James Carson and the Morgan Mine

James H. Carson, a sergeant in Colonel Stevenson’s Regiment of First New York Volunteers, first made his way to Weber Creek near Placerville and then prospected south with the Angel and Murphy brothers until, in August 1848, he came to a creek just north of the Stanislaus River and near where Robinson’s Ferry would soon be, and there found a lot of gold. He called the stream Carson Creek. Then later that year he agreed to enter business trading between Stockton and Mariposa with a man called Dr. Roberts, but soon after they had started operations Roberts ran off with the partnership funds and left Carson $3000 in debt.

Carson Hill Mine

In spite of his loss, Carson kept working at the business until the next spring when he came down with severe rheumatism and was laid up for a year and a half. Then in January of 1852 a report circulated about his death. A friend, Benjamin P. Kooser, began to administer his estate but before he got too many funds distributed Kooser received a letter supposedly sent from Spirit Land by Carson that expressed his satisfaction that there had been no newspaper accounts that rejoiced in the death of ‘old Jim Carson’, but then proposed to thrash the man who’d begun the rumor of his death. Soon after, Carson was elected to the state legislature but before he could serve he contracted rheumatism again and died.

Knight’s Ferry bridge Stanislaus River

Large quantities of gold were taken from Carson Creek but the cream of the area was a quartz lode on the top of nearby Carson Hill, discovered in 1850 by a man named Hance and which later proved to be a part of the fabled Mother Lode. Hance took on partners, one of whom was named Morgan, and it was from him that one of the richest mines in the area got its name. A lot of gold was mined by simply pounding the rock in mortars and often there were so many bands of gold running through the quartz that chisels had to be used to break them apart. Once, from a single blast of black powder, a $110,000 worth of gold was recovered.

New Melones Dam

The place became so popular that the town of Melones on the south side of Carson Hill became one of the larger mining camps in the country; it’s population running as high as 5,000 people. In six week’s time $10,000 in revenue was taken in at Robinson’s Ferry for transportation across the river to and from the Morgan Mine. The mine eventually attracted the attention of Billy Mulligan and his band of ruthless desperados and they wrested control of it from the owners by force and it wasn’t until 1853 that they were finally dislodged. Today a lot of the area around Carson Hill is under the waters backed up by the New Melones Dam, built at about the location of Robinson’s Ferry.

 

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