Legendary Mining Lore: Gold Nuggets of History

Newcomers Frederic Rochon, a native of New York, and his Canadian partners Levi Longfield, and John Hayett, arrived from lower California and settled at Shasta together in the early months of 1870. After their arrival, they immediately located a placer mining claim on Spring Creek.

After that, their mining activities took-off with them earning fair wages from this mining claim prior to making the biggest discovery of their lives. Then, on June 25, 1870, this trio discovered the largest gold nugget ever found along the channel of Spring Creek, about where the present-day town of Keswick is today.

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They had successfully removed a large boulder in a bar on the channel of the creek – beside a Cottonwood tree which was growing on the bank above them – with their mining tools, when Rochon immediately picked up a lucrative gold nugget with his hand. This gold nugget contained no quartz, nor any other substance, as it was pure gold. Excitement rang out amongst themselves, and they immediately widen their perimeter before leaving the area in hopes of finding more specimens of gold nuggets.

Then, they departed their mining claim to return home to Shasta where this gold nugget was placed on a scale at a local business. It weighed in as being fifteen pounds and four and a half ounces in gold. It was then valued at $3,200. Up-to-this-date, the main theory was that the mining claims along Spring Creek had been “worked-out”, and this find created a brand-new mining boom to Spring Creek but eventually the excitement died out.

This gold nugget gave Rochon fame and fortune with state wide media coverage. Rochon barely credited his partners with any glory nor profit from this discovery. Some media outlets claimed that this was the largest gold nugget ever found in Shasta County history.

As for Longfield and Hayett they departed the area and never returned. Rochon trusted the gold nugget to be handled by Doctor Benjamin Shurtleff, of Shasta, and his wife, Mrs. Ann (Griffith) Shurtleff who helped Rochon get it properly assayed, documented and photographed. It was their son George Shurtleff who took it to San Francisco with him for exhibition purposes on behalf of the owner and he immediately returned it to Rochon upon his return to Shasta.

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There are two stories of how this gold nugget was sold. One version claims that it was sold to Charles McDonald, of Shasta, for $3,600, and the other version claims that it was sold to Santin & Everett, of San Francisco, for $3,200. Rochon eventually moved from Shasta to Round Mountain after selling this gold nugget, and later on, he relocated from Round Mountain to Bells, in Shasta County. Then, in November of 1873, another miner not affiliated with Rochon found a $300 gold nugget near the location of Rochon’s discovery site, and Rochon was in the news again because of this discovery.

Rochon worked in various careers during his lifetime, he was a laborer, a miner, a lumberman, and a carpenter. Rochon died at the Shasta County Hospital in Redding, on November 25, 1907, at the age of ninety-four years old.

Years later, in 1921, Rochon’s gold nugget was remembered when local residents Joseph Miller and John Stein found a gold nugget weighing nineteen pounds and two ounces along Motion Creek which was valued between $4,500 and $5,200. However, various reports claimed it weighed more than that, which wasn’t the case, immediately it became the largest gold nugget ever found in Shasta County, up-to-that-time. This gold and lore tale are a few of the legendary mining stories of Shasta County.    

Above: gold in a scale being weighed, obviously not as large as the gold nuggets mentioned in this article but it gives you a visual of how gold was weighed. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

Resources:

  • 1870 U.S. Census
  • A Big Specimen And How It Was Found – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, July 2, 1870
  • That Nugget – The Sacramento Daily Union newspaper of Sacramento, July 7, 1870
  • Shasta County – The Marysville Daily Appeal of Marysville, November 22, 1870
  • The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, November 29, 1870
  • The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, November 29, 1873
  • 1876 Great Register of Shasta County
  • 1880 U.S. Census
  • Largest Nugget Of Gold – The Daily Free Press newspaper of Redding, May 26, 1898
  • That Spring Creek Nugget – The Daily Free Press newspaper of Redding, May 28, 1898
  • Redding – The Chico Record newspaper of Chico, August 29, 1906
  • Fredrich Rochon -The Colusa Daily Sun newspaper of Colusa, November 27, 1907
  • Frederic Rochon in the California, U.S., Death Index, 1905-1939
  • Gold Nugget Worth About $4,500 Found In Redding Section – The Sacramento Daily Union newspaper of Sacramento, February 15, 1921
  • $5,200 Gold Nugget From Shasta County Melted At SF Mint – The San Francisco Call newspaper of San Francisco, February 15, 1921  

Meet the writer: Jeremy M. Tuggle
Education and Community Engagement Manager – Shasta Historical Society

Jeremy M. Tuggle, born in Redding, is a descendant of 11 pioneer families who settled Shasta County between 1849-1889. Jeremy attended Shasta College and is the author of two published books, Rooted in Shasta County (2003), and A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills (2008), as well as various articles on local history.

In 2017 Mr. Tuggle was awarded a Community Service Award, a prestigious national award for community service in historic preservation, by the Major Pierson B. Reading Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Jeremy is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, and an Eagle Scout.

Tuggle has been employed at the Shasta Historical Society since November of 2009.   In his present role as Education & Community Engagement Manager, Jeremy conducts research for the historical society’s programs and events, contributes to the Society’s social media presence, and ensures the highest quality guest and patron experience at our programs and community events.

Mr. Tuggle enjoys sharing his knowledge of local history and events, and is available to community organizations to present programs about Shasta County history.  



Contact the editor: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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