Cold Springs

Cold Springs Map

The first diggings at this place were discovered sometime in 1849, and soon a road was laid down to connect the camp both ways with Placerville and Coloma, which became the main traveled road between both these places; Cold Springs was the half-way station on this road. The condition of life and existence, the natural spring water, had caused the start of several other camps in the direct neighborhood, which became named after their springs; just the same with Cold Springs, which derived its name from a spring of cold and good water, located near the edge of Cold Spring creek, in the upper end of the town. This camp soon became a great attraction, and the flat below town, in the Summer of 1850, was settled with from 600 to 700 miners who camped in tents or slept under the trees, and only those who intended to stay for the winter season made arrangements to build cabins. They all were working in the bed of the creek, where a mining claim then was called 15 feet square. So soon as it had been ascertained that the gravel of the creek bed was rich in gold and there would be great probability for a permanent mining camp, some enterprising men started in business. The first store was opened by Norton & Montgomery in connection with a boarding house; Duncan also kept a store, John Dewitt was the proprietor of the first bakery and sometime later the partner in a store kept by Dewitt & Taylor; still another store was kept by Sudson & Goodenough. David Miller opened the first hotel. Nelson Van Tassell, Public Administrator of the county in 1854, kept the first boarding house, and another hotel was kept by Reed; James Debow, a man of education and very gentleman-like manners, kept the Blue Tent Saloon.

Out of the number of other early settlers and prominent men of Cold Springs, we recall the names of Judge Kenfield, E. P. Jones, a lawyer, then mining, who was generally known as "Cold Water Jones;" he became president of the Cold Springs Division No. 22, Sons of Temperance, instituted on February, 22, 1853, Forcie, a lawyer, Dr. D. L. Stevenson, Dr. Buttermore, A. Colgrove, G. W. Paddock, F. Russell, W. W. Penton, J. M. Goetschius, who was the first Postmaster in town, Wm. H. Lipsey, who was hung at Coloma, November 3, 1854, for the murder of one Powelson; A. O. Bowen, John Lamb, G. Griffin, M. Conaha, Jesse C. Fruchy, J. M. Lockwood, S. H. Perrin, I. L. Miller, S. Heath, J. M. Powers, Dan W. Gelwicks, now of Oakland, was here before he became editor of the Coloma Argus, and then he became an almost regular visitor to play a game of whist on Saturday nights; P. T. Williams, McTarnahan. Robinson and Garfield, two lawyers from Coloma, were also frequent visitors of Cold Springs. This was a very quite and peaceful camp, more inclined to society life than to make up excitements ; Sylv. B. Ilou, called Wed Ballou, in early days a miner, afterward member of the Assembly and later State Senator from Plumas County, was the founder of a society, the Cold Springs Franklin Lyceum. Cold Springs had a singing school connected with a singing society; the school district was established in 1851, and school regularly taught since; church services were held in the school house.

Moody, Davis and Wittenburg were the first men who formed a company for the purpose to supply the miners of Cold Springs with sufficient water, they took the water from Hangtown creek above the falls where it empties into Weber creek, below Middletown, and built a ditch to carry it down; this was done in the early part of 1851, and when the new diggings on the bank of Webber creek were discovered, in the winter of 1851 to '52, called Red Bank, this company took up the first claims. Wittenburg, however, sold out to go East, and his interest was acquired by L. C. Reynold's in 1852. George Mull, a representative of the sunny South, who came here with his negro slaves intending to introduce into California the institutions of the slavery States, had camped on the same ground while his negroes had to work for him in the creek bed, without discovering the rich placer mines on which his camps stood. A second ditch for the water supply of the Cold Springs miners was built a short time afterward by a company of twelve or more, Wm. H. Lipsey being one of them; they took the water out of Hangtown creek, a little below the Moody, Davis and Wittenburg ditch, and carried it down to Cold Springs by tunneling through the divide between Hangtown and Cold Spring creeks, under the Placerville road. The claims on these last named diggings, the red bank, were worked by sinking small holes pailed and pumped out and the gold cleared out of the dirt by means of rocker and pan; only very few long toms were in use here. The claims were worked in average 150 feet back from the creek, and paid good wages from $5 to $50 a day; but never paid exceedingly rich. In 1854 a large company took hold of this mining property and worked it with bed rock flumes, up to 1858 or '59, as we were assured, they took out a good amount of gold but it never yielded too rich. Diggings in the different gulches paid hardly as good as those on the flat. Here on the flat, about three quarters of a mile below town in a westerly direction, a German by the name of Stakemeyer, who was killed afterward near Grizzly Flat, was working a claim out of which he produced quite an amount of loose quartz mixed in between the gravel, which he threw out of his long tom having no better use for. Judge Kenfield, passing by, inspected this quartz pile found it full of gold and took up a quartz claim. A company was formed to work it, shafts were sunk and a mill was erected, but it never paid for the amount invested in the construction of mill, etc.

As stated already, this was a very peaceful camp, only a few excitements happened and they were of minor character. A gambler generally known by the name of Crowbar, in 1852, had swindled a number of miners out of considerable money, and quite a little excitement arose the next day, when he tried to get out of town with his booty; the difficulty, however, was quietly settled under assistance of some brethren of the gambling fraternity, from Hangtown; a few of the miners got their loss restituted. Another excitement turned up some time later, when a man who had been a mason of the higher grades, disappeared in a house of ill-fame, and some spots of blood suspiciously were connected with his disappearance. By thoroughly investing the case, however, nothing could be found and the bloodstains were said to have been poured out from a neighboring butcher shop.

This also is the place where in 1851 or '52 some crooked industry was commenced, one Moffatt, an early store keeper, went in with Darling, an old steamship engineer, to fabricate gold dust out of lead, coating it with gold by the way of galvanizing. The scheme worked remarkably well, Moffatt bought goods at Sacramento for which he paid with the dust, and smaller quantities were disposed of the home trade; but finally it was discovered by running the dust into bars, or by coining money out of it, either. The result was the Moffatt lost everything he had, his partner Darling, the instigator, skipped the country in time to escape punishment; he took the steamer for Central America. Samples of this industry came to light still years after, they had been dug away underground.

An accident happened to the senior partner of the firm Sudson & Goodenough, early in 1852, that came near enough to result fatal. Returning from Sacramento with a big load of goods drawn by a four horse team, Mr. Sudson wished to be home before night, and when coming up to Weber Creek, in the dusk, he found it running with a big flood, which seemed to check his desire. He hesitated a moment, but trusting his strong team and the heavy load he was driving, and underestimating the flood, he thought he would be able to cross the creek, and once on the other side he would be almost at home. So he drove on, but he had hardly reached the middle of the roaring stream when his wagon was upset and carried down by the flood; his horses were drowned and though he held on to the wagon, on account of being unable to swim, the force of the water made him give up his hold and he was swept down with the swift current for more than a quarter of a mile, until he got a hold on some willows, from where he was rescued by a party that had been alarmed.

Cold Springs in early times of the golden era, was one of the liveliest mining camps of the country, which had a population of about two thousand souls, with a direct state connection to Sacramento, running a four horse coach daily, besides stage connections to Coloma and Placerville, but as it is not it stands as a proof for the unsteadiness of a mining camp more than any of them. The mines began to slack off, new diggings had not been discovered, and the miners left one after another to hunt for richer mining ground; the population soon shrunk together, stores and other business places, on account of a want of custom had to shut down, the stage took another route and left the lonesome little village isolated on an unfrequented road.


The History of El Dorado County, California by P. Sioli, page 204

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