Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodyears Bar, Sierra County California

Goodyears Bar was one of the two settlements in the North Yuba area that was established in 1849, Downieville being the other. Goodyears Bar received its name from Miles and Andrew Goodyear who settled there in the summer of 1849. Without doubt there were white men in the area before the Goodyear brothers arrived and prospected the banks of the Yuba River but the brothers were the first to definitely make their homes at Goodyears Bar.
Unfortunately Miles Goodyear died at Goodyears Bar on November 12, 1849, the first winter of his life there. According to Andrew Goodyear “his coffin was made from several gold rocker boxes and his body was wrapped in an Indian rubber and a Mackinaw blanket”. Miles was buried at Goodyears Bar but was later disinterred and taken to Benicia for reburial by his brother Andrew.
Goodyears Bar’s first winter of 1849 – 50 was one of hardship for the settlers of the mining camp. Early snowfalls caught the camp by surprise and an insufficient supply of food to last the winter was of great concern. A fellow known as a Mr. Sexton and his partner struck out for Nye’s Crossing (later to become Marysville) to get a mule train of supplies and pack them up the North Yuba to Goodyears Bar. Sexton was successful in securing the supplies and the miners that chose to stay and brave the winter had sufficient food to last until the spring. Goodyears Bar developed rapidly during the years 1850 – 1852 with hundreds of miners staking claims along the Yuba, Goodyears Creek, Woodruff and Rock Creeks. Proof of the intensity of this early growth can be documented by the fact that six hundred votes were cast in the general election of 1852 from this area. When Sierra County was formed from Yuba County in the spring of 1852 Goodyears Bar was accorded serious consideration as the seat of county government.
The first dwellings in the Goodyears area were like those of the other settlements or camps on the North Yuba River. Cloth or canvas tents or a canvas stretched over a wooden frame with a rough plank floor served as shelter for the miners. More enterprising folk built shanties consisting of rough shakes nailed to a framework of logs or cabins made of logs. These primitive shelters had by the middle of the 1850’s been replaced by more substantial and larger buildings made of sawed lumber.
It is believed that D.C. Woodruff opened the first store in Goodyears Bar in the spring of 1850. By the summer of 1851 four other stores were doing business at Goodyears Bar along with a hotel operated by Edward Echstein. The St. Charles Hotel was built by a Mr. Hermseir and opened its doors in 1852.
A huge storm in December of 1852 destroyed the bridge at Goodyears Bar and swept away the flumes and water wheels that were being used to mine the river bed. Another storm in March of 1853 destroyed the remaining mining equipment that had escaped the December 1852 flood. In the spring of 1853 the damage from the previous winter was being repaired and the construction of new wing dams, flumes and water – pumping wheels was underway. Placer mining dominated the methods of mining the area of Goodyears Bar during the early and mid 1850’s. With the decline in the productivity of the stream and bar diggings in the late 1850’s prospectors turned their attention to discovering and mining of the areas quartz and gold bearing ledges. Although it is difficult to designate a particular time when lode mining began to be of major importance in Sierra County, the year 1858 could be selected as the time when several promising quartz properties began to be developed. The worked out placer deposits and the immense investment of capital to develop the quartz deposits into payable mining properties virtually brought an end to the “Gold Rush Miner” in the North Yuba area.
Starting sometime in 1858 and continuing into the early 1860’s miners started leaving the Goodyears Bar area and in early September of 1864 a major fire destroyed most of the business section of the town. It was the only major fire in the history of the town, but had a lasting effect. The majority of the businesses failed to rebuild and the ground that they had stood on was sluiced away leaving piles of boulders over the former business section.
Although the townsite has been disturbed by extensive mining gold rush bottles have been recovered from the area surrounding the commercial section of town. Examples of a Mexican Mustang Liniment, a light green cathedral pickle with an iron pontil and Patent whiskey fifths along with a broken Catawba Wine Bitters have been discovered at this early site. In 1993 I uncovered shards of six different Baker and Cutting pickle bottles near the old schoolhouse.
Goodyears Bar today is a pleasant little community with about fifty or so residents populating the area. Several early structures are still in use including the former schoolhouse and the St. Charles Hotel. The Helm family, with help from the Rollins family, has restored the St. Charles Hotel and at present it is being operated as a Hotel and Bed and Breakfast Inn. On the grounds around the old hotel several pieces of early mining equipment are on display

The above post was taken from the forthcoming book "Gold Rush Camps and Bottles of Sierra County" available in September of 2009 at the Downieville Bottle Show


  1. Looking forward to this book !

  2. G.O.

    There is a great book written in 1899 titled "Genealogy of the Goodyear Family". There is an interesting account of Miles and Andrew travelling West from Ct. trying to reach Ca. at the start of the gold rush. Indians, the whole works. You can find it online (pgs 195 thru 206). I have read it , since Andrew Goodyear was a pioneer settler in the Benicia area as well.