Yuba County History
THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE YUBA RIVER VALLEY
by George Emmanuel Hanson
THE MARYSVILLE GOLD REGION
Coming from the rich auriferous localities from above the waters of the Main Yuba deposited on the bars in their way the golden sands which they contained, making for the early gold seekers an El Dorado which liberally rewarded their toils. The river, it is said, revealed the presence of the metal as far down as Marysville.
Spects Camp - - It was at Rose Bar as we have already observed that gold was first discovered on the Yuba. After finding small quantities of the metal at this place on June 2d, Jonas Spect discovered more remunerative diggings on the river just above Timbuctoo Ravine. He camped here and commenced work. The locality was known by all the miners working on the river in 1848 as Spects Camp.
Rose Bar - - The riches of Rose Bar so sparingly revealed to Mr. Spect were left to reward later gold seekers, for it proved to be one of the richest bars on the Main Yuba. A man named Inman, however, who worked at Rose Bar shortly after Spect had been there, likewise found the diggings unprofitable and left to find a better place. The first actual working on the bar began later in June, when Claude Chana with five Indians, excavated deeper into the diggings which Inman had previously deserted. For this they were amply recompensed. The first days work brought each one hundred and fifty dollars. In July, John Rose from whom the bar was subsequently named arrived with about a dozen men from the American River, followed the succeeding month by other adventurers.
When the miners of 1849 began to flock into this region the bar speedily became very populous. As early as the spring of that year a meeting was held at which it was decided that a claim should be one hundred square feet, and that a miner should be limited by his claim. Two thousand busy men were at work there in 1850 delving for the gold grains. Hundreds of tents dotted the little valley while hotels, stores, saloons, shops and all the adjuncts of a town came and existed there as long as the diggings continued to pay. It was a beautiful village in some respects, attractively situated on the Yuba, then a clear dashing stream.
But the course of the river was turned a number of times, and for the last in 1857. Little mining was done after that, for the hydraulic operations near by, too, wrought an unhappy change to Rose Bar. As the river rose sweeping its muddy water over the valley, the bar passed out of sight. In its stead was a long uneven bed of sand and cobble stones, interspersed with the cast off clothing of the miner or the detritus which he had caused. Over this bed ran numerous streams of muddy yellow water, while buried underneath no less than seventy feet was the once famous Rose Bar.
Parks Bar - - Two or three miles west of Rose Bar and about fifteen miles above Marysville, situated on the north side of the Yuba was Parks Bar, probably the richest of all the many bars so thickly spread along its banks. A company consisting of Stephen Cooper, John Marsh, Nicolaus Hunsaker, and John Long with two brothers arrived on the river in the summer of 1848, and after a few days prospecting commenced mining on Parks Bar.
David Parks from whom the bar was named, started with his numerous family across the plains for Oregon in 1848. He met with a train of Mormons on the way who informed him of the gold discovery, whereupon, he altered his course and made for California, arriving at the bar in September. A number of miners were at work when he arrived, and had been for some time. The bar was christened after him because he was a man with a family, and more persons answered to the name of Parks than any other.
Early in 1849 there was a great rush to this point, and the bar soon became a populous and thriving town. The place was very genuinely rich with the precious metal. It is said that five men took out five hundred and twenty-five pounds of gold within a few days, and that a great number of miners returned to their eastern homes enriched at these diggings.
In 1852 the bar attained the crowning point of its glory. It was then the site of a bustling town which threatened to rival the metropolis itself, Marysville. A number of companies were at work in the river bed with 218,000 dollars invested in dams, flumes, pumps and the like. The gold yield during the summer was enormous.
But Parks Bar began to decline in 1854-55, and each successive year saw it becoming more and more deserted. The muddy waters of the Yuba soon flowed over the old site of the once flourishing town; and above the mining debris that covered it, little was left to bear evidence of its former prosperity.
Long Bar - - which derived its name form the fact that it was the longest bar on the river, proved also to be the longest in duration of those situated on the Main Yuba. It was a close neighbor of Parks Bar and was occupied by gold seekers as early as October, 1848. In November the first regular organized party of prospectors to enter California from the outside stopped at this place. It was a wagon company led by Peter Burnett coming from Oregon City by way of the Willamett and the Lassen Road. Arriving at the bar on the 5th of November they found the place alive with miners. For a true picture of the bar and the life which animated it at that time, it is desirable to take Burnett’s own account.
“We forded the Feather River a few miles below Hock Farm, and then took up this stream toward the Yuba, and encamped a little before sundown near the rancho of Michael Nye….We at once called upon Nye at his house. He received us most kindly. He and his brother-in-law, William Foster, with their families were living together.
“Next morning we left for the Yuba; and after traveling some eight or ten miles, we arrived at noon on the brow of the hill overlooking Long Bar. Below, glowing in the hot sunshine, and in the narrow valley of this lovely and rapid stream, we saw the canvas tents and the cloth shanties of the miners. There was but one log cabin in the camp. There were about eighty men, three women and five children at this place. The scene was most beautiful to us. It was the first mining locality we had ever seen, and here we promptly decided to pitch our tent. We drove our wagons and teams across the river into the camp, and turned out our oxen and horses to graze and rest.
“We arrived at the mines November 5, 1848; and the remainder of the day I spent looking around the camp. No miner paid the slightest attention to me or said a word. They were all too busy. At last I ventured to ask one of them, whose appearance pleased me, whether he could see the particles of gold in the dirt. Though dressed in the garb of a rude miner, he was a gentleman and a scholar. He politely replied that he could; and taking a handful of dirt, he blew away the fine dust with his breath, and showed me a scale of gold, about as thick as thin paper, and as large as a flax-seed. This was entirely new to me.”
To accommodate the thousand people who populated the bar in 1850 a post office was established, and a number of hotels, stores and saloons were erected. The following year a ferry operated between this place and Kennebec Bar, a few miles down the river. Long Bar was not so rich as its two great rivals, Parks and Rose, but it still flourished as a mining camp when most of the other bars were nearly deserted.
Other Bars - - Kennebec situated just opposite the lower end of Long Bar and first occupied in 1849 was not remarkably rich. A more favorable spot was Swiss Bar the first mining point of any importance above the mouth of the Yuba, located nine miles from Marysville. Little work, however, was done here before 1850. Though quite a mining camp at one time it never equaled Long Bar. A short way up the river was Ousleys Bar. Just below Spects Camp and near the Timbuctoo Ravine was a bar named after Theodore Cordua, the pioneer and founder of New Mecklenberg, who in 1849 opened a store on the bar. Cordua’s Bar was soon worked out and because of its proximity to the Timbuctoo hydraulic mines was shortly thereafter deeply buried. At the head of a large bend on the Yuba not over two miles above the famous Parks Bar, was a small place, alive in 1850 with eager gold hunters. For five years it was a bustling mining camp. It was known as Barton’s Bar.
Fosters Bar - - Of the bars in the Marysville section situated above the main Yuba none perhaps was more prominent that Fosters Bar. It was situated on the west bank of the North Yuba between Willow and Mill Creeks. William Foster one of the original proprietors of Marysville settled at this point early in 1849, and from him the bar was named. A little later in the season a throng of miners from the East streamed to the place an the bar rapidly became one of the most populous and thriving in the vicinity.
Major Downie, years afterwards, had no pleasant recollection of the place as he saw it in August 1849.
“Foster’s Bar, at this period, presented a singular appearance. It was crowded with men, and if one went up to the camps, his olfactory organs would perceive in a somewhat disagreeable manner, the perfumes of pork and slap-jacks arising from a hundred frying-pans and causing an odor which could only be compared with all the soap factoried in Ohio frying out at full blast.”
The population for 1850 is set at various figures ranging from five to twelve hundred. Both extremes may be correct, for in the winter season many came to the bar who worked in the surrounding country during the summer. With the influx of miners trade flourished. The first store opened by Foster was soon followed by others while hotels sprang up as a number of saloons where proprietors did a rushing business in whiskey. In March 1850 the miners elected officers for a local government and regulated the size of claims. Hydraulic mining in the adjacent hills seems to have begun as early as 1854. After the flood of 1862 the river bed at the bar had raised, it is said, fifteen to eighteen feet with tailings from the mines.
Flats And Ravines - - Back from the river bars were flats and ravines, likewise occupied by thrifty gold seekers. In consequence every mile or two up the Yuba and its forks and branches and up the ridges between them there was a new camp and a new name. The few places that we have mentioned are among the most important and most representative of the early mining bars in the Marysville section.
Among the prominent towns somewhat away from the Yuba was Brown’s Valley situated on Dry Creek eleven miles northeast of Marysville. This place because of its rich surface diggings was in the early days quite a mining camp. Later it became the scene of the most extensive quartz mining operations in Yuba County.
The Yuba Hydraulic Mines - - Situated among the foothills about eighteen miles east of Marysville were the famous hydraulic mines. They stretched along the banks of the Yuba not strictly following its course, but lying in the same general direction. At the southern end were the villages of Timbuctoo and Smartsville. Very extensive mining was done from Timbuctoo to Mooney Flat where hills where hills two hundred feet high were washed away and the bedrock lay bare for about three miles. Sucker Flat, Sicard Flat, New York Flat, and Camptonville, as well as a number of other places, were worked on a large scale by this process.
Timbuctoo - - The first mining was done in the ravines about this place in 1850. From the fact that a negro was at work in one of them it became known as Timbuctoo Ravine. The appellation was taken by the town which shortly afterwards sprang up near by. A number of cabins were early built in the vicinity, but the first dwelling that might rightfully be called a house was erected in 1855. In 1870 Timbuctoo was the largest and most thriving locality in that region.
BACK TO YUBA RIVER VALLEY INDEX PAGE
Copyright ©2007 Kathy Sedler ALL RIGHTS RESERVED