Thursday, April 30, 2015



 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.

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 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."