It is not known who first mined for gold in Calaveras County, but until recent times economic and social development in the area has occurred primarily within the context of the mining industry. Not only did mining lead to the formation of Calaveras County in 1850, mining was the main pillar of the local economy for nearly 75 years there after. Mining changed over the years from early placer mining in the streams to hydraulic and hard rock mining.
Consolidation of the mines took place in the 1880’s, facilitated by advances in technology and financing. During those boom years hundreds of operations crushed the ore 24 hours per day producing rivers of tailings that washed down the streams. Following the discovery of gold in 1848, hordes of gold seekers poured into the area, reaching the Mokelumne River by that summer. At first, travel was by foot or by horseback, and most people traveling to the diggings used established Indian routes. As traffic increased, wagon routes from Stockton and Sacramento to the higher mining camps were sorely needed and by 1850 such roads were established. With few exceptions these routes are still followed today, having evolved into the local highway system.
To support the growing number of miners, agriculture was introduced to the county. Farmers planted orchards, vegetable gardens and raised cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry. By the turn of the nineteenth century cattle had become the county’s most important agricultural product.
During the 1880’s so many grapes were grown in the county that it was the 4th largest wine producing region in the state. Wiped out by disease and Prohibition, 100 years later the county’s wine industry has rebounded.
Today, golf courses, ranchettes and small subdivisions are being developed on former mine and ranch lands. The population has grown four-fold, yet it is the small towns, friendly atmosphere, open pasture and towering Sierra peaks that still attract both resident and visitor alike.
We have provided the following links to assist you on gathering current information on Calaveras County and the beautiful historic areas that lie within the borders of this uniquely diverse county.
Calaveras County Government Center
Calaveras County Office of Education
Calaveras County Visitors Bureau
Calaveras County University of California Cooperative Extension
Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce