Located near what is now the town of Pollard Flat, Portuguese Flat was once a mining town. It was known to be one of the roughest mining establishments anywhere. Comprised mainly of Portuguese miners, it was also known as “Squaw town” because of the number of Native American women in town. Although deserted by 1885, there were still remnants of the town visible in 1933 just north of Pollard’s Gulch.
Portuguese flats became known because a poet named Joaquin Miller was injured during the Battle of Castle Crags. The battle erupted between the Gold Rush miners and the Native American population. Joaquin Miller was shot by an arrow in the neck and jaw and was taken to Portuguese Flats. He later wrote an essay about the experience. Ross McCloud and Mary Campbell McCloud operated an Inn at Portuguese flats and Mrs. McCloud nursed Mr. Miller back to health.
Miller would go on to take an Indian wife at Squaw town but would later betray the Native Americans by telling of their retaliation in the area of McCloud river which brought an expedition of men who killed the Native American men, women and children. Miller was also later shot during this incident. Miller turned out to be a coward who is believed to have abandoned his Native American wife and infant daughter and became a thief. What would have normally been an insignificant little mining town has gained notoriety due to the fate of a writer. Portuguese Flats as it once was has long faded back into the dust, but it still has a presence in history. This blur in the history of the California gold rush, however, is not a gallant one. Portuguese Flat was made famous by a man who would turn out to be less than a perfect example of American History.