Gold Towns: Murphys

In July 1848 John and Daniel Murphy, brothers who came to California in 1844 as members of the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend Party, set up camp and a trading post at a site on Angels Creek which was soon known as Murphy’s Diggings, later Murphy’s Camp, and ultimately, in 1935, just Murphys. Their take was spectacular: a reported $2 million in gold in one years’ time. Murphys proved to be one of California’s richest placer mining locations: during one winter, $5 million in gold was mined from a four-acre area and overall, roughly $20 million in gold was discovered in Murphys and its surrounding areas. By 1850 the settlement had a population of 1,200, and two years later there were 3,000 people. The first post office, under the name Murphy’s, opened in 1851. Fire destroyed the town three times, in 1859, 1874, and 1893. After the 1874 fire there was little gold left to mine, so the town wasn’t rebuilt the same as it had been in its boomtown years. However, Murphys continued to thrive as a merchant center and popular tourist destination, since the town is not far from the giant sequoias in what is now Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Modern-day Murphys affords a picturesque look back in time with its historic old buildings, many of them in operation, some dating to the 1850s.  Murphys is registered as California Historical Landmark #275.

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