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1. First mention of gold.-2. Gold found before 1848.-3. Marshall's discovery.-4. The

gold discovery in print.-5. Excitement abroad.-6. Pan washing.–7. The rocker.8. Mining ditches.-9. Miners' “rushes."-10. Gold Lake and Gold Bluff.--11. The “tom."--12. The sluice.-13. Placer leads traced to quartz.–14. A gold-dredging machine.-15. Decrease of wages.–16. Growth of the quartz interest. 17. Failures in quartz.-18. Improvement in quartz mining.–19. The hydraulic process.-20. Hill mining.–21. Decline of river mining.-22. 6. Rushes” to Australia.-23. The Kern river excitement.—24. Ancient rivers.-25. The Tuolumne table mountain.--26. The Fraser fever.—27. Discovery of Comstock lode.-28. The Washoe excitement.—29. The barrel and yard process.-30. The pan process.-31. Growth of the Washoeexcitement. 32. Virginia City.–33. The silver panic.—34. Litigation about the Comstock ledge.35. The many-lode theory.-36. Expenses increasing with depth.-37. Some characteristics of Esmeralda, Humboldt, and Reese rivers.—38. Sutro tunnel project and--39. Baron Richthofen's report.-40. Columbia basin and Cariboo mines.


The first mention of gold in California is made in Hakluyt's account of the voyage of Sir Francis Drake, who spent five weeks in June and July, 1579, in a bay near latitude 380 ; whether Drake's bay or San Francisco bay is a matter of dispute. It certainly was one of the two, and of neither can we now say with truth, as Hakluyt said seriously, “There is no part of the earth here to be taken up wherein there is not a reasonable quantity of gold or silver.” This statement, taken literally, is untrue, and it was probably made without any foundation, merely for the purpose of embellishing the story and magnifying the importance of Drake and of the country which he claimed to have added to the possessions of the English crown.

If any “reasonable quantity” of gold or silver had been obtained by the English adventurers, we should probably have had some account of their expeditions into the interior, of the manner and place in which the precious metals were obtained, and of the specimens which were brought home, but of these things there is no mention.

Neither gold nor silver exists “in reasonable quantity” near the ocean about latitude 38°, and the inference is that Drake's discovery of gold in California was a matter of fiction more than of fact.


Some small deposits of placer gold were found by Mexicans near the Colorado river at various times from 1775 to 1828, and in the latter year a similar discovery was made at San Isidro, in what is now San Diego county, and in 1802 a mineral vein, supposed to contain silver, at Olizal, in the district of Monterey, attracted some attention, but no profitable mining was done at either of these places.

Forbes, who wrote the history of California in 1835, said “No minerals of particular importance have yet been found in Upper California, nor any ores of metals."

It was in 1838, sixty-nine years after the arrival of the Franciscan friars, and the establishment of the first mission, that the placers of San Francisquito, forty-five miles northwest from Los Angeles, was discovered. The deposit of gold was neither extensive nor rich, but it was worked steadily for twenty years. In 1841 the exploring expedition of Commodore Wilkes visited the coast, and its mineralogist, James D, Dana, made a trip overland from the Columbia river, by way of Willamette and Sacramento valleys to San Francisco bay, and in the following year he published a book on mineralogy, and mentioned in it that gold was found in the Sacramento valley, and that rocks similar to those of the auriferous formations were observed in southern Oregon. Dana did not regard his discovery as of any practical value, and if he said anything about it in California no one paid any attention to it. Nevertheless, many persons had an idea that the country was rich in minerals, and on the 4th of May, 1846, Thomas 0. Larkin, then United States consul in Monterey, a gentleman usually careful to keep his statements within the limits of truth, said in an official letter to James Buchanan, then Secretary of State : "There is no doubt but that gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, lead, sulphur, and coal mines are to be found all over California, and it is equally doubtful whether, under their present owners, they will ever be worked.”

The implication here is that if the country were only transferred to the American flag, these mines, of whose existence he knew nothing save by surmise, or by the assertion of incompetent persons, would soon be opened and worked. In sixty-six days after that letter was written, the stars and stripes were hoisted in Monterey, and now California is working mines of all the minerals mentioned by Larkin save lead, which also might be produced if it would pay, since there is no lack of its ores.


The discovery of the rich gold fields of the Sacramento basin is an American achievement, accomplished under the American dominion, by a native of the United States, and made of world-wide importance by American enterprise and industry, favored by the liberal policy of American law.

It was on the 19th day of January, 1848, ten days before the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, and three months before the ratified copies were exchanged, that James W. Marshall

, while engaged in digging a race for a sawmill at Coloma, about thirty-five miles eastward from Sutter's Fort, found some pieces of yellow metal, which he and the half dozen men working with him at the mill supposed to be gold. He felt confident that he had made a discovery of great importance, but he knew nothing of either chemistry or gold mining, so he could not prove the nature of the metal or tell how to obtain it in paying quantities. Every morning he went down to the race to look for the bits of the metal; but the other men at the mill thought Marshall was very wild in his ideas, and they continued their labors in building the mill, and in sowing wheat, and planting vegetables. The swift current of the mill-race washed away a considerable body of earthy matter, leaving the coarse particles of gold behind, so Marshall's collection of specimens continued to accumulate, and his associates began to think there might be something in his gold mine after all. About the middle of February, a Mr. Bennett, one of the party employed at the mill, went to San Francisco for the purpose of learning whether this metal was precious, and there he was introduced to Isaac Humphrey, who had washed for gold in Georgia. The experienced miner saw at a glance that he had the true stuff before him, and after a few inquiries he was satisfied that the diggings must be rich. He made immediate preparation to go to the mill, and tried to persuade some of his friends to go with him, but they thought it would be only a waste of time and money, so he went with Bennett for his sole companion.

He arrived at Coloma on the 7th of March, and found the work at the mill going on as if no gold existed in the neighborhood. The next day he took a

pan and spade and washed some of the dirt from the bottom of the mill race in places where Marshall had found his specimens, and in a few hours Humphrey declared that these mines were far richer than any in Georgia.

He now made a rocker and went to work washing gold industriously, and every day yielded him an ounce or two of metal. The men at the mill made rockers for themselves, and all were soon busy in search of the yellow metal.

Everything else was abandoned; the rumor of the discovery spread slowly. In the middle of March, Pearson B. Reading, the owner of a large ranch at the head of the Sacremento valley, happened to visit Sutter's Fort, and hearing of the mining at Coloma, he went thither to see it. He said that if similarity of formation could be taken as proof, there must be gold mines near his ranch, so after observing the method of washing, he posted off, and in a few weeks he was at work on the bars of Clear creek, nearly two hundred miles northwestward from Coloma. A few days after Reading had left, John Bidwell, now representative of the northern district of the State in the lower house of Congress, came to Coloma, and the result of his visit was that in less than a month he had a party of Indians from his ranch washing gold on the bars of Feather river, seventy-five miles northwestward from Coloma. Thus the mines were opened at far distant points.

4.- THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN PRINT. The first printed notice of the discovery was given in the California newspaper published in San Francisco, on the 15th of March, as follows:

"In the newly made race-way of the saw-mill recently crected by Captain Sutter on the American Fork, gold has been found in considerable quantities. One person brought thirty dollars to New Helvetia, gathered there in a short time.

On the 29th of May the same paper, announcing that its publication would be suspended, says:

“The whole country, from San Francisco to Los- Angeles, and from the seashore to the base of the Sierra Nevada, resounds with the sordid cry of gold ! gold ! gold! while the field is left half planted, the house half built, and everything neglected but the manufacture of picks and shovels, and the means of transportation to the spot where one man obtained one hundred and twenty-eight dollars' worth of the real stuff in one day's washing; and the average for all concerned is twenty dollars per

diem.The towns and farms were deserted, or left to the care of women and children, while rancheros, wood-choppers, mechanics, vaqueros, and soldiers and sailors who had deserted or obtained leave of absence, devoted all their energies to washing the auriferous gravel of the Sacramento basin. Never satisfied, however much they might be making, they were continually looking for new placers which might yield them twice or thrice as much as they had made before. Thus the area of their labors gradually extended, and at the end of 1848 miners were at work in every large stream on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, from the Feather to the Tuolumne river, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, and also at Reading's diggings, in the northwestern corner of the Sacramento valley


The first rumors of the gold discovery were received in the Atlantic States and in foreign countries with incredulity and ridicule; but soon the receipts of the precious metal in large quantities, and the enthusiastic letters of army officers and of men in good repute, changed the current of feeling, and an excitement almost unparalleled ensued. Oregon, the Hawaiian islands, and Sonora sent their thousands to share in the auriferous harvest of the first year; and in the following spring all the adventurous young Americans east of the Rocky mountains wanted to go to the new Eldorado, where, as they imagined, everybody was rich, and gold could be dug by the shovelful from the bed of every stream.

Before 1850 the population of California had risen from 15,000, as it was in 1847, to 100,000, and the average increase annually for five or six years was 50,000.

As the number of mines increased, so did the gold production and the extent and variety of the gold fields.

In 1849 the placers of Trinity and Mariposa were opened, and in the following years those of Klamath and Scott's valleys. During the last sixteen years no rich and extensive gold fields have been discovered, though many little placers have been found, and some very valuable deposits, previously unknown, have been brought to light in districts which had been worked previous to 1851.


In the first two years the miners depended mainly for their profits on the pan and the rocker. The placer miner's pan is made of sheet iron, or tinned iron, with a flat bottom about a foot in diameter, and sides six inches high, inclining outwards at an angle of thirty or forty degrees.

We frequently see and hear the phrase “ golden sands," as if the gold were contained in loose sand ; but usually it is found in a tough clay, which envelops gravel and large boulders as well as sand. This clay must be thoroughly dissolved ; so the miner fills his pan with it, goes to the bank of the river, squats down there, puts his pan under water and shakes it horizontally, so as to get the mass thoroughly soaked; then he picks out the larger stones with one hand and mashes up the largest and toughest lumps of clay, and again shakes his pan; and when all the dirt appears to be dissolved so that the gold can be carried to the bottom by its weight, he tilts up the pan a little to let the thin mud and light sand run out; and thus he works until he has washed out all except the metal which remains at the bottom.


The rocker, which was introduced into the California mines at their discovery, is made somewhat like a child's cradle. On the upper end is a riddle, made with a bottom of sheet-iron punched with holes. This riddle is filled with paydirt, and a man rocks the machine with one hand while with a dipper he pours water into the riddle with the other. With the help of the agitation, the liquid dissolves the clay and carries it down with the gold into the floor of the rocker, where the metal is caught by traverse riffles or cleets, while the mud, water, and sand run off at the lower end of the rocker, which is left open. The riddle can be taken off so that the larger stones can be conveniently thrown off.

In places where there was not water enough for washing, and where the gold was coarse, the miners sometimes scratched the metal from the crevices in the rocks with their knives; but the pan and rocker were their main reliance for three or four years.

In many places the rich spots were soon exhausted, and there was a rapid decrease in the profits of the miners. It was necessary that they should devise new and more expeditious methods of working, so that they could wash more in a day, and thus derive as much profit as they had obtained by washing 2 little dirt.


The chief want of the placer miner is an abundant and convenient supply of water, and the first noteworthy attempt to convey the needful element in an artificial channel was made at Coyote Hill, in Nevada county, in March, 1850.

This ditch was about two miles long, and, proving a decided success, was imitated in many other places, until, in the course of eight years, six thousand miles of mining canals had been made, supplying all the principal placer districts with water, and furnishing the means for obtaining the greater portion of the gold yield of the State. Many of the ditches were marvels of engineering skill.

The problem was to get the largest amount of water at the greatest altitude above the auriferous ground, and at the least immediate expense, as money was worth from three to ten per cent. per month interest. As the pay-dirt might be exhausted within a couple of years, and as the anticipated profits would in a short time be sufficient to pay for an entirely new ditch, durability was a point of minor importance. There was no imperial treasury to supply the funds for a durable aqueduct in every township, nor could the impatient miners wait a decennium for the completion of gigantic structures in stone and mortar. The high value of their time and the scarcity of their money made it necessary that the cheapest and most expeditious expedients for obtaining water should be adopted. Where the surface of the ground furnished the proper grade, a ditch was dug in the earth ; and where it did not, flumes were built of wood and sustained in the air by frame-work that rose sometimes to a height of three hundred feet in crossing deep ravines, and extending for, miles at an elevation of a hundred or two hundred feet.

All the devices known to mechanics for conveying water from hill-top to hill-top were adopted. Aqueducts of wood and pipes of iron were suspended upon cables of wire, or sustained on bridging of wood; and inverted siphons carried water up the sides of one hill by the heavier pressure from the higher side of another.

The ditches were usually the property of companies, of which there were at one time four hundred in the State, owning a total length of six thousand miles of canals and flumes.

The largest of these, called the Eureka, in Nevada county, has two hundred and five miles of ditches, constructed at a cost of $900,000; and their receipts at one time from the sale of water were $6,000 per day. Unfortunately these mining canals, though more numerous, more extensive, and bolder in design than the aqueducts of Rome, were less durable, and some of them have been abandoned and allowed to go to ruin, so that scarcely a trace of their existence remains, save in the heaps of gravel from which the clay and loam were washed in the search for gold.

As the placers in many districts were gradually exhausted, the demand for water and the profits of the ditch companies decreased; and the more expensive fumes, when błown down by severe storms, carried away by floods, or destroyed by the decay of the wood, were not repaired.

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The year 1850 was marked by the first of a multitude of “rushes” or sudden migrations in search of imaginary rich diggings.

The miners, although generally men of rare intelligence as compared with the laborers in other countries, had vague ideas of the geological distribution of gold, and the marvellous amounts dug out by them, sometimes ascending to thousands of dollars per day to the laborer, excited their fancy so much that they could scarcely have formed a sound judgment if they had possessed the information necessary for its basis. Many believed that there must be some volcanic source from which the gold had been thrown up and scattered over the hills, and they thought that if they could only find that place, they would have nothing to do but to shovel up the precious metal and load their mules with it. More than once, long trains of pack animals were sent out in the confident expectation that they would get loads of gold within a few days.

H. Ex. Doc. 292

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