Criminal Annals, Part 82 – The Coloma Tragedy

Again continuing with the early editions of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” in the April 22, 1852 edition there is a story from Coloma regarding Mr. Dougherty, the prisoner we read about who was not “rescued” from the civil authorities in Coloma the week before.

“THE COLOMA TRAGEDY. – We are informed by Sheriff Buchanan, who has just returned from San Francisco, whither he went to escort Dougherty, the Coloma thief, that a plan had been concocted at Uniontown [now Lotus] below Coloma to rescue his prisoner, but which was frustrated by his passing through the place on Saturday. The culprit was sentenced [ten years imprisonment in the state penitentiary] on Friday night, and the populace were of the impression that the Sheriff would not attempt to convey his prisoner below before Sunday, but fortunately for all parties, the officer stole the march upon them, and passed through the town unobserved.”

Below this in the same edition is a comment about Chinese immigrants, an issue that will become an increasing “problem” to non-Asians in early California.

“CHINESE IMMIGRANTS.– Six hundred and fifteen Chinese arrived on Monday in the ship Blenheim and bark Temates from Hongkong. One of the passengers on the former vessel named As-sing, while laboring under the influence of a fit, stabbed four others severely, and then leapt into the sea. It is said there are ten thousand awaiting passage to this country.”

In the April 24, 1852 edition is an interesting article about a mining area in El Dorado County north-east of Georgetown that is not well known. Although the story doesn’t involve crime, it warrants inclusion here just because of its historical value. It is in the form of a letter to the editor and is from a miner in Volcanoville who is very proud of his area and/or promoting it to other miners looking for a new place to search for gold.

“Mining Correspondence.

“Volcanoville Diggings – Middle Fork – Rich Specimens, &c.

“Volcanoville, April 18th, 1852.

“Messrs. Editors: – I perceive in the Union of the the 12th inst., a paragraph in relation to some rich specimens said to have been found on Big Bar. It is but just to those who discovered the quartz lead from which those specimens were taken, that the truth should be known; and with your permission I will give you the following facts in relation to the matter, which may be relied on, as I reside in the immediate vicinity, and have been engaged for nearly nine months past, in developing the resources of the same vein, a little north of this rich deposit.

“The vein from which those rich and beautiful specimens were taken, lies between Otter Creek on the south, and the Middle Fork of the American river on the north. The trail from Georgetown to Volcano Bar runs parallel to it for nearly a mile, and crosses it at the point where the trail begins to descend to the Middle Fork at Volcano Bar.

“The precise locality where the recent exceedingly rich deposits were discovered, is at the right hand, or east side of the trail as we descend from Otter Creek to the north, and a few rods south of the opening made in the same vein by the Taylor Quartz Company, whose mill is located on Otter Creek.

“The discovery was made about three or four weeks ago, by Mr. Job S. Hearn, one of my associates in the ‘Volcano Quartz Mining Company,’ next north of the Taylor Company, in company with Mr. Christian Saul, and Mr. John Kemble, all of them practical miners, and very industrious, worthy men, who are certainly entitled to the credit of the discovery, and deserving of their good fortune.

“Our vicinity, although uncommonly rich in mineral resources, in river, gulch and quartz ‘diggings,’ had until very recently been without a name, but we call it Volcanoville, from its proximity to Volcano Bar, Volcano Canon, and Volcano Hill.

“We have applied for a post office, and are quite sure of its being granted, when the papers shall have been sent to and returned from Washington [D.C.], where all applications are now forwarded. Our location is nearly equi-distant from Big Bar, Volcano Bar, Sandy Bar, Yankee Slide, and Grey Eagle City, between two and three miles, all of which can be accommodated by one office here, as the trails from these places to Georgetown intersect at this point, ten miles distant in a southerly direction; and at each of which there will be hundreds of miners busily employed this season, and large quantities of gold will be taken out, as the river is to be flumed [the river moved from its bed] for nearly seven miles continuously; and also because the bars and slides, especially Yankee Slide, are amongst the very richest in the country – to say nothing of our quartz operations, which are destined to make a noise in the world.”


Note: Volcanoville, which is located at the end of Volcanoville Road, north off Wentworth Springs Road, is but a shadow of what it was once.
A post office with the name Volcanoville was not established in the 1850s, as the writer believed would happen, but later it would receive one, first under another name and then as Volcanoville.

When an 1879 forest fire destroyed most of the buildings in town, a majority of the mines closed. But, two years later the Dore (Maurice Dore) Mine was reopened as the Josephine Mine, taking its name from its new owner, Joseph Nouges. By the 1890s the mine was so successful that the town itself was actually renamed Josephine.

The Josephine post office was established on August 12, 1895 with store owner Jerome C. Akley as postmaster. The post office would be discontinued on October 20, 1915 and reestablished on July 11 of the next year. It would be closed for good on October 31, 1917.

It wasn’t until after the name of the town was changed back to Volcanoville that the Volcanoville post office was opened. That happened on July 8, 1930, when Mrs. Clara P. Fraser was appointed as the first postmaster. Postal service was discontinued on January 31, 1953 and the mail moved to Georgetown.

By the 1960s most everything at Volcanoville had shut down an a sign at the entrance to the town read: “Volcanoville. Pop. 4. Elev. 3036.” At that time, Vera Frazier and her son Jim owned the town and operated a museum in a building that has once been a dance hall, general store and saloon. The museum burned in 1969, leaving only a few residences and a beer parlor.



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