Vegetables, the Galapagos Islands, and Gold....
Julian S. Smart arrived at the spot where Woods Creek joins the Tuolumne River in the spring of 1849. Liking what he saw, Smart decided to settle down. Clearing the land of trees and brush, he planted the first garden and orchard in the county and named his small ranch Spring Garden. Smart’s orchards provided a succession of fruits from April until November, consisting of peaches, pears, apples, cherries, plums, grapes, apricots, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, pomegranates, figs, blackberries, and strawberries. Among his other crops were many varieties of vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets from which he prepared a vegetable plate dinner, priced at a mere $2.50. These dinners soon became as widely known throughout the Southern Mines as were the rich placers of the area.
Vegetables were an important part of the miner’s diet, necessary for the prevention of disease. During the early days of the Gold Rush, fruits and vegetables were often not available in the camps and the miners suffered. William Kelly, an Irish miner who arrived in California during July of 1849, relates the consequences of an unbalanced diet in A Stroll Through the Diggings of California: “We found that sickness prevailed to an alarming extent, particularly land scurvy, owing to the constant use of salt and greasy provisions without vegetables. In many instances it assumed a fearfully loathsome shape, swelling the limbs to an enormous size, changing the skin to a deep purple hue, contracting the muscles and main tendons of the legs and arms, so that those members were rigid and useless; enlarging the gums immensely, and imparting to them a gangrenous appearance, not only disgusting to look at, but highly offensive in smell.”
Colonel Aldan Apollo Moore Jackson, a Mexican War Veteran, is responsible for discovering the mineral wealth of the area in June of 1849. Within a month, about forty people were working the placers and a small town began to grow, located on the north side of the Tuolumne River where Woods Creek joins that stream. Jackson established the first trading post here and the camp was christened Jacksonville in his honor.
The town became an important supply center for miners from Moccasin and Woods creeks, providing both necessities for mining and amusements for relaxing. The town grew quickly, and by April of 1851, the census reported 252 inhabitants. The post office was established here on October 7 of 1851, and within a year the camp was challenging Sonora in size and importance.
The Tuolumne River underwent extensive mining operations during the 1850’s, with most of the activity occurring during August, September, October and November, when the river was at its low stage. Along with the many individual miners working the river, several large companies were organized. They built giant dams, wing dams, and a series of flumes in order to turn the course of the river, hoping to clean its bed of enough gold to pay the high costs of labor and material, and to provide a nice profit. They had to work quickly, for when the winter storms began, the Tuolumne would turn into a swift, unworkable torrent. Many times the dams and flumes were washed away before completion, resulting in a total loss to the company. When the river was high, the miners would turn their attention to the gulches and flats of the surrounding hills, generally uncovering enough gold to survive the winter. After the rains had passed, the larger creeks and streams would subside, daring the miners to recover the gold washed down from the recent storms.
Generally the miners in any new camp would get together and create a set of mining laws for the new diggings. The rules would include such things as claim size, time limits on not working a claim, how disputes would be settled, who could own claims, &c. The miners of Jacksonville were typical of the Gold Rush era and the first entry in their mining laws reveals the general attitude towards foreigners. “All American citizens may locate and hold claims.” (A miner’s definition of foreigner would be any non-English speaking miner.) Smart’s orchards and gardens were eventually ruined by the mining activity; the diligent reworking of the area by Chinese miners was particularly damaging. By this time; however, Smart had become quite prosperous. Entering into a partnership, he invested a large portion of his wealth in outfitting a sailing ship. During the long voyage, he kept the rest of his savings on his person, supposedly in the form of $50 gold slugs. While resting at one of the Galapagos Islands to replenish supplies of fresh water and meat, they got Smart. Someone crept up from behind and knocked him cold. When he awoke, his gold was gone and so was his ship. He was rescued by a passing ship and eventually returned to California.
Today the few bits and pieces of what was once Jacksonville lie beneath the waters of the Don Pedro Reservoir, named for Pierre “Don Pedro” Sainsevain, an early day pioneer and member of the California Constitutional Convention. A perfect example of how a large and prosperous mining camp can completely disappear, the only reminders of the vanished town of Jacksonville today are an occasional foundation ruin poking above the reservoir’s surface. Take the time to pull off the road at the view point and read the stone monument.

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