Summit City Social History

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 06 March 2018


Social History of a Silver Boom Town

Summit City in the Mokelumne Wilderness

Sandy Nevada, a long-time High Sierra backpacker and early member of Tahoe to Whitney, loaned me a unique little book packed with social, economic, and cultural history of the Silver Boom mining camp-town, Summit City by Mr. Roy M. Acker.


I figured that Sandy wanted me to share this interesting information about the History of Summit City so High Sierra backpackers can know about the interesting history their footsteps are echoing in the Sierra Nevada. Do you have any historical resources or knowledge?

Post Them Up!

If you have bits of history or resources that impart historical dimensions of the trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney you are invited to post them up here. Or you can point me towards the resources.

I will write up a review or at least link them up with their related High Sierra locations in the HIstory Forum and on the trail guide and maps.


Physical Location

The top of Summit City Creek's massive headwaters canyon is visible from the Pacific Crest Trail at Forestdale Divide South of Carson Pass.

Hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trailenter this same canyon that encases Summit City Creek when they hike South from Fourth of July Lake.

 Historical Location

Mr. Acker's family was part of the huge movement of people to the Eastern Sierra during the Silver Boom of the 1860s. Mr. Acker's family resided at Summit City during the height of the Silver Boom between 1863 and 1866.


The History of Summit City

 The article below is based on the fine little book, Historical Summit City. An 1860'S Mining Center in Alpine County California, by Roy M. Acker, self-published, 2nd edition, 1999.

This fine little stapled-together work of 48 pages is packed full of family history, local history, Silver Boom newspaper accounts, tax and census records, archeological research, references from classic histories of California and Nevada, and interviews with subsequent miners who worked the claims as well as interviews with old locals who hung out at Summit City as children.

Mr. Acker even has found pictures of site from the 1920s to the 1960s, along with diagrams of the site and the various mines.

To better situate Summit City physically and historically I have used hiking maps and trail guide pages from the Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide. Historically, Mark Twain provides cultural context in his fine text describing the situation, Roughing It.

Roughing it was written during Twain's sojourn in the West during the height of the Silver Boom as a reporter in Virginia City, a silver prospector, and as a worker in a silver mill. His insights inform and enrich Mr. Acker's research.

Summit City and Lower Summit City Physical Locations

Old School Trail Knowledge

The location of Summit City is placed by Mr. Acker on the flat that sits two miles East, upstream, from the  junction of the trail where the Summit City Creek trail intersects with the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail below Fourth of July Lake.

Lower Summit City is located at this trail junction, according to Mr. Acker.

This Carson Pass Backpacker Map covers the locations of both Summit City and Lower Summit City. Heading 2 miles East, upstream from the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction (the location of Lower Summit City) along Summit City Creek brings you up to a big flat spot.

This flat spot where Summit City was most likely located sits just Northwest of Devils Corral. The Summit City site is situated where the trail along Summit City Creek begins to climb East steeply up towards Upper Blue Lake.

Mr. Acker's ancestor operated a sawmill at Upper Blue Lake which was constructed to support Summit City's mining operations. These mining operations did not prove to be substantial or long lasting, as promised by press reports, which also doomed the sawmill.

When the Sawmill died Mr. Acker's ancestors moved Northeast to Carson City.

The trail guide pages linked to above have many images depicting the character of the local terrain and the trails through it. Navigate around, and you can find views of Devils Corral, Forestdale Divide, Blue Lakes, and other aspects of the terrain at the head of Summit City Creek's massive granite canyon.

If you are hiking by on the Pacific Crest Trail, you can look South, down on Summit City's site from Forestdale Divide.

Lower Summit City is currently signed as being located 2.43 miles South of the of the Summit City Creek-Tahoe to Yosemite Trail junction below Fourth of July Lake.

Mr. Acker states that the currently posted position of Lower Summit City is incorrect.

His research indicates that Lower Summit City was located at the trail junction between the TYT coming down from Fourth of July Lake and the Summit City Creek Trail.

Current Trail Facts

The most important thing about this location for Southbound backpackers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is that this trail junction is where the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail enters Summit City Creek's grand granite-vaulted canyon. And, this is the point where the marked and maintained trail route ends.

"Officially" marked and maintained trail resumes 9.52 miles South of this junction, at Camp Irene.

Continuing South from the Summit City trail junction for 2.43 miles on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail will bring you down to the improperly signed site, as mentioned above, of Lower Summit City. (Removed as of 2013)

But you will not worry too much about that, as your real worry will be, "Where's the darn trail?" This will be your mantra through this section. You will repeat it constantly. "Where's the darn trail?"

Concerning the current location signed "Lower Summit City," Mr. Acker states "It could not have been anywhere near where the sign marking the site of Lower Summit City is now located."

In any case, there are few physical indications of Summit City or Lower Summit City remaining today, apart from its mis-placed sign. Summit City's physical end came when it was swept away in 1923 by a regular feature of High Sierra Spring-times: A Great Thaw.


Mr. Acker's Summit City 

Early "Modern" Visitor

Mr. Acker's interest in Summit City and its history was kindled young. When he was a "child" (1920s?) he was himself an early modern visitor to Summit City Creek. He recounts driving in on the Old Forestdale Road as a child with his family as his father attempted to locate his great aunt's gravesite at Summit City.

(Note: Map. The Forestdale Road is mislabeled as "Blue Lakes Road" on this USGS map. This road is present today. You can locate it on the map where it passes through Forestdale Divide.)

Mr. Acker's research revealed that Adaline Winaford Pleasant, Mr. Acker's great aunt, was the only person who died and was buried at Summit City. She died at 14 years of age on July 20, 1865 after being married for a year.

Mr. Acker continued his investigations of his family's history at Summit City through his whole adult life, resulting in his eventually finding and restoring his great aunt's lost grave, and ultimately produced this finely researched and written social history of Summit City. 

The Beginning of Summit City 

First Mention of Summit City

Mr. Acker's research finds the first mention of Summit City in the Amador Weekly Leger on Sept 10 1863. The presence of "several families" and "220 distinct silver ledges" which meant that "tunnels were being run," and that Summit City promised great wealth and development.

From the Leger:

"Of the immense silver wealth embraced in this district none can even conjecture: every assay made of rock...(promises) wealth too fabulous for belief." Summit City  was "...equal to many of the boasted ledges of Gold Hill and Virginia City."

From the Alta:

The next year, on June 15, 1864 the Alta California Newspaper reported that, "...the first ledge taken up there in the Spring of 1860,... (though) it was not until 1862...that the 'rush' to the Mokelumne District really began."

The Alta "report" (more on that below) stated that the Silver Era Company had run a tunnel that " now about 200 feet..." Supporting all of this mining activity was what sounds like a nice little mountain mining town: Summit City.

The Alta Californian goes on to paint a rosy picture of Summit City. "We have in Summit City about 600 inhabitants, and the town is building up as the lumber can be obtained." The Alta describes a full-service town with "The usual amount of stores, blacksmith shops, bakeries, saloons, etc, are in full blast, and a church and school house will follow in due time."

Mr. Acker's historical excavation of the local press and records are indicative of Summit City's role in the silver boom and subsequent decption, speculation, and fraud that swept the land during those boom and bust times.

His research indicates his family was in Summit City between 1863 and 1866, and Mr. Acker states it may be that "...Williamson (his ancestor) read the article about Summit City in the Alta Californian..."

Like many Silver Boom participants, Mr. Williamson was likely drawn by newspaper accounts, if not the specific accounts in the Alta,  that wildly exaggerated the scope of the Silver Boom.

Internal Migrants

Mr. Acker's ancestors were typical of the times. They appeared to be gradually migrating Westward across the Southern US during the early 19th century as indian lands were expropriated, finally reaching San Francisco in 1852. 

This sounds exactly like my family history, except my ancestors began ranching and farming in Napa to profit off feeding the swelling population of San Francisco.

Mr. Acker's family movements typifies the mobility of the era, and like thousands of other families followed news of mining strikes and business opportunity to California.   

Mr. Acker's ancestors were emblematic of the huge informal internal movement of people West across continential North America, steadily expanding the borders of the United States.

It appears likely from the timing of their movement to California that Mr. Acker's ancestors were initially drawn to California by the Gold strike, but arrived too late to participate.

Family History

Starting in Louisiana in 1835 Mr. Acker's ancestors were in Texas in 1838, and sailed around the Horn to San Francisco in 1852.

This puts Mr. Acker's family in the Republic of Texas two years after it's formation in 1836, and seven years before becoming part of the US. They arrived in California two years after California became a state.

Though Mr. Acker does not mention it, his ancestor likely moved to California in pursuit of the gold strike of 1849, only being able to arrive during 1852. Many of those who traveled to California for the gold rush arrived long after it had ended for the common prospector. Bad luck and the loss of family savings upon their arrival in San Francisco moved the family to take a job maintaining a remote hay ranch in Point Reyes.

Point Reyes is stunningly beautiful, cold, wet, and fairly well distant from people and population centers even today. In 1852 it offered isolation unimaginable today.

After a stint at the hay ranch at Point Reyes Mr. Acker's ancestor was listed as a resident of Calavaras County in the Sierra Foothills in the 1860 census, apparently operating a sawmill. From Calavaras the family moved upslope to the Sierra Crest at Summit City.

The family finally spent 3 years at Summit City mining and operating a sawmill between 1863 and 1966 before heading down to the Carson Valley  to settle in what would later become part of Carson City.

It's interesting to note that both Point Reyes and the area around Summit City are both now protected areas due to their great beauty. Mr. Acker's ancestors lived in two of the most beautiful places in California.

Mr. Acker's family movements to and from Summit City mirrors the rise and fall of Summit City, as well as the precipitious rise and fall of massive populations in the Eastern Sierra when the Silver Boom went bust.

Their story of constant movement offers an insight into the lives of the thousands of people that formed up the great migration to the Sierra fed by lure of the gold and silver strikes that spanned the 1850s and 1860s.

This mass movement split itself into many small societies, little mining settlements like Summit City that rose quickly in the mountains which dispersed as quickly as they formed, leaving behind the Gold and Silver Boom ghost towns that still decorate the whole length of the Eastern Sierra and the dry mountains East of the Sierra.
The ghost town of Bodie is today's most famous example of abandoned towns.

Boom Times-Bust Times

Mr. Acker's family history and movements provides us with a window into the boom and bust experiences of those times, as well as the expectations of wealth created by the gold and silver booms that drove many of the Western settlers Westward, against the reality. of the situation.

Mr. Acker's ancestors did what many others did during this era: they pursued  both  mining activity as well as ran businesses that provided the basic services and elements of infrastructure required to support a small mining town.

Mr. Acker reports that his ancestor, who had earlier built a sawmill in Calvaras County, may have been attracted by the Alta's reports of both the rich mining claims and the need for lumber by the supposedly wildly growing Summit City settlement.

Everyone involved in this giant speculation, for that's what it was, anticipated profits both from the success and growth in value of their local mining claims, as well as business profits garnered from supplying the explosive growth of the mining settlements into towns, and then cities that dreamed would follow in the wake of a rich strike.

The vast majority of these mining operations and  blossoming of hopeful little mining camps all over the Eastern Sierra did not prove to be substantial or long lasting, as promised by the press reports. The vast majority of towns faded and their rise into cities never materialized.

Boom and Bust was nothing new: it was the development pattern up and down the Eastern Sierra for years prior to the Silver Boom, starting with the gold rush and running strong through the Silver Boom. Towns were rising and falling like Spring grass in Fall.

Some of those towns became substantial cities before falling into overnight disrepair. Virginia City and Bodie are two examples of old ghost towns living on today upon the romance of their history.

There are literally hundreds of ghost towns in the Eastern Sierra and all over Western Nevada. See the bottom of the page for a couple of links to get you started checking out these locations.

The rapid rise and quick fall of these towns was a product of their time and culture.

Reality vs Perception

Virginia City was the contemporary model of instant explosive growth that all prospectors and businessmen hoped to emulate. And fulfilling this desire was not restricted to reality: creating the appearance of a rich strike was fueled by all the manipulations typical and possible for the times.

History clearly shows us that the people who did the best from the Gold Rush and Silver Booms were the ones who sold necessities to the miners, not the miners. Mr.Acker's ancestor played both sides of the game.

As Mr. Acker stated, his ancestor  Mr. Williamson, was likely drawn to Summit City by newspaper accounts that wildly exaggerated the scope of the Silver Boom.  

Let's investigate this further with a little review of our contemporary man on the scene, Mark Twain.

Twain was an expert in exaggeration and therefore an expert witness that must be consulted about Silver Boom liars and their role in the Boom and Bust cycle..

Another Perspective

In  Roughing It   Mark Twain speaks of being swept up in the massive cloud of lies, greed, and oppertunism that surrounded and fed the silver fever burning through the Eastern Sierra in the 1860s. In Twain we find a gold mine of information on the Silver Boom, Virginia City, and the general tenor of the times.

Mr.Twain's and Mr.Acker's social histories compliment and support each other, despite coming from quite different perspectives in time.

What is obvious is that Mr. Acker's quotations from, and his framing of the contemporary newspapers descriptions of the town of Summit City as not being supported by the reality on the ground fits right in with Samuel Clemmen's analysis about the very poor quality, if not fraudlent local reporting about local mining prospects when he was a reporter in Virginia City during the height of this very same silver boom.

Mr. Acker's ancestors were swept up in this boom. Besides the sawmill at Blue Lake mentioned above, they also operated the Osceola Mine, which sits on the high point of the mountain to the South of Forestdale Divide, Peak 8902, which lays just East of Summit City. 


Bad News

Twain claimed most of this reporting was outright fraud to pump up the profits of large and small speculators and local mining claim holders. Most of the sources of the remaining reports of "rich strikes" eminated from local interests hoping to bring-in a local business boom  on the back of a mining rumor. Twain claimed that the remainder of the reports were pure hogwash, written to sell ink, paper, and romantic dreams of easy money and adventure on the Western Frontier.

It appears that Twain contributed to the last catagory of hot air production...

Clemmens summed up the status of Eastern Sierra journalism as it stood when he was the city editor of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City during 1862. He wrote,

"To find a petrified man, or break a stranger's leg, or cave an imaginary mine, or discover some dead Indians in a Gold Hill tunnel, or massacre a family at Dutch Nick's, were feats and calamities that we never hesitated about devising when the public needed matters of thrilling interest for breakfast. The seemingly tranquil ENTERPRISE office was a ghastly factory of slaughter, mutilation and general destruction in those days."

Clemmens wrote this in Letters from Washington, Number IX, on March 7, 1868.

In Roughing it, CHAPTER XLII, Clemmens tells us with glee about inquiring the names of the stage driver and passengers, being assured the stage was not returning shortly to refute his report, so he could report them all killed after a bloody indian battle in the evening's edition of his paper.

Modern Discovery of Old Fraud

Mr. Acker reports that miners in 1926 had located the 900 foot Silver Era mine on the backside of the Round Top Sisters massif. This is the mine mentioned by the Alta Californian.

 These 1920s miners wittnessed the cave-in that destroyed the mine a few months after they located it. They also reported that they had taken very rich samples from the mine.  There was only one problem with the rich ores of the Silver Era Mine. They were not from the mine!

Modern geology revealed that the sample taken from the mine were from Oregon, and had been placed there to "salt" the mine. Thus the reports from the Alta Californian about the richness of the mines at Summit City are suspect, as was all popular reporting about the "richness" of strikes during the Silver Boom.

This is where Twain's words in Roughing It find traction in Acker's study of Summit City.

The article cited by Mr. Acker above as the first mention of Summit City in the record is typical of the poetic licence of contemporary newspaper reporting. The Weekly Ledger reported that in late 1863 Summit City consisted of "several families" working "220 distinct silver ledges" and that "tunnels are being run" which offer promise of great wealth and development.

Mr. Ayers points out that this humble report on the physical layout of a humble mining site appears to reflect the reality of the physical situation at Summit City during 1863. But one cannot help but notice that the tone of the article is distnctly bent towards promoting the area for mining and development.

In light of the discovery that the Silver Era Mine was salted, and Twain's participation in we must treat all news reports as suspect.

The Nature of the Times

This amplification of the mining and subsequent business oppertunities at Summit City, and other remote locations in the Eastern Sierra is typical of the overall approach taken by the local papers along the Eastern Sierra during the 19th century,

They were open and daring liars, as Twain makes clear.

Any incoming traffic of miners, or the farmers, ranchers, and tradesmen who would hope to support any mining activity, would only benefit the current claim holders, bump up the property values for current residents, as well as offering valuable markets for every existing local producer of products and services.

And a mining boom would certainly sell more local newspapers!


Alta Calfornia Newspaper, June 15, 1864

The Nature of the Times

The Alta California newspaper made claims in 1864 that were quite typical of thousands of bloated newspaper claims about "strike it rich" claims that blew up vast bubbles of mining stock speculations producing inflated "paper" rising out of these bogus reports about prodigious productivity and profits produced by local mines.

All of these reports were powered by the emotional charging that dangling the potiential easy riches to be gotten out of nearby mining areas: Let's call it greed.

These reports focused on the "freshness" of the claims, where they always reported that only a very few miners were invariably reported to have "struck it rich."

The success of these claims were always backed up by the "fact" that everyone who was "in the know" was keeping the strike "secret" as they bought up stock and staked claims.

You had better hurry, or you will be left behind!

Paper Markets: Mines, Stocks, and Newspapers

Twain speaks at length and some occasional bitterness about the market in mining stock paper that reached dazzeling heights during the early 1860s in the Easter Sierra, and especially Virginia City. Newspaper men were in up to their necks in this paper, and many were interested in seeing their mines attract wide interest.

A reasonable History of Summit City Creek

Mr. Acker found the Alta California article that tells us that the first Summit City silver ledge was "taken up there in the Spring of 1860" by the Silver Era Mine, who's likely location Mr Acker marks on both map and picture. I will mark this location on the topo hiking map that covers the South side of Round Top, where the Silver Era Mine was located.

The Alta goes on to say that "It was not until 1862...that the 'rush' to Mokelumne Distraict really commenced." We are told that the Silver Era's tunnel is "about 200 feet...." The social situation is pictured as quaint and growing.

This is believable. The Silver Boom was drawing seekers of easy riches from around the country and world, The next part is much less believable.

"We have in Summit City about 600 inhabitants and the town is building up fast as lumber can be obtained." The town consists of "The usual amount of stores, blacksmith shops, bakeries, saloons, etc., are in full blast, and a church and school house will follow in due time." We are led to believe that Summit City is a bustling and growing town by the Alta article. But Mr. Acker does not fall for it.

Mr. Acker points out the common building material was not with lumber, but 14 foot square log cabins were the standard form of construction at Summit City. He says, "The (comments by the Alta on the situation at Summit City in 1864) claims about the size of the town and business establishments are not verified by later information on tax records."

The piece in the Alta Californian is a promotional piece, and not an accurate picture of Summit City in 1864. A good estimate of the total number of dwellings may be found in the 1992 Forest Service archeological survey of the location cited by Mr. Acker. I'm looking for more information about this.

Mr. Acker's analysis of the contemporary reporting fits with Twain's analysis of contemporary newpaper reporting as being quite distorted to promotion over honest reporting.

Paper Markets: Mines, Stocks, and Newspapers II

If there is any relationship between the lack of success that individuals experienced who followed the advice of the newspaper industry into the mining industry, it was not in the industries themselves, as they were completely different businesses, but  it can honestly be said that mining and newspaper industries fed off of each other during these interesting times. The one sold the other.

The newspaper industry was reponsible for drawing investments and labor to the great industrial mines. And the papers also fed the legions of fraudsters, scammers, and local interests who would happily drain the potential miners who were flocking from one potential motherlode to the next.

In the meantime the miners and  the mine workers created demand for resources that enriched and established local interests which remained long after the mines disappeared.

 If there were not local interests, such as ranchers, herders, and farmers around a new successful claim that was turning into an established mine, wait ten minutes, and there would be.

Virginia City, Bodie, and a host of other Eastern Sierra ghost towns testify to the short lifespan of large population centers on the Eastern Sierra. In recent decades the desert mining and processing town of Trona has recently bit the dust.

The newspapers that were publishing during the Eastern Sierrra silver boom were steam-driven industrial presses that pursued circulation, and their pursut of circulation had the same motivations as the mining companies, the stock sellers, and the speculators: outright, open, and plainly thirsting-to-be-satisified greed.

The mining industry, the newspapers, and the invariable mass of humanity driven to these locations by greed easily feed the one off of the other, and the public lapped it up. And there were individual "winners."

Old School Trail Culture: The Miners

Twain recounts a gallery of these stories of vast riches found, lost, and traded away in ignorant desperation in the early days of the Silver Boom. Twain describes how the first miners who cashed in big during the early stages of the Silver Boom formed an unlikely elite class of  Silver Nabobs who first cashed in before silver mining became dominated by  the massive industrial operations that soon took over silver mining operations in the Eastern Sierra.

Mining camps like Summit City Creek rose and fell across the Sierra for decades, from the beginning of the gold rush to the exhaustion of the silver boom. From the very beginning of the gold rush to the end of the silver era, the biggest winners were the biggest corporate and industrial c.pnbsp; that wildly exaggerated the scope of the Silver Boom.strongoncerns. The average prosrtecenter nbsp;on the /ppector soon exhausted their funds, their supplies, and ultimately their claim, leaving them to toil for the large industrial mines.

Twain well describes the hard conditions for individuals working a hard rock mine, as well as the difficult and dangerous conditions in Silver Era industrial stamping mills.


Technology of Pain

Another aspectDevils Corrallack of success of the Silver Boom Mr. Acker reveals is that these remote little mining towns were industrial operations. Make no mistake about it. These were industrial operations powered by steam and worked by large numbers of laborers.

Remember, this Silver Boom was 20 years past the era of the hydrolic mines that stripped the Sierra during their search for hidden seams of gold. Now steam technology was powering the silver boom in Sierra mines and processing facilities, as well as the industial infrastructure that supported the mines.

In any case, even if the mine or the whole mining area being promoted never really struck it rich, or soon failed after a short-lived claim, as was the case with Summit City the existing local interests would make a bunch of money for just as long as the boom persisted.


Though lone prospectors and teams had a chance during the first few months of the gold rush, after that well-financed business interests systamatically bought out and industrailized all the productive claims throughout the majority of the gold rush era. The situation also played out the same way during the silver boom.

The Cycle

 Reports about a mining strike would go out, and soon endless newspaper stories from locals, speculators, and imaginative writers would blossom like Spring flowers in Upper Summit City about the endless riches in nearby areas miners would be rewarded  with.  

Though these reports were not accurate nor even reliably honest, they represented an "industry" of distorted reporting about fantistic "strike it rich" claims and untapped resources that drove the development of the West from the first gold strike.

Twain explored this "strike it rich" mythology both personally and through literature, along with the endless romantizations of the "Wild West" in his classic account of early California and Nevada in Roughing It

Though the "strike it rich" mythology cannot claim any prizes for accuracy, this body of work certainly can claim prizes for longegivity. It's power is that it's mythology both represents and resonates both as the myth of the West's past as well as the same naked greed that dominates present times.

 The naked greed that motivated both the gold and silver rushes pales in comparison to the Audacity of Greed that the theives and liars dominating our present predatory times possess.

As much as things have changed, they have stayed fundamentally the same. 

 The myth of cheap wealth easily obtained seems to be not just an easy fit with the legends and promise of the Sierra gold and silver rushes, but has resonated down the ages in the hearts and minds of makind itself.

The real winners

The "myth-making" industry seems to be the only industry that was broadly successful if you go by the numbers. The individual miner was the big loser. Very few ever made the big strikes on their claim, and as soon as their claim washed out became another laborer in the large industrial companies the quickly monopolized the Sierra gold mining by the early 1850s, and the subsequent silver strikes of the 1850s and '60s.

This was not a pleasant fate, as Twain's descriptions of Hard Rock mining and Stamping Mill operations linked to above point out.

The fact that very few individuals ever actually struck it rich was a secondary consideration to the reporters who wrote this copy, and the whole chain of local business and  interests that the easy-riches myths dished out by the reporters fed.

The End of Summit City

Mr. Acker's family departed Summit City in 1866.

Mr. Acker also follows the subsequent explorations by hopeful prospectors long after the Silver Boom went bust.


The Great Thaw of 1923

According to Mr. Acker, the lack of physical evidence of Summit City's existence is  the product of a Great Thaw that swept away the remaining buildings at Summit City during the Spring of 1923.

There were apparently at least one of two possible frame buildings from the Silver Boom Era still standing in the Spring of 1923, along with the remnants of the log cabins that most of the Silver Boom inhabitants had built and lived in.

The one standing framed building that can be verified in 1923 apparently held a saloon, a hotel, and was even equipped with a pool table. Remnants of the pool table's legs were subsequently seen by a local kid being used as claim markers by miners who arrived after the Great Thaw of 1923 to pick over the old Silver Boom mines.

In the 1920s miners reported the collaspe of a 900 foot long hard-rock mine remaining from the Silver Boom era of the 1860s.

Long after the end of the Silver Boom nature finally swept away the last remaining physical evidence that Summit City existed. 


Great Thaws on Summit City Creek and the N Mokelumne

The Great Thaw of 1998

The Great Thaw that swept away the remnants of Summit City are regular events in these drainages.

In recent times I explored the N Mokelumne and Summit City Creek after the disasterous Great Thaw of 1998 swept away all but the greatest trees and devastated both drainages. Both the N Mokelumne and Summit City Creek still bear scars from the 1998 thaw. But today you have to look hard to find indications of this flood, and much harder to find any evidence of Summit City itself.

Mr. Acker's book is almost all that remains.

I have noted the increasing chances of another Great Thaw occuring during the recent massive Spring snow accumulations of 2010 and 2011. We have only been one heat wave away from a catastrophic snow melt event during both these year's heavy Spring snowpacks.

I can easily imagine a massive Spring thaw sweeping the last remnants of Summit City down the valley in 1923, as I've seen this force of nature scour these canyons in recent times, and I fully expect a Great Thaw to happen there again in the future.

The healing power of nature is amazing.  In a couple of years after the Thaw of 1923 there would be few signs remaining that Summit City ever existed. Except in the memory of family, the archives of ancient newspapers, old tax and census records, and trail routes that were designed to service it that we still use today.

And Mr. Acker's rare little book.


Sources and Motivations: Author's Intent

This story of Summit City is told through the historical researches of a family historian, Mr. Roy Acker. Mr. Acker's family history is intertwined with the history of Summit City Creek.

His sources and motivations indicate that he was not interested in building a story or a drama to satisfy or gratify his Western identity or glorify his ancestors. Mr.Acker sought to reveal the best information about the actual environment and nature of the times at Summit City during the Silver Boom, to reveal elements of the physical and social world, supported by evidence, that his ancestors lived and worked in.

  Mr. Acker was thorough. Mr. Acker drew on a wide variety of sources, ranging from oral, written, and surviving family member histories, to census records, including  contemporary newspapers, tax records, mining claims, and the notes, images, and the recollections of subsequent miners and the few locals who recollected the 1920s at Summit City.

Mr Acker also drew on the information gathered by an archeological survery of the Summit City site by the Oregon California Trails Association in 1992, as well as a variety of historical and academic publications about the history of the Eastern Sierra.  


Archeological Background

Mr. Acker states that the survey of the area was instigated by the Oregon-California Trails Association and led by Mr. Frank Tortorich. This survey apparently counted log cabin sites, surveyed the remnants of mines and the saw mill at Upper Blue Lake, and estimated the location of other mines.


Ghost Towns

Old West Ghosts

Ghost Town Explorers

Forgotton Nevada

Ghost Towns Forum


Trail Guide Information

Three maps will pinpoint Summit City and help familarize you with the region. The Carson Pass hiking map shows both the TYT and PCT routes South from Carson Pass around Round Top that will each bring you to the trails accessing the Summit City site from both the West and the East, respectively.

The map of the PCT from Carson to Ebbetts Passes shows the trail down to Summit City Creek from Forestdale Divide and the trail down from Upper Blue Lake.

The map of the TYT between Carson Pass and Lake Alpine reveals the trail up to Summit City below Fourth of July Lake in the CPMA.

Clicking a red dot on these maps will bring you to the trail guide page covering that location.


Pacific Crest Trail Trail Guide Pages

Forestdale Divide

Forestdale Divide to Blue Lakes Road


Tahoe to YosemiteTrail Trail Guide Pages

Looking East at Forestdale Divide

Summit City Creek trail junction Southbound on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Summit City Creek.



Trail Forum Page Heading South: Summit City Creek

Trail Forum Page Heading North: Fourth of July Lake


From the Book: Family History Timeline

Historical Summit City quotes from the History of Nevada about their relation, George P. Randall, <son-in-law of James P. Williamson> demonstrating that his rapidly changing locations during the middle of the 19th Century covered a lot of distance over a long period of years.

1852 Cincinnati black smith. Gulf of Mexico to Vera Cruz. Overland crossing Mexico from Gulf to Pacific at Matazalan. Ship to San Francisco.

1852-58 Point Reyes "hay ranch," North of Golden Gate along Pacific Coast. Stunning terrain...I've been there many times. Family history reports "too much fog," for hay at Point Reyes, and headed to the Sierra.

1858 Calvaras County, built steam saw mill.

1861 Steam Mill moved to French Gulch

1863 Sold mill and moved to Summit City Creek for "short time," then to Douglas County Nevada at Carson City to 1866.


Twain on the Sierras Quotes from Roughing It.


Comments and questions welcome through the comments link below. Add to our knowledge about this interesting area.



Twain on the Times

Roughing It

Work in a Silver Stamping Mill



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