News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.


By Joe Castillo


Admission Day  ….

Columbia State Historic Park celebrated the admission of California, the 31st state of the Union, over the weekend of September 7th. Columbia is located just north of the city of Sonora in the Mother Lode foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s. Dr. Thaddeus Hildreth and his party discovered the rich gold strikes of Columbia on March 27, 1850 and named it Hildreth’s Diggings. The name of the town was later changed to American Camp and when a more eloquent name was desired, it was named Columbia and referred to as the ‘Gem of the Southern Mines’.  Columbia was abundantly rich in gold but lacked water to sustain the miners and the mining operations. Tuolumne County Water was established to bring in water to the camp and allowed the miners to continue their lucrative gold mining operations. In 20 years of major gold discoveries, over $87 million dollars worth of gold was unearthed, based on the valued of $20 an ounce in 1870.Today, the gold would be worth 69 times that amount or $6 billion dollars.  Columbia was designated a California State park in 1948 and is the only state park which consists of the entire town and surrounding area. All structures are in the 1850-1870 architecture and have been restored to allow businesses to operate from them today.  There are over 60 buildings, restaurants, service organizations and houses in Columbia which are all open for business and touring.  Admission Day was celebrated with a flag raising, parade, barbeque and assorted historical re-enactors. The parade consisted of a 30-foot long California State flag carried by multiple members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, members of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and vintage modes of transportation from stagecoaches to vintage Ford automobiles. In spite of the warm weather, Columbia was the place to be to celebrate Admission Day …. Sonora Stop …… Only three miles south of Columbia is the historic golding mining town of Sonora. Founded in 1848 by a group of miners from Sonora, Mexico, the camp was appropriately named Sonorian Camp but later changed to Sonora. The area was the location of an extremely wealthy placer, especially at a certain location called Holden’s Gardens, which yielded a gold nugget weighing over 28 pounds. Over $11 million in gold was unearthed near Holden’s Garden. As the news of the great strike spread, Sonora grew by leaps and bounds becoming the most populous town of the Southern mines. But the growing population brought wild times and rowdy celebrations, and soon lawless Sonora became the image of a typical Gold Rush town. Later, Sonora was made the county seat and became known as the ‘Queen of the Southern Mines’. Even though a fire ravaged most of the town in 1849, 1852 and 1853, it was re-built and today is a well preserved 1850-era town, with enough saloons to retain some of the wildness of gold rich miners….

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