Great Gold Finds Around El Dorado County

Early in '49 the country and rivers as far north as the Yuba River was examined and prospected, a few of the bars upon the latter being worked and found to be very rich. Fortunes were realized from Spanish, Murderers', Big and Michigan Bars, where Ex-Governor Stanford had his little store in '52, the germ from which sprang the Great Overland Railroad. In one respect Eldorado County differed from nearly all other mining counties in the State, or even upon the Coast, as the gold was more evenly scattered and the mines, as a general rule, were more shallow and much more easily worked. For these reasons they paid better for the time expended in working them, though naturally worked out much quicker.

In consequence of the first discovery of gold having been made in Eldorado County the first mining was confined to this portion of the mining regions, and for this reason also the yield of gold during the first two years subsequent to its discovery was greater than from any part of the State, the amount realized from the county up to the spring of '51 having been estimated at $20,000,000. As we advance to the north we find that the gold deposits in the ravines and canons are much deeper, and although gold upon the bed rock can be had in great quantities, being in some cases taken out by the pound, yet the net profits are very small, owing to the great expense in working.



As we advance to the north we find that the gold deposits in the ravines and canons are much deeper, and although gold upon the bed rock can be had in great quantities, being in some cases taken out by the pound, yet the net profits are very small, owing to the great expense in working. We find, also, as we proceed to the north, that the ancient river beds are of greater extent and much richer, the mountains also being higher and more rugged. The placer mining, on the other hand, is confined to a smaller area, gold being found only in a few of the principal, or larger, creeks and ravines. It is evident, therefore, from this fact, as well as from the general appearance of the hills, that those natural forces, such as volcanic and glacial action, which wore away the high mountain peaks to their present altitude, and which broke down the ancient river channels throughout the central portion of the mining regions, were of much greater force and of longer duration. It is for this reason, also, that the washed gravel and particles of gold which they contained scattered over a larger area of country upon the surface.

It was the general opinion among the early miners that where placer mines existed would also be found rich quartz ledges, and where rich quartz ledges are found there must, for similar reasons, be good placer mining. This is true only of the central portion of the mining regions, where the quartz ledges have been thrown down and broken up, and is not true of other sections,- for we find farther north, among the high cliffs and rugged peaks which have not been worn down by these natural forces, quartz ledges containing free gold, in many cases of great value. Yet no free gold, or at least but very little, can be found among the ravines or canons below them.

An acquaintance of mine was realizing from his ravine claim about 10 ounces of gold daily, and upon his way to his cabin one evening he picked up a horseshoe which he took to his quarters and hung upon a nail, with the remark that his claim in future was "just agoin' to pungle" ; and sure enough, for about two weeks following it did "pungle" at the average of 2.5 ounces per diem.

A short time after another miner, a near neighbor, found, upon his way home from work, two horseshoes, which were hung up in his cabin for luck, and strange as it may seem, instead of his claim increasing in its daily pay, in a few days it ceased paying entirely. Of course, the only explanation for this phenomenon, as one of his friends told him, was that in finding two horseshoes he overdid the business, for one offset the other. Another acquaintance accounted for the catastrophe by saying that very probably one of the shoes was a mule shoe, and consequently all good luck was kicked out. Another miner, upon commencing his work one morning, said that during the night previous he had dreams of finding a hen's nest containing a number of eggs, and was told that such a dream was surely a sign of good luck. Singularly enough, for three or four days afterwards his claim gave down far better than it ever had done before.



A few mornings subsequent, another miner at work near by reported a similar dream, and he also received his reward by an increase in daily pay. But a short time afterwards another miner in the same ravine, who was making upon his claim an average daily profit of $14, reported one morning that he the night before of finding a hen's nest from which he took nearly a peck of eggs. It is to he feared that he too overdid it, as the sign for him was an entire failure. He found at night that the lead upon which he had been at work had run out, and he could average but two dollars per day, and was consequently forced to abandon his claim. Many explanations were given for the sign having gone back on him, with a peck of eggs behind it, too, but were all unsatisfactory with one exception, this being the only reasonable one, that by the law of coincidences it could hardly be possible that such effects should occur three times in succession, notwithstanding the favorable nature of the signs.

Hundreds of similar instances might be cited to show that these so-called lucky strikes, as foretold by dreams or signs, are simply coincidences, and no other explanation, in my opinion, is possible. It is, of course, well understood that gold mining in general has, in reference to the method or process of getting money, or of acquiring wealth in an easy as well as  a very rapid manner, without the necessity of toiling through a long series of years for the purpose, and it was this idea that brought many thousands into the mining regions of California. But coming here and finding, alas, that even to dig gold direct from the soil required labor, patience and perseverance, as well as an indefinite space of time, and even then with uncertain results, was the cause of hundreds returning immediately to their Eastern homes, or, at any rate, of leaving the mining regions in disgust upon making the unpleasant discovery that gold was not to be scraped from the surface of the ground, but that it was away down out of sight, badly mixed up with the dirt, mud and water.

For these reasons, thousands who crossed the sandy plains, or who came by water to the gold mines, were sadly disappointed. In order to find a gold deposit or lead which would pay for working, it was, of course, necessary to travel around with pick, pan and shovel among the ravines, fiats and gulches ; and when what seemed a favorable spot was found, a hole of suitable dimensions had to be dug, and the dirt upon the bed rock panned to determine the value of the claim, or whether it would pay to be worked.

Return To: California Gold Rush: True Tales of the 49ers



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