Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tracing and trailing the Galenas

The Latin word galena has its root in the Greek word galene for lead ore. In English, galena refers to lead sulfide (PbS), a bluish-gray to lead-gray mineral with brilliant metallic luster [1,2]. Galena is also known as blue lead or lead glance—and for some people Galena is just home. There is a Galena region in Western Australia, Galena Bay in British Columbia, Canada, and in the United States there are Galena-named towns, suburbs and places [3].

Nevada, for example, has two Galenas: one near Battle Mountain and one south of Reno (look out for the white letter G on a slope of the Steamboat Hills). The city of Reno also has a Galena High School. I am not sure, if every Galena town traces its name back to the lead sulfide mineral, but Galena near Reno does, although not in a glorious way: lead sulfide is part of the massive sulfide bodies and other by-products of gold- and silver-bearing quartz, diminishing its value by marginalizing the content of the precious metals and challenging their successful extraction. The mining operation at Galena was non-paying, as a State Historical Marker across the Lower Galena Creek Trailhead next to the Callahan Park explains:
Galena...was developed in 1860 as a mining property by R.S. and Andrew Hatch. The Hatch Brothers' quartz mill and smelter were among the earliest erected on this side of the Sierras [east of California]. The gold float from the local mines contained a heavy admixture of lead sulphide. “Galena,” which caused the mining operations to be non-paying. But the mills continued to operate...

Highlighting was done by the posting author. Notice the spelling sulphide, sometimes used instead of sulfide. The marker further informs that Galena developed into an important lumbering center and that the town boasted stores, lodging houses, a justice court, a school, saloons and homes, but was abandoned after two disasterous fires in 1865 and 1867. Today, Galena boasts castle-style homes, a golf course landscape and the bridge-rich Galena Creek Trail.

Keywords: etymology, geography, mineralogy, history, metal sulfides

References and more
[1] Galena []
[2] Dictionary of Geology & Mineralogy. Second Edition McGrawHill, New York, 2003.
[3] Galena Historical Society: History Highlights, Galena Facts [].

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