Saturday, May 1, 2010

Major William Downie’s Cabin

William Downie, for whom Downieville was named, and his company of prospectors arrived at the forks of the North Yuba River in late September or early October of 1849. His description of arriving at “The Forks” follows:

"The scene that burst upon us was one of marvelous beauty, and after these many years it still lies before me like a lovely panorama, in my recollection of the moment when I first saw it. The silence of the woods was broken only by the rushing of the meeting currents below and the soughing of the breeze through the foliage. The sun was in the western sky, causing a variation of light and shadow to fall upon the landscape, which was exceedingly pleasing. The hillsides were covered with oaks, bending their crooked branches in phantastic forms, while here and there a mighty pine towered above them, and tall willows waved their slender branches, as it were, nodding us a welcome.

They grew along the branch of the North Fork, where now stands the Craycroft building, and on the present site of the St. Charles Hotel stood a cluster of pines. Down on the very brink of the river grew a beautiful grove of fire trees, and as we approached, a frightened deer ran from the thicket and made for the woods. Near a little spring, which bubbled up and made the surroundings look fresh and verdant, stood a few pieces of bark on end - the only sign that human foot had ever trod this region, and further indicating that here at some previous time the Indians had camped.

Add to this the waters leaping over rock and bowlders, and the clear azure sky stretching like a canopy over the whole landscape, and you have the picture, as far as I can describe it, that I first beheld, when I approached the Forks."

Downie and company spent the exceptionally long pleasant fall prospecting and mining the area. As the winter weather approached Downie and crew set to work building a log structure to house them during the coming winter months. On the 10th of December, William Downie and his company moved into the cabin they had built at the Forks.

Even though Downie only spent one winter occupying his log structure the site of this historic cabin will always be remembered as the Major Downie cabin site.

A couple of years ago the most recent structure on this property was consumed by flames one cold winter night. Because of insurance delays, and other circumstances, rebuilding of the structure lost to fire was just started a couple of weeks ago by a local engineering contractor. Plans approved for the rebuilding project including removing a large quantity of “fill dirt” that was covering the original Downie cabin site.........

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