Gold Towns: Mokelumne Hill

Founded in 1848 by a group from Oregon, Mokelumne Hill was one of the richest gold mining towns in California. According to legend, the placers were so rich that early miners risked starvation rather than leave their claims to head to Stockton for supplies. By 1850 the town was one of the largest in the area, with a diverse population of perhaps 15,000 souls representing people of all nationalities. A post office opened in 1851. Besides racial tensions, the easy gold attracted criminal elements, and the town acquired a reputation for violence: at least one homicide a week for 17 consecutive weeks. A vigilance committee, formed in 1851, managed to eliminate the worst of the crime by 1852, when the town became the Calaveras County seat. But by 1860, the gold had run out and the town’s importance, and its population, diminished. Six years later Mokelumne Hill’s status further declined when San Andreas became the new county seat. Today “Moke Hill,” as the locals call it, is a favorite tourist destination, because several interesting old buildings remain from mining days. For example, the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, which formerly housed the Wells Fargo office, built in 1854; and the Leger Hotel, which encompasses the building that once served as the Calaveras County courthouse. “Mokelumne,” often spelled and pronounced in various ways, is a Miwok Indian word, likely the name of an Indian village in the area.  Mokelumne Hill is registered as California Historical Landmark #269.

 

 

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