When it was found the ore did not “pan out,” the excitement died down even more rapidly than it arose, and in 1863-4 the camp was practically dead.
It has been charged that the Squaw Valley claims were “salted” with ore brought from Virginia City. I am inclined to doubt this, and many of the old timers deny it. They assert that Knox was “on the square” and that he firmly believed he had paying ore. It is possible there may have been the salting of an individual claim or so after the camp started, but the originators of the camp started it in good faith, as they themselves were the greatest losers when the “bottom” of the excitement dropped out.
About a mile further up the river is still to be seen the site of the rival town of Claraville, founded at the same time as Knoxville. There is little left here, though the assay office, built up against a massive square rock still stands. It is of hewed timbers rudely dovetailed together at the corners.
It would scarcely be worth while to recount even this short history of the long dead,—almost stillborn—Squaw Valley camp were it not for the many men it brought to Lake Tahoe who have left their impress and their names upon its most salient canyons, streams, peaks and other landmarks. Many of these have been referred to elsewhere.
One of the first to arrive was William Pomin, the brother of the present captain of the steamer Tahoe. His wife gave birth to the first white child born on Lake Tahoe, and she was named after the Lake. She now lives in San Francisco. When she was no more than two or three months old, her mother took her on mule-back, sixty miles over the trail to Forest Hill, in one day. Pomin removed to the north shore of the Lake when Squaw Valley “busted,” and was one of the founders of Tahoe City, building and conducting one of the first hotels there.
Another of these old timers was J.W. McKinney, from whom McKinney’s was named. He came from the mining-camp of Georgetown over the trail, and engaged himself in selling town lots at Knoxville. He and Knox had worked together in the El Dorado excitement.
He originally came over the plains in the gold-alluring days of ’49. When his party reached the land of the Indians, these aborigines were too wise to make open attacks. They hit upon the dastardly method of shooting arrows into the bellies of the oxen, so that the pioneers would be compelled to abandon them. One night McKinney was on guard duty. He was required to patrol back and forth and meet another sentinel at a certain tree. There they would stop and chat for a few moments before resuming their solitary march. Just before day-break, after a few words, they separated. On answering the breakfast call McKinney found he was alone, and on going back to investigate, found his companion lying dead with an arrow through his heart. The moccasin tracks of an Indian clearly revealed who was the murderer, and a little study showed that the Indian had swam the river, waited until the sentinel passed close by him, and had then sent the arrow true to its fatal mark.