Archives for April 2011

The heart of the mother lode

Amador County calls itself “the heart of the mother lode” and a twenty-mile long belt of gold ran through the western part of the county from Plymouth, through Drytown, Amador City, and Sutter Creek, then on to Jackson. It was this golden belt that sustained the hard rock mines here for a 100 years. Amador's Daffodil hill reflects the color of the mother lode, photographed by Agunther. But the earliest mining started in the spring of 1848 in the gravel beds along Dry Creek. The … [Read more...]

Sutter Creek, a logging camp becomes a boomtown

The town of Sutter Creek began as a logging camp used by John Sutter before the Mexican War, and takes its name from a stream that runs through the center of a valley where there was a good supply of timber. The work was hard and it was a long, difficult trip by wagon to the fort. It’s easy to see why a sawmill on the American River, where the lumber could be floated easily downstream, would appeal to Captain Sutter. After the discovery of gold when most of his Mormon workers had left to … [Read more...]

Early gold rush fortunes by the Mokelumne River

One of the first miners along the Mokelumne River was Charles Weber, but Weber moved on toward Coloma. Next came Colonel Jonathan Stevenson and 100 men of his 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers who arrived in August 1848 soon after they were mustered out of the army. But much early work here was placer mining at Big Bar where the efforts of men from Oregon were so productive that when their food ran short no one wanted make a trip to Stockton for provisions. Finally a man named Syree went. … [Read more...]

Hangtown, the first dry diggings

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 … [Read more...]

Charles Weber, merchant of Stockton

Charles M. Weber left his native Bavaria in 1836 to come to America. He was 22 years old when he landed in New Orleans that winter. Then, in 1837, he contracted yellow fever. When he recovered he was off to Texas to help Sam Houston in his war against Mexico. By 1841 Weber had made his way to St. Louis where he heard glowing reports of the advantages of a country by the Pacific shores, and joined John Bidwell and others on the first wagon train to California. After spending a winter at Sutter’s … [Read more...]

Gold on the Feather River

After James Marshall told Sutter about the gold discovery, John Bidwell was sent to San Francisco to have a sample assayed. Bidwell must have learned something interesting because by April he was prospecting the Middle Fork of the Feather River, far from the sawmill. On July 4, working with the help of local Indians, he found gold. By now Sam Brannon had made the gold discovery public and it wasn’t long before word of the rich strike at Bidwell’s Bar got out too. Miner’s poured in. Early … [Read more...]

The first wagon train leaves for California

In 1840 John Bidwell, a 20 year-old schoolteacher in Weston, Missouri met Antoine Robidoux, a French fur trader who raved about the distant territory of California. Bidwell was so moved that he pledged to leave for California the next spring. On May 19, 1841 sixty people crossed the Missouri River to the Kansas prairie and began the long trek west. While under the command of John Bartleson they were actually led by the noted mountain man Thomas ‘Broken Hand’ Fitzpatrick, the former head of the … [Read more...]

Gold on the American River

On January 24, 1848 James Marshall found a small amount of gold while flushing out the tailrace of a sawmill he was building along the American River in partnership with John Sutter. They decided to keep the discovery secret, but there were six more men working on the sawmill, all members of the Church of Later Day Saints who had come west with the Mormon Battalion. Soon rumors of gold reached more members of the church and two men, Sidney Willis and Wilford Hudson, prospected the river … [Read more...]

President Polk and war with Mexico

In the Presidential campaign of 1844 two primary issues were of concern, the annexation of Texas, and the question of westward expansion or manifest destiny and the Oregon Territories, then claimed jointly by both the United States and Great Britain. With the support of Andrew Jackson, James Polk narrowly won over his opponent, Henry Clay. Just before his inauguration, on February 28, 1845, congress passed a resolution calling for the annexation of Texas, independent from Mexican rule since … [Read more...]

William Tecumseh Sherman, gold rush banker

William Tecumseh Sherman was born in 1820 in Ohio. After his father died in 1829 Thomas Ewing, an Ohio senator, raised him and later got him into the military academy at West Point. Sherman served in the Second Seminole War in Florida then spent time in both Georgia and South Carolina before he arrived in Monterey, California on January 26, 1847 after a voyage of 198 days. Here he served as an aide to Governor Mason and accompanied him on Mason’s 1848 trip to the gold mines. In 1850 he … [Read more...]