Friday, August 21, 2009

Gold Fever

The year was 1848. Gold had been discovered in Sutter’s Mill (now called Coloma, along what is now Route 49), California.

And if I had been living out West (I don’t know that I could have made if from the East Coast—or even the Midwest), I would have headed to Woods’ Diggings (later Woods’ Crossing and now Jamestown), a few miles south of Sutter's Mill.

The richness of the diggings on Woods' Creek had become legendary. The creek was so rich that it was reported that Woods & Company extracted 40 to 60 ounces daily by simply prying nuggets from their resting spots with hunting knives.

That would have been all I needed to know. Gold Fever would have claimed another victim.

Many of the historical structures of Jamestown have undergone reconstruction due to fires in 1855, 1966, and 1978. These two buildings (the Royal Carriage Inn is the second building from the right) reflect the Old West atmosphere.

In 1859, Heinrich and Hannah Neilson established a hotel and a bar and restaurant that was to become known as the National Hotel. The two wooden buildings were among the first permanent structures in this early (1848) gold-rush town of Jamestown.

The National Hotel and the bar have been in continuous operation from 1859, having survived two damaging fires in 1901 and 1927. Today’s restoration work was begun in 1974 by the present owners and is still continuing some 35 years later. The restaurant had not been fully utilized from 1946 until its re-opening in 1975.

The Emporium presented a more formal appearance along the historic street.

As is often the case in many small towns, stores often serve a multitude of functions. The Emporium is a coffee shop, appearing to be the gathering place for townsfolk. A multitude of articles were available under the general categories of “Antiques and Collectibles.”

The Jamestown Hotel caught our attention. Built in 1858, it initially served as a boarding house. At various times during its existence, it operated as a bordello and a bus depot. At one time, it was the Mother Lode Hospital.

The Hotel burned down twice along with much of Jamestown. During the 1970s, San Francisco brick was used to remodel the hotel exterior. As we passed the Registration Desk, we thought that the decor reminded us of days gone by.

In the 1980s, the hotel underwent a major restoration and is now an 8-room bed and breakfast hotel with a restaurant and old-time bar.

The etched glass around the room lent an air of formality to the bar. Our conversation with the bartender reflected the formal exchange of factual information regarding our visit to Jamestown.

We then commented on the dollar bills placed around the bar. After one of the patrons pointed out the $50 bill taped securely to the mirror above the bar, the conversation shifted abruptly.

In my mind, the conversation shifted to the latest rumored gold find. I took a speck of gold out of a container I wore around my neck, paid for my sarsaparilla, and left without saying another word.

[Who knows, back in the early 1850’s, in my imaginary world, I might have met John Capon Adams (aka James Capen Adams), who owned a trading post and tavern on the east bank of Woods' Creek. He was a reckless speculator, careless in his business affairs, and a gambler. Penniless and embittered against mankind, whom he blamed for his financial problems, Adams deserted his wife and children to start life anew as a hunter and wild animal trapper, becoming obsessed with hunting grizzly bears, which led to him being known as . . . Grizzly Adams.]

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