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Perhaps The Single Rarest of Important Early Maps of The California Gold Regions

Rare separately issued map of the "Northern & Middle Mines" of California, compiled by Mahon Milleson and lithographed by Alexander Zakreski, in San Francisco, in 1854.

The Milleson - Zakreski map is one of the earliest detailed topographically accurate maps of the Gold Regions and one of the rarest. Copyrighted on June 6, 1854, the map is known to survive in only a few examples, including separately published examples at Yale and the Bancroft Library and a single example which was found bound into the Library of Congress's copy of an equal rare early California Government imprint entitled. California Legislature Assembly Committee on Internal Improvements . . . Report of Committee on internal improvements, on Assembly bill, no. 16, published in Sacramento in 1855 (the so-called Omnibus Wagon Road Bill).

The map is perhaps most noteworthy for its remarkable depiction of the earliest roads in the Gold Region. For example, the map is the first map to depict the Wagon Route From Placerville to Carson Valley, pre-dating the California Legislature's publication of the map which depicted the construction of this road in 1855, a part of one of California's first great political pork barrell schemes, the so-called Omnibus Wagon Road Bill of 1855. /gallery/detail/23343

The map is also a noteworthy milestone in the railroad history of California, as the map depicts the route of California's first railroad, the Sacramento Valley Rail Road. The Sacramento Valley was the first railroad in California to file papers of incorporation on August 4, 1852, although it was not the first to become operational, as first route was not completed until 1856. The first operational line was the Arcata and Mad River Railroad, which first operated on December 15, 1854. On this map, Arcata is called "Union," and is located at the north end of Humboldt Bay, although there is no sign of the Railroad.

Also shown, but not named, is the Marysville & Benicia Railroad, which was incorporated in 1851, but apparently was later disincorporated without significant activity and was later acquired and reorganized as the San Francisco & Marysville Railroad.

Milleson would contribute cartographic content for other rare early maps of the California and Nevada mining regions, including:

  • A Complete Map of the Feather & Yuba Rivers, with Towns, Ranches, diggings, Roads, distances. Compiled from the recent surveys of M. Milleson & R. Adams. Marysville, Calif.: R. A. Eddy, 1851
  • Milleson & Washburn's Map of the Celebrated Humboldt Silver Mines; Compiled from Recent Surveys of Messrs Fine and Epler, County Surveyors of Humboldt County, N.T. drawn by M. Milleson. Lith. by B. F. Butler. S. F., 1863.
  • Map of the Reese River & Humboldt Mines. San Francisco: Harrison Wheelock, 1864.
  • Map of the Sierra Mining District, Humboldt Silver Mines. GW & CB Colton, 1865.

This is also one of the earliest appearances of Lake Tahoe, here called Bigler Lake, first named on the Eddy Map of California in 1853 (named for California's third governor, John Bigler), but later changed to Lake Tahoe, due to Bigler's secessionist leanings.

The map is also one of the earliest maps to receive a copyright in the Northern District of California, as noted in Edith Margaret Coulter's California Copyrights, 1851-1856, and the second earliest map of the gold regions of California listed by Coulter, predated only by John B. Trask's 1853 Topographical Map of the Mineral Districts of California: /gallery/detail/36370. The title of Zakreski's map An Improved Topographical Map of the Northern & Middle Mines . . . strongly suggests that it was intended as an improved version of Trask's map, and in fact the Zakreski map is enlarged and is limited to the so-called Northern and Middle Mines, in comparison to the Trask map.

The map is rare on the market. In his 1942 work, The Maps of the Gold Region, Carl Wheat wrote (Map 265):

No copy of this map other than that now in the author's collection has been discovered. It seems curious that so important a map should have been issued in what was apparently an extremely small edition.

Thereafter, the only example to appear on the market was the Norris-Streeter Copy, which appeared in the famous Norris Collection catalogue published by the Holmes Bookstore in 1948, and thereafter sold to Thomas Streeter and resold by Streeter in 1967. OCLC locates 2 copies (Yale and Bancroft Library).

Mahlon Milleson and the Fredonyer Pass

The map also describes in the title and depicts Fredonyer's Pass, the northernmost pass through the Sierra Mountains, between the Sierras and the Cascades. This pass was first discovered by Dr. Atlas Fredonyer in June 1850, although many early historians, ignorant of the following text, attributed the discovery to 1852. Mahlon Milleson apparently enjoyed some relationship with Fredonyer, as Milleson became the primary source for dissemination of Fredonyer's discovery, both on this map and to the general public.

Interest in Fredonyer's Pass would peak in the following years during the public discussion of the infamous Omnibus Wagon Road Bill referenced above, prompting various Sacramento Newspapers to publish information provided by Mahlon Milleson and derived from Fredonyer. The below letters from Milleson appeared on April 30, 1855, in the Sacramento Daily Union:

Fredonyer's Pass-A Description of the Mountains in that Region by Dr. Fredonyer.
Marysville, July 27, 1854.
Sir : Having recently returned from the mountains, I hasten to send you Dr. A. Fredonyer'a letter of 1851, having received a note from him requesting me to do the same. And I should gladly have complied with his request at a more early period, but for my absence from the city for the past few days. I have no doubt you will be much pleased with his elaborate and graphic description of the region of country which he refers to. It is indeed quite an authentic report, the truth of which I have subsequently confirmed to my own satisfaction by an exploring tour which I took to a portion of the country therein described last winter. When I was compiling my first map of Feather and Yuba rivers, in the spring of 1851, I was at a loss to know the precise location of the North Fork of Feather river, it then being uncertain whether that stream was not in truth the world-renowned Pitt river, for there was in many of that opinion, and there was too much snow at the time for me to ascertain. I, therefore, having learned that Dr. Fredonyer had been to that quarter a short time before, and therefore knew something of the matter; consequently, I addressed a note to him enquiring for the facts in the case, whereupon he sent me the within endorsed answer, though it was received too late to be of any material service at that time, as the draught was completed, and in the hands of the lithographer. As I have not had time to transmit you a copy of the within at this time, you will oblige me to return the same at any convenient time, when you have done with it. With much respect, I remain,
Your obedient servant, M. Milleson.

Sacramento City, April 5, 1851.

Dear Sir: I duly received your note of the 2d instant, wherein you requested me to give you such information respecting the source of the North Fork of Feather river and the adjoining country as my knowledge of that region would admit. Impressed with a high estimation of your abilities to represent this district of country, it affords me much pleasure in responding to your inquiry. And, in so doing, I have also subjoined a brief description of the country and route by which I came into California, in the month of June, 1850, and lying between the west bend of the Humboldt river and the Pitt river mountains, and passing the Sierra Nevada through a stupendous gap, situated about sixty-five miles south of Lassen's Pass. The accompanying draught herein enclosed, illustrates this section of country better than I can describe it in language.

The North Fork of Feather river does not, as is generally supposed, take its rise in the Sierra Nevada, but in a range of mountains properly denominated the Sacramento Mountains, commencing near Pitt river, in latitude 41 degrees north, and thence bearing in a south by east course, and parallel with the Sacramento river; extends about one hundred miles, where it terminates at the Table Mountain, near Ophir. The summit of this ridge is some thirty-five or forty miles distant from the Sacramento river. The western slope furnishes water for the several little streams known as Rapid, Cow, Clover, Battle, Antelope, Pine, Dry, Dear, Chico and Butte creeks, all flowing into the Sacramento. The flank of the mountain is broken into lateral ridges, ranging west, at nearly right angles with the main ridge, and corresponding with the several above mentioned creeks, whose gurgling waters rush impetuous through the deep and rocky avenues that bind them. The tops of the ridges are rocky and barren, sparingly studded with dwarf oak and manseneta [sic] bushes, excepting in the higher altitudes, where pine and cedar flourish. This region, commonly called the Rocky Desert, presents a dreary and uninviting appearance to the traveler, who never will forget the power of the sun's direct and reflected rays, while passing over them in midsummer.

The eastern flank of these mountains furnish a corresponding number of creeks flowing eastward into the basin of the North Fork, and their several conjunctions, in combination with a few small streams issuing from the Iron Hills, form the principle constituents of that river. The character of the east side of these mountains is very different from that of the western. The declivity of its sides is more precipitous, and are densely covered with forests of pine and the different varieties of evergreens. The temperature of the atmosphere is many degrees colder in the same season and at equal altitudes with the west side. The more elevated peaks in many places on the east side and north of the west branch of the North Fork, is covered with snow during the whole year; advancing westward, it increases in quantity until the mountains abruptly terminates at Lassen's Butte. This is the fountain head from whence innumerable little streams descend, bounding wildly over the craggy precipices, roaring and rushing down through deep ravines, till they reach the romantic valleys below, where they meander and play amidst the wild bowers of grapevine and willow, intermingle together, and form the North Fork of Feather river. The Iron Hills embraces a tract of country, lying between the North Fork of Feather river on the west, and the Pitt river Mountains on the east, and extends from the East Branch of the North Fork on the south, to the northward as far as Pitt river.

This district constitutes a series of hills and valleys, with but little variation in their height, and heavily timbered. The soil is of a red argillaceous composition, mixed with disintegrated quartz, and strongly impregnated with oxide of iron. In various places intervening the hills, are extensive flats of alluvium, coated with grass and clover, and in many places an abundance of wild strawberries. Also, embosomed among them are several small lakes. The East Branch of the North Fork derives most of its water from these hills, and is the only stream of importance which flows into that Fork from the east side.

The Lassen trail which passes over these hills, commences at his ranch near the mouth of Deer Creek in the Sacramento Valley, thence following eastward on the summit of one of the lateral ridges a distance of 35 miles, to a depression at the top of the Sacramento Mountains, thence down the eastern declivity of these mountains twenty-fire miles to the North Fork, crossing that stream at the Big Meadows about twenty miles above the mouth of the East Branch; it then continues in a northerly direction, by a very crooked route, over the Iron Hills, crossing near the head of Canoe creek, (a small tributary of Pitt river) and bearing slightly east, descends to the Pitt river bottoms, a distance of ninety miles; thence crossing Pitt river valley, and by the base of Camp Hill, (which is an isolated mount standing near the middle of the valley on the south side of Pitt river) and up the margin of that river to the eastern side of the valley, a distance of thirty miles, and at the Nine-mile Gap in the Pitt river Mountains.

Having thus complied with your request relative to the North Fork, I will now call your attention to a section of country explored by me last year, and heretofore unknown to the civilized world:

I left St. Joseph, Missouri, in the fall of 1849, and followed the regular emigrant trail to Fort Laramie. Approaching winter compelled me to remain at that post until the ensuing spring, when I again resumed my journey with a small party of emigrants, and crossing the Rocky Mountains at the South Pass, continued to follow the regular trail to the west bend of the Humboldt river. At this point the road forks; taking the right-hand fork, known as the Lassen trail, we left that river, crossing a sage desert at nearly a due west course, to a low range of mountains about twelve miles distant; passing through a division in the ridge, we bore slightly northward, crossing a narrow valley to another low ridge, over which we passed by a gradual ascent through a depression therein, and thence descended into Mud Lake Valley, crossing an extensive desert, and between the Upper and Lower Mud Lakes to the boiling spring, which is situated near the southern extremity of the Black Rock Mountain, about fifty-fire or sixty miles west from the Humboldt river, and in latitude 40 degrees 40 minutes north.

From this point, the trail bears in a north by east direction, up the Boiling Spring Valley to Meadow creek (a small branch emptying into Upper Mud Lake at the north extremity of the Black Rock range), thence making a short deflection to the west, passes over a dividing ridge into Canon Valley, on the north side of which it enters the mouth of the High Rock Canon. This is a deep fissure, passing through a table ridge to the north, and varies in width from twenty-five to fifty yards, with perpendicular walls several hundred feet high, composed principally of a dark basaltic formation. A little stream issues from its mouth, flowing into Canon Lake, which lies on the opposite side of the valley, and at the northern base of a ridge of mountains, which commencing at this point, and ranging in a SSW course, forms the western boundary of Boiling Spring Valley, Lower Mud and Pyramid Lakes. The mouth of High Rock Canon is about forty miles distant from the Boiling Spring, and from that point my observations may be said to commence.

Being weary of proceeding so far to the northward part of the company and myself determined to take a direct west course as possible, and force a passage over the Sierra Nevada at any point rather than make the great circuit by Lassen's Pass. For this purpose we pursued our journey up the Canon Valley, near a SW direction, over a sterile but interesting district, covered with innumerable little pieces of obsidian of different colors; about midway in the valley we passed through a volcanic causeway varying from one to two hundred feet in width and over a mile in length, with perpendicular walls fifteen feet high. The valley on the north and western sides is lined by a ridge of basaltic cliffs, increasing in height and grandeur until they reach the head of the valley at Ladder Canon, and sixteen miles distant from the mouth of High Rock Canon.

To the south of Ladder Canon lies Mount Observation, rising to an elevation of nearly three thousand feet above the planes of the interior basin of a conical shape, the summit and flanks intirely destitute of vegetation.

We ascended to the top of this mount for the purpose of observing the physical character of the country, and determine what course it would be most proper to pursue. The surrounding country when viewed from this point, presented a barren and rocky surface, divided into a multitude of low ridges, ranging from north to south, where they slope off into a. valley of indefinite extent. These ridges are formed principally of basaltic rock which are broken into deep and yawning chasms. The surface above their brinks spread out into inclined planes, covered in many places with fragments of lava, so compactly imbedded as to form a solid pavement. In other places they rise up to inaccessible pinnacles, evidently elevated in a state of fusion. In fact, so plainly are the effects of volcanic action exhibited throughout these localities that it forcibly impresses the mind with the idea that the doors of the infernal regions have here been but recently closed. A gloomy silence seems to brood over the whole district, which presents a scene of desolation and ruin scarcely ever equalled. Directing the view beyond this burnt region, to the west, the Sierra Nevada is seen, ranging north and south, with its snow-capped summit rising in majestic grandeur as far as the eye can see. Lassen's Pass, in the northwest, and the great pass in a west-south west direction, are distinctly seen; likewise, a deep depression lying between these two passes, nearly due west from this point.

Perceiving the impracticability of passing directly west, we descended the mount, and pursued our journey down another little valley lying south of Canon Lake Valley, to the distance of twelve miles, when, to our surprise, we found ourselves at a great opening that lies through the mountains which bounds the Boiling Spring Valley on the west, nearly opposite the Boiling Spring and immediately at the northern end of Lower Mud Lake. This passage presents one of the grandest ruptures of Nature, one side of the cleft rising to the giddy height of a thousand feet, with nearly a perpendicular declivity, while the other inclines off in gradual retiring strata to double that distance. Through the bottom of the passage (which is on a level with the adjoining plain) a small stream finds vent and discharges itself into Mud Lake.

From this pass our course lay nearly west through an extensive valley, bounded by a succession of ridges sloping down into it, from the northern and southern sides, causing a variation in its width from ten to twenty miles. The stream above mentioned takes its rise on the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada, and winds its way through the middle of this valley, its margin in many places coated with a luxuriant growth of grass, and showed signs of periodical floodings.

In passing up the bottom we crossed the channels of several little creeks, descending from between the ridges, some of which were dry, and others having water in. The intervening spaces between these channels are generally barren or coated with wild sage bushes. The adjoining ridges are destitute of timber, and the general appearance of the country is sterile and parched with heat.

After two days journeying up the valley, we reached the east base of the Sierra Nevada at the Great Pass, and encamped by a small branch which descends from a little vale lying north. Having no suspicion of Indians being about, turned our horses loose, as usual, to graze all night. In the morning three of them were missing. I immediately started with one of the men, and went about two hundred yards from camp and commenced trailing a circle. We had not gone far when we saw the tracks of our horses, and also several moccasin tracks, crossing the line of our circuit. Now satisfied the horses were stolen we pursued rapidly up the little valley to the north following their tracks for several miles and to the summit of the dividing ridge at the head of the valley.

From this point we had an extensive view to the northward, and as nothing could be seen of either horses or Indians, we deemed it useless to pursue them any further. But we were amply remunerated for our trouble in ascending the ridge by viewing the diversified and interesting scenery lying northward along the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada. In front lay a spacious flat, coated with a white alkaline incrustation, with here and there clusters of white sage and greasewood bushes. Immediately beyond this flat lies a beautiful lake, about fifteen miles in length by six in breadth, which is confined in a narrow valley between the base of the mountain and the basaltic ridges heretofore spoken of. On the west side of the lake rises the gigantic Sierra Nevada, with its broad flank broken by successive ridges of granite protruding through a superimposed strata of trappean rocks.

The surface of the shelves in many places intervening, the several protrusions have a gradual slope and are covered with an alluvial deposit of sufficient thickness to support a rigorous growth of timber. The summit and upper portions of the flank are covered with a heavy body of snow, the melting of which gives source to a little creek, that dashes over the steep declivities till it reaches the valley at the base of the mountain, where it empties into the southern end of Halloway Lake, so called, in honor to the gentleman that was with me. On the east side of the valley is a dark basaltic ridge, the top of a tabular form, with rugged and precipitous sides. The brink forming a perpendicular wall, from fifty to one hundred feet high, which we named the Palisade rocks. Having noted the features of that district, and rested ourselves, we then returned to our camp, and immediately proceeded to ascend the Great Pass, which is very similar to the South Pass in the Rocky Mountains, but not as broad, the ascent to the culminating point is very gradual, the grade not exceeding a hundred feet to the mile at the steepest places, while the average height would probably not be over seventy. The distance through this, the main ridge of the Sierra Nevada, is about thirteen miles, and entirely free from any obstruction in passing either way. But the sides of the mountains lying north and south of the pass, rise gradual and to an immense height, presenting a formidable barrier the whole length of the passage ; there is no timber on the eastern slope, and but very little through the passage, except high up on the flank of the mountain, where it becomes very abundant, especially on the western declivities.

After crossing the pass, we encamped near the margin of a little creek, that issues from a ridge of mountains lying north of a valley that here opened to view, and extended westward; the ridge is a spur of the Sierra Nevada, and bearing in a westerly course till they come in contact with the Pitt river range, and forms the dividing ridge which separate the waters that flow north into Pitt river, east of the Pitt river mountains, from those that flow south into a valley lying between the Great Pass and the southern continuation of the Pitt river range.

On the following day, when in the act of crossing this valley, our progress was suddenly interrupted by a large party of Indians, who showed unmistakeable signs of hostility. We immediately returned to our camp, and proceeded up the margin of the creek before alluded to, and by good manoeuvering succeeded in avoiding a conflict until we had ascended the ridge, and taken a position on the top of a precipice, where we made all the demonstrations for battle that our feeble circumstances would admit of. Fortunately, they did not charge upon us, otherwise we would have been easily captured, as we were in a helpless condition, being nearly exhausted with fatigue and privation, and having only one gun in the company. But seeing us thus fortified, the Indians withdrew, returning to the valley, and we fearing to resume our former course, continued to proceed northward over the ridge from the summit of which we had a fine view of the surrounding country; overlooking the Pitt river mountains to the west, as far as Shasta Butte, and the Sacramento Range, the summits of which were covered with snow.

The Pitt river mountains are a low ridge of igneous origin, presenting a black and rugged appearance, having no snow on their summits in midsummer. They lie about midway between the Sierra Nevada and the Sacramento range, and range northward at an angle of forty degrees west. The district lying south appeared of a triangular shape, bounded on the north by the transverse ridge on which we stood, east by the Sierra Nevada, and west by the Pitt river range, the two last named, approximating nearly together as they advance southward, with their flanks covered with a dense forest of pine and cedar, and the valley lying between coated with a luxuriant growth of grass and clover. Inclosed within this district are several small lakes, one lying south of the Great Pass, near the base of the Sierra Nevada, the other lying westward of the pass, near the eastern base of the Pitt river range.

The great Pass, as viewed from our high position, presented a grand and sublime aspect. The summits on either side were elevated many thousand feet, and crowned with snow, which, as they dazzled in the sunbeams, formed a beautiful contrast with the deep shade that overspread the green forest of the surrounding localities.

In surveying its various parts the mind becomes overwhelmed with awe in contemplating the infinite power of God, as displayed in the stupendous magnitude of this passage, where nature, in her terrific convulsions, has cleaved the mountains asunder, making the high places low, and the crooked straight, whereby his people may pass through in safety. Leaving this beautiful district we journeyed northward, descending rapidly over a rough and thickly wooded country, observing as we passed, a little lake, lying high up, on the west flank of the Sierra Nevada, and close by the middle gap. Its altide [sic] being so high, we named it Snow-Water Lake. Thence bearing slightly west we soon reached the valley of the South Fork of Pitt river, which ranges nearly north and south, varying in its width from one to two miles, bounded on the west side by a ridge of precipitous bluffs, which commence at the head of the valley, running northward to the Castle Bluff Point, near the great bend of the river.

The South Fork takes its rise in the dividing ridge near the great pass, thence running north along the western base of the Sierra Nevada to Castle Bluff Point, thence west through the Big Bend Meadows, thence north again to its junction with the North Fork of that river.

Leaving the river at the Big Bend we ascended a table ridge to the west, passing over a barren plain to the Nine Mile Gap in the Pitt river mountains, which is about fifty miles west of the Sierra Nevada. The Pitt river passes through this gap; likewise Lassen's trail, which we then followed to the Pitt River Meadows, where we met Capt. Lyons, with it company of dragoons, reconnoitering the country. As we were in a destitute condition, the captain kindly furnished us with provisions sufficient for our consumption until we could reach Lassen's Ranch, in the Sacramento Valley, where we arrived on the 9th of July, 1850.

From the above narrative you will perceive that we were diverted from our proper course after leaving the great Pass by the difficulties which we encountered with the Indians. These circumstances deprived us of an opportunity to explore the mountain regions to the westward and lying between the great Pass and the Sacramento mountains, and south of the dividing ridge that lies between the Feather and Pitt rivers. But the appearance of the country, as viewed by us from the summit of the divide, has left no doubt in my mind but that a direct and practical route could be found over the southern spurs of the Pitt river range and the Iron Hills to the Sacramento Valley, either by Capt. Lyons' route by the northern base of Lassen's Butte, or by the Middle Fork ot Feather river. If this should prove to be the case, we may, at some future day, have the pleasure of seeing a great national railioad passing the Sierra Nevada at the above Pass , and join, with an iron band, the interests of the Pacific coast with that of the Mississippi Valley. But these sanguinary hopes may be considered as premature and uncertain of fulfillment, except Congress should take a co-operative action in the premises relative to her intermediate territories.

The location and character of the great Pass, I have described to many persons who intend prospecting the Pitt river country this summer, from whom. I hope, you will receive additional testimony to the truthfulness of these statements.

With much respect, I remain yours, &c.

A. Fredonyer.

Mahlon Milleson, Esq., Civil Engineer.
Condition Description
Minor fold splits and one minor bit of loss at a fold intersection, expertly repaired on verso.