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...]

Destruction of squatter homes

On Saturday evening that December 1, 1849 a meeting was held in Sacramento where much indignation was expressed toward the actions of city officials in the destruction of squatter homes. The opposition held a so called “law and order” meeting the following Tuesday. A speaker stand was made of dry goods boxes piled against the side of a saloon and bowling alley on K Street called “The Gem” and the crowd was large. Resolutions were presented saying the squatters acted lawlessly and in order to … [Read more...]

Early Sacramento and John Sutter

Early Sacramento was laid out on a Mexican land grant given to John Sutter by Governor Alvarado on June 18th, 1841. With the discovery of gold in January 1848 great crowds of miners converged at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers where John Sutter’s fort was located. The embarcadero along the Sacramento River became a lively place and a town was laid out and took the name of the river, Sacramento. At first it was a town of tents, travelers and merchandise on the way to the … [Read more...]

The rush to Fraser River

By 1858 most of the placer gold in California had been mined, leaving underemployed a large number of men who had lived by the placers. These men were now ready to believe any story that would continue the life they loved. So, when reports came in that the gold discovered a hundred miles from the mouth of the Fraser River in British Columbia would rival the discoveries of 1849, they rushed north in droves. The steamboats left San Francisco crowded with miners and a great number of sailboats … [Read more...]

Hangtown and the Blue and Gray Channels

One of the most important mining locations to arise after Coloma and Mormon Island was about eight miles southeast of the sawmill. Discovered by William Daylor, whose land grant along Deer Creek Slough and the Consumnes River was south of John Sutter’s property, prospected there early in 1848 and found many deposits of gold, most in ravines along a small creek that was substantially dry during the summer. The area quickly drew miners and first was known as the Old Dry Diggin’s before the name of … [Read more...]

How gold mining spread across California

As gold mining spread from the sawmill at Coloma, first down the American River to Mormon Island, east from the sawmill along the south fork, and up the north and middle forks of that river, a pattern was set. Within months of the discovery John Bidwell was mining on the Feather River and Pearson Reading in the far north near Mt. Shasta. It wasn’t long before gold had been found from the Oregon border south to the great bend of the San Joaquin River. In the northern mines men worked the … [Read more...]

Mining a coyote hole

The gold deposits in many places, especially in dry diggings, could be very deep, reaching down to the bedrock, and a well or shaft had to be dug to reach the pay dirt. When these holes were too deep for a man to throw the dirt out with a shovel a windlass and bucket would be used to remove the dirt, much like one would hand dig a well in those days. For very deep deposits men would often join forces but in places where the ore was not so deep each miner would have his own hole where he would … [Read more...]

What are wet and dry gold diggings?

In the early days of the gold rush miners worked the gravel bars and streambeds where water to wash the gold from the ore was plentiful and readily available. But soon some of the richest deposits were found in ravines that only carried water during the rainy season or, in some cases, on high slopes or elevated flats where there was no water at any time. The first miners had to carry the gold bearing ore to a steam or wait for the onset of winter rains to process their gold. These places were … [Read more...]

The great variety in mining gear

Because of the vast scope of the gold country and the wide variety of conditions in which gold would be found, there could be no standard methods or equipment for mining. What worked in Mokelumne Hill might not work in Nevada City. But the 49ers were a creative and ambitious lot and adapted well. A long tom or sluice could be longer or wider than necessary to fit the situation and the fancy of the operator. A rocker or long tom for very fine gold was much different from one for coarse gold. … [Read more...]

Gold mining gear, long toms and sluices

As mining operations became more complex, the long tom and the sluice came into widespread use. The long tom was a shallow trough 15 feet long and 15 inches high and often increasing in width near the low end and through which a constant stream of water ran. A miner would toss in ore and it would wash down through a sieve tacked across the top, called a riddle, where the rocks and stones could be easily picked out but the fine particles would pass through and fall into a shallow box with cleats, … [Read more...]