Gold was first discovered in Butte County California by John Bidwell in the now ghost town known as Hamilton in 1848, and that made Hamilton the first county seat of Butte County. John Bidwell was a local and national figure of that time and the founder of Chico, California and several other towns. He has an outstanding resume as he was among many things, a Brigadier General, served in the California Senate, a Freemason who later left and called the organization “pointless”, and even ran for the election of the presidency of the United States; just to name a few.
Hamilton where the gold was first discovered in Butte county was located on the west side of the river 15 miles downstream of the Feather River from Oroville. Hamilton had a very short duration as a town because they moved the county seat to Bidwells Bar (near Oroville), where they promised to build a new courthouse and jail. The only visible remains of the town of Hamilton is an overgrown cemetery and the remains of an old bridge that once stood there. The post office was closed in 1865. The town of Bidwells Bar is now submerged under the waters of Lake Oroville .
In the old days Oroville was known as Ophir City. Thousands of miners flocked to Oroville in the beginning. It was not the site of a big gold strike, rather it was an important supply point for the miner’s at the now submerged Bidwell’s Bar, but close enough to the historical gold site, that you might find some gold if you prospect around the area.
MAGALIA ( 54 Pound “Dogtown” Gold Nugget)
Established in 1849, Magalia was a mining camp known as Butte Mills. It was also called Dogtown at one time, according to historical maps. It is found in the north-central part of Butte County. The exciting part about this historical site is a 54 pound nugget was unearthed here, at the Willard claim, a hydraulic mine in the Feather River Canyon northeast of the camp. It was the largest gold nugget ever discovered in the world at that time on April 12, 1859. It was named the “Dogtown nugget”. The female residences hated the name Dogtown and renamed it in 1862 to Magalia. Near Magalia, is Butte Creek and Little Butte Creek where in 1932 – 1959 15,976 ounces of placer gold was reported to have found. The Perschbaker Mine, found on Little Butte Creek was a major producer of lode gold. The tertiary gravel deposits of Little Butte Creek also have placer gold.
Of coarse, the Feather River is known to have gold, as many of the locations above were found along the gravel bars and banks of the river. Thompson’s Flat was one of those known locations that had access to gold. Cherokee Flat had placer gold operations. The area around Cherokee City, or anywhere along the Feather River for that matter, has gold. The Yankee Hill district, located at 21N range 4E and 5E, had a total production of 5,154 ounces of placer gold and 34,427 ounces of lode gold.
In all, it is reported that Butte County, had a production of 3,200,000 ounces of placer gold and 104,000 ounces of lode gold. The Surcease Mine in township 21N range 4E was a good producer of lode gold.