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The California Gold Rush began in 1848 with the discovery of gold at John A. Sutter’s sawmill in Coloma, California.  During the next seven years, hundreds of thousands of people moved to California in an attempt to strike it rich.  One of those people was Jonathan Ramey of Scott County, Virginia.  As he stated in the bill of an 1878 chancery suit filed against his brother Jeremiah’s estate, “….upon consideration of the difficulties which would surround him here he concluded to try to improve his condition by visiting the Eldorado, that at that time was opening to fervid minds visions of wealth as dazzling as those described in Eastern story, and which upon near approach in many instances proved as unsubstantial as Aladdin’s palace and like it vanished into viewless air….”

El Dorado County, California, where the town of Coloma and Sutter's Mill are located

In 1854, Jonathan sent $200 to his brother Jeremiah by means of a check which was later filed with the chancery suit papers.  Drawn on the Adams & Co. Express and Banking Office in Columbia, California, the check features a pictorial engraving of several groups of miners panning for gold, with a man driving a wagon and a collection of wooden buildings in the background.  At the bottom center of the check is an engraving of an early version of the California state seal with the state motto, Eureka, (Greek for “I have found it”) across the top.

Adams & Co. was a subsidiary company of the Adams Express Company of Baltimore, a shipping company established in 1839.  Organized in 1850 in California, its failure in 1854 due to poor management caused a financial panic in that state.  The Adams Express Co. still exists today as a publicly-traded diversified equity fund based in Baltimore and is one of the oldest companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The chancery cause, Jonathan Ramey Sr. by etc. vs. Admx of Jeremiah Ramey etc., 1878, is part of the Scott County Chancery Causes, 1816-1942. The collection is unavailable due to processing and is scheduled to be digitized.

-Sarah Nerney, Senior Local Records Archivist

(The T.C. Williams Co. tobacco label and many other  labels and prints from the collection are available at The Virginia Shop.)

Sarah Nerney

Former Senior Local Records Archivist


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