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Mining in Sandy Gulch

 In 1849, William and Dan Carsner found large nuggets of gold embedded in the coarse sands of an intermittent creek and the place became known as Sandy Gulch (State Historic Landmark 1941).  The miners soon arrived and established placer mines along Sandy Gulch Creek and its tributaries. 

It is likely that the gold was depleted from Sandy Gulch Creek and its tributaries in the 1850s.  There is only one record of hydraulic mining near the Woodhouse Mine where large cuts can still be seen in the earth (J. Smith n.d.; McGreevy 2005d) and there are only two records of hard rock mines.  The Woodhouse Mine, a rich lode on the western edge of Woodhouse Mine Road, was operational by 1852 (K. Smith 1996; Doble 1962; Clark 1970).  This mine has been worked intermittently until WWII.  The second hard rock mine was a tunnel with tracks located on the north side of the Mokelumne Hill - West Point Road about a mile west of the State Historical Landmark.  Despite a search for this mine during the current study, it has not been located.  It is doubtful that this mine was productive as Lambert Littlefield, its owner, became an insolvent debtor in 1858 and the Sheriff auctioned his assets (Mulford 1858). 

While mining in Sandy Gulch petered out in the 1850s, four ore mills and a lumber mill were built to support the regional mining industry and this support continued for 30 years. 

  1. The Woodhouse Quartz Mill was one of the earliest ore mills in Calaveras County and it was operating in 1852 on the Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River.  It consisted of two mills, each with 10 stamps powered by a 30’ overshot wheel.  Ore for these mills was extracted at the top of the hill, presumably the Woodhouse Mine, where it was hammered into small bits and sent to the mills in a plank chute (Doble 1962; K. Smith 1996). 
  2. The Littlefield Quartz Mill was located North of WoodhouseMine Road just east of Sandy Gulch Creek.  It had 10 stamps and was powered by a 30 foot diameter overshot wheel driven by water (Mulford 1858; Calaveras County Deed Book E, p. 283, 1860). 
  3. A.M. “Allen” Harris was operating a saw mill in upper Sandy Gulch as early as 1855 and shipped lumber as far away as West Point and Mokelumne Hill Calaveras County Mechanical Liens 1855).  This mill was converted to a quartz mill with 10 stamps around 1863 and it operated until 1884 when it was moved to Rail Road Flat (Annual Mining Review and Stock Ledger 1876; J.A. Smith n.d.; K Smith 2005a and 2005b).  Finally, a 15 stamp mill was built by Charles Underwood in 1875 at the Woodhouse Mine (K. Smith 1996).

By Patrick B. McGreevy

Article Source:  Costello, Julia G., and Patrick B McGreevy, 2015.   Cultural Resources Survey and Evaluation for the Woody Biomass-Fired Combined Heat and Power Project, Wilseyville, CA.. Prepared by Foothill Resources, Ltd., Mokelumne Hill, CA; prepared for Calaveras Healthy Impacts Products Solutions Group, West Point, CA.


Annual Mining Review. Annual Mining Review and Stock Ledger.  1876 Quartz Mills, California, July 1876.

Clark, William B., 1970. Gold Districts of California. California Division of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 193.

Doble, John, 1962. John Doble’s Journal and Letters from the Mines, Volcano, Mokelumne Hill, Jackson and San Francisco, 1851-1865. The Old West Publishing Company, Denver. Edited by Charles L. Camp. Reprinted (1999) Volcano Press, Inc., Volcano, California.

McGreevy, Patrick B., 2005d. Interview with WilliamDoughtery. On file at the Calaveras County Historical Society, San Andreas, California.

Mulford, D.L., 1858. Assignee’s Sale, Estate of Lambert Littlefield. San Andreas Independent, November 27, 1858.

Smith, J. A., n.d. The Old Sandy Gulch Ditch. On file in K. Smith’s “West Point History Project” at the Calaveras County Archives, San Andreas, California.

Smith, K (ed), 1996.  West Point Historical Project. On file at the Calaveras County Historical Society.
2005a Peter Legros. West Point Calaveras County, California, Historical Project. On file at the Calaveras County Historical Society.
2005b The Charles Bailey Family. West Point Calaveras County, California, Historical Project. On file at the Calaveras County Historical Society.