Anyone researching the history of Julian and its mines will find a baffling number of conflicting stories. Oral history from pioneer families often adds to the confusion by offering differing accounts of the same events.
Here are a few straight facts about Julian history...
According to county tax records, an African-American man named Fred Coleman lived in the Julian area as early as 1863. Local lore tells us that Coleman stopped to water his horse at a creek and discovered gold. This started a small gold rush, and the Coleman Mining District was formed.
A San Diego newspaper article dated March 1870, places the date of this discovery as January or February of 1870. This all took place three miles west of present-day Julian, along what is now called Coleman Creek.
Miners looking for the source of Coleman’s gold found it on the hillside north of the current Julian town site. A few months earlier, on November 1, 1869, five young men from Georgia arrived in town — Frank, James and Drury Bailey, and their cousins Mike and Webb Julian. Drury alone decided he liked the area and filed a homestead claim on 160 acres of land, where he would soon live. The others intended to move on — that is, until the discovery of gold.
The first producing hard rock mine was the George Washington Mine, where gold was discovered Feb. 22, 1870. The Julian Mining District was soon formed, and the rush was on. Mike Julian kept the first records for the district.
In March of 1870, at the ripe old age of 26, Drury Bailey hired a surveyor to lay out the map of a town he would name Julian City. What prompted this young Confederate veteran of the Civil War to start a town? His grandson later reckoned that he was trying to replace everything he had lost to the war and build a new home for himself. Bailey donated land for the church and a school, and was generous to those who wished to build in the fledgling town. While Julian was a temporary home to many, Drury Bailey remained here until the day he died.
By David Lewis
David Lewis is president of the Julian Pioneer Museum board of directors and operator of Historical Tours of Julian.