by Thompson & West, 1879, with illustrations

Chapter X - YUBA COUNTY IN 1848

This year proved a period of unusual importance in the history of this vicinity.  On the nineteenth of January, the discovery of gold was made at Coloma, and was followed in less than four months by the finding of the precious metal within the limits of the present Yuba county.  During this year Rouelle abandoned his place on the south side of the Yuba river, and settled again on Feather river near Charles Roether, and Nye occupied his old house.  Patterson sold to Sicard the land he had purchased in 1846 from Smith.  In the spring, Foster moved his family from Yerba Buena, and in partnership with Nye bought Smith's ranch.  During this year Charles Covillaud married Miss Mary Murphy, sister of Mrs. Nye and Mrs. Foster.  Nothing of note occurred in this region until the discovery of gold on the American river, when all eyes were turned in that direction; but the heat of the mining fever was not yet becoming apparent.  The people were suspicious regarding the quality and amount of the gold.  As the weeks passed, confidence was gained and the belief that there might possibly be precious minerals in other localities was strengthened.  Prospectors gradually pushed out beyond the narrow limits of the first mining district, and thus commenced the opening up of the vast mining fields of California and the Pacific Coast.

There seems to be some dispute regarding the first discovery of gold north of the American river and in the vicinity of Marysville.  Mr. Jonas Spect, who kept a diary at the time, is a reliable gentleman and undoubtedly his narrative of the finding is true, and his claim as the discoverer just.  The circumstances which led to the event and which transpired during the period are peculiar.  Californians returning to the States at that time could only go in companies of twenty or thirty men, thus affording mutual protection against the Indians, and they could not cross the mountains before the latter part of June, or first of July, on account of the snow.  On the sixth of April, 1848, Mr. Jonas Spect, accompanied by two young men, being anxious to return East, left Yerba Buena with the intention of journeying to Johnson's Crossing on Bear river, the usual place of rendezvous.  Each had three horses, one to ride and the other two for pack animals.  The route was around the Bay of San Francisco, through San Jose, and thence up to Carquinez straits.  The party traveled slowly in order to recruit the horses, and arrived at the place now called Martinez on the thirteenth of April.  As the ferry boat was a flat scow and could only cross the straits in calm weather, they camped till the eighteenth, when the voyage was accomplished and a successful landing made at Benicia.   The journey was continued leisurely until the twenty-fourth, when they camped on the banks of the Sacramento river near Knight's Landing.  The remainder of the narrative is best related in the words of Mr. Spect.

"Up to this time there had been no excitement about the gold diggings; but at that place we were overtaken by Spaniards who were on their way to Sutter's Mill to dig gold, and they reported stories of fabulously rich diggings.  After discussing the matter, we changed our course to the gold mines and hurried on, arriving at the Mill on the thirtieth of April.  It was true that several rich strikes had been made, but the miners then at work did not average two and a half dollars per day.  Marshall and Sutter claimed the land and rented the mines.  Every one supposed gold was confined to that particular locality.  We did not engage in mining, and concluded to resume our journey across the plains.  On our return trip we learned that gold had been found on Mormon Island.  But we took no further notice of it, and on the twelfth of May arrived at Johnson's Ranch.  We found one man there waiting our arrival, but we expected many others in a short time.  We waited until about the twenty-fifth when we learned that there was another rush to the mines, and then vanished all prospect of any company crossing the mountains that summer.  My partner left for the American river, and I proposed to Johnson that we should prospect for gold on Bear river.  We went some distance up the stream and spent three days in the search without any satisfactory result.  I then suggested to Johnson that he should send his Indian with me, and I would prospect the Yuba river, as that stream was about the size of the South Fork of the American river.  We prepared the outfit, and on the first of June we struck the Yuba near Long Bar.  After a good deal of prospecting, I succeeded in raising "color."  That night I camped in Timbuctoo ravine, a little above where we first found the gold.  The next day, June 2, I continued prospecting up the stream, finding a little gold but not enough to pay.  The Indian was well acquainted, and he piloted me up to the location of Rose Bar, where we met a large number of Indians, all entirely nude and eating clover.  I prospected on the bar and found some gold, but not sufficient to be remunerative.  Greatly discouraged, I started on my return home.  When I arrived at a point on the Yuba river a little above Timbuctoo ravine, I washed some of the dirt and found three lumps of gold worth about seven dollars.  I pitched my tent here on the night of June 2, and sent the Indian home for supplies.  In about a week I moved down the creek ad remained there until November 20, when I left the mines forever.  June 3, the next day after the location of my camp, Michael Nye and William Foster came up the creek prospecting for gold."

   The discovery of gold on the American river led Mr. Nye and a party to start out on a prospecting trip on the Yuba river.  In the summer - the exact date is not known - they found paying diggins on Dry creek near its junction with Yuba river, and commenced working on an extensive scale.  The discoveries by Mr. Spect and Mr. Nye's company were nearly contemporaneous, and as the parties started from different localities, and without any knowledge of the acts of the other, due credit should be given to each.  A brief sketch of the life of Jonas Spect, the discoverer of gold on the Yuba river, may be of interest in this connection.  He was born in Pennsylvania.  In 1846, he went from Ohio to Missouri.  In 1847, he left Independence, Missouri, for Oregon, driving an ox team.  At the first crossing of Snake river, he left the train and started for Oregon alone, a bold undertaking.  The Indians treated him well, although one party with whom he stopped, a month later killed a great many of the train he had been with.  He arrived in Oregon six weeks before the train, and in January, 1848, sailed for San Francisco.  In April of the same year he went to Johnson's Crossing to join a train being made up to return to the States.  His subsequent career  has been given in connection with the previous recital.  He founded, in March 1849, the town of Fremont, Yolo county, and was elected to the first Senate from the Sonoma District.  Mr. Spect now resides in Colusa.  About the sixth of June, 1848, after Mr. Spect commenced working on his claim, a party from Benicia arrived, consisting of Major S. Cooper, his son Sarshell, Nicholaus Hunsacker, Dr. Marsh, Dr. Long and his brothers.  They commenced mining on Parks Bar.  Major Cooper, Sarshell Cooper and Nicholaus Hunsacker worked together and made fifty dollars an hour, and because they do no better, left in disgust.  In July, John Rose arrived at the bar which afterward bore his name.  Mr. Rose was born in Scotland and learned the trade of ship carpentering.  He went to London in 1837 with the intention of shipping for the East Indies, but was disappointed, and instead, shipped for Peru.  From there the vessel proceeded to Yerba Buena, arriving in 1840.  He remained there a year, and then went on a voyage along the Coast to Peru and Chili, and returned in 1843.  He remained at Monterey a year, and then embarked in ship carpentering at Yerba Buena with two others - Davis and Wm. J. Reynolds; Davis left the firm shortly afterwards.  Mr. Reynolds was an Englishman and came early to California; in 1840 he was carpenter on a vessel in the coasting trade.  The firm started to build a vessel, but were compelled to discontinue it as timber had to be cut in Oregon and material could not be obtained cheaply enough.  They were building a grist-mill for General Vallejo when gold was discovered.  Most of the men left at once, but a few were persuaded to remain and finish the mill, by the agreement to take them to Sutter's Mill in a wagon.  This was done, the party arriving on the American river in June, 1848.  The next month another party was formed, mostly of men who had been working for Mr. Rose, which went to the Yuba river and located on Rose Bar, the diggings being worked on shares.  The greater part of the company became dissatisfied and went away.  Mr. Chana was in the bar-room at Weber's Hotel in San Jose, one day in February, 1848, when a man came in, and to pay for something he had purchased, offered some gold dust, saying that gold had been discovered at Sutter's Mill on American river, and all were going to work.  The people were very incredulous and would not believe the story.  Chana was going up on business, and an old Georgia miner told him that what the man had was really gold, and requested him to investigate the matter.  When he arrived he asked Sutter regarding it, and the Captain assured him that it was a certainty, and that a man could make five dollars a day.  He carried the news to San Jose and the place was almost deserted, everyone hastening to the mines.  On the fifteenth of May, Mr. Chana, three other white men and thirty Indians struck south from Bear river, searching for gold.  The first night they camped on Auburn ravine, near the present town of Ophir, Placer county.  He struck his spade into the ground a short distance from camp and found gold.  The next day they all went to work.  The gold dust was weighed in very crude scales made of a strap of leather, a silver dollar being used as a weight.  They remained there three weeks, when Chana went up to the Yuba river at Rose Bar, where work had already commenced.  He met a man named Inman who had been working on the river, and who informed him that he was going further south, as he could only make five or six dollars a day on Yuba river.  Chana and his party went to the place where he had been at work, and by digging a little deeper made one hundred and fifty dollars each the first day.  Previous to these discoveries the whole travel had been to the earlier mines, and the surrounding country had only been traveled by roving Canadian families and Indians.  But now others flocked in from Oregon, San Francisco and other localities; prospectors pushed ahead up the river and claims were rapidly located.  During the summer of 1848, there was but little permanent mining, the miners shifting about, finding rich pockets here and there.  The nomadic and unsatisfied spirit of the prospectors led them to abandon paying claims in search of some place nearer the "source of gold", and rendering greater results.   Through this action they failed to gain any satisfactory results.  The more sober and industrious who came afterwards, located on the old claims and worked them to good advantage.

In the fall of 1848, an election was held at Sutter's Fort for First and Second Alcaldes, resulting in the selection of Frank Bates and John S. Fowler.   The latter resigned in the spring of 1849, and H.A. Schoolcraft was elected to the position.  In December, the survey of the town of Sacramento was made by Captain William H. Warner, a U.S. Army officer.  It has been stated that Cordua sold one half of his interest to Charles Covillaud, in October 1848, and it is probable that an agreement was made at that time, although the documents were not signed till early in January, 1849.  The recorded deed sets forth that Theodore Cordua, of New Mecklenburg, Sacramento District, California, for $12,500 sold to Charles Covillaud "the individual one-half of all the horned cattle owned by me; also the one-half of all the tame horses and mares; also the one-half of all the hogs and poultry; also the one-half of all the good and chattels upon said rancho, viz: the one-half of all the saddles, harness, bridles, household furniture, grain canoes, etc., etc.  And the undivided half of all other goods and chattels not mentioned in the above schedule now remaining and being upon my rancho at New Mecklenburg."  The firm name was Cordua & Co.  Mr. Cordua remained in the firm till the fourth of January, 1844, when he disposed of his interest to Messrs. Nye and Foster.


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