In the spring of 1851, three prospectors ran across a rich deposit of gravel in the hills about ten miles northeast of Nevada City. The miners immediately set up camp and commenced working the gravels, determined to make a fortune. As the story goes, their supplies began to run low a few weeks later and one of the men was sent to town for additional provisions, being strictly warned about keeping their find secret. After purchasing the supplies, the miner headed to the saloon where he bought a round of drinks for the house, paying with a handful of gold nuggets. Try as they might, the saloon patrons could not get the miner to reveal the source of his new found wealth, so when he left they secretly followed him back to his camp. The followers were elated at finding the rich new diggings and quickly began working along the creek, with high hopes of striking it rich. But try as they might, pan after pan yielded nothing but dirt. The trip was declared a “Humbug,” and so they named the creek.
Two years later, with the advent of hydraulic mining in the region, a town sprang up near the creek, a town called Humbug. As hydraulic mining became more and more prevalent, the town grew and was soon an important mining center for the region. When the post office was established on June 1 of 1857, the Humbugians felt their town needed a more melodious name, so votes were cast to decide the matter. Bloomfield was the people’s choice, to which the post office added “North” to distinguish it from Bloomfield in Sonoma County.
North Bloomfield prospered greatly, due mainly to the highly productive Malakoff Mine, and claimed some seventeen hundred residents, which included a large settlement of Chinese immigrants. To provide for the needs of its citizens and visitors, the town offered eight saloons, five hotels, three lodging houses, two dry goods stores, two grocery stores, two breweries, two livery stables, two churches, a barbershop, a blacksmith, a butcher, a baker, a school, a post office, and daily stage and freighting service to all points out.
In 1856 North Bloomfield, formerly Humbug, also became the center of the 80 square mile township which included the nearby mining towns of Relief Hill, Lake City, Derbec, and North Columbia. By 1860, A.L. Smith was operating a daily pony express, and the U.S. census showed 784 inhabitants of North Bloomfield.
Today the ghost town of North Bloomfield and the nearby Malakoff mine are within the boundaries of the three thousand acre Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Several of the town’s original buildings are still standing, while a few others have been reconstructed to their original designs. A museum contains bits and pieces of the town’s history and the Ranger’s office can usually answer any visitor’s questions. The park also contains picnic and camping grounds, and numerous trails that wander through the mountains, lakes, streams and diggings. Blair Lake, originally a reservoir for the mines, offers a beautiful spot for a picnic and is furnished with tables and barbecues. All things considered (the mountains, the trees, the trails, the clean air, the fantastic mines, and the town of North Bloomfield), Malakoff Diggins should not be missed.