographs courtesy of the Amador County Archives, The Historical Marker Database, the Chronicling America Database, and the Library of Congress