Oroville, California’s City of Gold

Ishi

First called Ophir City, after the biblical locale of King Solomon’s mines, Oroville sits along the main Feather River just as it breaks into California’s central valley from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a little more than 25 miles north of Marysville and at the farthest point of river navigation in those days. Here it grew rapidly as a supply hub for the mining areas in the many branches of the Feather River. The first of these, Bidwell’s Bar, eight to ten miles east on the Middle Feather, was founded early in 1848 by John Sutter’s secretary, John Bidwell, who owned a rancho at nearby Chico. It was at Oroville that Ishi, the only remaining Yahi Indian and the last truly stone age native American, appeared in 1911 after everyone else in his tribe died.

Historic downtown Oroville, photo by Podruznik

Just above Oroville stood the Cape and Union Cape claims where one of the most impressive mining operations in California was carried out when a trench nearly a mile long was excavated through solid rock, often up to 40 feet deep, and a timber flume built, 40 feet wide, seven feet deep and 5000 feet long to divert the main channel of the Feather River in order to mine the riverbed. Inside the flume were 18 waterwheels, each attached to a pump that worked night and day to draw water from the river. Along with the massive river mining operation many gravel deposits and quartz claims were located nearby and enough wealth uncovered to easily warrant Oroville the title of the City of Gold.

 

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