Pluck and perseverance were the most notable characteristics of the men who made vast fortunes from gold in California. This was especially true in quartz mining, which required a tremendous amount of time, effort and capital to realize a profit. And one of the best examples of this is the career of Alvinza Hayward who went on to hold significant interests in a number of gold mines, the Comstock Lode, timber, coal, railroads, and was an investor in the San Francisco City Gas Company as well as a director of the Bank of California.
But in 1850 when Hayward first got to the gold country he soon found himself driving an ox team that hauled logs from the pine forests near Volcano down to Wooster’s sawmill. He managed to acquire a quartz prospect about ten miles away near Sutter Creek and, convinced of the value of the underground lode he would find, he set to work sinking shafts, erecting mining machinery and searching for a vein loaded with gold. But the ore he found was of such poor quality that his funds were eventually exhausted. Still, he firmly believed he would find wealth soon, so he begged, borrowed and scraped together every dollar he could and sank it into his mine.
Years went by but he still couldn’t find that elusive gold vein he knew must be there. He got so cash strapped that he couldn’t even buy a pickax. Unable to pay his employees they left him—all save two men who shared his optimism and together the three of them worked on until they were spent of body and mind, and just as Hayward was at the lowest possible point of despair and ready at last to give up, they broke through to a glittering vein of glorious gold that instantly made all his suffering worthwhile. In only a short time Hayward’s income came to $50,000 a month and he was worth millions of dollars.
But Hayward, like so many others in the gold country, was a generous man and he rewarded amply those who had stuck by him in hard times. One of these men was A. N. Coleman, a storeowner from Amador who had given Hayward vital provisions on credit all during his struggle. Hayward invited Coleman to join him as a partner in a San Francisco business that Hayward funded to the tune of $200,000 and then let Coleman run while he spent his energy on the San Francisco real estate market and the mining exchange where his investments did exceedingly well. Coleman watched his partners successes and, perhaps driven by jealously, tried his hand at the same type of investments. But Coleman didn’t have Hayward’s money or his skill and lost not only his own money but also almost the exact amount of the funds Hayward had invested in their partnership. Coleman was forced to retire while Hayward had to make good the debts. It was just another set back like many others Hayward had in his long career, but he managed to overcome each one of them and died a wealthy man.
John Putnam is the author of Hangtown Creek, a thrilling saga of the early California gold rush.