by Dottie Smith
The first known discovery was made by Pierson B. Reading in 1848 on a bar in Clear Creek which soon became the site of the settlement of One Horse Town. However, it is possible gold mining was already taking place by Oregon miners prior to his discovery.
In 1853 the local newspaper reported there wasn’t a river, creek, gulch, or ravine in Shasta County that didn’t contain gold. Mining began in a haphazard way with shovels, picks, pans, even knives and spoons.
Gold dominated the mineral economy of Shasta County until 1897 when copper became king.
The Gold Rush of 1849
The California Gold Rush began at Coloma in 1848 when James Marshall discovered gold in the tailrace of John Sutter's sawmill. Sutter tried to keep the discovery a secret, but word leaked out and The Rush was on. What followed was the greatest mass movement of people since the Crusades. Men of all races, creeds and callings from all over the world hurriedly traveled to California by various routes and means seeking their fortunes. Later the same year, Pierson B. Reading discovered gold in Clear Creek and The Rush soon spread to Shasta County. The first miners in Shasta County were Oregonians. By 1849, The Rush was in full swing and lasted until approximately 1860. A historical marker commemorating the discovery is located at the intersection of Canyon Rd. and Hwy. 273.
Where the big gold nuggets were found
A 2 lb. gold nugget was found by Waldo Elmore on his claim in the Flat Creek Mining District in the 1890s.
In 1878, a 13 oz. crystallized chunk of gold was taken from the Mad Mule Mine and exhibited at the 1878 Paris Exposition.
In 1912. a 19½ oz. nugget and another nugget honeycombed with gold valued at $10,000 was found in Mad Mule Canyon.
In 1870, three miners found a 184.5 oz. gold nugget on Spring Creek a short distance below the falls near the Iron Mountain Railway crossing. In 1880, another even larger than the 1st was found about 100 ft. away.
A 5 lb. 1 oz. nugget was found in Mad Ox Canyon, and a 7 to 8 lb. lump of gold intertwined with quartz was found in Whiskey Creek, years unknown.
In 1851, a 56 oz. gold nugget was found in Whiskey Creek.
The first mining was simple and consisted of using pans, sluice boxes, long toms and rockers which separated the soil from the gold by gravity. As the surface gold (placers) became more difficult to obtain, more complicated and environmentally hazardous methods, such as hydraulic mining, were used to get to the gold bearing veins.