Saturday, January 30, 2021

Angels Camp and the California Goldrush

I was going through a bunch of pictures on my computer today. I used to urge everyone to scan and organize old, printed photos. I finally got that chore done myself a while ago. But I have come to realize that my computer is a lot like an old shoebox full of photos tossed in. Time to get organized. I’m working on getting that chore done. While eating the elephant one bite at a time, I came across some pictures taken in the city museum of the California Gold Rush town of Angels Camp that I thought I’d share.

A short few years ago we did a California Gold Rush trip that included Old Town Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort, and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Part of that trip was driving down a major portion of California State Highway 49, sometimes called the “Gold Rush Highway.” You can start northeast of Sacramento in the town of Grass Valley and drive the Gold Rush Highway over 200 miles south, all the way to Oakhurst and Yosemite National Park. Along the way, you’ll pass multiple Gold Rush Towns with intriguing names like Coloma, Sonora, Jamestown, Chinese Camp, Placerville, and of course, Angels Camp.

The California Gold Rush had an initial phase that featured placer mining. Basically a technique of finding gold on the surface that had washed down over the centuries from a “lode” or major vein up higher in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Placer mining relied on a constant supply of water. Moreover, water is typically what brings the gold down the mountain. So you’ll find Gold Rush towns in conjunction with streams and creeks. Angels Camp is no different.

Today the city of Angels Camp is located at the intersection of Hwy 49 and Hwy 4, about an hour’s drive east of the Central Valley city of Stockton. Back in 1848, the water running down the mountain at that site was known as Carson’s Creek. Shortly after the discovery of gold that year, there was an estimated 4,000 would-be miners trying their luck in the area (a funny coincidence because that’s about what the population of Angels Camp is today). A man named Henry Angell, having come out to California from Rhode Island, set up a store on the banks of Carson Creek. Soon the town that grew around the store took his name.

Mark Twain stayed in Angels Camp for a while. It was there that he was inspired to write “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” That story made Twain a household name. The story becoming an American classic, it then inspired the annual jumping frog contest held each year during May at the nearby Calaveras County fairgrounds. Get a full history of Angels Camp from the Historic Hwy 49 website

What I enjoyed most about Angels Camp was the Angels Camp Museum, which is managed by the city. They have a great collection of wagons and carriages, mining equipment, even a period printing press. You can even try your hand at panning for gold. It is family-friendly and well worth the stop. Although I’m sure covid protocols are in place, the website reports that the museum is open. Well, you might want to wait for summer. But plan a Gold Rush themed California vacation and put Angels Camp on the itinerary.


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