Archives for June 2011

The start of quartz mining technology at Grass Valley

Grass Valley, along Wolf Creek just over the ridge from Nevada City and where water flowed into the South Yuba instead of the Bear River, was growing at about the same pace as it’s neighbor. In 1849 miners were working on Badger Hill east of town at nearly the same time as Jules Rosiere opened a trading post on the other side of town. Four miles below James Walsh began a steam-powered sawmill while nearby Samuel and George Holt were working on a water-powered one. By spring 1850 the … [Read more...]

Massive damage from hydraulic mining

Located just above where the Yuba and Feather Rivers meet, and once part of John Sutter’s vast holdings, Marysville quickly became a debarkation point for miners on their way to the gold fields from San Francisco. Due to this influx, in 1850, the four partners of the ranch hired French surveyor Augustus Le Plongeon to create a master plan for a town which they named Marysville after Mary Couvillaud, the wife of one of them. By 1853 the town had a population of 10,000 and in 1857 alone over 10 … [Read more...]

Mining starts around Nevada City

In the summer of 1848 a man named Rose established a trading post called Rose’s Corral about ten miles southwest of today’s Nevada City to serve the prospectors already scouring the area. In August of 1849 a man named Findley, from Oregon, started another store where the emigrant trail from Truckee to Sutter’s Fort crossed the Bear River, a tributary of the Sacramento between the American and the Yuba, Feather River system. Johnson’s Ranch, a Spanish land grant on the Bear River north of … [Read more...]

The North Fork of the American River

The North Fork of the American River split from the south fork just west of Mormon Island then divides with the middle fork east of Auburn, the county seat of Placer County, and one of the first boom towns that began when a group of French miners, heading to Coloma, found gold in Auburn Ravine. They stayed and a mining camp, first called North Fork Dry Diggings, grew up around the ravine. In 1849 the name was changed and by 1850 some 1500 people lived there. In the early days the small … [Read more...]

The Middle Fork of the American River

A miner who moved to the Middle Fork of the American River from the early mines at Coloma or Mormon Island in the spring of 1848 after the winter rains ended would find the multiple hues of wildflowers strewn across the rolling hills. Later in the summer he would fight great heat, drought and dust, but by fall the entire landscape would be bathed in a warm haze that varied from a deep purple close at hand to light blues in the distance and all under the tempered rays of a softened sun. If he … [Read more...]

Hangtown and the Blue and Gray Channels

One of the most important mining locations to arise after Coloma and Mormon Island was about eight miles southeast of the sawmill. Discovered by William Daylor, whose land grant along Deer Creek Slough and the Consumnes River was south of John Sutter’s property, prospected there early in 1848 and found many deposits of gold, most in ravines along a small creek that was substantially dry during the summer. The area quickly drew miners and first was known as the Old Dry Diggin’s before the name of … [Read more...]

How gold mining spread across California

As gold mining spread from the sawmill at Coloma, first down the American River to Mormon Island, east from the sawmill along the south fork, and up the north and middle forks of that river, a pattern was set. Within months of the discovery John Bidwell was mining on the Feather River and Pearson Reading in the far north near Mt. Shasta. It wasn’t long before gold had been found from the Oregon border south to the great bend of the San Joaquin River. In the northern mines men worked the … [Read more...]

Mining a coyote hole

The gold deposits in many places, especially in dry diggings, could be very deep, reaching down to the bedrock, and a well or shaft had to be dug to reach the pay dirt. When these holes were too deep for a man to throw the dirt out with a shovel a windlass and bucket would be used to remove the dirt, much like one would hand dig a well in those days. For very deep deposits men would often join forces but in places where the ore was not so deep each miner would have his own hole where he would … [Read more...]

What are wet and dry gold diggings?

In the early days of the gold rush miners worked the gravel bars and streambeds where water to wash the gold from the ore was plentiful and readily available. But soon some of the richest deposits were found in ravines that only carried water during the rainy season or, in some cases, on high slopes or elevated flats where there was no water at any time. The first miners had to carry the gold bearing ore to a steam or wait for the onset of winter rains to process their gold. These places were … [Read more...]

The great variety in mining gear

Because of the vast scope of the gold country and the wide variety of conditions in which gold would be found, there could be no standard methods or equipment for mining. What worked in Mokelumne Hill might not work in Nevada City. But the 49ers were a creative and ambitious lot and adapted well. A long tom or sluice could be longer or wider than necessary to fit the situation and the fancy of the operator. A rocker or long tom for very fine gold was much different from one for coarse gold. … [Read more...]