Remembering the California Gold Rush

When gold was found in “them thar hills” of California in 1848 it sparked a rush that would really put California on the map as one of the richest, most exciting places on Earth. About 300,000 gold-seekers, who were called `forty niners’, made the trip by sea and overland to try to become rich. Some did, many didn’t, but the gold rush did put California on the map and now it is possible to trace the history of the gold rush in Mariposa County, which is home to the first hard rock gold mine in California which, legend says, was partly founded by Kit Carson a frontiersman and indian fighter.

Modern-day visitors can experience a sense of what life truly was like during the gold rush by visiting the county’s museums and history centres. For instance, the Mariposa and Coulterville museums have stunning exhibits that depict how those miners lived during a period that has been described as history’s largest migration. There are several small towns that can be visited where historic buildings still have steel shutters and doors for security.

One of those towns is Coulterville, which is still considered to be one of the most unspoiled gold rush era California towns. Besides the compelling museum and Historic Register downtown area, Coulterville also offers a tour of old-fashioned pioneer roses. Other attractions include the Mariposa County Courthouse which is the oldest courthouse still in continuous use west of the Rockies and the Mariposa Gazette which is California’s oldest weekly newspaper in continuous publication.

Mariposa County mines including the Josephine, Pine Tree and Princeton were some of the most productive in the motherlode. One of the highest grades of crystalline gold found anywhere in the world is still mined here.

Mariposa, the town, was formerly called Logtown and was founded as a mining camp, was originally located downstream from where it is today, but floods had a habit of washing the buildings away, so the town was moved to a higher elevation and had its name changed to the one it holds today.

Many of the buildings in the town were constructed between 1849 and 1900 and remain pretty much unchanged today, so you do still get a genuine `Old West’ feel for the town. The California State Mining and Mineral Museum is California’s newest State Park. Located at the Mariposa Fairgrounds, this is the State’s premier exhibit of gems, gold and minerals with specimens contributed from all over the world.

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