Folsom A to Z: Mormon Island

By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Editor’s note: Folsom A to Z is an intermittent series in the Telegraph where readers can learn facts and history about Folsom. Each week, the Telegraph will select a landmark, place, historical figure and major historical event that start with the next letter of the alphabet. This week we continue with “M.”

  • Mormon Island was located on the American River east of present day Folsom.
  • Early in March of 1848, Levi Fifiel, Sidney Willis, and Wilford Hudson, all members of the Mormon Battalion, were working on the grist mill at Natomas.
  • On the way back from visiting friends in Coloma, they discovered gold at what was later called Mormon Island, which became the richest find of the gold rush.
  • It was not truly an island, but a sandbar, 100 feet wide by 300 feet long, on the south fork of the American River.
  • The men told the story on returning to the fort and soon 150 Mormons and other miners flocked to the site.
  • The population of the town in 1853 quickly grew to more than 2,500. 
  • It had four hotels, three dry good stores, five general merchandise stores, an express office and many small shops. 
  • The town dwindled after the gold was flushed out.
  • By the 1950s, there were no more than a few residents left. 
  • Eventually the town was flooded in 1955 with the creation of Folsom Lake.
  • The only remnants of the town are sometimes visible during extreme drought years as foundation of houses lie underwater.  
  • Mormon Street is named after the Mormons who occupied Mormon Island during the gold rush.