The creek, the town, and the county all take their name from the same man, Jose Maria Amador,
Indian fighter, rancher, miner. On August 17 of 1835, Amador was granted an immense 16,517 acre
tract of land known as the Rancho San Ramon, where he settled down and built one of the few
two-story adobes in California. Amador began producing leather, soap, saddles, blankets, shoes,
and wagons using Indians from mission San Jose, and was soon one of the wealthiest rancheros in
When word of the gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill reached Rancho San Ramon, Amador decided to
visit the place and see what it was all about. Traveling with a Frenchman named Sausevain, they
reached Sutter’s Fort at about eight o’clock in the evening and met Sutter, whom Amador states
was rather drunk, but nevertheless provided a cordial reception and served a good dinner and
liquor of excellent quality.
When they arrived at the mill the following day, the two men walked down to the American
River, took out their pans and commenced mining for gold. Their first efforts were somewhat
discouraging, averaging only about 75 cents per pan. Disappointed with these results, they headed
for Mormon Camp, where the miners were getting about an ounce of gold to each of two shovelsful.
They then returned home, but before long they would be back.
Returning to Sutter’s Mill in June of 1848, Amador’s party learned of the dry placers at what
would later become Amador Creek. Two of the men, Sausevain and Sunol, left for the dry placers
while Amador remained at the American River. He joined them later that month and the three men,
with their retinue of some twenty Indian workers, took out from seven to nine pounds of gold a
day. Besides mining, Amador was also a successful trader, selling cattle—$150 each—and provisions
to the local miners. After being in the mines for about nine months off and on, Amador left for
good early in 1849, returning to his rancho with thousands of dollars in gold.
Amador and his party were not the only miners on the creek during those early days. A party
of men from Oregon built two cabins and stayed during the winter of 1848/49. James Wheeler and
his four partners built a large double cabin in the fall of 1849, as did a company from Virginia
who also kept a stock of goods available for sale. A company of miners from New York were camped
along Amador Creek by the end of 1849, which Bayard Taylor describes as being “lined with tents
and winter cabins.”
In February of 1851, a Baptist minister from Tennessee named S. A. Davidson made the first
discovery of gold-bearing quartz in the region, beside a crystal spring where miners often
stopped to slake their thirst. Why was the minister able to spot the gold while experienced
miners were not? Divine Intervention? We will never know. We do know that among his partners were
M. W. Glover and Lemuel Herbert, both Methodist-Episcopal ministers, and Peter Y. Cool, who would
become a minister in 1854. It’s not surprising that the claim came to be known as the “Ministers
Several other claims were staked along the quartz vein shortly after Davidson’s discovery,
which led to the original settlement shifting downstream from Amador Crossing, where the stage
road crossed the creek, to the spot it occupies today. As the miners became more familiar with
working the quartz mines, the mines began to prosper, which created a demand for more workers.
And wherever miners went, stores and saloons and hotels and all the rest were sure to follow.
Amador boomed and went on to become one of the richest mining towns in the Gold Country.
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