Still Searching for Gold

Throughout the 1840’s John Bidwell occasionally looked for gold in California, although he doesn’t seem to have put much effort into the project. During the Micheltorena War of 1845 he checked out a gold mine in the San Fernando Hills. In the Dictation taken down in 1877 by S. S. Boyton for Hubert Howe Bancroft he describes his visit to this mine:

“The first gold discovered in California so far as I know was made in 1841 by Jean Baptiste Reuelle at a place in the mountains about thirty miles north-east from the Mission of San Fernando. Jean Reuelle was a Canadian but had lived in New Mexico and worked in placer mines there. His discovery of gold in California created no excitement whatever owing to the fact, no doubt, of the very small yield. When I visited the mines at that place in 1845 there were probably about thirty people, most if not all from New Mexico. The average earnings as I learned were very small not exceeding twenty-five cents a day, though at times nuggets had been found of all sizes up to an ounce.”

Bidwell described the process of scooping, sifting and washing the dirt from the mine. It was a lot of effort for 25 cents worth of gold, and he was not impressed. Bidwell concluded that gold was too scarce in California to bother with. He went away from San Fernando thinking that he had looked into the matter, and it just wasn’t worth it.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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