Monday, July 6, 2015

The Beginnings Of NC’s Gold Rush

The discovery of a 17-pound gold nugget in Cabarrus County, NC in 1799 marks the beginning the North Carolina Gold Rush. Twelve-year-old Conrad Reed found the treasure in the waters of Little Meadow Creek and took it home where it was used as a doorstop for three years. In 1802, the boy’s father, farmer John Reed, took the rock to a jeweler in Fayetteville who confirmed that it was gold and bought it for $3.50, later profiting a thousandfold.



Reed, soon realizing that he had been swindled, aligned himself with partners in a crude mining operation at the site of his son’s find. The men scoured the banks and sandbars of nearby rivers and streams using picks, shovels, pans and possibly a rudimentary rocker device to separate the heavy gold particles from the lighter sand and debris.

For 20 years following the discovery of gold on Reed’s farm, miners, many of whom were smalltime farmers, sifted through sand and gravel along NC’s streams and rivers. Because surface mining takes only simple equipment, a shovel and pan, or a crude rocker, prospectors came from all across the state as well as from surrounding areas to try their luck and seek their fortune.
Where’s The Gold?

By the early 1820s, the pursuit of gold in NC had become a major enterprise. In 1823, the state appointed Denison Olmsted, a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, as the first state geologist and commissioned him to conduct a geological survey to locate gold deposits and other valuable minerals. First Olmsted, and later German mining engineer Charles E. Rothe and then professor Elisha Mitchell, another faculty member from UNC, identified the main areas where gold occurred in the state. Additionally, Rothe and Mitchell produced reports for the state legislature and the American Journal of Science, fueling further interest in NC’s potential for gold mining.

In 1825, Mattias Barringer, another German whose farm was about 20 miles from the Reed farm, followed a vein of surface gold down to the gold-bearing rock. The Barringer Gold Mining Company was the first of many in the Charlotte area to try deep vein mining. Subsurface mining required far more equipment and technical skill than placer mining. Within a few years, dozens of companies had been formed to work the deeper gold deposits.

The discoveries and excitement continued to mount. Production increased as experienced miners and engineers arrived from European and South American mines. By 1832, more than fifty mines were operating in NC, employing more than 25,000 people. Next to farming, more people were employed in gold mining than in any other enterprise.

In 1837, English geologist George Featherstonhaugh visited several NC gold-mining operations between Rutherford and Mecklenburg Counties. He was distressed by the destruction of the land wherever placer mining was taking place, and observed that heedless removal of topsoil in the quest for gold ruined the land for future agricultural uses.
Problems Facing Miners & Prospectors

Although raw gold was abundant in NC, gold coins were not. Bartering was a common practice during America’s colonial and antebellum periods. The banking system was in chaos. State banks issued and recalled paper currency that was often inadequately backed with real assets. English and Spanish coins continued to circulate in the early 19th century with values that varied from place to place. Gold coins from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia were rarely found in the South. Even silver and copper coins were rare.

Southern prospectors who were lucky enough to find gold had no reliable market for it. The only U.S. Mint was in Philadelphia - a long, dangerous journey away. There were few roads and fewer bridges. Travel was uncomfortable and unreliable. Much of the gold found by well-organized companies could be shipped through Charleston to Europe more reliably than it could be sent to Philadelphia.

U.S. Representative Samuel Price Carson, familiar with the problems facing southern gold miners, on several occasions introduced a resolution to secure a U.S. mint in the mining region of the Carolinas. One of his chief arguments was the hazard and inconvenience of transporting gold from NC to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. Carson’s bill, however, was buried in committee. It was not until 1835 that Congress approved construction of branch mints in Charlotte, NC, Dahlonegah, GA, and New Orleans, LA. The Charlotte Mint opened in 1837 and began minting coins in 1838

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gold Rush: Alaska


The Hoffman crew is desperate to get 100 ounces, but Todd's decision to run the dozer on solid ice ends in disaster. The Big Nugget Mine faces closure if Parker fails to hit a pay streak and Dakota Fred thinks he's finally found Jack Hoffman's glory hole.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Impact of Gold

When gold was discovered in 1848, people poured into California to prospect the "golden mountains."
 At the height of the gold rush the atmosphere in the mining country was of extreme excitement and
 greed. The impact of the gold rush, however, struck much deeper than soil of the Sierra Mountains.
 Many forty-niners did became prosperous from the mining of gold. Many did not. Most people became
 prosperous through other means other than mining.



The gold rush created a major labor shortage as many Californians left their jobs and went to the gold fields. This shortage created opportunities for many people that needed the work. Most of these people were immigrants who, when they finally reached California, found that the gold was harder to find and less abundant than they dreamed. They consequently got jobs in the cities and towns that were quickly growing. Unfortunately, this labor shortage also resulted in the exploitation of the Native Indians that was quite similar to slavery, without the official name.

The huge influx of people into California, especially the city of San Francisco, opened up many more opportunities in the economic scheme of things. Manufacturing, trade, merchant businesses, agriculture, entertainment market, and the newly formed banks and financial institutions all flourished and prospered because of the gold rush. By 1855, the day of the individual miner was dead and the modern capitalistic economy was established. The economy in California blossomed. The national economy also was impacted by the gold rush and did well because many companies across the country invested, in some way, shape or form, in the gold rush. The table below shows the rapid increase and then the decrease of the amount of money that came out of the gold fields of California. However, what this table doesn't show is that as the dollar amount of gold produced decreased, the dollar amount of business and industry was steadily rising because of the new business that was initiated during the gold rush.

The Gold Rush impacted the nation in another important area other than the economy: the issue of slavery. The immigrants to California were of very diverse nationalities and races. There were
 Europeans, South Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, free blacks and slavesthat came with the southern migrants. As this heterogeneous population evolved conflicts over gold and jobs collided with issues of race and ethnicity(click here to read about the impact the gold rush had on the Native American population). California was a very turbulent place. There was pressure on the national government to create a more stable and effective government. The gold rush therefore, forced the national government to deal with the status of the territories. The United States saw the need to establish government in the territories like California. It also forced the nation to deal with the issue of slavery in those territories. Slavery was already a big issue on the East coast. The admission of California into the union would upset the balance of free versus slave states. This pressure added to the slave crises, which was temporarily defused with the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, the Compromise of 1850 would fail and the United States would find itself in a civil war.

Although the whole state of California is known because of the gold rush (think of the state nickname, the "Golden State" and our NBA basketball team the "Golden State Warriors"), one of the most significant and important places of the gold rush was the city of San Francisco. Before the rush San Francisco was a small tired village, but after the gold was discovered it was soon one of the fastest growing cities in the world. In 1845, the population of the city was around 400 and by 1860, when the rush had slowed down considerably that number was over 56,000! San Francisco was the closest port to the gold fields, thus everything- miners, merchandise, supplies and gold- passed through the city. At the height of the rush the city was a crazy, exciting place, but only a few years earlier, when the rush first began, it was almost deserted because so many people left for the mines. Even the newspapers had to shut down.

At first, the city was covered with canvas tents and flimsy wooden shacks. It was dirty and crowded. This posed a fire threat. On May 3,1851, the first major fire in San Francisco's history burned down twenty two blocks in ten hours. But before the ashes even cooled buildings were being constructed. Gradually, the wooden houses were replaced by brick.

San Francisco was a boom town. It was very diverse in the race and ethnicity of the people that had come to California. These people brought with them their own culture and beliefs. This heterogeneous society created a lot of tension, but also helped shape the city as it evolved. As one walked down the street, they could witness every type of dress style in the world that had been seen in the last 25 years. Rarely was anyone considered bizarre or strange. The city was growing culturally, physically and economically. One of the great commercial city was evolving. Two images of San Francisco from similar viewpoints. The top is the city in 1848, the bottom in 1984. Notice the changes between the two.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Klondike Gold Rush of 1896

Gold was discovered in British Columbia in the Cassiar districts, in 1873, and miners entered the Yukon region, in 1882. In 1886, coarse gold was discovered after Forty-mile Creek was found, sending shock waves of excitement through the Yukon country.

 In August 1896, George and Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim, and Dawson Charlie, discovered gold on Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, a tributary of Klondike River. Two weeks later, gold was found on Eldorado Creek, a tributary of Bonanza.

In the fall of 1896, news of the Klondike strikes reached Circle City, and miners departed for Dawson. Building began at the new site of Dawson City, Yukon Territory. By September 1896, Bonanza Creek is fully staked out and many claims were already producing.

 During the winter of 1896-97, miners worked the Klondike mines, removing millions of dollars in gold. The summer of 1897 brought news and spectacle. The day of July 14 exploded as the steamship Excelsior arrived in San Francisco, California with a half million dollars worth of gold on board, and wondrous stories of the Klondike Gold Rush hit the news wires. Three days later the steamship Portland docked in Seattle and 68 miners unloaded one million dollars worth of gold in front of a crowd of 5,000.

During July and August 1897, miners left Seattle and other cities for the Klondike. By September of that same year, 9,000 had left the Port of Seattle. Ships bearing the first stampeders arrived in Dyea and Skagway, Alaska or steamed directly up the Yukon River to Dawson City.

Oliver Millett of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, staked a claim on Cheechako Hill, far above Bonanza Creek, that produced a half million dollars worth of gold. A staking rush of the nearby hills began. In the winter of 1897-98, writer Jack London and an army of miners trudged over the White and the Chilkoot Pass trails.

In the spring of 1898, thousands left Seattle and other cities for the Klondike. The population of Yukon peaked at over 30,000. Dawson City became the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg. The ice on Lake Lindemann and Bennett Lake thawed and an armada of more than 7,000 boats began their water journey to Dawson City.

Unfortunately, more than 60 men and women were killed by a snowslide on the Chilkoot Trail. Through the summer of 1898 between 20,000 and 30,000 potential miners had reached Dawson. Gold was discovered at Anvil Creek, Alaska. Two years after the Great Seattle fire of June 6, 1889, the city began to regrade downtown to expand the commercial district. More than $22 million worth of gold was pulled out of the creeks. Roughly $2.5 million was pulled out in 1897 and $10 million in 1898.

In the spring of 1899, more than a million dollars worth of property and 117 buildings are destroyed in a fire in Dawson City. The town site of Nome, Alaska, was staked out and established. The summer of 1899 brought change and growth to the Alaskan and Canadian gold territories, the railroad came to Alaska as the first White Pass and Yukon Route train ran from Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross, Yukon.

A year later, the line to Whitehorse was completed. When gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, Alaska, two thousand arrived to extract it, and the next gold rush began. The Klondike Gold Rush was officially over. A Steamer arrived in Seattle in October 1899; it carried Nome miners and gold.

Early in 1900, from January to May, one to 2,000 miners went down the Yukon to Nome, and ships sailed from Seattle for the Nome gold beaches with up to 20,000 passengers on board. Throughout the summer of 1900, thousands descended on the Nome beaches to dig for gold in the sand. From 1901 through 1904, big things happened in Alaska and in Seattle.

Thanks to the Alaskan and Canadian Gold Rush and the rebuilding of Seattle and San Francisco, the annual volume of business in Seattle topped out at more than $50 million. Gold was discovered in the Tanana Valley of Alaska, and the city of Fairbanks was established. The Alaska Club, a Seattle organization of miners who had struck it rich in the Alaskan and Canadian gold territory and other Alaskan businessmen, was created.

Between the years of 1906 and 1916, Seattle grew significantly in size and recognition. Part of the re-growth of Seattle became apparent when, in 1906, the Schwabacher Company constructed a new eight-story building at First and Jackson in Seattle. In 1908, the Alaska Club and Arctic Club merged in Seattle, bringing together as one group the Seattle and Alaskan businessmen. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was a world's fair held in Seattle on the grounds of the University of Washington, in 1909, publicizing the development of the Pacific Northwest. The grounds design was achieved by the Olmsted Brothers. Also in 1909, the Statue of William Seward was placed in Seattle's Volunteer Park.

Seattle's ocean-borne commerce reached a new high of $155 million in 1914. Between 1915 and 1916, Alaska exported nearly $50 million in gold, silver, copper, other minerals and salmon to the United States. One of the benefits Seattle received from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 was the ability to rebuild the city. In 1916, the Construction of the Arctic Building in Seattle was the physical manifestation of the design work of A. Warren Gould.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush[n 1] was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there by local miners on August 16, 1896 and, when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of would-be prospectors. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain. The Klondike Gold Rush ended in 1899 after gold was discovered in Nome, Alaska prompting an exodus from the Klondike. It has been immortalized by photographs, books and films.

To reach the gold fields most took the route through the ports of Dyea and Skagway in Southeast Alaska. Here, the Klondikers could follow either the Chilkoot or the White Pass trails to the Yukon River and sail down to the Klondike. Each of them was required to bring a year's supply of food by the Canadian authorities in order to prevent starvation. In all, their equipment weighed close to a ton, which for most had to be carried in stages by themselves. Together with mountainous terrain and cold climate this meant that those who persisted did not arrive until summer 1898. Once there, they found few opportunities and many left disappointed.

Mining was challenging as the ore was distributed in an uneven manner and digging was made slow by permafrost. As a result, some miners chose to buy and sell claims, building up huge investments and letting others do the work. To accommodate the prospectors, boom towns sprang up along the routes and at their end Dawson City was founded at the confluence of the Klondike and the Yukon River. From a population of 500 in 1896, the hastily-constructed town came to house around 30,000 people by summer 1898. Built of wood, isolated and unsanitary, Dawson suffered from fires, high prices and epidemics. Despite this, the wealthiest prospectors spent extravagantly gambling and drinking in the saloons. The Native Hän people, on the other hand, suffered from the rush. Many of them died after being moved into a reserve to make way for the stampeders.

From 1898, the newspapers that had encouraged so many to travel to the Klondike lost interest in it. When news arrived in the summer of 1899 that gold had been discovered in Nome in west Alaska, many prospectors left the Klondike for the new goldfields, marking the end of the rush. The boom towns declined and the population of Dawson City fell away. Mining activity of the gold rush lasted until 1903 when production peaked after heavier equipment was brought in. Since then the Klondike has been mined on and off and today the legacy draws tourists to the region and contributes to its prosperity.


Monday, June 1, 2015

2012 SEASON - THE GOLD PROSPECTOR MINER or BUST


Well the 2012 seasons prospecting is over but it has also lead to greater insight to the gold paths and next season will be even better......so let's reflect on last season and dream about the one to come.

Gold Rush at Waterville USA


Gold Rush - Working Gold Mine - Western Montana, MT


There's Gold in Them Thar Hills! Montana is nicknamed the "Treasure State" and our state motto, Oro y Plata means "gold and silver" in Spanish.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Klondike Gold Rush of 1896

Gold was discovered in British Columbia in the Cassiar districts, in 1873, and miners entered the Yukon region, in 1882. In 1886, coarse gold was discovered after Forty-mile Creek was found, sending shock waves of excitement through the Yukon country.



In August 1896, George and Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim, and Dawson Charlie, discovered gold on Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, a tributary of Klondike River. Two weeks later, gold was found on Eldorado Creek, a tributary of Bonanza.

In the fall of 1896, news of the Klondike strikes reached Circle City, and miners departed for Dawson. Building began at the new site of Dawson City, Yukon Territory. By September 1896, Bonanza Creek is fully staked out and many claims were already producing.


During the winter of 1896-97, miners worked the Klondike mines, removing millions of dollars in gold. The summer of 1897 brought news and spectacle. The day of July 14 exploded as the steamship Excelsior arrived in San Francisco, California with a half million dollars worth of gold on board, and wondrous stories of the Klondike Gold Rush hit the news wires. Three days later the steamship Portland docked in Seattle and 68 miners unloaded one million dollars worth of gold in front of a crowd of 5,000.

During July and August 1897, miners left Seattle and other cities for the Klondike. By September of that same year, 9,000 had left the Port of Seattle. Ships bearing the first stampeders arrived in Dyea and Skagway, Alaska or steamed directly up the Yukon River to Dawson City.

Oliver Millett of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, staked a claim on Cheechako Hill, far above Bonanza Creek, that produced a half million dollars worth of gold. A staking rush of the nearby hills began. In the winter of 1897-98, writer Jack London and an army of miners trudged over the White and the Chilkoot Pass trails.

In the spring of 1898, thousands left Seattle and other cities for the Klondike. The population of Yukon peaked at over 30,000. Dawson City became the largest Canadian city west of Winnipeg. The ice on Lake Lindemann and Bennett Lake thawed and an armada of more than 7,000 boats began their water journey to Dawson City.

Unfortunately, more than 60 men and women were killed by a snowslide on the Chilkoot Trail. Through the summer of 1898 between 20,000 and 30,000 potential miners had reached Dawson. Gold was discovered at Anvil Creek, Alaska. Two years after the Great Seattle fire of June 6, 1889, the city began to regrade downtown to expand the commercial district. More than $22 million worth of gold was pulled out of the creeks. Roughly $2.5 million was pulled out in 1897 and $10 million in 1898.

In the spring of 1899, more than a million dollars worth of property and 117 buildings are destroyed in a fire in Dawson City. The town site of Nome, Alaska, was staked out and established. The summer of 1899 brought change and growth to the Alaskan and Canadian gold territories, the railroad came to Alaska as the first White Pass and Yukon Route train ran from Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross, Yukon.

A year later, the line to Whitehorse was completed. When gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome, Alaska, two thousand arrived to extract it, and the next gold rush began. The Klondike Gold Rush was officially over. A Steamer arrived in Seattle in October 1899; it carried Nome miners and gold.

Early in 1900, from January to May, one to 2,000 miners went down the Yukon to Nome, and ships sailed from Seattle for the Nome gold beaches with up to 20,000 passengers on board. Throughout the summer of 1900, thousands descended on the Nome beaches to dig for gold in the sand. From 1901 through 1904, big things happened in Alaska and in Seattle.

Thanks to the Alaskan and Canadian Gold Rush and the rebuilding of Seattle and San Francisco, the annual volume of business in Seattle topped out at more than $50 million. Gold was discovered in the Tanana Valley of Alaska, and the city of Fairbanks was established. The Alaska Club, a Seattle organization of miners who had struck it rich in the Alaskan and Canadian gold territory and other Alaskan businessmen, was created.

Between the years of 1906 and 1916, Seattle grew significantly in size and recognition. Part of the re-growth of Seattle became apparent when, in 1906, the Schwabacher Company constructed a new eight-story building at First and Jackson in Seattle. In 1908, the Alaska Club and Arctic Club merged in Seattle, bringing together as one group the Seattle and Alaskan businessmen. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was a world's fair held in Seattle on the grounds of the University of Washington, in 1909, publicizing the development of the Pacific Northwest. The grounds design was achieved by the Olmsted Brothers. Also in 1909, the Statue of William Seward was placed in Seattle's Volunteer Park.

Seattle's ocean-borne commerce reached a new high of $155 million in 1914. Between 1915 and 1916, Alaska exported nearly $50 million in gold, silver, copper, other minerals and salmon to the United States. One of the benefits Seattle received from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 was the ability to rebuild the city. In 1916, the Construction of the Arctic Building in Seattle was the physical manifestation of the design work of A. Warren Gould.

Alaska gold rush

Finding your fortune in Alaska required planning, money, stamina and luck. Travelers were at the mercy of the weather, the wilderness and sometimes from their own traveling companions.

     Let's explore the difficulties the gold-seekers faced getting to the gold, let alone finding it. We will piece together stories using diaries, newspapers, maps, photographs and objects people used during their journey.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Historic Scheelite Queen Gold Mine – 20 acre lode claim – Amasa Valley, Utah

The Amasa Valley is one of the most remote areas of the state, tucked high in the House Range, the Amasa Valley is know for its prevalent and free-milling gold. There is still an active placer operation less than 1 mile from the Scheelite Queen mines, and gold ore bodies were seen throughout the workings of the Scheelite Queen.

Overview of the Claim



The Amasa Valley has some of the most historic and richest mines in the state of Utah. It's also in one of the most remote areas of the state. Tucked high in the House Range, the Amasa Valley was noted as early as 1800 for visible gold. Massive old trees that had been carved into sluice boxes and shaker boxes have been found in Amasa Valley. Also reported were old, old mines with rich iron and gold ores.

Most of the excitement quickly passed as the valley was only accessible 6 months out of the year and rich deposits were opening up in California and Colorado.

The Scheelite Queen is one of the most significant mines in the valley. The first recorded production was in 1943. At that time the miners were working hundreds of feet underground, meaning that the history of the mine stretched back farther than 1943, and that in 1943 the mine had just been re-discovered. An old cabin outside of the lower adit dates to 1903 from an inscription inside. Proof that the mine existed far before its recorded 1943 start date.

The gold up in this area is prevalent and free-milling. Placer operations are happening in the bowl of the valley, but not below the valley. This leaves no doubt that the lode gold is still in the valley as there is nowhere else for it to go.

The terrain is rough and the weather is unforgiving. When snow sacks you in, it will be deep and harsh. This is the high country and just like Colorado or Montana, you should plan to be out when the weather moves in.

The roads are in very good repair, but steep and rocky. A full size 4WD will have no problem making it up to the sites.

The claims up here have been held for decades and rarely open up. It's a great opportunity to own some of the richest

“The most important piece of your mining claim is that actual mining claim documentation and location. While other fly by night operations may have the best of intentions, they often get it wrong. This results in you, as a customer, not getting what you paid for. GRE has been documenting, writing and transferring mining claims for over 10 years. We know what we are doing. From our in-house notaries to our master land surveyors, we get the job done right, and we back it up in writing. GRE Guarantees that this mining claim has been written correctly and accurately. It has been physically staked on all corners with GPS embedded images for clear verification. GRE will provide documentary evidence of all paperwork and location staking for the claimant.

GRE works hard to make sure that everything we do is perfect, but occasionally we may make a mistake. So while it is understood by the Customer and GRE, that all attempts have been made to verify accuracy and location in relation to this claim, we want to go one step farther. In the case of inaccuracies or other issues that may impact your claim, GRE will amend or modify and record any documents and physical monuments as deemed necessary at no cost to the buyer.

GRE guarantees this mining claim to be exactly as described and pictured. Please view all images and read complete claim description. We spend a lot of time and effort to document all aspects of each mining claim.

This Guarantee is not any sort of guarantee of mineral content, reserves or future earnings. Assay reports, Reserves, and mineral values are provided as they have been recorded by United States Geological Surveys, and state and local mining reports. Historical records and production are provided for information only. GRE strongly advises all potential claim owners to educate themselves about mining claims. Please be fully aware of what is conveyed with this mineral claim. If you have questions about mining, mining law, processing or even other properties, please contact us. GRE is here to help the small miner work and support the development of mining in this new era of Mining in America.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. We have over 20 years of experience with Mining and Mining claims, we are here to assist you in any way possible. Our offices are open from 9am to 5pm MST, Monday through Friday.”

Total Workings

The workings total roughly 1000' total and there are a lot of small workings around the claim that are unaccounted for.
Historical Value

Very high historic value. Writings in the mines tell a good story and the history of the general area is amazing.
Accessibility and Location

Access is easy but does require 4WD for some steep ascents and off-camber approaches. Location is like no other. The Amasa Valley is stunning.
Mineral Value

Values at this site are in gold. There is a long history of gold and there is an active gold recovery operation in the valley.
Resources

Seasonal water is sporadic to say the least, some small pinion pines for firewood. There is very little shelter at the site. A small, old cabin could be refurbished.

Historic Phillipsburg Mine – 20 acre Lode Claim – Eureka County, Nevada

The Phillipsburg Mine was the primary producer for the Diamond Mining District. The Mine was discovered in 1864 by a man named Phillips. There was a bonanza with some ore measuring 6 ounces of gold and 20 ounces of silver per ton. A rush was made on the area, but the majority of the ores came only from the Phillipsburg property. Reported in 1902, “a small community has endured with thousands of feet of underground workings that still show a profit after all these years.” According to maps and surveys, there are roughly 2800' of workings, not including stoping.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The California Gold Rush

The California Gold Rush, which occurred in the late 1840s, was one of the most compelling events in the history of westward expansion. Thousands of people caught “gold fever” and decided to go west in order to “see the elephant,” as the great adventure was often called. Lightly populated by American Indians, Spanish missionaries, and traders, California passed into the hands of the United States as a result of the Mexican War of 1846–48. A number of American settlers, including the ill-fated Donner Party, had already made the overland trek from the east, but the situation was about to be rapidly transformed. On January 24, 1848, James Marshall, overseeing construction of a millrace at Sutter’s Mill on the American River, noticed flakes of metal in the water. Various tests, including that the metal could be pounded flat unlike brittle pyrite (fool’s gold), convinced Marshall and his boss John Sutter that the material was in fact real gold. Despite their best efforts to keep the discovery a secret, word spread like wildfire and the mill was largely abandoned as workers caught the first cases of “gold fever.” The reaction of many was typified by J.H. Carson, who wrote, “A frenzy seized my soul…piles of gold rose up before me…”




 By 1851, the gold rush had made San Francisco a thriving port city.

Excitement spread to San Francisco via the leather lungs of Sam Brannan, who ran through the streets, hollering “Gold, gold, gold from the American River.” Before doing this, he had scouted out a suitable site for a store located adjacent to the diggings. This was an early indication of who would be the greatest profiteers from the Gold Rush. Before long, San Francisco emptied as men went off to the mines, while its harbor was jammed with ships abandoned by their crews, who did the same. People from as far away as Hawaii, Chile, and Peru arrived during the summer and fall of 1848, and in fact these “Forty-Eighters” often picked out the best sites for mining and had the most success.

Not surprisingly, word of the discovery was slow to reach the eastern United States during this pre-telegraph era. Thomas O. Larkin, consul at Monterey, sent dispatches describing the discovery to the east, while a tea caddy filled with gold was displayed at the War Department in Washington, D.C. President James K. Polk gave great publicity to the gold discovery in his December 5, 1848 message to Congress, reporting that “the accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service.” It was now that the excitement really began, and thousands of people began planning their trip to California for the following spring.


 Gold-hunters heading for California from the East Coast could choose the hard and dangerous overland route — or take a steamship all the way around South America.

Forty-Niners coming to California from the east had three travel choices — whether to go by sea via Cape Horn or Panama, or overland. The amazing Cape Horn route was popular in the early days of the Gold Rush, with hundreds of vessels of varying quality making the more than 13,000-mile voyage around the tip of South America. If weather conditions were unfavorable, this voyage could take as long as eight months. Due to great demand, the ships were often jammed with passengers, and unsanitary conditions prevailed. A number suffered from scurvy from a lack of sufficient variety in their diet. Worse yet, since the crews often took off in search of gold once arriving in San Francisco, many people were left behind waiting for ships in the east. Others failed to account for the reversal of the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, and suffered from bitter wind and cold as the ships rounded Cape Horn in July or August.

Some intrepid Forty-Niners saw a possible shortcut in the sea route — instead of going all the way around Cape Horn, why not cross through Panama in Central America? This route was indeed much shorter on paper, but suffered from its own pitfalls. In sailing from the east coast of the United States, one had to disembark on the Atlantic side of Panama, and since neither railroad service nor the canal existed at this time, cross overland across the Isthmus to the Pacific coast. The tropical climate and endemic diseases claimed many victims. Many people found that having to rely upon two ships for passage to San Francisco merely doubled their chances of being delayed, with disastrous results.


This map shows the various routes available across the United States in 1850. About the map

In spite of all of these difficulties, it has been estimated that as many as 25,000 persons made the sea journey to California in the aftermath of the gold discovery, or about as many as lived in the whole territory before 1848. These numbers were dwarfed by those who opted for travel by land. Many people already possessed much of the basic equipment, especially wagons, oxen, and mules, required for the trip, and those west of the Appalachians were relatively close to the trail. A good number of these Forty-Niners passed through St. Louis, where they were impressed by the hustle and bustle of the rapidly growing city. Others, such as William Swain, were appalled that St. Louis was “…dirty, with black narrow streets filled with cars drawn by mules. It is a bare heap of stone and brick, covered with coal smoke…” Merchants in St. Louis shipped supplies to Independence and St. Joseph, Missouri, the jumping-off points for the trail.

One of the biggest and most important decisions that those going overland had to make was when to embark on the trail. If a group started too early in the spring, they found that grass on the Great Plains might not yet be high enough for their cattle to graze upon, wearing out the teams at the very outset of the journey. On the other hand, if one started too late, much of the grass might be consumed by the animals of those who had started earlier, or worse yet, too many miners might already be at the diggings. Finally, there was the recent memory of the fate of the Donner Party, trapped in the Sierras with no food by the first winter snowfall of 1846–47. For all of these reasons, it seems that most overland Forty-Niners tended to start somewhat earlier than would have been best.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine. About one in twenty infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.

From Missouri as far as Fort Hall, in present-day eastern Idaho, most followed the already well marked Oregon Trail. The green travelers gained experience the hard way, suffering such accidents as being run over by wagons, shot by nervous companions, or even shooting themselves as they pulled a loaded rifle out of a wagon muzzle first. However, the greatest hazard of all certainly was disease, especially the dreaded cholera, with which a victim could be “merry at breakfast and dead at supper.” The foul water, incessant labor, grueling walks, and varying weather all contributed to the toll. For too many, as diarist Alonzo Delano put it, “the spade of the adventurer was first used to bury the remains of a companion.”

Past Fort Hall, a majority of the overland Forty-Niners followed the Humboldt River, soon to be nicknamed the “Hellbolt” or “Humbug.” Muddy and alkaline, the river diminished steadily as it meandered west. Such grasses as it supported were quickly worn thin by the vast numbers of cattle going to California. The Humboldt simply vanished into the sand at Humboldt Sink, in western Nevada. There began the most difficult part of the journey, the Forty Mile Desert to the Sierras. Although not far by the standards of the entire trip, the exhaustion of men and animals led to the trail becoming littered with discarded belongings and the corpses of horses, cattle, and humans. Finally surmounting with difficulty the heights of the Sierras, the Forty-Niners staggered into the mining camps. As historian Ray Allen Billington put it, they had “indeed been well tested.”

The great adventure of the mass migration to California completely changed the course of westward expansion. Up until 1849, there had been a gradual movement of Euro-Americans from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River and areas beyond, which were geographically contiguous. The only significant exception to this had been the movement of relatively small numbers of people along the trail to Oregon. Suddenly, more than 100,000 people leapfrogged the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and western deserts within a period of just a few years, many employing St. Louis as a transit point. Motivated primarily by greed, these Forty-Niners also embodied other human qualities, including bravery and a search for adventure, which made their story timeless.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

EXPLORING THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH

Introduction

 When James Wilson Marshall saw something golden shining in the tailrace at Sutter's Mill, he not only set off a worldwide rush to California but also touched off the greatest writing and artistic frenzy in our nation's history. Newspapers, guidebooks, government reports, sermons, diaries, and letters written home all spread the word about a land where golden dreams could be realized. Artists through sketches, paintings, prints, pictorial letter sheets, birds-eye views, and illustrations for books likewise gave visual meaning to this new El Dorado. Nineteen ninety-eight commemorates the discovery of a precious mineral, but as historian John Walton Caughey so eloquently noted in 1948, this anniversary also marks a momentous cultural and intellectual awakening. It is only appropriate that the California State Library should create this exhibit since the institution itself got its start during the height of the Gold Rush. Many libraries and archives across the country from Yale University to the Henry E. Huntington Library preserve formidable collections of Gold Rush material, but the State Library's direct relationship to Marshall's earthshaking discovery gives it a unique role in this sesquicentennial year. Without the mad scramble to our golden shore, California would not have been admitted into the Union so quickly and the institution of the State Library would not have come into being as it is presently constituted.

 The goal of the exhibit is many fold: provide an overview of the Gold Rush, emphasize the strength of the Library's collection, and incorporate items that will simultaneously delight, surprise, and inform. In creating this exhibit, the varieties and richness of the material proved to be both a joy and challenge. Literally, I scrutinized hundreds of items and explored various themes. Unavoidably, because of space limitations, many choice documents and topics were grudgingly set aside. It is no accident that so much documentation exists about the run for gold. In fact, it could be argued that the California Gold Rush stands as the best documented event in our state's history. There are many reasons for this. Most importantly, though, the Gold Rush took place when people commonly kept diaries and wrote detailed letters. Fortunately for us, many Argonauts possessed exceptional powers of description, the ability to express philosophical thoughts, and the gift to record what they saw with drama, emotion, and on occasion with humor. Because the Gold Rush represented the adventure of a lifetime, participants, through letters and diaries, eagerly shared their experiences with friends and relatives and made sure that their writings would be preserved for future generations.

A Gathering of Gold Rushiana

 The exhibit features many examples drawn for the California History Section's extensive manuscript collections. Scores of Gold Rush manuscript collections holding thousands of letters were examined. Included are such treasures as Marshall's own map showing where he discovered gold, pioneer preacher Joseph A. Benton's journals of his voyage to California and his first years in Sacramento looking for souls instead of gold, and letters to his mother by Sacramento's first historian, Dr. John F. Morse. Letters by those less well known, however, vividly tell us of the travel to California by land and sea and then the cold reality of the diggings and its hardships, loneliness, lawlessness, and disappointments. Printed books, pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers, of course, form a major component of any Gold Rush exhibition. These printed sources, more than any single medium, spread the news and influenced would-be gold seekers.

 Bayard Taylor's El Dorado, the best seller of the Gold Rush; Dame Shirley's celebrated letters from Rich Bar which appeared in California's first periodical, The Pioneer, and the Journal of the Hartford Union Mining Company, actually printed on board a California bound ship in 1849, serve as a solid foundation of early eyewitness accounts. An array of rare guidebooks, foreign language works, and printed pamphlets issued by mining companies supplement these seminal publications. The very first issue of the Panama Star, an American newspaper printed in Panama, records the importance of that narrow isthmus as a link between the United States and its new mineral-rich territory. The gold discovery and its immediate aftermath took place when the visual means of mass communication was making great strides. Lithographs and wood engravings gave visual credence to the incredible news that poured out of California. Artists were not immune to gold fever and some real talent came to California first to hunt for gold, and then finding this to be hard and unproductive work, turned back to their god-given natural abilities. Charles Christian Nahl, Harrison Eastman, John David Borthwick, and George Holbrook Baker, to name just a few, produced memorable images that publishers even to this day reproduce over and over. The result of all of this made the Gold Rush one of the first important episodes in our history recorded visually and systematically by its participants. Consequently, pencil sketches, pictorial letter sheets, illustrations found in books and newspapers, and birds-eye views of cities and towns form an essential component of this display. One other form of visual documentation emerged, photography namely in the form of the daguerreotype. The Gold Rush represented the first important event in our nation's past to be captured by photography. Those one-of-a-kind, silvery, mirror-like images held together in beautiful, protective leather cases provide a breathtaking, crystal clear view of life during that rambunctious era. Certainly a highlight of California As We Saw It are the exquisite open air daguerreotypes of mining operations near Georgetown and Nevada City attributed to J. B. Starkweather. Daguerrian portraits of men and women put a human face on that golden era. Last, we have supplemented the above objects with what rare book and history librarians call ephemera, items that were meant to last only a moment. Judiciously placed throughout the display are wonderful examples of Gold Rush sheet music, stock certificates, broadsides, printed receipts for gold bullion, illustrated postal covers, and a rare clipper card (advertising a voyage to California). These transitory items, held and read by the gold hunters, give as much meaning to the display as rare books and manuscripts.

Some Themes Explored

 Several topics apart from the discovery and long journey to California and the diggings have been developed. The title of J. S. Holliday's brilliant book, The World Rushed In, provided inspiration for two exhibit cases. One case is devoted to accounts and guidebooks published in England, France, Australia, and Germany. Another features the experiences of women, African Americans, and Chinese. One remarkable manuscript consists of a bill of sale whereby a slave imported by his Southern master to hunt for gold buys his freedom for $1,000. Within a couple years after the discovery, miners extracted gold from the earth by working in teams and then by forming companies. Turning rivers with dams, delivering water by flumes to wash away the hillsides in search of gold, and setting up stamp mills to crush the ore was not a simple, individual endeavor.

 This mechanization of mining and the need to raise capital is documented by manuscripts and printed by-laws, articles of incorporation, mining claims, and bills of sale. A selection of beautifully engraved early stock certificates provides visual evidence of the financing needed to work the mines. The need to supply the mines gave rise to instant cities and mining camps. While San Francisco emerged as El Dorado's most important port and city, Sacramento also experienced unbelievable growth. On display are a sampling of books, letters, sketches documenting Sacramento's transformation from the citadel of Captain Sutter's New Helvetia empire to a vital entrepot to the northern mines. Highlights include the first Sacramento directory by Horace Culver, a broadside proclamation concerning the formation of city government in 1849, and one of the earliest known sketches of its famed embarcadero by George Holbrook Baker. Not all was seriousness when it came to looking for gold. The gold mania spawned a series of satirical prints and books by the likes of Alfred Crowquill, Jeremiah Saddlebags, and Old Block. A centerpiece is a beautiful hand-colored lithograph entitled the "Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California." Crowned with a pot, the bespectacled gold hunter is loaded down with every conceivable appliance and weapon including a set of gold scales from which hangs a strong of sausage, dried fish, and a tea kettle. A rare series of hand-colored lithographs by two Cuban artists gives a light-hearted look at a group of miners who evidently had made their pile and enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

 California as We Saw It could not have been put together without the able and cheerful assistance of Gerrilee Hafvenstein of the Library's Preservation Office. Her skill in preserving and preparing materials for display earns my constant gratitude and admiration. To coin an appropriate phrase, she has a golden touch. The following describes the one hundred plus items that comprise the display. Since most of readers cannot visit the Library's gallery, it is hoped that this compilation will provide a sense of the display and a permanent record of a truly remarkable grouping of primary source material. As demonstrated by this exhibit, James Marshall's discovery produced not only treasure in the form of yellow metal but also the foundation for the Library's great California history collection.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Discovery may prompt new gold rush

If you were an outlaw from the Gold Rush era, where would you hide all the gold coins you stole from banks, trains and stagecoaches?

Maybe if you were Black Bart, credited with 28 stagecoach robberies in Northern California and yet caught only once, you'd put all the gold coins in steel cans and bury them next to a big oak tree you'd never forget.

Or perhaps if you were Joaquin Murrieta, the martyred bandit whose gang killed more than 40 people, you'd hide your share of the gold coins in the deep craters of honeycombed sandstone formations on the west slopes of Mount Diablo.
Related Stories
 Black Bart? Jesse James? Who hid $10 million worth of gold?
 Couple's gold discovery will be taxed at top federal rate
 Gold Country couple discover $10 million in buried coins

If you found such a stash, you would be an instant gazillionaire.


That is what happened for a couple in the Gold Country, it was reported last week, as they found six buried steel cans that contained 1,427 gold coins dated 1847 to 1894 and worth an estimated $10 million. According to the story, they were walking their dog on their property when they sighted a piece of a rusty steel can that was slightly exposed from surface erosion around it. Inside the can they saw the first glimpse of gold coins. And the treasure hunt was on.

The idea that stockpiles of gold contraband worth millions of dollars could be discovered with a little detective work, a metal detector, shovel and a sifter could set off a new gold rush in Northern California.

Gold coins and other treasures could also be discovered at mining sites and ghost towns from the 1850s and '60s.

The Gold Rush set off multiple frenzies, of course. Miners migrated en masse to California, followed by bankers, and in turn, outlaws. The outlaws robbed the banks and the stages because, after all, "That's where the money is." Then, not trusting each other, they hid it.

Years ago at Apple Jack's, the bar in La Honda, a guy in his 90s repeated a story first told to me by Billy Prior, who once had a cabin there: Cole Younger, the outlaw from Missouri who rode with the James Gang, eventually got out of jail after the failed Northfield raid, and headed to California and exile in the woods outside of La Honda. According to the story, he stashed several bags of gold coins in the hollows of a few downed redwood trees, and then, on a return trip to Missouri, did not risk taking the gold coins with him. Except he never went back to La Honda. And those bags of gold coins were never accounted for.

Another story, far more circulated, is that Bob Ford did not shoot Jesse James, but that the James boys faked the whole thing. The lesser-known epilogue, provided by the late Ted Fay, the legendary fly-fisher from Dunsmuir, is that after Jesse James faked his death, he ventured to Northern California and lived in Dunsmuir. Somewhere in the canyon, Ted told me on a trip to the Salmon River, was a hidden stash of Jesse James' loot. Years later, Ted forgot he'd told me the story, and when we fished together on the Upper Sacramento River, he'd spend a fair amount of time hunting around the root cavities of trees along shore, pretending he was looking for a rare plant.

The contraband of the era was mostly gold coins. During the Gold Rush and Civil War eras, paper money was not considered legal tender.

With bags of gold coins, Black Bart, Joaquin Murrieta, Cole Younger, a few unscrupulous bank managers and all the other bandits were unlikely to keep the swag at home, vulnerable to robbers.

So they put it in the ground. In tree hollows. In sandstone craters. Under boulders. And the spot is always marked by a special rock or landscape form. In a favorite movie of mine, the bags of gold coins are stashed in the otherwise empty casket buried at a vast military cemetery.

Another strategy to find gold coins is to search out old mining sites and look for coins dropped by careless (OK, perhaps very drunk) miners.

On the Klamath River last week, Jim Dwyer tested such a hunch. He identified a former mining site by tailings (a pile of rocks), and then with a shovel and sifter, found a copper penny dated 1847. It's probably worth less than $20, but it's an exciting find, a coin that predates the Gold Rush and statehood, when only a few thousand people lived in the north state.

You can find prospective sites by studying photographs from the gold mining era, analyzing vintage maps and books that describe the location of historic mining camps, and looking for small piles of tailings along rivers (rather than the giant piles from more modern-day machine deposits). As water levels at reservoirs drop this summer, many old mining encampments will be exposed; make sure it is OK with the local posse to hunt for gold coins before venturing out on a lakebed with a metal detector.

On many government lands, it is illegal to use a metal detector and then dig up a find. Off-limit sites include state and federal parkland, and any archaeological site. If you make an archaeological find, stop and report it or face arrest. You also must not disturb any plant or geologic feature; in other words, leave no trace. If you do dig, leave the ground the way you found it. If you are unsure of legal boundaries or rules, then ask.

The $10 million treasure in gold coins won't be the last in Northern California, that's my guess.

And with the treasure hunt now on, there will be many lesser finds, though exciting just the same.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Gold Rush in USA and Australia

Word spreads fast when gold is discovered! People rush to where its been found, seeking their fortunes. Young and old - from all walks of life - they leave their families, jobs and businesses and rush to the latest find, to strike it rich. This is a ‘gold rush’ and the places where gold is found are called ‘goldfields’.

In the 1800s, there were several famous gold rushes in the USA and in Australia.
U.S.A. - California

In 1848 a carpenter named John Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill, near Sacramento. News of his find spread to the East Coast of America, and in 1849 thousands of people rushed to California seeking their fortune. They were called the “forty-niners”. At first, they lived in tents on the goldfield, then towns grew around them.

The new miners searched for flakes of gold, by sifting soil at the bottom of streams with a shallow pan. After a few years, this type of gold was harder to find, and heavy machines were needed to dig deeper underground. Companies were set up to organise the work and the profits – and individual miners moved on to the next big strike.

Gold and silver mining

California is famous for gold rushes, and its neighbouring State, Nevada, for its silver booms. But California also has a rich history of silver mining. There were busy silver towns in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and in the Mojave Desert. One of the most famous was Silver Mountain City in Alpine County.

Miners and merchants

Most miners stayed poor, because only a few of them found large amounts of gold. The people who most often made money on the gold fields were the merchants who sold supplies to the miners. Levi Straus made his fortune by selling one item of clothing. Do you know what that was?

When the gold and silver ran out, the miners and merchants moved on. The boomtowns became ghost towns. Today, you can see the ruins of buildings that were once home to thousands of people – the only evidence now of a proud town. But some towns have been luckier. They’ve been restored as tourist attractions, to show us how the miners lived and dreamed of being rich.
Australia - Victoria

In 1850 Edward Hargraves came back to Australia from the goldfields of California. He hadn’t struck it rich, and he was convinced that gold could be found in the countryside around Bathurst, his home town in the State of New South Wales.

A year later he found gold. Then large deposits were discovered near Ballarat and Bendigo in the State of Victoria. The next big gold rush had begun. During the 1850s, Australia’s population trebled to 1.1 million people. Many “forty-niners” left the gold fields of California and joined the thousands of dreamers who came from England.

Flakes and nuggets of gold

Unlike California, where flakes of gold had been found in streambeds, miners sometimes found huge nuggets of gold in Victoria. Panning and sluicing for gold was still done, but most miners dug into the ground. They were called ‘diggers’ – a nickname that’s still given to Australians today.

Holes of all shapes and sizes were dug, sometimes with only six feet of earth between them. The diggers scraped down through the earth until they reached layers of clay – called ‘bottom’. Then they tunnelled until they could go no further – usually because they ran into another digger’s tunnel coming the other way.

As in California, the merchants who sold food and equipment to the diggers found that business was profitable, and many grew rich. Chinese men and women travelled from Asia to make their home in Australia. They were experts at growing food and plants, and they supplied these to the merchants.

England’s rule over Australia

Australia was an English colony. A Goldfields Commissioner, appointed by the English government, administered gold mining activities. The Commissioner brought in a compulsory licensing system that was very harsh. All miners had to buy a monthly licence before they could dig for gold.

This and other injustices led to a rebellion by the miners at Eureka Hill, outside Ballarat. They armed themselves, built a wooden defence barrier called a stockade – and flew their flag of independence, the Southern Cross. The military overran the Eureka stockade and many men were killed and wounded on both sides. Licence fees were abolished.

Australia still mines gold and is the third largest producer in the world today, after South Africa and the U.S.A

Saturday, April 4, 2015

California Gold Rush

California Gold Rush summary: The California Gold Rush was the largest mass migration in American history since it brought about 300,000 people to California. It all started on January 24, 1848, when James W. Marshall found gold on his piece of land at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. The news of gold quickly spread around. People from Oregon, Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) and Latin America were the first to hear the breaking news, so they were the first to arrive in order to test their luck in California by the end of 1848. Soon the others from the rest of US, Europe, Australia and China followed and since they mainly arrived during 1849 they were called the “forty-niners”.

At first, the gold could be picked up from the ground but later on it was recovered from the streams and rivers with the use of pans. The gold rush peaked in 1852 and after that the gold reserves were getting thinner and harder to reach so that more sophisticated methods of mining had to be employed. The best results were achieved with hydraulic mining although it was environmentally damaging.

The gold rush resulted in the hasty development of California: many roads, churches, schools and towns were built to accommodate the gold-diggers. In the beginning, property rights in the goldfields were not covered by law and this was solved by the system of staking claims. The gold also helped to speed up the admission of California into the US as a State. All the preparations in terms of constitution and legislature were made in 1849 and California became a state in 1850.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The California Gold Rush, 1849

In January 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold while constructing a saw mill along the American River northeast of present-day Sacramento. The discovery was reported in the San Francisco newspapers in March but caused little stir as most did not believe the account.

 The spark that ignited the gold rush occurred in May 1848 when Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter's Creek, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco shouting 'Gold! Gold! Gold from American River!' The residents of the city now had proof of the discovery and the stampede to the gold fields was on. San Francisco's harbor was soon cluttered with derelict ships deserted by their crews. Workers abandoned their jobs - San Francisco's two newspapers were forced to close their doors as their staffs were struck by gold fever. The populations of many of the coastal towns were depleted as prospective prospectors headed to the gold fields.

 The New York Herald printed news of the discovery in August 1848 and the rush for gold accelerated into a stampede. Gold seekers traveled overland across the mountains to California (30,000 assembled at launch points along the plains in the spring of 1849) or took the round-about sea routes: either to Panama or around Cape Horn and then up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. A census of San Francisco (then called Yerba Buena) in April 1847 reported the town consisted of 79 buildings including shanties, frames houses and adobes. By December 1849 the population had mushroomed to an estimated 100,000. The massive influx of fortune seekers Americanized the once Mexican province and assured its inclusion as a state in the union.

 S. Shufelt was one of those gold-seekers. All that we know about Mr. Shufelt is contained in a letter he wrote from the gold fields to his cousin in March 1850. We don't know if he struck it rich or whether he ever returned to his wife and home - we don't even know his first name. On May 11, 1849 he boarded the steamer Panama in New York City along with about 200 fellow fortune hunters risking all on a gamble in California. Behind him he left a wife and child in Windham, NY near the Catskills.

 Mr. Shufelt reveals his motivation when he tells his cousin that: "I have left those that I love as my own life behind and risked everything and endured many hardships to get here. I want to make enough to live easier and do some good with, before I return." These same thoughts no doubt inspired the majority of those who made the trek to the gold fields - they were not intending to stay, but planned to make some money and return to their origins.

 Mr. Shufelt's letter was discovered at an auction in 1924 and is now part of the collection of the Library of Congress.
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Passage to California

On May 11, 1849 Shufelt sailed out of New York harbor headed for the Isthmus of Panama (at the time a part of Columbia). Although he experienced a few days of sea sickness, he describes the voyage as enjoyable. We pick up his story as he makes his way across the isthmus to the Pacific Ocean hoping to find passage on a ship bound for San Francisco:

"(We) proceeded up the river in canoes rowed by the natives, and enjoyed the scenery & howling of the monkeys & chattering of Parrots very much. We pitched our tents at Gorgona & most of our party stayed there several weeks. S. Miller & myself went on to Panama to look out for a chance to get up to San Francisco. Of our ill success you have probably been informed & consequently of our long stay there, & of the deaths in our party. Yes, here Mr. Crooker, J. Miller & L. Alden yielded up their breath to God who gave it.

 After many delays & vexations, we at length took passage on a German ship & set sail again on our journey to the Eldorado of the west. We went south nearly to the Equator, then turned west, the weather was warm, the winds light & contrary for our course. Our ship was a slow sailer & consequently our passage was long & tedious. One of the sailors fell from the rigging into the water & it was known that he could not swim, so the excitement was great. Ropes, planks and every thing that could be got hold of was thrown to him. He caught a plank & got on it, a boat was lowered & soon they had him on board again. He was much frightened, but not much hurt. We had one heavy squall of wind & rain, that tore the sails & broke some of the yards in pieces, & gave us a quick step motion to keep upon our feet, but soon all was right again & we were ploughing through the gentle Pacific at the rate of ten knots pr hour.

Sutter's Mill, where gold
was discovered.

On the 85th day out we hove in sight of an object that greatly attracted our attention & ere long the green hills of San Francisco bay began to show their highest points, & soon we were gliding smoothly along between them, down the bay, & when the order came to let go anchor, we brought up directly in front of the City amidst a fleet of vessels, of all kinds & sizes."

Mishap on the way to Sacramento

"We took passage on a small schooner, crossed the bay with a gentle breeze & soon were winding our way up the crooked Sacramento. We soon entered Soosoon bay & our Capt. not being acquainted with the channel we ran on the ground at high tide & a stiff breeze, so that we were fast in reality. As the tide fell our little schooner fell also on her side & filled with water. We clung to the upper side, but were so thick that as night drew on the Capt. thought some of us had better go on shore. Some of our party went, myself among the rest. We came very near getting swamped on the water.

 We laid our frail bodies down to rest, & after a short nap the watch waked us with the sad news that the tide was rising fast & would soon overflow our resting place. Some found their feet asoak, others their blankets, & all jumped up exclaiming what shall we do, but we managed to keep out of the water by getting on old logs & bogs until morning, which being Sunday & being obliged to stay there all day made it one of the most unpleasant Sabbaths that I ever spent. At night the Capt. sent a boat and took us on board & at high tide at midnight we succeeded in getting off & after spending one week & getting fast several times more we at length reached Sacramento City to the joy of our hearts & the relief of our hands."

On to the Gold Fields

"We hired an ox team to carry our baggage & started for this place then called Hangtown, from the fact that three persons had been hung here for stealing & attempting to murder. Ten miles from the river we passed Sutters fort, an old looking heap of buildings surrounded by an high wall of unburnt brick, & situated in the midst of a pleasant fertile plain, covered with grass and a few scattering oaks, with numerous tame cattle & mules. We walked by the wagon & at night cooked our suppers, rolled our blankets around us & lay down to rest on the ground, with nothing but the broad canopy of the heavens over us & slept soundly without fear or molestation. After leaving the plains we passed over some hills that looked dry & barren being burnt up by the sun & the long droughts that we have here. We reached this place at night on the fourth day, & in the morning found ourselves in the midst of the diggings, being surrounded by holes dug.

 We pitched our tents, shouldered our picks & shovels & with pan in hand sallied forth to try our fortunes at gold digging. We did not have very good success being green at mining, but by practice & observation we soon improved some, & found a little of the shining metal. "

Getting the Gold

"It is found along the banks of the streams & in the beds of the same, & in almost every little ravine putting into the streams. And often from 10 to 50 ft. from the beds up the bank. We sometimes have to dig several feet deep before we find any, in other places all the dirt & clay will pay to wash, but generally the clay pays best. If there is no clay, then it is found down on the rock. All the lumps are found on the rock--& most of the fine gold. We tell when it will pay by trying the dirt with a pan. This is called prospecting here. If it will pay from six to 12 1/2 pr pan full, then we go to work. Some wash with cradles some with what is called a tom & various other fixings. But I like the tom best of any thing that I have seen.

 It is a box or trough about 8 or 9 feet long, some 18 in. wide & from 5 to 6 in. high, with an iron sieve in one end punched with 1/2 in. holes. Underneath this is placed a ripple or box with two ripples across it. The tom is then placed in an oblique position, the water is brought on by means of a hose. The dirt, stone, clay & all is then thrown in & stirred with a shovel until the water runs clear, the gold & finer gravel goes through the sieve & falls in the under box & lodges above the ripples. Three men can wash all day without taking this out as the water washes the loose gravel over and all the gold settles to the bottom. One man will wash as fast as two can pick & shovel it in, or as fast as three rockers or cradles."

Life in Camp: "There is a good deal of sin and wickedness going on here"

Shufelt lived in a cabin with six other miners. The cabin had windows, a fireplace and an oven. The miners' diet was poor with the result that many suffered from disease, particularly scurvy. Shufelt himself fell seriously ill, became deranged and was not expected to live but recovered in a week's time. He describes life in camp:

"Many, very many, that come here meet with bad success & thousands will leave their bones here. Others will lose their health, contract diseases that they will carry to their graves with them. Some will have to beg their way home, & probably one half that come here will never make enough to carry them back. But this does not alter the fact about the gold being plenty here, but shows what a poor frail being man is, how liable to disappointments, disease & death.

There is a good deal of sin & wickedness going on here, Stealing, lying, Swearing, Drinking, Gambling & murdering. There is a great deal of gambling carried on here. Almost every public House is a place for Gambling, & this appears to be the greatest evil that prevails here. Men make & lose thousands in a night, & frequently small boys will go up & bet $5 or 10 (Equivalent to $115-$225 today) -- & if they lose all, go the next day & dig more. We are trying to get laws here to regulate things but it will be very difficult to get them executed."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gold Rush Towns

Columbia, California

Columbia - Historic Gold Rush Town - Want to step back in time? Columbia is the perfect place to be enveloped in a quintessential Gold Rush experience. This town was established in 1850 when gold prospectors set up camp. It retains much of its Gold Rush charm thanks to shop keepers in traditional costume, a Main Street lined with authentic storefronts, and pedestrian-only roads.
Murphys, California

Murphys - Old West meet Wine Tasting - The Murphys, California of today, known as "Queen of the Sierra", grew from a single trading post and gold mining operation in 1848. Murphys combines the old with the new, thanks to its historic buildings which now house updated shops, restaurants, and many entertainment options. With over 26 wine tasting rooms and an olive oil tasting room, Murphys is the perfect day trip that will tantalize your taste buds and let you explore the up and coming world of Calaveras County Wine!
Sonora, California

Sonora - Gold Rush Town and County Center - In 1848, Sonora, California was named after Sonora, Mexico, in homage to the hometown of many of the gold miners who helped establish it. Today Sonora retains much of its Gold Rush architecture and allure, but is also known to be a center for modern culture in Tuolumne County.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bodie

Bodie was designated the official state gold rush ghost town of California in 2002 to acknowledge the importance Bodie played in California's history. The idea for the measure originated from the students and teachers of Lee Vining Junior High School. Bodie is one of the largest and best preserved ghost towns in the west. - offering visitors a special insight into the gold rush days.



From California Bill AB:

"Bodie became a boom town in 1877 and by 1879 had a population of approximately 10,000 with 2,000 buildings. The town became more known for its wild living than for its big gold resources - numerous saloons and breweries dotted the mile long main street.

By 1882 the town was in the grips of decline - the rich mines were playing out and mining companies were going bankrupt. Two fires, one in 1892 and the other in 1932 ravaged the business district and Bodie faded into a ghost town in the 1940's.

Today, Bodie stands just as time, fire and the elements have left it - a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Designated a state historic park in 1962, approximately 170 buildings are protected in a state of "arrested decay" on more than 1,000 remote acres, administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Calif. couple unearths Gold Rush coins worth $10M

For a lucky California couple, their $10 million pot of backyard gold came with a shadow, not a rainbow.

While walking the dog last February, the couple stumbled across a treasure of 1,427 gold coins from the mid- to late-19th century buried in eight cans in the shade of a tree on their property in the state's famous Gold Country, according to Kagin's, the numismatic firm representing the anonymous finders.

Dubbed the Saddle Ridge Hoard, it is believed to be "one of the greatest buried treasures ever unearthed in the United States," the trade journal Coin Update writes.

The $5-, $10- and $20-denomination coins — uncirculated and in mint condition — have a total face value of $27,000 and date from 1847 to 1894. The majority are $20-denomination Liberty Double Eagles struck at the San Francisco Mint between 1855 and 1894, though one $5 piece came from Georgia. Experts said some might sell at auction for about $1 million.

The Professional Coin Grading Service, which certified the little mother lode, rates more than a dozen as either the finest or tied for the finest known examples of the coins, said firm co-founder David Hall.

He called the discovery "a literal time capsule" of gold coins circulating in the late 19th century.

In an interview with Kagin's, the finders, identified only as John and Mary, described how they came across their Gold Rush fortune on what they call Saddle Ridge:
John: I saw an old can sticking out of the ground on a trail that we had walked almost every day for many, many years.
Mary: I was looking down in the right spot and saw the side of the can. I bent over to scrape some moss off and noticed that it had both ends on it!
John: Years ago, on our first hike, we noticed an old tree growing into the hill. It had an empty rusty can hanging from it that the tree had grown around — that was right at the site where we found the coins… At the time we thought the can might be a place for someone to put flowers in for a grave site — something which would have been typical at the time.
There was also an unusual angular rock up the hill from where the coins were buried — we'd wondered what in the heck it was.
Mary: It wasn't until we made the find that we realized it might have been a marker: starting at the rock, if you walk 10 paces towards the North Star, you wind up smack in the middle of the coins!

Who buried them remains a mystery.

"I don't like to say once-in-a-lifetime for anything, but you don't get an opportunity to handle this kind of material, a treasure like this, ever," numismatist Don Kagin told the Associated Press.

It's rare to find such coins older than 1870, because until then paper money was illegal in California.

"It wasn't really until the 1880s that you start seeing coins struck in California that were kept in real high grades of preservation," David McCarthy, Kagin's chief numismatist, told AP.

Some of the coins will be on display this weekend in Atlanta at the American Numismatic Association's National Money Show, which runs Thursday through Saturday.

The couple, who are in their 40s and had dabbled in panning for gold, plan to keep a few coins but intend to sell most on Amazon. Mary said they'll use the proceeds to retire debts and help "people in our community who are hungry and don't have enough to eat," along with the arts and "other overlooked causes." They don't plan to change their lifestyle and hope everyone will treat them the same as always.

Mary offered one priceless piece of wisdom.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Georgia Gold Rush

It is generally accepted that the first recorded discovery of gold by the white man occurred in 1799, in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Conrad Reed, a boy at the time, found a 17-pound nugget in a creek on his father's farm. Incredibly, the family used the huge nugget as a doorstop until 1802, when it was sold to a jeweler for $3.50. Eventually word got out about the true worth of the gold doorstop, initiating the nation's first gold rush.



 The Georgia portion of the Appalachian gold belt went unappreciated until Benjamin Parks discovered gold in 1828, in the area near which the town of Dahlonega would be settled.

 Actually the first gold rush town in Georgia was called Nuckollsville, later becoming Auraria (from the Latin, meaning "gold"), which was located about six miles from present day Dahlonega. The gold discovery caused a near stampede of those seeking a quick fortune. The region near Auraria lay claim to one of the richest parts of the gold belt and many miners sought their fortune there. The area was named Lumpkin County in 1832 and Dahlonega was selected as the county seat in 1833, denying Auraria her claim to the title, and initiating the decline of the state's first gold rush town. This area had been home to the Cherokee for many generations. They were later forced by the government to leave their land for reservations in Oklahoma, a journey that became known as the "Trail of Tears."

 The gold rush was exacerbated by a state-sponsored lottery, which awarded forty acres of gold-bearing land, previously owned by the Cherokee, to those holding the winning draws.

 Parks may have best described the chaotic scene, "The news got abroad, and such excitement you never saw.  It seemed within a few days as if the whole world must have heard of it, for men came from every state I had ever heard of. They came afoot, on horseback and in wagons, acting more like crazy men than anything else. All the way from where Dahlonega now stands to Nuckollsville there were men panning out of the branches and making holes in the hillsides ."

 Dahlonega was aptly named, being derived from the Cherokee language, meaning "yellow money." In her earlier days known as "Licklog," Dahlonega soon became a boomtown, supporting a surrounding population of about 15,000 miners at the height of the gold rush. Symptomatic of its rapid ascension, shortages of common necessities were widespread. As might be expected in such a "rough and ready" gold mining town, there were stores, hotels, brothels, saloons, and gambling houses.
 One contemporary account related, "I can hardly conceive of a more unmoral community than exists around these mines; drunkenness, gambling, fighting, lewdness, and every other vice exist here to an awful extent." "Sprawls Hotel," a tanyard in town, was an "establishment" where drunken miners were allowed to "ooze" until they were sober enough to "check out." On the other hand, one traveler thought that the Dahlonega hotels offered "comforts for the inner man...not excelled by any in the State."

 Gold production increased in the decade following the gold discovery. The problem that the gold miners faced was that there was not an easy way to convert their finds (gold dust and nuggets) to a spendable medium. Raw gold could be used for payment in the local establishments near Dahlonega, but usually at a steep discount. Part of the difficulty was that the fineness of the raw gold was not easily determined. A few private coiners, including Templeton Reid, attempted to alleviate this problem, with only minimal success. Reid was a German "metal worker, cotton gin manufacturer, jeweler, watchmaker, and gunsmith" who briefly issued $2, $5, and $10 gold pieces  dated 1830, initially from Milledgeville, then from Gainesville, Georgia. It was an arduous and risky task to attempt to have the raw gold coined at the Federal mint in Philadelphia,
 as the distance from the southern gold fields was long and uncertain. Nonetheless, the mint at Philadelphia did receive over $1.7 million in Georgia deposits from 1830-1837.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The United States’ First Gold Rush

The squeaking of the old windlass above the well slowly awakened me from my sleep. As I sat up in the bed, I remembered that greasing the windlass was one of the chores Papa had given me to do the day before and I had carelessly forgotten. Boy, was Papa going to be mad! I hurriedly dressed and ran downstairs to help bring in the water that was being drawn from the well. I greeted Mama with a good morning kiss, grabbed hold of the pail of water she was carrying, and followed her across the yard to the kitchen. I was a small boy, the age of twelve years, and by the time I reached the kitchen, which was about twenty feet behind the house, I had already splashed much of the water out of the pail onto the ground and myself. “Gosh it was cold!”

When I reached the kitchen door I remembered to put a few dippers full of clean water in the wash pan by the door so we could wash our hands before breakfast. After placing the pail of water on a small table in the corner of the kitchen, Mama told me to go to the house and wake my younger brother and sister. Within the next hour the whole family was seated at the table for breakfast. As Papa was saying grace, I remembered it was Sunday and I had a full day to play and do as I wished. Sunday at our home always meant a day of rest, for Papa did not believe in working on the Lord’s day. As we were eating, Papa reminded me that I had not greased the windlass as I was told to do the day before. He said it must be done in the morning or I would certainly be punished. I promised I would not forget this time.

After breakfast Papa went to the barn to hitch up the horses to the wagon so we could all make the half-hour trip to church for Sunday services. I begged Mama to let me stay home from church because I had something I wished to do. It took a lot of pleading, and she finally agreed to let me stay home, but only if my brother and sister stayed and I would agree to watch after them. What I had planned was an exciting day of bow and arrow fishing in the creek down behind the house. This was one of my favorite pastimes, and with all the chores around the farm, Sunday’s were the only free time I had.

After Mama and Papa left for church, I gathered up my bow and arrow, my brother and sister, and off to the creek we ran. Little Meadow Creek, as it was called, was not a very big creek. The deepest part of it was only about two feet deep, with most of it only six to eight inches deep. We quietly slipped along the creek bank searching for fish to shoot with my bow and arrow. With my little brother, it was almost impossible to sneak up on a fish that was lying still in the shallow water of the creek. Twice he slipped from the edge of the creek bank into the water, making enough noise to scare the fish a mile away.

After hours of shooting at fish that always seemed to be moving and that I always missed, we finally came upon a big ole catfish lying real still on the bottom of the creek bed. This was one I was sure I would not miss. As I pulled back the arrow on my bow and took careful aim, my sister began hollering, “Shoot Conrad, Shoot!.” As she was shouting for me to shoot, she poked me in the back causing me to shoot before I was ready. As I watched, the arrow entered the water and slid across the back of the big ole catfish; he swam quickly away unharmed. I was so mad I felt like pushing her into the creek, but knew if I did she would tell Papa and he would give me the licking of my life.

I waded into the creek to get my arrow and as I reached down to get it I saw a large yellow rock laying to the side of where my arrow struck. I handed the arrow to my sister, reached back into the water, and grabbed hold of the strange looking rock. I was surprised that it was so heavy to be so small. It was about the size of one of my shoes, but it seemed to weigh as much as the pail of water I had carried earlier that morning.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mercury used to mine gold in California's Gold Rush days still making its way into valleys below the gold mines.

There really is gold in them thar hills, but there's something else in California's ridges, and in its valleys as well: mercury, a toxic legacy of the Gold Rush that will last for thousands of years.

Scientists have found high levels of mercury, which miners used to extract gold, in the foothills and valleys below former gold mines in California's Sierra Nevada range. Once in the valleys, the mercury can enter the food chain and could eventually make its way to San Francisco Bay. There's evidence that the poisonous chemical continues to ooze out of the Earth and travel to vulnerable ecosystems.

Other experts thought mercury-laced soils were staying put in the mountains, but "our research suggests that is not the case," says research leader Michael Singer, a geomorphologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and the University of California, Santa Barbara. "There are massive amounts of mercury-laden sediment making its way down to the lowlands."

Pollution prevention wasn't a high priority in the 1850s, when the thirst for gold drove prospectors to adopt an environmentally devastating technique called hydraulic mining. Hillsides were blasted with water cannons, yielding a muddy slurry that was channeled through trough-like sluices. To separate the gold from the sand and gravel, workers dumped hundreds of pounds of mercury, which can cause severe neurological damage, into the slurry.

The traditional view held that mercury-laden sediment from the mines had all worked its way down to the bay and the sea by the early 1900s, Singer says. But there have also been signs the mercury is still flowing. So Singer and his team went looking for the stuff. They started at the Yuba Fan, a gigantic buildup of mining debris in the valley of California's Yuba River, which runs out of the Sierra and down into the lowlands. Not far upstream from the fan lie several abandoned gold mines.

The team's survey of 105 sites along the Yuba and two rivers nearby found relatively fresh mercury deposits. So it's clear that mercury is still percolating out of the ground and fouling waterways. For instance, huge amounts of mercury washed downstream from the Yuba Fan during major floods in 1986, 1997 and 2006, according to estimates by Singer and his colleagues. The scientists think there's still enough mercury in the foothills to contaminate the valley below for more than 10,000 years, they report in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team didn't investigate whether the mercury that hits the lowlands goes all the way to the San Francisco Bay Delta, the network of bays and rivers that stretches from California's inland valley to the Pacific Ocean. But there's plenty of evidence that mercury from mining does reach the bay, says Duke University geochemist Gretchen Gehrke, who was not connected to the study. She says the new study is valuable for estimating how much mercury is reaching the lowlands, which is important for both humans and wildlife. The valley below the Sierra is a stopover for millions of migrating birds, and already several Bay-Delta fish species eaten by humans contain unsafe mercury levels.

And the amount of mercury washing into the lowlands could rise, Singer says, if climate change leads to longer floods as predicted.

There's a "romantic view of the Gold Rush, which is old guys roaming around with pans of gold. It was really an industrialized operation run by engineers," Singer says. More than a century later, the result is a "problem … much, much bigger than (many others) are suspecting it is."