Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/181

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GOLD MINING IN THE UNITED STATES

in gold mining, and as a direct result the great Australian gold fields became known in 1851 and mining in the gold regions of the southern states was greatly stimulated. With all these notable results, it is pathetic to relate that Marshall, who discovered the California gold, and his associate Sutter, both died poor and disappointed men, many years later.

The first gold mining in California was done along the bars and banks of rivers and creeks, while later the whole streams were turned from their courses, and the gravel in their beds was washed for gold. The American, Yuba, Feather, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and other rivers, became famous as gold producers. The gravels in the dry ravines were also washed, and these were called "dry diggings" in distinction from the river, or "wet diggings." When the gravels in the lowlands began to show signs of exhaustion, the miners sought others higher up in the mountains, and there they found the old Tertiary deposits, known as "high gravels." In the meantime the gold-bearing quartz veins were discovered, and thus began the operation of many of the more lasting mining districts of California, such as Angels Camp, Chinese Camp, Amador City, Sonora, Grass Valley, Nevada City and many other places which made the great Mother Lode and other quartz lodes of the Pacific Coast famous.

In the early mining operations, gold had been obtained by digging the gravel by hand and washing in pans or in the devices known as cradles and sluices; but when the richer deposits were exhausted and lower grade gravels had to be worked, efforts were made to find means to mine on a larger and cheaper scale. The result was the introduction of what became known as hydraulic mining, a process invented in 1852 by Mr. Matteson, from Connecticut. This consisted in throwing a stream of water through an iron nozzle, called a monitor, under immense pressure, against a gravel bank. The gravel was thus torn down and washed through the sluices, where the gold was recovered. The method was so much more rapid than the old devices, that it was extensively introduced, and whole hills were washed away. In the meantime, however, the farming interests of California had become important, and the immense quantities of gravel and sand washed into the rivers by hydraulic mining filled the channels and caused floods, which devastated the lands. This difficulty became so serious that in later years a law was passed restricting hydraulic mining in places where the d├ębris interfered with farming lands below. Still more recently the process of working gold-bearing gravels by dredging has been extensively introduced and has considerably increased the production.

The most productive era in California gold mining was from 1850 to 1859, when the average annual output was about $55,000,000, while