When thousands of gold prospectors arrived in California in the 1850’s they all needed a place to pitch their tent, buy supplies and drink a whisky or two. These mining camps quickly grew in size. Some of these little gold rush towns remain today, but now cater to both tourists and locals alike with their own small town identities.
Along with the history of each town, there’s something for everyone from boutique shops, art galleries, wine tasting rooms to antique stores.
In the Californian Sierra Foothills, we visited three of these historic towns for a glimpse of the past.
Murphys, is a cool small town with a busy Main Street running though the centre where giant green shamrocks are painted onto the road. Historic buildings now house shops, restaurants and there are 22 wine tasting rooms in the downtown area to choose from. The town was named after its founders, Irish immigrants John and Dan Murphy, who in 1848 set up a trading post and mining camp. John later went onto marry the local Native American Miwok Chief’s daughter. Murphys has a small jail called The Pokey, we imagined how many outlaws would have been locked in the slammer for the night after one too many sasparillas! Historic Murphys Hotel and Inn has been host to many famous guests since opening in 1856 including Mark Twain, Ulysees S Grant, and J.P.Morgan.
Sutter Creek, is billed as ‘where the past is still present’ Founded in 1844 by Captain John Sutter this gorgeous city in the heart of the California Gold Country is chock full of gold rush history and stunning original architecture.
Originally the site was a timber logging camp until gold was found in 1848, Sutter Creek then quickly became a prosperous City.
We took a walking tour through the stately Victorian residential neighbourhoods and central Main Street trying to imagine what living conditions would be like as a 49’er. You can just imagine Miss Kitty in her bustled crinoline skirts standing on the filigree balcony calling out to her favourite tobacco chewing, boot wearing clientele on the dusty streets below…
Amador City founded in 1851 is so small you could sneeze through it, but it’s perfectly compact with plenty of old fashioned charm. Original mining era buildings now home a museum, unique shops and wine tasting rooms.
One of our favourite stops was at Feist to sample their innovative award winning wines, the building had once been a saloon. The spit and sawdust has gone, the long bar remains and we didn’t need the dump bucket tasting these delicious wines!
Gold rush small towns are totally unique and they certainly rely on tourists visiting the year round activities they host.
We want to be instantly transported back there for The Big Crush harvest festival event held throughout Amador County in October, to continue tasting those jammy, berry, spicy flavours of Zinfandel wines the Sierra Foothill area is famous for.
Although Gold Rush fever is over, sunshine and blue skies remain, we loved wandering the streets experiencing the history of this bygone era.