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What we do. | History #1. | History #2.
Forbestown. | Population. | Elevation.
Average rain fall. | Forbestown Mines.
Did You Know? | Awards. features local news, historical notes and upcoming activities in Forbestown.

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Lotta Crabtree History
Click on picture for a larger view.
Old Forbestown
Forbestown in 1855

On September 1, 1850, W.C. Forbes and two other men opened stores for provisioning centers here. Near the Yuba County line, the community that developed from this was on the ridge that divides the South Fork of the Feather from the Yuba River. As winter came on, a severe storm drove some 500 miners from their claims to spend the time at Forbestown. Some rich gold deposits were found in the two ravines next to the town, and later on quartz deposits were found. Forbestown became known during the fifties (1850's) as a very rich mining center. A quartz stamp mill coasting over $200,000 was built here, in 1851. By the end of 1853 Forbestown was second only to Bidwell in size. The people here numbered around one thousand.

Forbestown suffered a bad fire on January 28, 1860, destroying a large part of the business section. It was rapidly re-built, however. But again in 1861 fire destroyed the town, including the new "Europe Hotel." By 1882 the town had gone down to 300 inhabitants. The town was well known for its excellent spring of surpassing purity in the center of the community. Mining activities on the Yuba River kept Forbestown going at this time as a commercial center.

Source: History of Butte County, Volume 1, by: Joseph F. McGie, 1982.

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Forbestown History
by: Jim Lague
Yuba Feather Historical Association

Forbestown had its beginnings in the heart of the great California Gold Rush. Ben F. Forbes was among the throng of miners who came in 1849, looking for gold along the South Fork of the Feather River. He explored a distance up a side ravine, and found prospects so good that he opened a trading post in September of 1850, calling it Forbes Ravine. His brother James D. Forbes arrived soon after and built the United States Hotel in partnership with Nathaniel Plum. James recognized the need for transportation and started the first stage line between Ophir (Oroville) and Forbestown.

In 1852 Ben's daughter Harriet and brother Jared Forbes came to California via Panama. Harriet soon fell in love with Nathaniel Plum and they were married in 1853 by her uncle, James, who was now the Justice of the Peace.

Ben Forbes applied for a post office and it was established May 13, 1854. An old tale recalls that the prominent Young family competed for the town name, and Forbestown won by only one vote.

Forbestown had a population of approximately 3,000 in the late 1850s including newcomers from many countries. The town was the center for supplies and services for the surrounding settlements of Ohio Flat, New York Flat, Clayton Ranch, and others. At one time, there were five hotels in full swing.

The South Feather Water Company formed with headquarters in Forbestown to supply water to the miners for their placer diggings. The spring behind the blacksmith shop was the source of good drinking water for the villagers.

Forbestown had a rich social life. Sunday services were held in the hall or the school room. If no preacher was on hand, one of the men read a sermon and led the group in singing and prayer. The women of Forbestown formed the Ladies Library Society; books were provided by businessmen’s wives. Talented townspeople taught music classes and people gathered at homes in the evening to sing. The Masonic Lodge No. 50 was established in 1854.

Fire destroyed most of the town in January 1860; barely nineteen months later in August 1861 another fire consumed many businesses. The newspaper listed losses of more than $41,000 including homes, hotels, livery, stage company, saloons, restaurant, water company, Masonic Lodge, post office, clothing shop, blacksmith, butchers, and the Forbestown Brass Band. In spite of the devastation, the people refused to let their town die and soon rebuilt.

Although the days of panning and sluicing alluvial gold were coming to an end, Forbestown hung on until deep mining of quartz veins began. Many mines were located in the ravine toward the Feather River: the Golden Queen, Shakespeare, Midas, Denver, Southern Cross and the Carlysle. The Gold Bank mine was closer to Forbestown and brought on the big boom of the Gay Nineties from 1885 to 1902.

The Gold Bank was owned by Harry P. Stow and employed about fifty miners during peak production. When the shaft reached the 300-foot level, the cost of pumping water out became too great. A tunnel was driven into the hillside below the mine, and a shaft sloped to meet the upper shaft to drain the water. This drastically changed the atmosphere inside the mine, and the dry quartz dust brought early death to some of the miners.

Nevertheless, many Forbestown residents prospered and built neat homes surrounded by white rail fences. Mr. Stow constructed an elaborate three-story mansion near the mine, approached by a road called Golden Gate Avenue. Life in Forbestown was full; people gathered on Sundays for church services, baseball games, band concerts, and picnics.

Fire continued to plague the town, however: the Gold Bank Mine hoist works was destroyed April 1893; the Exchange Hotel burned in April 1897; and nine structures, including two homes and two stores burned in September 1899.

The town carried on, then finally the ore in the Gold Bank ran out. Mr. Stow tried to buy adjoining claims and found the price far too high. “I'll let grass grow in the streets of Forbestown,” he said, and shut down the mine. The years of 1902 and 1903 saw the end of Forbestown's prosperity. Families moved away and businesses slowed, then closed. Some people abandoned their buildings and others tore them down and rebuilt in Oroville.

M. J. Cooney, the diamond promoter, operated the Gold Bank Mine for a time during 1912 in a stock scheme but nothing came of it. Then in 1913 fire struck again and half the buildings burned, including the Gold Bank Hotel, eight dwellings, two barns and the Methodist Church.

Three ladies were the mainstay of the town during these years, trying to keep Forbestown alive. Mrs. Garton operated the Forbestown Hotel until her death in 1918; her grandson Bob Faulkner restored the hotel in 1926. Mrs. Olla Batt kept the Batt Merchandise Store open into the 1930s. Mrs. Mary nee Beik White lived her entire life at Forbestown except for a trip to Alaska with her husband in the Gold Rush of 1898. She and Mrs. Batt died in 1940. The Forbestown Post Office was discontinued in 1925 and the Old Forbestown School closed around 1930. During the Great Depression, many of the remaining buildings were torn down for lumber and the mine machinery was sold for scrap iron. The Stows moved away and the abandoned mansion was used for dances and parties until it burned in July of 1930.

Forbestown revived briefly during the years of 1935 to 1938 when the Idaho-Maryland Company opened the Gold Bank Mine tunnel, worked some of the low-grade ore, and crushed the rock for roads. Things were looking up for Forbestown when the Post Office was re-established in 1936. Then the mine closed, and the town faded again.

All that remains in Old Forbestown today are a few homes, the Memorial Cemetery, and the Masonic Lodge which is still in use. The cemetery has approximately three hundred grave sites, many unmarked and unknown. The grounds are maintained by volunteers from the Masonic Lodge and Yuba Feather Historical Association.

Copyright © 1980
Yuba Feather Historical Association
All rights reserved.

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Astraddle the Yuba County line in the eastern half of Butte County lies the small hamlet of Forbestown, hidden in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada range. Ages ago volcanic ash was strewn throughout the area which produced the red clay of today, and deposits of precious gold and other minerals enriched this mountainous locality.

In 1848 gold seekers, including the Turpin Brothers, were working up and down the ravines. In 1850 men with the name of Forbes arrived at the camp at different times. W.C. Forbes and brother James Forbes came first and then Ben Forbes arrived. Jared, age 17, came west searching for Ben who received the first Forbestown postal permit and became the founder of Forbestown stage line. Jared operated this stage line and later became the owner.

Some historians claim the town was named for W.C. Forbes, others that it honors James, while still others claim it was named for Ben. In all probability Forbestown and Forbes ravine were named for all the Forbes businessmen, not one singly.

The Masonic Hall built in 1855 and now restored, is still in use. It is the only marker of the location of the original business section.

Courtesy of:
The Lost Sierra Business Association.

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Population: 2000
Elevation: 2840 Feet.
Average rain fall in Forbestown is 65.75 inches.

          Forbestown Mines

Carlyle Mine 393239N 1211615W Carlysle Mine 393242N 1211610W Denver Mine 393230N 1211755W Denver Mine 393204N 1211834W Midas Mine 393230N 1211835W Southern Cross Mine 393248N 1211856W

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Did you Know?

In 1879 the cost to use the phone was 50 cents for a 10-word conversation, with 3 cents a word charged beyond that. The phone operator would listen to the conversation and count the words.

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