This place is situated in a small, though beautiful valley, upon the divide between the North Fork of the American and Bear river, about eighteen miles from Auburn, and seven miles from Iowa Hill. Illinoistown is on the direct stage road from Auburn to Iowa Hill. From Illinoistown to Iowa Hill there is one of the most important turnpike roads in the county. The road is known as the “Mineral Bar” road, the grading of which could not have cost less than from $60,000 to $75,000. The hills are precipitous, and in many places the track is blasted out through solid granite of the hardest quality. The road is under the supervision of Chas. Rice, Esq., one of the principal stock-holders, and as the whole of the travel and freighting from Sacramento and other places below for Iowa Hill and all the rich mineral region of country lying between the North Fork of the American river and Shirt Tail must necessarily pass over this road, it pays a reasonable profit upon the cost of its construction.
The mining at Illinoistown was never extensive, and no rich developments were ever made there sufficient to make the town worthy of note as a mining camp, but the situation is an important one in many other respects, and although there are few inhabitants in and about the place, the trade in lumber, miners’ supplies, etc., has always been considerable and profitable. The circumstances attending the first settlement of the place, and the ceremony of its christening we find graphically described in a historical sketch of the place, published in the Placer Herald, on the 18th of September, 1852, from which we extract the following as the most reliable information in regard to its early history that we can obtain:
“This beautiful valley was first occupied by a, few traders in 1849. At that time there was but little mining done within several miles of the place, but discoveries of rich deposits, soon after caused hundreds to settle there. [The writer evidently means that the “discovery of rich deposits” were made upon the rivers, and not immediately in the vicinity of the town.–ED.] The bars, and not unfrequently the banks of the North Fork of the American and also of Bear River proved very rich, added to which, many of the immigrants arriving by the Truckee route halted there. Although immense piles were not often made, yet few portions of the mines ever paid better on the average. The settlement at first had as many names as the heroine of a modern romance; but in the month of October, ’49, the miners had a grand dinner in the town of four houses, and as the residents and miners were mostly Illinoisans, they, by acclamation and a bottle of whisky, named the place Illinoistown.”
From the same sketch we learn that there was at that time 1852 a nursery of fruit trees, and some excellent gardens at the place; it being the only account we have of an attempt being made, at that early day, to raise fruit in that portion of Placer county. Illinoistown was at that time considered the head of wagon navigation,” from which to the mines on the rivers, and between the North Fork and Shirt Tail, all the supplies of the inhabitants had to be packed on the backs of mules.
One great source of wealth to the residents of the town is the extensive forests of excellent timber which abounds in the vicinity. There are two steam saw mills here, which produce yearly millions of feet of lumber, which is sold to the miners in the vicinity, and to the people of the towns in the foothills, at a good price.