Western Placer County - Know
Who Got Wealthy During
California’s Gold Rush Days?
You Might Be Surprised...

Imagine it’s October 1849 and you’re in Western Placer County in Northern California.

Stricken by "California’s Gold Fever", you left your business, family, and loved ones behind and headed West. Determined to strike it rich and return home with enough money to live a comfortable life.

Many of the folks who traveled with you believed that gold could just be picked off the ground at their leisure.

Imagine their surprise when they found out that they had to work hard in order to wash out their "ounce a day"... unless they were some of the lucky few who hit the mother lode.

Okay? Let's pretend it's 1849, and you're in Western Placer County seeking your fortune. Here's how our story begins...

Picture yourself...

...sitting in your tent - right in the middle of a heavy - pouring down - rain storm.

You’ve worked hard since you’ve come here. Washing out about 50 pans a day. Why... in one week you dug up $116.50 worth of gold. But this time you've only made a little over $23.00.

Your eating table is a tiny wooden box covered with a cloth. Your bed - at the back end of your tent - is piled high with the tools you need. Like...

  • shovels
  • picks
  • gold pans
  • rope
  • sluice box
  • axe
  • knife
  • gun

A fireplace is close by with a small stove.

You've been living on coffee, beans, hardtack - thick, stone hard crackers - dried peas, chicken and rabbit.

It‘s a rough life and you see many other men sick, wet, and dirty.

You notice some folks give up mining for gold and turn to other ways to make money. Like... selling the miners food, clothing and tools.

All around you towns - called ‘Boom-towns’ - spring up almost overnight in the gold fields. Filled of people offering goods and services to miners.

Want to peak into the future to see how well some of these towns did? Okay!

Let's fast forward - for a moment - to see how a couple of Western Placer County towns are doing today...

Let’s go exploring some of those ‘Boom-towns’ that are still around. Like Auburn - Western Placer County’s - county seat.

In case you didn’t know... Claude Chana - friend of gold discoverer James Marshall, stopped by Auburn, with his party on their way to Coloma.

He tried his hand at panning and came up with three nuggets on his first try. Goodbye Coloma, Hello Auburn!

From its tent beginnings in 1848, it’s now the largest city in Western Placer County.

During your visit, stop by and see Claude Chana's statue… located in Old Auburn’s historic area.

Today... Old Town Auburn is the place to be for year around special events.

Such as... Farmer's Market featuring Placer County grown fruits and vegetables.

Antique street fairs, Summertime blues festivals, and wine festivals... just to mention a few.

Old town Auburn is a great place to relax and enjoy a slice of Old California's pleasures and treasures.

Hungry? Try the Bootleggers Old Town Tavern and Grill.

Old Town Auburn CA

Forest Hill - In 1850, miners came to Forest Hill in large numbers.

Seen as the stepping-off point to several routes to the gold country, the town built the Forest House hotel and Trading Post.

By the early 1880s, Forest Hill had grocery and hardware stores, breweries and saloons, hotels, a doctor and dentist office, a blacksmith and livery stable, a jewelry store, a dry goods store, a meat market, boot-makers, and clothing stores.

However... as the gold mining industry lost its momentum in Western Placer County, the timber industry became the town’s chief industry.

Today... recreation... like camping, fishing, and hiking draw people to the Forest Hill’s area with its reservoirs, trails, and camping facilities.

Now... getting back to our imaginary story, let's find out how you did making your fortune in Western Placer County. Continuing on... we discovered...

...you had owned a store before and had some business experience, so you decided to sell goods to the miners.

A traveling companion - you met during your long journey - had washed out a little gold and wanted to go into business.

Knowing that you had owned a store before, he asked you to be his business partner... and you agreed.

So... the two of you went to San Francisco and purchased goods the miners needed. Like clothes and tools.

Then you and your partner opened a little store made of two tents, and set up your merchandise right in the mining camps.

You did very well.

But after a while... longing for your family and loved ones back in St. Louis, you sold the store to your partner in 1855, and came home with a comfortable pile of gold dust worth about $42,525.00 in your pocket.

Oh and by the way... that’s about $1,119,078.95 in today’s dollars.

Not bad! Agreed?

How's that for an imaginary story? Fun! Huh?

Okay... So let's go exploring one of  Western Placer County's towns that is still around today...

Are you ready? The town we're talking about is Auburn, California.

You see... before 1848, there was no town of Auburn. Then finding gold in a valley stream, mining camps sprang up.

The California gold rush began and two years later, Auburn was a busy little place.

It had the resources a town needs to grow... hard-working people... natural resources - land, trees, and water... and money - in the form of gold.

Many of their buildings still stand today... forming Auburn’s "Old Town" area.

Today, the city of Auburn isn’t very big, but it is a modern American town.

And it's the county seat that just happens to be located in Western Placer County.

Let's stop in and take a look around.

What do you say? Ready... let’s go!


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Panning for gold