Harrisville was located in Arroyo Seco Canyon, 6 miles east of Livermore and one mile west of Tesla in Alameda County, California. Coal was discovered here in 1862 by Thomas Harris and Jenkin Richards, who opened the Cambrian mine at the western edge of the district. Three coal seams were mined ranging from 3 feet to 6 feet in thickness. From 1862 to 1907, ten coal mines at Harrisville had produced over 8,000 tons of coal. The coal was transported to Livermore by wagons and sold for $4 to $6 per ton. What wasn't consumed in Livermore was shipped by rail to other cities as far away as Sacramento.

Livermore coal mine
Remnants of the Livermore coal mine, which operated from 1874 to 1876, by Tesla Road.

When the Livermore coal mine opened in 1874, Thomas Harris was the mine superintendent. The Livermore Coal Mining Company established a mining camp for the 100 miners and families on the banks of Arroyo Seco Creek and in Harris Canyon. The camp of mostly Welsh miners was named in honor of Thomas Harris, an experienced coal miner from Wales. The camp consisted of mine offices, coal bunkers, a boardinghouse, Graham Hotel and store, two saloons, blacksmith shop, carpenter's shop, livery stables, family cabins, and Harris School, attended by 30 children. The Fashion Livery Stables in Livermore ran a daily stage to the camp. Several attempts to connect a railroad to Livermore had failed, which in the end spelled doom for the Livermore coal mines when the muddy road prevented them from delivering the coal.

Harrisville townsite
Site of Harrisville mining camp on Tesla Road.

Harrisville boardinghouse site
Site of the boardinghouse, Jenkins' Saloon, and Graham Hotel and Store at Harrisville.

Harris Canyon
Harris Canyon was the site of miner's cabins, Harris School, and a few coal mines.

In 1876, the Summit coal mine was opened by Jenkin Richards. This was a horizontal underground mine that followed the six-foot thick coal seam to the east and west for about 600 feet. The Summit coal seam was the best quality coal in the district and was hard enough to require blasting for its removal. An estimated 220,000 tons of coal was in sight. But Richards took out a total of only 1,800 tons, making it the largest coal mine at Harrisville.

Summit mine
Remnants of the Summit coal mine, which operated from 1876 to 1877, was the largest mine at Harrisville.

In the late 1880s, William T. Coleman, who had acquired the Summit coal mine, was just beginning to reopen the closed mine and build a new railroad to the San Joaquin River, when his borax mine at Death Valley and mercantile business in San Francisco had failed. John Treadwell, who was quietly acquiring the coal properties in Corral Hollow, bought the Summit mine and railroad rights from Coleman. Treadwell also purchased the Livermore coal mine and all of the smaller mines at Harrisville. The Harrisville miners were transferred to Treadwell's new coal mine at Tesla. Harrisville then became a suburb of the Tesla mining camp.

Pen Daren mine
Remnants of the Pen Daren coal mine, which operated from 1879 to 1880.

Thomas Harris left to open a coal mine in Orange County, California, where he died in 1900. Jenkin Richards remained at Harrisville and worked as a contract miner at Tesla until his death in 1904. After the Tesla mines shut down in 1911, Harrisville became the focus of clay mining when rich kaolin deposits were found adjacent to the coal beds. Clay mining by the Livermore Clay and Sand Company and others continued into the late 1920s, when local brick manufacturers were accepting their clay. Like at Tesla, mining was eventually replaced by cattle ranching and the mines fell into disrepair.

Clay mine
Remnants of the Livermore Clay and Sand Mining Company quarry from the 1920s.

Clay adit
Clay adit that was still open on the north side of Tesla Road as late as the 1970s.

Information for this web page comes from my book Harrisville and the Livermore Coal Mines, first edition of which is long out-of-print. Check for used copies that may be available for sale in used bookstores. Copies may periodically be available on Amazon.com (see link below). A digital-only second edition of this book is in the works and plans to be available in the near future.


Mosier, Dan L., Harrisville and the Livermore Coal Mines, Mines Road Books, San Leandro, CA, 1978.

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Contact Dan L. Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.

Copyright 2014 Dan L. Mosier

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