Header Content Region

Insert text, image or banner ads here, or just delete this text and leave this area blank!

portfolio1 portfolio2 portfolio3 portfolio4


Enrique, Nabor and Carmen


Jose, Father, 2 daughters of previous marriage, Mercedes and Leonor in white.


Alfred Jordan, Olivia Pacheco, Alfred, Gregory and Jason


Children, Olivia and Rudolph, Tumacacori Church, Richard Pacheco Daughter and Niece.

small portfolio1 small portfolio2 small portfolio3 small portfolio4
themed object
get in touch

The Contreras Family Home Page.

Damian Contreras is the father of Leonor Contreras Salazar, mother of Leonor Federico, born Tucson, 1886.  Family is from Santa Ana/Magdalena, Sonora area. Before then? Probably Jalisco or ?. 

International Genealogical Index - Mexico
  DAMIAN CONTRERAS GONSALES - International Genealogical Index / ME
Gender: Male Christening: 20 JAN 1807 Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico
  DAMIAN DE CALIDAD CONTRERAS - International Genealogical Index / ME
Gender: Male Christening: 30 JAN 1818 San Antonio, Churintzio, Michoacan, Mexico
DAMIAN CONTRERAS - International Genealogical Index / ME
Gender: Male Marriage: 12 FEB 1838 Sayula, Jalisco, Mexico
3. DAMIAN CONTRERAS PEREZ - International Genealogical Index / ME
Gender: Male Christening: 10 OCT 1840 Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico

Arizona History

Early Yumans failed in trek to gold fields
Feb 2, 2003


It's impossible to know exactly how many early Yuma residents were first drawn west by the 1849 California gold rush because of a lack of biographical documents. But despite the scarcity of information, there is evidence that many early Yumans were gold rush failures.

A little known fact about California's gold rush is that Mexicans, not Americans, were the first to reach the diggings. Probably the best known failed 49'er who settled in Yuma was Jose Maria Redondo. He later became a territorial legislator and was mayor of Yuma when he died in 1878.

Although he was the descendant of a distinguished Sonoran family, Jose went with his father's family to the California diggings in December of 1848. Sources available don't tell what kind of luck the Redondo family had in California, but it must not have been very good. Jose's father soon returned to Sonora while the son brought his young family to Arizona in 1859. By then, he was married to Piedad Contreras.

But gold didn't elude Jose Redondo forever. He was the first to exploit the placer diggings at La Paz. Now a ghost town near Ehrenberg, nothing remains there today, but his mining success helped Redondo create a large ranch near Yuma in the late 1860's and establish successful Yuma businesses in the 1870's.

Another prominent early Yuman who was a failed 49'er was William Berry. Why Berry left his Pennsylvania home at 29 years of age for Oregon in 1847 is unknown, but he only remained there a short time. Upon hearing of the discovery of gold in California, he left Oregon with a wagon train of 60 others bound for the mines. Upon reaching the gold fields on the American River, Berry mined for a time until he became ill from a malady reported to be "intermittent fever." He left for San Francisco hoping to regain his health. A second try at the gold fields followed which also failed.

A study of California laws convinced Berry he could become an attorney, and he practiced in Santa Barbara for a few years before leaving for Prescott where he opened a gunsmith shop. When gold was discovered at La Paz in Arizona soon afterward, he tried his luck mining there without success. Upon learning that the first Yuma newspaper, The Free Press, was for sale, Berry came here where he bought the failed journal's equipment but refused to take responsibility for the indebtedness of its proprietor. Berry edited the Yuma newspaper until Dec. 30, 1875 when he sold it and left town.

It is likely that Berry met future Yuman Hall Hanlon while mining along the American River. Born in Maryland in 1823, Hanlon was living in New Orleans when he learned of the discovery of gold in California. Biographical sources don't tell how Hanlon got to the diggings, but they do report that he soon became too sick with asthma to continue mining.

Someone who had been through Yuma on the trip west told Hall about the dry climate here, and he was a resident of the Colorado River town by 1854. Quickly finding employment as a carpenter at Fort Yuma, Hanlon lived here for a time where he served on the town council.

Hanlon moved across the river in the early 1870's. He homesteaded a ranch there which he sold years later to the California Development Company so they could build a canal into the Imperial Valley.

When Hanlon died in 1912, Yuma's Sun newspaper of July 19 paid this tribute: "Mr. Hanlon was a quaint character. He had a great fund of humor, a singular ready wit and a command of sparkling language that always made a company merry when he was one of them. Old timers love to repeat many of his comments."

Another Sonoran drawn north by the California gold rush was Pablo Figueroa. Born in 1816 at Altar, Pablo's father took his family to the gold diggings in Calaveras County, Calif. What luck they had is no reported. It must have not been great because Pablo moved his family to the Pot Holes gold diggings along the Colorado in 1860. Just north of Yuma, it was a mining camp near present-day Laguna Dam.

It appears that Figueroa wasn't a very successful miner at Pot Holes because he moved to Yuma in 1862. Figueroa was listed in the 1870 census as a Yuma merchant, but he had turned to farming by 1880. He died here is 1894.

Also from Sonora was Antonio Contreras. Born at Magdalena in 1830, he migrated north in 1849 to try his luck searching for gold in Amador County. What success he had is unknown, but he may have been more successful than some other Yumans who migrated to the gold fields. This is suggested by the 1870 census at Arizona City which listed him as a stock trader with property valued at $5,500. Only five other local residents owned that much property.

Among other early Yumans lured to the gold rush in California was Andrew Jackson Keene from New York state and William Ankrim who eventually became a Yuma ferryman. There were probably many others, but information about them is scarce.

FRANK LOVE is a local historian.

© Copyright, YumaSun.com

slide up button