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Diamond Springs - The First Ten Years


click here to view a larger image of the Diamond Springs Plaque"Diamond Springs", taking its name from a group of natural springs on the north side of Main Street, Diamond Springs was founded by an early day 49er who first erected a cabin here in 1849. Unable to persuade mining partners to remain in Diamond Springs, they soon left for diggings at Coloma. California Registered Historical Landmark #487 ... Click on plaque to read


The migration of Missourians arrived at the camp in Diamond Springs in 1850. The Missouri folks settled here for Gold Rush and for it's great potential as farm land. Unlike many Gold Rush era settlements where women were scarce, these Missourians came with their families.

The 1850 census shows seven married couples and one single woman with a total of 34 children, all from Missouri. 33 other residents were foreign born (Northern Europe mostly), and one black man, Kentucky born Francis Jackson. The census reports 44 females, 18 were married, and 59 children under 16 years made up the settlement at Diamond Springs.

A letter appeared in the Alta California on November 17, 1850 reporting that more then 100 new homes had been built in just a few weeks at Diamond Springs. The town became a voting precinct which cast almost as many votes as Coloma in the special election of November, 1850. 


During the next year, 1851, Diamond Springs grew rapidly adding 13 mercantile, three hotels (one complete with a Saloon), two butchers, a blacksmith. With five carpenters in the village, construction soon began on clap board homes and other permanent structures. There were 262 men living here by the end of 1851 -- all miners. By the end of the year the Missouri founders represented a full ¼ of the population, down from ½ the year before.

Diamond Springs was to be graced with families and children during the anarchy years of the Gold Rush. It had indeed showed all the signs of developing into a normal civilized community by Eastern standards.


November, 1852 the Alta California reported 165 new frame buildings had been built in town, many of which were quite large in size. Diamond Springs had become a boomtown consisting of primarily one street. 


The Post Office followed in October, 1853.

1854 - 1855

In May, 1855 a prize fight was held here between two titans, Dougherty and Welsh. The Miner’s Advocate reported the brutal battle had lasted for 19 rounds before Welsh took the purse. The event drew a tremendous crowd from towns and camps throughout the county. 


Two newspapers were published here, The Miner’s Advocate and the El Dorado County Journal. The Journal only ran eight issues between January 1, 1856 through February 17th, whereupon the publisher, B.L. Bradley relocated to Folsom. Only one issue, that of January 29th has survived.

California has historically been plagued by fire. 1856 was a bad year for fires that saw Marysville, Nevada City and Benicia all burned. El Dorado County was particularly hit hard. Georgetown and Placerville were gutted by fires in 1856 followed by Diamond Springs which was left in ashes when a fire broke out on August 5th, in the center of town at the Howard House around 9a.m. Strong winds advanced the fires fury as it spread in all directions. Residents battled the flames by routing water from the Eureka ditch into town. Regardless when it was over, the only two fireproof buildings in town, the Wells Fargo office and the Eureka Canal Co., were among the few buildings remaining.


Diamond Springs was rebuilt this time with brick and stone structure and in a relatively short period of time the town was once again thriving.

click here to view a larger image of the Diamond Springs Historical Building
Diamond Springs
Historical Building


Again in 1859, the heart of Main Street was once again consumed by fire. Again the village rebuilt and survived. 


Diamond Springs was one of the stops for transfer of riders on the Pony Express, which began 1860 from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco. [click here to view our story on the Pony Express] The 1860 census reports 521 residents of Diamond Springs proper. Not one of the original founders from the first 1850 census were living here at that time!

More Details of Diamond Springs

image of IOOF BuildingThe I.O.O.F. Hall - Odd Fellows Hall Fraternal organizations and social events separated Diamond Springs from many of the mining camps in the vicinity. The I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) Masons and Sons of Temperance all provided respectable men alternative activities and recreation. Today, the Odd Fellows Hall is thought to be the oldest Odd Fellows Hall in the United States in continuous use. These organizations were responsible for community fund raisers which built churches, schools, and also helped out destitute families.

While Diamond Springs had certainly developed nicely into a civilized community it did so during the halcyon years of the Gold Rush, making it a huge attraction for those men living in the mining camps that surrounded the town. For these men their chose of entertainment generally could be found in the various Saloons, with drinking, gambling, billiards and ten pens all topping the list. There were likewise plenty of soiled doves on hand to “mine the miners” as it was known. Needless to say Diamond Springs saw its fair share of excitement on plenty of occasions involving the use of knives or firearms during a quarrel, or in concert with the execution of some criminal act.



- Paolo Sioli, History of El Dorado County, (Oakland, Ca. Sioli Publishing, 1883) p. 205-207
- Alan H. Patera, El Dorado and Diamond Springs California, (Lake Grove, Or., Western Places Publishing, 2001) p. 11 - 22