The Gold Towns and Mining Regions Grow and Mature

On reaching Mokelumne Hill, I found that many improvements had been made since my departure. The mines were being worked more systematically and some new and important discoveries were adding to the general prosperity of the town. Some attention was now being paid to quartz mines, and Dr. Toland, of Toland Medical College fame, had opened one which paid well at first, was then closed down for several years, and afterwards, under the name of the Gwin mine, became a very large and profitable yielder. The gulches and the river claims were now worked generally by the ground-sluice process, by which immense quantities of dirt could be washed, and places made to pay well that could not be profitably worked at all with the older contrivances. The ground sluice was really the forerunner and a necessary adjunct to the tremendous hydraulic method by which mountains were leveled and the abstraction of gold from the earth was brought to its highest and most profitable perfection.



When I reached Amador creek I examined a quartz mine there that had been worked with arastras for a year or so. I entered the mine and found that the men were taking out a character of quartz that paid liberally, worked by the primitive mode they were pursuing in crushing the ore. That mine was the celebrated Keystone, and has been worked constantly ever since with improved machinery. For forty odd years it has been considered one of the best mining properties in the State, yielding variously a net income to its owners of half a million dollars and upwards every year, and its output now is, as near as I can learn, up to its best mark of gold production during its long and profitable career. Indeed, the mother lode in Amador county, upon which the Keystone is located, has been wonderfully prolific in rich quartz mines. Within a distance of a few miles it has increased the world's stock of gold from two to three hundred millions, and prospecting is now going on there with every probability of establishing the theory that at the barren intervals where the great mines ceased to pay, the lode by some perturbation of nature was broken off and pushed to the westward. As these irregularities have occurred quite frequently, it is believed that the lode will be recovered in the broken stretches, and open a new and immensely profitable era to mining in Amador county. What is called the mother lode has been traced from Siskiyou to Kern county, over six hundred miles. At intervals of this whole distance immensely rich mines have been opened, and in view of the vast extent of this prolific vein and its tributary branches it may reasonably be said that mining is yet in its infancy in California, and great as has been its yield in the past it is yet destined to furnish the world with an unprecedented output of its exhaustless treasure.

The appearance of children on the street and an occasional babe in its mother's arms were sights which had long been denied to the grizzled miners, and their rugged faces would be lit up with a soft and gentle expression as they beheld the little ones romping around or the infant nestling in its mother's breast. The old time and the far-away home would come back to them, and it was pathetic to see how their rough natures would soften and the kindly light would beam from their delighted eyes. Nor was this feeling always confined to the selfish satisfaction it produced by filling in them a long-existent and aching void. Jack Branscom, who had for years delved in the hills and gulches, and who occupied a small cabin just out of town, was found dead in his bunk one morning. When the authorities came to search his effects a letter was found in which he said that he had no relations that he knew of, and that he wished all his belongings, of whatever description, to be given to Baby Yarrow. Baby Yarrow was a bright and captivating child of two or three years, and the neighbors had noticed that whenever Branscom passed the Yarrow place the little one seemed to be on the lookout for him, and was invariably rewarded with a gift of some kind of toy or bon-bon from the ancient miner's hands. Baby Yarrow inherited his property, which consisted of a paying claim, a plethoric buckskin bag of gold, his cabin and all it contained. The parents, in recognition of the handsome bequest, named the child Branscom Yarrow, and thus the solitary old miner's name and memory were perpetuated.

A feature of the camp, and one that was common to all the camps in the Southern mines, was the great number of Sonorans who dwelt in and around it.  Their mode of mining was peculiar. They used neither shovel, pick nor machine. Their whole outfit consisted of a short crow bar, a wooden bowl, or batea, and a horn spoon. With these they would prospect around until they found a place to suit them. With their crowbar they would sink a shaft just wide enough for their bodies to enter, and when they got to the bed rock they would drift until they found a lead or a rich crevice. It made little difference to them whether they were convenient to water or not. If they were they would at long intervals come to the surface with their wooden bowl filled with auriferous dirt, which they had carefully assorted, and wash it till only the gold remained in their batea; if there were no water handy they would dry-wash, as it was called, the contents of their vessel. This was done by a curious method of manipulation. They would agitate the earth in their bowl until the gold had settled at the bottom, then they would blow off as much of the lighter earth at the top as they could and repeat this process until they had blown off all the dirt and only the gold was left in the bowl. Sometimes they would deftly pour from a height the contents of one bowl into another, blowing upon the descending column, and thus eliminate the lighter material from the heavier, until after many repetitions of this' curious process, the gold would be separated from the dirt. A' high wind would help them out in this kind of work. Instinctively these people seemed to know where rich crevices and leads were to be found, and in their solitary and quiet way they were supposed to take out a great deal of gold from the mines. At any rate, they were the pioneers of many rich discoveries. Wherever one would go their coyote holes would show that they had been there before.



There are but few women in California during the gold rush. Several merchants, and others who intend to spend some years in the country, send for their families. However, the situation of these ladies is not the most comfortable, owing to the want of society, and to the utter impossibility of procuring servants in the family. .By the death of their husbands, the condition of the wives would be pitiable, though there seem to he enough who would persuade them to change their solitary life as soon as possible. A lady now in this city, soon after her arrival here lost her husband. Before he had been dead a week, she received three proposals of marriage.

The price of labor is was also very high, though not as high as it was in the spring of 1850. Good carpenters and masons command their $8 a day. The citizens frequently send their clothes to the Sandwich and Society Islands, and even to Valparaiso, and other places on the coast, to be washed, to avoid the great expense for washing here. All kinds of goods are lower than they were a few months since. Coal, which was $100, is now $9 a ton. Vegetables have fallen from $1 to 25 cts. a lb. Eggs maintained their high price, selling at $20 a dozen.

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