Tuolumne County Water Company Stock Certificate - Issued to San Joaquin Ditch Builder (110951)

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Tuolumne County Water Company Stock Certificate - Issued to San Joaquin Ditch Builder   (110951)
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Certificate No. 94. Most of these stocks have numbers in the thousands. Issued to John Bensley and endorsed on back. Bensely built a ditch off of the San Joaquin River - the largest int he state in the 1870's. For one share of stock. Datelined Columbia March 1, 1854. Signed by President Clark and secretary Robinson. Clark was one of the three original investors. A classic mining vignette showing a dammed river, miners operating sluices and a rocker. Lithography by Britton & Rey, S.F. The vignette was created by Britton & Rey in the 1850's and was used on the early versions of Bear River and Auburn Mining Company certificate’s, but it is perhaps most famous for the Tuolumne Water Company certificates from the 1850's.

Emigrants who rushed to California after the discovery of gold in 1848 discovered an environment whose climate and geography were sharply different from home. It cycled between periods of wet and dry, drought and flood and quickly emphasized the importance water management. As well as its domestic importance, large quantities of water were essential to large scale mining operations and the control of water became key. Miners were tied to the area by the availability of water, which eroded the gold from the mountains and deposited it in Columbia. Soon the control of water became the biggest and most complex struggle facing miners, and Columbia epitomized this struggle. The Hildreth party has been given the credit for discovering gold in the area, although other evidence points toward a small settlement of miners from Mexico. Nevertheless, the Americans moved in quickly once they heard of the plentiful gold and a ready supply of water. After their arrival in March 1850 a typical hot and dry summer followed. Winter brought miners back to the Columbia area following the rains and the return of the seasonal creek. Those merchants who managed to survive the summer quickly realized that maintaining their business relied on a steady supply of water, and local miners realized that a reliable supply of water was needed to find the gold all year around in this location. Together, they established to Tuolumne County Water Company (TCWC) in June of 1851. The Tuolumne County Water Company was set up as an employee owned and controlled company. Founders went to surrounding areas raising expectations and investors. At the end of June 1951, 160 shares of stock had been sold, the route had been surveyed, and workers were celebrating. Their efforts to tap into first Five Mile creek, then the south fork of the Stanislaus River was largely unsuccessful, as the creeks were dry and the rivers were low as was usual in the summer months. After almost a year water finally arrived, but there was not enough to sustain full mining operations, and the company was forced to borrow money for capital investments in sawmills, roads and equipment. The Tuolumne County Water Company incorporated in September 1852.

Provenance: Ken Prag Collection
Country (if not USA):
State: California
City/County: Tuolumne County