In History: Good as Gold, Weberville
Gold Rush towns sprang up overnight in areas where the diggings were plentiful; they disappeared just as quickly— their whereabouts and existence often lost. One such town was Weberville in El Dorado County.
Founded in 1848 by Captain Charles M. Weber, the town was located between present-day Placerville and Diamond Springs—east of Highway 49 along Weber Creek in a place where the landscape opened up and formed a large flat area. The creek created a deep ravine west of Placerville that cut through the Melones fault of the Mother Lode, and the abundance of gold was the result of rich placers of an ancient riverbed combined with the gold found in the seams of said fault.
Weber, a German immigrant, came to California in 1841 as part of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, the first group of emigrants to travel the overland trail to California. In 1848, Weber formed a mining company and employed local Natives to mine gold along what is now Weber Creek.
Weber soon realized that buying and selling goods in the mining regions was more profitable than mining, so he set up a tent store along the rich creek and established the town of Weberville. He conducted a profitable business at the site for many years, at one time reportedly selling pears for $3 each.
Prior to the gold discovery, Weber had also been soliciting emigrants to settle the town of Stockton, then known as Tuleburg, which he officially founded in 1849. Its location at the head of navigable waterways, from the interior to the ocean, positioned it to become the gateway to the southern mines.
According to the 1850 census, Weberville boasted 966 residents; the same census enumerated only 588 souls in Coloma, while the population of Placerville is shown at 5,623. Of the city’s 966 inhabitants, just 39 were women. In addition to miners, the town boasted two saloonkeepers, two hostelers, 12 blacksmiths, five bakers, a butcher, and a huntsman. Two men listed their occupation as washerman—presumably they were involved in the construction of apparatus to wash out gold. The town also included physicians, a druggist, a tailor, shoemakers, and a silversmith. By 1850, the town also had a church.
Weberville’s success can be attributed to large quantities of gold and the fact that it was along the Mormon Emigrant Trail, one of the main thoroughfares for emigrants traveling overland to the gold fields.
According to a description in the September 4, 1850, issue of Alta California, in Weberville “…there are some sixty frame buildings and numerous tents around; more women and children, too, than I have seen in any town in California. Most of the emigrants pass through this place. There are hundreds here now. Nearly all who arrive are destitute…Many of the immigrants remain here to dig enough to enable them to push on farther. Poor fellows, they are in bad spirits, and mining here is discouraging.”
The following spring, the March 14, 1851, issue of Sacramento Transcript reported that “within the past week the miners at Weberville, El Dorado County, have done vastly better than they have for the past five months…Miners have left the channel of the stream and gone to digging in the hills, where they have received profitable rewards.”
The rich diggings did eventually play out, and miners, merchants, and families moved to areas with better prospects. In 1876, long after the town had been abandoned, Weberville was flooded by impoundment of water.
By Jerrie Beard