Monday, September 17, 2012

Sierra County California Ghost Towns

                                                       Brandy City / Strychnine City

The Main Street of Brandy City circa 1900


The site of the once thriving town of Brandy City is located six miles northeast of Indian Valley and sits on a ridge at an elevation of 4000 feet. Hydraulic placer mining began in 1851 and the growth of the town was extremely fast. By the middle of the 1850’s it was the center of the mining and business activity for the area from Eureka to Morristown. In 1854 there were about one hundred and fifty miners at work in the diggings and the town had a population of several hundred citizens.

            Through the 1850’s the town continued to grow and by 1860 the town had a population of five hundred permanent residents. All matter of businesses was located in the town and outlying camps supplied their needs at Brandy City. One could buy a pair of boots, walk across the street to purchase mining supplies and finish off your trip to town with an oyster supper and a shot or two of San Francisco’s finest whiskey.

In July of 1855 the event that brought more attention to Brandy City than all of the gold that was being recovered was the duel of Robert Tevis and Dr. Lippincott. The reason for the duel being Tevis and Lippincott were political rivals and had published letters in the Sierra Citizen denouncing each other. The arrangements were made for the duel and the particulars were “double barreled shotguns loaded with one ounce balls at forty yards”. Tevis and Lippincott, each with a second and a doctor, went on horseback to a place not far from Brandy City to commence with the duel. On a signal both fired, Tevis falling with a ball through his heart, while his shot just grazed Lippincott. Tevis was buried at the site of the duel, but the following day he was interred in the cemetery at Downieville. Sometime at a later date Tevis’ brother had the remains removed and buried elsewhere.
In November of 1863 Brandy City suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed most of the town. The fire broke out in Jone's Hotel and the losses to the camp were estimated at fifty thousand dollars.

 Brandy City rebuilt and continued to prosper and hydraulic mining continued until sometime in the mid 1880’s when the anti-depris legislation took effect and hydraulic mining was suspended in the diggings. The Sierra County Tribune reports in their December 1, 1884 issue “All are leaving Brandy City who can get away. Sawmills are shutting down. Six ranches wholly dependent on mining are ruined. Most of the men who remain here are waiting to see if something can be done to start up. This once prosperous camp is now ruined”        Hydraulic mining resumed at the Brandy City diggings in the late 1880’s after it again became legal to hydraulic mine although environmental restrictions required settling ponds and other costly improvements to the mine operators property. The large amount of placer ground that was available to mine at Brandy City saved the town from the exodus that took place in the Sierra County gold rush country during the late 1850’s and early 1860’s.
 Mining and commerce continued well into the 1920’s and can be documented by the amount of bottles and artifacts recovered from this site. Gold rush bottles, historical flasks, early American face pipes, gold rush belt buckles, early western blown bottles, 1870’s western whiskeys, medicines and bitters have all been discovered at this important Sierra County gold rush town.
            Little remains of Brandy City today. Continual logging of the area and construction of haul roads through the town site have disturbed this gold rush town. Even though Brandy City was heavily logged you can still see remains of basements, cabin sites and water ditches running through the town site. The hydraulic diggings, a large settling pond and the cemetery can be seen on the way to the townsite. The United States Forest Service has placed a historical plaque on the former commercial section of this early gold rush town. 
As early as the 1850’s gold rush miners used hydraulic monitors to blast water onto the ancient river gravel to collapse it and wash it through their sluice boxes. The anti-debris legislation of the mid 1880’s put a temporary stop to this practice and it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that this highly controversial practice was again resumed

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