Through the medium of the Placer Herald, an early correspondent delivers the following exciting account of boom times in Iowa Hill:
June 10, 1854. Iowa Hill
“Never having visited this new and thriving place, we took the time to do so during the fore part of the week. On the way thither we stopped at Illinoistown. This place has not increased any in population during the last year; although many pass through it on their way from Auburn and Grass Valley to the Hill.
“The large steam mill of Messrs. Brickwell & Co., is doing an extensive business. The hotels are crowded almost every night with travelers who are wending their way to the ‘rich diggings’.
From Illinoistown the road to the Hill crosses the river at Mineral Bar, on the North Fork of the American River. At the present time, Mr. Rice has a number of hands engaged in cutting a wagon road to connect the two towns, which will be completed in about two months, and so much improved as to admit of pack mules traveling it in the next fortnight. The mountain on the east side of the river is very abrupt, but it is thought by running the road along its side, a very good grade can be had. After reaching the top the traveler finds himself upon an excellent ridge road leading to the new mountain town, which is situated upon the divide between the North Fork of the American and the waters of Indian Canyon which empty into the North Fork some miles below. Iowa Hill is one of the magic towns of the mountains--a presto change.
“The 15th of March last, there were but two or three houses in the place; now, what a scene presents itself! Where but a short time since the bold pine clad hills resounded to the voices of a few solitary miners, thousands have built themselves homes, and gone to work taking out the precious metals which enrich the hills around. From morning until night the saw and hammer are heard in the erection of new buildings.
“The whole ridge upon which the town stands seems to be formed of a bed of gravel and dirt similar to that found in the beds of our streams, and wherever properly prospected has proven very rich. In company with Messrs. Scott and Huff, we visited the rich Jamison claim. It certainly could not fail to prove a curiosity even to a forty-niner. The claim has been worked to a point of the hill facing the North Fork into the claim some 150 yards, to where the face of the hill from the top to the bedrock is 100 feet deep, about 25 feet of which is pay dirt. In one strata the gold is perceptible to the eye, specimens of which we picked out with a pen-knife. One of our companions found lying on the bedrock a piece of pine limb, which was dug out of the bedrock by one of the workmen, 100 feet below the surface of the earth.
“On this same claim we passed through a tunnel dug out of the solid rock, about 75 feet in length, through which the dirt is washed in the sluice boxes, which extend to the head of a ravine on the outside of the claim, and where all the tailings are got rid of in a very convenient manner.
“So far, all the gold has been fine, but owing to the quantity the company has been able to make large dividends. They have also gone to the expense of digging a ditch and bringing the water in from Indian Canon to supply their claim which is worked by hydraulic power, and has been the means of saving thousands of dollars to the company.
“On either side of the Jamison claim parties are running in tunnels, which have prospected well, and bid fair to be equally rich.
“On the south side of the town, toward Indian Canon, the miners are at work at their tunnels, and have every confidence of being successful. All along Indian Canon, for several miles above the town, miners’ camps can be found who are prospecting the hills wherever they think there is a chance for gold, and in manyplaces they have been rewarded for their energy by the most flattering ‘prospects’.
“At Richardson Hill, where a small town has sprung up, half a mile above Iowa Hill, we noticed a shaft which had been sunk 65 feet, and good prospects of gold taken out. Numerous tunnels are now being run into the hill.
“We also noticed here a steam sawmill, which was erected by a company from El Dorado County. The mill is doing a good business--lumber sells for $60.00 per M.
“At Richardson Hill, across Indian Canon, some heavy work has been done, and considerable gold taken out, some of which is very coarse. We noticed one piece of pure gold at the office of Adams & Co., brought from these diggings, that weighed over seven ounces.
“From all the information we could gather, there is a large scope of country that is destined to have a heavy population, who will thoroughly prospect this heretofore almost unnoticed region,
“At Wisconsin Hill, at the head of Refuge Canon, two miles east of Iowa Hill, the miners have struck it rich. Two towns are springing up in the vicinity--Monroe City and Clarksville--and for miles around the new houses and camps of late comers can be seen.
“Through all this region there are several water ditches constructed and owned by Captain J.T. Hill, which supply the miners with water. The main one is not less than 12 or 13 miles in length.
“A company are now engaged in cutting a ditch from Shirttail Creek to Iowa Hill, which will be completed about the first of August.
“Many are the speculations in regard to permanency of Iowa Hill; but from all we have seen and heard respecting this mining region we are inclined to think it will continue to be one of THE towns.”
Provided by Forest Hill Divide Historical Society, Inc.
Troy Simester, President
Forest Hill Divide Historical Society