|Interview With Justine Gates - May 28, 1908
Justine Gates was born in New York, came to California when a boy of 16, by way
of the Isthmus of Panama, on the steamer Winfield Scott. The following is a
sketch of early days as told by him.
“ My brother and I were established at 72 K street, Sacramento in the drug
business in “55. We opened a branch store a year later at Yankee Jim’s, and
later a store at Michigan Bluff and Forest Hill. Our goods came by way of Cape
Horn to San Francisco, and was transferred up the river by boats to Sacramento,
and on to Yankee Jim by Prairie Schooners. A great deal of freight was carried
by the “ Flying Dutchman”, this was a means of carrying goods night and day, by
changing horses, and was fast freight.
I recollect well the fine saddle horse Durock, a Kentucky thoroughbred,
which we bought for
$500 from a man at
Grass Valley. Many a
trip I took on him
through a country
which was mostly
forest, with very few
houses. My: but this
timber was big….
It was a days trip
from Sacramento to
Auburn where I could
make the first stop.
Put up at the Temple,
The next morning I mounted
Durock and started for Yankee
Jim’s, first stopping place was
Butcher Ranch; the roads were
in terrible condi-tion, there
was no one to keep them in
Butcher Ranch was just a
stopping place, there was an-
other eating house just above
there, where they gave you a
good meal too, this was called
the United States House, from
there went through Spring
Garden here some Placer
mining was going on.
Yankee Jim was quite a thriving town, lots of gambling going on. Between here
and Forest Hill was a mill which made lumber for the county, they did not ship
any out on account of the bad roads.
We always carried plenty of cash in our pockets, gold dust was seldom used to
pay with, although I have seen them on the river steamers take a pinch of gold
dust in pay for a drink. We always avoided the professional gamblers; all the
miners were great poker players.
I recollect a preacher at Yankee Jim who would run foot races, he could beat
everybody jumping too, he was a Methodist by name of John Rix. We never ran
with him for we were on to him. He also had a fine saddle horse, good for short
spurts. I remember borrowing him one time and running half a mile.
There was placer mining at
Yankee Jim. At the store I
looked over the accounts, put
in new goods and suggested
improvements. Barstow was
the Wells Fargo Agent there at
From Yankee Jim went on to
McClures ranch and stop-ped
there it was the largest fruit
ranch in the county. From
there went on to Forest Hill,
not much of any thing there.
Went on through Bird’s Valley
were there was the
finest water I ever drank in my life.
Next we came into Michigan Bluff, here were the big placer mines. I have seen
them carry the gold dust out by the buckets full, so heavy that it took two men
to carry it, these were packed by expert packers. It was a days trip from
Michigan Bluff to Horse Shoe Bar.
I recollect Leland Stanford very well and his election for Justice of Peace of
Michigan Bluff. He and Nick Smith, who died in San Francisco recently, were
then partners in a store at Yankee Jim.
In these days the men just hit upon a fellow and there was not much of a fight.
They used to meet in a stable to make nominations: the chairman called the
meeting to order, there were no seats and the men just stood around. Stanford
had the only silk hat in town, he had brought it from Albany, New York. He had
it on the day of his election, you should have seen the hat when the boys got
through with it.
Two brothers by name of Sam and Bill Corey
bought the gold dust at 16, 17, and 17 ½
dollar; the boys made lots of money but were
robbed of most of it by Three fingered Jack a
The sluices ran a half-mile down the ravine,
we used to pack our goods down from
|"Never slap a man
who's chewing tobacco."
the river by mules, we could carry on one mule 150 to 200 pounds, ½ on one
side and half on other. These were packed by expert packers, it was a days trip
from Michigan Bluff to Horse Shoe Bar, were the mining was done by rockers.
The miners cabins were never locked, every one was welcome to go in and help
himself: for sleeping had bunks in wall and candles set in potatoes for
lightening. The miners dressed in there red shirts pipes in their mouths and
overals stuck in their boots, carried bowie knives in case they came across
grizzly bear. There food was mostly beans, bacon and flap jacks,
oysters were considered a
luxury, but there was
plenty of coffee.
I was mining in region of
Hidden Treasure, then
called Washington or
Eldorado, where the
tunnel was run in 1500
feet. I abandoned this
just before the great
strike, to go where the
latest excitement was at
In traveling we seldom met any one, once in a while a freight wagon or men with
pack mules. GeorgeTerry owned mules and pack train. There were any amount
of men on foot with pick and shovel, blankets and frying pan going in all
directions. They went usually as partners, they would strike a camp frequently
and prospect and if they didn’t find a color at once would get up and go on.
I was at Forrest Hill going on my way to
Michigan Bluff with goods early in ’60. I
went over to Express Office and left my val-
uables and while going out saw three or four
men around whom I did not recognize, one
of them said Hello Jim when did you come to
town? I told him but did not find out who
|"Never kick a cow chip on |
a hot day."
Later on George Webster told me
they were the detectives Dan Gay
and Billy Warnock, who were
hunting for the men who robbed
the Corey brothers.
They were disquised as miners
with there red shirts and overals
stuck in boots. A few day
afterwards they captured the
Gathered and preserved by
Dr. J.C. Hawser… Auburn
What is the future of our history?
opposite George Wilments store. This was a meeting place of everybody and the
best citizens liked a good game of poker. ( There was a church somewhere if any
body could find it.)
I recollect getting into the biggest game of poker, five of us, Abe Edgerton a
lumber man, Bally Hamilton the stage man and I don’t recollect the others. The
ante was $5 , $10 to come in. Three fellows drew out but Bally and I staid by it, I
held four aces, which I never held before or since, and Bally had 4 kings so we
kept bidding, raising $25 a time until the pot was worth $500. At last I called his
hand down. By Golly: but the champagne flew, and of course Bally paid for it.