Continuing the story of Edward McIlhany in the goldfields of Northern California:
We left the Major’s and in a few days reached Shasta, not too far from what was called the great Shasta Peak. The place was quite small and the mines were not very rich, so we did not remain long, as outlook for making money was poor. . . . We decided to return and camped at the Major’s ranch, where we told him that we were not satisfied at Shasta and had determined to go to his rich bar that he discovered.
We finally struck the Feather River seventeen miles below the bar. We forded the river where afterwards very rich mines were discovered, now called Oroville. Going up the east bank of the river we finally reached the bar and made camp on the hillside, about 200 yards from the river. There were quite a number camped there, mining, mostly using rockers and washing the gold dust out with pans. The diggings were very rich and there were new pockets and discoveries of gold up and down the river for several miles. We located our mining claims and finding the mines were rich, decided to locate for the winter. By that time it was getting late in the fall.
They set up camp and were soon taking out about $150 a day in gold. Things were looking good. But prices were high at Bidwell’s Bar and the group decided to send McIlhany down to Marysville to stock up on supplies for the winter. In Marysville they filled their wagon with all the mules could pull and started back to Bidwell’s Bar.
Only fifteen miles from their camp it began to rain, and it rained every day for a solid month while they waited, sopping wet, in their tent. When at last the skies cleared they hitched up the mules and after “a few days of very hard and tiresome work” (to go only fifteen miles) they reached camp, where their friends were still taking out $150 in gold a day.
Next time: Scurvy!
(I am indebted to Scott Lawson for his fine editing of Edward W. McIlhany’s story. Recollections of a ’49er: a quaint and thrilling narrative of a trip across the Plains and life in the California gold fields during the stirring days following the discovery of gold in the Far West, edited and annotated by Scott Lawson (2006) is available at the Plumas County Museum, or at your public library.)