Town History - Gold Discovery, Early Citizenry, Legends

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      • Drytown Schoolhouse
      • Butcher Shop

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Town History

      Mining for gold began here in the spring of 1848 when Mexican, Indian, and American miners searched for gold in the rich gravels along Dry Creek. The town which grew up around the creek was called Drytown and it is the oldest town in Amador County. Although the creek may have run dry during the summer months, legend has it the town never did, as an old story claims some twenty-six saloons wet the miners’ whiskers during the early 1850’s.
      Bayard Taylor walked into town on November 15 of 1849, finding a population of between two and three hundred miners established for the winter. Some twenty-five to thirty cabins and tents were spread out along the creek, which was crossed by walking over a fallen tree. Taylor wrote: “The village was laid out with some regularity and had taverns, stores, butcher shops and monte tables. The diggings was going on briskly and averaged a good return.”
      By 1852 the town was quite well established, as an entry in Doble’s diary reported there being some two hundred houses in the camp. A post office was established on January 21, with Charles Crane the first postmaster. A stamp mill was also built that year, with a school soon following, as well as a small Catholic Church located on a hill above town.
      The camp reached its peak around 1856, with the discovery of quartz gold deposits helping to increase the town’s good times. By 1857 there were four mills with a total of fifty-two stamps, and three arrastres busily crushing ore.
      Drytown fell victim to fire twice during the 1850’s, the first blaze occurring in 1855 and the second in 1857. The first fire burned mainly the Chileno section of town, as that was what it was meant to do. It was set in revenge for the Rancheria Massacre of August 6, 1855, in which six persons, mostly Americans and including one woman, were slaughtered by a group of Mexican bandits using guns, knives, and an axe. “The flames spread rapidly,” an eyewitness reports, “...our citizens who rushed to the rescue were dragged away, and pistols pointed at them for trying to arrest the progress of the fire....One lady and two children came near being burned. The whole town...was soon consumed.” The American ruffians then supposedly torched the town’s Catholic Church. When the violence in the region finally ended, vengeful Americans had lynched more than twenty Mexicans in retaliation for the massacre, even though many of them had nothing whatsoever to do with that event.
      The fire of 1857 was the end of Drytown. The gold was already showing signs of being played out and when the fire destroyed most of the town, it never recovered. The buildings were not rebuilt as most packed up their belongings and headed for richer diggings.

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