Was There Gold In Them Thar Quills?

   Every discipline has its myths and legends. No matter what their basis, through repetition, they often develop a life of their own, and become a part of "history." They are hard to de-mythicize.

   Such is the story of California condor quills being used to store miners' gold dust during the 19th century. Alexander Taylor, that fount of condor misinformation (see "The condor legacy of Alexander Taylor," link above), seems to have been the first to put the idea in print. In 1855, he wrote that "the plain diggers of Northern Mexico use the quills for putting their gold-dust in" [1]. In the years following, there were other references in print, most of them directly attributable back to Taylor, although there were a couple of "new" ones.

   Harry Harris, the great condor historian, did extensive library research in the 1930s, and concluded that it was a rare miner who had a condor quill with gold in it. Using a drawing by John L. Ridgway of what such a gold holder might have looked like (there was no actual quill to copy), he opined that "there may have been a lone forty-niner who once attracted some local attention by storing his stock of gold dust in a necklace of condor quills" [Condor 43(1):31].


Nothing of note on the subject materialized in the years following Harris' conclusion. Carl Koford's investigations in the 1930s and 1940s yielded nothing new, and in his 1953 monograph on the species, he gave "killing for quills" (both for gold storage and to use the feathers as bee brushes!) two short paragraphs in his section on "minor mortality and welfare factors." My continuing library and museum research from 1970 to the present also failed to uncover pertinent information on the subject.   

Therefore, it was a surprise to read in a book published by Noel and Helen Snyder in 2000 that "many condors may have been shot for their quills in the 19th and early 20th centuries;" in fact, said the authors, shooting for quills "may have been much more important than museum collecting in the past woes of the species"  [2]. They offered no support for these statements - clearly, there is none to offer - but the recycled myth was apparently too good to be ignored. A check of the Internet for condor information published since 2000 suggests that the Snyders helped spawn a whole new generation of gold-filled-quill devotees.

With no condors to kill for quills, and no forty-niners to do the killing, this bit of Condor-iana has no relevance to the current condor restoration programs. Still, if you like history and - like me - like to find out stuff, you might be interested in my review of the "quills of gold" myth. 

[The following was originally published as a chapter in: "Nine Feet from Tip to Tip: the California Condor through History." (Gresham, Oregon: Symbios Books, 2012). If you would like a free copy (PDF) of the entire book, send me an e-mail.]

*   *   * 

QUILLS OF GOLD

 Tales of gold carried in the quills of birds date far back in time. Describing early explorations of Africa, it was written [4]: "The country of Kordofan, to the south-east of the Great Desert, affords a considerable quantity of gold. The precious metal found in that country is brought to market by the negroes, in quills of ostrich and vulture." When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in the early 16th century, he reportedly found the Aztecs carrying gold dust "in tubes, or quills of aquatic birds, made transparent, so that the size of the golden grains could be seen" [5]. Such containers served not only for storage and transport, but were believed to be part of a regulated currency system. "Some natural unit (and by natural I mean some product of nature of which all specimens are of uniform dimension) is taken, such as the quill used by the Aztecs. The average-sized quill of any particular kind of bird presents a natural receptacle of very uniform capacity. These quills of gold dust were estimated at so many bags containing a certain number of grains. The step is not a long one to the day when some one will balance in a simple fashion a quill of gold dust against seed of cacao, and find how many seeds are equal in weight to the metal" [6].

   By what path did the story of condor quills full of gold enter California, and where did Alexander Taylor hear it? As noted in a previous chapter, Taylor was a grand gatherer of facts, stories, and miscellaneous bits of information. He wove these morsels into presentations, the substance of which was often far different than stated in the original items. But if he lost or exaggerated the real story, he must have heard something that caused him to mention it, in the first place.

   Apparently, California Indians had no interest in gold as money prior to the arrival of European populations; a tradition of using quills for storage would not have originated with them. Rumors of gold in California circulated widely in the years before it was "officially" discovered in 1842, and it is from the 1820s or 1830s that I found the first mention of quill use:

   "General M. G. Vallejo, who came to California about the year 1810, and whose remarkable and unimpaired memory is still a ready reference on all questions of local or general interest connected with the earlier annals of California, says that in the year 1824, while on a military expedition to the region of the Tejon, Tehachipe [sic], Kings, and Kern rivers, now Kern and San Bernardino counties, he found a Russian living there at a point between the two last-named rivers, who was then and had been for some time mining for gold. He was supplied with all then known appliances for separating the precious metal. About the same time and for some years later General Vallejo used to remit gold dust to the authorities at the city of Mexico in sealed quills of the vulture" [7].

   Walter A. Skidmore, a government mining official, reported this as if he had heard it direct from General Vallejo, probably close to the time of Skidmore's publication of the information in 1885. I have found no similar references, and most historians deny the possibility that gold was being shipped from the area before the 1840s. Still, it is interesting in light of later reports, because "vulture" quills are specifically mentioned. Although the term "condor" was used in California in the late 1850s, it did not gain wide acceptance until near the end of the 19th century. "Vultures" were usually California condors; "buzzard" and the Spanish buitre or aura were names commonly used for the turkey vulture. If the gold shipments occurred, and if Vallejo's memory was correct about the time period and the species involved, then condor quills were probably the gold containers used.    

   Because Hubert Howe Bancroft and other early California historians did not write about Vallejo's gold, it was probably not the source of Alexander Taylor's 1855 mention of gold in condor quills. Also, Taylor described his condor quill users as "plain diggers of Northern Mexico" - and perhaps more descriptively in later publications as "placer diggers of Northern Mexico" [8]. Gold found in California before the 1840s would have been mined by locals, not immigrants.

   John Bidwell saw, or heard of, condor or turkey vulture quills being used to carry gold dust in southern California in the 1840s, and his comments are among those most frequently cited in stories about California condors. Bidwell did not publish his information until 1900, but he was well known in early California, and traveled extensively through the state. There is a good chance he met Taylor; even if he didn't, tales undoubtedly passed freely among the sparse pre-Gold Rush population of California. Bidwell might have been the source of Taylor's assertion, if a word-of-mouth story in the 1850s was similar to what Bidwell published 50 years later [9]:

   "It is not generally known that in 1841 - the year I reached California - gold was discovered in what is now a part of Los Angeles County. The yield was not rich; indeed, it was so small that it made no stir. The discoverer was an old Canadian Frenchman by the name of Baptiste Ruelle, who had been a trapper with the Hudson's Bay Company, and, as was not an infrequent case with trappers, had drifted down to New Mexico, where he had worked in placer mines. The mines discovered by Ruelle in California attracted a few New Mexicans, by whom they were worked for several years. But as they proved too poor, Ruelle himself came up into the Sacramento Valley, and engaged to work for [John] Sutter when I was in Sutter's service."

  "New Mexican miners invariably carried their gold (which was generally small, and small in quantity as well) in a large quill - that of a vulture or turkey buzzard. Sometimes these quills would hold three or four ounces, and, being translucent, they were graduated so as to see at any time the quantity in them. The gold was kept in by a stopper. Ruelle had such a quill, which appeared to have been carried for years."

*   *   *

*   *   *

    When in the 1970s I evaluated the various causes of condor mortality, Bidwell's account was the only apparently first-hand California reference I could find to quills being used to store gold [10]. In the years since 1978, even with the advent of internet search engines and many on-line historical newspapers and books, I've been able to find only a few more instances.

   From the American River near Sacramento, 1847 [11]: "The Indians of whom there were many, came to our store wishing to buy serapes... They had much fine gold which they carried in vulture or goose quills."

   In  a New York City magazine article, January 1849, summarizing everything then known about the "Gold Rush" [12]: "The writer calculates the amount of grain gold received per month at over two millions of dollars. People carried the gold dust around in goose quills, for change." 

   From Calaveras County, 1856 [13]: Ben Thorn arrested a Yaqui miner who refused to pay the "foreign miners' tax" on  his gold. "Thorn then turned over a confiscated goose quill full of gold dust, which Johnston weighed and found to be worth $5.75."

   From Monterey, ca 1850 (but maybe not an actual record) [14]: "David Jacks's first job in Monterey was as clerk in the store kept by Joseph Boston.... By day David Jacks dealt with miners who brought their gold dust in condor quills. By night he pulled his bedding out from under the counter and slept in the shop."

   From southwestern Kern County, late 1800s [15]: "J. D. Reyes, resident of Cuyama Valley since 1887, told me [Carl Koford] that the quills of condors and other large birds were formerly used for carrying gold dust and that they were sold for a dollar each."

*   *   *

   The best known and most widely quoted reference to California condor quills being used to carry gold dust was that of A. W. Anthony, who reported on his travels in northern Baja California, Mexico, in May 1893 [16]: "Every Indian and Mexican gold miner is provided with from one to six of the primary quills of this species for carrying gold dust, the open end being corked with a plug of soft wood and the primitive purse hung from the neck by a buckskin string. All the dead birds that I saw in Lower California had been killed for their quills alone."

   For 42 years after Anthony's observations, I find no mention of quills and gold. Then, in 1935, C. D. Scott visited Baja California's Sierra San Pedro Martír looking for condors. He talked to various local residents, including "one Antonio, a cattleman of the mountain who shot a Condor in 1933 and another in 1932. He said the birds spread disease among the cattle, but he sold all the quills to prospectors" [17]. With that reference, and the later reported interview with J. D. Reyes [18], the gold dust saga ends.

   Summarizing, in nearly 100 years of records (1841-1935), I found a maximum of eight (and probably only seven) specific instances of quills of any species of bird being used to carry gold dust within the range of the California condor. Two records did not mention condors at all, and three named condors as only one of the species whose feathers were used for gold storage. Only one of the records was from the main California "Gold Rush", when miners were most numerous and when the mining activity lasted for the longest time. Only two of the records might have involved "Yankee" miners, either non-Mexican residents of California or Europeans from "The States" (eastern North America) who came west as "Forty-niners." If not for the Bidwell and Anthony references, it would be easy to conclude that condor killing for quills was a very rare occurrence. We need to look at those instances in more detail.

*   *   *

   The gold mining in Los Angeles County's Placerita Canyon usually gets the kind of fairy tale treatment that a "gold rush" should have. "Either late in 1841 or early in 1842, Francisco Lopez, majordomo of the San Fernando Rancho, and a companion were in search of some stray cattle in the mountains near the ranch. Becoming tired they dismounted to rest in San Feliciano Canyon [sic: Placerita Canyon, then called Cańon de los Encinos]. Here Lopez whipped out his knife to dig some wild onions to eat and in the earth clinging to them he found particles of what appeared to him to be gold. Using his knife he continued to mine in the vicinity and found additional alluvial gold deposits. Following this gold find came the first rush in California history" [19]. Actually, the discovery was probably less serendipitous than portrayed, because Lopez reportedly had some direction from Mexican mineralogist Don Andres Castillero in knowing what to look for in gold-bearing soil [20]. In any event, the find did attract immediate attention, first from local residents but "within the year men of greater mining experience were imported from Sonora" [21]. These Sonorans (almost certainly Taylor's "Northern Mexico placer miners") and people like Baptiste Ruelle (Bidwell's "New Mexican miners") were skilled in placer mining (separating gold dust and nuggets from loose soil, in contrast to hard rock mining of veins of ore) [22]. Initially, they were the only people in California who knew much about mining, "and the value of their example and instruction made them welcome additions in and around the mines" [23]. Presumably, these miners fresh from Mexico and the Southwest brought with them the tradition of storing gold dust in the quills of birds [24].

   According to Bidwell, the Placerita mines "attracted a few New Mexicans, by whom they were worked for several years" [25], but "were so poor as to create no excitement whatever" [26]. This is an overly negative view of the situation, when in fact the mines operated profitably for several years [27]. However, the number of miners declined steadily after the first two rainy seasons, when "some hundreds of people were profitably engaged in mining" [28], to only 30 men when Bidwell visited the area in 1845 [29].

   All accounts of the Placerita mines (Placerita itself, and a few smaller finds in nearby Los Angeles and Ventura counties) agree that miner numbers were few, the duration of activity was short, and the harvest of gold for the average miner was small; as Bidwell said, their gold was "generally small, and small in quantity as well." Although the New Mexican miners may have "invariably" carried their gold dust in quills (in lieu of some other type of container), they probably didn't need many quills. Bidwell's quintessential miner, Baptiste Ruelle, apparently had only one quill, that "appeared to have been carried for years" [30]. Considering this information, plus his comment that the quills were not always from condors - "a large quill - that of a vulture or turkey buzzard" - the probable impact on the California condor populations seems minor.

   But there is more to question: Bidwell's account leaves the impression that he was at Placerita while Baptiste Ruelle was there, and that he saw some of the condor or vulture quills, himself. This appears not to be true. In fact, his first meeting with Ruelle likely occurred in 1843 at Sutter's Fort, after Ruelle's time in southern California. Bidwell did not visit Placerita until 1845 when, by his account, only 30 miners were still at work. It seems possible that the one quill Ruelle had, "which appeared to have been carried for years," may have been the only one seen by Bidwell.

   The quill itself is an enigma: was it a condor quill? Bidwell's 1900 publication did not say, nor did an earlier account of the first meeting with Ruelle, who was carrying "an old quill, which looked as if it had been brought from New Mexico." In the quill "were a few particles of gold, which he said he found on the American river" [31]. Was the quill in  fact old, or did it just look old? Ruelle is believed to have arrived in California from New Mexico shortly before the Los Angeles County gold find; if the feather was old, he probably did not obtain it in California. If he brought it from New Mexico, it was not a condor feather.

   Ruelle himself may not have been the most reliable of information sources. Bidwell credited him with discovering the Placerita mines. Clearly, he didn't, and I've found no one but Bidwell who even mentioned Ruelle's name in connection with Placerita or the other nearby finds. Were his stories of condor quills of gold mere inventions? His appearance at Sutter's Fort with gold that he said he obtained locally (on the American River, several years before its "discovery" in the region) made Bidwell doubt his veracity in some matters, at least:

   "This excited the suspicions of Bidwell, who was present, and these suspicions were increased when the man asked for two pack-horses laden with provisions, and an Indian boy to attend him. He wished to go in search of gold, he said, and he would be absent for several days. There was a company of Canadian trappers in the vicinity about to start for Oregon. It was not known that Ruelle belonged to them, but it was feared that with so valuable an outfit he might forget to return. Hence his request was denied" [32].

   I'm not prepared to entirely discard the Bidwell story of condor quills of gold, but I am ready to relegate it to the "probably not significant" files as a cause of condor mortality in California. There is one further justification for this decision: if Sonoran miners were the principal employers of quills (of all species) for their gold dust, whatever impact they had on the condor population would have been short-lived. The welcome given the Mexicans in 1848, because of their knowledge of mining techniques, soon turned to prejudice  as the Mexicans were generally more successful miners than the Americans, and their claims were in areas that the Yankee miners coveted. By mid-1849, inter-racial violence was growing. Fear that too much of the gold was going to non-Yankees led to the passage in early April 1850 of taxes ($20 per month) on foreign miners. The growing antagonism and the heavy tax prompted an immediate exodus. "By September 1850, from one-half to three-fourths of the Mexicans had left the area... The number of Mexicans in the southern mines had been estimated at about 15,000, of whom about 10,000 were in the Sonora [California] region alone..." [33]. Presumably, most of the need for quills went with them.  

   That leaves Anthony's Baja California records to evaluate.

*   *   *

   Anthony's information seems straightforward: he did find dead condors which he believed had been stripped of their larger quills ["the dead birds... had been killed for their quills alone"], and apparently he personally saw miners sporting strings of condor quills [each "provided with from one to six of the primary quills of this species]. But, looking a little closer at his records of trips into Baja California in 1887-1888 ("two or three short trips"), 1893 (two months) and 1894 (three months), he reported seeing only three dead condors [34]. Further, ignoring the typical 19th century hyperbole of declaring that "every" miner had quills (something he couldn't know, and almost certainly an exaggeration), how many miners did that include? The record suggests the total was pretty small.

   Near the end of the 18th century, the human population of the entire Baja California peninsula - approximately 150,000 square kilometers -  was estimated at 8000 persons. By 1847, numbers had shrunk even further to 7,500 inhabitants. The native Indians of Baja California were near extinction, most of the inhabitants were immigrants from mainland Mexico, and most of the people lived in the towns at the extreme southern end of the peninsula. The major part of Baja California could be termed uninhabited [35].

   Some gold mining occurred on the Baja peninsula in the early part of the 18th century, but "mining activities had not in general developed to the same degree as they had in Sonora and other regions of Mexico. By the early decades of the nineteenth century, many gold and silver mines had been abandoned... Although the mining of precious metals in Baja California increased somewhat during the 1840s, the Mexican War interrupted such activities" [36].  Placer gold was discovered at a number of locations in northern Baja California in the 1850s, prompting a number of short duration "rushes." These small excitements occurred in the central desert area south of El Rosario and San Fernando, near the Mexican border just south of San Ysidro, and in the Guadalupe Valley just northeast of Ensenada. Apparently, mining in all of those areas had ceased by 1860 [37].

   I found no references to any significant gold mining in Baja California during the 1860s, but in the early 1870s a number of discoveries were made in extreme northern areas, between the Pacific coast and the western slopes of the Sierra Juarez. Gold mining activity also increased in the central desert areas near the boundary of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. By 1874, the placers on the west slopes of the Sierra San Pedro Martír at Socorro and Valladares were being worked [38]. During this period, the Sierra Juarez foothills saw the establishment of "several boom towns of 500 to 1,650 people each" [39], but in most areas the "rushes" were false alarms, or the readily available gold gave out in a few months. Only the mines of Real del Castillo southeast of Ensenada, the El Socorro-Valladares area, and the mid-peninsular desert placers lasted into the next decade.

   In succeeding years, there were occasional excitements, but all were short-lived. For example, gold was discovered in the Santa Clara mountains some 60 miles southeast of Ensenada in December 1888. When word finally reached San Diego in February 1889, a major rush of Californians occurred. Between 4,000 and 5,000 miners were estimated to have been involved in the "boom," which lasted less than a month and yielded a grand total of perhaps $20,000 in gold! [40].

   Lack of new discoveries, political upheaval, and the difficulty and expense of developing commercial enterprises in the remote areas of the peninsula brought active mining to a temporary end in most of Baja California. It would not revive for several decades.

*   *   *

  Comparing this brief review of Baja California gold mining with Anthony's comments provokes some interesting observations. First, only one of Anthony's three dead condors was found within 50 airline miles of a gold mining area, active or inactive at the time. Also, the two condors not found near a mine site were in the desert at the extreme southern end of known or suspected condor range, and not in the direction of travel most miners would have used coming to or going from the placers. Apparently, none of the carcasses were recent fatalities, and no live condors were seen near any of them. One wonders why Anthony was so certain they were victims of gold miners.

   We also need to question Anthony's statement that "every" miner had condor quills. Only in 1893 did he visit an active gold mining site, the Socorro-Valladeres area on  the west slope of the Sierra San Pedro Martír. I haven't found any record of how many miners were there in 1893, but gold had been discovered there in 1874 so any "gold rush" was long over. Five or six years later, about 1898, owner-operator Harry Johnson was employing only ten men at the site [41]. If "every miner" that Anthony saw had "one to six" quills, they might have all come from one to two condors.

   The Johnson Ranch at Sorocco was burned by rebels in 1911, ending for some time both gold mining and any threat to condors from that element. Some placers were being reworked on a small scale between 1920 and 1940 [42], providing at least a small market for the quills that C. D. Scott's informant said he sold in 1932 or 1933 [43]. Although the condors were reportedly killed because they were believed to spread disease to cattle, not specifically for their feathers, these losses might be considered in the "killing for quills" category. Even so, there probably was not much demand at that time.

*   *   *

   It's curious that no other travelers on the Baja California peninsula in the 19th or early 20th centuries reported seeing quills (of condors or any other birds) used to store gold dust. A number of ornithologists visited the area before 1910 [44], and there was a steady procession of naturalists, explorers, and adventurers who left reports and memoirs of their travels. Some of these people visited more active mining camps than did Anthony. The sight of a string of condor quills would seem like something that would have been remembered and remarked upon. While I'm still inclined to give more credence to Anthony's Baja California records of condor quills full of gold dust than I am the California stories, the truth seems to be that mining activities had very little impact on California condors in any region. 

Chapter Notes

1. Taylor, A. S. 1855. Notes on the great vulture of California. Zoologist 13:4632-4635.

 

2. Pages 45-47 in: Snyder, N., and H.  Snyder. 2000. The California condor: a saga of natural history and conservation. London and San Diego: Academic Press.

 

3. Page 1734 in: Dawson, W. L. 1923. The birds of California. San Diego, California: South Moulton Company.

 

4. Page 361 in: Jameson, R., J. Wilson, and H. Murray. 1830. A narrative of discovery and adventure in Africa from the earliest ages to the present time. Edinburgh, Scotland: Oliver & Boyd.

 

5. Page 700 in: Ober, F. A. 1883. Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans. Houston, Texas: Estes and Lauriat.

 

6. Page 93 in: Ridgway, W. 1889. How were the primitive weight standards fixed? Journal of Hellenic Studies 10:92-97.

 

7. Page 547 in: Skidmore, W. A. 1885. Gold and silver mining in California, past, present, and prospective. Pages 525-557 in: Report of the Director of the Mint upon the production of the precious metals in the United States during the calendar year 1884. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office.

 

8. Taylor, A. S. 1859. The great condor of California - Part I. Hutching's California Magazine 3(12):540-543.

 

9. Pages 95-96 in: Bidwell, J. 1900. Echoes of the past. Chico, California: Chico Advertiser.

 

10. Page 19 in: Wilbur, S. R. 1978. The California condor, 1966-76: a look at its past and future. North American Fauna Number 72. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

11. Pages 131-132 in: Harlan, J. W. 1888. California '46 to '88. San Francisco, California: The Bancroft Company.

 

12. Page 62 in: Anonymous (Freeman Hunt?). 1849. The gold region of California. The Merchants' Magazine 20(1):55-64.

 

13. Page 117 in: Limbaugh, R. H., and W. P. Fuller. 2004. Calaveras gold: the impact of mining on a Mother Lode county. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press.

 

14. Pages 6-7 in: Bestor, A. E. 1945. David Jacks of Monterey and Lee L. Jacks, his daughter.  Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. In a footnote, the author explained that "the fact of Jacks' employment at Boston's store rests upon family tradition... No document definitely records Jacks' employment in Boston's store, however." That raises the question of whether there is any document from the store that mentions condor quills, or if this was a mere poetic gloss to make the story more interesting. Joseph Boston did have a safe in his store in which he reportedly allowed customers to keep their gold.

 

15. Page 134 in: Koford, C. B. 1953. The California condor. Research Report Number 4. New York, New York: National Audubon Society.

 

16. Page 233 in: Anthony, A. W. 1893. Birds of San Pedro Martír, Lower California. Zoe 4(3):228-247.

 

17. Scott, C. D. 1936. Are condors extinct in Lower California? Condor 38(1):41-42.

 

18. Koford 1953 op. cit.

 

19. Cutter, D. C. 1948. The discovery of gold in California. Pages 13-17 in: Jenkins, O. P. Geologic guidebook along Highway 49--Sierra Gold Belt, the Mother Lode Country. California Division of Mines Bulletin 141. Sacramento, California.

 

20. Pages 47-50 in: Bancroft, H. H. 1888. California inter pocula. San Francisco, California: The History Company.

 

21. Cutter op. cit.

 

22. Placer gold was reportedly discovered in Sonora, Mexico, in 1799, and a number of placer areas were worked there until the late 1840s. Gold extraction continued after that date, but almost no placer mining, which perhaps gave incentive for the Sonorans to move north into California. [Pages 50-95 in: Hamilton, L. 1881. Border states of Mexico: Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango. San Francisco, California: Leonidas Hamilton.]

   Placer gold was discovered in what is now New Mexico in 1828, and was profitably mined until about 1835. At that time, the Mexican government prohibited mining by non-natives, which would have encouraged people like French-Canadian Baptiste Ruelle to move on to more hospitable areas. [Pages 21-22 in: Jones, F. A. 1904. New Mexico mines and minerals. Santa Fe, New Mexico: The New Mexico Printing Company.]

 

23. Morefield, R. H. 1956. Mexicans in the California mines, 1848-53. California Historical Society Quarterly 35(1):37-46.

 

24. I haven't been able to find any records of miners using quills for gold dust storage while actually in Sonora or New Mexico. California Indians apparently had no interest in gold mining prior to the arrival of Europeans, and Yankee miners are seldom mentioned as having used quills. With both Bidwell and Taylor descriptively tying quill possession to Sonorans and New Mexicans, it seems logical to assume that these miners brought the practice to California with them.

   There are two Colorado records of "Yankees" using goose quills for gold storage, but they occurred well after the California "Gold Rush."  The first: "(L)ooking over a daily journal for 1859, I find recorded on the 5th day of January of that year then advent to Omaha from the Rocky mountains, of Al. Steinberger and Colonel Wynkoop, bringing the first gold from Cherry creek placers, where Denver now stands. The precious metal was in goose quills. The feather end had been cut off below the pith, right where the hollow trunk begins, and into this delicate, translucent receptacle the scale gold had been poured. There were not to exceed six quills full altogether, but there were enough to energize, organize, and enthuse a cavalcade of fortune hunters the succeeding spring which reached from the Missouri river to Pike's Peak." [Morton, J. S. 1887. The discovery of gold in Colorado. Pages 315-316 in: Transactions and reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Volume II. Lincoln, Nebraska: State Journal Company.]

   There is a footnote rebuttal to the above note, a claim from A. G. Barnes (Lincoln, Nebraska) that he was the first to bring gold to Nebraska from Colorado: "On the 25th day of December, 1858, I landed at Plattsmouth, and in a quill from a mountain eagle I carried about fifty cents worth of gold dust which I had found and panned myself at what was called the Mexican diggings, three miles above the mouth of Cherry creek on the banks of the Platte river."

 

25. Bidwell 1900 op. cit.

 

26. Page 55 in: Bidwell, J. 1904. Autobiography and reminiscences of John Bidwell. Autobiographies and reminiscences of California pioneers, Volume 7. San Francisco, California: Society of California Pioneers.

 

27. Cutter op. cit.

 

28. Pages 414-415 in: Del Mar, A. 1902. A history of the precious metals from the earliest times to the present. New York, New York: Cambridge Encyclopedia Company.

 

29. Bancroft 1888 op. cit.

 

30. Bidwell 1900 op. cit.

 

31. Bancroft 1888 op. cit., page 52.

 

32. Bancroft 1888 op. cit., page 52.

 

33. Morefield 1956 op. cit.

 

34. Anthony 1893 op. cit., page 233: "The first evidence I found of the occurrence of the condor in Lower California was the finding of a dead bird in Guadaloupe Valley, forty miles south of Ensenada and near the coast; later another carcass was found in the dry barren hills east of El Rosario..."

   Also, page 137 in: Anthony, A. W. 1895. Birds of San Fernando, Lower California. Auk 12(2):134-143. "In 1887 I found the bones of a recently killed California Vulture...at a water hole about twenty miles north of San Fernando... after questioning a number of the natives, I concluded that its occurrence must have been very unusual..."

 

35. Leon-Portillo, M. 1973. Paradoxes in the history of Baja California. Journal of San Diego History 19(3):9-17.

 

36. Pages 463-464 in: Taylor, L. D. 2001. The mining boom in Baja California from 1850 to 1890 and the emergence of Tijuana as a border community. Journal of the Southwest 43(4):463-492.

 

37. Taylor 2001 op. cit., pages 467-469.

 

38. Taylor 2001 op. cit., page 475.

 

39. Page 109 in: Minnich, R. A., and E. F. Vizcaino. 1998. Land of chamise and pines: historical accounts and current status of northern Baja California's vegetation. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

 

40. Flanigan, S. K. 1980. The Baja California gold rush of 1889. Journal of San Diego History 26(1).

   A 48-page "guide" to the Santa Clara gold rush was published, with details of travel routes, Mexican mining laws, Baja California climate, etc. It sold for 25 cents. The "rush" was probably over before it had very wide distribution: Stephens, B. A. 1889. The gold fields of Lower California, being a complete guide book with official maps, revenue and mining laws, etc., etc. Los Angeles, California: Southern California Publishing Company.

 

41. Page 74 in: Southworth, J. R.1899. El Territorio de la Baja California, su agricultura, comercio, minería é industrias (en Inglés y Espańol). San Francisco, California.

 

42. Pages 641-642 in: Minnich, R. A. et al. 1997. A land above: protecting Baja California's Sierra San Pedro Martír within a biosphere reserve. Journal of the Southwest 39(3-4):613-695.

 

43. Scott 1936 op. cit.

 

44. Wilbur, S. R., and L. F. Kiff. 1980. The California condor in Baja California, Mexico. American Birds 34(6):856-859.


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