Jared Sheldon and William Daylor worked a 20,000-acre land grant near Deer Creek Slough and the Consumnes River together. When they heard the incredible stories of the gold discoveries nearby they set out with a neighbor, Perry McCoon, and a number of Indian workers. At first they mined along Weber Creek but after one of their men reported seeing gold along a small steam not far away, they moved their operation.
When Colonel Mason visited July 7, 1848 he saw men working both the steam bed and the ravines that ran into it. From one of these gullies $17,000 worth of gold had been mined in a week. $12,000 had been taken out of another and Mason reported that there were more yet to be mined.
That summer this became the hottest spot in the gold country. But, because the ravines carried no water, the ore had to be carried to the stream in order to pan the gold and the area became known as the Old Dry Diggin’s. Men would often work with only a knife and a crowbar, prying nuggets from fissures in the exposed rock. At first miners found 10 to 20 ounces of gold a day—quite a sum at $16 an ounce. But as more men came, and the summer drought dried the stream, the daily take averaged less than four ounces.
By winter a city of tents, shacks, and 50 log cabins had been built near the stream. Stores saloons, and restaurants soon followed, but as more men arrived the robberies and murders grew. Criminals were dealt with quickly, and the Old Dry Diggin’s earned the name of Hangtown. Today we know it as Placerville.