My last post about old western gold town sparked my interest in the whole subject of mining.
So I dived into the subject. So many fascinating tidbits of life in those towns. Nothing settled the west as quickly as did the discovery of gold and silver. The first gold publicly discovered was in January, 1848, and that event changed the course of history. Henry Bigler, a workman at a sawmill in the Sierra Nevada foothills, found the nugget that opened a great migration. Gold was found then throughout Montana, California, Arizona, Nevada. Camps and towns sprung up – places named Drytown, Strawberry Valley, Poker Flat, Queen City, Poverty Hill, Port Wine (named by prospectors who found a cask of wine hidden in a nearby canyon), Oroville, Goodyears Bar, French Corral (founded by two Frenchmen), Timbuctoo, Rough and Ready, Dutch Flat, and Yankee Jims.
Adventurers descended on the west from the rest of the country as well as thousands lured from overseas. But rather than finding gold for the picking, most found miserable drudgery, A few might pick up a nugget, but then have to pay a dollar for a piece of bread and another dollar to butter it. He paid $100 for a blanket, $100 for a horse, and $20 for a shovel with which to dig his fortune or his folly.
Often the winners in these towns were those who turned from that pick to laundering, cooking, merchandizing. or, as mentioned before, the world’s oldest profession. The era produced great characters, including Black Bart (more on him in a future post), Baby Doe, Lola Montez and Lotta Crabtree, and Senator-for- a-month Haw Taber. It nourished the creative talents of authors and artists like Bret Harte and Mark Twain.
Because these towns and camps sprung up so rapidly there was little law, and the miners were forced to write their own laws which gradually spread throughout the camps and became known as the Miners’ Ten Commandments. In 1853, they were enacted into Federal Law. according to “Sunset Gold Country,” a guide to California’s mining past. I’m not going to vouch for that but would love to do more research on it.
So here’s the Ten Commandants. Some truths and chuckles here.
THE MINERS’ TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Thou shalt have no other claim than one.
2. Thou shalt not make any false claim nor jump one. If thou do thou must go prospecting and shall hire thy body out to make thy board and save thy bacon.
3. Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Neither shall thy take thy gold to the gambling table in vain.
4. Thou shalt remember the Sabbath. Six days thou mayest dig, for in six days labor thou canst work enough to wear out thy body in two years.
5. Thou shalt not think more of thy gold than how thou shall enjoy it.
6. Thou shalt not kill thy body by working in the rain. Neither shall thou destroy thyself by getting ‘tight’ nor ‘high seas over’ while drinking down thy purse.
7. Thou shalt not grow discouraged, nor think of going home before thou hast made thy pile.
8. Thou shalt not steal a pick, a shovel or a pan from thy fellow miners, nor borrow a claim, nor pan out gold from others riffle box. They will hang thee, or brand thee, or brand thee like a horse thief with the letter R upon thy cheek.
9. Thou shalt not tell any false tales about ‘good diggings’ in the mountains, lest your neighbors return with naught but a rifle and present thee with its contents thereof and thou shall fall down and die.
10. Thou shall not commit unsuitable matrimony nor neglect thy first love. If thy heart be free thou shall ‘pop the question’ like a man, lest another more manly than thou art should step in before thee, and then your lot be that of a poor, despised comfortless bachelor.”
I think my favorite is number ten, although nine brought a giggle or two.
I’m starting a mini contest for those who reply. The winner will receive a copy of my new book, “Catch A Shadow,” along with one of my early westerns.