A Gold Miner’s New Year

During the early Gold Rush years, the fever to find riches was too hot for most gold miners to take time out to relax and celebrate New Year’s Day, although some of them did spend a few hours visiting friends in other camps. If their claims were below the snow line, many just fired their pistols in tribute and went on prospecting.

The Bandito

In the early years of the Gold Rush the mining camps were terrorized by the bloody exploits of a ferocious bandit named Joaquin Murrieta. It was said he had 20 or more accomplices—all horse thieves or fearsome, savage killers like Three-Fingered Jack—who raided, pillaged, and wantonly murdered in the far-flung Mother Lode region and other settlements, both south and west.  Continue reading The Bandito

Gold Towns: Yankee Jim’s

In the 1850s Yankee Jim’s was one of the largest mining centers in Placer County, boasting a population of around 5,000. In Gold Rush days, the town was a raucous place.  Located about 3 miles northwest of Foresthill and gold-rich in itself, Yankee Jim’s was also the site of the rich Jenny Lind Canyon mine, discovered when the severe storms of 1852-53 caused a huge landslide that exposed an abundance of gold. The Jenny Lind Canyon mine alone yielded $2,000 to $2,500 in gold every day. The man who called himself “Yankee Jim” may have been Irish or Australian instead of a Yankee, but for sure he was a horse thief who idled away some hours mining along the river bars in 1849. Seeking to keep his gold find a secret, he built a corral for his stolen horses atop the richest mine in the vicinity. Unfortunately for him, miners who were working the nearby Foresthill area discovered his thievery and the riches he tried to conceal. Although Yankee Jim barely escaped lynching, the mining town that evolved took his name. The town’s post office operated from 1852 until 1940. Over time most of the population moved away, but a small community still exists. Gnarled, long-forgotten orchards and notices of current gold claims can be seen on the old stage road from Foresthill. Yankee Jim’s is California Historical Landmark No. 398—the historical marker is located on the southeast corner of Colfax, Foresthill and Spring Garden Roads.

Gold Towns: Weaverville

Located 2,011 feet up at the foot of the present-day Trinity Alps Wilderness area, Weaverville sprang to life in what was one of the wildest and most inaccessible regions of California. So inaccessible, in fact, that the town didn’t receive stagecoach service until April 29, 1858. Before then, residents had to make their way on horseback to Shasta City to board public transportation. Nevertheless, Weaverville was once the center of great mining activity. Founded in the summer of 1850, it was named for John Weaver, a gold prospector who had arrived in the vicinity the prior year. In 1851 the camp consisted of one round tent and four log cabins, but two years later the settlement had grown so large that a hospital was established, and also a school—evidence of a number of resident families, several of whom established small farms and ranches. However, that year fire destroyed nearly half the town, and two more in 1855 burned 29 houses and many commercial buildings. Townspeople reconstructed with brick; by 1859 twenty brick buildings dotted the streets. Like other mining towns, Weaverville contained several saloons, and experienced its share of booms and busts and violence. Mining apparatus included gold pans, long toms, and rockers, until these techniques were later supplanted by hydraulic mining. The LaGrange mine just out of town was once the world’s largest hydraulic mining operation.  Home to 2,000 Chinese gold miners by 1854, the Chinese Tong War that year occupies a place of note in Weaverville’s history. Easily reached today via State Route 299, Weaverville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gold Towns: Sutter Creek

Prior to the Gold Rush, the site that became Sutter Creek was the “piney woods” locale where John A. Sutter, owner of a trading post in the Sacramento Valley, sent his employees in search of a source of lumber in 1846. Two years later, while gold-seekers were creating havoc to his settlement, Sutter himself yielded to the lure Continue reading Gold Towns: Sutter Creek