Gold Rush History: Gossip from the Diggings

By Bob Holton June 15, 2008 12:49

In the wild and carefree days of the gold rush, the diggings were abuzz with unusual stories like these:

It was rumored in 1849 that a Frenchman on the Tuolumne River found a 34-pound nugget that drove him crazy. Whenever he looked at it, he was overcome with fits of madness.

A 49er from Jackass Gulch committed a brutal murder in 1850 and was fined $100, then given the choice of leaving camp or being hanged. He left, and a few months later turned up as the Sheriff of Siskiyou County.

About this time a man named Hawkins, of Hawkins Bar, supposedly buried12 pickle jars filled with gold dust, then died of consumption. This hidden treasure was never found and today it remains one of our foothills’ great mysteries.

Gold washers were inconvenienced in 1853 when Sonora’s city council, in a show of double standards and racial bigotry, singled out Chinese houses of ill-fame and declared them illegal.

Also this year, it was said by many that a jar containing the head of the bandit Joaquin Murrieta, placed on display in Columbia for folks to see at an admission price of fifty cents, was an utter fraud.

Finally, a popular story was told around the campfires of a downhearted Englishman who sat on a rock, his tools on the ground beside him, when a preacher passed by and tried to console him. The miner spoke of how he had labored unsuccessfully for a year, while less worthy men raked in fortunes and squandered everything in saloons and gambling hells. “Since you seem to be a believer in luck,” the preacher said, “why not turn over the rock you’re sitting on and see what’s underneath it?” He did, and found over two pounds of tiny nuggets shaped like pumpkin seeds. From then on the ground was placer-rich wherever he put his shovel and soon he was sailing home to England – a rich man.

© 2008, Friends and  Neighbors Magazine

By Bob Holton June 15, 2008 12:49
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