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Photo of Lester Pelton's Turbine in Nevada City and Grass Valley, in the Gold Country of Northern California

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Lotta Crabtree ... Lester Pelton ... Lyman Gilmore ... Nellie Chapman ... Sarah Davis
Lester Pelton

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 books.

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.

Photo of Lester Pelton's Turbine in Nevada City and Grass Valley, in the Gold Country of Northern California
Nellie Chapman

Nellie Elizabeth 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 patients.
Nellie was also a very talented writer and composer. She would often read her poetry at the Elks Lodge in Nevada City.
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.

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