'Grass Valley, near Nevada City, California, Septr. 18th 1851'

(Updated, September 2014.) No. 60 in Fanshawe's Pacific album, 1849 - 52. Captioned by the artist on the album page below the image, as title. Fanshawe and the 'Daphne' were at San Francisco two years into the California gold-rush. While there he decided to visit the gold-diggings at Grass Valley near Nevada City - both entirely new settlements - taking in Sacramento and Sutter's Fort. His journey (with Mr Blanchard, the former Governor from Victoria Settlement, Vancouver, who had left there with him) was by the 'Senator' steamer from San Francisco Bay late on 15 September, starting overnight to go 120 miles up river to Sacramento, from where they took the stage-coach and then a local waggon. Fanshawe gave a detailed account in his letters home, describing Grass Valley as 'very retired spot two years ago, but now one of the principal mining stations, with seven steam engines at work crushing the [gold-bearing] quartz, which is dug out of the surrounding hills. It has also an hotel kept by an Englishman, to whose favourable notice we bore a recommendation...' (Fanshawe [1904] p. 281). This drawing also corresponds closely to his other comments on the area. 'On approaching the hilly regions the plain is dotted over with oaks, but these gradually disappear among the hills and are replaced by firs, which congregate mostly near the tops; there are also some thin grass and a few shrubs (chiefly a handsome plant called the Manzanilla) scattered upon the hills. The soil is reddish and appears gravelly, though it certainly produces...an uncommon amount of dust. (p. 283).... It is a rather pretty valley with a stream (and its diggings) winding through it, and now also a straggling wooden village. Half a mile beyond are the "Gold Hill" and "Massachusetts Hill", where the mines are, and the steam "stampers'" [crushers] are on the rivulet abreast of them' (p. 285): a building with a substantial chimney in the left distance may be one of the 'stampers'. Most of the excavations shown here are what he described as ' "coyota digging", from a burrowing animal of these parts, in appearance between a wolf and a fox. This is only for burrowing near the surface for "pay dirt", or auriferous earth, without undertaking the more solid quartz' (p.285). The view here appears to be roughly west across Wolf Creek and the 'coyote' pits around it, with what became Mill Street running across the background and Main Street intersecting with that at far right, its near end being then the road north-east to Nevada City. ' "Nevada City" - Fanshawe continues - is a large village scattered over the sides of one or two steep hills...the shops are well supplied, and everything looks clean and new. No doubt like all these places it swarms with fleas, and will only be clean as long as it is new. We were only just in time to secure the last places in the stage to return to Sacramento on the following day, 19th [September], and returned to a late dinner at Grass Valley, whence we were carried off by the "Nevada" stage the following morning at 8 a.m., and, reversing our former order of sailing, reached San Francisco on the 20th....' (p. 286). Grass Valley was only so-named (for unknown reasons) from 1851, when a post office was established there: previously, since first settled by Bostonian gold-diggers in 1849, it was called Boston Ravine. It remains a small, thriving and historic town, with buildings dating back to the 1860s and a population of about 7500. Its last gold mine - the Empire Mine, today a State Historic Park site - only closed in 1956. Out of about $440 million in gold mined from Nevada County overall from 1849 on, $350 million came from Grass Valley. Nevada City, a short distance north on the modern freeway, has a similarly historic core but is smaller, its modern resident population being about 2500.

Object Details

ID: PAI4667
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fanshawe, Edward Gennys
Places: California
Date made: 18 Sep 1851
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 126 x 357 mm
Parts: Album of watercolours of Madeira, Brazil, the Falkland and Pacific Islands, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Vancouver, and California (Album)

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