Panning for gold at the
Reed Gold Mine in
Midland, North Carolina.
Gold was discovered in Coloma, California, on January 24, 1848. Eight miles away in Big Canyon Creek, prospectors found so much gold they could pick it up from the stream. How easy was that! Miners' huts lined the creek during those early years. Best of all, every spring the creeks and rivers brought down a new "crop" of gold. It came from quartz rock outcroppings higher up that washed away.
The Gold Bug was my inspiration for the Midas mine in Tunnel of Gold.
Later, when the placer (surface) gold panning didn't turn up much gold, hard rock mining came into being. These pictures show the inside of the Gold Bug Mine in Placerville, not too far from Big Canyon Creek. The Hattie Mine was its original name, named for the mine owner's oldest daughter. How would you like someone to name a gold mine after you?
Learn more about the Gold Bug Mine. You can even take a short video tour!
Check back often for new additions!
I bet your mother would not find this joke very funny. Back in 1857, a gold camp called "Gibsonville" was the center of things for a radius of about 15 to 20 miles. There were not a lot of women in mining camps, so some girls married as young as fifteen. They had babies too. Well, it didn't seem quite right that only the husbands should dance with these girls at the big Fourth of July ball, seeing as there were so few women. So the girls were given special permission to dance with the single miners that day.
Folks came from miles around. Fifty young mothers came, and brought their babies along. A special place in the hotel was set aside for them and the babies. Hundreds of miners came to the big party too, but many of them never got a chance to dance with a pretty, young mother. Sorely disappointed, they thought of a plan to "get even." A number of them went to the rooms where the babies lay sleeping. They mixed them up, so no mother--in her hurry to grab her baby and head home--would take home the baby she had brought. They left the blankets alone and switched only the babies, so everything looked nearly the same.
Believe it or not, the joke worked wonderfully well (for the miners; not for the mothers). The tired mothers scooped up their babies and blankets and hurried home. Can you imagine the shock when they got home (some maybe ten miles away) and found the wrong baby in their arms? It took several days to straighten the whole mess out. The miners got a good laugh. Not so much the mothers. Or . . . maybe they laughed too. After all, original "amusements" were the only type of entertainment available to the early California prospectors.
The Miner's Ten Commandments
“The Miner’s Ten Commandments” were first written in 1853 by James M. Hutchings (1818-1902), and first published in the Placerville Herald newspaper. If you would like to read them, click here: THE MINER'S TEN COMMANDMENTS. (They are a lot of fun to read.)
The commandments have been paraphrased from the original, long-winded document and updated (“you” instead of “thou”) to make them easier to understand and enjoy. Do they give you an idea of what life was like for lonely miners thousands of miles from home?
Gold was first discovered in America near Charlotte, North Carolina. One Sunday in 1799, a 12-year-old boy named Conrad Reed went fishing in Little Meadow Creek on their family's farm. Instead of finding a fish, he saw something yellow shining in the creek bed. He waded into the water and picked up the object, which was about the size of a small iron. It was heavy, weighing about 17 pounds.
Conrad's father, John Reed, didn't really know what the rock was, so the family used it for about 3 years as a doorstop. Mr. Reed finally hauled the rock into Fayettville and showed it to a jeweler, who of course knew right away the rock was gold. Mr. Reed offered to sell it to the jeweler for the "big" price of $3.50. The jeweler agreed right away. He got about $3,600 worth of gold in that deal!
Chinese Miners in California
The Chinese were patient and thorough miners. They did not give up until every grain of gold dust was taken from a claim. They were also scavengers, willing to mine claims that whites had abandoned as not being worthwhile. The “Yankees” (American miners) became resentful of the efficient Chinese. They felt the Chinese were taking gold away from the white miners. The Chinese were run out of gold camp after gold camp. Many started their own towns, like Chinese Camp.
Then the California government got into the act, supporting the white miners’ claims. In 1852, the legislature in Sacramento passed a “Foreign Miner’s Tax” aimed at the Chinese. No one who
was not a U.S. citizen could mine, unless they had a license and paid a tax of $3.00 a month. Some Chinese were making only $6.00 a month mining at the time. If a miner could not (or refused to) pay this tax, the tax collectors could take their mine away and sell it as quickly as one hour later! Phony tax collectors were everywhere too, forcing miners to pay up. When they refused, some Chinese were shot and killed. Click here to see the real FOREIGN MINERS TAX LAW.
It was not a good time to be Chinese in California. Worse laws came later. This unfair and inhumane prejudice is a horrible blot on the history of our United States.
Quartz gold ore. After mining, it must be crushed up so the gold can be extracted.
When gold was first discovered in California in 1848, there were no laws to oversee the mining, and no law to collect any taxes on the gold. Digging for gold was a free-for-all, a first-come, first-served deal. “There’s plenty of gold for the world, for generations to come!” they cried.
The enthusiastic miners who said this were wrong. The gold camps became crowded; competition to find the placer (surface) gold increased. It soon became clear that there was not enough gold for everybody in the whole world. But it was too late . . .
The Chinese heard the news of gold in California and crossed the Pacific Ocean in droves. By 1852, only four years after the first gold nugget was found at Sutter’s Mill, 25,000 Chinese had arrived at what they called Gum Shan, "Gold Mountain," making them the largest group of foreigners in the gold fields. They stayed together in large camps, living and working together in communal groups.
People came from all over the world, all after the same treasure: GOLD. This page will bring you some interesting and unusual stories from the Gold Rush, pictures of gold-related subjects like mines and tools, and anything else that comes to mind. Enjoy!
Gold Rush Adventure in the Old West