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Amador County

Jackson ~ Pine Grove ~ Volcano ~ Sutter Creek
Amador City ~ Drytown ~ Plymouth ~ Fiddletown

Amador ~ am'-uh-dor; Spanish: Lover of Gold

Amador County was formed in 1854 and named after native Californian Jose Maria Amador. The first gold quartz mine in California was started in 1850 at Amador City. Jackson, the county seat, has the deepest mines on the Continent, which produced over half the gold mined in the Mother Lode. Mining ended in 1958. Highway 49 intersects with all-year trans-Sierra Hwy. 88, designated most scenic highway in U.S. by Parade Magazine. Elevations reach 9,371 feet. Industries include lumber, gold, clay, glass, sand, cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, fruit, grains, vineyards, and wineries.

Points of interest:

  • Martell, the largest forest products facility in the Mother Lode
  • Ione for its high-grade clay and glass sand mining and processing center and its
    restored Main Street.
  • Historic Cook's Station and Ham's Station
  • Kirkwood Ski Area

Other places in the County are Chile Gulch, Jackson Gate, Double Springs, Buckhorn, Pioneer, Inspiration Point, Peddler Hill, Maiden's Grave, Tragedy Springs, and Kit Carson Pass.


Plymouth ~ Basically a trading center, little mining was done here. Plymouth never had the reputation of a wild gold camp, but Pokerville grew up next to it. The historic D'Agostini's winery, the oldest in the state, is here.

Fiddletown ~ A well-preserved community off the beaten track near Dry Creek, this was once the home of the largest Chinese population outside San Francisco. There were no fiddles in Fiddletown. It was originally settled by Missourians, and was named for the "fiddling around" of young men, which annoyed the older miners. Its name was changed to Oleta in 1878, but changed back to Fiddletown in the 1900's. The outlying suburbs were named Helltown, Hogtown, and Suckertown.

Drytown ~ Four miles south of Plymouth, this camp was anything but "dry", having at one time 26 saloons. It was the focal point of the first prohibition movement in California. A blacksmith shop here with marble floors is the oldest commercial building in the County.

Amador City ~ [Sp. Lover of Gold] Named after Jose Maria Amador, a miner and Indian fighter, this is the smallest incorporated city in California (some say in the United States). One of the most productive mines in the Mother Lode is here, the Keystone Mine. More than $24 million came from this mine. The town used to support 10,000 inhabitants.

Sutter Creek ~ Perhaps the best preserved and most picturesque town in the Mother Lode (vying for that title with several other towns). Three miles south of Amador City, this was John Sutter's only serious attempt at cashing in on the gold discovery that ruined him. Leland Stanford made a bundle here. He owned shares in the Lincoln Mine. Once, he tried to sell his interest for $5,000 but couldn't find a buyer. He later sold it for $400,000. Most early settlers here were Italian. Knight's Foundry, the only hydraulic powered foundry in the United States, is still in operation here, powered by a 42" water wheel. It is designated a Historical Landmark and visitors are welcome.

Volcano ~
There are no volcanoes in Volcano. Miners found rocks and crags resembling volcanic craters and named it Volcano in error. You can take Highway 88 east of Jackson to get here, but the scenic way is from Sutter Creek. This town used to have 36 saloons, two breweries, 12 restaurants and five hotels. It has also been called "the most picturesque of all the Mother Lode towns." It has many original buildings still standing, one being the St. George Hotel, built in 1854 and still in operation. The "Old Abe" cannon is on display and the Masonic Caves are in the area. Daffodil Hill,
three miles northwest of Volcano, is populated with 250 name varieties of daffodils, in bloom in March and April. It is cultivated by descendants of the original settlers. Hydraulic mining washed away much of early Volcano.

Pine Grove -
Chaw-se Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is the historic home of the Miwok Indians, who left more than 1,000 mortar holes in the limestone bedrock, along with 363 petroglyph designs. The mortar holes were used to grind acorns, berries, and seeds. So impressive is this park that a replica was made for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Jackson ~
Placer gold was found in the town of Jackson in small amounts. But the real wealth came from the quartz lodes, the Kennedy and Argonaut mines. The Kennedy Mine was the first deep-shaft mine in the Mother Lode, with a 4,600-foot drop, the deepest in the United States. Mule carts were used in the 180 miles of underground workings. The total production of the Kennedy Mine was over $35 million. The Argonaut Mine produced $25 million. Sibling rivalry with sister town Mokelumne "Moke" Hill is chronicled.



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