Archives for July 2011

Life in gold rush Sonora

The amount of gold mined near the town of Sonora was so great, and attracted so many men to the area, that no attempt to accurately weigh or measure it was made for normal day to day transactions. A pinch, or the amount that could be held between the thumb and forefinger, was called a dollar. A teaspoon full passed for an ounce; a wine glass was worth a hundred dollars, and a tumbler a thousand dollars. As the word spread Sonora’s population reached 5000 men by the end of 1849. And on Sundays, … [Read more...]

Sonora and mining along the Tuolumne River

The chief mining locales along the Tuolumne River were Big Oak Flat, Chinese Camp, Jacksonville, Montezuma, Poverty Hill, Jamestown, Algerine and Sonora. But it was a party of men from Philadelphia, led by the Reverend James Woods, who first discovered gold here along a small tributary of the Tuolumne that runs south from the neighborhood of Columbia which they called Woods Creek in honor of their leader. They settled into a spot they called Woods Crossing and had a phenomenal success mining … [Read more...]

Columbia, the gem of the Southern mines

Douglas Flat, about a mile south of Murphys and located on the limestone belt, was another rich mining site. Along the Sanislaus River five miles south of Douglas Flat and about the same distance southeast of Angels Camp sat Vallecito, but the largest and most interesting place along the Stanislaus River system was Columbia. In March of 1850, five miles south of Vallecito and the same distance north of Sonora, gold was discovered, most likely by Mexican miners although Thaddeus and George … [Read more...]

Angels Camp and Murphys

Ten miles southeast of San Andreas and three or four miles from Carson Hill sat Angels Camp, named for Henry and George Angel who had accompanied James Carson south from Weber Creek. A lot of placer gold was found in Angels Creek and the gulches and flats around it. In 1852 two brothers named Winter washed nine thousand dollars in gold through a common sluice from a plot of two hundred square feet of surface earth. Below the dirt they came to a layer of limestone containing gold mixed with … [Read more...]

James Carson and the Morgan Mine

James H. Carson, a sergeant in Colonel Stevenson’s Regiment of First New York Volunteers, first made his way to Weber Creek near Placerville and then prospected south with the Angel and Murphy brothers until, in August 1848, he came to a creek just north of the Stanislaus River and near where Robinson’s Ferry would soon be, and there found a lot of gold. He called the stream Carson Creek. Then later that year he agreed to enter business trading between Stockton and Mariposa with a man called Dr. … [Read more...]

Stanislaus River mining

South of the Calaveras River ran the Stanislaus and near the river, some twenty miles southeast of San Andreas, was Tuttletown. Originally called Mormon Gulch because a party of Mormons had first mined there in the spring of 1848, the name was changed after a judge named A. A. H. Tuttle settled there that summer and built a log cabin that became the nucleus of the town. In the beginning, like so many other places in the mining country, it was populated only because of its rich placer deposits, … [Read more...]

“The Cowboys” and the Encyclopaedia Britannica

Gregory McNamee writes in his Encyclopaedia Britannica blog about the great John Wayne western, The Cowboys. McNamee calls the movie a contrarian film, not because of the poor treatment Long Hair, played by Bruce Dern, gives to Wil Anderson, Wayne’s character, but because Anderson dies from the wounds then the story fits into the antihero film ethic of the early 70’s he calls contrarian. It could be, but did anyone really even notice any antihero bias back when the film came out? Anderson had to … [Read more...]

Calaveras River mining

South of the Mokelumne River runs the Calaveras River, or the river of skulls, so named by the Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga because of the large number of Native American remains he found along its banks. On or near the river were mining towns such as San Andreas, Jenny Lind, Taylor’s Bar, El Dorado and Cave City. San Andreas, the present day county seat of Calaveras County, is located on the forks of the river about ten miles south of Mokelumne Hill. Named after Saint Andrew by Mexican … [Read more...]

Water at Mokelumne Hill

West Point, about twelve miles directly east from Mokelumne Hill, was well known for its pockets of rich quartz, and five or six miles south of West Point the miners of Independence and Rail Road Flats gained their own fame for the way they defended themselves against the domination from the bigger, wealthier Mokelumne Hill. As it was in most areas of the mines, and particularly in the Southern mines, the greatest difficulty was a lack of available water for mining operations. To remedy … [Read more...]

Mokelumne Hill

Of all the gold rush towns in the region Mokelumne Hill was both the richest and most famous. It sat on a flat between hills five miles south of Jackson and a half-mile south of the river. Like other towns around the area soldiers from Stevenson’s New York Regiment first settled there in 1849. Then, that fall, a company of Frenchmen working a nearby gulch dug out enough gold over the course of only a few weeks to bid adieu to California, quite satisfied with their stay, and return to their … [Read more...]