Restless miners sought richer diggings

Miners were, even in the early days of the gold rush, a restless bunch. Almost always discontented they longed for what they termed “big strikes” even though they could make as much in a single month as they could in a year with their former work. Thus they constantly sought new and richer diggings. When word of ground that prospected, or “panned out,” better than usual arrived, a rush to that location would follow. The manner in which the adventurers would come together and jostle each other … [Read more...]

Squatter resistance to Sutter

A squatter meeting was held at the Herkimer House on 4th Street on the evening of July 1st with the object of raising funds to make a combined resistance to all lawsuits brought to enforce the title of John Sutter to the land around Sacramento. Dr. Charles Robinson was chairman and he was particularly bitter against the city council, called the common council then, which he accused of legislating in favor of Sutter’s claim to the land which Robinson thought they clearly had no right to do. … [Read more...]

The tragic case of Michael Brennan

But not all miners had the perseverance of Alvinza Hayward. Take the tragic case of Michael Brennan and his mine near Grass Valley. Brennan came to America from Ireland and landed a job with the New York Herald. When news of the California gold reached him he invested a lot of cash in the Rocky Bar Company who operated a gold mine on Massachusetts Hill near Grass Valley. For several years his investments paid off handsomely but hard times fell on the mine and Brennan, with his wife and three … [Read more...]

A little fraud among gold miners backfires

Across the gold country surprising discoveries were made because of the patient, persevering efforts in the face of much discouragement and so California miners, once they thought well of a claim, would usually continue to work it. In the early days so little was known about how the gold was distributed that it was often found in places where no one thought it might be. There were instances of more experienced men coaxing newcomers to dig in spots considered unpromising. In many cases these … [Read more...]

Gold Bluff

In the spring of 1851 stories began to circulate among the gold miners, no doubt greatly helped along by those with an interest in the likely outcome, that the beaches for miles south of where the Klamath River runs into the Pacific Ocean were made up mostly of gold. It seems that a high bluff along the shore had been continually battered by the surf for so long that enormous amounts of it had been eroded by the constant surf thus releasing huge quantities of gold into the sands of the beach. … [Read more...]

Tales of gold finds that didn’t pan out

The great wealth pulled from the earliest of mining sites had all been along rivers or in gravel deposits thought to be the remains of ancient rivers and gave rise to the common idea that there were enormous hordes of gold somewhere above the mines in places where it could be dug out in vastly greater quantities than anything that had been done before. This was in part because of the restlessness of the miners who were rarely satisfied with what they had and always looked for something more. … [Read more...]

Gold under massive ancient lava flows

Of all the ancient gravel channels in the gold country that proved so productive two, one in the north and the other in the south, could well have been the richest and the most difficult to mine of any because they were buried under ancient lava flows hundreds of feet deep. The Tuolumne Table Mountain extends across the county like a gigantic black wall, with basalt sides nearly perpendicular and a bare flat top. It was formed 9 million years ago by and a now extinct volcano. The Little Walker … [Read more...]

The Mother Lode and the Great Blue Lead

Across the gold country of California it became clear to early miners that the gold still locked into the quartz rock was in the natural state that it first was deposited. Thus the more angular the placer gold was then the closer to the original vein it had been found, and the farther from the source the more rounded and smaller the gold would appear, with the small scales and dust likely to have been carried the longest distance. The early miners discovered that the main original deposits were … [Read more...]

More nuggets from the gold rush

In 1858 a nugget over 50 pounds and worth $8500 was discovered sitting beside a well-used trail about a half-mile outside of Columbia where it had been passed often by many travelers. In Sonora in 1851 a man tripped over a rock that turned out to be a quartz nugget made up of more gold than quartz. Another Sonoran, while leading a mule that pulled his cart along the main street in town, bumped into a rock in the roadway. He stooped to remove it and found it to be a 35-pound, solid gold nugget … [Read more...]

Big nuggets from the California gold rush

The first piece of gold found by James Marshall in the mill race of the sawmill he was building along the American River at Coloma was worth only 50 cents and the second one about five dollars. No one knows what happened to these historic nuggets, the first discoveries of the California gold rush. The gold John Sutter called ‘the first gold’ and had made into a ring was from pieces found later. The first nugget of substantial size was accidentally stumbled on by a member of Stevenson’s … [Read more...]