On a morning in March, 1850, the sun rose and revealed a cloudless blue sky. The five men clustered together under a huge old oak tree looked up gratefully at the sky. Gone at last was the downpour that had drenched their campsite the night before. This company of prospectors headed by Dr. Thomas Hildreth had spent a miserable night on the ground, and their blankets and belongings were soaking wet. The men had been searching for gold to no avail and were on their way back to Sonora when caught by the storm.
With the coming of morning, the men decided to dry out their blankets before continuing their journey. To pass the time they did what they had been doing so unsuccessfully for the past few weeks – attempt to “pan out some color” from the nearby soil. Almost immediately they were shocked (and happy) to discover that the ground around them seemed to be exceedingly rich in gold. They staked their claim and set to work. On such chance happenings men grew rich in the gold rush, and in this case the town of Columbia was born. Word of the find spread like wildfire and hundreds of men came flocking to what was initially called “Hildreth’s Diggings”. That name was replaced only weeks later by one that reflected the patriotic fervor of the 49’ers – Columbia!