Historic family reunion at Plumas-Eureka State Park

William Johns II, namesake of Johnsville, managed mines owned by the Sierra Buttes Gold Mining Company Ltd. Photos submitted

The town of Johnsville in Plumas County was named after William Johns, who was instrumental in establishing several mining ventures in the Mother Lode country — most notably the Plumas-Eureka Mine, the Sierra Buttes, and the Drytown Mine in Amador County.

At the 2019 Gold Discovery Days celebration to be held at Plumas-Eureka State Park on July 20 and 21, a special occasion will be taking place. The descendants of William Johns will be meeting face-to-face for the very first time.

According to Donald Ford, a direct descendant of William Johns, the family will be at the park to pay homage to William Johns II, and those in attendance will include related cousins Barry Foster of Vashon, Washington; his brother Chris of Portland, Oregon; Donald Ford, age 91; his daughter Kimberly Ford Wells and her husband George Leslie Wells, all of Corona del Mar; and Irving Martyn Ford of Walnut Creek.

“A contributing cousin, Jeannette Cirimelli of Lincoln,  will not be able to attend,” Ford explained.


“This all happened due to the family’s interest in ancestry and Johns/Ford genealogy,” Ford went on. “We gathered information from Ancestry.com and My Heritage, and it brought together cousins more than twice removed. I’m hoping to get our family tree extended down through to the present, so that family members can stay in contact if they wish.”

Barry Foster is a direct descendant of William Johns II. Donald, Kimberly and Irving are direct descendants of William Johns I, who was from Goldsithney, Cornwall, England.

Donald, Kimberly and Irving are also descendants of Thomas Curtis Ford, whose son, Francis Treloar Ford, managed the Drytown Mine for William Johns.

“The lure of cheap, tillable land and mining possibilities in the 1840s attracted these clans from England to the general area of Galena, Illinois, and Grant County, Wisconsin, adjoining Jo Daviess County, Illinois initially,” Ford stated.

From Plymouth, England, to Quebec, Canada, to the Great Lakes across Illinois to Galena on the Mississippi River they came and mostly became farmer owners.


However, the lure of Gold after 1849 brought many west to the gold camps. William Johns and immediate family prospected in Browns Flat and Shaws Flat in Tuolumne County and the Amador City area of Amador County.

Johns was hired by an English mining company called the Sierra Buttes Gold Mining Company Ltd. to manage all of their California gold mines, including the Plumas-Eureka Mine, the Sierra Buttes, the original Amador, the Erie and the Pennsylvania.

William Johns’ sister, Jane Richards Johns, was married to Francis Treloar Ford, who managed the Drytown mine in Amador County.

Jane Johns and Francis T. Ford are the great-grandparents to Donald Ford, who will be visiting Johnsville for Gold Mining Days, making Ford the descendant of two mining families in the Mother Lode.

When the Drytown Mine closed, the Ford family moved to Los Gatos, attracted by the Almaden Mercury Mine. In the late 1890s, the family moved to Oakland, where many of the Johns and Ford descendants have resided.


There is no historical record that the families connected in Oakland and the family is excited to reunite in a place so tied to their heritage.