Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Forgot About Chili Gulch

We've been having so much fun out a New Melones and even though I drive by this marker every time, I just plain forgot about it. So here goes.

State Registered Landmark No 265

The plaque reads: Richest placer mining section, extending five miles, in Calaveras County. Received name from Chileans who worked gulch in 1848 and 1849, and scene of the so-called Chilean War. Largest known quartz crystals recovered from mine on south side of gulch. 

The camp was founded by miners from Chile in 1848.  Within a few years of its discovery, many hundreds of miners were engaged in placer and hydraulic mining activities in the Gulch. J. D. Borthwick, a nomadic Scottish journalist and author, visited the camp in the spring of 1853 (contradiction to plaque and firsthand report) and reported seeing about two hundred Chilenos panning gold with large flat wooden dishes.

Here is where there are some conflicting information about the “Chilean War” comes in. Supposedly from a firsthand account: 

In the winter of '49-'50 a company of men composed of Texans and Kentuckians, with a few from Arkansas and Missouri, numbering about sixteen in all, camped near Chili Gulch, and finding that these foreigners were getting more than their share of gold, concluded to drive them out and take possession of these rich claims. They therefore posted notices in the gulch ordering the foreigners to vacate within twenty-four hours or suffer the consequences. But no attention was paid to the order for the reason that no law had been passed by the Government to prevent them from mining in California. And from this fact they inferred that they had as good a right to mine as any one.
The miners, finding that they did not intend to leave, drove them out by main force and took possession, not only of their mining ground, but also of their tools, tents and even of some of their clothing. The Chileans went up to Mokelumne Hill for assistance, but the officers of the law refused to assist them. The sheriff did, however, in order to get rid of them, give them a blank warrant with the privilege of filling it out and serving said warrant in any manner they pleased. Armed with this authority they went early in the morning and took the whole company of miners prisoners, but unfortunately one Missourian was killed and another one badly wounded during the affray. They tied the hands of their prisoners, and driving them along in the road ahead of them, started for the town of Stockton, distant about eighty miles.

They all stopped at O'Neil's station, about twelve miles from Stockton, for breakfast. Now it happened that there were quite a number of travelers and teamsters who had stopped there the night before and when they saw them Chilean’s drive in the boys for breakfast, they were not long in getting acquainted with the particulars, and whether right or wrong made no difference, for they were Americans at any rate. So they charged upon them while they were eating their breakfast and bound every one of 'em. Now the scene had changed, and the boys around Chili Gulch were astonished, a few days after, to see the American boys driving the Chileans before them into camp, all tied in a similar manner as the Americans had been.

They gave them a fair trial, and sentenced four of them to be shot. Of course they didn't know which ones killed their pardner, but it made no difference, to shoot about four of 'em would fill the bill anyhow. And the rest of 'em left that part of the country in a hurry.

A few days after they started in to work, some of the miners around there had a sort of a miners' meetin' one day, and so they come over into Chili Gulch and stuck a paper up on a tree with some writing on it for them to read, and so they did.

It said that if any of them fellers what drove out, and shot them Chileans, was found mining over there in Chili Gulch, that the miners round in them diggings would hang every darned one of ‘em. The miners decided that it was time to find a more favorable place to mine.
Accounts vary widely about the details, with some including mention of Joaquin Murrieta's involvement on the side of the Chileans.

So that is State Registered Landmark No. 265, Chili Gulch.


  1. There is such interesting history out here in California isn't there?

    1. Yes there is. I'll be putting more on this site as I find them.

  2. Mark history like this is very interesting. And that the state maintains such markers so people can learn about such places and events.