History of Angels Camp, California
Angels Camp, 1848
Was it Henry or George Angel after whom Angels Camp was named in 1848? Authorities disagree, but odds are with Henry, the town's first store keeper.
Boasting a population of 2,700 in 1972 (with the annexation of Altaville thus making Main Street 4 miles long) in 1849, nearly 4,000 miners camped in the one mile area from Angels Creek to Utica Park.
The cry of "gold" brought the miners but within a few years, local areas were worked out of surface gold and Placer Mining had all but ceased when, as tradition states, Bennegar Rasberry's muzzle loader jammed. He fired the rifle into the ground where the ramrod split a stone to reveal the glittering gold inside and Quartz Mining began in Angels Camp.
The main quartz vein extended from southern Altaville to Angels Creek and all along Main Street were the mines: The Sultana, the Angels, the Lightner, the Utica, and the Stickle.
Ore was pushed by hand cars over tracks from the mines to the mills where the "crash" of over 200 stamps was produced each day during the mining peak from the 1880's and 90's. It has been said that when the last stamp mill ceased operating, the town was so quiet that people could not sleep.
The estimated gross recovery of gold from the 5 mines from 1886 to 1910 was $19,985,747...and Angels Creek ran chalky white from the mill wastes.
Angels began as a tent town with many flimsy wooden structures and in 1855, the first fire took its toll by destroying almost everything from Angels Camp to St. Patrick's Church
In rebuilding, many structures were built of rock with iron doors and roofs insulated with dirt and sand. Most of these building are standing today. The rest were again destroyed and rebuilt with only a handful of the original in evidence.
Mining continued until the last, the Gold Cliff shaft of the Utica Mining Company, closed in 1942. With the need for metal during World War II, most of the mining machinery was sold for scrap and now only a few concrete foundations and mill works remain of the Gold Rush Days in Angels Camp.
Henry Angel, of Rhode Island, a shopkeeper who started a trading post in the camp during the Gold Rush of 1848 has the honor of having the town of Angels Camp named after him. As with all the extraordinary towns along Historic Hwy 49, Angels Camp has many stories of pioneers striking it rich. One example, a vein of gold bearing quartz was discovered accidentally by a man with the unique name of Bennager Raspberry. While out hunting one afternoon near Angels Camp, Bennager took some time to clean his gun, and his ramrod became lodged in the barrel. Thinking the best way to free the stuck ramrod was to shoot the gun, he aimed the gun at a nearby squirrel and fired, missing the squirrel and sending the ramrod into the bushes. When he extracted the ramrod he noticed on the tip a small piece of quartz rich with gold. That afternoon he dug up $700 worth of gold using only his ramrod as a shovel. The following day, better prepared, he pulled out $2,000 worth of gold and $7,000 on the third day.
At one point in Angels Camp's early history there were as many as 4,000 miners working the claims. The Surface gold however, quickly diminished, leaving only the hardrock mining industry that flourished until recently.
In the fall of 1865 a young Mark Twain, who was at the time living in a small cabin on "Jackass Hill", overheard a story in a hotel bar, and later penned the now famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". It was the literary piece that made Mark Twain a household name, however, it was not until 1928 that the Angels Camp Boosters Club held the first celebration in honor of the first paving of Main Street.
For Thousands of years Native Americans of the area held sacred the ancient Giant Sequoias, located in "Calaveras Big Trees State Park", a secret later discovered by A.T. Dowd, who in 1850 happened across the grove. Shortly after Dowd shared the discovery with the world, the "Mammoth Grove Hotel" was built to allow travelers the opportunity to stay and visit the amazing attraction.
In 1950 the two stands of ancient Redwoods came under the protection of the State Park system. The park covers some six thousand acres of forest on both sides of the Stanislaus River, and today offers camping, hiking and bicycling those who wish to partake of this natural wonder.
History of Calaveras County
Calaveras County, one of the original 27 counties of the State, was organized at the 1849-50 session of the California State Legislature. At one time it embraced a portion of Amador, Alpine and Mono Counties. In 1854, Amador County was created from Calaveras and El Dorado counties, and parts of Calaveras County was taken to form Fresno County in 1856, Mono County in 1861 and Alpine County in 1864.
Calaveras is a Spanish word meaning skull. This name was first given to the river because of the great quantities of human skulls found along the lower reaches of the river.
The first officers of the county were: William Fowle Smith, County Judge; Colonel Collier, County Clerk; A. B. Mudge, Treasurer; H. A. Carter, Prosecuting Attorney. Pleasant Valley, better known as Double Springs, was designated as the first county seat. Court was first held in a large tent, and later a small courthouse was erected from camphor wood imported from China. The old building is still standing at Double Springs. The county seat was moved to Jackson in 1850 where it remained until 1852. (Jackson was at that time in Calaveras County.) In 1852 the county seat of Calaveras County was moved to Mokelumne Hill where it remained until 1863. After an election in 1863 San Andreas was declared to be the county seat. Legal action followed this election, and it was not until 1866 that the county seat was actually moved to San Andreas where it has since remained.
The Calaveras Chronicle, the first weekly newspaper published in California, was first published on October 28, 1851, at Mokelumne Hill.
The first grove of Big Trees, "Sequoia Gigantea," discovered in California was the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees. These were located in 1852 by A. T. Dowd, a hunter for the Union Water Company that was at that time building an aqueduct from the Stanislaus River to Murphys.
The largest gold nugget found in the United States was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in November 1854. When weighed on Adams Express Company's gold scales in Stockton, it balanced the scales at 214 pounds and eight ounces, Troy.
The first three-story building erected in the interior of California was in Mokelumne Hill.
Calaveras County is famous for its lode and placer mines, and for many years it was the principal copper-producing county in California. Cement production from its vast limestone deposits has become one of the county's major industries in recent years.
The following places were early day mining communities: Angels Camp, Fourth Crossing, Mokelumne Hill, Calaveritas, Old Gulch, Douglas Flat, Vallecito, Murphys, Sheep Ranch, San Antone, Rich Gulch, Campo Seco, Copperopolis, West Point, Glencoe, Middle Bar, Carson Hill, Robinson's Ferry, Jesus Maria, Mountain Ranch, El Dorado, North Branch, Camanche, Railroad Flat, Blue Mountain City, Telegraph City, Petersburg, Gwin Mine and Jenny Lind.
John W. Robinson and Stephen Mead were licensed by the Court of Sessions of Calaveras County on August 13, 1850 to maintain a ferry on the Stanislaus River at Robinson's Ferry. L. Martin and Aristede L. Pench were licensed to maintain a ferry at Middle Bar on the Mokelume River on June 5, 1850 by the Court of Sessions of Calaveras County.
Cracking the Case
The Historical society also manages the County Museum located in San Andreas on Main Street. The museum complex includes the historic County Courthouse, Hall of Records, and jail. The notorious Wells Fargo stage robber Black Bart was held in this jail and sentenced in our courtroom. Our museum displays also include artifacts pertaining to Native Americans, local pioneers, gold mining, minerals, and the Chinese. We always appreciate donations of local County artifacts and photos. The museum is open daily from 10-4. We also offer scheduled guided tours for groups and schools.
The Museum complex also includes a Bookstore and Gift Shop. Our Bookstore specializes in local history. We also have a wide selection of Gold Rush history books. Our gift selection includes maps, CD's, tapes, playing cards, post cards, magnets, T-shirts, shot glasses and much more. We have videos on Logging, Railroading, and the Gold Rush. Please stop by when touring the Mother Lode.
History of Calaveras County
Calaveras County was one of the original counties of the state of California, created in 1850 at the time of admission to the Union. Parts of the county's territory were reassigned to Amador County in 1854 and to Alpine County in 1864.
The Spanish word calaveras means "skulls." The county takes its name from the Calaveras River; it was said to have been named by Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga when he found many skulls of Native Americans along the banks of the stream. He believed they had either died of famine or been killed in tribal conflicts over hunting and fishing grounds. In fact, the human remains were of the native Miwuk people killed by Spanish soldiers after they banded together to rise against Spanish missionaries. The Stanislaus River, which runs through the county, is named for Estanislao, a Lakisamni Yokut who escaped from Mission San Jose in the late 1830s. He is reported to have raised a small group of men with crude weapons, hiding in the foothills when the Spanish attacked. The natives were quickly decimated by Spanish gunfire.
The writer Mark Twain spent many of his writing years in the county, and heard the story that became The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County in the Angel Hotel in 1865.
The county's geography includes beautiful landmarks, rolling hills, and giant valleys. It is also known for its friendly communities, and businesses such as agriculture management and construction engineering. It has numerous caverns, such as Mercer Caverns, that are national destinations for tourists from across the country.
Gold prospecting in Calaveras County began in late 1848 with a camp founded by Henry and George Angel. The brothers first arrived in California as soldiers, serving under Colonel Frémont during the Mexican War. After the war’s end, the brothers found themselves in Monterey where they heard of the fabulous finds in the gold fields. They joined the Carson-Robinson party of prospectors and set out for the mines. The company parted ways upon reaching what later became known as Angels Creek. The brothers tried placer mining but soon opened a trading post. By the end of the year, over one hundred tents were scattered about the creek and the settlement was referred to as Angels Trading Post, later shortened to Angels Camp.
Placer mining soon gave out around the camp, but an extensive gold-bearing quartz vein of the area's Mother Lode was located by the Winter brothers during the mid-1850s, and this brought in the foundations of a permanent town. This vein followed Main Street from Angels Creek up to the southern edge of Altaville. Five major mines worked the rich vein: the Stickle, the Utica, the Lightner, the Angels, and the Sultana. These mines reached their peaks during the 1880s and 1890’s, when over 200 stamp mills crushed quartz ore brought in by hand cars on track from the mines. By the time hard rock mining was done, the five mines had producing a total of over $20 million in gold.
The telluride mineral calaverite was first recognized and obtained in 1861 from the Stanislaus Mine, Carson Hill, Angels Camp, in Calaveras Co., California. It was named for the County of origin by chemist and mineralogist Frederick Augustus Genth who differentiated it from the known gold telluride mineral sylvanite, and formally reported it as a new gold mineral in 1868.