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Newspaper The Weekly Sierra Citizen (Downieville, Calif.) 185?-185?

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About The Weekly Sierra Citizen (Downieville, Calif.) 185?-185?

The California Gold Rush was short lived, but its impact was profound and enduring. Between 1848 and the mid-1850s hundreds of thousands of people moved into the state in search of easily accessible gold deposits. Most of these “49ers” initially settled in the Sierra Nevada region of California, from Butte County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, establishing both mining camps and new towns in the area. Within a decade the majority of workable gold deposits were emptied and prospectors were replaced by mechanization and capital. Most of the “Argonauts” moved either out of the region or into nearby growing towns and cities.

California “mining newspapers,” as they were called by one of their first chroniclers, Helen Giffen, sprang up in these newly settled towns as the initial Gold Rush waned. Not only were they some of the earliest papers printed in the state, collectively they chronicled a region as it transitioned from often lawless and violent mining camps to permanent settlements with organized governments and law enforcement. They also recorded the changing nature of mining and, as Giffen notes, “advocated mining and land reforms that were later written into California law.”

Located in the northeastern corner of the Sierra Nevada Gold Rush region, Sierra County was formed in 1852 with Downieville as its seat. Between 1848 and 1860, more than 16,000 miners settled in the county, and at its peak in 1851 Downieville had more than 5,000 residents, though the population had significantly declined 15 years later. As elsewhere in the region, prospectors were originally drawn to easily accessible “placer” gold found in riverbeds, particularly the Yuba River. By the 1860s, however, Sierra County had numerous “drift mines,” underground mines dug into the slopes of hills to reach ore seams. By one account, there were some 266 miles of drift mines in the county by 1880.

Throughout the 19th century most newspaper publishing in Sierra County occurred in Downieville. The first newspaper printed in the county seat appeared on June 19, 1852, though only a few issues of the Mountain Echo are known to have survived. A year later, in 1853, Oscar O. Ball replaced W.T. Giles as the editor of the Mountain Echo, and in February of 1854, according to two sources, Ball renamed the paper the Sierra Citizen. Early in 1855, J.C. Langton purchased the paper and Calvin McDonald became the editor. Within the next few months, the title changed to the Weekly Sierra Citizen. The exact date of this change is unknown because no copies survive between February 1855 and May 1856, by which time Alfred Helm and H. Hickok had become the owners and Edwin Ruthven Campbell the editor. By March 1859, the Weekly Sierra Citizen had again changed its name to the Sierra Citizen, with H. King (likely Homer King), T.L. Ham, and Washington Wright as publishers; the exact date of the change in name and publishers is again unknown because of missing issues. The last surviving copy of the Sierra Citizen is dated September 7, 1861.

Provided By: University of California, Riverside; Riverside, CA

About this Newspaper


  • The Weekly Sierra Citizen (Downieville, Calif.) 185?-185?

Dates of Publication

  • 185?-185?

Created / Published

  • Downieville, Calif. : Helm, Brannon & Co.


  • -  Downieville (Calif.)--Newspapers
  • -  California--Downieville
  • -  United States--California--Sierra--Downieville


  • Newspapers


  • -  Weekly
  • -  Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • -  Description based on: Vol. 3, no. 15 (May 17, 1856).
  • -  Sierra citizen (Downieville, Calif. : 1859) 2642-5343 (DLC)sn 87067105 (OCoLC)15580864


  • volumes

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn84038779

OCLC Number

  • 11513242

ISSN Number

  • 2642-5327

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Succeeding Titles

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Rights & Access

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

The Weekly Sierra Citizen Downieville, Calif. 185?-185?. (Downieville, CA), 185?.

APA citation style:

(185?) The Weekly Sierra Citizen Downieville, Calif. 185?-185?. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

The Weekly Sierra Citizen Downieville, Calif. 185?-185?. (Downieville, CA) 185?. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,