Lester Pelton was an
inventor who was born on a farm in Vermillion, Ohio in 1829.
When Lester grew up, he decided to travel by wagon train to
California. He was a quiet person who liked to study and read
At first, he went to
Sacramento and became a fisherman. He was not successful at
fishing so he decided to move to Camptonville in Nevada County
after he heard about a gold discovery along the North Fork of
the Yuba River.
In l860, all types of
mining operations were going on -- placer, hardrock, and
hydraulic. Pelton did not want to be a miner so he decided to
improve mining methods. He watched, studied, and learned about
methods needed to power hydraulic mining.
Hardrock mines also
needed power to lower the men into the mines, bring up the ore
cars, and return the workers to the surface at the end of
their shift. Power was also needed to operate rock crushers,
stamp mills, pumps, and machinery. At the time, the steam
engine was used by many mines for their main power source, but
the hillsides were running out of wood and trees.
In l878, he
experimented with several types of wheels. The wheel was
proven to be the best and most efficient in a competition, so
the Nevada City Foundry began to manufacture the wheels and
shipped them all over the world.
The world's largest
Pelton Wheel is a historical landmark located at the North
Star Mining Museum in Grass Valley. Lester Pelton's invention
was the beginning of the development of hydroelectric power
and is still used throughout the world today.
Pooler Chapman was born in l847 in Maine. She traveled to
Nevada City through the Isthmus of Panama in l854. When
she was 14, she married Dr. C.W. Chapman at the Red Castle
in Nevada City.
Dr. Chapman was a local dentist. Nellie assisted her
husband in his dental office for many years. She later
wanted to become a dentist herself. Her husband believed
that Nellie was qualified and so she started treating
Nellie was also a very talented writer and composer.
She would often read her poetry at the Elks Lodge in
Nellie Pooler Chapman became one of the first woman
dentists in the western United States.
Today, her dental tools are displayed at the
University of California. Her great granddaughter, Deborah
Chapman Luckinbill, is a teacher in the Nevada City School
District. Deborah was also married in the Red Castle and
lives in Nellie's historic home near Nevada City.