RARE Document Signed Murdered Sheriff Sumner Pinkham 1864 Boise Idaho Territory


RARE Document Signed Murdered Sheriff Sumner Pinkham 1864 Boise Idaho Territory

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RARE Document Signed Murdered Sheriff Sumner Pinkham 1864 Boise Idaho Territory :
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Signed by Gold-Rush 49er & Sheriff Sumner Pinkham - Shot Dead in Duel
Legal Document
Signed by others (see below)Territory of Idaho
County of Boise1864


For offer, an early ORIGINAL document. Fresh from an estate in Upstate NY. Never offered on the market until now. Vintage, Old, antique, Original - NOT a Reproduction - Guaranteed !! Great piece of history here. Justice Court - signed at top by Charles Walker, Justice of the Peace. Document for taxes owed and cost of the suit for Charlotte Austin. Signed by famous Lawman Sumner Pinkham, and his deputy O.L. Whitney. Pinkham was a gold prospector in California in 1849 and in Idaho before becoming sheriff. He was shot by Ferdinand J " Ferd " Patterson in 1865. See below for more on him. Printed document with manuscript handwriting. Reverse blank.In fairly good condition. Fold marks, light wrinkling in some areas. A few small rips with a couple small areas of archival repair on reverse. Please see photos for details.NOTE: The digital red text was added to protect the image and not on actual document. If you collect Americana political history, Western American manuscripts, etc., this is one you will not see again. A nice piece for your paper / ephemera collection. Perhaps some genealogy research information as well. Combine shipping on multiple offer wins!2049

Shot by Ferdinand J. "Ferd" Patterson at the Idaho City warm springs.=====Gambler Patterson Shoots and Kills Ex-Sheriff Pinkham
Sumner Pinkham
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
On Sunday, July 23, 1865, businessman and ex-sheriff Sumner Pinkham took a hired carriage from Idaho City to a resort about two miles west of town. Locals often enjoyed a relaxing dip in the pool fed by the warm springs out back. According to some, Pinkham and a few friends were soon in the bar singing raucous anti-Secesh songs. Yet others would dispute even that apparently simple fact.
A native of Maine, Pinkham had joined the rush to California gold in 1849 and then knocked around the towns there and possibly in Oregon for the next decade.
He moved to the Idaho gold camps in 1862. When Idaho became a Territory, Pinkham’s Radical Republican politics – he was an ardent Abolitionist –won him an appointment as Boise County’s first sheriff.
However, a massive influx of Southerners had aligned the voter roles to favor Democrats, and the next election turned Pinkham out. Ferdinand “Ferd” Patterson was among those Southerners.
From Tennessee, apparently, he too had tried his hand in California, then in Oregon, and finally in Idaho.
Records indicate that by the time Patterson reached Idaho, he had killed at least two men in gunfights, but got off on “self-defense” pleas. Moreover, charged for assault on a disreputable female companion in Oregon, he had simply skipped bail. Although he had done some prospecting, Patterson was primarily a professional gambler.
As the Civil War neared its end, Ferd complained bitterly about the South’s impending defeat. He and Pinkham had already exchanged hot words. Then, with the war over, the ex-sheriff rubbed salt in Southern wounds by staging a 4th of July parade in which pro-Union men marched through the streets, singing patriotic and anti-Secesh songs.=====Ferd Patterson.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
On July 23, Patterson entered the resort bar while Pinkham was paying his bill. At this point, Ferd apparently ignored the ex-sheriff and went on to the warm pools. Then, witnesses concurred, Patterson exited the resort while Pinkham stood outside waiting for a carriage back into Idaho City. Here, witnesses agreed on only two points: Patterson said the word “draw” in some (disputed) context, then taunted Pinkham as an “Abolitionist son-of-a-bitch.”
Who drew first was also in dispute. Patterson certainly shot quicker, before Pinkham got off one inaccurate response and then took the second bullet. Ferd fled to avoid any immediate retaliation but quickly surrendered when officers caught up with him about fourteen miles away, on the road to Boise.
As usual in such affrays, witnesses gave muddled and contradictory testimony, and friend and foe alike expected an acquittal. After being freed by reason of “self-defense,” Patterson left the region for Walla Walla, fearing he wasn’t safe in Idaho City.
He did not, however, go far enough. The following February, a man shot Patterson full of holes while he visited a barbershop. Most in the region saw the shooting as vengeance for the Pinkham killing. The shooter claimed that Patterson had threatened him, and the first trial ended in a hung jury.
During the wait for a new trial, the man walked away from jail. Authorities arrested him a few months later in San Francisco, but he was released before he could be extradited (Idaho Statesman, November 1, 1866). He then disappeared from history.Used with permission of John Terry, retired copy editor for The Oregonian, from his July 18, 2010 article in The Oregonian, titled "19th-century ruffian lived, died by the gun":
Ferd Patterson was born in Texas in 1821, showed signs of rebellion early and was especially enraptured by antebellum secessionist sentiments.
Patterson arrived in California's gold fields in the late 1850's. His exact motivation is unknown, but no doubt involved his facility with cards rather than picks, shovels and gold pans.
Bill Gulick's "Outlaws of the Pacific Northwest" dubs him a "dandy gunman."
William J. McConnell's "Early History of Idaho" describes him as decked out in, among other garments, "a cassimere shirt, a fancy silk vest...A long frock coat of heavy pilot-beaver cloth, trimmed with the fur of the sea otter."
Plus, customarily, a firearm or two.
"He was," McConnell says, "above six feet in height...(and) over two hundred pounds, without any appearance of being stout or fleshy."
Where Patterson took his first human life, and for what cause, is unknown. At least one is said to have been in the southern Oregon mining camp known as Sailor Diggings or Waldo. He was later reported well-heeled and frequenting San Francisco's seamier attractions.
In 1861, he and some ruffian cohorts were aboard the coastal steamer Panama bound for Portland (OR). As the ship lay off of Astoria, they partied hard late into the night. Capt. G.W. Staples demanded they cool it. Patterson expressed considerable umbrage. Staples threatened to clap Patterson in irons.
Once in Portland, Patterson tracked Staples to the lobby of the Pioneer Hotel and shot him dead. Patterson somehow escaped prosecution.
Next, after accusing his girlfriend of making eyes at other men, Patterson cut off a large lock of her hair, plus a chuck of her scalp. He was arrested but again managed to elude legal reprisal.
He relocated to booming Idaho City, in the mountains outside Boise, where Union and secessionist partisans pestered one another throughout the Civil War. In 1865, after the war's end, former sheriff and Union partisan Sumner Pinkham staged a gala Fourth of July fete.
The celebration's pro-North flavor offended Patterson's Southern sensibilities. On July 24, he pursued Pinkham to a local spa and shot him dead. He fled the scene but was shortly apprehended and indicted.(Link to Sumner Pinkham: )
The Oregonian on Nov. 16 reported:
"Ferd Patterson. - This ruffian has gone through the farce of trial by a jury of fellow 'Democrats' at Idaho City, and of course has been acquitted. By those who know the character of Patterson and his associates in Idaho, no other verdict was anticipated."
Patterson then relocated to Walla Walla. There, on the night of Feb. 14, 1866, he encountered a constable named Thomas Donahue, coincidentally the same lawman who'd arrested him in Portland for the Portland scalping.
Words were exchanged. The next morning, Patterson was in a barbershop being shaved. Donahue, who'd been lurking in a backroom, approached, and said something along the lines of, "I will kill you or you shall kill me" (accounts vary), and shot him once in the head. Patterson managed to flee, but was shot again, in the back as he exited the door, then twice more after he'd collapsed on the floor of the saloon next door.
"Donahue, charged with the murder of Patterson, and awaiting trial at Walla Walla, escaped from jail a few days since," reported The Oregonian on July 2, 1866.
There apparently was little interest in tracking him down. He disappeared and was heard from nevermore.
The Territory of Idaho was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 3, 1863, until July 3, 1890, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as Idaho.
1860sThe territory was officially organized on March 3, 1863, by Act of Congress,[1] and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. It is a successor region that was created by areas from existing territories undergoing parallel political transitions beginning with disputes over which country owned the region (See Oregon Country); by 1863 the area west of the Continental Divide that was formerly part of the huge Oregon Territory (by now some was a state) had been sundered from the coastal Washington Territory north of the young State of Oregon to the far west and the remnant of the Oregon Territory was officially 'unorganized'— whereas most of the area east of the Continental Divide had been part of the loosely defined Dakota Territory ending along the 49th parallel—now the border with Canada, then a colonial possession of Great Britain.
The original newly organized territory covered all of the present-day states of Idaho and Montana, and almost all of the present-day state of Wyoming, omitting only a corner in the state's extreme southwest portion. It was wholly spanned east-to-west by the bustling Oregon Trail and partly by the other emigrant trails, the California Trail and Mormon Trail which since hitting stride in 1847, had been conveying settler wagon trains to the west, and incidentally, across the continental divide into the Snake River Basin, a key gateway into the Idaho and Oregon Country interiors.
The first territorial capital was at Lewiston[2] from the inception in 1863 to 1866. Boise was made the territorial capital from 1866 by a one-vote margin of the Territorial Supreme Court.
The upheaval caused by the Civil War and Reconstruction was a distant concern to those in the comparatively stable Idaho Territory, a situation which in turn encouraged settlement.
In 1864, the Montana Territory was organized from the northEastern section of the territory east of the Bitterroot Range. Most of the southEastern area of the territory was made part of the Dakota Territory.In the late 1860s, Idaho Territory became a destination for displaced Southern Democrats who fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. These people were well represented in the early territorial legislatures, which often clashed with the appointed Republican territorial governors. The political infighting became particularly vicious in 1867 when Governor David W. Ballard asked for protection from federal troops stationed at Fort Boise against the territorial legislature. By 1870, however, the political infighting had decreased considerably.
In 1868, the areas east of the 111th meridian west were made part of the newly created Wyoming Territory. Idaho Territory assumed the boundaries of the modern state at that time. The discovery of gold, silver and other valuable natural resources throughout Idaho beginning in the 1860s, as well as the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, brought many new people to the territory, including Chinese laborers who came to work the mines. As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to its economy. By the 1890s, for example, Idaho exported more lead than any other state.
1870sConstruction began on the Idaho Territorial Prison in 1870 and was completed by 1872. The prison was in use by the territory, then the state until 1973. The Old Idaho State Penitentiary was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 for its significance as a Territorial Prison. The site currently contains museums and an arboretum.[3]Entrance to the Old PenitentiaryAlmost immediately after Idaho Territory was created, a public school system was created and stage coach lines were established. Regular newspapers were active in Lewiston, Boise and Silver City by 1865. The first telegraph line reached Franklin in 1866, with Lewiston being the first town linked in northern Idaho in 1874. The first telephone call in the Pacific Northwest was made on May 10, 1878, in Lewiston.
Although forming a sizeable minority, Mormons in Idaho were held in suspicion by others in Idaho. By 1882 notable and powerful Idahoans successfully disenfranchised Mormon voters in Idaho Territory, citing their illegal practice of polygamy. Idaho was able to achieve statehood some six years before Utah, a territory which had a larger population and had been settled longer, but was majority LDS with voting polygamists.
There were four thousand Chinese living in the Idaho Territory from 1869 to 1875. Like many Chinese immigrants, they came to "Gold Mountain" to work as miners, or found work as laundrymen and cooks.[4] The 1870 census reported there were 1,751 Chinese in Idaho City who were nearly half of city residents. Annie Lee was one legendary Idaho city woman who like Polly Bemis, escaped enslavement from the "world's oldest profession". She escaped from a member of the Yeong Wo Company in the 1870s to Boise to marry her lover, another Chinese man. Charged by her owner with grand larceny, she told a judge who granted her freedom "me want to stay in Boise City".[5] The story of Polly Bemis who helped settle the Idaho territory became the basis for the novel and fictionalized 1991 film A Thousand Pieces of Gold which was set in California.
1880sAfter the capital relocation controversy proposals to split the two regions became widespread. In 1887 Idaho Territory was nearly legislated out of existence, but as a favor to Governor Edward A. Stevenson, President Grover Cleveland refused to sign a bill that would have split Idaho Territory between Washington Territory in the north and Nevada in the south.
In 1889, the University of Idaho was awarded to the northern town of Moscow instead of its original planned location at Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls) in the south. This served to alleviate some of the hard feelings felt by North Idaho residents over losing the capital.
The territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Idaho on July 3, 1890.
See alsoFlag Idaho portalFlag Montana portalFlag Wyoming portal History portalAmerican Civil War, 1861–1865Idaho in the American Civil WarCalifornia TrailHistoric regions of the United StatesHistory of IdahoOregon TrailOregon Treaty, 1846Territorial evolution of the United StatesTerritory of France that encompassed land that would later become part of the Territory of Idaho:Louisiane, 1682–1764 and 1803Territory of Spain that would later be returned to France:Luisiana, 1764–1803Territory of the United Kingdom that encompassed land that would later become part of the Territory of Idaho:Rupert's Land, 1670–1870International territory that encompassed land that would later become part of the Territory of Idaho:Oregon Country, 1818–1846U.S. territory that encompassed land that would later become part of the Territory of Idaho:Provisional Government of Oregon, 1843–1849 (extralegal)Territory of Oregon, 1848–1859State of Deseret, 1849–1850 (extralegal)Territory of Nebraska, 1854–1867Territory of Jefferson, 1859–1861 (extralegal)Territory of Dakota, 1861–1889U.S. territories that encompassed land that was previously part of the Territory of Idaho:Territory of Montana, 1864–1889Territory of Dakota, 1861–1889Territory of Wyoming, 1868–1890US states that encompass land that was once part of the Territory of Idaho:State of Montana, 1889State of Idaho, 1890State of Wyoming, 1890
Boise County is a rural mountain county in the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 7,028.[1] The county seat is Idaho City,[2] which is connected through a series of paved and unpaved roads to Lowman, Centerville, Placerville, Pioneerville, Star Ranch, Crouch, Garden Valley, and Horseshoe Bend. The elevated central basin area rises 1,700 feet higher than Horseshoe Bend for instance and thus receives significantly more snow during the winter. Star Ranch, Placerville, and Centerville altitudes average 4,300 above sea level whereas Horseshoe Bend is 1,700 feet lower, Garden Valley is 1,157 feet lower, and Idaho City is 400 feet lower. Snow volumes around the county are best illustrated by the county Snow Load Map. Placerville roofs must be designed to withstand 150 pounds per square foot of snow whereas Horseshoe Bend is 1/3 that amount at 52.
Boise County is part of the Boise, ID Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Bogus Basin ski area is in the southwestern part of the county. The county's Eastern area contains the central section of the Sawtooth Wilderness, the western part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.[3]
In 2010, the center of Idaho's population was in Boise County.[4]HistoryThe county was established on February 4, 1864, with its county seat at Idaho City. It was named for the Boise River, which was named by French-Canadian explorers and trappers for the great variety of trees growing along its banks in the lower desert valley. The county is one of four Idaho counties that also existed under Washington Territory. On January 12, 1863, The Washington territorial legislature established the county containing most of Idaho below 114° 30', excluding the territory lying west of the Payette River. They established its county seat at what would later become Idaho City.[5]
The Boise Basin, which contains Idaho City, was one of the nation's richest gold mining districts; gold was discovered in 1862 and more of it was pulled from present-day Boise County than from the entire state of Alaska. At its peak in the mid-1860s, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest, and it was this rapid population influx that led to the establishment of the Idaho Territory in 1863. The lower–elevation communities of Horseshoe Bend (Payette River) and Boise (Boise River) were staging areas for the Boise Basin mines.[6][7]
The county's boundaries changed several times during Idaho's territorial period. Owyhee County (Idaho's oldest) and a portion of Oneida County were carved from the southern and Eastern portion of the county as it existed under Washington Territory in late December 1863 and January 1864. When Idaho Territory established the county in February 1864, it contained all of present Ada, Canyon, and Payette counties. It also included most of present Boise and Gem Counties, the southern half of Washington County, and small portions of Adams, Custer, Owyhee, and Valley counties. When Ada County was created in December 1864, most of that territory was transferred to Ada County, leaving only small portions of Custer, Gem, Payette, Valley, and Washington counties together with most of present-day Boise County. The Boise River portion of the current western boundary was established by 1866. The southern boundary common to present Ada County was defined the following year. The northern boundary was most volatile Between 1873 and 1887 with the boundary shifting further north into Valley County, back south below Cascade, and then again north to include the North Fork of Payette River Basin. The county obtained its current boundary after Gem County was created in 1915 and Valley County in 1918.[8]
In March 2011, the county filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition due to judgment against the county for violating the Fair Housing Act.[9] The county's petition for Chapter 9 relief was denied.[10]
GeographyAccording to the US Census Bureau, the county has an area of 1,907 square miles (4,940 km2), of which 1,899 square miles (4,920 km2) is land and 7.4 square miles (19 km2) (0.4%) is water.[11] The highest point in the county is Thompson Peak at 10,751 feet (3,277 m), on its Eastern border in the Sawtooth Wilderness. The county's lowest point is on the Payette River, on its western border with Gem County, at approximately 2,500 feet (762 m).
Adjacent countiesValley County - northCuster County - eastElmore County - southAda County - southwestGem County - northwestCitiesCrouchHorseshoe BendIdaho CityPlacervilleCensus-designated placesBanksGarden ValleyLowmanRobie CreekUnincorporated Pass[28]New Mill[30]
The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.[1] The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.[2] The sudden influx of gold into the money supply reinvigorated the American economy, and the sudden population increase allowed California to go rapidly to statehood, in the Compromise of 1850. The Gold Rush had severe effects on Native Californians and resulted in a precipitous population decline from disease, genocide and starvation. By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory, to having one of its first two U.S. Senators, John C. Frémont, selected to be the first presidential nominee for the new Republican Party, in 1856.
The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Whole indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by the gold-seekers, called "forty-niners" (referring to 1849, the peak year for Gold Rush immigration). Outside of California, the first to arrive were from Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America in late 1848. Of the approximately 300,000 people who came to California during the Gold Rush, about half arrived by sea and half came overland on the California Trail and the Gila River trail; forty-niners often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were Americans, the gold rush attracted thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California. In 1849 a state constitution was written. The new constitution was adopted by referendum vote, and the future state's interim first governor and legislature were chosen. In September 1850, California became a state.
At the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields and a system of "staking claims" was developed. Prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. Although the mining caused Environmental harm, more sophisticated methods of gold recovery were developed and later adopted around the world. New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service. By 1869, railroads were built from California to the Eastern United States. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of gold companies to individual miners. Gold worth tens of billions of today's US dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few, though many who participated in the California Gold Rush earned little more than they had started with.History
California goldfields (red) in the Sierra Nevada and northern California
Advertisement about sailing to California, circa 1850The Mexican–American War ended on February 3, 1848, although California was a de facto American possession before that. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided for, among other things, the formal transfer of Upper California to the United States. The California Gold Rush began at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma.[3] On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River.[4] Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold.[5]
Discovery announcedRumors of the discovery of gold were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. Brannan hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies,[6] and walked through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!"[7]
On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report the discovery of gold. On December 5, 1848, US President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress.[8] As a result, individuals seeking to benefit from the gold rush--later called the "forty-niners"--began moving to the Gold Country of California or "Mother Lode" from other countries and from other parts of the United States. As Sutter had feared, his business plans were ruined after his workers left in search of gold, and squatters took over his land and stole his crops and cattle.[9]
San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned about the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses,[10] but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco increased quickly from about 1,000[11] in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850.[12] Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.[13]
Transportation to CaliforniaIn what has been referred to as the "first world-class gold rush,"[14] there was no easy way to get to California; forty-niners faced hardship and often death on the way. At first, most Argonauts, as they were also known, traveled by sea. From the East Coast, a sailing voyage around the tip of South America would take four to five months,[15] and cover approximately 18,000 nautical miles (21,000 mi; 33,000 km). An alternative was to sail to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama, take canoes and mules for a week through the jungle, and then on the Pacific side, wait for a ship sailing for San Francisco.[16] There was also a route across Mexico starting at Veracruz. The companies providing such transportation created vast wealth among their owners and included the U.S. Mail Steamship Company, the federally subsidized Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and the Accessory Transit Company. Many gold-seekers took the overland route across the continental United States, particularly along the California Trail.[17] Each of these routes had its own deadly hazards, from shipwreck to typhoid fever and cholera.[18] In the early years of the rush, much of the population growth in the San Francisco area was due to steamship travel from New York City through overland portages in Nicaragua and Panama and then back up by steamship to San Francisco.[19]
Supplies and goods neededSupply ships arrived in San Francisco with goods to supply the needs of the growing population. When hundreds of ships were abandoned after their crews deserted to go into the goldfields, many ships were converted to warehouses, stores, taverns, hotels, and one into a jail.[20] As the city expanded and new places were needed on which to build, many ships were destroyed and used as landfill.[20]
Northern California strikes
Merchant ships fill San Francisco harbor, 1850–51Within a few years, there was an important but lesser-known surge of prospectors into far Northern California, specifically into present-day Siskiyou, Shasta and Trinity Counties.[21] Discovery of gold nuggets at the site of present-day Yreka in 1851 brought thousands of gold-seekers up the Siskiyou Trail[22] and throughout California's northern counties.[23]
Settlements of the Gold Rush era, such as Portuguese Flat on the Sacramento River, sprang into existence and then faded. The Gold Rush town of Weaverville on the Trinity River today retains the oldest continuously used Taoist temple in California, a legacy of Chinese miners who came. While there are not many Gold Rush era ghost towns still in existence, the remains of the once-bustling town of Shasta have been preserved in a California State Historic Park in Northern California.[24]
Gold was also discovered in Southern California but on a much smaller scale. The first discovery of gold, at Rancho San Francisco in the mountains north of present-day Los Angeles, had been in 1842, six years before Marshall's discovery, while California was still part of Mexico.[25] However, these first deposits, and later discoveries in Southern California mountains, attracted little notice and were of limited consequence economically.[25]
Indigenous driven outBy 1850, most of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to extracting gold from more difficult locations. Faced with gold increasingly difficult to retrieve, Americans began to drive out foreigners to get at the most accessible gold that remained. The new California State Legislature passed a foreign miners tax of twenty dollars per month ($600 per month as of 2019), and American prospectors began organized attacks on foreign miners, particularly Latin Americans and Chinese.[26]
In addition, the huge numbers of newcomers were driving Native Americans out of their traditional hunting, fishing and food-gathering areas. To protect their homes and livelihood, some Native Americans responded by attacking the miners. This provoked counter-attacks on native villages. The Native Americans, out-gunned, were often slaughtered.[27] Those who escaped massacres were many times unable to survive without access to their food-gathering areas, and they starved to death. Novelist and poet Joaquin Miller vividly captured one such attack in his semi-autobiographical work, Life Amongst the Modocs.[28]
Earlier discoveries of goldThe first gold found in California was made on March 9, 1842. Francisco Lopez, a native California, was searching for stray horses. He stopped on the bank of a small creek in what later was known as Placerita Canyon, about 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the present-day Newhall, California, and about 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Los Angeles. While the horses grazed, Lopez dug up some wild onions and found a small gold nugget in the roots among the onion bulbs. He looked further and found more gold.[29]
Lopez took the gold to authorities who confirmed its worth. Lopez and others began to search for other streambeds with gold deposits in the area. They found several in the northEastern section of the forest, within present-day Ventura County. In 1843 he found gold in San Feliciano Canyon near his first discovery. Mexican miners from Sonora worked the placer deposits until 1846, when the Californios began to agitate for independence from Mexico, and the Bear Flag Revolt caused many Mexicans to leave for gold on the Mokelumne RiverThe first people to rush to the goldfields, beginning in the spring of 1848, were the residents of California themselves—primarily agriculturally oriented Americans and Europeans living in Northern California, along with Native Americans and some Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians).[30] These first miners tended to be families in which everyone helped in the effort. Women and children of all ethnicities were often found panning next to the men. Some enterprising families set up boarding houses to accommodate the influx of men; in such cases, the women often brought in steady income while their husbands searched for gold.[31]
Word of the Gold Rush spread slowly at first. The earliest gold-seekers were people who lived near California or people who heard the news from ships on the fastest sailing routes from California. The first large group of Americans to arrive were several thousand Oregonians who came down the Siskiyou Trail.[32] Next came people from the Sandwich Islands, and several thousand Latin Americans, including people from Mexico, from Peru and from as far away as Chile,[33] both by ship and overland.[34] By the end of 1848, some 6,000 Argonauts had come to California.[34]
Only a small number (probably fewer than 500) traveled overland from the United States that year.[34] Some of these "forty-eighters",[35] as the earliest gold-seekers were sometimes called, were able to collect large amounts of easily accessible gold—in some cases, thousands of dollars worth each day.[36][37] Even ordinary prospectors averaged daily gold finds worth 10 to 15 times the daily wage of a laborer on the East Coast. A person could work for six months in the goldfields and find the equivalent of six years' wages back home.[38] Some hoped to get rich quick and return home, and others wished to start businesses in California."Independent Gold Hunter on His Way to California", circa 1850. The gold hunter is loaded down with every conceivable appliance, much of which would be useless in California. The prospector says: "I am sorry I did not follow the advice of Granny and go around the Horn, through the Straights, or by Chagres [Panama]."
By the beginning of 1849, word of the Gold Rush had spread around the world, and an overwhelming number of gold-seekers and merchants began to arrive from virtually every continent. The largest group of forty-niners in 1849 were Americans, arriving by the tens of thousands overland across the continent and along various sailing routes[39] (the name "forty-niner" was derived from the year 1849). Many from the East Coast negotiated a crossing of the Appalachian Mountains, taking to riverboats in Pennsylvania, poling the keelboats to Missouri River wagon train assembly ports, and then travelling in a wagon train along the California Trail. Many others came by way of the Isthmus of Panama and the steamships of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. Australians[40] and New Zealanders picked up the news from ships carrying Hawaiian newspapers, and thousands, infected with "gold fever", boarded ships for California.[41]
Forty-niners came from Latin America, particularly from the Mexican mining districts near Sonora and Chile.[41][42] Gold-seekers and merchants from Asia, primarily from China,[43] began arriving in 1849, at first in modest numbers to Gum San ("Gold Mountain"), the name given to California in Chinese.[44] The first immigrants from Europe, reeling from the effects of the Revolutions of 1848 and with a longer distance to travel, began arriving in late 1849, mostly from France,[45] with some Germans, Italians, and Britons.[39]
It is estimated that approximately 90,000 people arrived in California in 1849—about half by land and half by sea.[46] Of these, perhaps 50,000 to 60,000 were Americans, and the rest were from other countries.[39] By 1855, it is estimated at least 300,000 gold-seekers, merchants, and other immigrants had arrived in California from around the world.[47] The largest group continued to be Americans, but there were tens of thousands each of Mexicans, Chinese, Britons, Australians,[48] French, and Latin Americans,[49] together with many smaller groups of miners, such as African Americans, Filipinos, Basques[50] and Turks.[51][52]
People from small villages in the hills near Genova, Italy were among the first to settle permanently in the Sierra Nevada foothills; they brought with them traditional agricultural skills, developed to survive cold winters.[53] A modest number of miners of African ancestry (probably less than 4,000)[54] had come from the Southern States,[55] the Caribbean and Brazil.[56]Chinese gold miners in CaliforniaA number of immigrants were from China. Several hundred Chinese arrived in California in 1849 and 1850, and in 1852 more than 20,000 landed in San Francisco.[57] Their distinctive dress and appearance was highly recognizable in the goldfields. Chinese miners suffered enormously, enduring violent racism from white miners who aimed their frustrations at foreigners. To this day, there has been no justice for known victims. Further animosity toward the Chinese led to legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and Foreign Miners Tax.[58][57]
There were also women in the Gold Rush. However, their numbers were small. Of the 40,000 people who arrived by ship in the San Francisco harbor in 1849, only 700 were women (including poor women, wealthy women, entrepreneurs, those working as prostitutes, single women and married women).[59] They were of various ethnicities including Anglo-American, African-American,[60] Hispanic, Native, European, Chinese, and Jewish. The reasons they came varied: some came with their husbands, refusing to be left behind to fend for themselves, some came because their husbands sent for them, and others came (singles and widows) for the adventure and economic opportunities.[61] On the trail many people died from accidents, cholera, fever, and myriad other causes, and many women became widows before even setting eyes on California. While in California, women became widows quite frequently due to mining accidents, disease, or mining disputes of their husbands. Life in the goldfields offered opportunities for women to break from their traditional work.[62][63]
Homosexuality in San FranciscoDescribed as the "city of bachelors", the disproportionate number of men to women in San Francisco created an Environment where homosexuality and gay culture flourished.[64] Barbary Coast was a district where men went to gamble, "satisfy their sexual desires", and pay for sex with women or female impersonators.[64]
Legal rightsWhen the Gold Rush began, the California goldfields were peculiarly lawless places.[65] When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, California was still technically part of Mexico, under American military occupation as the result of the Mexican–American War. With the signing of the treaty ending the war on February 2, 1848, California became a possession of the United States, but it was not a formal "territory" and did not become a state until September 9, 1850. California existed in the unusual condition of a region under military control. There was no civil legislature, executive or judicial body for the entire region.[66] Local residents operated under a confusing and changing mixture of Mexican rules, American principles, and personal dictates. Lax enforcement of federal laws, such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, encouraged the arrival of free blacks and escaped slaves.[67]
While the treaty ending the Mexican–American War obliged the United States to honor Mexican land grants,[68] almost all the goldfields were outside those grants. Instead, the goldfields were primarily on "public land", meaning land formally owned by the United States government.[69] However, there were no legal rules yet in place,[65] and no practical enforcement mechanisms.[70]
The benefit to the forty-niners was that the gold was simply "free for the taking" at first. In the goldfields at the beginning, there was no private property, no licensing fees, and no taxes.[71][72] The miners informally adapted Mexican mining law that had existed in California.[73] For example, the rules attempted to balance the rights of early arrivers at a site with later arrivers; a "claim" could be "staked" by a prospector, but that claim was valid only as long as it was being actively worked.[65][74][75]
Miners worked at a claim only long enough to determine its potential. If a claim was deemed as low-value—as most were—miners would abandon the site in search for a better one. In the case where a claim was abandoned or not worked upon, other miners would "claim-jump" the land. "Claim-jumping" meant that a miner began work on a previously claimed site.[74][75] Disputes were often handled personally and violently, and were sometimes addressed by groups of prospectors acting as arbitrators.[69][74][75] This often led to heightened ethnic tensions.[76] In some areas the influx of many prospectors could lead to a reduction of the existing claim size by simple pressure.[77]
Development of gold-recovery techniquesFour hundred million years ago, California lay at the bottom of a large sea; underwater volcanoes deposited lava and minerals (including gold) onto the sea floor. By tectonic forces these minerals and rocks came to the surface of the Sierra Nevada,[78] and eroded. Water carried the exposed gold downstream and deposited it in quiet gravel beds along the sides of old rivers and streams.[79][80] The forty-niners first focused their efforts on these deposits of gold.[81]
Because the gold in the California gravel beds was so richly concentrated, early forty-niners were able to retrieve loose gold flakes and nuggets with their hands, or simply "pan" for gold in rivers and streams.[82][83] Panning cannot take place on a large scale, and industrious miners and groups of miners graduated to placer mining, using "cradles" and "rockers" or "long-toms"[84] to process larger volumes of gravel.[85] Miners would also engage in "coyoteing",[86] a method that involved digging a shaft 6 to 13 meters (20 to 43 ft) deep into placer deposits along a stream. Tunnels were then dug in all directions to reach the richest veins of pay dirt.
In the most complex placer mining, groups of prospectors would divert the water from an entire river into a sluice alongside the river, and then dig for gold in the newly exposed river bottom.[87] Modern estimates are that as much as 12 million ounces[88] (370 t) of gold were removed in the first five years of the Gold Rush.[89]
In the next stage, by 1853, hydraulic mining was used on ancient gold-bearing gravel beds on hillsides and bluffs in the goldfields.[90] In a modern style of hydraulic mining first developed in California, and later used around the world, a high-pressure hose directed a powerful stream or jet of water at gold-bearing gravel beds.[91] The loosened gravel and gold would then pass over sluices, with the gold settling to the bottom where it was collected. By the mid-1880s, it is estimated that 11 million ounces (340 t) of gold (worth approximately US$15 billion at December 2010 prices) had been recovered by hydraulic mining.[89]
A byproduct of these extraction methods was that large amounts of gravel, silt, heavy metals, and other pollutants went into streams and rivers.[92] As of 1999 many areas still bear the scars of hydraulic mining, since the resulting exposed earth and downstream gravel deposits do not support plant life.[93]
After the Gold Rush had concluded, gold recovery operations continued. The final stage to recover loose gold was to prospect for gold that had slowly washed down into the flat river bottoms and sandbars of California's Central Valley and other gold-bearing areas of California (such as Scott Valley in Siskiyou County). By the late 1890s, dredging technology (also invented in California) had become economical,[94] and it is estimated that more than 20 million ounces (620 t) were recovered by dredging.[89]
Both during the Gold Rush and in the decades that followed, gold-seekers also engaged in "hard-rock" mining, extracting the gold directly from the rock that contained it (typically quartz), usually by digging and blasting to follow and remove veins of the gold-bearing quartz.[95] Once the gold-bearing rocks were brought to surface, the rocks were crushed and the gold separated, either using separation in water, using its density difference from quartz sand, or by washing the sand over copper plates coated with mercury (with which gold forms an amalgam). Loss of mercury in the amalgamation process was a source of Environmental contamination.[96] Eventually, hard-rock mining became the single largest source of gold produced in the Gold Country.[89][97] The total production of gold in California from then till now is estimated at 118 million ounces (3700 t).[98]

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