Volcano, Amador County – A California Gold Rush Town

The little town Volcano sits quietly among the hills in Amador County, California. When the weather is nice, tourists flock to the old town and several popular attractions are nearby. One of the best known of these is Daffodil Hill, an old farm planted densely with daffodils of many types. For some weeks each spring the place erupts with riots of color and bloom, and tourists come to picnic among the pines and the flowers. Quiet little Volcano was not always as it is now, it once roared with the activity of thousands of miners digging for gold.

For untold ages the Indian around the site of Volcano had gathered acorns and pine-nuts, and captured the deer and other game with which the hills abounded. But when gold was found in the Sierra Nevada foothills, men rushed to California to get their share of the wealth. When the miners arrived in the Volcano area, gold was discovered in the hills, gold on the flats, in the gulches, everywhere; gold that opens the roads to influence, power, and happiness. The grassy plains were torn up, the rich soil sluiced through the canyon, and all that behind was left is unsightly piles of rock, holes of mud and stagnant water. The hills, robbed of their graceful pines, were furrowed into deep gullies, while the clear, limpid waters of the creek were turned from their channel and transported into the surrounding hills, carrying mud, sand, and gravel, down to the farms in the valley below.

Such were the hills around Volcano. Much of the mining was in Soldiers' gulch, the dirt being transported to the creek for washing. A number of men made hand-barrows, on which they carried the dirt. Finally a cart was rigged up, and, with a yoke of cattle to draw it, readily rented for eight dollars per day. The Indians worked for gold in Indian gulch, her own name. During the first winter, portions of the Volcano graveyard were found to be rich in gold, and the gulches were worked much deeper. It now began to be suspected, or rather learned, that the deposits of gold around Volcano were unusually large, and that they extended to great depths. The Illinois party, Green & Co., went to work on the ground staked off. The surface was a reddish clay, evidently a wash from the hill to the west. About eight feet from the surface that came to the gravel, which was so rich that they could pick out gold with the fingers. They carried the dirt to the creek, some two hundred yards away, in buckets, and washed it in a rocker. They made about a hundred dollars a day to the man, some of which was coarse gold, one piece being worth over nine hundred dollars (over 45 ounces). Henry Jones, L. McLaine, Fred Wallace, Dr. MK Boucher, Doctor Yeager, Ike West, Thomas, Ellec Hayes, and others, had claims in Soldiers' gulch that were often rich. A cart load of dirt would have two hundred and fifty dollars of gold in it. Sometimes a pan of dirt would contain five hundred dollars. Men who never in their lives had a hundred dollars, would make a thousand dollars a day. A company of Texans would make a hundred dollars each in a day, and gamble it away every night, and come to their claim in the morning broke. This was their way of having a good time, and gambling saloons came in for a large share of the profits. Clapboard gulch also paid good wages to the gold miners; though not so rich as Soldiers' gulch, the pay-dirt was easier washed and near the surface. Indian gulch was also found to be rich, especially at the head. The Welch claim had a mound of dirt a few feet across that had more than a hundred thousand dollars in it. Some of the gold was found in a tough clay that defied washing by any ordinary method. Boiling was found to disintegrate the clay, and boilers were identified in many places to steam it so that it would come to pieces. It was observed that when left in the sun to dry hard, the clay would fall to pieces, and drying yards were established where the rich gold bearing dirt was discharged and pounded.

For several decades the minersiled, taking out their gold en treasure, but eventually the rich deposits played out, and the miners left. The grass and the trees slowly began to reclaim their territory. Now, a century after the miners left, you can see only a few spots where the miner's holes are exposed, and their piles of rock left behind. Most of the original, natural beauty of the area has been restored. So this spring, come and check out the beauty and rich gold rush history of old Volcano, California, and the beautiful flowers at Daffodil Hill.