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C O L U M B I A.



      During the year of ’49, while mining was being carried on in the vicinity of Sonora and Shaw’s Flat, and at Paso del Pino, no prospecting, or at least no mining had been done in the territory, now occupied by the town of Columbia, or in that embraced within the limits of Columbia Mining District, except what was done by a few Mexicans at San Diego; but, on the 27th of March, 1850, a company of Miners, consisting of, Dr. Thadeus Hildreth and George Hildreth, his brother, from Maine, Alex. Carson and Billy Jones, from N. Y., and John Walker, from -----, while returning to Wood’s Crossing, from a prospecting excursion in Calaveras County, encamped for the night under an Oak tree, that stood just below the present bridge at the foot of Main street.  Rain fell during the night, and obliged them to remain awhile in the morning to dry their blankets, and while thus detained, Walker thought he would try and see if he could raise the “color” in the small gulch that puts into Columbia gulch from the East, what was afterwards named Kennebec Hill.--He found a fine prospect in the first pan of dirt.  The party concluded that they would stop for the day and give the Gulch a thorough prospecting.  At night they found that they had as the result of two hours work, with pans and picks, one ounce.  They then decided to locate at this point, which they accordingly did.  Water being scarce, and only in small pools, they were obliged to carry their dirt in sacks, and wash in cradles, by which process they realized six or eight ounces a day, to the man.--Capt. Avent was the next white man that located a claim on the Gulch; from the first day’s working he realized two and a half pounds of gold, on the second day a pound and a half, and he averaged from 12 to 15 ounces per day until July when the water failed.

      The news of rich diggings spread over the country, and thousands came pooring (sic) in.  About the 10th of April there was six to eight thousand persons in the Camp, which was located on Kennebec Hill.  A large number of Gamblers came with the crowd, and at one time there was one hundred and forty-three monte-banks in operation, the funds of which amounted to not less than half a million of dollars.  It was common to see men turn a card for three and four thousand dollars.

      On the 29th day of April, D. G. Alexander, Major Collingsworth and Major Sullivan named the town Columbia, in honor of the great navigator.  About the same time it was found necessary to have public officers, and Major Sullivan was chosen Alcalde, and ---Gregsby, Constable, who immediately entered upon the duties of their offices.  The first case brought before his honor was a case of theft--an American complaining of a Greaser for stealing a pair of leggings.  The Greaser was fined three ounces for stealing, and the American one ounce for complaining of him.  The next case was a suit brought by George Hildreth, against a Frenchman, for the recovery of a pick, stolen from George’s claim, and found for sale in the Frenchman’s store.  Judgement (sic) was entered against the Frenchman for the worth of the pick, one ounce, and three ounces costs.

      On the first of June the Foreign Miners Tax of twenty dollars a month was enforced, which thinned the Camp of the foreign population, and water becoming scarce the Camp dwindled down so that only nine or ten persons remained.

      The first tent put up on the north side of Columbia Gulch, where the town now stands, was on the site now occupied by McLean & Evans’ Blacksmith Shop, and was dedicated to cards and whiskey.

      In September, Jackson & Stone put up the first Wooden Building in the place, on the site now occupied by their fire-proof building, which was used as a store.  In October, of the same year, Brown built a store on the corner of what is now Main and Washington street.  Mr. Brown brought the first wagon that ever came into Columbia.

      In the Fall of ’50 a large number of miners and others congregated in the Camp and vicinity, but the dry winter had the effect to again disperse them.

      In the Spring of ’51 A. W. C. DeNoielle, and his lady, opened the first boarding house.  Mrs. D. was the first white woman that came into Columbia, and the second in the county.  Mrs. Patch was the first white woman in the county, and gave birth the first white child, born in the county, at Pine Log.

      On the 21st day of June, ’51, a meeting of the miners of Tuttletown was called for the purpose of taking measures to survey a route for a ditch, to convey the waters of the South Fork of the Stanislaus into Columbia, and the adjacent Camps.  Joseph Dance, of Alabama, was Chairman, and J. D. Patterson, Secretary.  A Committee consisting of General Benard, Civil Engineer, J. D. Patterson and Judge W. H. Carlton was appointed to make a preliminary survey of the route, and report in two weeks.--at the expiration of the time the Committee made a report favorable to the enterprise.  The Company was then organized at Tuttletown.--Joseph Dance was chosen President, and J. D. Patterson, Secretary, and Gen. Benard, Engineer.  The company then consisted of twenty-one members.  An assessment of five dollars on each member was then made.  Another meeting a few days after was called at Shaw’s Flat, to induce the people of that Camp to co-operate in the enterprise; and Caleb Dorsey, our present District Attorney, took an active part in favor of the scheme.  Another meeting was called, at Columbia, in which P. Mc. D. Collins was active in urging the importance of the work.  At this meeting the Company was fully organized, and the 1st day of July was set as the day on which operations should be commenced, and at 11 o’clock, P.M., on that day the work was commenced at Summit Pass.  The Company persevered under great difficulties on account of the want of means, but were prevented from being obliged to suspend operations by the pecuniary assistance afforded by D. O. Mills & Co., Bankers, of Sacramento, and who afterwards established a House in Columbia.

      The Company succeeded in turning the water of Five Mile Creek into Columbia, on the 1st day of May, 1852, and in August of the same year, the ditch was fully completed to the South Fork.

      In the Fall the town was laid out on the present site, and the prospect of water afforded by the “Tuolumne County Water Company” caused a large influx of population, and the place was suddenly built up.  The buildings mostly composed of clap-boards.

      A newspaper, called the Columbia “Star” was started by W. Gore., but after the fifth number it died a natural death. The first copy that was struck off of this paper, sold for one ounce, and is now in the possession of Mrs. DeNoielle.

      In the fall of 1852, the Columbia “Gazette” was established by Col. Falconer.  At the Fall election in that year there was 1229 votes polled in this precinct, which then included Saw Mill Flat, Yankee Hill, and Gold Springs.

      In May 1854, the town was incorporated, and town officers elected under the General  Incorporation Act.  The first Board of Trustees was composed of Samuel Arnold, Sewell Knapp, F. F. Bartlett, Alden Sears and James McLean, Jr.  Finally Capt. Haley was chosen Marshall, C. Brown, Treasurer, and P. G. Ferguson, Assessor.

      On the 10th day of July, 1854, about three o’clock in the morning the town was almost totally destroyed by fire, which was the work of an incendiary.

      Every store in the place was destroyed, with the exception of Donnell & Parson’s, which was the first fire-proof building, & the only one at that time, with the exception of Mr. Alberding’s .  The loss was estimated at $500,000.  The place was speedily rebuilt by much better and more permanent buildings, quite a number of which were substancial (sic)fire-proof edifices.

      In the Fall of ’54 the “Columbia and Stanislaus River Water Company” was formed, the object of which was to bring in the water of the main branch of the Stanislaus river, so as to afford a constant supply during the whole year.  Little however was accomplished until the “Miners’ Strike,” which was in March, 1855.  At which time the popular sympathy became enlisted in favor of the new work, and some three hundred men, or upwards, shouldered their picks and commenced operations on the work, taking stock in payment for their labor.  This ditch is now completed to the South Fork, a distance of 34 miles, at a cost of about $150,000.  The Company are now extending it beyond the South Fork, and it is expected the ditch to the Main river will be in readiness to receive the water by the time the water fails in the South Fork, next Summer.  In the meantime the “Tuolumne County Water Company” has erected large resevoirs (sic) to retain surplus water sufficient to supply their ditch for six weeks or two months after the water in the South Fork gives out.  They have also constructed twelve miles of new ditch, for the purpose of doing away with five miles of fluming, which, from its situation was liable to frequent accidents.

      The town has been, and is still supplied with pure spring water by the “New England Water Company,” which first brought the water from Spring Gulch, in wood pipes; they have since laid down iron pipes of sufficient dimensions to supply a population of 20,000.  They have also placed Hydrants at the corners of the streets, and having a head of 80 feet they can throw water over the highest building in the place, thus affording one great safe guard against future conflagrations.

      In May ’54, Mrs. Haley established the first school in the place, which continued several months.  The next school was established by Mrs. C. H. Chamberlain, who taught until July 1855.  After the close of her school, a school was established by Mrs. Whitman, also one by Miss Sears.

      Robert Porterfield commenced a school in the month of July, ’54, and his school and that of Miss Sears, are still in operation.

      The first Church established in Columbia, was that of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  The Rev. Mr. Malone, of Sonora, preaching here once a week.  The Rev. Mr. Long was the first Minister that settled here, the Church which is now owned by the Presbyterians, but formerly by the Church South, was built during his ministry.  He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Moore, who was followed by Mr. Pendergrass, and he by the Rev. Mr. Lockley.

      The Methodist Church North was established in ’53 under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Mr. Gibbons.  The present house of worship was erected that year.  Mr. Gibbons was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Brier, and he by the present pastor, the Rev. Mr. Reasoner.  The Presbyterian Church was organized in the Summer of ’55, under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Brodt.  They purchased the Church of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  Mr. Brodt’s health failing in the Summer of ’55, he was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Hamilton, who is the present pastor.

      The Masonic Fraternity organized a Lodge of their order in August, ’52, and erected a Hall over the Church, which they occupied until the completion of their present splendid brick edifice, at the corner of Broadway and Washington st.

      The Independent Order of Odd Fellows organized in 1853, and built their present Hall at the corner of Broadway and Jackson st.


      The Sons of Temperance erected a Hall in the same year, which is now occupied by two Divisions of the order.

      The present population is not far short of five thousand, there is about two hundred families settled here.  One half of which have come within the last fifteen months.  The Tuolumne County Water Co.’s Ditch, which supplies from two to three hundred streams, and the Columbia and Stanislaus River Water Co.’s Ditch, which is sufficiently capacious to supply five hundred streams, have their head quarters here.  The latter are pushing their work to the Main River and when completed will be able to furnish water the entire year.

      The Columbia and Stanislaus River W. Co. are constructing some of the highest, longest, and most substancial (sic) flumes of any yet put up in this portion of the State.  Among those under contract, and nearly completed, is the Summit  Pass flume, which is 34 feet high and about 700 feet long, built of Timbers 10x12 inches, well framed and secured by iron stirrups and bolts.  The Yankee Hill flume is between Columbia and Yankee Hill and is 2000 feet long, and the highest point is 79 feet, made of heavy timber and well ironed.

      The Gold Hill flume, which conducts water to these rich and extensive diggings, is about 700 feet long, and 34 feet high.  Made of like material as the others.

      The Philadelphia House flume, between Columbia and Sonora, built by the same Company, will when completed be a fine piece of workmanship.

      The Tuolumne County Water Company have also built a flume at Summit Pass, which is an excellent work, and must last for many years.

      Mr. Street, proprietor of the Tuolumne ditch, has also erected quite a number, and among the best is the one at the junction of the Brown’s Flat and Sonora roads, midway between Columbia and the latter place.  It is a good and substancial (sic) piece of work.

      These three Companies will erect some very large and heavy fluming the coming season, so as to be able to conduct water to the high points of land where rich diggings have been discovered, and cannot be successfully worked without water can be had at a sufficient height to use the Hydraulic force.

      The limits of the Incorporation embrace an area of one-half mile square, and within this space there is not a lot but what is taken up for building purposes, except a few spots held as mining claims.  The place is fast filling up with families--a surety of a permanent population and of improvement in society.  The barbarous amusements, introduced by Spanish customs, have long since ceased to disturb the peace of the community, while other Spanish customs that tend so much to the spread and continuance of immorality are fast dying, and in a short time will only be known as things that belonged to the past.  The gambling saloon no longer, by its music, attracts the unsophisticated to squander their money on “dead things,” and those who were connected with such houses have gone to other parts, or sought other occupations.  Considering the large population congregated around Columbia there has been but few murders or other great crimes perpetrated in our midst, in comparison with places of the same size in other parts of the State.  And as the Mexican population, and the class that are over congregated around gambling houses are removed from our midst, the security of life and property may be soon considered equal to that afforded in most places in the older States.

      Columbia has many fine gardens and ranches in its immediate neighborhood, which supplies it with the luxuries that our soil so abundantly produces.  Great interest is now taken by our citizens in planting ornamental trees to take the place of the noble oaks that were destroyed by the transient population that first resided here, and from the large number of fruit trees and vines that are brought to our place, we have come to the conclusion that the time will not be long before most of our citizens will sit under their own vines and fig trees, with none to molest or make them afraid.

      In the Summer of ’55 some individuals conceived the project of fluming the Columbia Gulch from its head to a point below Springfield--a distance of a mile and a half.  The work was completed previous to the failing of the water in the Fall.  The object of the flume was to secure the claims on the gulch from water, and to save the fine gold lost in washing.  It is believed, from the proceeds so far, to be one of the best investments in the county.

      With all these advantages, and the great extent of her mines, makes Columbia, as she has been very properly styled, the “Gem of the Southern Mines.”














      Art. 1.  The Columbia Mining District shall hereafter be considered to embrace all the territory embraced within the following bounds, viz: beginning at a point on the upland, adjoining the south fork of the Stanislaus River, opposite the “Passo del Pino,” running in an easterly direction, in a line with and including a ravine known as Experimental Gulch, to the head of said gulch; thence following the height of land, so as to include Yankee Hill diggings, to a point within fifty feet of Wood’s Creek; thence down said creek to the road leading from Saw Mill Flat to Kelly’s Ranch; thence north-westerly to a spring on a gulch running southerly from Santiago, which spring is the easterly corner of the Springfield district; thence in a direct line to the site of McKenney’s old store; thence in a direct line to the Lawnsdale Saw Mill; thence following the height of land around the head of Saw Mill Gulch, so called, to the head of Dead Man’s Gulch; thence following a small ditch of the T. C. W. Company to the point where it intersects the Gold Hill ditch; thence in a direct line to the head of Fox Gulch; thence down said gulch, in a line parallel with and including it, to a point within five hundred feet of the south fork of the Stanislaus; thence along the upland adjoining the south fork, to the place of beginning.

      Art. 2.  A full claim for mining purposes on the flats or hills in this district, shall consist of an area equal to that of one hundred feet square.  A full claim on ravines shall consist of one hundred feet running on the ravine, and of a width at the discretion of the claimant,--provided it does not exceed one hundred feet.

      Art. 3.  No person shall hold more than one full claim within the bounds of this district; nor shall it consist of more than two parcels of ground the sum of the area of which shall not exceed the area of one full claim; provided nothing in this article shall be so constructed as to prevent miners from associating in companies to carry on mining operations; such companies holding no more than one full claim to each member.

      Art. 4.  A claim may be held until three days after water can be procured at the usual rates, by distinctly marking its bounds by ditches; by sinking a ditch its entire length, suitable for toming purposes, and for draining the ground; or by the erection of good and sufficient stakes at each corner, with a notice at each end of the claim, indicating the intention of the parties holding it, followed by the names of the claimants in their own hand writing.

      Art. 5.  When a party has already commenced operations upon a claim, and are obliged to discontinue for want of water, or by sickness or unavoidable accident, the presence upon the ground of the tom and sluices, or such machines as are employed in working the claim, shall be considered as sufficient evidence that the ground is not abandoned, and shall serve instead of other notice; the bounds of the claim, still being defined, except so far as the marks may have been obliterated by the work that has been performed.

      Art. 6.  Claims shall be forfeited when parties holding them have neglected to fulfil the requirements of the preceeding articles, or have neglected working them within three days after water can be procured to work said claims, at the usual rates, unless prevented by sickness or unavoidable accident, or unless the miners shall have provided by special law to the contrary.

      Art. 7.  Earth thrown up for the purpose of extracting the gold therefrom, shall not be held distinct from the claim from which it was taken but shall constitute part and parcel of such claim, and shall be deemed equivalent to the number of superficial feet contained in the excavation; such earth may be held for the space of six months from the excavation, by surrounding it with loose stones, chapperal bushes or other agencies, and by the erection of a stake in the center, bearing a notice indicating the intention of the party holding it, followed by the name of the claimant in his own hand writing.

      Art. 8.  Earth thrown up under circumstances detailed in article 7th of the laws, and in conformity with the provisions of said article, shall be held as private property, and parties trespassing upon the same, shall be deemed guilty of petty larceny, and upon due conviction shall be punished accordingly.

      Art. 9.  Water flowing naturally through gold bearing ravines, may not be diverted from its natural course without the consent of parties working on said ravine, and when so diverted, it shall be held subject to a requisition from any party int’ed.

      Art. 10.  None but Americans or Europeans who have or shall declare their intentions of becoming citizens, shall hold claims in this district.  But foreigners shall have until the first of November next, to declare their intentions.

      Art. 11.  Neither Asiatics nor South Sea Islanders shall be allowed to mine in this district, either for themselves or for others.

      Art. 12.  Any person who shall sell a claim to an Asiatic or a South Sea Islander, shall not be allowed to hold another claim in this district, for the space of six months.

      Art. 13.  All Mining Laws heretofore in existence in this district are hereby repealed.








Organized, Oct. 21st, 1854, in the town of Columbia, Tuolumne County, under the Incorporation Act of this State, approved April 14th, 1853, with a Capital Stock of $300,000, divided into 1500 shares.




      The Company commenced operations the 19th day of March 1855, on the line from Columbia to the South fork; Since which time 36 miles of the main trunk of the canal have been excavated and finished; besides 3 miles of fluming, some of which is over 60 feet in height, 2 large reservoirs and some 5 miles of distributing ditches, making a total of 44 miles of canal and fluming that have been built in ten months.

      The Company is now ready to run water to the mining localities of Yankee Hill, Knickerbocker, Saw Mill, and Brown’s Flats, Italian Diggings, Bald Mountain and Sonora, and by the first of March next to Columbia, Gold Springs, Springfield and Shaw’s Flat and their vicinities, covering an area of Mining Country equal to 25 square miles.

      The first division (12 ¾ miles) of the line from the dam on the South fork of the Stanislaus River, to a point where water can be turned off to reach the southern part of the County (through the Hydraulic canal.)  The canal is three feet deep and six feet wide in the bottom, with the usual slopes, and 16 feet fall to the mile.

      The second division (12 ¾ miles) from thence to Columbia, being 2 ½ feet deep by 4 ½ feet wide in the bottom, and a fall of fifteen feet to the mile.

      The first division will pass 300 tom streams.  The second 175 streams.

      The first division will afford numerous sites for Saw Mills in the sugar pine region.

      The upper division of the line from the South fork to the main River, five different surveys have been made by the Company’s Engineers up to this time.  And the last survey has proved that by a tunnel of 3000 feet in length through the dividing ridge, the main River can be reached with 11 miles of canaling, and 5 miles of fluming.  Making a total of not over 16 miles from the dam on the South fork, to the dam on the main River, where 500 tom stream can be had the year round, with an abundance of timber for fluming on the route.  This latter route will reduce the cost of the work at least one fourth, or $75,000.

      The canal to the main River will be 10 feet wide in the bottom, and three feet deep, or of sufficient capacity to pass from 400 to 500 tom streams; and will be finished by the first of September next.  Having a supply of water during the dry season, in Tuolumne County.

      The Company offer to let Water Power to any amount on the line of canal, for Mill purposes.  We invite the attention of Lumbermen to the importance of having Water Power during the dry season, so near the mining regions.


















Officers of the Town of Columbia, for the Year, ending May, 1856.


BOARD OF TRUSTEES.--George H. Rogers, Pres’t; William M. Donnell; Daniel Walker; John L. Conner; H. McKenty.

TOWN MARSHAL.--William E. Carder.

TOWN ASSESSOR.--Isaac Shotwell.

TREASURER.--Henry Smith.

SECRETARY.--John Heckendorn.

OFFICIAL PAPER.--Columbia Clipper.


      The votes polled at Columbia precinct at the last general Election for State and  County Officers, was 974.  The assessment of real and personal property by the Town Assessor, for the year 1856, was four hundred and fifty thousand dollars.


Columbia Lodge, No. 28, A. F. & A. Masons was granted a Dispensation on the 6th day of May, 1853, and received its Charter May, 1856.


The present Officers are

J. A. Jackson, W. M.,      E. Mills, Treasurer.

J. W. Coffroth, S. W.,      M. S. Toman, S. D.

J. Campbell, J. W.,           B. S. Glover, J. D.

R. H. Towle, Sec.’y,         Stephen Jellison, Tyler.

                    Aug. Campbell, Marshall.

      The Lodge numbers near one hundred members.  Regular meetings the first Thursday in each month.


Columbia Royal Arch Chapter, No. 28.


Organized the 14th of December, 1855.  Regular Meetings the 1st and 3d Mondays of each month.



J. A. Jackson, M. E. H. P.

Robert Porterfield, E. R.,

W. A. Vanamrige, E. S.,

P. G. Ferguson, C. H.,

Joseph Dillon, R. A. C.,

Charles Riley, M. 3d V.,

John T. Carter, M. 2d V.,

B. S. Glover, M. 1st. V.,

George H. Rogers, Secretary.

E. Mills, Treasurer,

S. Jellison, Guard.




      An encampment of the order has been organized, to be styled the “Pacific Encampment.” And they are now expecting a Dispensation to authorize them to work.  This will be the third Encampment in the State.



Rising Sun Division No. 176.


J. W. Hollister, W. P.,        G. Beach, S.,

C. Stone, W. A.,                  N. C. Andrews, C.,

J. F. Ward, R. S.,                 S. M. Duffee, A. C.,

O. White, A. R. S.,              C. Hurd, J. S.

A. P. Hollister, F. S.,           O. R. Randall, O. S.,

                      R. McLean, Chaplain.

            Meetings Thursday of each week.

                         Division No. 18.

M. Brophey, W. P.,              S. True, W. A.,

J. W. Coombs, R. S.,            E. W. Councilman, A. R. S.

----, Bebee, F. S.,                  J. Leary, Trs.,

J. Welch, C.,                         A. Brink, A. C.

P. Nelson, J. S.,                     J. McLusky, O. S.,

Regular meetings Wednesday of each week.


Columbia & Stanislaus River Water Co.

      Organized Oct. 21st. 1854.  Capital Stock, $300,000,



PRESIDENT, J. W. Coffroth.

TRUSTEES, John Jolly, A. C. Goodrich, James, McLean. C. H. Alberding, Columbia; G. W. Dunn, Sonora; N. A. Tolman, Jacksonville;




SECRETARY, Ferdinand Fiedler.





A.     ROWELL--President.


      This Company supplies the town with pure Spring Water, and have laid the following number of feet and pounds of Pipe, up to January, 1st. 1856.

3,000 feet 2, 3 and 6 inch Iron Pipe 18 Tons.

4,000 feet 1 ½ inch. Lead Pipe 7 Tons.

1,000 feet 1 ¼ inch Lead Pipe 2 Tons.

2,000 feet    ¾ inch Lead Pipe 2 Tons.

10,000 feet   ½ inch Lead Pipe 5 Tons.

---------                                      ----

20,000                                       34.


Columbia Gulch Fluming Company.

Organized 1855.  Capital Stock $30,000,00.

Number of Shares  141.

PRESIDENT, John G. Sparks.

TRUSTEES, James Glassford, Daniel Walker, E. Carney, J. B. Stewart.




A.     N. Fishers Daily Line direct for Stockton.

C. Greens Daily Line direct for Sacramento.

Cal. Stage Co. Daily Line direct for Murphys Cp.

      A.N. Fisher & Co. 4 times a day for Sonora, and 4 times a day, via Springfield and S. Flat. 

      Cooper & McCarthys, daily line 4 times a day, via Springfield and Shaws Flat.

      Seats can be secured for Jamestown, Chinese Camp, Montezuma, Don Pedros, Coultersville and Lagrange, in Dr. Clarks daily and tri-weekly line of Coaches.  In the California Stage Company, for Angels, San Andreas, Mokelume Hill, Jackson, Volcano, Dry Town, Fiddletown, Ione Valley, &c. &c.



Transcribed by Sue Wood.

Proofread by Betty Vickroy.

© 2008 Sue Wood.