It wasn’t long before the prospectors were panning in the stream running through Gold Bug Park following the gold discovery in Coloma on January 24, 1848, only eight miles away. Big Canyon Creek was rich in gold for those early prospectors who could just pluck the gold from the stream.
Several prospector huts lined Big Canyon Creek during the early years of the Gold Rush. Every spring the streams and rivers throughout the Mother Lode produced a new crop of gold into the river bottoms. It was coming from the quartz veins outcropping into the streams and being washed away.
Once the panning operations were not turning up much gold, hard rock mining came into being. In 1860 hard rock mining was established throughout the area and small mining companies and miners were digging their own drifts following the veins into the sides of the hills.
In 1888, The Hattie Mine was opened by William Craddock and John Dench. The Hattie, so named after Craddock’s eldest daughter, was first established across the canyon. However, it played out. The larger vein structures were noted on the south side of the canyon and a new drift was started. They followed the vein well back into the mine before circumstances dictated a sale.
John McKay took over in 1926 and turned at an angle to search for a more prominent vein structure. What you see today is the result of his work. Tracks were laid for the ore cars to assist in the removal of the ore. The ore was then taken outside and run through a crusher to extract the gold.
The air shaft was probably established to provide clean air for the workers to work in the mine. After a day’s work it would take 24 hours for the air to exchange so the men could start to work again. It is believed that no more than 2-3 men worked the mine at a time.
It is not known how much gold was removed! No records were kept. During World War II the mines throughout the Mother Lode were closed by order of the President as gold mining was considered a non-essential industry and men were needed to go to war.
The last owner of the four mining claims of the park area was held by William Meagher who owned the Independent Iron Works in Oakland, CA. He spent many hours working the mines and the area to keep his title on the property. His family always came with him and spent time swimming behind the dam he created on Big Canyon Creek, and hiking in the area while he worked. He built a summer cabin which still exists today at the end of the road. The Gold Bug Park Committee plans to turn the building into an nature center describing the flora and fauna of the area.