On Hold Narratives
If you are ever put on hold while calling a County office, you will notice that you get treated to a little bit of area history instead of elevator music. Those scripts (found below) were provided by the Mariposa History Center. If you would like to learn more about Mariposa, please visit www.mariposamuseum.com or stop in and see for yourself!
- The first telegraph line was laid to the goldfields of Northern California in 1853 but the town of Mariposa was unable to use the technology until 25 years later. It wasn’t until late 1878 when a line was established to the small town of Merced, making lightning fast communications with the San Joaquin Valley and beyond, a reality.
- In 1851 an enterprising and eccentric man named John Diltz arrived in Mariposa. Having a good business sense, he bought up low producing gold mining claims and made them a success. Being known to keep large nuggets on the table of his cabin and stashed in bags of grain on his floor, he was thought to be insane because he insisted that one day there would be “more ships in the sky than on the water.”
- Mariposa County rests at the south end of the Mother Lode. Placer miners followed the gold-bearing sands upstream to discover the source in the bedrock. This source was the "mother" of the gold in the river and so was dubbed the "mother lode." It was discovered around 1848 and was responsible for the California Gold Rush. The Mother Lode formed 165 million years ago as tectonic plates collided together forming the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The collision created sufficient crustal heating to drive material laden water up through numerous fissures along the contact zone. When these cooled, among the precipitating minerals was gold.
- Before 1878, getting information in and out of the town of Mariposa had to be done from the back of a horse, so a movement was organized in June of that year by local business owners to have a direct telegraph line run from the city of Merced. Because gold mining took precedence over most other businesses at the time, it would not be as direct as town merchants might have wanted, running instead along a path that intersected with as many mines as possible before reaching the town of Mariposa.
- Mariposa’s Courthouse was erected in 1854 at a cost of $9,000. It holds the distinction of being the oldest court of law west of the Rockies, and has served continuously as the seat of county government for over 163 years. During the 19th century, landmark mining cases setting legal precedence were tried here and much United States Mining Law is based on decisions emanating from this historic landmark.
- In the very early days of the California Gold Rush, when Mariposa was nothing more than a muddy mining camp, the town of Agua Fria a few miles to the west was a well-known destination for gold seekers. It was here where some of the very first legal proceedings in the new State of California would take place. Nothing remains of this historic place but a clearing and the small creek of Agua Fria from which the tiny hamlet got its name.
- Mariposa County was formed before California became the 31st State in the Union. On September 9, 1850 Peter H. Burnett, the first governor of California, signed the law creating 27 original counties. At the time Mariposa County comprised one-fifth of the territory of California despite the small density of population. In following years, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern and portions of Mono, Inyo, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and San Benito would all spring from “The Mother of Counties” as Mariposa was christened.
- The Town of Mariposa was founded as a mining camp on the banks of a seasonal stream known as Mariposa creek. After a flooding during the winter of 1849 the town was moved to better terrain on which to build the burgeoning town. The opening of the Mariposa Mine provided a stable source of employment for many, and Mariposa became a supply hub for hundreds of outlying mining districts.
- The Mariposa area was home, first to the southern Miwok tribe of Native Americans who occupied the area for untold generations before any Europeans ever arrived in the Americas. Today the local Miwok honor tradition by hosting a Pow-Wow in Mariposa every year on Mother’s day. In 1806 this area was named by a Spanish Priest that was traveling with early California explorer, Gabriel Moraga. When the expedition came upon a creek fluttering with thousands of yellow butterflies, they named the area “Las Mariposas” which is the Spanish word for butterflies.
- In 1849, when Mariposa was nothing more than a gold mining camp, the nearby community of Agua Fria was a bustling town. A man named Sherlock who hunted deer to feed the local population was chasing his quarry into a ravine when the glitter of gold caught his eye. He mined 1,400 ounces of the yellow metal a short time. This chance discovery ended his career as a professional hunter and the place he found the gold eventually became the town of Sherlock.
- In 1874 a grand plan to dig a tunnel from the town of Benton mills on the Merced river to the Mariposa Mine in the town of Mariposa began. Gold ore would be transported from several mines along a 16-mile underground railway which roughly follows present day Highway 49 to the river for processing. With much cost and effort, the tunnel reached 3,700 feet in length before the project was abandoned.