Gold Country History

California Sesquicentennial Speech

Written by Doug Noble for presentation at the Bell Tower on the Sesquicentennial of California’s statehood.

On December 3rd last, California stood proudly and knocked on the doors of congress, the noise loudly resounding like no other before it throughout that hallowed institution. “You have turned me down not once; not twice; but THRICE before,” she said, “but that does not lessen in any way my desire for statehood. At those times it was up to you, but now my people have spoken, and spoken loudly. I am a state out of the Union, complete with a magnificent constitution and government already in place, awaiting alone your final action to consecrate my existence and welcome me as a State in the Union.”

Within a few days hence, Senator William H. Seward stood before his colleagues and gave California a resounding welcome with these glowing words: “Let California come in! California, that comes from the clime where the west dies away into the rising east; California, that bounds at once the empire and the continent; California, the youthful queen of the Pacific, in the robes of freedom, gorgeously inlaid with gold, is doubly welcome.” But, there were many who did not wish to acknowledge her impassioned plea.

Her people, in open election, had declared her to be a free state – a concept that was not in keeping with the misguided desires of some southern ultraists and northern fanatics amongst those in Congress. Yea, they would attempt to use all means within their powers to stop her from her goal, but in the end, she but not they, would be the victor.

Her magnificent allies in that splendid body would rush to her aid and say, “enough is enough, let her in!” Forthright and honorable men with names like Henry Clay and William Seward would continue to speak loudly before that August body of the need to include her in the greatest union ever created by man. Her staunchest ally of all, our recently departed President, Zachary Taylor, would ask that all other issues be set aside in favor of her Statehood, but that was not enough for those seeking only to destroy our Union.

Some would attempt to cleave her in two along the imaginary Mason-Dixon Line at Monterey, admitting only the northern portion of her magnificence and forcing the southern remainder to relinquish their right for Statehood and languish in a questionable territorial status. Others would continuously seek to delay the actions of both houses of Congress, hoping beyond hope that her admission could be halted, and their perceived balance between free and slave states would remain. But, in the end, they would find that the righteousness of her being would prevail.

Last August 13, the Senate of the United States of America granted her wish and approved the California Admission Bill. Only two days ago, on September 7, the House of Representatives followed their glorious lead and similarly granted her their blessing. This morning, when presented with their actions, President Millard Fillmore did affix his signature thereon and California, the glorious and golden one, became the thirty-first state in the Union and the thirty-first shimmering star on the banner of freedom.

On the morrow, God willing, the Senate of the United States will graciously accept the credentials of her two illustrious statesman and Senators-elect, Dr. William Gwin and Colonel John Fremont and thereby seat them.

I am sure there will be those naysayers who will continue to find fault with this magnificent act. Some may even seek a dissolution of the Union, to forward their questionable goals. Even today, the eastern newspapers that arrive here by steamer contain hints of a movement to secede by some detractors and bring a feeling of uneasiness throughout the land. We can but hope that the admission of our state may aid in uniting all factions and cause a rekindling of the magnificent dedication shown by those who started us towards our destiny but two decades less than a century ago.

God Bless America and keep free forever California, the thirty-first State of the Union!

Who Was Daniel W. Carmichael?

Daniel Webster Carmichael was born in 1867 in Atlanta, Georgia and came to California in 1885. On January 12, 1892 he married Myrtle Roena Robb, who was born in Nevada.

In 1909 Carmichael purchased 2,000 acres of “land composed of hills and dales dotted with noble oaks.” It was part of the 20,000 acre Rancho San Juan Mexican grant made to Joel P. Dedmond in 1844. The colony’s boundaries were Lincoln Avenue to the north, San Juan Avenue to the east, The American River and Deterting Ranch to the south and Fair Oaks Boulevard to the west. He called it Carmichael Colony No. 1.

Later he bought another 1,000 acres that he called Carmichael Colony No. 2. It bordered the first colony to the east and Walnut Avenue to the west; the southern boundary was Arden Way with Sutter Avenue to the north. This new territory was previously part of the 44,000 acre Del Paso Rancho Mexican grant made to Eliab Grimes, in 1844.

Carmichael laid out the two colonies into 10 acre tracts and offered them for $1,500 each, promoting them as excellent agriculture land

The 1930 Census shows that Daniel and Myrtle had moved to San Francisco where on October 31, 1936, Daniel passed away. The Carmichaels appear to be childless.

Carmichael the Town

The first new settlers of Carmichael were Charles W. and Mary A. Deterding. In 1907 they purchased a 425 acre site, adjoining Carmichael’s colonies, along the north bank of the American River. The Deterding Ranch is now Ancil Hoffman Park.

By 1927, there were about 300 families living in Carmichael and the 1930 population was listed at 700. Nearly 2,000 people lived in the area by 1940 and the population was 4,499 in 1950 according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Prior to 1940, the community had no central business district. The Red & White Store supplied meat and groceries at the corner of California and Fair Oaks Boulevard and there was a gas station at the triangle a Fair Oaks and Manzanita. Another grocery store, Arrowhead, was on the southeast corner at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Palm Avenue and Dan Donovan operated a bar, restaurant and grocery store at Fair Oaks and Garfield.

As Carmichael grew, businesses clustered around Palm Avenue and Marconi Avenue. Bob Marchal built the Carmichael Shopping Center on the southwest corner. One business, the Rose Tree remains in Carmichael today.

Carmichael’s first bank – The Suburban Bank – opened In the 1940’s after Marchal drove to Washington, D.C. to obtain a bank charter. Crocker Bank took over the service in the 1950’s. Carmichael’s first large shopping complex-Crestview Center built In 1963 by Richard and Dea Holesapple.

Carmichael residents had telephone service beginning in 1915 with a I0 party line through Fair Oaks. There was a toll charged to call Sacramento. A direct line was installed in 1933.

Today, Carmichael, having grown to a population of 72,000, is a community immersed in a still expanding unincorporated suburban area of 550,000 people Today, Carmichael, having grown to a population of 72,000, is a community immersed in a still expanding unincorporated suburban
area of 550,000 people

Thanks to the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce ( most of this information.

Criminal Annals, Part 39 – The Placer Times: Watchmen and Gold Coins

There being very little artificial light in early Sacramento during the night, the possibility of a crime or disruption of the peace occurring was high. Thus, the recently established city government took steps to help its citizens and protect the peace. On page three of the May 22, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” there is a notice of the establishment of a “Night Watch,” for the safety of the people of Sacramento, a portion of which is repeated here.

“AN ORDINANCE establishing a Watch for the safety and good order of the City of Sacramento.

“Section 1. Be it ordained, that there shall be appointed by the Marshal of the City and the Captain of the Watch ten able-bodied, sober and discreet men to constitute the Night Watch of the City of Sacramento. From the hour of seven in the evening until sunrise in the morning one half at least of said Watch shall be constantly on duty, unless sickness or some other cause of like character should render it impracticable for such a portion of the Watch to be on duty. That during the time any Watchman is on duty he shall have power, and it shall be his duty to prevent the commission of any breach of the peace, to suppress riots and all disorderly assemblages, to arrest and take into custody any person found committing any act injurious to the quiet and good order of the city, or to the person or property of any citizen; and also to arrest and take into custody all vagrants or suspicious persons whose appearance and conduct many seem to justify their being called to account for their manner of living.

“Sec. 2. Be it further ordained, that upon the arrest of any person under the provisions of the first section of this ordinance, such person so arrested shall be taken to the watch house, or such place as may be provided for such purpose, and delivered to the Captain of the Watch, who shall be informed by the person who may have made such arrest, of the occasion and circumstances under which such arrest has been made. And it is also further provided, that in no case shall any Watchman or any officer having in any manner any charge of such Watch receive from any person arrested or about to be arrested, or charged with any offence, any sum of money or any thing of value, either ass a present or as a fine, or in any other manner whatsoever.

Sec. 3. Be it further ordained, that at the earliest possible period after the arrest of any person as aforesaid, the Captain of the Watch shall report said arrest to the Marshal of the City, who shall take immediate custody of such offender, and report the arrest, the occasion of the same, the name of the party arrested, &c. to the City Attorney, in order that such offender may be brought before the Recorder for examination.”

After several more sections regarding the fine points of the process it notes in Section 7. that for any neglect or violation of duty by these “able-bodied, sober and discreet” watchmen, a fine of up to five hundred dollars and ten days in jail can be imposed. Section 8. adds that each watchman shall receive a monthly salary of one hundred and fifty dollars.

One of the biggest problems facing the miners in early California was disposing of the gold once they found it. Often the nuggets were saved and dust was just used as cash, a “pinch” at a time. It was carried around in a small leather bag called a “poke” and offered up to pay bills.
If a miner wanted to sell his gold, he had to use a speculator who would purchase it for less than its real value and make arrangements to have it shipped to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, PA, where it would be assayed, melted and then cast into bars.

There were also a number of private mints making coins in California that often had less gold than the stated value (gold dust was valued at $16 per ounce, but a one ounce U.S. gold coin was worth $20). One of these private mints was F. D. Kohler and Co., which was sold to Baldwin & Co. in April of 1850.

After being petitioned by the citizens of California, the legislature of the “State of California” decided what was happening was not a good idea in many ways and in May of 1850 established the Office of the State Assayer.

The May 22 edition of the Placer Times published the new law in its entirety and then added a comment explaining the action in simple words.

“TO MINERS. – The foregoing law affords a remedy for an evil the mining community had long been subject to, in having their gold to pass into the hands of speculator at more than two dollars less than its value. – The State Assayer melts the dusts of the miner into bars or ingots, tests its fineness, and stamps it with the same value as would the United States Mint The dust current in this market is intrinsically worth above $18 – it assays at an average from $17 90 to $18 20 per ounce. Besides, but the Act creating the office, all stamped bars or ingots are received for all public dues throughout the State, at the same value as government coin.

“The Governor has appointed O. P. Sutton, Director, and F. D. Kohler [yes, the former private mint owner], Assayer. Their office is at San Francisco, on south side of Portsmouth Square.

“Under the provisions of the Act, a branch office will likely soon be opened at Sacramento City, and also one at Stockton.”
The State Assay Office of California was the only mint in the country to operate under the authority of a state, since the U.S. Constitution forbid the coining of money by states in 1789.

The California State Assayer refined and assayed gold dust and cast into ingots weighing a minimum of two troy ounces, ingots not being mentioned in the Constitution as being illegal and nobody seemed to care anyway. On these pieces he stamped the state name, value, weight and fineness of the ingot. Their value ranged from $36.55 to $150.00. The $50 “slugs” were probably the most common.

In late 1850 the California State Assayer’s office became the United States Assay Office, which issued United States coins noting that they were certified by the California Office and in 1854, the U.S. Mint in San Francisco was established, replacing it.

Most of the privately minted gold coins and early California gold coins were later melted down by the San Francisco Mint.


Criminal Annals, Part 37 – The Placer Times: The ‘Celestials’

Continuing with the May 13, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” on page two there is an interesting article from the San Francisco newspaper, “Alta California,” relating to the Chinese immigrants, who are often looked down upon by the Americans and others and believed by some to be cunningly dangerous.

The article refers to them as “celestials,” a term for Chinese immigrants used in the Old West, and elsewhere, derived from their status as subjects of the “Son of Heaven” (the Chinese Emperor). The term is no longer in common use and is rarely heard outside of western movies.
“Nankeens” refers to their trousers, which were made from “nankeen,” a hand woven, cotton cloth that was usually a brownish yellow in color. Their “pigtails” or “queues” were a mark of political enslavement to the Manchu dynasty, and a curiosity to the Americans. There was a belief among many that if the pigtail was cut off, the person’s soul could not go to heaven, thus, threats to cut off the pigtail were taken seriously. The pigtail was abolished in China in 1911 when the Manchu dynasty was overthrown in favor of the Republic.

“CELESTIAL. – It seems a little singular to an ‘outside barbarian,’ to see the Celestials in our streets carrying on various branches of industry. We have a great deal of respect for the Chinese, with their nankeens and their pigtails and are pleased to find them of so quiet, peaceable and industrious dispositions. We know of no class of citizens who conduct themselves more becomingly and are gratified to know that they meet with success. Several of the Chinese who kept restaurants were burned out at the last fire, but they have again commenced operations. In passing down Jackson street yesterday we saw our celestial friend Ahi, industriously employed in putting up a spacious frame covered with blue nankeen. He was surrounded by a crowd of Chinamen all working away, sawing, planing, hammering, nailing, and busying themselves in the most delightful manner, all in their native costume. – [Alta Cal. 11th.”

On page three of the May 15, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times” there are two articles regarding criminal acts. The first one relates to a crime at Benicia, and the other is a very small article regarding a problem encountered by miners returning from California, which is also a warning to those heading back east.

“ROBBERY AND ARREST. – Six rascals went on board a ship at Benicia while the Captain and other officers were on shore, drew knives and pistols upon the steward who was in charge, robbed him of $3,000 or $4,000, stole a whale boat and put off. An officer came up here [Sacramento] and notified Capt. [C. N.]Cunningham, who has had his efficient and indefatigable aid on the watch, and on Monday morning two of the thieves were arrested on their arrival and confined on board the Strafford [one of several ships used as a jail], whence they will be returned to Benicia for trial. The other four are hourly expected, having shipped to work up a schooner to this port.

“Our Marshal and Mr. Tutt are thoroughly organizing their department. Mr. [Jeremiah] Root has been appointed Captain of the Watch, and we may hope soon to enjoy all the security of a well regulated police system.”

“RETURNED CALIFORNIANS. – Mr. John Grigsby and D. F. McClellan were robbed on board the Ne Plus Ultra of $11,400, while the boat was at the levee in New Orleans. They had just exchanged their dust for coin. The loss has left them almost destitute.”

Note: “Ne Plus Ultra” is a Latin phrase meaning no more beyond, often used to mean the most perfect example of something. An ideal name for a boat, or anything else for that matter.

The question of people squatting on public lands and other people questioning their right to be there has reached the newly elected legislature of California.
Many of those arriving in California, after trying their hand at gold mining, have decided to find land for development or agricultural purposes and have taken possession of public lands.
The legislature has carefully avoided the issue of the Spanish and Mexican land grants, which are still being worked out by the federal government and have set up a method to defend title to claimed lands not being used for mining purposes.
Since the public lands belong to the United States, and not the State of California, one wonders what authority the legislature has and if this even further complicates this serious problem of questionable land ownership, which has resulted in untold serious fights and numerous deaths.

“The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
“Section 1. Any person now occupying and settled upon, or who may hereafter occupy and settle upon any of the public lands belonging to the United States, unoccupied, except upon land containing mines of any of the precious metals, may commence and maintain any action for interference with, or injuries done to his possession of said land, against any person or persons so interfering with or injuring such land, or such possession.
“Sec. 2. On the trail of any such cause, the possession or possessory right of the plaintiff shall be considered as extending to the boundaries embraced by the claim of such plaintiff, so as to enable him to have and maintain any action as aforesaid, which being compelled to prove an actual enclosure: Provided, that such ‘claim’ shall not exceed in any case one hundred and sixty acres of land.
“Sec. 3. Every such claim, to entitle the holder to maintain any action as aforesaid, shall be marked out, so that the boundaries thereof may be readily traced, and the extent of such ‘claim’ easily known, and no person shall be entitled to maintain any such action for possession of, or injury to, any claim, unless he occupy the same, or shall have made improvements thereon, to the value of one hundred dollars.
“Sec. 4. The neglect to occupy or cultivate such ‘claim’ for the period of three months, shall be considered such an abandonment as to preclude the claimant from maintaining any action as hereinbefore mentioned.
“Sec. 5. Any person or persons claiming the right of possession to land under this act, shall have the right to defend said possession and the claim thereto, and all the rights and privileges given them by this Act.

JOHN BIGLER, Speaker of the Assembly. JOHN M’DOUGAL, Lieutenant-Governor and President of the Senate. Approved, April 11th, 1850.”