Native Americans, Boomtowns and Literary Legends: A Highway 49 Driving Tour from Jackson to Angels Camp, California

 


This blog follows my VoiceMap audio driving tour Native Americans, boomtowns and literary legends: A Highway 49 Driving Tour from Jackson to Angels Camp.    As you drive along some of California's most peaceful backroads, we'll share the history of the California Gold Rush as we visit the towns of Volcano, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Mokelumne Hill.  We also visit Jackson Rancheria Casino, and Kennedy Tailing Wheels park as well as Black Chasm Cavern and Indian Rock State Park. 

You may download a souvenir brochure for this tour here.  We have also created a companion brochure, Hiking and Walking Tours of the Gold Country.  Download that here if you are interested.  

The audio driving tour, is available at VoiceMap and listed under Amador County.  To use VoiceMap, you will need to download the VoiceMap app from the Apple Store or Google Play. The app is free, this audio driving tour, which is one of four that takes you along the Mother Lode from Auburn to Jamestown currently sells for $11.99.  If you have any interest, you may read the first blog in this series California's Gold Rush: A Highway 49 Driving Tour from Auburn to Placerville, and the second blog in this series Hard-rock mining in California:  A Highway 49 driving tour to Jackson.  


Indian Rock State Historic Park Museum

On this driving tour from Jackson to Angels Camp you will experience California's historic Gold Country.  We will cruise along Highway 49, taking a few detours along picturesque backroads to learn about the Miwok Native Americans, who lived in the area long before early pioneers swarmed California in search of their fortunes  Along the way we visit a number of Gold Rush towns, each western boom-style town offers a unique picture into the life of the early pioneers and gold rush miners.  While you wind your way through these towns, you'll also hear tales about the outlaws Joaquin Murrieta and Black Bart, and find out how literary hero's, Mark Twain and Bret Harte have ties to Angels Camp.  

On this tour, you’ll also have the opportunity to:

• Learn about the California Gold Rush from a miner’s prospective
• Explore Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park and learn how miners dealt with the tons of waste product that hard-rock mines produced
• Visit Jackson Rancheria Casino and learn the history behind its creation
• Take in the awe-inspiring Black Chasm Cavern and view the unusual helictites (a type of cave-formed mineral) that make this a National Landmark
• Hear how Angels Camp became known as Frogtown USA
• Wander through the old western-style gold rush towns of Volcano, San Andreas, Mokelumne Hill, and Angels Camp with the help of our nifty brochures

This tour is the third in a series of four driving tours that explores the California Gold Country and covers the area from Auburn to Jamestown. This 65-mile driving tour may be completed in about two and a half hours without any stops. On the other hand, this is your adventure. You may stop where you want, when you want and for as long as you want. It’s up to you. Or just use this guide to create your own trip.  Happy Adventures and enjoy the tour! 

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This driving tour begins at the public parking lot for the Jackson Civic Center, located at 33 Broadway Street, Jackson, California. 

We drove through the historic Old Town of Jackson on our last driving tour from Placerville to Jackson.  If you did not take that tour and you would like to explore this town on foot, there is a self-guided walking tour of Jackson in our companion brochure.

Now, before we start on our driving here is a bit of background on the City of Jackson.

Jackson is located near the forks of two small creeks which have their heads in the Mokelumne River. This was a favorite place of gold seekers in 1848.  Early miners left behind numerous bottles near the creek, leading to the towns first name, Bottilleas, which is Spanish for bottles.  In 1849 the name was changed to Jackson Creek after local attorney, Colonel Aldan Jackson.




Early prospectors mined the easy pickings of gold out of the creek bed quickly. Once unable to make a day’s wages panning, miners turned to prospecting gold in California Mother Lode's rich mineral deposits.  In 1851 gold was discovered in a quartz rock ledge nearby and another rush began in Jackson, this one, lode or hard-rock mining.  That same year a post office was established, Jackson was incorporated, and mail was delivered by stagecoach. In 1853 Jackson became Amador’s county seat.





As the town of Jackson grew, wood and canvas buildings spring up along Main Street.  In 1855 they were destroyed by fire, which was all too prevalent in early gold rush towns.  Merchants quickly rebuilt, only to be hit by fire again in 1862.  Within two years buildings rose from the ashes, this time  they were constructed mostly out of brick or cement.



In the late 1800s the Kennedy, Argonaut and Zeile hard-rock mines were paying off richly.  The success of these mines laid the economic foundation for Jackson. By the turn of the 20th century Jackson had 3,000 residents, a few churches, several saloons, gambling halls, grocery stores, boarding houses, a physician and dentist as well as a girls dormitory.  This was the name insurance maps used for houses of ill repute. 



Jackson has come a long way since the time of gold, girls, and gambling.  The buildings that line the historic portion of  Main Street showcase the Western false front architectural style also know as Boomtown style.  Frequently used between 1860 and the turn of the 20th century, a distinguishing feature of this style is the vertical façade with square top. Today in Jackson you will find antique, jewelry, and clothing stores as well as a handful of restaurants. 




Our driving tour begins with two optional stops as we leave the City of Jackson, the Amador County Museum open Friday through Sunday starting at 11am and Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park which is open daily.

So let's head off now.  Exit the parking lot and turn left onto Broadway.  At the corner, turn right onto Water Street and left onto Summit.  Follow the signs for the Amador City Museum.  




The back entrance to this museum is two blocks up the hill. Pass the courthouse and Court Street.  There is a large parking area behind a red building.  Park here and use the stairs to access the museum.  




The Amador County Museum is located in an 1859 Greek Revival-style home.  The rooms of this home are set up with exhibits and collections, including a gold history exhibit, fashions of the past, a Native American collection and Chinese American collection.  The front of this building is shown below. 



When you are ready, continue along Summit, and turn left onto North Street then right onto North Main. Our next stop, Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park is in about 1 mile.  Along the way you will pass the historic Catholic and Serbian cemetery, as well as a Victorian-style home subdivision.   




After passing the Jackson Gate Inn watch for the Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park sign and  turn right into the parking lot. There is a public restroom at this park and parking is free.



This park features iconic symbols of the City of Jackson, the Kennedy Mine tailing wheels. These wheels were designed by James Spears to remove mine tailings, the waste created during the hard-rock mining process.  When running at full capacity, Kennedy Mine created approximately 850 tons of tailings every twenty-four hours.



Originally, mines would dump their tailings in a nearby creek.  In 1913 a California law was established to prohibit this action, requiring mines to impound their tailings or close their operations. Four giant wheels connected by flumes were erected to shuttle the Kennedy Mine waste to an impound area 1/2 mile away.

The Kennedy Tailing Wheels Park is an outdoor exhibit which features the remains of two of the four Kennedy Mine Tailing Wheels.  Wheel #3 now a tangled array of steel,  lies broken on the ground. 



While Wheel #4 has been fully preserved and stands as it once did a full 58 feet in diameter.  



Kiosks around this park include historical photographs and information about the engineering of these wheels.  



Once you have learned all there is to learn about the tailing wheels, exit the parking lot and turn right.  Watch for China Graveyard Road and turn right.    




The Northern Sierra Miwok settled this area of California thousands of years ago. Our next optional stop, Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort is run by the Miwok Tribe.  We will tell you more about the Miwok later on this tour, but for now here is some information about the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort. 




At this stop you have the opportunity to play video slots, video Keno, poker or try your hand at over 30 table games including Texas Hold ‘Em, Blackjack, Four-Card and Three-Card Poker. Or if steak is your game enjoy lunch or a sunset dinner on the terrace at the Lone Wolf Restaurant Steakhouse and Lounge.  Voted Amador County’s best casino. You must be 21 years of age to enter the casino or the restaurants.

At the stop sign ahead, turn left onto New York Ranch Road and continue straight while I tell you the story of Margaret Hughes Dalton and the history behind the Jackson Rancheria Casino.  

Margaret Hughes Dalton

Margaret Hughes Dalton was born in 1940 in Tuolumne, California to a Native American mother and non-Native American father.  It was the dream of Margaret and her husband Earl to make their small Band of Miwok Indians self-sufficient. They knew in order to do this they had to form their own government to strengthen their position while dealing with local, state and federal governments.  The Tribe met in 1979, established a government and elected Margaret Tribal Chairperson, a position she held uncontested for 30 years. In 1980, Earl died, leaving Margaret to pursue their dreams on her own.


Five years later the Tribe opened their first Bingo Hall on the Jackson Rancheria property. It was a rocky start. The hall opened and closed several times over the next decade.  In 1998 California voters approved Proposition 5, the Tribal Government Gaming and Economic Self-Sufficiency Act. The following year Margaret’s Tribe signed a contract with the State of California and by 2000 gaming on tribal lands was legal.

Over the years that first Bingo Hall has grown into a grand casino complex which includes a hotel, restaurants, general store and gas station.  It took a number of decades, but Margaret and Earls' dream came to fruition, their Tribe is self-sufficient, and Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort is the largest employer in Amador County. 



Continue past the authorized vehicle entrance for the Jackson Rancheria Hotel and watch for the signs for the casino.  Turn right into the entrance of Jackson Rancheria Casino. There will be two welcome signs in front.





Continue straight up the hill. Follow the road and arrows toward the hotel and casino and self-parking. The self-parking is just past the statue of the eagle and to the left of the main entrance to the hotel and casino.  




Enjoy your meal at the Lone Wolf restaurant or the Pacific Grill, take in a game or two, then head back out on the highway by turning right back onto New York Ranch Road.  




In about 1 mile you will come to a traffic signal. Use the right lane to turn right onto Ridge Road and continue straight toward Pine Grove.



Ahead on your right watch for the Ferris wheel, bumper cars and variety of metal animals.  This property is what locals call Amador Castle. It is owned by slightly eccentric wealthy entrepreneur John Hertzig who enjoys purchasing things that make him happy and putting them on his property for others to enjoy from the road.  Locals and visitors appear to be in favor of the metal menagerie, which John continues to add to whenever he finds something that just makes him smile. 

After Amador Castle watch for the turn off ahead.  Here Ridge Road forks to the left.  Turn left and follow Ridge Road.  


The Isthmus of Panama  (1850 by Charles Christian Nahl)


If you took our other Gold Country driving tours, you would have been introduced to John Doble.  John kept a detailed account of his California gold rush experience from 1851 to 1861.  On our driving tour from Auburn to Placerville we heard diary entries about his 68 day trek from his home in Indiana across the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco.  


San Francisco 1848


In our driving tour from Placerville to Jackson, we learned about his experience in San Francisco, his subsequent journey to the mines in Latimer Gulch near what is today San Andreas, California, and his first gold strike at Alabama Gulch just east of what is today the town of Jackson.  In his first gold strike, John made .20 cents.   Not quite enough to pay his weekly room and board at Angiers boarding house of $10, but enough to fan the flames of his gold fever.

On this driving tour we continue with John's story.   Though he did not have much success, John Doble continued to work the Alabama Gulch near Algiers.  Here is an excerpt from his journal dated February 8th, 1852.

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"Yesterday being the 7th was my 24th birthday. I live in a tent near the gulch under a large oak.  It rains most of the time and the water splatters through the tent and makes everything very damp.  I have noticed the population of the mines are very unsettled.  In coming up here we met every day persons going back to San Francisco from the mines.  I have met men who worked the extreme southern mines and the extreme northern mines.  They say they have nothing to show for their work.  I have got acquainted with men that have been here for 2 and 3 years.  They know everything that man can know about the mines yet these men are worthless and have nothing to their name.  Some who were at the Rich Gulch in Calaveras, claim they pulled out 2 pounds of gold a day.  Yet these men are worthless.  They tell their stories of getting a little ahead then drinking until the money is out.  Then they go back to digging again, and their story repeats.  The men are mostly sailors.  I am not discouraged, tomorrow I will move on to Spring Gulch."


Working the Placers 1850 


Between February and June of 1852, John paned or dug in every gulch nearby, Spring Gulch, Poison Gulch, Dutchman's Gulch, Indian Gulch, and Rich Gulch.   Finally bringing in between $5 and $20 a day, he was able to move back into Algiers boardinghouse.  And although John had been warned by the stories he heard from sailors, he did not escape the temptation of the taverns. After a big score in the mines John joined the other men at a local tavern, drank whiskey and gambled away a good part of his earnings. 

Besides learning the ins and out of mining, John was intrigued by the social customs of the Miwok who worked alongside him in the gulch. He described in his journal the process the natives used to make soap from the soap plant root, and the tedious method they used to grind acorns into mush. 


But it was the Great Feathered Dance that may have fascinated John the most, writing in grand detail he described how the participants painted and feathered each member of the Great Dance.  The paint was made from charcoal and water and the feathers which they adorned both head and body were quill of the hawk and owl. 



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Use the left lane at the traffic signal ahead to turn left onto California Highway 88 and follow the sign toward Silver Lake.

Shortly we will arrive in Pine Grove.  Located on the wagon road that ran between Jackson and Volcano, John would have traveled this way often. It's main establishment, the Pine Grove House was built in 1856. 


Pine Grove House 1917 



Twice destroyed by fire, the Pine Grove House was rebuilt in brick in 1901. In 1977 it was purchased by Al Giannini who turned the roadhouse into a restaurant.  Giannini’s has been in continuous operating ever since. 



Giannini's Italian Restaurant will be on your left as we pass through the town of Pine Grove.  Once through this town watch for the intersection of Pine Grove Volcano Road and turn left toward Indian Grinding Rock State Park and the town of Volcano. 

Continue Straight on Pine Grove Volcano Road we are about 2 miles from Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park.  This state park is nestled in a little valley surrounded by lush meadows, and filled with large valley oaks. 

Slow and watch for the entrance on your left for Indian Grinding Rock StatePark. This park is open daily 10 to 4. Turn left into the entrance and proceed to the ranger station.  Once you have paid your parking fee you are ready to explore the area. You may use the map below or the information in the Companion Brochure.  



Inside the park is the very informative Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum which features a large collection of Sierra Nevada Indian artifacts.





Outside the museum use the trails to access the large outcropping of limestone which is covered with over 1,000 mortar holes.  This is where the Miwok women prepared the acorn, their most important food source. Placed in the holes of the rock, the acorn was pounded into a fine meal by a stone pestle and then cooked in water to make a kind of mush.




Visit the reconstruction of a Miwok village and the ceremonial roundhouse which is used today by Tribes for various social gatherings.  When you are finished exploring the park, exit the park the way you arrived along Indian Rock Road and turn left back onto the highway.  We are on our way to Volcano a tiny historic town with a population today of around 100 souls.  
 
The first to prospect the Volcano area were soldiers from Colonel Stevenson’s army.  They arrived in California in 1846 and were discharged in 1848, just in time to catch gold fever.  While mining, the soldiers said the rock formations reminded them of a volcano. The name stuck, and Volcano was born. 

Early mining here was quite profitable, as noted by Bayard Taylor in his book El Dorado: Adventures in the Path of Empire, “In 1849 one miner took out $8,000 worth of gold in a few days, and another, got 28 pounds of gold from a single pocket.”

After working the gulches near Algiers Roadhouse, John Doble packed up his tools and set off for Volcano.  It was there that he spent most of his life. Here is an excerpt from his journal dated June 23, 1852.  

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I arrived at Volcano a lively town, with some 300 clapboard houses, and many hotels, and gambling houses. I stopped at Volcano House to inquire about lodging and met Smith.  He has just finished a house at the spring and offered me a place to lodge for $2 a week.  I prefer sleeping on the floor and the Volcano House is full of vermin.  Man has to be very sleepy to sleep among them.  Being Smith’s house is new I reckon it is clear of vermin. I accepted his offer.”  

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Veer right ahead toward Volcano and the 3-story St. George Hotel will come into view.  Veer left in front of the hotel, which was built in 1862, onto Main Street.



Next to the hotel was the old Volcano Telephone Company office.  Built in the 1930s there is a telephone booth out in front of this building.  Today it is a private residence.  


Across the street look for the Volcano Gallery which was formerly the Wells Fargo Agency and built around 1853.  


Next door is the Volcano Amphitheater and next door to this is the Volcano Park.  This was the location of Soldier's Gulch where early miners panned for gold.  


General Store on Main Street Volcano 

The buildings that line this small Main Street, served miners with a general store, saloon, hotel and assay office.  


When you come to the corner, look to your left.  There are a number of historical markers here, including the historical marker for the town of Volcano itself.  Turn right onto Consolation Street.

Main Street and Consolation Street Volcano 


The building to your left was built around 1851 and at that time, housed the General Store.  Next to this on the right look for the shed that contains Old Abe, a Civil War cannon. 


This was also the site of an observatory in 1860.  There is a plaque next to Old Abe that explains the history.  




Then make the first left onto Emigrant Street. As you turn to the right is the King bell, donated to Volcano by Thomas King in 1863, out of gratitude for the towns support of the Union and election of Abraham Lincoln in 1861.




Continue along Emigrant, ahead and on your left will be St. Bernard's Catholic Church, built in 1908.  Turn right onto Plug Street.  This street is lined with residential homes.  During the 1850s, John Doble made his home here on Plug Street.  

At the intersection ahead carefully cross Consolation Street and continue straight on Plug. Turn right onto National Street and pass by the Volcano schoolhouse.  Just past the schoolhouse there is a public parking lot near the corner of Jerome and National Street.  Park here if you would like to explore the town on on your own.  You will also find a public restroom just off this parking lot.  

Use the map below or our Companion Brochure to explore Volcano on foot. 





When you are finished visiting Volcano, turn left back onto Main Street and then veer left back onto Pine Grove Volcano Road. At the Y, take the left fork toward West Point and Black Chasm.  Black Chasm National Landmark, our next stop, is less than 1 mile from Volcano.    




Turn right into the driveway for Black Chasm, and follow this road around to the right.  It will eventually end up in the parking lot for the cavern.  

Helictite

The first documented exploration of the Black Chasm Cavern occurred in 1854 when a group of gold miners ventured into the cave and discovered the phenomenal beauty that existed just below the surface, including a bright blue lake and millions of sparkling crystals. Shortly after the gold rush the cavern was largely forgotten.  In 1976 it was declared a National Natural Landmark, largely due to the abundance of unusual and rare speleothems called helictites.

Though we can not know for sure, it is quite likely that the Miwok people who lived in this area well before the miners arrived, were also familiar with the Black Chasm Cavern. 


Living along the rivers and streams nearby, the Miwok were hunters, gatherers, fisherman and basket weavers.  They lived a rather undisturbed existence until the arrival of military explorers, fur trappers and settlers of the early 1800s.

But it it would be the California gold rush in 1848, and the influx of over 300,000 migrants into the Sierra Nevada area that had the greatest negative impact on the Miwok way of life. 

Though some of the Native Americans remained and tried to assimilate, mining the placers or working on ranches, most were pushed further and further away from their natural hunting and gathering grounds. As the Miwok dispersed, many lost their heritage over the decades that followed.

Today the population of the Miwok is around 3,500; far less  than the 6,000 plus that were here during the gold rush. But along with Margaret Dalton who worked to bring her Tribe to self-sufficiency with the creation of the Jackson Rancheria Casino, other Miwok Tribes are currently organizing and handing down their heritage to the next generation, bringing hope that the Miwok population will continue to grow.

Take some time to visit Black Chasm Cavern National Landmark.  There is a fascinating 50-minute guided tour that takes visitors 100 feet deep into the ground down 5 flights of stairs. 


Map of Cavern


You will be  rewarded with spectacular views of stalactite, stalagmites, and helictites. 




Once you are finished with this tour follow the one-way road back out to the highway and turn right back onto Pioneer Volcano Road. Continue straight on this highway for about 2 miles.  Then turn right onto Highway 88 and then make an almost immediate left onto Red Corral Road Highway 26 toward West Point.  

While you drive along this windy back-country road think about what it must have been like to explore the Black Chasm Cavern before the staircase was built.  


Staircase in Black Chasm 


On  July 2nd, 1852 John Doble wrote of his experience exploring a cave near Volcano.  His description of three chambers and hanging stalactites sound like John might very well have been inside what years later would be known as Black Chasm Cavern.  In his journal he noted: 
 
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This forenoon done nothing.  After dinner I went up the South Branch to see a cave there.  I found an Irishman up there who went in with me.  The entrance is in a large pile of rocks on the hill side about 30 feet above the branch.  It is a small irregular hole and goes down perpendicular about 20 feet and then goes off downward in a slant 10 feet farther then opens into the cave.  We clambered down letting ourselves down by the projections of the rock holding in one hand a candle.  I then clambered all through it, in many places I had to crawl on my hands and knees.  It consists of 3 rooms of irregular and rough shape, sharp points of rock which are hanging stalactites stick out on every side, as well as the roof. The whole inside above the floor is full of stalactites like icicles.  Some are broken off.  I broke a few off and brought them home with me.  The floor at the bottom is damp and covered with a dark vegetation.” 

It sure sounds line John was exploring Black Chasm Cavern. 

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Continue along Highway 26, we will be on this stretch of highway for 25 miles as we make our way to 
Mokelumne Hill.  Along the way we will pass through the old gold rush towns of West Point, Glencoe, Rich Gulch and Happy Valley.  While you drive we will tell another gold rush story.  

After gold was discovered by James Marshall at John Sutters Mill on January 24th, 1848, news spread and so did gold fever.  Approximately 300,000 migrants, known collectively as 49ers, descended on California on the eve of its statehood in 1850. Our friend John Doble came to California via the Isthmus of Panama.  The journey was over 5,000 miles and though it could take as long as five months, John's took 68 days. 


Lightening Express - Wagon Trains 



Other gold seekers took the overland trip to California.  One wagon train, the Pioneer Line's advertisement read, “Comfortable ride from Independence, Missouri to California, $200 in only 55 days.”   The $200 price tag of this all inclusive adventure covered transportation, food, and space for 100 pounds of baggage per person. Inclement weather, disease, exhaustion and starvation were included at no additional cost.


California Emigrants - Wagon Train 

One historically recorded experience of the Pioneer Line left Independence May 15, 1849, with 20 wagons, 161 passengers and crew and another 22 wagons carrying supplies and baggage. 



Just a few days out two men died of cholera and others were infected. The dead were buried along the road and the journey continued.  When the wagon train reached the North Plate River, it proved too difficult for the oxen to cross on their own.  The first of many additional costs occurred as a ferry was hired to shuttle the oxen.


Emigrants Fording the Platte



Weeks later, the treacherous terrain of the Rocky Mountains forced the wagon train and animals to all be tethered together by rope and tediously hauled up and over the mountain pass. Next up 40 miles of desert.  Extra water is taken on, but it doesn’t last.  Oxen die, wagons break, these are left behind with a portion of the supplies and baggage.  100 days into this journey, food is running low. Meals are rationed to one a day. The Pioneer Line arrived in Sacramento California 129 day later on September 21, 1849.   74 days over the Pioneer Line's estimate. 


Traveling to Goldfields



The life of a miner was not an easy one.  These men, and some women, left their homes taking little with them to a very rugged country. They bet it all in hopes of making a fortune, then returning home to their families and continuing with their lives.

The truth is not everyone made a fortune, most were not at all successful at mining.  In fact, not everyone even made it to California, dying on the way from starvation or disease.   Those that arrived didn’t find a home built waiting for them upon their arrival.  They didn’t find fireplaces for cooking or wash boards for washing either. And general store's for purchasing daily necessities were typically miles away from the small mining camps that sprang up along the rivers of the Mother Lode.   Still the miners came. They built canvas tent houses, and shared cooking and washing duties with other miners.

Some of the towns, such as Jackson, and Angels Camp became extremely prosperous.  Their quaint western style downtowns remain active to this day.  Others such as the ones we are driving through now on Highway 26 contain just a few buildings, and a modest population.   These small towns along Highway 26 were the ones John Doble frequented the most.  It was here that he spent hours panning, digging and washing gold.  

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By August 1852, our friend John Doble had been panning and washing gold throughout Volcano and its surrounding area.  After having lived in both boarding houses and tent cabins, John was ready for a place of his own.  With what he had saved from mining, John partnered with his friend Doc.  They purchased a small piece of land and set about building a cabin. 

Miner’s Cabin – Nevada County, California 1852


John wrote about the building his cabin in his journal:  “Doc and I went up to the mountains to cut the lumber for our house.  By the 17th of October we had what we needed and began working full time on the cabin.  Within a week the walls and roof were complete. The rock chimney was finished on the 1st of the month, and the canvas door hung a few days later.”

John and Doc moved their belongings, a few blankets, picks, and shovels, into their home in the evening of November 4th less than 30 days after beginning their project.

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We are just a few miles from West Point.  The story of West Point is quite possibly part legend and part truth.  Some historical references say that while seeking a path across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range,  American frontiersman Kit Carson discovered West Point in 1844. It was the farthest point west Carson was able to reach before being blocked by the high waters of the Mokelumne River.  After waiting unsuccessfully for the river to recede, Carson proceeded up the Mokelumne Canyon and created what is now known as Carson Pass through the Sierra Nevada range.  Though other historians do not place Carson in West Point, the Carson Pass trail does indeed run along what is today California Highway 88 from Jackson to the Nevada border and West Point is in the general vicinity. The Historic Marker (shown above) also gives credit to Kit Carson. 




Born in 1809, Kit Carson was a frontiersman, trapper, and soldier.  He teamed up with General John Fremont and the two of them conducted three expeditions mapping out routes from Missouri to California between 1842 and 1845. It was on their second expedition from July 1843 to July 1844 that Carson may have come across West Point.


In 1848, miners making their way south from Coloma looking for open claims arrived at the Mokelumne River, and found it rich with gold.  After the placers ran dry, prospectors continued their search for gold in rich quartz deposits nearby.  The large number of individual lode or hard-rock mines were consolidated into the West Point Mining District and worked until the 1940s when logging became West Point’s main industry.    


Lumberjack Days


Ahead, turn right off the highway onto Main Street.  The sleepy little town of West Point has one  major annual festival every October, Lumberjack Days.  This old-fashioned celebration comes complete with a parade, soap box derby and stock saw competition.  What is a stock saw competition you ask?  The goal of this competition is to be the fastest at slicing off a specific shaped cookie from your log using a chainsaw.    




Pass the one short block of western style buildings, the West Point Market and Willow Bar on Main then follow Main back to Highway 26.  Just before you get to Highway the Historic Marker for West Point will be on your left.  The coordinates for this marker are 
38.397734, -120.529353.  When you get to the end of Main, turn right back onto Highway 26.  Cross over the Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River and continue straight.  Follow the sign toward Mokelumne Hill.    


Mokelumne River Near West Point 



The Mokelumne River flows west from the Sierra Nevada, 95 miles into the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta.  The name is from the Miwok language constructed of the word moke meaning fishnet and umne meaning people of.  Or people of the fishnet.  Mokelumne Hill was named after the river in 1850.

Besides being a popular site for fishing, the Mokelumne River is also home to five whitewater kayaking runs ranging from Class II fun and splashy all day long to Class V, no guts, no glory!   


Mokelumne River Class III - Whitewater Connection 

The next town along Highway 26 is Sandy Gulch.  It has a population today of around 40, is located between the Middle and South Fork of the Mokelumne River, and the town is a registered California Historical Landmark.  It was established in 1849 as a trading center for miners and named after the gulch where William and Dan Carsner found large gold nuggets embedded in the sandy gravel.   Shortly after this discovery, prospectors arrived and established placer mines along Sandy Gulch Creek and its tributaries. 

Sandy Gulch Historic Marker 


After the placer gold was depleted early in the 1850s, two hard-rock mines were established in the Sandy Gulch area.  One of those, the Woodhouse Mine opened in 1852.  This mine and its adjacent mills were some of  the earliest hard-rock mining operations in Calaveras County.  It consisted of two mills, each with 10 stamps, powered by a 30 foot wheel. 

Our friend John Doble visited this area in June of 1852.  Here is the excerpt from his diary.

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"This morning cool clear and a light frost.  Doc, Abe and myself packed up a horse with tools blankets and provisions for 3 days for a prospecting trip up among the forks of the Mokelumne.  We started after breakfast and went up by Mosquito Gulch and Browns Ranch and crossed the South Fork at the lower crossing.  We then steered north to the Quartz Mills on the Middle Fork, crossed this and arrived around noon to start prospecting." 

"We prospected some bars but found little.  Went up the river and prospected some bars and a gulch but found nothing that would pay, so we packed up and went back down the river.  Found a spot near the river, cooked some supper with a drift wood fire, laid down and went to sleep." 

California Gold Miner with Pack Horse (1887 by Henry Raschen)

"The next morning Doc took the horse up the hill to hunt grass for him.  Abe and me went on to Woodhouse Quartz Mill.  Doc was to meet us there.  When we got to the mill Doc was already waiting for us.  The Quartz Mills here are two each running 10 stamps by an overshot wheel of 30 feet diameter.  There is so much fall along here that the troughs that carry the water to the wheels are only about 30 yards long.  The bed of the stream is solid granite over which the water runs with a loud noise heard to the top of the hill.  The quartz is dug up several hundred yards back in the mine.  From here it is hauled to the mill where it is hammered up into small bits and then run over a plank chute. There is no work here for us. After eating dinner we called off our prospecting trip and headed home the same way we had started. Collected some flower seeds for the purpose of sending to Abner in the City.  Arrived home at 5 o'clock well tired of climbing the hills and mountains."    

"A Scene from Actual Life At the Mines
Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion 

The life of a miner doesn't always pay off but it is full of adventure.

John Doble lived in Volcano until 1861.  During those nine years he made an adequate living off gold mining. Using Volcano as his home base he mined claims in Grass Valley, Sutter Creek, Drytown, Grizzly Flat, Indian Diggings, Jackson Creek, Rich Gulch, Soldiers Gulch and many others. John partnered with various other miners on different endeavors, some involved mining others real-estate, most of these proved profitable.

During these years, John kept his journal religiously.  It was his habit to record the weather, his expenses such as the price of bread and meat, and record how much he made from any claim he mined.  But for some reason, his journal ends Saturday, February 11th, 1854 with this entry.


A Day in the Life of a Gold Miner

“Rained very hard during the night and caved in a part of the bank and smashed one of our boxes, flooding our hole so there was much time this morning spent doing repairs.    We fixed up what we could but could not get enough water to do much so we quit till we can get some water. Mining has improved considerable since the rain set in but the Town does not present as lively an appearance as it did last fall.  A report has lately reached us that the United States has bought a part of Northern Mexico with Lower California which has created considerable excitement.  Many are making their preparations to go there, as it is supposed to be as good mining country as any part of California." 

Though another journal was not found, John’s letter's from 1856 to 1865 fill in the rest of his story which we will finish shortly. 


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Up next is the tiny town of Glencoe, formerly called Mosquito Gulch this is the area John and company walked through to get to Sandy Gulch.  Glencoe was first worked by Mexicans in the early 1850s.  Before stamp mills were introduced the Mexican prospectors used an arrastra to pulverize the ore and separate the gold.  This system in its simplest form required dragging two flat-bottomed stones around a circular pit using either mule or human power to turn the stone.  Unfortunately, there is not one gold rush period building or artifact left in Glencoe.   

Continue along the highway, following it to the right toward Mokelumne Hill and San Andreas while we continue with John's story.  

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John remained in contact with his brother Abner and sister-in-law Margaret in San Francisco.  Writing and visiting whenever possible.  Abner hoped that John would eventually give up his dream of making a fortune gold mining and come and live on the Doble Ranch in San Francisco.  Margaret had hoped to marry John off to one of her friends, as she had been successful in finding a match for six out of the seven Doble siblings.




Margaret wrote January 14, 1861, Dear Brother: The last of the Dobles, your sister, is to be married soon. Have done pretty well with six inside of five years.  Hurry up now and add your name to the list before the five years are fairly out. It will never do for you to be the ‘lone’ one of the family.  Yours truly Margaret B. Doble.”

John did decide to try something other than mining.  In January 1857 he was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Amador County and in September of that year elected Justice of the Peace.  He held this office until October 1861 when he was elected Associate Judge of the Court of Sessions in Jackson. Two years later in 1863 John finally joined his brother Abner in an iron working business in San Francisco and lived in a cabin built off the back of the shop. 

That leaves us with John’s marital status. 

John had told Margaret that he found the women in Volcano "a bit rough around the edges," so with no options in California, Margaret gave John the name and address of a friend of hers in Pennsylvania.  She hoped her bachelor brother-in-law and old maid friend might strike up a romantic correspondence. 

Though never meeting, John and Lizzie carried on a long distance courtship for three years. Their letters portrayed a true friendship and love between the two, at least until that Dear John letter dated June 24, 1864 when Lizzie writes: "I presume Maggie has by this time told you something of what I wrote her in my last letter, concerning my future intentions.  If so you will not be surprised when I tell you that a lonely bachelor here has taken it into his head that your correspondent is the only person suited to his case and that I have at length consented to try the realities of the married state."






John responded July 22, 1864: "Your unusually interesting letter of the 24th came duly to hand and was read with much pleasure, and I would say joy if I was not afraid of stretching the truth too much.  But indeed I was highly gratified to learn that one so noble and just in sentiment as you are should have found a congenial spirit with whom she could travel down life's varied course.  I shall ever cherish in my inmost soul a warm feeling of thankfulness to one whom I deem so good for her kind and friendly wishes towards one as unworthy as myself. It is my earnest wish that you will find in your expected husband all that your heart or mind can desire."

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Next on Highway 26 is Rich Gulch. It doesn’t look like much today, but many who camped along Rich Gulch made a fortune. The upper portion of the gulch was known for its placers and the lower its quartz mines.  In 1849 it was not uncommon to take lumps of pure gold from the quartz mines weighing some 30 to 40 ounces.  By 1859 there were two stamp mills in town and less than 10 years later the Gwin Mine on the lower gulch was producing so much that it required a 60-stamp steam and water driven mill to process all the ore and separate the gold.  That is 60 heavy iron rods sliding up and down vertically in alternating unison for hours on end. The sound of these mills traveled for miles.



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John Doble visited Rich Gulch on February 15, 1852, “I went down to Rich Gulch it is the first time I have seen it, there are tents strung all along it and it is now dug up for 50 feet wide for 3 miles. The hills are low on both sides and the Gulch wide.  There has been several fortunes taken out of this Gultch.” Though John was not one of those who made his fortune there it was still a place he frequented, hoping that things would pan out.

Alright, it is time to finish the story of American adventurer John Doble.  Lizzie married in November of 1864 and continued to correspond with John until August of the following year.

John's last letter to Lizzie was written from San Francisco August 8, 1865.  He would have been  37 years old.  Here is an excerpt from that letter.



"I believe when I last wrote you I was just recovering from a severe spell of sickness.  I got well and went on with my cotton business in Mazatlán, Mexico for several months and finally sold out and came back to San Francisco.  It was largely a loosing trip.  During the last few months I was sick all the time with dysentery and small pox. I have been combined to the house for weeks since I came home.  I think my health is getting better.  Now that you are happily married and have much to attend to in the way of domestic duties it will not do for your distant bachelor friend still lonely and desolate as ever to bother you with his griefs and anxieties too much nor make his letters too long for fear you may tire of the correspondence and thereby deprive him of one of his greatest pleasures which is a letter from you. Give my kindest regards to your husband who I am glad to learn is not likely to be jealous.  I hope your pathway through life may be smooth and unbroken and that fortunes fairest smiles may always greet you in every undertaking.  I remain as ever your friend, John."

Nothing more is known about the life of John Doble.  We leave it to your imagination as to what might have happened next.  Did he go on to live many more years and get married or did he succumb to small pox? We will never know for sure, but we will always have his story from 1851 to 1865 in John Doble's Journal and Letters from the Mines edited by Charles Camp and published by Volcano Press in 1962.

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Continue along Highway 26.  Pass through the town of Happy Valley, originally settled in 1849 by a group of emigrants from France and we are on to Mokelumne Hill.  




At the intersection of Highway 26 and Highway 49, turn right onto Highway 49 toward Jackson.  In about 1/4 mile turn right onto Main Street. 


This sleepy little town was first mined by Oregonians in 1848, followed by the French a year later.  By 1850, Mokelumne Hill was one of the largest towns in the region with thousands of prospectors having arrived from countries all around the world including Germany, Spain, Mexico, Chile and China.  Between 1854 and 1874 Mokelumne Hill was devastated by three fires.  Residents rebuilt after the first two, but by 1874 most of the gold had been played out, the county seat moved to San Andreas, and many of the residents moved on to other areas along the Mother Lode.  Today Mokelumne Hill has a population of around 700 with a few buildings dating back to the gold rush era.  


As you come off the highway notice the gray saltbox style bungalow with the corrugated roof on your right.  Built in 1850, this is one of the oldest residences in town. 

On your left, the yellow wooden bungalow and the white church next door, both were built in the 1850's.  The church is said to be the oldest Congregational Church in California.  The yellow bungalow was the parsonage,  today it is a private residence.  


Ahead on your right is the three-story Hotel Leger.  Established in 1851, this hotel appeared on the Travel Channel’s show Hotel Impossible and treated to an upgrade in 2013. 





As you come to the end of the block, there will be a historical marker for Mokelumne Hill on your right and Renegade Winery will be on your left.  


We highly recommend taking some time to explore this town on foot. You may use the map below or our Companion Brochure




Stop in at the Hotel Leger for a meal or Renegade Winery if you are interested in red varietals.  




Otherwise, pass the Mokelumne Hill historic marker and turn left onto Center Street.  The three-story building on your right with the iron shutters was the Wells Fargo Assay office in 1868.  




Just past the Mokelumne Hill Cemetery you will come to a Y in the road.  Turn left at the Y onto Campo Seco Turnpike and then left back onto Highway 49 as we make our way to San Andreas.  


Chili Gulch Historic Marker 


Along Highway 49 you will pass another historical marker, this one for Chili Gulch.  The marker notes the gulch as one of the richest placer mining sections in Calaveras County.  It received its name from the Chileans who worked the gulch in 1848 and 1849. 

As we make our way along the highway we will tell you the story of two notorious outlaws, Joaquin Murrieta and Charles Boles, also known as Black Bart.  Both are tied to the next town we visit, San Andreas.  

The legend of Joaquin Murrieta has grown so large over the years it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.  His exploits were fictionalized in the novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta written in 1854 and he is known as being the inspiration for the fictional vigilante Zorro. 




According to researcher Frank Latta who spent much of his life in search of the historical Joaquin Murrieta,  Joaquin and his wife Rosa left Sonora Mexico in 1849 to join Joaquin’s half-brother working the mines in Calaveras County.  Shortly after arriving Joaquin’s wife was raped, and his brother was accused of stealing a horse and hung.  Joaquin himself was expelled from working the mines. For these reasons, Joaquin turned to a life of banditry, vowing revenge on the Americans who had carried out these injustices upon his family. 

Joaquin formed a gang of several well-organized bands, one led by himself, and the rest led by his trusted Sonoran relatives. These bands killed at least six of the Americans who had lynched his stepbrother, they robbed and killed miners as they returned from the minefields, and ran an illegal horse trade driving captured mustangs from the Central Valley to the Sierras.  By the 1850s,  newspapers were reporting an outlaw named Joaquin terrorizing California.  

In 1853 California Governor John Bigler, published a warrant offering a $1,000 reward for the capture of Murrieta, either dead or alive. On July 25th of that year, a group of California Rangers led by Harry Love came upon a group of armed Mexican men on the edge of the Diablo Range near what today is the town of Coalinga.  There was a confrontation and three of the Mexicans were killed.   The rangers claimed that one of the dead was Juaquin Murrieta and collected the reward. 




San Andreas' town history records Joaquin Murrieta as a resident in the 1850s.
 

Charles Boles, also known as Black Bart, one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in California, also has a connection to San Andreas.




Born in 1829 in Illinois, Boles prospected gold near the American River in 1848.  In 1862 he joined the army and fought in the Civil War on the Union side until 1865 when he returned to the California gold mines. It was at that time that Boles had a run in with some Wells, Fargo & Company agents and vowed revenge against the organization.  He adopted the name Black Bart and began robbing Wells Fargo stagecoaches. He is credited with 27 successful hold-ups.  Wells Fargo offered a $250 reward for the arrest and conviction of this stage robber.



Bart committed his first robbery on July 26, 1875, near Cooperopolis in Calaveras County.  Standing in the middle of the road, Bart pointed his shotgun at the stage as it approached and shouted in the direction of the driver “If he dares to shoot, give him a solid volley boys. Now sir please hand over the treasure box.

Noticing what appeared to be rifles protruding from the boulders on the hillside and assuming they were armed bandits, the driver handed over the Wells Fargo strongbox. Once Bart had left with the loot, the driver discovered that what he thought were men with rifles, were carefully placed sticks.

Wells Fargo special agents James B. Hume and John N. Thacker pursued the robbers and often assisted local sheriffs and law enforcement officers.  They kept a mugbook of stagecoach robbers.  One of those was Black Bart.  


Hume's Mugbook 


Bart’s last holdup was November 3, 1883. At this one he made a grave mistake, and left behind a handkerchief with a laundry mark.  Authorities were able to trace this mark to a San Francisco laundry and eventually to Bart himself.  Bart was tried in a courthouse in San Andreas and sentenced to six years in San Quentin.

In January 1888 after serving four years and two months of his six year sentence, Black Bart walked out of San Quentin prison a free man.  It was said that his early release was because of the “Goodwin Act” that allowed prisoners time off for good behavior. 


As you come to the next intersection turn left to continue along Highway 49.  At this location the highway is also known as W. Saint Charles Street and is on the outskirts of San Andreas. 


In about 1 mile, watch for the Sierra gas station, it will be on your right. 



The next street, which is not marked for some reason, is Main Street for San Andreas.  There is a single traffic light hanging over this intersection and the historical marker for San Andreas is on the corner to the left of the intersection.  Turn left onto Main Street and pass Goonies Bar.   

Goonies was built in 1858 by Gooner Everson and known as Gooney's Saloon.  Across the street the one-story brick building was erected in 1859 as a dry goods store.  In the late 1800s it became the home of the Calaveras Citizen newspaper.  Today it is the home of the Calaveras Enterprise newspaper.




  

Next on your right will be the Calaveras County Museum complex.  This is well worth a visit.  It includes the historic courthouse and jail where Black Bart was tried and held in 1888. 






Continuing down the street on your left is the Black Bart Hotel, every town needs to capitalize on something, San Andreas claim to fame is Black Bart.  



Then on your right notice the stone building.  This was constructed in 1855 and is the oldest remaining building in San Andreas having survived the fires of 1856 and 1858.  Today it is the Calaveras County Archives.  




Watch for the yellow Side Road Intersection sign ahead on your right. This sign and the large boulder engraved Neilson Park, mark the entrance to the San Andreas public parking lot.  Turn right into this parking lot. 



Use the map below to explore the area.  



One of the most common misconceptions about San Andreas is that it is named after the San Andreas earthquake fault.  Actually the fault was named after the San Andreas Lake in San Mateo County, through which the fault runs. 

The town of San Andreas, is named after the first church that was built here in 1848, San Andreas or St. Andrew.  

This first church was thought to be on the corner of St. Charles Street and Gatewood Avenue, near the current location of the San Andreas fire station.  This church was a canvas structure supported by pine poles.  On the interior was the altar covered with a simple cloth and candlesticks made out of old wine bottles.  The first Mass held here was on November 30, 1848, St. Andrew's Feast Day,  so the town was named by Father Bobard,  Andrew.  The population at the time was made up of many nationalities, those mostly Mexican, they called the town Andres, those of French decent called it Andre, and the Italians Andreas.  Finally the community adopted the name San Andreas to honor their multi-ethnicity.  

The population continued to increase until, in the winter of 1850 they numbered 1,000, most of them camping on the hill where the town of San Andreas is now located.  By the early 1850s, the surface and placer mining had been nearly panned out, but the discovery of gold in an underground river channel in 1853 revitalized the camp and San Andreas soon became a bustling gold mining town.  That year the American Hotel, a stone building which would survive the subsequent fires that plagued the town, was erected.  The American Hotel is now the Calaveras County Archives.  


 
Besides placer and hard-rock mining other business ventures sprang up in San Andreas.  By 1856 the town was filled with grocery stores, a livery stable, bank, hotels, restaurants and of course more saloons and gambling halls.  San Andreas became the Calaveras County seat in 1866 and remains so today. 

Once you have finished exploring this town, exit the parking lot the way you arrived and turn right.  Make the next right turn onto Pope Street.  Then a left onto California Street and an immediate right back onto  Pope Street. Continue on Pope Street for 1 mile. 

We are on our way to The Red Barn Museum.  This former dairy barn showcases Calaveras County’s rich history in agriculture, mining, logging, and ranching. 




At the stop sign turn left onto Mt. Ranch Road. Continue straight for 1/4 mile to the Red Barn Museum.  Watch for the red barn ahead on your left and turn into their parking lot.  


The Red Barn museum showcases Calaveras County's rich history with elaborate displays of actual mining carts, farm wagons, and other equipment, including a restored 1800’s Hook and Ladder truck.


Post Office






When you are finished visiting the museum, exit the parking lot and return in the direction you came, by turning left on Government Center Road and right onto Mountain Ranch Road. Continue on Mt. Ranch Road as it veers left.  Follow this road for about 1/2 mile.   Use the left lane ahead the turn left at the stop sign onto Highway 49.  


Continue along Highway 49.  Our next stop is in about 11 miles, the cute western style town of Angels Camp.  While you drive we will tell you the story of two American authors who have ties to Calaveras County, Bret Harte and Samuel Clemens, who you also know as Mark Twain.  


Samuel Clemens age 15



Clemens was born in 1835 in Missouri.  In 1861, he and his brother Orion traveled to Carson City, Nevada, Orion to assume duties as the Nevada Territory secretary, Clemens to escape fighting in the Civil War.

 Statue of Mark Twain in Utica Park, Angels Camp 

Samuel Clemens eventually took a job at the Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.  It was while working this job in 1863 that he first signed one of his articles with what would become his pen name, Mark Twain. 



Mark Twain's desk when he was editor of the Territorial Enterprise


Between 1864 and 1865, Twain lived with his friend Steve Gillis in a small wooden cabin at the top of Jackass Hill overlooking Tuttletown about 8 miles south of Angles Camp.  The original cabin has long since burned down, but a replica stands in its place to this day. 


Replica of Cabin at Jackass Hill (37°59'57.6"N 120°28'38.8"W)


During his stay at Jackass Hill, Twain would frequently visit the saloon at the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp. It was during one of those visits Twain is reputed to have met up with an old acquaintance, Ben Coon, from his days as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi.  Coon recounted a story he had heard about a fellow who would bet on just about anything, even his pet frog.  The tale goes like this. 

Mural on side of Angels Hotel  


There once was a man by the name of Smiley who was so proud of his pet frog Daniel Webster that he carried him around in a box, showing him off at every opportunity.  Daniel was know to boast loudly to any one who would listen, "My frog Daniel Webster, he can do somersaults and make long leaps on my command. Why, I would bet that he could out jump any frog in all of Calaveras County.  In fact I know he can."   A stranger overheard Smiley’s boasting and said, “I don’t see any difference in your frog from any other old frog that could be caught in the town cistern. Why, if I had a frog of my own, I would be willing to bet.” 

Leaving Daniel Webster with the stranger, Smiley went off to fetch a suitable challenger for this bet.  While he was gone the stranger surreptitiously fed Daniel Webster a handful of buckshot. Upon Smiley's return, the two set out to compete.  Smiley gave his frog the command to jump, but Daniel Webster would not budge, due of course to his stomach being full of buckshot.  Having easily won the competition, the stranger quickly collected his money, and left town.


Historic Marker at Twain Cabin on Jackass Hill 


After hearing this story, Twain returned to the cabin on Jackass Hill and wrote "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," the book that launched his publishing career.  

In all Twain wrote five versions of this jumping frog story, only three of which were actually published.  Angels Camp has kept the spirit of Smiley and his frog Daniel Webster alive to this day by celebrating the Jumping Frog Jubilee on the third weekend of every May.  Frog-shaped brass plaques line the sidewalk along Main Street in Angels Camp. These salute each year's winner of the annual contest. The world record is currently held by Lee Guidici whose frog Rosie the Ribiter, jumped 21-feet, 5-3/4 inches in 1986.  Quite the leap when you compare it to Smiley's frog Daniel Webster's 0 feet, 0 inches in 1865.



Mark Twain would go on to write another 26 books, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” before he died in April 1910.


Bret Harte 1862 (23 years old) 

Bret Harte was born in Albany, New York in 1839.  His father died when Bret was young and his mother moved to San Francisco to make a living to support her children in 1853. The following year she had earned enough to bring her two youngest, Bret and his sister, to San Francisco to join her.

In 1855 at the age of 16, Bret caught gold fever and set off for the goldfields.  Having little luck at mining he went on to try his hand at a variety of jobs: school teacher, pharmacists, law clerk and even an armed guard riding shotgun on stages for the Adams Express Company. 

Finally in 1867 he landed a job as a typesetter.  This position opened up a new opportunity for Bret, writing for newspapers and magazines.  In 1866, while working for the San Francisco magazine, The Californian, Bret met Mark Twain.  And although Twain’s jumping frog story  “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” had been published a month earlier, it was not until Bret published it in The Californian that Twain's recognition and fame really took off. 


Bret Harte 1871 (32 years old)
 
Bret went on to write a number of short stories and poems that romanticized the miners and the gamblers of the California Gold Rush.  Most of these stories took place in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.  It was his short story, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” published in August of 1868 in the Overland Monthly that pushed Bret to international fame. 



By 1871, Bret's fame paved the way for an opportunity of a lifetime.  An eastern literary magazine contracted to pay him $10,000 for one year in exchange for 12 stories.  One written each month.  His submissions which frequently arrived after the deadline, proved dull, and did not contain the excitement and flair his publisher and readers had come to expect from his earlier fame.

In 1878 destitute and struggling to support his young family, Bret appealed to friends in Washington D.C.   He obtained a U.S. government job in Germany and leaving his wife and children behind fled to Europe finally settling in London.  


Bret Harte 1898 (59 years old)

He spent the rest of his life in England, where he produced almost a volume of short fiction material annually.  And though his wife never joined him in Europe, Bret did send money home to support the family.  Bret Harte died in 1902 in Camberley near London. 

We will be arriving in Angels Camp shortly. It is the only incorporated city in Calaveras County and has a current population just short of what it was during the height of the gold rush. 


Downtown Angels Camp 


Angels Camp is named after its founders Henry and George Angel of Rhode Island, who prospected the area for a short time. But like so many would-be miners they discovered more money could be made providing the miners with goods and services than laboring in the placers. They opened Angels Trading Post and the town grew up around them.  The towns greatest prosperity came from the hard-rock gold mines established between 1880 and 1920. 



Historic downtown Angels Camp, home to charming boutique shops and restaurants, is the end of this driving tour.


Altavilla Schoolhouse
 
Ahead on your right watch for the red one-room schoolhouse.  The Altavilla Schoolhouse was built in 1858 and was in continuous use to 1950.  Follow the highway toward Sonora. 



Coming up on your left shortly will be the Angles Camp City Museum.  We are not stopping here, but note that it is a stop on our next driving tour of this series, Angles Camp to Jamestown.  This museum which is located on the original land claim for Angels hard-rock Mine, consists of four buildings which feature collections of horse-drawn carriages, and mining equipment. 


Next you will pass the Serbian Orthodox Church, erected around 1910, it is the second oldest Serbian Church in the United States. 

Ahead after the gas station you will enter the historic portion of Angels Camp.  During the gold rush this town vibrated to the roar of stamp mills and its residents danced to the music coming from the many saloons that lined Main Street. As you continue through the historic district, it looks surprisingly the same as it did years ago.








 
This was the main portion of old town. Buildings here were constructed between 1854 and 1937. The Odd Fellows building (shown above) which will be near the end of the block is the oldest and across the street, the Art Deco style Utica building was built in 1937.  Turn right into the parking lot after the Utica Building.  There is a bronze and stone historic marker at the entrance to this parking lot.    


This historic marker at the entrance of this parking lot notes that the Angels Trading Post run by Henry and George Angel was located about 200 feet from this location. Across the street there is another historic plaque. This marker notes the location of the Angels Hotel, where Mark Twain heard the story of Smiley and his frog Daniel Webster. If you are interested in exploring Angels Camp by foot, please see the map below.  




We hope that you have enjoyed your driving tour from Jackson to Angles Camp and all of our stops in-between. 




This is one of four companion tours of the California Gold Rush Back Roads and Highway 49 from Auburn to Jamestown.  If you are interested in the next segment, we end our tour today in the parking lot where we begin our next driving tour, On the Road to Gold: A Highway 49 Driving Tour from  Angels Camp to Jamestown. On our next tour you will have the opportunity to visit the town of Murphys, the Queen of the Sierra and Sonora, the Gem of the Southern Mines.

We will also be stopping at Columbia State Park and have stops at Moaning Caverns Adventure Park and the Natural Bridges Trailhead.  Along the road you will hear more stories about the gold rush, including a number of hardy women of the gold rush.  There will also be opportunities for wine tasting, dining and shopping.

Until next time, Happy Adventures!

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All photos by L. A. Momboisse unless listed below:

Black and white photo of the National Hotel in Jackson - History of Jackson 

Front of Amador County Museum - Wikipedia 

Picture of outside of Jackson Rancheria Casino at night - TripAdvisor

Photo of Margaret Hughes Dalton - Jackson Rancheria Casino 

The Isthmus of Panama  (1850 by Charles Christian Nahl) - Wikipedia 

San Francisco 1848 - Wikipedia 


Working the Placers 1850 - Wikipedia 

Pine Grove House 1917 - History of Pine Grove

General Store Volcano on Main - Pinterest 

General Store Volcano - Pinterest 

Staircase in Black Chasm - Visit Tuolumne 

Lightening Express West - Wagon Train 

California Emigrants - Wagon Train 

Map of Oregon and California Trail - Britannica Kids  

Emigrants Fording the Platte - National Park Service 

Traveling to Gold Fields - National Park System 

Miner's Cabin - Nevada County, CA 1852 - Western Mining History

West Point Historic Marker - (38.397734, -120.529353) - Historical Marker Database 

Kit Carson - Wikipedia 

Lumberjack Days - Go Calaveras 

Mokelumne River Near West Point - Wikipedia 

Mokelumne River Class III - Whitewater Connection 

California Gold Miner with Pack Horse (1887 by Henry Raschen) - Oakland Museum 

"A Scene from Actual Life At the Mines" Ballou's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion - Oakland

A Day in the Life of a Gold Miner - Gold Prospectors 

Chili Gulch Historic Marker - Historical Marker Database 

Drawing of Joaquin Murietta - Calisphere University of California 

Poster Advertising the Pickled Head of Bandit Joaquin Murietta - Calisphere University of California

Black Bart - Wikipedia 

Wells Fargo Reward Poster - Wells Fargo Corporate Archives 



Samuel Clemens age 15 - Wikipedia 

Mark Twain's desk when he was editor of Territorial Enterprise - Wikipedia 

Bret Harte 1862 - Wikimedia 


Overland Monthly - Abe Books 

Bret Harte 1898  - Wikimedia 

Excerpts paraphrased from John Doble are from John Doble's Journal and Letters from the Mines, Volcano, Mokelumne Hill, Jackson and San Francisco, edited by Charles L. Camp.  Volcano Press published 1999. 






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