The first established settlement of Rough and Ready was made in the fall of 1849 by a mining company consisting of 12 men from Shullsburg, Wisconsin known as the Rough and Ready Company. Their leader, Captain Absalom Austin Townsend, named the company after General Zachary Taylor, "Old Rough and Ready", who had recently been elected the 12th president of the United States. Captain Townsend had served under "Old Rough and Ready" when Taylor commanded forces during the Black Hawk War of 1832.
The Rough and Ready Company mined the creeks for several weeks with such good results that Captain Townsend returned to Wisconsin (just weeks before the formation of the Great Republic) to recruit more men for his company. To his surprise, when he returned in September of 1850 with 32 more men, he found almost every square foot of mining ground for several miles around being worked by others. The overcrowding severely limited mining opportunity for the Rough and Ready Company. Sadly, Capt. Townsend released most of his men to work for others in order for them to survive, and he returned to Wisconsin the following Spring of 1851 to pursue a sucessful career in state politics.
The town grew rapidly, establishing (along with 7 saloons) the first church in the county and narrowly missing becoming the Nevada County Seat by six votes. But, as with many mining communities, the town was susceptible to fire. In 1853, and again in 1859, devastating fires destroyed most of Rough and Ready, with the only surviving structure of the second fire being the IOOF Hall (later the Grange Hall and now the Rough and Ready Community Hall).
For more information on Capt. Townsend, read The Townsend Brothers of Shullsburg, Wisconsin by A.A. Townsend's great-great grandson and Honorary Rough and Readyan Callen Harty. Now available on Amazon and Kindle.
PHOTO ABOVE: Captain A.A. Townsend as a Wisconsin State Assemblyman.
Rough and Ready Chamber of Commerce l P.O. Box 801 l Rough and Ready, California 95975 l Telephone (530) 797-6729
The Great Republic of Rough and Ready