ALFRED J. AMICK
At a time was California was in its primitive condition, when the Spanish settlements in the south were widely scattered and the work of improvement in the central and northern sections of the state had scarcely been begun, Alfred Jefferson Amick came to the Pacific coast. The year 1849 witnessed his arrival. Mining camps were established in various parts of the state, owing to the discovery of gold, but many of the now leading cities and towns had not sprung into existence. The prosperous ranches of the present day were then wild tracts of unclaimed land and the whole state awaited the awakening touch of civilization.
Mr. Amick was born in North Carolina on the 12th of February, 1829, of German ancestry who were early settlers of the south. His father, Abraham Amick, was also a native of North Carolina, as was his wife, who bore the maiden name of Jemimah Low. He lived to be sixty-eight years of age, while his wife reached the age of seventy-nine. They were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church and were people of the highest respectability. In their family were eleven children, of whom eight are still living, and these are scattered over various sections of the country. In 1835 the family removed to Missouri, becoming pioneers of Morgan and Cooper counties, in the development of which they took an active part. The political faith of the family was Democratic.
Alfred Jefferson Amick, their second child, was reared on his father’s farm, his education being obtained in the common schools. In February, 1850, he attained his majority and in April of the same year started across the plains to the newly discovered gold fields of California, with the intention of making his fortune and then returning to his Missouri home. With five others he fitted up two wagons and everything necessary for such a trip, each wagon being drawn by six yoke of oxen. His uncle David Amick and his brother William Amick were members of the company. At Fort Kearney the other three members of the party decided to return but he and his uncle and brother continued on their way across the long and arid plains were many emigrants were dying of cholera. Just before they reached the Platte River the uncle died of that disease and was buried by his two nephews. He was the tenth man of the train who had been stricken down and it seemed as though death would wipe out the entire company. Mr. Amick, of this review, also became ill. Of the seventeen that had died by that time all had been attended by a Dr. Ousley, who was one of the party. Mr. Amick’s brother suggested to him that there was no use in taking Dr. Ousley’s medicine, so he took a potion prepared by a little herb doctor who was with them and who gave him what Mr. Amick believes was lobelia. The doctor told him to take enough to make his stomach a little disturbed. The first dose brought on a severe attack of vomiting, and he took a second dose with the same effect, thus ridding his system of the offensive disease which had brought death to so many emigrants on their way across the plains.
On reaching Fort Laramie the wagon train separated, a small company and Mr. Amick and his brother proceeding with a party to the valley of the Humboldt and then down the Sacramento River to Sacramento, where they arrived late in the fall of 1850. In the succeeding winter he went to Hangtown, now Placerville, where he engaged in mining, and he and his brother taking out about one thousand dollars each in three months. They then returned to the place where they had first camped, near where the capitol of the state now stands. Sacramento was then a city of tents and the most far-sighted could not have dreamed that it was to become the seat of government of California, a growing and beautiful municipality, now one of the most important places on the Pacific coast. Mr. Amick’s brother was taken ill and he went to the camp to see whether he could get work. He applied to a German blacksmith, who inquired if he could blow the bellows and strike. On replying in the affirmative the man employed him, giving him seven dollars a day and his board. After two weeks’ work, when his brother had recovered, he told his employer that they were going in search of gold. The man replied, “You did not know much when you began, and you don’t know much now; but if you will stay with me I will give you ten dollars and board.” But Mr. Amick had the gold fever and he left for Placerville.
While there the miners, all inexperienced men from the east, concluded that the gold which they found in the rivers and creeks must have washed down from some great gold repository in the mountains and a number of them decided to go in search of this fountain source of the precious metal, believing that they could get all the gold they could carry and would soon be rich men. Mr. Amick joined this party and they tramped many miles to the mountains but failed to find the source of the gold supply. Each member of the party carried from fifty to seventy pounds of luggage on their backs and the trip was a very arduous one, leading them into the mountains where they encountered severe storms, snow falling to the depth of four feet. Part of the way they subsisted on meat without salt, and they were glad indeed to get back to the original camp.
They returned to Georgetown and in Mosquito Canyon Mr. Amick and his brother secured a large claim, in which they each took out a thousand dollars in a short time. They returned to Georgetown and a number of the prospectors decided that there must be a fortune in the bed of the river. A council was held in which they reached the conclusion that if they had a diving-bell they could obtain this fortune. Accordingly a man was sent for a bell, for which he paid seven hundred dollars, the owner retaining a half interest in it.
About the same time news came of a great gold find in Oregon and Mr. Amick and his brother secured a horse and two mules and with others started on that stampede. The first night they camped above Cashe Creek and the next morning found that the horse and mules were missing. The others left them in their discouragement, and they started on foot to follow the animals’ trail. This they did until they were almost completely exhausted, and fearing death at the hands of the Indians, they returned to the old camp. There a man offered to get them their mules if they would give him the gray horse. To this they agreed, and the man fulfilled his part of the contract.
Mr. Amick and his brother then returned to Georgetown, where they were making tests with the diving bell. It was fastened to a limb of a tree that overhung the river, but for some time no man would volunteer to go down in it. Finally one decided to try it, but had no sooner got down that he began to suffocate and began to signal to be drawn up. When he was taken out he was almost dead, but after considerable effort in resuscitating him he finally revived. The diving bell was pronounced an unsafe venture and was left on the bank of the river.
Mr. Amick then came to Amador County and settled on a farm in Ione valley where for some years he carried on agricultural pursuits. In 1856 he returned across the plains to Missouri, where he purchased one hundred head of cattle, driving them back to California. On this transaction he realized a profit of five hundred per cent and thus got his start, for prior to this time his business ventures had proved rather evanescent as far as success was concerned. Later Mr. Amick was dispossessed of his land by the claimant of the grant and was obliged to buy property. He continued his farming and stock raising, working hard, and thus securing a good return for his labor. As the years passed he acquired a handsome competence and is now known as one of the wealth money lenders of his county. Through an active business career he has ever enjoyed the reputation of straightforward dealing and his is highly spoken of as one of the honored pioneers.
Mr. Amick and his wife reside on the banks of the creek a short distance from Ione, there surrounded by all of the comforts and many of the luxuries of life which have come to them through the success of his earnest and well-directed efforts. In 1859 he was happily married to Miss Nancy Philips, a native of Missouri, who crossed the plains in 1856. Their union has been blessed with six children, all born in California: Wesley M., a prominent drug clerk; W. D., also a successful agriculturist; E. G., a druggist, of Ione; Addie A., who is now the wife of Robert Bagley, a leading merchant of Ione; Alfred J., who accidentally shot himself and died from his injuries; and James M., who lives in Ione. Of the Presbyterian Church Mrs. Amick is a faithful member and active worker, and the family is one of prominence, enjoying the high regard of many friends.
Mr. Amick was reared a Democrat, but when the south attempted to overthrow the Union he became one of the most loyal adherents, and at that time supported the Republican Party, which sustained the national government at Washington. When war issues were things of the past, however, he returned to the Democracy.
He is one of the oldest living pioneers of Ione, familiar with the history of this section of California, for it was a wild and unimproved region. He has often ridden up and down the valley of Sutter Creek when there was not a house on its banks. The first house built in Ione was erected by John Wooster and stood near the site of the present dry goods store of Scott & Amick. Daniel Stewart was the first to open a store in the town. As the years passed the work of development was carried forward, Mr. Amick witnessing the entire progress and upbuilding of this portion of the state. He takes just pride in its advancement, for it has become the home of a large population of prosperous people, becoming one of the avenues of business and professional life. Mr. Amick is numbered among those who at an early day aided in reclaiming the state for the purposes of civilization, and bore his part in placing it upon a substantial foundation on which has been reared a commonwealth that is second to none in the Union.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.