Thursday, January 9, 2014


The Canyon Creek Area

Craig’s Flat
Located between Big Canyon and Little Canyon Creeks this gold rush settlement was discovered and worked in the spring of 1850 by the Buchannon Company, but because of the lack of water during the summer months they discontinued working the claims in the fall of that year. The ground
was then re-located in January of 1851 by the Craig Brothers who worked the gravel with sluices and rockers until July and again the shortage of water stopped the mining at what was to become Craig’s Flat. In 1852 the construction of water ditches to the diggings allowed the miners to wash the ancient river channel through their sluices and this camp literally took off. This settlement continued to grow and develop and by the fall of 1853 several hundred miners and a handful of merchants were occupying the town and surrounding area. Through the 1850’s steady gold production from the ancient placer gravel continued to keep this settlement from becoming another “two year town”. Starting in 1858, as with the majority of gold rush camps in Sierra County Craig’s Flat was adversely affected by the “rushes” to the Fraser River, Virginia City and the Reese River and by the mid 1860’s the bloom was off of this camp.
Field research indicates that sometime during the 1860’s Chinese miners re-worked the tailing piles left from early day sluicing operations. Mining continued at Craig’s Flat into the 1880’s and today acres of boulders and a small tailing pond remain of this once thriving gold rush camp. Gold rush era bottles and several examples of gold rush belt buckles have been recovered from the Craig's Flat area



This gold rush town located on Morristown Ridge and one mile north of Craig’s Flat was started in early 1851 and by 1853 had surpassed Craig’s Flat in population and gold production. Three hundred citizens and a dozen merchants were in residence during the “flush times” of this remote mining town that was totally dependent on the winter snow pack and the water ditches to the diggings. As has been mentioned earlier any mining camp or settlement that wasn’t located directly on a year round river or stream was held hostage by the whims of the weather.  A winter with little snowfall held a short spring and summer mining season and a winter with heavy snows assured a long and prosperous season of mining. The water ditches that were constructed to the “dry diggings” of Morristown and Craig’s Flat from Big and Little Canyon Creeks furnished water to these camps but the amount of water available was always dependent on the winter’s snowfall. Through the 1850’s gold production was steady and the town boasted a hotel, three saloons, four stores, a blacksmith shop, butcher shop and livery stables.

            In 1862 the town was almost completely destroyed by a great fire that started at the Inca’s boarding house in the commercial district that leveled eighteen businesses and almost as many residences.

            “This place is rising from the ashes of the late fire, and several buildings on the street are about to be occupied. Tom Smith has a new fire-proof store, one of the best of its size in the mountains. Mr. Smith has also a fine hotel nearly completed, and will give his friends and the public a “warming ball” next Friday evening, on opening his house to custom. James Alexander has a fine saloon nearly finished and will open it in a few days. Wm. Walker has got into his new office with the express business, and an assortment of fruit, cigars and confectionery. A new butcher shop is approaching completion. The scarcity of lumber has retarded building this season, and the construction of a number of houses has been deferred to next year”. The Mountain Messenger – June 21, 1862.

            The re-building of Morristown continued in the spring of 1863 but the town never reached its former size and population. Mining continued into the late 1870’s and by the 1880’s Morristown was all but finished.

            Old hydraulic pipe, mountains of boulders and two small ponds remain on the outskirts of the town site. The commercial district of town still has one stone building partially standing and several structure sites can still been seen despite a half crazed bottle digger removing  the top 18 inches of soil from the townsite with a loader sometime in the 1990’s.



Deadwood or Deadwood diggings was located about a mile west of the site of Little Grizzly on Deadwood Creek. The use of the word Deadwood is said to have originated during the California gold rush and was the miners slang for “sure thing”.

After researching this small camp I believe it was started sometime in the spring of 1855 when several claim location notices were reported in the Sierra Democrat newspaper in September of that year. A small settlement of six to eight structures was present in the summer of 1863 but this camp was of little consequence during the Sierra County gold rush. During the 1980’s two circa 1930’s cabins were still standing at Deadwood. Field research has revealed that this area was re-mined during the depression era and quite possibly any remains of gold rush activity has been erased.

Little Grizzly
This small camp or settlement had its start sometime in the late 1850’s and was later renamed Empire City as the camp grew. The little bit of information that was available on this camp prompted the author and a friend to hike into this gold rush camp for a hands on approach to historical investigation of the site. Located about two miles south of Poker Flat on the then called Golden Scepter Trail Little Grizzly sits on the bank of Little Grizzly Creek. At the height of Little Grizzly’s growth about twenty five structures dotted the sides of the creek and between thirty five to forty men were working the drift mines and placer gravel. Pontil and smooth base bottles from the late 1850’s to late 1860’s were discovered along with rubbish and trash from the depression era miners documenting the age of this small camp. Among the bottles recovered were examples of the Adolpho Wolfe Aromatic Schnapps, Lockport Gargling Oil, Patent whiskey fifths and pontiled Mexican Mustang Liniment. Small level flats that once held cabin sites are all that remain of this early placer mining settlement. The old Golden Scepter Trail is totally overgrown and the walk into this camp is very physical and demanding.
Monte Carlo
The very small remote camp of Monte Carlo was located in Clark’s Canyon about one half mile north of where it meets Rattlesnake Creek. It is generally believed that Major Downie discovered rich diggings at or near this site but the lack of water prohibited mining the area. Little information is available on this site and during a field trip to the area the author discovered a few cabin sites along the banks of the creek and broken bottles and shards of gold rush era glass scattered about the area. Of interest was the abundance of Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps and Booth and Sedgwick’s London Cordial Gin pieces in various colors. This site has been continually mined from the mid 1850’s through the depression era and into the 1970’s by independent miners and little remains of the original camp site today.
Gold rush camps of the Canyon Creek area



  1. Gosh, millions of bottles just waiting in these gold towns ! Only a few of the surface dumps and outhouses have been found. As far as I know no advanced level digger has ever worked these towns. God if only I was retired and lived closer.

  2. Rick, Thanks for the post...I see it is straight from your excellent book which I read often. I assume that you have explored this and other towns in the area, and I would be frustrated at that field of boulders...either the good stuff is under them, or was washed away during the mining of the site. We have similar towns locally and they have been hydraulic mined so heavily in the 1930s that the glass is impossible to find intact. Interesting to know what if anything can still be found. Dale M.

  3. Millions of bottles No advanced diggers ever been there only a few dumps and outhouse ever dug. What an I waiting for it sounds to good to be true. MAX BELL CAL49er

  4. These camps are very much like the early 1860's lumber camps high in the Sierras on the Nevada side. One such lumber town was
    Galena, it ran strong from 64-68, had 600+ loggers. The town was supplied from near by Washoe city (about 5 miles south) I've spent
    years, as in 35+ years searching for an outhouse, there are none! no trash pits, burn pits, only a few foundations, yet if you walk the
    hills you can find shards of every rare western bottle of that era. We have found 3 broken GA Simons in deep grass green, the only
    whole bottle I have dug there was a horizontal wormser bros. with some cracks. In 1998 while deer hunting in the area I found a grass
    green Lacour's with the top missing laying on the side of a path at the 6500' elevation. Amazing there are no bottles to be dug there,
    I have found many Rosenbaum's laying on the ground, all there but broken, many different colored barrels in the same condition. I hope
    one day to find the place where they dumped everything, tough now since there is a new PGA golf coarse on top of the town, I hope it
    becomes infested with gophers. I did dig a lite pink open pontiled umbrella ink at Galena when I was in high school, this is the only bottle
    to come out of the town of 600 that I know of. DM may have the wormser's, honeyish olive with a few long cracks in the back panel?