Reading's Bar - Redding, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member thebeav69
N 40° 29.624 W 122° 29.600
10T E 542935 N 4482682
Quick Description: This California Historical Marker is located along Clear Creek Road, about seven miles west of Old Highway 99.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 4/22/2015 3:32:52 PM
Waymark Code: WMNR38
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 1

Long Description:
Located just south of Clear Creek Road in an open area with ample parking is an official California Historical Marker that reads:

READING'S BAR

MAJOR PIERSON BARTON READING, CALIFORNIA EXPLORER AND PARTICIPANT IN THE BEAR FLAG REVOLT, DISCOVERED GOLD ON THIS BAR IN 1848. SOON AFTERWARDS HE MADE A SIMILAR FIND ON THE TRINITY RIVER. NEWS OF THESE DISCOVERIES OPENED THE ENTIRE NORTHERN REGION OF CALIFORNIA TO THE GOLD RUSH OF '49. BY 1851 THE TOWN OF CLEAR CREEK DIGGINGS HAD BEEN SETTLED NEAR THE BAR. LATER RENAMED HORSETOWN, IT WAS THE COMMERCIAL CENTER FOR THIS MINING AREA. HORSETOWN WAS DESTROYED BY FIRE IN 1868.

CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 32

FIRST REGISTERED AUGUST 1, 1932. PLAQUE PLACED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION IN COOPERATION WITH THE SHASTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, DARRELL MOSS HISTORICAL FUND AND TRINITARIANUS CHAPTER 62, E CLAMPUS VITUS, MAY 16, 1998.

This marker is one of two markers that highlight the history of the gold discovery by Major Reading. The other official California Historical Marker is located about seven miles east of this marker at the road junction of Old Highway 99 and Canyon Road.

I located a PDF document that gives more detail on the events surrounding the gold discovery at Clear Creek and reads:

Gold Discovery at Reading’s Bar and Horsetown

Gold was discovered here on Clear Creek by Major Pierson B. Reading in May of 1848. It was the second major gold discovery in California. Who was Major Reading and how was he here to do that? In the 1840’s several men received land grants in what is now California by the Mexican Government. The one best known was John Sutter’s 48,000 acre grant in the area of Sacramento. John Sutter played a big role in California history. His fort was self-sufficient; raising livestock, grain, fruits and vegetables. Most white men coming into California in the 1840’s would have passed through Sutter’s Fort. It was the center of commerce in the day. (Sutter’s Fort is now a history museum enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.)

Major Reading (1816-1868) came overland to California in 1843. He was awarded his own land grant of 26,632 acres which he named Rancho Buena Ventura, meaning Good Fortune. It was situated on the west bank of the Sacramento River, between Cottonwood Creek and Salt Creek and was approximately 3 miles wide and19 miles long.

In 1844, while Reading worked as John Sutter’s clerk and trapper, some of Sutter’s men exploring to the north and looking for timber came to Battle Creek. They found stands of large timber which they cut and tied into large rafts to float back to Sutter’s Fort. (Battle Creek is the home of Coleman Fish Hatchery and they host the Salmon Festival the third Saturday in October.)

Reading and his neighbor William B. Ide actively supported the Bear Flag Republic in 1846. Ide’s Adobe was north of Red Bluff. (Ide’s Adobe is now a State Park. Visit for Adobe Day the 3rd Saturday in August or the Pioneer Christmas Party the 2nd Saturday in December. On June 14, 1846 two to three dozen Americans captured General Mariano Vallejo at his home in Sonoma. General Vallejo believed Mexico could not maintain control of California and felt the U.S. would be the next best option so he joined the small crew of settlers, mountain men, and explorers. He ceded California by treaty and William B. Ide became the first and only president of the new Bear Flag Republic. On June 23, 1846 John Fremont took command for the U.S. (California became a state in 1850. Shasta County was incorporated as one of the original 27 counties.)

When James Marshall, a millwright, arrived at Sutter’s Fort he worked for Sutter and they entered into a partnership to build a saw mill near Coloma on the South Fork of the American River in what’s now El Dorado County. In the fall of 1847 construction started on the saw mill. What happened at that saw mill? Yes! James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s mill on January 24, 1848. What did Sutter ask of his men at the mill? He asked them to keep this discovery secret - he feared all his laborers at the fort would abandon him for the gold fields.

Reading’s Rancho Buena Ventura was also to be self-sufficient and he was interested in Sutter’s accomplishments. Reading visited his friend Sutter in April 1848 who took him to see the mill where gold had recently been discovered. Reading was an amateur geologist and noted that the geology of the area resembled the geology of Clear Creek near his Rancho. When he returned home he traveled to Clear Creek and in May 1848 he discovered gold here at the mouth of the tall, narrow canyon on what became known as Reading’s Bar. Major Reading and approximately 150 Native Americans whom he employed were the first to mine on the bar on Clear Creek in the spring and summer of 1848. They picked gold nuggets up off the ground and put them into baskets to take back to his Adobe. It’s indicated they took gold nuggets out by the bucketful, as much as 52 ounces (or $1000) a day. There are estimates that $3 Million was taken from Reading’s Bar the first year. Reading got the easiest diggings in this area and moved on to mine in Trinity County with even greater success. (Just a note: the Native Americans WERE aware of the gold. They gave it no value as it could not be eaten or made into a tool.)

The “leak” of the news of the gold discovery was actually a calculated one from a couple of merchants in San Francisco who believed they could strike it rich selling supplies and equipment to miners. So, now the rush is on. News spread all over the world and many rushed to California to find their fortunes. I have a copy of the 1850 census page showing my 3rd great grandfather on his claim on the South Fork of the American River. On that one census page there are miners from Germany, France, Kentucky, New York, and Spain. The location on Clear Creek was the second major gold discovery in California. During1849 miners came from all directions seeking gold. They came from Oregon, Trinidad, Sacramento and San Francisco, across the plains and around the horn. From San Francisco or Sacramento they could take a river boat to Red Bluff. From the Oregon diggings at Jacksonville, or Trinidad or Red Bluff many walked the rest of the way to the gold fields. For a time, ships were being abandoned in the San Francisco harbor when captain and crew decided they would also head for the gold fields. The canvas sails were removed as they made good tents, and soon made Levi’s pants as well. The gold camp which grew up at the discovery site on Clear Creek became known as One Horse Town and later Horsetown.

There are two methods of gold mining, Placer and Hard Rock or Quartz mining. The simplest process is Placer mining where water is an essential component. The gold pan, rocker, long tom and sluice box were early techniques of Placer mining. The gold pan is the simplest, swirling water over sand and gravel and washing away the lighter material, leaving the gold in the bottom of the pan.

Another popular tool was the rocker or cradle which resembled a child’s cradle. The rocker is pushed back and forth by a handle while the miner dumps gravel into the top part. Buckets of water helped move fine and heavy particles through a screen. On the bottom were slats, or riffles, that caught the heavier metals. Finally the miner would pan what remained to sort out the heavy ore and gold.

The long tom may have been an 8 – 20 foot rocker. But the long tom was usually more elaborate than, although similar in theory to, the rocker. This system included a paddlewheel to ensure a constant source of water. Again gravel was shoveled into the top end and the water pushed it along a long wooden course, sometimes hundreds of feet long. Again, slats collected the heavier ore, which was then further processed.

Miners often had to bring the water to where the gold was. Many elaborate networks of mining ditches were built throughout the gold country like the Clear Creek Ditch. Remnants of the ditches can be found in the area and some portions are being used today in trail systems.

The early California gold miners realized the more gravel they could process, the more gold they were likely to find. They collaborated to find ways to process larger quantities of gravel more rapidly. As returns from easier diggings dwindled, placer mining was augmented with hydraulic mining, a more intensive form of placer mining. At one point 15 hydraulic nozzles were in constant operation on Horsetown hill and many fortunes were made. Hydraulic mining used high-pressure jets of water to dislodge rock material or move sediment. Water was redirected into an ever-narrowing channel, through a large canvas hose, and out through a giant iron nozzle, called a “monitor”. The extremely high pressure stream washed entire hillsides through enormous sluices removing the gold. (You can see a large hydraulic monitor from the LeGrange Mine west of Weaverville on Highway 299. Stop to read the story which includes photos.)

Hydraulic mining became the largest-scale, and most devastating, form of placer mining. Mining sediment from hydraulic mining clogged the Sacramento River and buried vast areas of farmland in the Sacramento Valley. Steamers ran aground and farmers demanded an end to hydraulic mining. They filed suit against the mining companies and the United States District Court in San Francisco declared that hydraulic mining was “a public and private nuisance” in 1884. Its operation in “areas tributary to navigable streams and rivers” was outlawed. Remember, the Sacramento River was navigable in the 1840’s.

Dredging reached the ultimate in brute mechanics, sorting tons of material through screens. This method was also very destructive to the environment. The site of Horsetown itself was destroyed, turned upside down by a floating gold dredge that worked the area from 1905 to 1915. The company recovered enough gold in the first two weeks to pay for the $140,000 dredge.

While hydraulic mining was at its height, small-scale placer mining had largely exhausted the rich surface placers, and the mining industry turned to hard rock or quartz mining which required larger organizations and much more capital. Quartz mining involves locating an underground gold vein. The quartz matrix must be crushed to begin separating the gold from it. Crushing equipment ranged from a simple mule or horse-driven stone arrastra to heavy metal Chile mills, steam-powered stamp mills, and the ball mill. Since the gold was also crushed, it then had to be extracted by various rather complicated methods, often unpleasant, expensive, and/or toxic. Hard work, more equipment, and more capital are needed to drive tunnels, assay ore, bring it out to a mill, crush it, recover the sometimes microscopic grains of gold, purify, and melt the metal to make ingots.

I noted earlier the impacts on the environment by Hydraulic mining and large dredgers. Another example of mining damaging the environmental occurred early in the 20th century. By 1897 copper had become king of our mineral economy and in 1905 the Keswick copper smelter was built. The processes used to separate the copper from other minerals in the day killed all vegetation in the area and trees along the river as far away as Anderson. Complaints came from as far downstream as Chico. Multiple law suits were filed and the courts closed the copper smelters in 1910.

In September 1849 the first group to arrive and explore the Clear Creek Diggings agreed to pitch their tents near the mouth of the canyon and Reading’s Bar. They had come by the Lassen Route. When the ‘49ers arrived they had to put a lot more effort into extracting gold. They built dams to collect water or divert a section of the creek to be able to mine its bed. It was hard work. During October there were 300 – 400 men in the diggings. Not everyone found satisfactory diggings and only 150-200 men spent that winter at Horsetown. The others moved on, spreading out to every gulch and gravel bar on Clear Creek.

Alexander Andrews was one of the early forty-niners who mined at Reading’s Bar in the Clear Creek diggings. He was a prominent citizen in Horsetown for many years and built the Horsetown Bridge near Reading’s bar. Andrews later wrote that miners considered they were doing well if they made from an ounce ($18) to $100 a day. During the wet winter of 1849, they could make $200 a day. Anything less than an ounce was not considered “pay diggings”. It was said that gold could be found in any river, creek or stream.

Horsetown was laid out in town lots and consisted of 36 acres. The 1850 census listed 1,000 individuals in Horsetown. The miners were more successful in the winter months as water was needed to wash out the gold, whether by panning, long tom or sluice box or rocker. They recognized the need to bring water to the gulches and in 1853 Duffy’s Ditch brought water to Horsetown. In the same year Nathan Townsend and his partner built a dam with a ditch to supply water for mining. In 1856 Enos Taylor and William Harrison Elmore bought the dam and ditch, selling water.

If water was good, more water was better and in 1855 the Clear Creek Ditch was built. This was quite a construction project in the day; 49 miles long with three major flumes, a 460 foot tunnel in hard rock and a 15 acre earthwork reservoir. The intake for the ditch was near the Tower House, a stage coach stop on the wagon road to Yreka. It first brought water to the Placer Road area diggings – Muletown, Middletown, and Centerville. Laterals were then extended to Horsetown, Texas Springs, and beyond. Sawmills were erected to produce the timbers for the flumes. A 5 acre reservoir was developed at Mary Lake and the 15 acre reservoir west of Grant School is at Montgomery Ranch Estates. The ditch flowed down the Clear Creek Canyon. In late November 1855 it was complete and supplied dependable water for many years. Its capacity was about 10 cubic feet per second. Miners rushed to stake claims. With lots of dependable water gold production soared and in 1856 the population of Horsetown doubled. (At this time much of the Clear Creek Ditch is under Whiskeytown Lake. Some parts of the ditch are part of the trail system in the Park and on BLM lands downstream.)

Marker Number: 32.00

Marker Name: Reading's Bar

County: Shasta

Has Official CA Plaque: yes

Location:
Clear Creek Bridge, on Clear Creek Rd, 6.9 mi W of old Hwy 99 W Redding


Website: [Web Link]

Marker Dedication Date: Not listed

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