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Site of one of the First Discoveries of Quartz Gold in California (No. 297 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
sample of gold quartz rock –

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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The story of the discovery of quartz gold in California is recorded by the Office of Historic Preservation as follows, “In the latter part of October 1850, a cow, the property of George McKnight, escaped from its tether and took off across the landscape. In running after his cow, McKnight struck his foot against an outcropping of rock which broke off easily. Upon close examination of the rock he found it streaked with gold.”

Another account says McKnight pounded the rock with a cast iron skillet and hammer and washed out the gold.

Another miner shouted the news his discovery, which triggered wild excitement within the mining camp. Hundreds of gold seekers poured into Gold Hill – the new name for the area. By March the following year, 1851, Gold Hill consisted of hotels, saloons, stores and its first school.

To create some level of monitoring for this emerging industry, Judge Walsh gathered a group of miners to informally draft new quartz mining laws. These laws later became applicable to the entire nation. To make the hard rock mining a productive operation, a hard rock drilling machine was invented at Gold Hill.

“From this spot $1.5 million in gold was removed. However, 150 feet away yielded $4 million (between 1850 and 1857.) The rock was so rich that it was out in shovels and believed the source of all gold was discovered. New ledges were discovered and the gold quartz industry was born.” (Office of Historic Preservation). By 1864, the Gold Hill Mine closed and one more chapter in California’s Gold Rush history had ended.

The historical landmark is located at the southwest corner of Jenkins Street and Hocking Avenue in Grass Valley.

Nevada County

Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish. During winter months, Nevada County’s eastern border is wholly engulfed in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In the 1840s and 1850s many emigrants arrived in California via the Overland Emigrant Trail which threaded through the infamous Donner Pass.

Time Period Represented


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