Mariposa County, CA Home of Yosemite

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On Hold History Narratives
1. In the fall of 1806 Spanish explorer Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga led a company of men from the San Joaquin River toward some distant foothills to the east. After making camp by an almost dry riverbed, the men were swarmed by butterflies so numerous that they blocked out the sun. He named that place Las Mariposas, translating to “The Butterflies”. The next day he came upon a larger waterway with many settlements of native inhabitants, naming it the River of Our Lady of Mercy, which we now call the Merced River.

2. Until 1900, the only electric line that was in use in Mariposa was a single wire that linked the town of Telegraph with Merced. The prospect of electricity in a home or business was an exciting if not frightening thought, as there was much superstition and outright fear of what it was capable of doing. The Mariposa Gazette Newspaper began to run a weekly column called "Electrical Flashes" which touted the many ways that electricity could make life easier for everyone. For instance, a shop owner would no longer need to shutter his windows at night, as a simple lightbulb could protect his storefront from vandals, or a home could be heated by electrical wires and food could be cooked on electrical stoves, and a motorized fan could keep the house cool during the summer. All of which were very futuristic claims at the time.

3. Hydraulic mining was a unique form of prospecting that was used in only a few locations in Mariposa County. The flow of a river would be diverted off a cliff to form a controlled waterfall through pipes and hoses. The water would be compressed into continually smaller streams until it was released through a cannon-like nozzle called a monitor. The pressure was strong enough to literally wash away a mountain and deadly enough to kill a man. Because it caused so much erosion, in 1884 the California Legislature enacted the very first environmental law which restricted the use of this form of gold mining.

4. The Mariposa Public Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Mariposa’s citizens dating to the first days of the California Gold Rush in 1849. Known at the time as the little graveyard on the hill, it was surrounded by many great pine trees and a picket fence and was lovingly maintained by the community. Besides Mariposa’s pioneer settlers, other well-known internments there include Navy hero Commodore Byron McCandless, Jane Cody Keane, granddaughter of Buffalo Bill Cody, and William Costello, the original voice of the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man.

5. During California’s Gold Rush women business owners were rare. In fact, before 1852 it was illegal for married women to own a business in their own name. Anne Washburn became the first women in the County of Mariposa to do just that, when in February of 1865 she applied for and was granted permission to become the proud proprietor of her very own boarding house.

6. The year was 1879; the place was a mining camp near the settlement of Horseshoe Bend, three miles southeast of the town of Coulterville. It was there that two saloon patrons had a quarrel and agreed to a duel to the death to settle the dispute. After setting the rules of fully loaded six shooters at 15 paces, they took their positions and were handed their weapons. After some reflection, and considering the fact that neither could hit the broad side of a barrel, one told the other that he couldn’t shoot a feller critter anyway, and so the duel at Horseshoe Bend ended amicably. Today Horseshoe Bend lies at the bottom of Mariposa County’s Lake McClure.

7. In June of 1850, Peter Burnett, California’s first Governor, sent a large chunk of gold ore from Mariposa County to Washington DC to be built into the base of the Washington Monument. The unusual gift was escorted under guard to the monuments building site. A written note accompanying the piece of quartz stated simply “from Mariposa Diggins, near Fremont’s mines”. Sadly, this gift was found to be too weak for the base of the Washington Monument and was rejected as unworthy by Representatives in Congress and citizens of Washington. The stone disappeared shortly thereafter.



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5100 Bullion St.  |  Mariposa, CA 95338  |  Telephone Numbers