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 miners in 1848 it was later found to be on an exceptionally rich deposit of gravel and gold bearing cement supposedly from an old riverbed that produced large amounts of gold.

Washing gold at the Calaveras River

Jenny Lind, in the foothills on the north bank of the river, was likely settled in 1849 and, like the nearby Taylor’s Bar, had rich placer deposits that soon played out. El Dorado, some ten miles east of San Andreas, was on another rich bed of gravel a hundred feet deep and several hundred feet above the river. A few more miles to the east was Cave City, located on the same limestone belt that ran from Indian Diggings to Columbia and was named for a large cave found in that limestone.

Like all the above sites, Calaveritas, some four to five miles southeast of San Andreas, yielded well in its heyday. By 1853 it had a livery stable, butcher shops, several general stores, restaurants, saloons, gambling and fandango houses and was a favorite haunt of the notorious outlaw Joaquin Murieta. But the town had its misfortunes. A stamp mill, worth over a hundred thousand dollars, was built to process ore from a recently discovered quartz vein but before it could be put into operation it was found that the vein wasn’t really a gold vein at all, and the mill had to be dismantled and taken somewhere else. In 1858 a fire destroyed many of the towns buildings and most of the residents moved away.



  1. What a sad tale for the town o Calaveritas. It sounds a bit like the some of the towns in the Colorado Mountains such as Buckskin Joe’s. Horace Tabor had a general store there prior to his leaving his wife, marrying Baby Doe and becoming a Silver King in Leadville, CO.

    • It is sad, Doris, but a lot of the gold rush town dried up when the gold did and plenty of them had major fires.

      You know an awful lot about Colorado gold history. Horace Tabor, Baby Doe and Leadville all sound like a story in the making to me.

  2. Baby has been the subject of many books. Her story is fascinating and sad…she froze to death at an old age near the mine “The Matchless” that Horace was suppose to have told her to hold on to. It was in Leadville. I have been contemplating a few stories. Working on one now. We will see. A good series is “The Silver Rush” one by Ann Parker. It starts with “Silver Lies” and has three others so far,

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