Buck's Ranch at Orleans Flat
(By Bonnie Wayne McGuire - September 2003)
In 1849 William Lewis Manly heard about the discovery of gold in California and decided to take the chance. Eventually he wrote about his experiences, among which is a reference to Orleans Flat. "Here we found some water, but no one lived there. From here we could see a large flat across a deep canyon to the west, and made up our minds to try to go to it. We went around the head of the canyon and worked through the brush and fallen timber, reaching our objective point just as night was coming on. This flat, like the one we had left, was quite level, and contained, perhaps nearly one hundred acres. Here we found two men at work with a 'long tom'...a Mr. Fernay and a Mr. Bloat. They had brought the water of a small spring to their claim and were making five or six dollars per day."
Orleans Flat shared a ridge located between the South and Middle Forks of the Yuba River, between North Bloomfield and Graniteville. How Orleans flat obtained its name isn't known; at one place it is called New Orleans Flat. It came into existence in 1851 along with it's neighbors Woolsey and Moore's Flat. The mining was originally placer mining. Water was obtained from small ditches, taking their water from Poorman's Creek. The Placers soon gave out and the Flats were among the first places where hydraulic mining was practiced. The Flats are located on gravel deposits from a Tertiary channel of the Yuba River. In such gravel deposits, the soil becomes richer in gold as the bedrock is approached; most of the gold is found in crevices of the bedrock. At Orleans Flat, the gravel deposit was the most shallow, so the gold was easiest to recover. This lasted until about 1858, when the deposits were exhausted. Until about 1857 Orleans Flat was leading the other two camps in production; then quickly declined. In 1852 it had 500 inhabitants. There were four stores, three hotels and many saloons. By 1880, Orleans Flat was nearly deserted.
Buck's Ranch house is located across the road from the Orleans Flat townsite sign above. This is what it looked like when Mel was called to mill the owner's logs into lumber for it's restoration.
An old photo of harvesting hay on Bucks Ranch.
The barn was a good place to store the lumber, and it would eventually be restored too.
Some of the milled lumber.
A couple of years later this is how it looked.
Restoring old run down homes is a major undertaking.
Karl Jacobson has done a lot since we last saw this place. He raised the house up and put a foundation under it. He also replaced some siding and painted it. There's still a lot to do to restore it, but it's looking pretty good. The property is really nice.