The character of early miners

There were a huge number of mining camps in the area commonly known as the Northern Mines, generally regarded as the region where rivers like the American, Yuba and Feather emptied into the Sacramento River and also sometimes including the Consumnes and Mokelumne Rivers that drain into the swamps and sloughs of the delta midway between Sacramento and Stockton. Each of these rustic camps, though most have long been abandoned and many almost entirely forgotten, had its own special history, its own unique romance, and played a part, either more or less important, in the developing character of the new state of California.

The first men into each of the boom towns were the restless prospectors who seemed always unsatisfied with what they found and scoured the country for something more, something better. These hardy men seldom stayed long in one place and as soon as others settled near them they would leave for more a remote spot, no matter that the prospects where they were looked good, and that without much difficulty and only a little steady work they could make a large sum of money there.

Oh, boys I’ve just struck it heavy Victor Seamon 1853

And yet many of them did make a lot of money, and in a very short time, but all too frequently they lost it even faster at the many gambling houses that sprang up like mushrooms in the gold towns. These were rough men who were noisy, forward and coarse, as can be seen in the often vulgar and mostly slang names for the places they left behind. They were referred to by some as jackals who searched out the wealthy sites so that the shrewder and steadier men could in step and reap the benefits of their discoveries. But even the shrewd, steady men moved about with the news of one rich strike or another. A mining town in those early years would suffer a change of almost its entire population every three years, and it wasn’t until large investments of capital were made in the various communities that people began at last to settle down.

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