Back    Next

Tuolumne County

Chinese Camp ~ Jamestown ~ Sonora ~ Columbia

Tuolumne ~ too-all'-um-nee; Miwok Indian: Stone Houses

Tuolumne County, the largest county in the Mother Lode, is one of the most scenic, its beauty rivaling that of spectacular alpine country anywhere. It was first explored by Gabriel Moraga and then in 1827 by Jedediah Strong Smith. Gold was discovered in 1848 near Jamestown by Rev. James Wood and his party from Philadelphia. The County yielded $600,000,000 in mined gold. Elevations range up to 13,090 feet, and include the two highest passes through the Sierra Nevadas, Sonora Pass (Hwy. 108) and Tioga Pass (Hwy.120). Commerce includes tourism, recreation, lumber, mining (especially gold), cattle, turkeys, agriculture, research.

Places of interest, in addition to the mines listed below:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Columbia State Historic Park, which yielded $87,000,000 in gold
  • Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, with its steam engine train rides

Ghost towns in the County include Big Oak Flat, Chinese Camp, Jamestown, Groveland, Sonora, Soulsbyville, Tuolumne, and Tuttletown. Communities in the County include: Twain Harte, Sugar Pine, Mi-Wuk Village, Sierra Village, Long Barn, Pinecrest, and Strawberry. Other places are Keystone, Priest Station, Groveland, Buck Meadow, New Malones, Rawhide, Dodge Ridge, Confidence, Soda Springs, Tuolumne Meadows, Aspen Valley, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Cow Creek.


Chinese Camp ~ More than 5,000 Chinese lived here in 1856, and it was equally well populated with Americans and Europeans. A "war" started at Table Mountain north of town when a large boulder was rolled from one camp onto the property of another. Some 2,000 combatants fought, leaving four dead and several wounded. Well-preserved buildings tend to be hidden by a grove of "Trees of Heaven" planted by Oriental pioneers, but there remains the proverbial Wells Fargo building, a U.S. Post Office, a Catholic church, and Rosenbloom's Store.

Jamestown ~ Founded by Colonel George James, a San Francisco lawyer, this town was destroyed recently in 1966, but there's still much to see. A goldmine runs directly below the Willow Hotel, which once hosted many dignitaries, including President William McKinley in 1901. The true charm of the mining towns comes through loud and clear here, with Jamestown's covered-balcony architecture that is so typical of the Gold Rush era. A number of 1850's brick, stone, and adobe structures still stand.

Sonora ~ As it stands today, its one of the most picturesque of the remaining camps, with its many old buildings, narrow hilly streets, and well-maintained Victorians. It was one of the first Mother Lode camps, and the biggest of the Southern Mines. Settled in 1848 by Mexican miners, it was called the "Queen of the Southern Mines", but her appearance and actions were anything but royal. She was also one of the roudiest. Miners celebrated by pitting bears against horses, and by brawling and fighting. Criminals were branded on the hip or cheek, according to seriousness of crime committed. The Sonora Committee would also shave heads or half-heads. On July 15, 1851, a man stole a horse but was not hanged. Instead, he received 150 lashes and was branded with H.T. on his cheek. Racial conflict raged here between white miners, who felt California was now theirs since the War, and Mexican miners, to whom the land belonged for so long.

"Sonora is a fast place and no mistake. We have more gamblers, more drunkards, more ugly, bad women, and larger lumps of gold, and more of them, than any other place of similar dimensions within Uncle Sam's dominions." ~ An 1851 Sonoran

The Big Bonanza was one of the richest pocket mines in the world and produced $160,000 of pure gold in one day. Joaquin Murieta, a dashing bandito, frequented this and other Southern Mine areas.

Columbia State Historic Park ~ The "Gem of the Southern Mines", this is perhaps the best preserved gold town in the Mother Lode. It was destroyed by fire in 1854 and 1857, so it was rebuilt almost completely with red brick. The iron doors and window shutters found throughout the Mother Lode were designed to prevent the spread of fire rather than theft, as visitors often assume. A number of old buildings are operated for the enjoyment of visitors, and some serve refreshments and meals in an authentic Gold Rush atmosphere.



Copyright ©1998-2019 ComSpark. All rights reserved. Keeper of the Book