Tuolumne County Profile - Community Indicators Project 2008
Tuolumne County Profile Introduction Health and Safety Education and the Arts Natural Resources and Recreation Economy and Infrastructure Appendices Conclusion Acknowledgements


In 1806 Gabriel Moraga encountered the "Taulamne" Indians at their village on the Stanislaus River, giving the future Tuolumne County its name. Other early adventurers, such as Jedediah Smith, Joseph Walker, John Frémont, French trappers, and early emigrant parties, encountered the Central Sierra Me-Wuk Indians, a group who remains here and in surrounding counties. Accommodating a succession of prehistoric cultures, the county has a rich and varied cultural past that began more than 10,000 years ago.

Tuolumne County folklore suggests that miners from Sonora, Mexico, arrived here by 1848. These men, who gave the name of their home state to the new settlement of Sonoran Camp, mined for placer gold. It did not take long for word to spread that the precious metal was easily found: soon thousands of men from all over the world migrated to the county in search of gold. The story of Tuolumne County during the first few years of settlement is similar to other Mother Lode communities. Hordes of miners came. Water systems were developed. Settlements grew up around successful and rich mining areas. Transportation networks connected camps, first as trails, then as wagon roads. Farms, orchards, and truck gardens sprang up. Saloons and fandango halls, along with boarding houses, provided entertainment, bed, bath, and sustenance to the miners. The bare bones of civilization in the form of government, law, newspapers, and social lodges developed, and violence became commonplace. Natural and man-made disasters, such as fires and earthquakes, destroyed many of the structures of those early days.

Placer gold deposits were exhausted by the mid-1850s causing a major depression. Miners rushed to other strikes in Nevada, Colorado, or Alaska, hoping to find work, while local support industries collapsed or suffered. Farms were abandoned, businesses closed and auctioned off, and the mines shut down. Tuolumne County's population decreased by nearly 50% between 1860 and 1870. Up to the early 1890s, the county suffered hardship and depression, only to have mining again enliven the area. The Lode Gold Rush lasted about 25 years—the county experienced another major period of growth and a population boom when the miners sunk deep shafts into the Mother Lode. Hoisting equipment was developed and pumps forced fresh air into the shafts, while electricity provided power, with the added benefit of providing some residential electricity.

Sonora and Jamestown boomed. A large increase in assessed valuation allowed the county to construct a new courthouse in 1898, build bridges, improve roads, establish a high school, and generally reestablish county services.

Community Indicators Project
Tuolumne County - Central Sierra Mountains