The quality of California’s gold

The quality of the gold varied greatly across the gold country just as did the quantity. The gold from the Kern River area was so mixed with silver that it was nearly white and worth only about half that of pure gold. The quality improved in Fresno County and more so around Mariposa. By Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Calaveras Counties it had hit a high standard. But in Amador and El Dorado the gold varied greatly and was generally not so good. Yet as one went farther north the quality improved, … [Read more...]

The distribution of California’s gold

The majority of the gold found in California in the 1840s and 50s was spread across a broad belt on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Mount Shasta in the north to Mount Whitney in the south, with less rich extensions going as far north as the Oregon border and south to just above Los Angeles. But gold was discovered in many other places too. Small quartz veins with only specks of gold in them were found near San Francisco and larger ones in the Santa Lucia Mountains south of … [Read more...]

The Klamath and Trinity Rivers

The biggest river in the northeast of California, the Klamath River, flows south from Oregon’s Klamath Lake then west to the Pacific Ocean south of Crescent City. At its southern most point it is joined by the Trinity River, its main tributary and almost equal in size during gold rush times. The Trinity was named by Pearson Reading who led a hunting expedition there in 1845, and because he believed that the river ultimately emptied into a bay the old Spanish sailing charts called Trinidad Bay he … [Read more...]

Gold along the Kern River

When gold was found along the Kern River in early 1855 it set off a great excitement among the miners and men flocked to the area. Over the next few months 5,000 men, many leaving productive claims, made their way to this new territory only to meet with disappointment and were forced to return from where they came poorer for their trouble. The Kern River and its branches ran from near Mount Whitney. About thirty miles north of Tehachapi Pass the town of Keyesville grew in what would prove … [Read more...]

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...]