Search billions of records on







Was born in Warren County, Mississippi, on December 9, 1824. Here he was educated, evincing at an early age the striking predisposition which has led him to the study of surveying, which he has since adopted as his profession. Mr. Dart enlisted in the First Mississippi Rifles, and fought in the Mexican War for one year; then, returning home, he engaged in surveying. In 1849, he came to this State via the Isthmus, and was eight months in getting to San Fran­cisco, where he arrived October 5th of that year. He remained in San Francisco until April, 1850, when he came to Jacksonville, in this county, went to mining, and has been engaged more or less in that business up to the pres­ent writing. He was elected County Surveyor in 1874, and has held that office to the acceptance of the whole community.


“A History of Tuolumne County, California” B.F. Alley, 1882. Pg. 368.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton





This gentleman was born in Norridgewock, Somerset County, Maine, in November, 1821.  The details of his eventful life are as follows:


Going to Boston in his early years, he remained there for three years; he then returned for a short time to his old home, preparatory to starting for the new El Dorado.  On February 5, 1852, he left New York on the steamer Prome­theus, coming to Nicaragua.  It was Mr. Dinsmore’s for­tune to be one of the passengers of the ill-fated steamer North America, which received them on the Pacific side and was wrecked about one hundred miles below Acapulco.  The survivors of the catastrophe, numbering among them the gentleman whose story is now being told, arrived finally at Acapulco, where, after a detention of two months, they took passage on the clipper ship Northern Light, and finally reached San Francisco after a tedious passage of twenty-two days.


Traveling about the country for a while, and visiting Marysville and other places, Mr. Dinsmore finally accepted the position of steward on a Sacramento River steamer, remaining so employed throughout the winter of 1852-3.  Becoming proprietor of the Essex House and then of the Garden House, he occupied himself in conducting the busi­ness of those hostelries until 1855, going in that year to the mines.  In 1860, after spending the intervening years in mining, he engaged with Dr. Baldwin in the drug busi­ness at Columbia, which they followed four or five years.  Then spending a year in a cabinet factory, in 1866 he established the newspaper called the Columbia Citizen, renting a printing press of the Messrs. Duchow.  At the end of a year Mr. Dinsmore withdrew from the new enter­prise, and going to Sonora became employed in the offices of the various newspapers published there, and remained until 1867.  After spending some time in Oroville, San Francisco and other places, he finally removed to Oakland, where he took charge of a drugstore and remained for five years; then buying out the store with its stock, and con­ducting it until 1878, when he entered the employ of an express company, and finally, in July, 1882, he engaged with the Central Pacific Railroad Company, in whose em­ploy he still remains.



“A History of Tuolumne County, CA” B.F. Alley, 1882.  Appendix Pg. 8-9.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton





Mankind loves the marvelous.  To dwell upon the al­most incredible relations of fiction, to discuss the unex­plainable phenomena of nature, and to gaze with wondering eyes upon the relics and evidences of races and peoples unknown to us, would seem a characteristic of humanity as strongly marked as it is general. This instinct of the marvelous, which we may credit all men with possessing, manifests itself in a variety of ways; but of these different ways not one is more remarkable than that one which impels the interest of mankind to ponder upon, to study and consider of great riches. The world gloats over a tale of gold and feasts its eyes upon the evidences of wealth. The fabled king of old who bathed in the Pactolian stream, is but remembered as he whose touch turned all to gold.  The good monarch of Lydia, although his virtues would shed a luster upon the most Catholic Prince that ever lived, exists only in the aphorism “As rich as Croesus,” and Solomon’s self might not stand before the modern mind as a model, had it not been that his ship made successful voyages to Tarshish.


The literature of the later centuries has found its spring of action largely in a thirst for gold, or it has delineated with intense interest the acquirement of great fortunes.  Who has not heard of Monte Christo? And who has not speculated upon the chance of similar success falling upon himself, though knowing the extreme rarity of the occa­sions in which even moderate fortunes have been so gained.


Although the tale of the fortunate Count has been given to mankind through Dumas’ skilful pen, it has not often fallen to the lot of any but novelists to record the acquirement of enormous wealth which came suddenly and came to reward deserving industry and far-seeing calculation. The story of the Comstock miners has little of romance, nor do the lucky possessors of those great mines of gold and silver deserve the praise or congratulation of men, since the use to which they put their riches is often of the basest.


It is a pleasant duty, and a duty which does not often in this work-day world fall to the lot of a writer, to record the munificent reward of patient and uncomplaining perseverance, which has had few parallels in the world. It is a story of the sternest self-denial and the practice of in­dustry for years of a laborious life, with the final result of the sudden accession of a fortune great enough to be the fitting reward of such exertions. But with the accession of fortune the interest of the story does not end. Pleasant as it is to chronicle a deserved reward, it is no less agree­able to tell the story of the charitable and munificent uses to which that fortune is devoted by one whose good luck has not killed in him the nobler feelings that actuate the human family.


James G Divoll was born in Orange County, Vermont, on the eighth of January, 1831. In early life his parents removed to Port Kent, on the shore of Lake Champlain. Attending the common schools of the vicinity, and, after­wards graduating from the Academy at Burlington, he at the age of 18 years, removed to the great West, settling first at Fond Du Lac, in Wisconsin.


Here his stay was short, for the cholera breaking out compelled his removal, and he returned to the East, stop­ping for a while at Chatauqua, New York, but finally arriving at the old home in Vermont, in the later part of 1850. In the following Spring Mr. Divoll married Miss Eliza Jane Mellen. at Northfield, Vermont, and the young couple proceeded westward, taking up their abode at Black River Falls, in the State of Wisconsin. Here Mr. D. entered into the manufacture of flour, which he carried on with success for nearly ten years, at the end of that time selling the property which he had accumulated, and which included a tract of ten thousand acres of land lying in Clark County.


Turning his steps to the “Sun Land,” Mr. Divoll with three friends took passage at New York, on a steamship of the Vanderbilt Line, and set his foot upon the shore of California in June 1862. Saying in answer to his companions’ queries: “ I am going to leave San Francisco on the first steamer that leaves the wharf,” Mr Divoll found himself, the next day, in Stockton, booked a seat in the first stage that left, regardless of its destination. That the destination of that stage was Sonora seems at a casual view to be a trifling fact; but that fact led to the finding of the greatest deposit of pure gold that has yet been taken from the earth. Lovers of the marvelous will find in the comparatively insignificant  circumstances of the departure of a steamer and a stage, two steps which may seem to have been predestined in Mr. Divoll’s remarkable life; and other circumstances give rise to the same feeling.


In the matter of mill-work and particularly in the mechanism of flour mills, Mr. Divoll had in his early years become thoroughly versed, his Wisconsin experience giving him a deep insight into all matters connected with those branches of constructive mechanics. Accordingly, on his arrival in this region he employed himself in building a flour mill for D. W. Tulloch, and during the same year built the bridge at Knight’s Ferry.


Mr. Divoll’s first experience in Sonora pleasantly resulted in his making the acquaintance of William G. Long, who being then as now a miner, magnanimously  offered Mr. D. the use of his sluice-boxes to aid him in his first mining venture; and this acquaintance has resulted in the life-long friendship of the two.


After completing the mill and bridge spoken of, he lo­cated in Sonora, purchasing of Smith Mitchell the Saratoga Ranch, and proceeded to develop a mine on his property, which mine was very successfully worked, yielding many thousands of dollars.


Several years now passed in mining and other operations, during which he met generally with a full measure of suc­cess, until the year 1871 came around and the explora­tion of the Bonanza Vein was entered upon. marking, as it has done, an era in gold mining, and leading to successes in comparison with which the good fortune of ordinary life sinks into nothingness. Yet these successes, stupen­dous as they are in the aggregate, were not achieved at once.  Half a score of years of patient waiting had to be passed, many hundred feet of tunnels, drifts and inclines were run and the few hands which the small resources of the owners could bring to bear, could proceed but slowly. Years passed and only meager gains rewarded the toil of the industrious men. Bills had to be met and bread had to be provided for dependent mouths. The old story of unflagging energy and perseverance was recounted, and, at last, just as the hopes of the stoutest-hearted were wavering, these heroic miners called to their magnificent reward. Following the “prospect,” as it showed plainly one day, to be obscured the next, the head of the tunnel came nearer and nearer to the great deposit of virgin metal which awaited them, and finally the pick’s keen point stuck through the obdurate stone into a treasury of native wealth such as was never before given to man to look upon. Eight hundred pounds of solid gold was ship­ped from this mine at one time, and there is reason for believing that the product for a single week was a third of a million of dollars!  Nor is this all; subsequent work has been richly rewarded, rich “pockets” being met with at close intervals. It is a tale of more than East Indian wealth, and perhaps it is not less attractive because the owners keep the exact figures to themselves, allowing the envious outsiders the privilege of imagination.


From this time on Mr. Divoll’s life has been a story of prosperity. Drawing fabulous wealth from the mine (of which he is now sole owner) he has been enabled to enter into many plans for the accomplishment of good to his fellow-man, and the enrichment of the community in which he lives. It has been truly said that he is the life of Tuolumne County; and it is extremely pleasant to be able to say so much of one who ,deserves so much of good fortune, and upon whom the honors sit so lightly. Too much cannot be said in favor of Mr. Divoll’s generosity and open-handedness. Unlike others, whose success has been as great as it is undeserved, he does not clutch his wealth so tightly but that the calls of charity amid the wants of his fellow-beings make an impression.  The detestable spectacle of a filthy, stingy, ill-dressed, half-human old miser, forms no part of his appearance, and it is only the wish of his fellow-citizens that James G. Divoll may live long to enjoy the gains which a discriminating fortune placed in his hands, and to cordial wish that all the bonanza wealth had reached his coffers, instead of partially going to enrich squalid meanness.


The number of the enterprising schemes which the busi­ness talent or the benevolence of Mr. Divoll have given rise to, is legion. The proprietor of the Star Flouring Mills in Sonora, into which the owner has introduced the latest improvements in the art of making a first rate article of flour; the promoter of various mining enterprises, and the steady encourager and aider of any plan which prom­ises to be of practical benefit to his fellow-man, Mr. D. has gained a reputation for enterprise second to no other. Of late, however, his intelligence has produced and elabo­rated the details of an enterprise which will, when carried out, not only surpass his previous operations, but throw into the shade any and every work of that character ever before attempted. This is the proposed supplying of the principal cities of this State with pure water from the Sierra Nevada. This is the origin of the Tuolumne and Oakland Water Company—a corporation devoted to carry­ing out the above object, and who, as a preliminary step, have secured the right of the water which flows from the area of country lying in Tuolumne County between the North Fork of the Tuolumne River and the boundary line of Mariposa County, and extending downward from the summits of the Sierra about twenty-five miles toward the west, embracing somewhat over four hundred square miles of country, the drainage of which, amounting to over 25,000 inches of water, is to be utilized. The eminent adaptability of this section to its proposed use may be summed up in a few words. First, it is almost entirely uninhabited, being in fact incapable of supporting more than a few hunters and timber-getters. Then it is bare, in its upper regions, of vegetable growth, thus avoiding the danger of organic impurities in the water. Its country rock is granite, which fact proves the freedom of the waters from any soluble salts, as those of lime, which in other districts cause the water to be “hard.” The territory is provided with innumerable lakes of crystal clearness, which act as immense reservoirs, supplementing the snow-piles, the best and most efficient reservoirs that kind nature has ever con­structed, giving up their stored wealth of waters in the warm summer days when other sources of supply have failed. Finally, this great catchment field is situated at an altitude which allows every drop of its yield to he utilized.


Here, then, is an inexhaustible source of the purest water under the sun—water that has been raised by the agency of the sun’s rays, from the bosom of the ocean, lifted to a great hight [height] in the form of clouds, which, blown inland into contact with the cold air surrounding the lofty Sierra, lose themselves in drops of rain or flakes of snow. And the rain or snow, falling upon the solid rock, still uncontaminated by even the least impurity, remains stored in lake, in canon, or in snow field, until the rays of the genial sun have again dissolved its bonds and set it free, to run joy­ously over precipice, through dark canon, or under glacier, until it loses itself in the brawling Tuolumne.


Precisely at the spot where the smaller streams join the main river, the dams of the new company are to be erected. Provided with gates to control the supply, and including reservoirs sufficient to obviate accidental sources of impurity in the way of floating wood or disseminated sand, etc., they are to deliver their supplies to two mains, com­posed of iron, each of which has an internal diameter of thirty-six inches, and of a strength sufficient to withstand the pressure which may be imposed. Proceeding by a regular grade westward about thirty degrees north, pass­ing some half dozen miles south of Stockton, and continu­ing beyond Mount Diablo, circling to the north of that peak, then turning south towards Oakland, it terminates near that city, first sending branch pipes of less diameter to Stockton, to Sacramento, to San Jose and other places, to perform its function of supplying perfectly pure snow-water to nine cities, containing a present population of four hundred thousand, and to whom the proposed works, it is calculated, could deliver a supply of 24,000,000 gallons daily—a supply in excess of that enjoyed by New York, a city of a million inhabitants.


This gigantic and promising scheme has the support of engineers of ability. Mr. J. P. Dart, than whom no one is better qualified to speak of the hydrography of the Upper Sierra, has given it the seal of his approval; and his sur­veys, accompanied by lucid maps, explain so satisfactorily the details of the work, that it is impossible to be convinced of aught but its entire practicability. Fuller details are not wanting. The importance of the work is undoubted. That it will prove remunerative none can gainsay; and that inasmuch as it rests in Mr. Divoll’s hands, its construction will be carried through, is equally a matter of certainty.


“A History of Tuolumne County, California” B.F. Alley, 1882. Pg. 361-368.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton










© 2002 Nancy Pratt Melton

Tuolumne County Biographies