Mining Camp Law When the first Argonauts came to California and established mining camps, there were no laws to speak of...

When the first Argonauts came to California and established mining camps, there were no laws to speak of, something that prompted one rascal to declare, “We didn’t have no crime until the lawyers arrived.”

It was truly a “lawless society.” Killings, robberies, claim jumping and other peccancies were commonplace occurrences. A few towns bragged with some credibility of “having a man” each morning before breakfast. It was not a compatible situation to say the least, so the moralistic citizenry did what Americans have been doing from the first time they set foot on Plymouth Rock—they held meetings. Laws were established regulating everything from filing claims to social behavior. Violation of these miners’ laws could mean anything from banishment to the hangman’s noose, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

For the most part, any resemblance between conduct at these meetings and Robert’s Rules of Order was purely coincidental. Whatever justice could be carried out with great expediency and seemed logical to the group, was usually the procedure followed. Lawyers with a propensity toward technicalities of the law were sometimes given escort out of town by the irascible miners.

The legal code established during these formative years would serve the entire mining West, including Alaska, in the years to come.

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