Gold rush camps seen in new light

An interesting new book written by Rick Simi of Downieville, Calif., brings to light the many treasures hidden away in the peaks and valleys of the rugged Sierra County portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Simi documents the many towns and businesses that became a part of this great Western past. He includes a timeline from when gold was discovered in Coloma, Calif., all the way through the events that occurred over the many years the search for gold became a passion for citizens from every corner of the world. But the book is more than that; it is also a collectors guide of everything old and born of the great California Gold Rush.

As Simi tells the story of his love for the small town of Downieville, his town now, he unfolds the past by sharing with the reader the incredible number of camps, settlements and towns that yielded treasures left behind by those in search of their own. Things like smoking pipes, pot lids, belt buckles and bottles were just a few of the discarded items that would become today’s new treasure. He unveils the various types of bottles found in Sierra County and goes into detail regarding the age and rarity of each bottle, accompanied by a beautiful color photograph of each one. His chapter on belt buckles alone is worth the price of the book and he ends with a glossary of terms used by the early settlers and words still used today.

This richly detailed and illustrated book is a perfect warm-up for planning trips into these mighty mountains often called the most beautiful in the world. You’ll learn the many different places gold was sought after and the amazing camps and towns that emerged from nowhere; towns like Goodyear’s Bar and McDonald Flat, Jim Crow and the Secret Ravine. Some easily accessible by car such as Downieville, others tucked away into the nooks and crannies of the breathtaking landscape. As Simi points out, where there was gold there were men and women who feverishly spent their days working and their nights dreaming of better things to come.

Gold Rush Camps is a wonderful book for anyone and everyone who has any interest in the California Gold Rush. As a reference and collector’s guide, you’ll be amazed at the history of this great Sierra County.

Gold Rush Camps and Bottles of Sierra County, second printing, $39.99, Rick or Cherry Simi, P.O. Box 115, Downieville, CA 95936 or at

Jeff Wichmann is the owner of American Bottle Auctions. His next auction will be his largest ever with more than 320 lots. It opens Jan. 8 and closes Jan. 18 at


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