Following John App’s Journey to California – His Arrival

Today, August 13, 2014, I visited two Nevada County historical societies and each offered a piece of information of why one route might have been chosen over the other. Going south through the valley could have presented the problem of lack of water, excessive heat (he travelled in late July or early August), or Indian problems. Going east and through the mountains would have plenty of water, would be more temperate, but problems with the Indians might have been greater. Another possibility suggested was that John knew someone coming west to Sonora and wanted to meet and travel together with him. In fact, John did join with a wagon train known as the “Clark-Skidmore Party” and travelled with them to Sonora. Now, that trip was not as easy as it may sound, but that will be the focus of travelling this segment of his journey.


There were no expectations of finding anything today, but there was the helpful information (above) that was found and it is very important. The Searls Historical Library in Nevada City, California had in their collection a (digital) lithograph of the view of Nevada City from atop Prospect Hill in 1851. This is a view of which John App would have been familiar. I purchased the image. I drove to Prospect Hill hoping to take a picture back toward Nevada City as it appears today, but a similarly good view was not available due to the multitude of houses in the area and the very large trees. I managed to take one photo that gives a general look. The present day town of Grass Valley had the “Empire Mines” located nearby in 1850. This was a collection of several mines as I understand it, and it is entirely possible that John learned from mining here. It is now a state park and I took some representative photos of buildings and equipment (some of the equipment would have existed in 1850). I also took a few photos of the geography of the northern mine area and, who knows, maybe the view is similar to what it looked like in 1850 especially the hills. I’d like to think so.

Empire Mine Sign

Empire Mine Sign

Quartz rock with embedded gold

Quartz rock with embedded gold

How the or left the mine in 1850

How the ore left the mine in 1850

Vintage ore carts

Vintage ore carts

An ore "stamp" machine used at a stamp mill

An ore “stamp” machine used at a stamp mill

About storiesretoldblogger

I am an Elkhart, Indiana native and became interested in applying video to history when consumer video cameras were first introduced on the market in the late 1970’s. My production company, Stories Retold, specializes in preserving oral history, traditions, and values with video. Primarily interviewing individuals, I sometimes document families, and on occasion document an entire community. My niche is developing a personal relationship with clients which helps me to tell their story just the way they would like to have it told. Everyone has a story worth preserving, and I enjoy discovering interesting stories from people with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. In years to come, these videos will be priceless as they portray original stories complete with visual images and actual voices filled with all the primary material and emotion that was intended to be. I gain a strong sense of personal satisfaction with each completed project whether it involves an individual or an entire community.
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1 Response to Following John App’s Journey to California – His Arrival

  1. Jill Kattau says:

    I love that you were able to get any information at all today! Too bad that those darn houses and trees were in your way when you tried to take pictures! Take care of yourself as you travel.

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