Thursday, September 3, 2009

Forest City, Sierra County California

Accounts of the beginnings of Forest City vary. One account credits a group of sailors discovering gold at the site of Forest City in the summer of 1852. Another account is that a prospector by the name of Savage was the first to mine at the forks of Oregon Creek sometime during 1850. Rich placer deposits in the Forest City area drew hundreds of miners and dozens of merchants to this rapidly growing town. In 1853 the population of the town was over four hundred and by the end of 1854 had reached over one thousand residents. More than fifteen operating mines fueled the incredible growth of this region. By the summer of 1852 Forest City boosted seven general stores, four clothing stores, one tin shop, five hotels, two livery stables, two meat markets, four blacksmith shops and five or six carpenter shops.

Forest City reached the height of its growth in 1857 and received a post office for its population of well over fifteen hundred residents. Starting sometime in 1858 the placer deposits of the area were becoming exhausted and Forest City began to decline. In March of 1858 almost the whole town was destroyed by fire and the loss was estimated at over $150,000, an extreme amount of money during that time. Town rebuilt but by 1862 the town was in a downward spiral and The Mountain Messenger of September 1862 reports “Few of the claims here are paying over wages
and expenses”. And the issue of July 4th 1863, states “This once rich and flourishing camp is just going to decay. Its citizens are leaving almost daily for new mines”.
In August of 1864 another fire destroyed the Brewery and several other buildings in the commercial section of town and on June 17, 1865 Forest City was once again visited by fire. This fire destroyed all of the business section of town and several of the surrounding homes scattering miners and merchants to other promising areas.
Forest City’s decline during the 1860’s came to an end in December of 1869 when The Redding Company struck rich placer gravel while driving a tunnel under Bald Mountain. This was the beginning of Forest City’s transition from a declining gold rush settlement to a fully fledged company town. The Bald Mountain Mine was a fabulous gold producer and during the 1870 – 1890 period Forest City grew and prospered.

In February of 1883 the town was once again consumed by fire and over eighty buildings were destroyed by the flames with an estimated loss to the town of over $200,000. This tough town once again rebuilt and by August of the same year almost all of the buildings lost to the fire were replaced with new structures.
Through the 1880’s and into the late 1890’s Forest City’s economy was tied to the Bald Mountain Mine. Although the Bald Mountain’s production wasn’t as spectacular during the 1880 – 1890 period, as it was during the early 1870’s, the mine was a steady producer of gold and employed at different times between sixty and 120 men. It is believed that during the operation of the Bald Mountain close to three million dollars worth of gold was recovered from the workings of the ancient river channel.

Today only a handful of people reside at Forest City. Several important structures and private homes still stand and include the old Schoolhouse, a dry goods store and the Forest City Dance Hall. The Dance Hall, built after the fire of 1883, now houses a museum under the stewardship of the Forest City Historical Association.

This post was taken from the new book "Gold Rush Camps and Bottles of Sierra County" to be released at the Downieville Bottle Show on Saturday September 12th. See you in Downieville!


  1. Great history ! What bottles have turned up in the area ?

  2. Andrew,
    Osgood’s India Cholagogue o.p. Barry’s Tricopherous o.p. Durham Whiskey, G.A. Simon's Medicated Aromatic Bitters, Lacour's, Rosenbaums, Townsend’s Sarsaparilla, Compound Fluid Extract of Manzanita McDonald and Levy o.p.
    Jesse Moore, Hildebrandt & Posner fifths. Cutter fifths.
    Forest City had a long life...1850 to the turn of the century. g.o.

  3. Wow, wish I was digging in 'those days' !

  4. The denizens of Forest make it definitely NOT a "digger friendly" environment. The outskirts are still "OK", with caution advised. Don't advertise your presence or purpose.

  5. OldCutters,
    You are correct, F.C. is not a place you want to get caught digging. Only the structures in town belong to private parties, all of the land that the structures sit on belongs to the USFS. What a sad state of affairs.

  6. Dont let the govt get any bigger, or this will continue to happen. Vote !


  7. You don't have to tell me about the "Forest Circus". Not Service, 'cause the word does not fit the mold. For 90 years my family has maintained a cabin within the El Dorado Natl Forest. Dealing with those a**holes and their Gestapo tactics is wearing thin on me. Last year, I had a bulldagger swagger down to the cabin and tell me that I had to remove a structure that my dad built in 1955. It HAS to go, she said, or the least will be endangered. What could I do? I tore the thing down, which took the better part of 4 days. After it was removed I called down to the P-ville office to let them know that we were in "compliance". Well, it turns out that the bulldagger was full of herself and had gone WAY off base by telling me that BS story. The structure could have remained. As a result of her heavy handedness she now is cooking over in the Toiyabe. Maybe some of the lard will sweat off her ugly arse.

    You've all heard of the so-called "99 yr lease". HAH!! A bloody dream, that one was. It's now year to year, but I was able to get another 20 out of 'em this year.

    Good thing we dug the hail out of those PE stops and toll houses up and down the hill, 'cause to do so now is courting disaster. The so-called Law Enforcement branch of the "Circus" is cracking down on felonious activity like picking up arrowheads and old bottles. Don't bother the Meth labs, just make the poor old collectors lives miserable. Much easier and less dangerous for those boys to chase me around the woods than it would be to hit a crank cookhouse.

    OK, rant over. Have Ghillie suit, will dig. LOL

  8. If I were tired of the hustle and bustle and wanted to find a small home to slow down..would this be the place?

    Tired of this pace of life..

  9. Anonymous,
    Yes this would be the place if you like shoveling snow in winter and could put up with a car passing by every other day or so.