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image of a Christmas StageA 49er's Christmas

by Anthony M. Belli

a 49er Miners Christmas graphicThe year was 1849 and more then a year had passed since James W. Marshall had discovered gold at Coloma. Young men from around the globe came by the thousands to descend upon the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range. These first arrivals to “the diggings” became known as the 49er's.

The women who saw their men go west had hopes that their husband’s success would be swift in coming and that they would soon return home as rich men. Some women however, accompanied their husbands to California and the new frontier. One such woman was Mrs. Wm. G. Wilson.

The Wilson's, being good, Utah Mormons, saw to it that Mrs. Wilson arrived at “the diggings”... pregnant: something they decided to keep secret from neighboring miners.

On Christmas day, 1849, Mrs. Wilson delivered a healthy, 12-pound boy. The cries from the newborn alerted two near-by miners and, being curious, they decided that Christmas was the perfect time to drop in at the Wilson cabin. When the “boys” saw the latest addition to the Wilson family, the secret was out.

Those miners raised a hue and a cry in every gully, gulch and ravine. "Hey boys, did ya hear? Bill Wilson struck it rich ... found himself a 12 pound nugget.” Hundreds of miners working in the canyons near-by dropped their work and ran to the Wilson cabin to “have a look see” at the huge “nugget”.

The Wilson’s, enjoying the joke, lined up the men at the front door. Then, taking in a few men at a time, they would allow the miners to view the huge “nugget”. After seeing the Wilson infant, each man would exit the cabin solemnly exclaiming that the Wilson nugget was the finest they'd ever seen.

The joke went on for three days and men walked more then ten miles to see the Wilson’s huge “nugget”.

It was said that many of the miners who had viewed the child suddenly found Lady Luck leading them to large gold deposits. As for Mr. Wilson, it was certainly true. Shortly after the birth of his son, Wilson unearthed more then $3000 in gold. He also found an 18.75 ounce nugget worth $300 alone.

Not much is known of the Wilson family after 1849. Perhaps their dreams were fulfilled and they returned to Utah and a more comfortable existence.