And Its Name Was Gold
The history of Mohawk Valley as it is known today begins with three prospectors by the name of Asa Gould and his two partners, Friend and Jamison whose first names have been forgotten. Upon their arrival, with gold on their minds, the three split up to occupy and begin development in/along what are now known as Clio (Asa Gould), White Sulphur Springs (Friend) and Jamison Creek (Jamison) on the slopes of Eureka Peak.
This article will focus on the contribution of Jamison, just his last name, which endures on his namesake creek and the long lost, rip roaring gold rush town of Jamison City. We will also delve into a bit of Asa Gould’s destination, Clio, and how it got its name.
Along the Pioneer Trail lies Jamison City and mine, large producer and famous for its 52-pound nugget. Eureka Mill and mine yielded $17 million to Cornish miners and others. Johnstown, now Johnsville, is a well-preserved ’49er town.
Everything you’ve read about the California Gold Rush was probably an understatement. The men who dropped everything… businesses, homes, wives…to journey across a vast expanse of untamed territory; discovering what it’s actually like to be a notch down on the food chain; hunted like any other animal of prey by wolves, mountain lions and grizzly bears; enduring freezing cold and intractable snow covered terrain; starving to the point of cannibalism. And all this was AFTER they had reached the “Golden State” having barely survived months of travel from the eastern seaboard.
No wonder they drank a lot.
The history of the first settlements in Mohawk Valley begins with saloons…lots of them.
In 1851, nine miners finally struck pay dirt. The “Original Nine”, very unoriginally called the place “Gold Mountain” (now known as Eureka Peak). They immediately regretted their use of two of the most buzz worthy words of the 19th century, “gold” and “mountain” [of it], for they were almost instantly reunited with 27 of their closest friends, forming a company of 36 who went to work as the Eureka Mine. If you think the concept “Viral” was conceived by YouTube, think again, only then it was called “Stampede”.
The mountain went Stampede and quickly more than doubled its grizzled population to 76.
Again, in a move of striking unoriginality, they dubbed themselves “City of 76”.
Enter the merchants.
As early at 1853, a supply store appeared in a small mining camp on Jamison Creek. A main street materialized and the settlement was dubbed Jamison City. And here our man Jamison exits all historical records leaving just his name which must have had a nice ring to it because it stuck to the place.
Life in Jamison City
The following is an excerpt from an article written by a miner and reproduced in The Plumas County Historical Society’s Publication Number 3:
“As you have never visited the place, let me give you an idea of how it is situated. Imagine a small flat, about a dozen feet above the bed of the creek, of some two hundred feet in length by half as much in breadth, with two rows of houses facing the only street, the creek tumbling over the boulders in the foreground , with the mountains rising steeply several hundred feet high as the background of the picture, and you have a pretty good idea of the site of Jamison. A dozen houses comprise the entire city, consisting of two stores, two hotels, six saloons, a butcher shop and a Chinese wash-house. Bread, the staff of life itself, in the shape of whiskey straight and toddies of various kind, can be obtained in six. Of course, with such a disproportion of saloons, there must be some headache, with semi-occasionally a case of tremens….One of the luxuries of civilization, which often comes through whiskey, we never had till lately. We have pined in envy of Chicago and Indianapolis, but now we have one of our own—a genuine divorce case to be tried at the next term of Court.”
The article continues:
During the working days of the week the population of Jamison City was sparse, but Sunday was the exciting day, as in all the mining camps, when more business was transacted than in the other six days of the week. Some thought the camp “a good field for missionary enterprise”, but one stated, “I cannot remember of there ever having been a preacher in the town, and as there is a deal of room for improvement in our morality, it might be well for some of the brethren to give us a call.”
And another vivid picture from the editor of The Plumas National in August 1868:
Jamison City, in this county, is rather a “lively camp”. They are not of a “quarrelsome” disposition at that place, but on Sundays they meet at the saloon, drink “tangle-foot”, black each other’s eyes, bite off ears, etc., merely for amusement, or as one of them expresses it, “to show their friendship for each other”.
Meanwhile, Back at Asa Gould’s place…
How Clio Got Its Name
The town of Clio was originally called Wash, named for Thomas Wash who was a very early settler. Saloons and easy women were its original draw and it was once known straightforwardly as Boozeville. However, for some reason in 1905, things started getting all hoity toity and the US Postal Service refused to accept the name Boozeville as a worthy name for a delivery destination.
Apparently USPS will deliver in rain, sleet, hail and dark of night, but not to a place called Boozeville.
So, desperate for any news of the outside world, and very much coveting the latest edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog, the then postmaster, Fred King, decided to ponder the problem by pulling up a chair next to the warmth of his wood stove. As he threw another log on the fire and closed the cast iron door of the stove, what to his wondering eyes did appear? No, not Santa Claus, that’s a completely different delivery system and one way less discriminating about names. What appeared was the name of the stove’s manufacturer…Clio!