Archives for July 2011

Gold along the Santa Clara River

Although the great bulk of mining in California happened in the gold rich areas generally known as the Northern and Southern mines, gold was also found in the far north on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers and in the south near Los Angeles as well as along the Kern River. But none of these locations would yield as productively as the more commonly regarded gold country. Still there were many rich spots in these outlying areas, and particularly so along the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. Gold … [Read more...]

The gold ends at the San Joaquin River

South of the Merced River the number of important mining locations declined greatly with only a few favorable sites along small streams near the San Joaquin River where it flows down from the Sierra Nevada in a westerly direction before turning north to run through California’s Central Valley. These sites paid those who worked them but there were no spectacular placer or quartz deposits found there that could be compared with those to the north. And just as it did at the Pit River in the … [Read more...]

The southern edge of the gold country

There were other mining towns along the Merced River besides those on John Fremont’s Rancho las Mariposas. Coulterville, like Big Oak Flat, was on a well-traveled route to Yosemite Valley. In the area around the town, and particularly toward the east, were many rich gold bearing quartz veins, a great number containing such richly marked and beautifully colored threads of gold that these sites provided some of the best material for gold jewelry anywhere in the country. Hornitos, which means … [Read more...]

Rich mines of the Rancho las Mariposas

In 1863 John Fremont sold the Rancho las Mariposas and all the mine holdings to Morris Ketchum, a New York Banker who formed the Mariposa Mining Corporation. The company was so poorly managed that by 1865 it was bankrupt and the mines had to be sold at a sheriff’s auction. The final resolution of the rancho ran from the Merced River to Bridgeport. At it’s widest it lay about seventeen miles across and averaged five from east to west. The other towns there included Guadalupe, Arkansas Flat, Agua … [Read more...]

Fights over gold bankrupt Fremont

When the new American government of California ordered a survey of the Rancho las Mariposas, John Fremont managed to swing the boundaries of the rancho around so as to encompass, and thus secure title to, some of the richest gold bearing areas, including the famous Pine Tree and Josephine mines, Mariposa, and Bear Valley. When he began to evict these miners from rich, gold producing operations they had sunk a great deal of capitol into a fierce resentment of Fremont was aroused. Many miners … [Read more...]

The Merced River

Flowing down from beautiful Yosemite Valley the Merced River skirts by the Rancho las Mariposas, a former Mexican land grant once owned by the famous explorer and leader of the California Battalion in the War with Mexico, John C. Fremont. 44,386 acres of land once thought to be the richest body of land belonging to a single person in the world, and Fremont, for whom Thomas Larkin had bought the property from ex-governor Juan Batista Alvarado for $3,000, was at first extremely unhappy with it’s … [Read more...]

Chinese Camp and Jacksonville

Many smaller settlements arose around Jamestown. The placer mining town of Chinese Camp was around ten miles south of Sonora and at one point had as many as 5000 Chinese residents. A lot of these towns, such as Campo Seco, Montezuma, Yorktown, Poverty Hill and Algerine have virtually disappeared, remembered only by an occasional street name.  Near the junction of Woods Creek and the Tuolumne River was Jacksonville, where many attempts were made to dam the river and divert the water so as … [Read more...]

Tuolumne River mining at Jamestown

Col. George James came to the Tuolumne area with Benjamin Wood and James Savage. He soon began mining about a mile east of Woods Crossing and the settlement that grew there was called Jamestown after him. Some said that more gold taken was taken from Woods Creek than any stream in California of similar size. Two branches, Sullivan’s and Curtis’ Creek were comparable in gold deposits. Jamestown attracted a large number of miners and was affected with the same unrest as other towns after the … [Read more...]

Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage

The other night I saw an old western movie, Under Colorado Skies, starring Monte Hale. He was the singing cowboy Republic Pictures dug up in case Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers had to do their duty in World War Two. And Monte did a pretty good job too, but for me the real stars were Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage. My goodness, what tight, smooth harmony they had, and such great songs, Holiday for the Blues, Jimmy Crack Corn, and that old Bob Wills hit Rose of San Antone. It seems … [Read more...]

Trouble along the Tuolumne River

Shortly after California was granted statehood in 1850 the legislature imposed a $20 tax on every foreign miner in the gold fields. Throughout the mines this ill-conceived, shortsighted piece of legislation caused numerous problems to towns across the state. Many of the more affluent and productive of those affected simply left the country while the lower classes scattered to remote, secluded places thereby almost depopulating many settlements and seriously hurting the business of a great number … [Read more...]