John C. Frémont and his men were probably the first white men to visit this region, when in
March of 1844 they followed an Indian trail leading out of the Sierras and down over the
foothills into the Sacramento Valley. The place takes its name from the promontory which rises
above the surrounding ravines and hills, upon which “pilot” fires were lit to guide later
travelers to the area.
Before being called Pilot Hill, the mining camp established here in early 1849 was known as Centreville. It was changed when the post office was established on April 18 of 1854.
The placers in the area were substantial and rich, with mining activity lasting until the late
1850’s. In January of 1857, two miners found a boulder of quartz, “literally gorged with gold.” A
piece was shipped to San Francisco where it was assayed as containing $1,760 worth of gold. The
area was naturally short on water, but fortunately for the prospectors, the mines were supplied
with a steady source by the Pilot and Rock Creek Canal. The large population in the area gleaned
the gold early, and when nothing was left to mine, they left. Virtually nothing has survived from
those days to mark the once prosperous site.
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