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As It Was: Trinity Dredge Hauls in Over $2 Million in Gold

A history marker at the intersection of California Rte. 3 and East Side Road notes that giant bucket dredges “turned the Trinity River upside down for (more than) … 50 years, leaving behind mounds of rock trailings.”  One of them, the Trinity Dredge, was constructed in 1912 at the Blakemore Ranch and powered by electricity produced in Minersville by water from the Van Matre Ranch.

The dredge’s buckets clawed up the soil and machinery separated and discarded rocks, boulders and debris from the finer gold that poured into 4-foot-wide sluices. Whenever the sluices needed cleaning, it was publicized that the dredge was “down for repairs,” to discourage any would-be bandits.   

The Trinity dredged more than $2.7 million in gold from areas now covered by Lewiston Lake.

The Trinity Dredge may have been the first in the world managed by a woman, Mary E. Smith.  Her father, Ed L. Smith, was president of the company when it formed in 1909.  When he died, his son Ed Smith took over the operation, but soon sold his stock to his sister Mary, who managed it until 1938.

It was dismantled in 1940.

Source: Ryan, Richard A., and John Shuford. "Trinity." Trinity: Yearbook of the Trinity Historical Society, 1974, pp. 8-27.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.