Friday, January 24, 2020


1855 Lithograph of Columbia, originally Hildreth's Diggins. The diggings were on the bottom of  the image.

On 27 March 1850, Thaddeus Hildreth, George A. Hildreth, with John Walker, William "Billy" Jones (of New York) and Alexander Carson were the first miners to claim the area that was first called Hildreth Diggins due to a rich strike of gold.
The Hildreth party, led by Maine physician, Thaddeus Hildreth, arrived in California four months earlier on 27 November 1849 aboard the steamship Oregon. In early 1850, they had been prospecting in without success in Calaveras County for a month. On their way back to Woods Crossing  (a mile west of Jamestown in Tuolumne County where gold was discovered in 1848), they spent the night camping. Overnight it rained, and the next morning, while waiting for their clothes and blankets to dry, one member of the party decided to pan in a nearby gulch. He found gold, and soon all five men in the party were finding substantial amounts of the yellow metal.
This gulch on the east and south of what is today Columbia is still there, but due to later gold mining operations, had changed greatly from its original form.
Other miners, hearing of the discovery, soon arrived, and within a few months the area was a thriving tent and shanty town of wood and canvas housing more than a thousand miners.

The area was known first as the New Diggins, then due to the lack of water, Dry Diggings (Placers Seco). As the town grew, the citizens decided on a more dignified name and called it American Camp, because of the number of Americans who arrived there. Then, because that sounded too temporary, the name was changed to Columbia.
By 1852, there were 8 hotels, 4 banks, 17 general stores, 2 firehouses, 2 bookstores, 1 newspaper, 3 churches, and over 40 drinking and gambling establishments.
George Hildreth, a member of the original party, stayed in California. In 1853, he owned the Star Spangled Banner Saloon in Columbia and was elected Columbia City Marshal in 1859. Later he became a Tuolumne County Deputy Sheriff as well as a constable in 1863 for Township 1 (Sonora). He married Catherine E. Boyton and moved to San Francisco.

Michael S. Hildreth was not listed as part of the original party who discovered gold in the region. However, he must have arrived sometime after learning of his family’s success in Columbia. He left Columbia 1861 for Kansas after being injured in an Indian skirmish.

As for Dr. Thaddeus Hildreth, by 1855, he was back in Maine where he married Ann M. Seavey of Hallowell, Maine. A son, Willie Osgood, was born to the couple the following year. After a stint in the Civil War where he enlisted on 2 September 1861 as an Assistant Surgeon (and was almost immediately promoted to Surgeon) in the 3rd Maine, he was in charge of the Third Corps hospital at Gettysburg for the months of July and August 1863. He was discharged with this unit on June 28, 1864. He owned a successful medical practice in Gardiner, Maine until the time of his death on 18 August 1880.

My next book, Kendrick, takes place in 1854 Columbia. By then, although women were still relatively scarce in California, particularly in the gold mining regions, the town of Columbia was booming.

Kendrick is Book 9 in the popular multi-author series, Bachelors & Babies. It also has the subtitle of “Too Old for Babies” as part of my own series, “Too Old in Columbia. The book is now on preorder and will be released 1 February 2020. Please CLICK HERE to find the book description and preorder purchase link.


1 comment:

Alicia Haney said...

Hi Zina, Thank you so much for sharing this very interesting information about the gold diggers! I enjoyed reading it and I learned a lot from it also. Your new book sounds like a very good read and I love the cover! Thank you for sharing about it. Have a Great weekend. God Bless you.