Scattered remnants of Yankee Jim’s past when it was one of the largest mining centers in Placer County during the 1850s, now lie about three miles northwest of Forest Hill. A town with as many as 5,000 people was the site of California’s first hydraulic mining operation and the rich Jenny Lind Canyon mine. A few old homes remain standing. The old cemetery still exists, now located on private property. Visitors who scan the hills can look for remnants of long forgotten fruit orchards.
In 1850 a character that went by the name of “Yankee Jim,” called himself a miner and discovered gold in the place that later took his name. According to historical records, Yankee Jim was, in reality, a bandit with a special interest in stealing horses. He built a corral for his stolen horses and placed it on top of the richest mine in the vicinity. He tried to keep his find a secret to no avail. People rushed into the Forest Hill area to work the rich mines. (California Historical Landmark No. 399). After miners discovered his thievery, Yankee Jim Robinson barely escaped lynching. He left Placer County and traveled to Southern California where he was recognized and hanged for his crimes.
The town of Yankee Jim was thought to be the site of the first ditch ever cut in the state to transport water from a canon to wash the gold. Colonel McClure introduced hydraulic mining to Placer County in 1851, using the ditch already built. McClure also established the eastern county’s first orchard in 1852. The town then became recognized as a source for its high quality fruit.
Would the gold buried in Jenny Lind Canyon been found had it not been for severe winter storms of 1852 and 1853 that caused a huge landslide? The slide at the head of Jenny Lind Canyon exposed an abundance of gold. The Jenny Lind mine alone yielded $2,000 to $2,500 in gold every day. Its total output by 1880 was $1.1 million. Total output of all mines in the Forest Hill area was $10 million by 1868, when gold sold for $16 an ounce.
The prominence of the town of Yankee Jim has declined since the raucous days of the Gold Rush. Population moved to larger communities nearby. The town post office operated from 1852 until 1940. Placer County hills may have been completely decimated if the hydraulic mining operations of the day were not outlawed in 1882. Today active mines are still being worked as the memories of the wild days of the Gold Rush linger on.
The historical marker is located on the southeast corner of Colfax, Foresthill and Springs Garden Roads, 3 miles northeast of Forest Hill.
Within its borders picturesque farm land and Gold-Rush era towns dot the oak-covered foothills. Craggy peaks, forests, tumbling rivers and clear alpine lakes create the natural beauty of the High Country. Outdoor enthusiasts thrill at Placer County’s abundance of year-round recreational activities, while others marvel at the array of galleries, theater, musical and festival events. Shoppers love the large selection of boutiques, specialty shops and farmers markets.