Gold Towns: Marysville

No gold was found inside the township, but there was plenty of it in the rivers and tributary creeks that surrounded it. Situated in the fork where the Yuba and Feather Rivers converge, the location was strategic; a natural stopping point for the riverboats from Sacramento and San Francisco that brought prospectors to the gold fields a little farther north and east of the settlement. In 1848 a tent city bloomed around the former New Mecklenburg trading post on Theodore Cordua’s Rancho Honcut, which by 1849 was owned by a group that included Charles Covillaud, the husband of Donner Party survivor Mary Murphy. In 1850 Covillaud and his partners founded Marysville, named in honor of his wife by popular vote of the townsfolk. A post office opened in 1851, and two years later the tent city had been replaced by brick buildings. By then the town had also developed mills, iron works, factories, machine shops, schools, churches, and two daily newspapers. Cargoes from the riverbanks could easily be transported by pack mules to outlying mines. With a population grown to almost 10,000 by 1857, Marysville had become one of the largest cities in California and a flourishing Gold Rush river transport, staging and financial center: over $10 million in gold was shipped from Marysville banks to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. The city’s founders imagined Marysville becoming “The New York of the Pacific,” but high levees erected to prevent flooding—a situation exacerbated by debris from hydraulic mining—sealed the city proper off from further expansion. Today Marysville prides itself on being “California’s Oldest ‘Little’ City.”


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