(aka The Slickens Case or Gold Run Case)


Sacramento Daily Union, Nov. 17, 1881

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler, 2010, with no corrections to original document.

Second Day of the Slickens Case in Court

Continuation of the Trial of the People vs. the Gold Run Ditch and Mining Company


        The trial of the slickens case - - People vs. Gold Run Ditch and Mining Company - - was resumed at 9:30 a.m. yesterday in the Superior Court before Judge Temple.  (Note - - W. C. Belcher was inadvertently recorded as one of the attorneys for the plaintiff.  He is for the defendant.)  The plaintiff resumed its case, I. N. Hoag was again place on the witness stand.


        I. N. Hoag was cross-examined by Mr. Catlin.  The great fire was in November, 1852.  My recollection is that the rain came next day, and it was continuous a good while after the fire, say for two weeks.  I am sure it began to rain the next day.  The rainy season set in then.  Large vessels came up to Sacramento up to 1854, and ceased to come because displaced by steamers.  The steamer Senator came on the river about 1850, or 1851; think the New World came on a year or six months later; can't say if both ran in 1850; can't say when the William G. Hunt, the Antelope and the McKim ran, but it was early; am not mistaken that the steamboats ran off the ships.  I will qualify it by saying the ships were originally consigned to Sacramento, and ceased to come when consignments were transferred to steamers at San Francisco.  I frequently towed ships up the river with the Beta, my boat.  That was in 1850-1. Ships did not cease coming because they could not get back. The ships that came were such as came around the Horn.  Do not know their tonnage.  Will not say a 300-ton ship came, or state the tonnage of any ship.  Have farmed for ten years on 250 acres, four miles above Sacramento, on the Sacramento river.  Have cultivated 100 acres there.  Originally it was bought by my grantor of the State as swamp land.  Never took up any swamp land myself.  Leveeing was begun on the Sacramento by farmers on their own account, under no law.  Subsequently the State passed the reclamation law, and then it proceeded under that law.  The levee on the Sacramento river is part of that system.  As the land goes back from the river it recedes to the tule lands.  That is the general character of the land along the Sacramento river.  The slope is quite uniform.  As it was in 1849, the slope ran back about a mile, on an average.  Some places it was but half a mile, others over a mile.  One place this side of Fremont it is but a few hundred feet, where it is supposed a creek once went in.  In the Lisbon district I do not think the slope is as narrow as 400 or 500 feet.  I never measured any except my own.  I can name places where is over a mile wide.  From my place up for two miles it is narrow.  From there up it is broad again.  Right at Washington it was not a half mile to where the tules originally were.  But there a neck of tule ran in.  No, they didn't come up to within a quarter of a mile of the bank.  Some slopes there have been covered with sediment, so they are now broader, but such places generally show spots of tule.  Back of Washington the strip of land would originally measure half a mile.  The railroad trestle work runs for half a mile over land that was not tule.  The main tule toward Davisville is about five miles wide.  The slope toward the tule is gradual.  The ground surface in the main tule is now as low as the Sacramento river.  Originally it was not so; it was higher.  I judge that the bottom of the river was a little deeper than the tule land.  I never measured it; I give it as my opinion.  Have measured the depth of the Sacramento river, opposite J street, with poles and lines.


        In the winter of '49-'50 that brought the water over Sacramento.  It filled up the tule in Yolo.  There was no slickens then.  The water made a lake over in Yolo four or five miles wide.  I think '50-'51 was a dry season.  Think we had an overflow then, but had a large one in '52-'53.  That was when I ran a steamer to Hoboken.  I believe, or think, Jerome C. Davis that year ran a steamer over the tule basin, and also in '60-'61, or '61-'62.  In high water, or flood season, a small steamer can go over the low lands on the Yolo side.  Don't know if it ever was done on the east side.  Think they might.  The American river did overflow the bottom lands along the Sacramento above it; and so, as I said, had a mouth three miles wide.  That was in 1852-53.  In December, 1861, there was a flood, and also in January, 1862.  That overflowed Washington entirely.  It was a sheet of water from there toward Davisville, probably ten miles wide.  A steamer ran over that overflow then, landing at the old Tule House, five or six miles west of Sacramento.  I don't know if it went further.  It could have done so by going further down, certainly.  The flood of 1861-2 did not discharge debris to such an extent at the mouth of the American river as to attract my attention.  There was some, however, I believe, at the bridge.  Our levees were small then.  There was an old slough below Washington, and it is there now; it runs back into the tule.  There were several of these.  The one I remember had been filled up by Mr. Reed, but that year it washed out and sand-banks in the river were washed up opposite it, but there was no general deposit of debris.  Through the old system of sloughs, where there was a light sandy soil, there was some wash of sand.  There was a system of old sloughs of that kind along the river.  Putah and Cache creeks discharge into the tules.  Putah does so from ten to twelve miles from Washington, perhaps less.  In the winter Putah creek discharges a very large body of water into the tule basin, but not a volume equal to that of the American river.  That discharge of Putah creek helps fill the tule basin.  North from Putah creek some sixteen miles is Cache creek.  That discharges a large body of water also into the basin below Knight's Landing.  These creeks contribute to make the water high on the lowlands.  The water in the basin generally comes from the creeks first; next it comes in from the Sacramento river near Knight's Landing, or rather at the lowest break.  It ran in at the English break for years first.  Sometimes the American contributes its waters first.  When the rain is in the east the American contributes first; when in the north, the Sacramento first; when in the west, the creeks contribute first.  The exception to the fill being from the creeks or the American is when the Sacramento rises first.  It is a long river, and its north waters seldom get here until the American river has risen and fallen again.  In the Sacramento river, high-water mark has been rising for eight years.  At the last flood it was between 26 and 27 feet.  When the river is up to 24 feet it is high.  Then if the American rises high also, it produces an unusual flood, for the rivers dam the waters at the junction of the two streams.  It was so in 1852.  It occurred again last winter.  Of my land on the river about 100 acres is tule.  When I first bought it, in 1868, the tules were high, but they don't grow so high now, because the sand and sediment have made more ground that will not grow tule.  Generally the deposit destroys the tule.  Some seasons they could cultivate three-quarters of a mile back on my land - - wheat was raised on it that far back once, but that was in an exceptionally dry year.  The deposits spoken of consist of


        I never analyzed either. The slickens is the finest; the sediment is a degree coarser. The latter is beneficial when mixed with adobe soil.  Don't know why "slickens" is called "slickens."  When the slickens is dried it does not make a superior soil; a certain degree of it may improve adobe if plowed in, but I never tried it.  I have tried the sediment.  I never had slickens on my place.  I know of slickens being cultivated on the McFeeny place, now belonging to Dr. Snyder; that was before the doctor got it; it was about three years ago; it was planted to potatoes.  Don't know what the owner's opinion of slickens was; men sometimes make mistakes in experimenting as agriculturists.  Before I went into agriculture, I ran a ferry and made and imported agricultural implements, and was for a period Secretary of the State Agricultural Society. In building levees, to some extent, we dig up material from the bank of the river, standing the levee back a little, and digging out in front, leaving a dug-out.  Sometimes the levee has been cut under and let fall in, by reason of the dug-outs, but not generally; nor does the digging generally weaken the bank, for the system is to levee space enough to bear the weight of the water; but some have built very near to the edge of the bank.  It is not so opposite Sacramento.  Generally, when they cut away the natural bank, it is where the levee has been broken, and repaired, and they are forced to do it.  Such a system renders the levee less secure.  It is less protected.  The Sacramento river is not as straight in front of Sacramento as in '49, because a bar is formed on the Yolo side.  You could see the bar yesterday, before the water rose.  That bar projects east from the old bank 100 feet or more.  It is not now covered with water.  It runs out for 100 feet, all the way from the bridge to below J street.  It is a bar on one side of the river, and by reason if it the river is not straight.  The other bar, or island, below the bridge, is not now out of water, but the bar on the side of the river is four or five feet out of water to-day, and it slopes up to and joins the bank of the river.  It bends the river at low water, not at high.  The water in the Sacramento and American rivers was clearer six or eight years ago, than now.  Then it was colored some, but not as now.  Placer mining began to color the waters as early as 1854, whenever there was a wash into the river from the placers; it was colored more and more as placer mining increased, but the last eight years it has been colored more  than fifteen years before that.  But by color I don't mean the sediment it now carries.  The water, at high-water, was colored in 1860, and less colored, but some, in low water.  All rivers bring down some sediment; these rivers did.


        Always colored the water less than the first floods.  In 1860 the water was considerably colored.  A little of one material will color the water much, when much of another will color it but a little.  The fine slickens colors the water.  Some of it came down in 1860.  We called it mud then - - that is what it is.  "Slickens" as a word wasn't coined  then; but there is a mud we wouldn't call slickens.  The finer we wouldn't call mud; when dried it is like a whetstone, only a different color.  If natural soil on the bottom lands washed off and deposited on lower lands, I'd call it mud; but if it was yellow, and of the kind I have described, I'd call it slickens.  Since February, 1850, when I went there, Washington has been overflowed several times, in '52-3, '61-2, and last winter.  I think  these are the only times when it has been completely overflowed.  At other times the waters have been high in it.  I think in 1868 it partly overflowed.  Between here and Davisville the railroad track has been obstructed and washed away by floods in the tules, perhaps three times, and has been injured several times, and last winter, and once before, very badly injured.  I know something of the debris brought down by Putah and Cache creeks. It has covered lands in Yolo several feet by the changing of the mouth of one or the other creek.  These places have thus been made valuable land for cultivation.  There is no mining on these creeks.  Capay valley is narrow, with an alluvial bottom; Cache creek runs in it, and washes away earthy material, and carries it upon extensive tracts of land in Yolo county.  Putah creek does the same thing.  It rises in the coast range.  It is quite a large river at times.  There were, ten years ago, between Knight's Landing ad Cache slough (not Cache creek), on the Sacramento river, on the west side, few farmers who did not have fruit trees; some more, some less.  Reed had a fine orchard; also Flanders; also Bell. Flanders' was from eight to fifteen acres; Bell's about as much.  Fruit raising on the river over there ahs been abandoned generally, except apples and pears. Fruit culture, in all varieties nearly, at onetime was overdone, and that injured the business of raising certain varieties.

        Q - Was not peach-raising overdone in these orchards?

        A. - Yes, but the fruit growing was not discontinued because of that, but because the fruits couldn't be grown there.  There was, it is true, overgrowing and a small market.  If water came near the surface when we need irrigation it would be advantageous, but it does not come then.  The effect of sipage water that I spoke of, is produced in the spring, and the soil is kept so damp and cold that we can't get in a crop early enough to make it grow well.  I refer to all kinds of crops. It is caused by the water rising in the ground from the river sipage.  That occurs right on the bank slopes as well as back of the river.  That bank land is the best land we have on the Sacramento river.  These lands originally were swamp lands, of course.  All the lands on the river are injured that way. It has been


        Year after year, and now it is intolerable.  More are engaged in agriculture now than formerly, but there is less successful agriculture.  I mean that while we have been endeavoring to cultivate we have not had success.  A year ago last spring it was general that we got in a crop - - it was not general that we harvested it, because of spring sipage.  I am not much acquainted with Grand, Randall and Sherman islands; have been on them.  They have tried to reclaim them, and some years raised good crops, but lately it has been a failure.  The orchards on the east side of the Sacramento river begin some seven miles below Sacramento, and run to Steamboat slough, and were formerly the garden spots of the State.  Now they are not successful.