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Mormon Pioneers: The Swarthout Family

Mormon Bar


Mormon Bar was founded in 1854, during the gold rush in Sutterís Mill. Even though it was not considered to be in the area of the mother lode, it was known to be the southern terminus of the Mother Lode. Evn after 150 years, a large number of the original buildings still stand. The semi- ghost town is just south of Mariposa.

Mormon Bar was first mined in 1849 specifically by members of the disbanded Mormon Battalion;(thus the reason for itís name) two miles south of Mariposa, California, on an old stage route to Wawona and Yosemite. As of 2001, the place known as Mormon Bar was put on the market, most of the mining equipment and evidence of the quarry has been removed. This is the mining area in which the Swarthouts (Nathan and Hamilton) were for a short time, prior to returning to San Bernardino. Even though there is no record of claims, it was the Levis Hancock Company who worked the claim. It was this company that Nathan and Hamilton Swarthout had been assigned to being ordered to "work for a seasoní instead of returning to Utah with the rest of the saints.

What destroyed the dreams of many Battalion members at Mormon Bar was a big mouth named Sam Brannan. Brannan was a Mormon elder who had brought a boatload Saints around the Horn to San Francisco in 1847 to scout for a modern "Mormon Eden" amongst the Mexicans in California. He traveled to Mormon's Bar (after receiving word of the mining going on in the area) to find his fellow churchmen eagerly mining gold from the American River. "Reminding" them he was the surrogate of the prophet Brigham Young in Salt Lake City, he "relieved" them of 30 percent of their gold as church tithes.

Itís fair to say that the gold Branner seized never saw a collection plate. He used it for his own enterprising ideas. With gold in hand, he set up stores at Coloma and Mormon's Bar to go with the one he rented at Sutter's Fort. Then he cornered the market in mining equipment, buying every pick, shovel, pot, and pan he could find in the territory in the process. Hungry for more business, he took a genuine bottle full of Mormon gold dust, rushed back to San Francisco and dashed through the streets of Portsmouth Square shouting: "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River." The gold rush that the newspapers had failed to generate, was kicked started by Brannerís big mouth. It would be called the Gold Rush of 1848, and the Argonauts who responded to Brannan's siren call of El Dorado would be known as the "48ers."

History would later report that the gold discovery in Mormon Bar was minimal in the beginning, and most of that went into Elder Brannanís pocket. The Mormons were quickly replaced, approximately after one year, by other miners, including a large number of Chinese. Suddenly, Mormon Bar turned into a mother lode. The diggings were reported to have yielded about $2 million and were active through the 1870s, and again in the 1930s! An historic marker is at the site, located 500í southeast of the intersection of SH 49/Ben Hur Road, 1.8 miles south of Mariposa. The Mormon Bar was also called Mormon Island.

At least one Swarthout returned to the San Bernardino Valley after the gold mining venture of the Mormon Bar, that was Nathan Swarthout. The Swarthout clan remained strong and influential in the San Bernardino area. Four Swarthout ranches were reported to be in the San Bernardino area and Cajon Pass (From the Sun Newspaper; Nov. 11, 1963 issue; "The ranches extended from Little Mountain, south to Baseline from E Street and west beyond I Street." They belonged to George W., Nathan, and Albert "Swarty", and Harley Swarthout. There were four Swarthout brands: The first was Georgeís "2S" at present day Clyde Ranch. (The "S" was backward in the brand). The last one registered was registered by Al "Swarty" Swarthout of the famous Heart Bar Ranch, this was the Box ST (a box with the letter S inside)

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