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Plumas County









Much of the credit for the successful operation of the great Walker mine, in Plumas County, is due Murdock R. McKenzie, who, as superintendent of the mill for the past nine years, has made many important changes and improvements and has shown splendid executive ability. The Walker mine, located about twenty-six miles from Portola, is the largest copper property in California and the development work now under way is intended to make the property one of the most scientifically operated mines in the country. The ore run as high as ten per cent copper and carries values in gold and silver that pay practically all mining and reduction costs. The mill is reducing sixteen hundred tons of ore daily at the present time. Work underway contemplates economical mining and development that will make for greater economies in the future. At present the ore is mined from slopes and raises above the tunnel level and is hauled by electrical trains to the mill at the portal of the tunnel. After passing through the crushing plant the ore is transported to the ball mills, of which there are four. The pulp then goes to the flotation tanks and through an Oliver continuous filter. The values are contained in the resultant fine powder, which is dumped from chutes into tram buckets and sent on its nine-mile journey to Spring Garden, where it is loaded into cars and sent to Utah for smelting. The copper bars are then sent to Connecticut for refining.

The operating tunnel is two miles long and is called the seven-hundred-foot level, with ore extending to the surface. Shafts are being sunk from the tunnel level to the thousand-foot level and good values have been exposed through the entire depth of the shafts. It is the purpose of the management to continue the tunnel from the thousand-foot level a further distance of two miles to the other side of the mountain, to an exit at Ward Creek, in Genesee Valley. When that work is completed another mill will be erected by the Valley end and ore will be dropped to the lower tunnel, thus avoiding the cost of raising ore. When the Genesee objective is obtained, the Walker mine will be unique in that it will be the only mine in the country that will have two reduction plants, one at each end of a development tunnel. The present mill and townsite will not be affected by the new developments.

Murdock R. McKenzie was born in Nova Scotia on October 24, 1872, and is a son of Kenneth and Elizabeth McKenzie. His paternal grandfather, Donald McKenzie, was a ship-builder on the Clyde in Scotland, and his son Kenneth followed in his footsteps and became a shipbuilder. He was also the owner of three ships. He died in Nova Scotia, at the age of eighty-four years, and his wife died at the age of seventy-eight years. They became the parents of ten children, three sons and seven daughters, of whom Murdock R. is the sixth child in order of birth. Murdock R. McKenzie was reared in his native land to the age of eighteen years, and from twelve to eighteen years of age he worked with his father at shipbuilding. After finishing the eighth grade of school work, he did much night studying and general reading, pursuing courses in mechanical engineering and mechanical drafting, after which he became a pupil of Dobe, of Chicago. Going to Great Falls, Montana, he engaged in mill-building work, helping to install the concentrating mill, into which great plant he helped to put the machinery as much as thirty-nine years ago. He also assisted in making other changes and improvements there, and for forty years was so engaged in its mechanical department. From there he went to Anaconda, Montana, where he served as master mechanic for twenty-two years. In 1922 Mr. McKenzie came to the Walker mine for the purpose of improving the machinery in the old mill. Incidentally, he found the climate of this locality milder and more congenial than that of Montana, and, Mrs. McKenzie being in need of a change from the severe winters of the latter state, Mr. McKenzie decided to make the change and establish himself at the Walker mine, where he has remained to the present time. He has been superintendent of the mill continuously since and also helped to plan the new mill, of the operation of which he has also been superintendent. He is without doubt one of the ablest and most efficient mining men in the country and his work here stands out as of vital importance in the success of the Walker interests. He has made many improvements in both machinery and methods, until today this great mill is the last word in efficiency.

In 1894, at Great Falls, Montana, Mr. McKenzie was united in marriage to Miss Phoebe Brown, who is a native of Ontario, Canada, and to them have been born three children. Dr. Wilbert L., who was a veteran of the World War, died at Pocatello, Idaho, at the age of twenty-six years, from injuries sustained by being run over by his own automobile. He was married, but left no children. Grace is the wife of Frank W. McKenzie, a prominent newspaperman of Anaconda, Montana. Milton Murdock is an electrician and radioman in the United States Navy, being now stationed at San Diego, this state.

Mr. McKenzie is a member of Quincy Lodge, F. & A. M., and Sacramento Consistory, A. A.S. R., thirty-second degree, at Sacramento. He has shown a proper interest in local public affairs and has served for eight years as a member of the school board. He is a Republican in his political views and is a man of sterling personal qualities. He is a member of the National Geographic Society, and is a close reader of the leading technological magazines and periodicals bearing on his line of work. He is very popular throughout this locality, as is Mrs. McKenzie, who enjoys good health in this place and has become a leader in the religious and social life of the community, being a superintendent in the Sunday school for eight years and very active in community work.


Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 3 Pages 357-359. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.

2010 Gerald Iaquinta.



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