A stock certificate for the Tuolumne Country Water Company, 6 ¼ by 9 ¾ inches, Columbia, [California], September 26, 1862. With a fine vignette of miners working a sluice and a cradle, typical of the California Gold Rush.
The one-share certificate is signed by President P.J. Gibbs and Secretary Joseph Pownall. Water was an essential ingredient in mining operations as it was needed to separate rock and sand from heavier gold. Once the easily-moved placer gold had been taken from river and creek beds and miners began to work “dry diggings” far from streams, much ditchdigging and flume-building was necessary to obtain water. As such expensive undertakings were far beyond any one miner’s means, water companies were organized to bring in water and sell it – often at exorbitant rates. It is estimated that by 1860 over seven hundred companies had built nearly six thousand miles of ditched, canals and flumes. The Tuolumne County Water Company was among the most prominent of these. Incorporated in September, 1862, with a capital stock of $550,000, the company conveyed water from the south fork of the Stanislaus River to various points in the “Southern mines.” It was the target of an acrimonious strike in March, 1855.